Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

obstacles retarded his return : some new mortgage was to be settled, some company concerns to be wound up, or some bottomry account to be adjusted ; and thus year glided along after year, till at length death surprised him at the age of threescore and ten.

“ Busied in making money, he had never bestowed a thought on providing an heir to it: that he left to the impartial determination of the laws of his country; and, dying intestate, he was succeeded by his nephew Rowland Flint.

“ This gentleman, on his becoming rich, discovered himself to be eminently skilled in the science of law, the study, as he boasted, of his earlier years ; and this knowledge engaged him in three or four law-suits, which the court uniformly determined against him with costs.

“But of every other sciencehe honestly avowed his want of knowledge; and he did not even pretend understand painting or politics; but he had a mighty veneration for literature and its professors, and he was resolved to make his son a great scholar, although it should stand him in ten thousand pounds sterling.

“My pupil is in his fifteenth year. They had taken him from school before it was discovered that his proficiency in literature did not qualify him for college ; and it became my task to bring him forward, that is, to teach him what he ought to have known already.

“ The youth is of a docile disposition, and of moderate talents; his memory good, and his application such as is generally to be found among those who, having no particular incentives to study, perform their tasks merely as tasks.

“ I have little to say concerning his mother : her mind was wholly absorbed in the contemplation of her husband's riches, and in the care of her son's

health and her own. Baron Bielfield, an eminent German author, observes, that, in our island, there is a disease called le-catch-cold, of which the natives are exceedingly apprehensive. Mrs. Flint lived under the perpetual terror of that disease.

Being thus rendered incapable of the active duties of house-keeping, she committed them to her brother, Captain Winterbottom, who, as he was wont to say,

could bear a hand at any thing.' But his chief excellence lay in the conduct of the stew-pan and the nation. He had long commanded a vessel in the Baltic trade ; and it having been once employed as a transport in the service of government, he affected to wear a cockade, and wished to have it understood that he belonged to the navy. The captain had dealt occasionally in borough-politics, belonged to several respectable clubs in London, and was one of the original members of the Robinhood society.

“ The last of the family that I shall mention is Miss Juliana Winterbottom, a maiden sister of Mrs. Flint. Her original name was Judith ; but, when she arrived at the years of discretion, she changed it to Juliana, as being more genteel.

“ Many years ago, Lady - was advised to pass a winter at Nice for recovery of her health, worn out by the vigils and dissipation of a London winter; and she easily prevailed on Miss Juliana to go as her companion. The heat of the climate, and the cold blasts from the Alps, soon completed what the corrupted air of good company, and the damps from the Thames, had begun, and Lady — lived not to re-fee her British physicians.

“ Miss Juliana, on her return home, passed by the castle of Fernay, and got a peep of M. de Voltaire in his furred cap and night-gown. At Paris, she chanced to be in company with Count Buffon for

6

half an hour ; and she actually purchased a volume of music written by the great Rousseau himself. Having thus become acquainted with the foreign literati, she commenced a sort of literati in her own person. She frequently advances those opinions in history, morals, and physics, which, as she imagines, are to be found in the writings of the French philosophers. But whether through the habits of education, or through conscious ignorance, it must be confessed that she dogmatises with diffidence, and is a very stammerer in infidelity.

“Having seen Paris, and having picked up a good many French words in the course of her travels, she thinks that she is authorised, and, in some sort, obliged to speak French. Nothing can be more grotesque than her travelled language. When she left Scotland, 'her speech,' to use a phrase of Lord Bacon, was in the full dialect of her nation. At Nice she conversed with English and Irish ; and by imitating the language of each, she has, in her pronunciation, completed the union of the three kingdoms. But still her own country-language predominates; for, during her residence abroad, she had an opportunity of preserving, and even of improving it, by daily conferences with the house-maid, who was born and educated in the county of Banff.

“ In pronouncing French, she blends the tone of all those dialects; and her phraseology is as singular as her pronunciation ; for she faithfully translates every word from her own mother tongue. An example of this presents itself, which I shall never forget. One day, addressing her discourse to me, she said — Je doute pas que vous avez perusé les ouvraiges di Mongseer le Counte de Bouffon ; que un charmang creature! il met philosophes et divins par les oreilles.' That is— I doubt not that you have read the works of Count Bouffon; what a charming creature! he sets philosophers and

6

divines by the ears. I answered her, that I had never read the works of that renowned author, but that I had read the Principia of Sir Isaac Newton. Why, indeed,' replied she, “Sir Isaac may have been a man of better principles, but assheurement the theories of the Count are wittier.'

“ It is a happy circumstance that Miss Winterbottom did not make the grand tour. Had she visited Italy, she would have proved as great an adept in statuary and in painting, as she is at present in philosophy. But Miss Winterbottom cannot, in conscience, talk of her having visited Italy, while her travels were limited to the borders of Piedmont.

“I never heard her mention Italy but once, and then she got no great encouragement to proceed in her remarks. At dinner she said-'l remember that, in Italy, they have something very like our veal, which they call vitello.'-'Well, sister Juddy,' cried Captain Winterbottom, and why should they not ? for if vitello means veal in their lingo, what else would

you
have the

poor

devils call it ? “ It was resolved to postpone my lessons for a while, that,' as Mr. Flint expressed it, I might come to know the ways of the house first.'

“ Miss Juliana constantly teased me with questions about my plan for her nephew's education. To puzze her a little I said, that some weeks hence I proposed to teach him to make nonsense verses. Misericorde,' cried she, 'nonsense verses ! Is that part of the ettiquaitte?'

“Let the boy alone,' added Captain Winterbottom; when he is old enough to be in love, he will make nonsense verses, I warn't

you, without

any help of

yours ; ay, although it should be on Mamma's dairy-maid.' Mr. Flint laughed loud, and Mrs. Flint said gently, ' Oh fy, brother !'

“Perceiving that, on this encouragement, the Cap

tain was about to be more witty, I recalled the conversation to nonsense verses, endeavoured to explain their nature, and observed, that their main use was to instruct one in the quantity of syllables.

“Quantity of syllables,' exclaimed the Captain, there is a modern education for you! Boys have their heads lumbered with great quantities of Latin syllables and words, when they should be taught to understand things, to speak their own language rough and round, and so cut a figure in parliament. I remember Will Fitzdriver; but he is gone! Honest Will knew no tongue except a little of his own, and yet he would talk to you for an hour, and you would have thought that he had scarcely entered on the subject at all. He never valued any of your outlandish lingos, not he!'

“I said, that if my pupil were of an age to go into parliament, I should be apt to advise him to follow the precepts of Pythagoras, and be silent for seven years. ' He must have been a sure card, that Mr. Pythagoras,' observed the Captain, and I do suppose that he lived up to his own precepts ; for I never heard of any speaker of that name ; no, not even in committees. People, to be sure, may

hold their tongues, and have a slice of the great pudding; but this is not a time for your dumb senators. No, we must have bold well-spoken men, to tell poor Britannia that she is beggared, and bleeding, and expiring, aye, and dead too, for aught that some folks care. He rounded this pathetic period with one of his best oaths.

“ Were all men to makespeeches,' said I, what time would there be left for doing business !''Business,' cried the Captain, “is not oratory business ? and why cannot they set to it watch and watch, as we do at sea?'

“ Mrs. Flint expressed her hope, that I would not

« VorigeDoorgaan »