Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

were retreating to their last citadel, the heart, rallied back; the film forsook his eyes for a moment; he looked up wishfully in my uncle Toby's face, then cast a look upon his boy; and that ligament, fine as it was, was never broken!

Nature instantly ebbed again ; the film returned to its place; the pulse fluttered-stopped-went on-tbrobbed-stopped againmoved-stopped. Shall I go on?

No.

Sterne.

A FRENCH PEASANT'S SUPPER.

It was about eight in the evening when I got to the house.

.

The family consisted of an old grey-headed man and his wife, with five or six sons and sons-in-law and their several wives, and a joyous genealogy out of them. They were all sitting down together to their lentil-soup; a large wheaten loaf was in the middle of the table; and a flagon of wine at each end of it promised joy through the stages of the repast ;—'twas a feast of love. The old man rose up to meet me, and, with a respectful cordiality, would have me sit down at the table; my heart was set down the moment I entered the room; so I sat down at once like a son of the family; and, to invest myself in the character as speedily as I could, I instantly borrowed the old man's knife, and, taking up the loaf, cut myself a hearty luncheon; and, as I did it, I saw a testimony in every eye, not only of an honest welcome, but of a welcome mixed with thanks that I had not seemed to doubt it. Was it this, or tell me, Nature, what else it was that made this morsel so sweet; and to what magic I owe it, that the draught I took of their flagon was so delicious with it, that they remain upon my palate to this hour? If the supper was to my taste, the grace which föllowed it was much more so.

When supper was over, the old man gave a knock upon the table with the haft of his knife, to bid them prepare for the dance. The moment the signal was given, the women and girls ran all together into the back apartment to tie up their hair, and the young men to the door to wish their faces and change their sabots; and

A FRENCH PEASANT'S SUPPER.

175

in three minutes every soul was ready, upon a little esplanade before the house, to begin. The old man and his wife came out last, and, placing me betwixt them, sat down upon a sofa of turf by the door. The old man had some fifty years ago been no mean performer upon the vielle; and at the age he was then of, touched it well enough for the purpose. His wife sang now and then a little to the tune; then intermitted, and joined her old man again, as their children and grandchildren danced before them.

It was not till the middle of the second dance, when, for some pauses in the movement wherein they all seemed to look

up,

I fancied I could distinguish an elevation of spirit different from that which is the cause or the effect of simple jollity. In a word, I thought I beheld Religion mixing in the dance; but as I had never seen her so engaged, I should have looked upon it now as one of the illusions of an imagination which is eternally misleading me, had not the old man, as soon as the dance ended, said that this was their constant way; and that all his life long he had made it a rule, after supper was over, to call out his family to dance and rejoice: believing, he said, that a cheerful and contented mind was the best sort of thanks to Heaven that an illiterate peasant could pay.

Sterne.

SPEECH OF CHATHAM ON BEING TAUNTED

ON ACCOUNT OF HIS YOUTH.

The atrocious crime of being a young man, which the honourable gentleman has, with such spirit and decency, charged upon me, I shall neither attempt to palliate nor deny, but content myself with wishing that I may be one of those whose follies may cease with their youth, and not of that number who are ignorant in spite of experience. Whether youth can be imputed to any man as a reproach, I will not assume the province of determining ; but surely age may become justly contemptible if the opportunities which it brings have passed away without improvement, and vice appears to prevail when the passions have subsided. The wretch who. after having seen the consequences of a thousand errors, continues still to blunder, and whose age has only added obstinacy to stupidity, is surely the object either of abhorrence or contempt, and deserves not that his grey hairs should secure him from insult. Much more is he to be abhorred who, as he has advanced in age, has receded from virtue, and become more wicked with less temptation; who prostitutes himself for money which he cannot enjoy, and spends the remains of his life in the ruin of his country.

But youth is not my only crime; I have been accused of acting a theatrical part. A theatrical part may either inply some peculiarities of gesture, or a dissimulation of my real sentiments, and an adoption of the opinions and language of another man.

In the first sense the charge is too trifling to be confuted, and deserves only to be mentioned, that it may be despised. I am at liberty, like every other man, to use my own language; and though, perhaps, I may have some ambition, yet, to please this gentleman, I shall not lay myself under any restraint, nor very solicitously copy his diction, or his mien, however matured by age, or modelled by experience. But if any man shall, by charging me with theatrical behaviour, imply that I utter any sentiments but my own, I shall treat him as a calumniator and a villain ; nor shall any protection shelter him from the treatment he deserves. I shall, on such an occasion, without scruple trample upon all those forms with which wealth and dignity entrench themselves; nor shall anything but age restrain my resentment; age, which always brings one privilege, that of being insolent and supercilious without punishment.

But with regard to those whom I have offended, I am of opinion that if I had acted a borrowed part, I should have avoided their censure; the heat that offended them is the ardour of conviction, and that zeal for the service of my country which neither hope nor fear shall influence me to suppress. I will not sit unconcerned while my liberty is invaded, nor look in silence upon public robbery. I will exert my endeavours, at whatever hazard, to repel the aggressor, and drag the thief to justice, whoever may protect him in his villany, and whoever may partake of his plunder.

Earl of Chatham.

SPEECH AGAINST THE EMPLOYMENT OF INDIANS

IN THE WAR WITH AMERICA.

I CANNOT, my lords, I will not, join in congratulation on misfortune and disgrace. This, my lords, is a perilous and tremendous moment! it is not a time for adulation; the smoothness of flattery cannot now avail_cannot save us in this rugged and awful crisis. It is now necessary to instruct the throne in the language of truth. We must dispel the delusion and darkness which envelope it, and display, in its full danger and true colours, the ruin that is brought to our doors. Can ministers still presume to expect support in their infatuation? Can Parliament be so dead to its dignity and its duty, as to give its support to measures thus obtruded and forced upou us—measures, my lords, which have reduced this late flourishing empire to scorn and contempt? But yesterday, and England might have stood against the world : now, none so poor to do her reverence! The people whom we at first despised as rebels, but whom we now acknowledge as enemies, are abetted against you, supplied with every military store, have their interests consulted, and their ambassadors entertained, by your inveterate enemy; and ministers do not, and dare not, interpose with dignity or effect. The desperate state of our army abroad is in part known. No man more highly esteems and honours the English troops than I do. I know their virtues and their valour ; I know they can achieve anything but impossibilities; and I know that the conquest of English America is an impossibility. You cannot, my lords—you cannot conquer America. What is your present situation there? We do not know the worst; but we know that in three campaigns we have done nothing, and suffered much. You may swell every expense,

accumulate

every assistance, and extend your traffic to the shambles of every German despot ; your efforts are for ever vain and impotent—doubly so, indeed, from this mercenary aid on which you rely; for it irritates, to an incurable resentment, the minds of your enemies,-to overrun them with the mercenary sons of rapine and plunder, devoting them and their possessions to the rapacity of hireling cruelty! If I were an American as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms— never, never, never !

N

But, my lords, who is the man that, in addition to the disgraces and mischiefs of the war, has dared to authorise and associate to our arms the tomahawk and scalping-knife of the savage—to call into civilized alliance the wild and inhuman inhabitant of the woods—to delegate to the merciless Indian the defence of disputed rights, and to wage the horrors of his barbarous war against our brethren? My lords, these enormities cry aloud for redress and punishment: unless thoroughly done away, it will be a stain on the national character. But, my lords, this barbarous measure has been defended, not only on the principles of policy and necessity, but also on those of morality ; 'for it is perfectly allowable,' says Lord Suffolk, ' to use all the means which God and Nature have put into our hands.' I am astonished, I am shocked, to hear such principles confessed—to hear them avowed in this house or in this country! My lords, I did not intend to encroach so much on your attention, but I cannot repress my indignation—I feel myself impelled to speak. My lords, we are called upon as members of this house, as men, as Christian men, to protest against such horrible barbarity! "That God and Nature have put into our hands !' What ideas of God and Nature that noble lord may entertain, I know not;

but I know that such abominable principles are equally abhorrent to religion and humanity. What! to attribute the sacred sanction of God and Nature to the massacres of the Indian scalping-knife !-to the cannibal savage torturing, murdering, devouring, drinking the blood of his mangled victims ! Such notions shock every precept of morality, every feeling of humanity, every sentiment of honour. These abominable principles, and this more abominable avowal of them, demand the most decisive indignation. I call upon that right-reverend and this most learned bench to vindicate the religion of their God, to support the justice of their country. I call upon the bishops to interpose the unsullied sanctity of their lawn-upon the learned judges to interpose the purity of their ermine, to save us from this pollution. I call upon the honour of your lordships to reverence the dignity of your ancestors, and to maintain your own: I call upon the spirit and humanity of my country to vindicate the national character: I invoke the genius of the Constitution. From the tapestry that adorns these walls, the immortal ancestor* of this noble lord frowns with indignation at the disgrace of his country. In vain he defended and

* Lord Effingham Howard, Admiral of England at the time of the Spanish Armada.

« VorigeDoorgaan »