« VorigeDoorgaan »
lady,” said I, « you see how short is the possession
of that beauty, in which nature has been so liberal to you. You find the melancholy sight before you is a contradiction to the first letter that you heard on that subject; whereas you may observe the second letter, which celebrates your mother's constancy, is itself, being found in this place, an argument of it. But, Madam, I ought to caution you not to think the bodies that lie before you your father and your mother. Know, their constancy is rewarded by a nobler union than by this mingling of their ashes, in a state where there is no danger or possibility of a second separation."
No 105. SATURDAY, DECEMBER 10, 1709.
Sheer-lane, December 9.
As soon as my midnight studies are finished, I take but a very short repose, and am again up at an exercise of another kind; that is to say, my fencing. Thus my life passes away in a restless pursuit of fame, and a preparation to defend myself against such as attack it. This anxiety in the point of reputation is the peculiar distress of fine spirits, and makes them liable to a thousand inquietudes, from which men of grosser understandings are exempt; so that nothing is more common, than to see one part of mankind live at perfect ease under such circumstances as would make another part of them entirely miserable.
This may serve for a preface to the history of poor Will Rosin, the fidler of Wapping, who is a man as much made for happiness and a quiet life, as any one breathing; but has been lately entangled in so many intricate and unreasonable distresses, as would have made him, had he been a man of toó nice honour, the most wretched of all mortals. I came to the knowledge of his affairs by mere accident. Several of the narrow end of our lane having made an appointment to visit some friends be yond Saint Katharine's, where there was to be a merry meeting, they would needs take with them the old gentleman, as they are pleased to call me. I who value my company by their good-will, which naturally has the same effect as good-breeding, was not too stately, or too wise, to accept of the invitation. Our design was to be spectators of a seaball; to which I readily consented, provided I might be incognito, being naturally pleased with the survey of human life in all its degrees and circumstances. In order to this merriment, Will Rosin, who is the Corelli of the Wapping side, as Tom Scrape is the Bononcini of Redriffe, was immediately sent for; but, to our utter disappointment, poor Will was under an arrest, and desired the assistance of all his kind masters and mistresses, or he must go to gaol. The whole company re ceived his message with great humanity, and very generously threw in their half-pence a-piece in a great dish, which purchased his redemption out of the hands of the bailiffs. During the negotiation for his enlargement, I had an opportunity of acquainting myself with his history.
Mr. William Rosin, of the parish of Saint Ka. tharine, is somewhat stricken in years, and mar ried to a young widow, who has very much the ascendant over him; this degenerate age being so
perverted in all things, that, even in the state of matrimony, the young pretend to govern their elders. The musician is extremely fond of her; but is often obliged to lay by his fiddle, to hear louder notes of hers, when she is pleased to be angry with him: for you are to know, Will is not of consequence enough to enjoy her conversation but when she chides him, or makes use of him to carry on her amours: for she is a woman of stratagem; and even in that part of the world, where one would expect but very little gallantry, by the force of natural genius, she can be sullen, sick, out of humour, splenetic, want new cloaths, and more money, as well as if she had been bred in Cheapside or Cornhill. She was lately under a secret discontent, upon account of a lover she was like to lose by his marriage; for her gallant, Mr. Ezekiel Boniface, had been twice asked in the church, in order to be joined in matrimony with Mrs. Winifred Dimple, spinster, of the same parish. Hereupon Mrs. Rosin was far gone in that distemper which well-governed husbands know by the description of "I am I know not how;" and Will soon understood that it was his part to inquire into the occasion of her melancholy, or suffer as the cause of it himself. After much importunity, all he could get out of her was," that she was the most unhappy and the most wicked of all women, and had no friend in the world to tell her grief to." Upon this, Wilk doubled his importunities; but she said, "that she should break her poor heart, if he did not take a solemn oath upon a book, that he would not be angry; and that he would who. the person v had wronged her to all the world, for the ease of her mind, which was no way else to be quieted." The fidler was so melted, that he immediately kissed her, and afterwards the book. When his
oath was taken, she began to lament herself, and revealed to him, "That, miserable woman as she was, she had been false to his bed.". Will was glad to hear it was no worse; but, before he could reply, "Nay," said she, "I will make you all the atonement I can, and take shame upon me, by proclaiming it to all the world, which is the only thing that can remove my present terrors of mind." This was indeed too true, for her design was to prevent Mr. Boniface's marriage, which was all she apprehended. Will was thoroughly angry, and began to curse and swear, the ordinary expressions of passion in persons of his condition. Upon which his wife"Ah, William! how well you mind the oath you have taken, and the distress of your poor wife, who can keep nothing from you! I hope you will not be such a perjured wretch as to forswear yourself." The fidler answered, "That his oath obliged him only not to be angry at what had passed; but I find you intend to make me laughed at all over Wapping."" No, no," replied Mrs. Rosin, "I see well enough what you would be at, you poorspirited cuckold! You are afraid to expose Boniface, who has abused your poor wife, and would fain persuade me still to suffer the stings of conscience; but I assure you, sirrah, I will not go to the devil' for you." Poor Will was not made for contention, and, beseeching her to be pacified, desired "she would consult the good of her soul her own way, for he would not say her nay in any thing."
Mrs. Rosin was so very loud and public in her invectives against Boniface, that the parents of his mistress forbad the banns, and his match was prevented, which was the whole design of this deep stratagem. The father of Boniface brought his action of defamation, arrested the fidler, and recovered damages. This was the distress from
which he was relieved by the company; and the good husband's air, history, and jollity upon his enlargement, gave occasion to very much mirth; especially when Will, finding he had friends to stand by him, proclaimed himself a cuckold, by way of insult over the family of the Bonifaces. Here is a man of tranquillity without reading Seneca! What work had such an incident made among persons of distinction! The brothers and kindred of each side must have been drawn out, and hereditary hatred entailed on the families as long as their very names remained in the world. Who would believe that Herod, Othello, and Will Rosin, were of the same species?
There are quite different sentiments which reign in the parlour and the kitchen; and it is by the point of honour, when justly regulated, and invioJably observed, that some men are superior to others, as much as mankind in general are to brutes. This puts me in mind of a passage in the admirable poem called "The Dispensary," where the nature of true honour is artfully described in an ironical dispraise of it:
"But ere we once engage in honour's cause,
'First know what honour is, and whence it was.
It lives when in death's arms the hero lies,
Bigoted to this idol, we disclaim
Rest, health, and ease, for nothing but a name."
A very odd fellow visited me to-day at my
lodgings, and desired encouragement and recom