« VorigeDoorgaan »
No. LXXIX. TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 8.
Tanto major famae sitis est quam virtutis.
TO THE AUTHOR OF THE MIRROR. SIK,
THERE is, perhaps, no character in the world more frequent than that of your negatively good men ; people who strictly conform to the laws of decency and good order in society, whose conduct is squared to the rules of honesty and morality, and yet who never did one virtuous or laudable action from the day of their birth. Men of this sort seem to consider life as a journey through a barbarous country, occupied by savages, and overspread with dangers in every quarter. Their only wish is to steer the safest course, to escape any hidden snares or precipices, and to avoid exasperating the enemy; but to win them by offices of kindness, or attach them by real services, they consider as a fruitless waste of time, a needless expence, and often a dangerous experiment.
It is not a little surprising, that these good sort of men should, by the decency of their exterior deportnient, so far impose upon the world, as to glide on with ease and safety, to arrive often at riches and eminence, and, from being free of the censure of every species of open vice, to obtain, not unfrequently, the respect which is due to virtue.
You, Mr. Mirror, like some other rigid moralists, seem, from the general strain of your writings, to require something more towards the formation of a good ınan than the mere absence of evil, or the mere livery of goodness. It must be allowed, how. ever, that by a scrupulous observance of certain rules of decorum, and a timely use of the vocables of virtue, the exterior and visible part of the character is to be attained, which, for most of the useful purposes of life, seems to be quite sufficient. But as there are still a few who go a little deeper, and are scrupulous enough to require a purity of heart as well as of manners, it is pity that those sincere good people should lose all recompense for the sacrifice they make of many comfortable gratifications, while they see the rewards of virtue as cer. tainly attained at a much smaller expence.
From my concern for the few I have mentioned, I have been considering whether it were not possible to devise some means of unmasking those of the former character, some standard by which the two classes might be compared, or statical balance which should shew the difference of weight and solidity of such objects as have a similar appearance. I think, Sir, I have been successful, and shall now propose to you my plan.
Imprimis, I lay it down as a rule, that men shall not be judged of by the actions they perform, but by such as they do not perform. Now, Sir, as those useful chronicles of facts, called newspapers, have hitherto been only the records of what men have been daily a-doing, I propose to publish a newspaper of a different kind, which shall contain the daily intelligence of all such things as are not done.
For the benefit of such as chuse to encourage my undertaking, I send you a specimen of the work, which I'can safely promise, and hereby engage, shall contain more in quantity than any other periodical register whatever.
“ Saturday last, being the festival of Christmas,
a day which the late worthy Sir Thomas W....... “ used to commemorate by giving a warm dinner 6 to all the poor of the parish, the same was celeu brated by his son the present Sir Thomas, with “ no solemnity whatever.”
“ Yesterday George B........., Esq. who-by the 6 death of an uncle,
succeeded to an estate of four « thousand pounds per annum, gave no answer to “ five charity letters from the natural children of “ his deceased relation, and their mother, who « works hard for their maintenance."
“ In the course of last week four poor people died " in the streets.... owing to the great inclemency of “ the weather.”
“ On Friday the twenty-fourth ult. the Duke of « .......... visited the Royal Infirmary of this city, « and, after perusing the list of contributions to that “ humane and useful foundation, was pleased to “ give a ..........
..... pinch of snuff to the gentleman " that stood next him."
“ It was confidently reported some days ago, that “ C....... W......., Esq. had paid his father's debts; “ but this, we are assured, is without foundation."
“ In the action lately brought by E. L. a pauper, “ against her son-in-law Lord ..., for an alimo
ny, several eminent counsel being applied to in 6 behalf of the plaintiff, refused to take any con“ cern in so shameful a prosecution."
“ W. P. Esq. who lately sustained a considera« ble loss by play, has not, as was asserted, sold 6 his hunters and pack of harriers. He has only “ dismissed his chaplain, and cut off the allowance 6 of some superannuated domestics, on whom his « father bestowed annual pensions."
" Whereas it has been reported, that R. V. Esq. " who some time ago made a composition with his 6 creditors of five shillings in the pound, has of 6 late given several entertainments of three courses, « we are desired to inform the publie, from the best * authority, viz. his butler, that the said gentle
“ man never gives more than two courses and a « dessert." “ Last night, between the hours of nine and ten,
fire broke out in the kitchen of R. H. Esq. “ which, after burning with some violence, for two “ hours, was happily extinguished. It did no fur"ther damage than the consuming of about twenty “ pound of coals. It is surprising how very few « such accidents have happened of late years."
Such, Mr. Mirror, is the nature of the paper which I propose shall daily give intelligence of whatever is omitted to be done in this city and its environs. Besides the recommendation of novelty, its general usefulness must be so apparent, that I can have very little doubt of its extensive circulation.
I am, Sir,
Your most obedient servant,
I have been favoured by an ingenious correspondent, with the following observations on Pastoral Poetry.
NO species of poetry has given occasion to more observations and criticisms than what is called Pastoral ; though I am still inclined to suspect that the nature of this composition has not, after all, been properly ascertained. The critics have prescribed a great number of rules upon that subject, but without attempting to point out any principle in nature upon which they are founded ; expecting, perhaps, that, like receipts, they should be implicitly followed upon the mere authority of the persons by whom
they are delivered. Thus we are informed that an eclogue, or pastoral is an imitation of the action of a shepherd, or of one considered under that character ; and that those who introduced reapers, or fishermen, into this sort of composition, have acted improperly. Although an eclogue, however, ought to represent the manners of a shepherd, we are told that those manners should be painted, not as they are found in nature, but according to an ideal standard of perfection in what is called the golden age, where mankind live a life of simplicity untainted by vice, and maintain a serenity and tranquillity of mind undisturbed hy avarice or ambition. In short, the actions of a shepherd, exhibited in this sort of writing, ought to bave little resemblance to such as exist at present among that class of people, or probably ever did exist in any period of the world.
Is there not something mighty whimsical and arbitrary in these critical tenets? May we not be permitted to ask why a species of poetry should be appropriated to one particular profession or occupation, in contradistinction to all others? What is there in the life of a shepherd to distinguish it from that of the other inhabitants of a country, and to mark the peculiar style and character of those verses which are employed in describing it?
A pastoral ought, in my opinion, to be distinguishied from any other poem, not so much by the class of people whom it proposes to exhibit, as by the kind of sentiments which it is designed to express. Love and friendship give rise to sentiments which are apt to engross the whole imagination, and to have an extensive influence upon the disposition and temper. The sensibility and delicacy produced in a mind where these affections are prevalent, is liable to be disgusted with the ordinary commerce of society, to feel an aversion to the cares and bustle of an ac