« 上一頁繼續 »
masterly it may be, that stops the general conversation of the company. When Silius delivers that sort of lecture he is apt to get into, though it is supported by the most extensive information and the clearest discernment, it is still pedantry; and, while I admire the talents of Silius, I cannot help being uneasy at his exhibition of them. In the course of this dissertation, the farther a man proceeds, the more he seems to acquire strength and inclination for the progress. Last night, after supper, Silius began upon Protestantism, proceeded to the Irisb massacre, went through the Revolution, drew the character of King William, repeated anecdotes of Schomberg, and ended at a quarter past twelve, by delineating the course of the Boyne, in half a bumper of port, upon my best table ; which river, happening to overflow its banks, did infinite damage to iny cousin Sophy's white sattin petticoat.
In short, every thing, in this sense of the word, is Pedantry, which tends to destroy that equality of conversation which is necessary to the perfect ease and good-humour of the company. Every one would be struck with the unpoliteness of that person's behaviour, who should help himself to a whole plate of peas or strawberries which some friend had sent him for a rarity in the beginning of the season. Now, Conversation is one of those good things of which our guests or companions are equally entitled to a share, as of any other constituent part of the entertainment ; and it is as essential a want of politeness to engross the one, as to monopolize the other.
Besides, it unfortunately happens, that we are very inadequate judges of the value of our own discourse, or the rate at which the dispositions of our company will incline them to hold it. The reflections we make, and the stories we tell, are to be judged of by others, who may hold a very different opinion of their acuteness or their humour. It will be pru. dent, therefore, to consider, that the dish we bring to this entertainment, however pleasing to our own taste, may prove but moderately palatable to those we mean to treat with it ; and that, to every man; as well as ourselves, (except a few very humble ones,) his own conversation is the plate of peas or strawberries.
N' 6. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 1979
GREAT tale.its are usually attended with a proportional desire of exerting them; and indeed, were it otherwise, they would be, in a great measure, use. less to those who possess them, as well as to society.
But, while this disposition generally leads men of high parts and high spirit to take a share in active life, by eng iging in the pursuits of business or ambition, the e are, amidst the variety of human cha. racter, some instances, in which persons eninently possessed of those qualities, give way to a contrary disposition.
A man of an aspiring mind and nice sensibility may, from a wrong direction, or a ron antic excess of spirit, find it difficult to submit to the ordivary
pursuits of life. Filled with enthusiastic ideas of the glory of a general, a senator, or a statesman, he may look with indifference, or even with disgust, on the less brilliant, though, perhaps, not less useful occupations of the physician, the lawyer, or the trader.
My friend Mr. Umphraville is a remarkable instance of great talents thus lost to himself and to society. The singular opinions which have influenced his conduct, I have often heard him attempt, with great warmth, to defend.
• In the pursuit of an ordinary profession,' would he say, ' a man of spirit and sensibility, while « he is subjected to disgusting occupations, fuds it • necessary to submit with patience, nay often with • the appearance of satisfaction, to what he will be • apt to esteem dulness, fully, or impertinence, in
those from whose countenance, or opinion, lie • hopes to derive success; and, while he pines in • secret at so irksome a situation, perhaps, amidst • the crowds with whom he converses, he may not 6 find a friend to whom he can communicate his
• If, on the other hand,' he would add, he be• takes himself to retirement, it is true, he cannot • hope for an opportunity of performing splendid • actions, or of gratifying a passion for glory ; but • if he attain not all that he wishes, he avoids much • of what he hates. Within a certain range he will • be master of his occupations and his company ; • his books will, in part, supply the want of society; • and, in contemplation, at least, he may often en• joy those pleasures from which fortune has pre• cluded him.
• If the country, as will generally happen, be the • place of his retirement, it will afford a variety of • objects agreeable to his temper. In the prospect
• of a lofty mountain, an extensive plain, or the un. • bounded ocean, he may gratify his taste for the 6 sublime ; while the lonely vale, the hollow bank, 6 or the shady wood, will present him a retreat • suited to the thoughtfulness of his disposition.'
Such are the sentiments which have formed the character of Mr. Umphraville, which have regulated the choice and tenor of his life.
His father, a man of generosity and expence beyond his fortune, though that had once been considerable, left him at the age of twenty-five, full of the high sentiments natural, at these years, to a young gentleman brought up as the heir of an ancient family, and a large estate, with a very considerable income to support them; for though the remaining part of the family-fortune still afforded him a rent-roll of roool. a year, his clear revenue could scarcely be estimated at 300l.
Mr. Umphraville, though he wanted not a relish for polite company and elegant amusements, was more distinguished for an ardent desire of knowledge ; in consequence of which he had made an uncommon progress in several branches of science. The classical writers of ancient and modern times, but especially the former, were those from whose works he felt the highest pleasure ; yet he had, among other branches of learning, obtained a considerable knowledge of jurisprudence, and was a tole. rable proficient in mathematics.
On these last circumstances his friends founded their hopes of his rising in the world. One part of them argued, from the progress he had made in jurisprudence, that he would prove an excellent lawyer; the other, that his turn for mathematics would be an useful qualification in a military life; and all agreed in the necessity of his following some profession in which he might have an opportunity of repairing his fortune.
Mr. Umphraville, however, had very different sentiments. Though he had studied the science of jurisprudence with pleasure, and would not have declined the application of its principles, as a member of the legislature, he felt no inclination to load his memory with the rules of our municipal law, or to occupy himself in applying them to the uninterest. ing disputes of individuals; and, though he neither wanted a taste for the art, nor a passion for the glory of a soldier, he was full as little disposed to carry a pair of colours at a review, or to line the streets in a procession. Nor were his objections to other plans of bettering his fortune, either at home or abroad, less unsurmountable.
In short, after deliberating on the propositions of his friends, and comparing them with his own feelings, Mr. Umphraville concluded, that, as he could not enter into the world in a way suited to his inclination and temper, the quiet and retirement of a country life, though with a narrow fortune, would be more conducive to his happiness, than the pursuit of occupations to which he felt an aversion, even should they be attended with a greater degree of success than, from that circumstance, he judged to be probable.
Agreeably to this opinion he took his resolution ; and, notwithstanding the opposition of his friends, retired, a few months after his father's death, to his estate in the country, where he has lived upwards of forty years ; his family, since the death of his mother, a lady of uncommon sense and virtue, who survived her husband some time, having consisted only of himself, and an unmarried sister, of a dispo, sition similar to his own. Neither his circumstances nor inclination led Mr.