ePub 版

tivated minds, I fondly hoped, that, where I once formed an attachment, it would last for ever.

In this state of mind I became acquainted with Cleone. She was young and beautiful, but without that dimpling play of features which indicates, in some women, a mind of extreme sensibility. Her eye bespoke good sense, and was sometimes lighted up with vivacity, but never sparkled with the keenness of unrestrained joy, nor melted with the suffusion of indulged sorrow. Her manner and address had no tendency to familiarity ; it was genteel, rather than graceful. Her voice in conversation was suited to her manner; it possessed those level tones which never offend, but seldom give pleasure, and seldomer emotion.

Her conversation was plain and sensible. Never attempting wit or humour, she contented herself with expressing, in correct and unaffected language, just sentiments on manners and on works of taste : and the genius she displayed in compositions becoming her sex, and the propriety of her own conduct, did honour to her criticisms. She sung with uncommon excellence. Her voice seemed to unfold itself in singing, to suit every musical expression, and to assume every tone of passion she wished to utter. I never felt the power of simple melody in agitating, affecting, and pleasing, more strongly than from her performance.

In company she was attentive, prevenante, but not insinuating; and though she seemed to court the society of men of letters and taste, and to profess have ing intimate friendships with some individuals among them, I never could perceive that she was subject to the common weakness of making a parade of this kind of intercourse. Most people would suppose that I had found, in Cleone, the friend I was seeking ; for both of us knew we could never be nearer than friends to each other, and she treated me with some distinction. I found it, however, impossible to know her so well as to place in her the complete confidence essential to friendship. The minutest attention to every circumstance in her appearance and behaviour, and studying her for years in all the little varieties of situation that an intimate acquaintance gave access to observe, proved unequal to discover, with certainty, the gepuine character of her disposition or temper. No caprice betrayed her: no predominant shade could be marked in her tears, in her laugh, or in her smiles. Sometimes, however, I have thought she breathed a softness of soul that tempted me to believe her gea nerous; but, when I considered a little, the inner recesses of her heart appeared still shut against the observer; and I well knew, that even poignant sen. sibility is not inconsistent with predominant selfishness.

When contemplating Cleone, I have often thought of that beautiful trait in the description of Petrach's Laura: “Il lampeggiar dell' angelico riso *.' These flashes of affection breaking from the soul, alone display the truth, generosity, and tenderness, that deserve a friend. These gleams from the heart shew us all its intricacies, its weakness, and its vigour, and expose it naked and undisguised to the spectator. A single minute will, in this way, give more knowledge of a character, and justly, therefore attract more confidence, than twenty years experience of re. finement of taste and propriety of conduct.

I am willing to believe it was some error in educa. tion which had wrapt up Cleone's character in so much cbscurity, and not any natural defect that ren.

* The lightning of her angel smile.

dered it prudent to be invisible. If there is an error of this kind I hope your Mirror will expose it, and prevent it from robbing superior minds of their best reward—the confidence of each other.

In the present state of society, we have few op. portunities of exhibiting our true characters by our actions; and the habits of the world soon throw upon our manners a veil that is impenetrable to others, and nearly so to ourselves. Hence the only period when we can form friendships is a few years in youth; for there is a reserve in the deportment, and a certain selfishness in the occupations of manhood, unfavourable to the forming of warm attachments. It is therefore, fatal to the very source of friendship, if, when yet children, we are to be prematurely bedaubed with the varnish of the world. And yet, I fear, this is the necessary effect of modern education.

In place of cherishing the amiable simplicity and frankness of children, every emanation of the heart is checked by the constant restraints, dissimulation, and frivolous forms of fashionable address, with which we harrass them. Hence they are nearly the same at fourteen as at five-and-twenty, when, after a youth spent in joyless dissipation, they enter life, slaves to selfish appetites and reigning prejudices, and devoid of that virtuous energy of soul, which strong attachments, and the habits of deserved confidence, inspire. Even those who, like Cleone, possess minds superior to the common mould, though they cultivate their talents with success, and, in some measure, educate themselves anew, find it impossible to get rid entirely of that artificial manner, and those habits of restraint, with which they had been so early

[ocr errors]

Thus, like French taylors and dancing-masters, pretending to add grace and ornament to nature, we constrain, distort, and incumber her; whereas the education of a polished age should, like the drapery of a fine statue or portrait, confer decency, propriety, and elegance, and gracefully veil, but, by no means conceal, the beautiful forms of nature.


No 23. TUESDAY, APRIL 13, 1779.

Et isti
Errori nomen virtus posuisset honestum.

** HOR.

I was lately applied to by a friend, in behalf of a gentleman, who, he said, had been unfortunate in life, to whom he was desirous of doing a particular piece of service, in which he thought my assistance might be useful : Poor fellow !' said he, • I wish • to serve him, because I always knew him, dissipa• ted and thoughtless as he was, to be a good-hearted • man, guilty of many imprudent things, indeed, • but without meaning any harm! In short, no one's enemy but his own.'

I afterwards learned more particularly the circum. stances of this gentleman's life and conversation, which I will take the liberty of laying before my readers, in order to shew them what they are to understand by the terms used by my friend, terms which, I believe, he was nowise singular in using.

The person, whose interests he espoused, was heir to a very considerable estate. He lost his father when an infant; and being, unfortunately, an only son, was too much the darling of his mother ever to be contradicted. During his childhood he was not suffered to play with his equals, because he was to be the king of all sports, and to be allowed a sovereign and arbitrary dominion over the persons and properties of his play-fellows. At school he was attended by a servant, who helped him to thrash boys who were too strong to be thrashed by himself; and had a tutor at home, who translated the Latin which was too hard for him to translate. At college he began to assume the man, by treating at taverns, making parties to the country, filling his tútor drunk, and hiring blackguards to break the windows of the Professor with whom he was boarded. He took in succession the degrees of a wag, a pickle, and a lad of mettle. For a while, having made an elopement with his mother's maid, and fathered three children of other people, he got the appellation of a dissipated dog ; but, at last, betaking himself entirely to the bottle, and growing red-faced and fat, he ob. tained the denomination of an honest fellow; which title he continued to enjoy as long as he had money to pay, or indeed much longer, while he had credit to score for his reckoning.

During this last part of his progress, he married a poor girl, whom her father, from a mistaken idea of his fortune, forced to sacrifice herself to his wish. es. After a very short space, he grew too indifferent about her to use her ill, and broke her heart with the best-natured neglect in the world. Of two children whom he had by her, one died at nurse soon after the death of its mother; the eldest, a boy of spirit like his father, after twice running away from school, was at last sent aboard a Guinea-man, and was knocked on the head by a sailor, in a quarrel about a Negro wench, on the coast of Africa.

« 上一頁繼續 »