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garden, waiting a call to dinner, dressed in an old coat, which had once been black, a slouched hat of the same complexion, with a long pole in his hand, and with a beard that did not appear to have felt a razor for many days.
After a hearty welcome, he carried me in to dinner. In his conversation, I found as great a change as in his outward appearance and deportment. From living in a narrow circle, he had contracted a pecu. liarity in his notions, which sometimes amused from its oddity; and, from conversing chiefly with persons rather of an inferior station to himself, he had become as tenacious of his opinions, as if they had been self-evident truths, and as impatient of contradiction, as if to differ from him had been a crime.
From the same causes, the veriest trifle, particu. larly if it concerned himself, had become to him an object of importance. A country gentleman he con. sidered as the most respectable character in nature; and he talked as if honour, lruth, and sincerity, were confined to them alone. Every man who lived in the world, he considered as a villain ; and every woman who passed much of her time in town, he made no scruple to say, was no better than she should be. At first, it astonished me to hear a man, of his good sense and benevolent dispositions, talk of some of the most amiable characters of the age in the most disrespectful terms. When I endeavoured to put him to rights, he at once cut me short, by saying, he could have no doubt of the truth of whiat he ad. vanced, as he had been told such and such a thing by his friend and neighbour Mr. Downright, who scorned to flatter any man, or to tell any thing but the truth. . [soon had an opportunity of judging how far the country gentlemen were entitled to the high character my friend had given them for honour and integ.
rity. The morning after I arrived, my host informed me he was obliged to attend a country.meeting, where there was to be business of considerahle im. portance, in which he was deeply interested ; and, as he could not stay at home with me, I readily consented to accompany him. He had dressed himself for the occasion; that is, he had shaved his beard, and put on a clean shirt. It remained to determine how we should travel. At first he pro. posed to go on horseback ; but the appearance of a black cloud made him think of the carriage. It then occurred, that taking the carriage would stop the plough ; and it was determined we should ride. But, as we were going to mount, the recollection of a cold, attended with some threatenings of a sore throat he had had the week before, made him again resolve upon the carriage. In short, I found that my poor friend, naturally of an undecisive temper, and having no proper object to fill his mind, had accustomed himself to deliberate on every trifle, as if it had been an affair of the greatest consequence, At length wę set out in the carriage ; but not till repeated instructions were given to John to drive only two miles the first hour, and not more than three, or three and a quarter afterwards.
On the road, we met with some incidents that were amusing enough. In the midst of a serious conversation on the state of the nation, in which Acasto was proposing plans of reformation, and tracing all our present calamities to the prevalence of the mercantile interest in parliament, and the shameful neglect of the country-gentlemen, we happened to pass the house of a cottager, who had laid down a load of coals rather too near the high road ; which Acasto no sooner perceived than he stopped the carriage, and calling out the poor man, began to rate him as if he had been guilty of the grossest offence. Not satisfied with ordering the nuisance to be removed, he thought it necessary to represent, in strong colours, all the possible mischiefs that might have ensued from it. What might have happened,' said he, • if my horses had startled, God only knows !-Had • we been overturned, my carriage might have been 'broken, or my horses killed, and even I myself might have been hurt.
This circumstance, triling as it was, rumed my friend so much, that it was some time before he could resume the thread of his conversation. Some other incidents of the same kind gave him an opportunity of displaying his attention to the police of the country, and of impressing me with an idea of the obligations he had thereby conferred on his fellow-citizens. At length we arrived at the countytown, and immediately drove to the court-house, where we found a very numerous meeting
I soon found that the important business which had brought so many gentlemen from their own houses, was to determine, whether a bridge should be built at one end of a village or the other? From the course of the argument, if argument it could be called, I plainly perceived, that to the Public it was a matter of the most perfect indifference. But, if executed in one way, it would accommodate a gentle. man who had acquired a large fortune in the course of trade, and had lately purchased an estate in the neighbourhood, on which he had built an elegant house. Acasto, and his friend Mr. Downright, strenuously opposed the plau of accommodating this novus homo, who had presumed to buy one of the best estates in the county, from the heir of an ancient family, at a higher price than any body else would have given for it. For my own part, I was truly mortified to observe in both parties as much trick and chicane as might, when properly varnished, have done honour to the most finished statesman. In one thing only I discovered that open plainness on which country-gentlemen are so apt to value themselves, and that was in the language in which they addressed each other. There, indeed, they were sufficiently plain ; and no where did I ever observe a more total neglect of the favourite maxim of Lord Chesterfield, fortiter in re, suaviter in modo.
On our way home, Acasto entertained me with the characters of the gentlemen we had seen ; but he might have saved himself the trouble ; for, by recollecting how they voted, I should immediately have known which of them were honest and sincere, and which mean time-serving sycophants.
I shall not trouble my readers with any reflections on Acasto's character. It is plain, that the little peculiarities which, with all his natural good sense and benevolence, expose him hourly to ridicule or to censure, have been occasioned by his retreat from the world, and by that solitude in which he has lived so long. Seldom, indeed, have I known any one that did not, in some degree, suffer from it; that did not more or less, become selfish and contracted, conceited and opinionative. I never see a young heir fluttering about town in the circle of gaiety, without feel. ing an emotion of compassion. In a few years, when he comes to be supplanted in that circle by a younger set, no resource remains for him but a re. treat to the country, where he must pass his days eicher in a state of listless inactivity, or in pursuits unworthy of a rational being. I would, therefore, earnestly recommend it to every parent, to educate the heir of his fortune to some profession; to set before him some object that may fill his mind, may rouse him to action, and may make him at once a happy and respectable member of society.
No 105: TUESDAY, MAY 9, 1780.
The winter, which, like an untaught visitor, had prolonged its stay with us to a very unreasonable length, has, at last, given place to vernal breezes and a more indulgent sky; and many of my readers will now leave the business or amusements of the town, for the purer air and less tumultous enjoyments of the country. As I have, now and then, ventured some observations on the manners and fashions of the former, I could not forbear, from a friendly concern for those whom the season now calls into the latter, to offer a few remarks on certain errors which are more generally prevalent in the country. My last paper was intended for the serious perusal of country-gentlemen. I mean, in this, to make a few lighter observations on some little failings, in point of manners, to which I have seen a propensity in country-gentlemen, country-ladies, and in those who, though of the town, for the greatest part of the year, make their appearance, like the cuckoo (I mean no offence by the comparison), when the trees have put on their leaves, and the meadows their verdure.
In the first place, I would beg of those who migrate from the city, not to carry too much of the town with them into the country. I will allow a lady to exhibit the newest-fashioned cut in her ridinghabit, or to astonish a country congregation with the height of her head-dress; and a gentleman, in like manner, to sport, as they term it, a grotesque pattern of a waistcoat, or to set the children agape by the enormous size of his buckles. These are privi.