Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

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

pe: culiarities 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 feeling 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 retreat to the country, where he must pass either 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.

M

his days

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 tumultuous 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, countryladies, 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 compa, rison, 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 pri

[blocks in formation]

Here follows a second course of the same questions and answers, which being closed by an observation on the late hour from the one side, and some strictures on the shortness of town-visits from the other, the company are suffered to depart, who, it is ten to one, laugh all the way home at the good people who were at such pains to make themselves fit, as they thought, to be seen by them. Let these last remember, that there is a style, as it is called, proper to every thing; decency and cleanliness they owe to themselves; an imitation of the fashionable fineries of the town they owe to nobody ; most of these, indeed, are quite preposterous in the country; it is only when people get into crowds that they are at liberty to make fools of themselves.

As I have, in the beginning of this paper, desired the city-emigrants not to carry the town into the country, so I must entreat their country-friends not to forget that the others have but lately arrived there. Their relish for draining, ditching, hedging, horse-hoeing, liming, and marling, and such other branches of the fine arts as an afternoon's conversation at a gentleman-farmer's frequently runs into, has been a good deal blunted by seven months' residence in the region of amusement and dissipation. The like caution will apply to those female orators who occupy the intervals of teadrinking with dissertations on the cow.house, the dairy, and the poultry-yard.

There are some topics which may be introduced, at that season, in which both town and country ladies are qualified to join, though even of them I would recommend a sparing and moderate use; I mean those little lectures on morality, sometimes known by the name of scandal. In these the townladies, however, have some advantage, as their subjects are often such as may be reckoned fair game,

persons of whom the world has a right to talk, and who seem to act as if they wished to be talked of. These notorious offenders against decency and decorum, of which there are always some instances in great towns, may be compared to certain atrocious criminals, whom the law has ordered to be sent, after execution, to Surgeon's Hall; their characters may be dissected at all tea-tables, without any danger of the crime of defamation. But the beauty of a country-town or village is rarely so unguarded in her conduct as to give this licence to the tongues of her neighbours, who are, therefore, generally obliged to resort to the whispering of little private anecdotes and family-secrets, which I very much doubt if they be legally entitled to do, at least except in cases of great necessity, as on a rainy Sunday, or where the party consists but of two, who can neither play cribbage, piquet, or backgammon.

Somewhat a-kin to the lovers of detraction are the offence-takers, a species of people I have observed more common in the country than in populous cities. They are deeply versed in the science of precedency, in the etiquette of paying and returning visits, in the ceremonial of drinking healths, and of acknowledging bows and courtesies. I have been astonished to find the circle of my acquaintance so circumscribed as I have sometimes experienced, when I have happened to take up my headquarters at a gentleman's, who could only accompany me to the houses of one half of the neighbourhood, having contrived to be totally estranged from the other by neglects of himself, affronts to his wife, squabbles about dancing at annual balls, or toasts at country-meetings after the second bottle.

This disease of offence-taking is particularly epidemic in some places every seventh year, or sometimes it returns a little sooner by royal proclamation. As this summer may probably be the season of its recurring with violence, I take the present opportunity of warning my readers against the company of the infected; and even to these a regimen of temper and good manners may be found a very powerful and salutary alterative. The feelings of an offencetaker are always very disagreeable; and as to the external effects of this mental malady, whether it go off in oblique reflections, or break out into scurrility and abuse, I need not, I fancy, enlarge on the danger of their consequences. To gentle. men concerned in politics and electioneering, I would particularly observe, that the period of their canvass is not the proper time for indulging any such freedoms in conversation or behaviour. When the contest is determined, the losers have some sort of privilege for railing; the successful candidates, as things go now-a-days, should keep all their foul language for that place to which the suffrages of their constituents are to send them.

I

No. 106. SATURDAY, MAY 13, 1780.

Di tibi divitias dederant, artemque fruendi.

HOR. EPIST. i. 4. 7.

The importance of education to fit men for the world has been universally seen and acknowledged; but I think it has not been always sufficiently at

« VorigeDoorgaan »