Page images

them, there are no memorials of death. On the granite peaks, and on the foaming billows, there are no marks of huinan uecay. The rocks and waves are undefiled with the dust of mouldering bones, and present to us, in their vastness, infinitude, and unbroken calmness, a symbol of eternity, in contrast with which this short earthly life seems but like a morning dream. There is something more than a mere pleasure for the eye in such solitudes. The heart beats more peacefully there. But here, in the desert, death keeps house; and all around are the remains of a once restless and miserable life.

Death is sublime, when we consider him as the conqueror, and at the same time, the supporter of a life which he only overcomes that it may arise again. But here it is “dust to dust :— that is all.

I tried to find a source of brighter thoughts in recurring to history; but here what a contrast between the sea and the desert! On the waves, how manifold the crossing tracks of gay fleets, armadas, and naval heroes! what a crowd of great thoughts and undertakings, colossal speculations, and adventurous enterprises! No passion, good or bad, is there that has not urged men over the waves. Gold, happiness, dominion, love, freedom, — all have been pursued on the sea; avarice, love of glory, thirst for discovery, philanthropy, science, misery, restlessness, — all have played their part and sought to be carried to their desired objects on the waves. Of all these there is no trace left in the desert. Great armies have crossed the sands, it is true;— Cambyses with his Persians, Alexander, Zenobia, the proud woman, who degraded her husband, just as the oriental men now degrade their women, and other conquerors, have passed through the desert; but they have left only desolation behind them.

[blocks in formation]

(Didactic style, requiring“ serious” and “grave” utteranr 9, -firm, and moderately “low” and “slow;" — the enunciation perfectly distinct.]

The tolerated sin, denominated white lying,is a sin which I believe that some persons commit, not only without being conscious that it is a sin, but, frequently, with a belief that, to do it readily, and without confusion, is often a merit, and always a proof of ability. Still more frequently, they do it unconsciously perhaps, from the force of habit; and, like * Monsieur Jourdain, the “ Bourgeois gentil-homme," who found out that he had talked prose all his life without knowing it, these persons utter lie upon lie, without knowing that what they utter deserves to be considered as falsehood.

I am myself convinced, that a passive lie is equally as irreconcilable to moral principles as an active one; but I am well aware that most persons are of a different opinion. Yet, I would say to those who thus differ from me, “If you allow yourselves to violate truth, — that is, to deceive, for any pur- . pose whatever, — who can say where this sort of self-indulgence will submit to be bounded? Can you be sure that you will not, when strongly tempted, utter what is equally false, in order to benefit yourself at the expense of a fellowcreature?

All mortals are, at times, accessible to temptation; but, when we are not exposed to it, we dwell with complacency on our means of resisting it, on our principles, and our tried and experienced self-denial : but, as the life-boat, and the safety-gun, which succeeded in all that they were made to do, while the sea was calm, and the winds still, have been known to fail, when the vessel was tossed on a tempestuous ocean; so those who may successfully oppose principle to temptation, when the tempest of the passions is not awakened within their bosoms, may sometimes be overwhelmed by its power, when it meets them in all its awful energy and unexpected violence.

But in every warfare against human corruption, habitual resistance to little temptations, is, next to prayer, the most efficacious aid. He who is to be trained for public exhibitions of feats of strength, is made to carry small weights at first, which are daily increased in heaviness, till, at last, he is almost unconsciously able to bear, with ease, the greatest weight possible to be borne by man. In like manner, those who resist the daily temptation to tell what are apparently trivial and innocent lies, will be better able to withstand

* It is impossible to present, in any English combination of letters. the sounds of some French words. The reader's best resort, if she cannot direct herself, is to obtain the exact pronunciation of such words from a native of France. Accuracy can seldom be attained otherwise.

allurements to serious and important deviations from truth, and be more fortified, in the hour of more severe temptation, against every species of dereliction of integrity.




Quiet humour is expressed, as in the following example, by the

gentle tone of tranquillity.The utterance in such pieces, is “ moderate” in “ force” and “movement :” the pitch, is that of “serious” conversation. The easy negligence of the style, leads

to partially prolonged " quantities." 'The common faults, in the reading of such passages, are monotony,

and dulness.]

I had scarce taken orders a year, before I began to think seriously of matrimony, and chose my wife as she did her wedding gown, not for a fine glossy surface, but such qualities as would wear well. To do her justice, she was a goodnatured, notable woman; and as for breeding, there were few country ladies who showed more. She could read any English book without much spelling; but for pickling, preserving, and cookery, none could excel her. She prided herself also upon being an excellent contriver in housekeeping; though I could never find that we grew richer, with all her contrivances.

However, we loved each other tenderly; and our fondness increased as we grew old. There was, in fact, nothing that could make us angry with the world, or each other. We had an elegant house, situated in a fine country and a good neighbourhood. The year was spent in moral or rural amusement; in visiting our rich neighbours, and relieving such as were poor. We had no revolutions to fear, nor fatigues to undergo; all our adventures were by the fireside, and all our migrations from the blue bed to the brown.

As we lived near the road, we often had the traveller or stranger visit us, to taste our gooseberry-wine, for which we had great reputation; and I profess, with the veracity of an historian, that I never knew one of them find fault with it. Our cousins, too, even to the fortieth remove, all remembered their affinity, without any help from the herald's office, and

came very frequently to see us. Some of them did us no great honour by these claims of kindred; as we had the blind, the maimed, and the halt, amongst the number. However, my wife always insisted that, as they were the same flesh and blood, they should sit with us at the same table: so that if we had not very rich, we generally had very happy friends about us; for this remark will hold good through life, that the poorer the guest, the better pleased he ever is with being treated; and as some men gaze with admiration at the colours of a tulip, or the wing of a butterfly, so I was by nature an admirer of happy human faces. However, when any one of our relations was found to be a person of a very bad character, a troublesome guest, or one we desired to get rid of, upon his leaving my house, I ever took care to lend him a riding-coat, or a pair of boots, or sometimes a horse of small value; and I always had the satisfaction to find he never came back to return them. By this the house was cleared of such as we did not like; but never was the family of Wakefield known to turn the traveller or the poor dependent out of doors.

Thus we lived several years in a state of much happiness; not but that we sometimes had those little rubs which Provi. dence sends to enhance the value of its favours. My orchard was often robbed by schoolboys, and my wife's custards plundered by the cats or the children. The squire would sometimes fall asleep in the most pathetic parts of my sermon, or his lady return my wife's civilities at church with a mutilated courtesy. But we soon got over the uneasiness caused by such accidents, and usually, in three or four days, began to wonder how they vexed us.

My children, — the offspring of temperance, — as they were educated without softness, so they were at once wellformed and healthy: my sons, hardy and active; my daughters, beautiful and blooming. When I stood in the midst of the little circle, which promised to be the supports of my declining age, I could not avoid repeating the famous story of Count Abensberg, who, in Henry the Second's progress through Germany, while other courtiers came with their treasures, brought his thirty-two children, and presented them to his sovereign, as the most valuable offering he had to bestow. In this manner, though I had but six, I conside ered them as a very valuable present made to my country, * and consequently looked upon it as my debtor.

Our eldest son was named George, after his uncle who left us ten thousand pounds. Our second child, a girl, I intended to call after her aunt Grizzel; but my wife, who had been reading romances, insisted upon her being called Olivia. When we had another daughter, I was determined that Grizzel should be her name; but a rich relation taking a fancy to stand godmother, the girl was by her directions called Sophia; so that we had two romantic names in the family; but I solemnly protest I had no hand in it. Moses was our next; and, after an interval of twelve years, we had two sons more.

It would be fruitless to deny my exultation when I saw my little ones about me; but the vanity and the satisfaction of my wife, were even greater than mine. When our visitors would say, “ Well, upon my word, Mrs. Primrose, you have the finest children in the whole country," — “Ay, neighbour,” she would answer, “they are as Heaven made them, — handsome enough, if they be good enough; for handsome is, that handsome does.” And then she would bid the girls hold up their heads; who, to conceal nothing, were certainly very handsome. Mere outside is so very trilling a circumstance with me, that I should scarce have remembered to mention it, had it not been a general topic of conversation in the country. Olivia, now about eighteen, had the lúxuriancy of beauty with which painters generally draw Hebe; open, sprightly, and commanding. Sophia's features were not so striking at first, but often did more certain execution; for they were soft, modest, and alluring. The one vanquished by a single blow, the other by efforts successively repeated.

The temper of a woman is generally formed from the turn of her features ; at least it was so with my daughters. Olivia wished for many lovers; Sophia, to secure one. Olivia was often affected, from too great a desire to please; Sophia even repressed excellence, from her fear to offend. The one entertained me with her vivacity, when I was gay; the other, with sense, when I was serious. But these qualities were never carried to excess in either; and I have often seen them exchange characters for a whole day together. A suit of mourning has transformed my coquette into a prude; and a new set of ribands has given her younger sister more than natural vivacity. My eldest son, George, was bred at Oxford, as I intended him for one of the learned professions. My second boy, Moses, whom I designed for business, received a sort of miscellaneous education at home. But it is needless to attempt describing the particular characters of

« PreviousContinue »