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therefore preposterous, to endeavour to regularize, his plays, at the expence of depriving them of this peculiar excellence, especially as the alteration can only produce a very partial and limited improvement, and can never bring his pieces to the standard of criticism, or the form of the Aristotelian drama. Within the bounds of a pleasure.garden, we may be allowed to smooth our terraces and trim our hedge-rows; but it were equally absurd as impracticable, to apply the minute labours of the roller and the pruning-knife, to the nobler irregularity of trackless mountains and impenetrable forests.
N° 101. TUESDAY, APRIL 25, 1780.
To the Author of the Mirror. Sir, In books, whether moral or amusing, there are no passages more captivating both to the writer and the reader, than those delicate strokes of sen. timental morality, which refer our actions to the determination of feeling. In these the poet, the novel writer, and the essayist, have always delighted; you are not, therefore, singular, for having dedicated so much of the Mirror to sentiment and sensibility. I imagine, however, Sir, there is much danger in pushing these qualities too far: the rules of our conduct should be founded on a basis more solid, if they are to guide us through the various situ.
ations of life : but the young enthusiast of sentiment and feeling is apt to despise those lessons of vulgar virtue and prudence, which would confine the movements of a soul formed to regulate itself by finer impulses. I speak from experience, Mr. Mirkor; with what justice you shall judge, when you have heard the little family-history I am going to relate.
My niece, Emilia , was left to my care by a brother whom I dearly loved, when she was a girl of about ten years old. The beauty of her countenance, and the elegance of her figure, had already attracted universal notice; as her mind opened, it was found not less worthy of admiration. To the sweetest natural disposition, she united uncommon powers both of genius and of understanding: these I spared no pains to cultivate and improve ; and I think I so far succeeded, that, in her eighteenth year, Emilia was inferior to few women of her age, either in personal attractions or in accom. plishments of the mind. My fond hopes (for she was no daughter to me, MR. MIRROR) looked now for the reward of my labour, and I pictured her future life as full of happiness as of virtue.
One feature of her mind was strongly predominant; a certain delicacy and fineness of feeling which she had inherited from Nature, and which her earliest reading had tended to encourage and increase. To this standard she was apt to bring both her own actions and the actions of others; and allowed more to its effects, both in praise and blame, than was consistent with either justice or expediency. I sometimes endeavoured gently to combat these notions. She was not always logical, but she was always eloquent in their defence ; and I found her more confirmed on their side, the more I obliged her to be their advocate. I preferred, therefore, being silent on the subject, trusting that a little more experience and knowledge of the world would necessarily weaken their influence.
At her age, and with her feelings, it is necessary to have a friend : Emilia had found one at a very early period. Harriet
w as the daughter of a neighbour of my brother's, a few years older than my niece. Several branches of their education the two young ladies had received together ; in these the superiority lay much on the side of Emilia. Harriet was no wise remarkable for fine. ness of genius or quickness of parts ; but though her acquirements were moderate, she knew how to manage them to advantage ; and there was often a certain avowal of her inferiority, which conciliated affection the more, as it did not claim admiration. Her manners were soft and winning, like those of Emilia, her sentiments as delicate and exalted ; there seemed, however, less of nature in both.
Emilia's attachment to this young lady I found every day increase, till, at last, it so totally engrossed her as rather to displease me. When together, their attention was confined almost entirely to each other; or what politeness forced them to bestow upon others, they considered as a tax which it was fair to elude as much as possible. The world, a term which they applied indiscriminately to almost every one but themselves, they seemed to feel as much pride as happiness in being secluded from ; and its laws of prudence and propriety, they held the invention of cold and selfish minds, insensible of the delights of feeling, of sentiment, and of friend. ship. These ideas were, I believe, much strengthened by a correspondence that occupied most of the hours (not many indeed) in which they were separated. Against this I ventured to remonstrate
in a jocular manner with Emilia ; she answered me in a strain so serious, as convinced me of the danger of so romantic an attachment. Our discourse on the subject grew insensibly warm: Emilia at last burst into tears; and I apologized for having, I knew not how, offended her. From that day forth, though I continued her adviser, I found I had ceased to be her friend.
That office was now Harriet's alone; the tie only wanted some difficulty to rivet it closer, some secret to be intrusted with, some distress to alleviate. Of this an opportunity soon after presented itself. Harriet became enamoured of a young gentleman of the name of Marlow, an officer of dragoons, who had come to the country on a visit to her brother, with whom he had been acquainted at college. As she inherited several thousand pounds, independent of her expectations from her father, such a match was a very favourable one for a young man who pos. sessed no revenue but his commission. But, for that very reason, the consent of the young lady's relations was not to be looked for. After some time, therefore, of secret and ardent attachment, of which my niece was the confident, the young folks married without it, and trusted to the common relentings of parental affection, to forgive a fault which could not be remedied. But the father of Harriet remained quite inexorable ; nor was his resentment softened even by her husband's leaving the army ; a step which, it was hoped, might have mitigated his anger as he had often declared it principally to arise from his daughter's marrying a soldier.
After some fruitless attempts to reinstate themselves in the old gentleman's affections, they took up their residence in a provincial town, in a distant part of the kingdom ; where, as Harriet described their situation to Emilia, they found every wish gratified in the increasing tenderness of one another, Emilia, soon after, went to see them in their new abode : her description of their happiness, on her return, was warm to a degree of rapture. Her visit was repeated on occasion of Harriet's lying-in of her first child. This incident was a new source of delight to Emilia's friends, and of pleasure to her in their society. Harriet, whose recovery was slow, easily prevailed on her to stay till it was completed. She became a member of the family, and it was not without much regret, on both sides, that she left, at the end of six months, a house from which, as she told me, the world was secluded, where sentiment regulated the conduct, and happiness rewarded it. All this while I was not without alarm, and could not conceal my uneasiness from Emilia ; I represented the situation in which her friend stood, whom prudent people must consider as having, at least, made a bold step, if not a blameable one. I was answered rather angrily, by a warm remonstrance against the inhumanity of parents, the unfeelingness of age, and the injustice of the world.
That happiness, which my niece had described as the inmate of Harriet's family, was not of long duration. Her husband, tired of the inactive scene into which his marriage had cast him, grew fisrt discontented at home, and then sought for that pleasure abroad which his own house could not afford him. His wife felt this change warmly, and could not restrain herself from expressing her feelings. Her complaints grew into reproaches, and rivetted her husband's dislike to her society, and his relish for the society of others. Emilia was, as usual, the confident of her friend's distress; it was now increased to a lingering illness, which had succeeded the birth of a second girl. After informing me of