Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

66 Beauty

which my remark had stopped in its progress towards his nose, and went on.

“ From this motive of Figure-making," continued he, turning to the ladies of the company,

puts on her airs, and Wit labours for a bon mot, “ till the first becomes ugly, and the latter tiresome. “ You may have frequently observed Betsey Ogle, « in a company of her ordinary acquaintance, look “ charmingly, because she did not care how she « looked, till the appearance of a gentleman, with a “ fine coat or a title, has set her a-tossing her head,

rolling her eyes, biting her lips, twisting her neck, “ and bringing her whole figure to bear upon him, “ till the expression of her countenance became per“ fect folly, and her attitudes downright distortion. “ In the same way our friend Ned Glib (who has “ more wit than any man I know, could he but learn " the economy of it), when some happy strokes of “ humour have given him credit with himself and o the company, will set out full tilt, mimicking, ca“ ricaturing, punning, and story-telling, till every « body present wishes him dumb, in proportion as “ he laughs, and looks grave.

« That wit and beauty should be desirous of mak.

ing a figure is not to be wondered at, admiration « being the very province they contend for. That “ folly and ugliness should thrust themselves for“ ward to public notice, might be matter of surprise, w did we not recollect that their owners most pro" bably think themselves witty and handsome. In " these, indeed, as in many other instances, it un“ fortunately happens, that people are strangely bent

upon making a figure in those very departments, 6 where they have least chance of succeeding.

" But there is a species of animal, several of whom « must have fallen under the notice of every body

present, which it is difficult to class, either among “ the witty or the foolish, the clever or the dull, the “ wise or the mad, who, of all others, have the great" est propensity to Figure-making. Nature seems “ to have made them up in haste, and to have put “ the different ingredients, above referred to, into “ their composition at random. They are more com« mon in such a place as this, than in a more exten“ sive sphere ; like some vermin that breed in ponds " and rivulets, which a larger stream or lake would « destroy. Our circle is just large enough to give “ their talents room, and small enough to be affected 6 by their exertion. Here, therefore, there is never 6 wanting a junto of them of both sexes, who are “ liked or hated, admired or despised, who make “ people laugh, or set them asleep, according to the « fashion of the time, or the humour of their audi. 66 ence, but who have always the satisfaction of talk« ing themselves, and of being talked of by others. " With us, indeed, a very moderate degree of genius « is sufficient for this purpose ; in small societies, « folks are set agape by small circumstances. I “ have known a lady here contrive to make a figure « for half the winter, on the strength of a plume of “ feathers, or the trimming of a petticoat; and a “ gentleman make shift to be thought a fine fellow, “ only by outdoing every body else in the thickness “ of his queue, or the height of his foretop.

“ But people will not only make themselves fools ; “ I have known instances of their becoming knaves,

or at least, boasting of their being so, from this « desire of Figure-making. You shall hear a fellow, “ who has once got the character of being a sharp “ man, tell things of himself, for which, if they had “ been true, he deserved to be hanged, merely be.

cause his line of Figure-making lies in trick and “« chicane ; hence too, proceed all those histories of " their own profligacy and vice, which some young

men of spirit are perpetually relating, who are wil.

ling to record themselves villains, rather than not " be recorded at all.

“ In the arts, as well as in the characters of men, " this same propensity is productive of strange dis“ orders. Hence proceed the bombast of poetry, the “ tumour of prose, the garish light of some paintings, " the unnatural ciaro scuro' of others; hence, in

music, the absurd mixture of discordant movements, " and the squeak of high-strained cadences; in short, & all those sins against nature and simplicity, which

artists of inferior merit are glad to practise, in " order to extort the notice of the public, and to hk make a figure by surprise and singularity.”

The accidental interruption of a new visitor now stopped the current of my friend's discoure ; he had, indeed, begun to tire most of the company, who were not all disposed to listen quite so long as he seemed inclined to speak. In truth, he had forgot, that the very reproof he meant to give his neighbours, applied pretty strongly to himself, and that, though he might suppose he was lecturing from the desire of reformation, he was, in reality, haranguing in the spirit of Figure-making.

I

No. XCIII. TUESDAY, MARCH 28.

Parva leves capiunt animos.

OVID.

THAT life consists, in a great measure of trifling occurrences and little occupations, there needs no uncommon sagacity or attention to discover. Notwithstanding the importance we are apt to ascribe to the employments and the time, even of the greatest and most illustrious, were we to trace such persons to the end of their labours and the close of their pursuits, we should frequently discover, that trifles were the solace of the one, and the purpose of the other. Public business and political arrangement are often only the constrained employments to which accident or education has devoted their hours, while their willing moments are destined, perhaps, to light amusements and to careless mirth.

It is not, then, surprising, that trifles should form the chief gratification of ordinary men, on whom the public has no claim, and individuals have little dependence. But, of those trifles, the nature will commonly mark the man, as much as circumstances of greater importance. A mind capable of high exertion or delicate sentiment, will stoop with a certain consciousness of its descent, that will not allow it to wanton into absurdity, or sink into gross

There is, in short, a difference, which sense and feeling will not easily forget, between the little and the mean, the simple and the rude, the playful and the foolish.

But the surest mark of a weak mind is an affecta. tion of importance amidst the enjoyment of trifles, a bustle of serious business amidst the most insignificant concerns, The bringing forward of little things to the rank of great ones, is the true bur

pess.

lesque in character as well as in style ; yet such characters are not uncommon, even among men wlio have acquired some estimation in the world. In this particular, the world is easily deceived; dulness may often ape solemnity, and arrogate importance, where brighter talents would have drawn but little regard; as objects are magnified by mists, and made awful by darkness.

Of a character of this sort I received, some time ago, the following sketch from a young lady, who sometimes honours me with her correspondence, whose vivacity can give interest to trifles, and en. tertainment to absurdity.

DEAR SIR,

YOU made me promise, on leaving town, that I would write to you whenever the country afforded any thing worth writing about. The country at present, merely as country, presents no landscape, but one undistinguished tract of snow ; vegetation is locked up in frost, and we are locked up within doors, but something might be traced within doors, had I a good pencil for the purpose........Mine host, of whom you have heard a good deal, is no bad subject : suppose I make him sit for his picture.

Believe me, he is not quite the sensible intelligent man we were told he was.....So much the better, I like oddities....even now and then in town ; still better in the country; but in frost and snow, and all the dreary confinement of winter....Oh! your battledore and shuttlecock are a joke to them.

You remember a long while ago (so long, that I have forgot every part of the book but the name,) we read Nature displayed together. You then told me of a certain Mr. Leeuwenhoek, I think you called him, whose microscope shewed the circulation of frog's blood, the scales of the scales of fishes, the bristles of mites, and every other tiny thing in the

VOL. II.

T

« VorigeDoorgaan »