[ocr errors]

new play in a week.'—'I am not so much surprised, Sir,' replied the Colonel, ' at the number of your players, as I am at the number of the audience.'

Most of the new performers are drafts from the English and Irish stages. From the awkward division of them, I presume.'— You are a severe critic, Sir,' replied the officer ; ' but the house has been as full as you see it every night these three weeks,' I can easily believe it,' said the Colonel.

As the play went on, the Colonel was asked his opinion of it by this gentleman and one or two more of his neighbours. He was shy of venturing his judgement on the piece; they were kind enough to direct him how to form one. This is a very favourite comedy, Sir, and has had a great run at Drurylane.'- Why, gentlemen,' said he, I have no doubt of the comedy being an excellent comedy, since you tell me so; and to be sure those gentlemen and ladies who make up the dramatis persone of it, say a number of good things, some of them not the worse for having been said last century by Joe Miller; but I am often at a loss to know what they would be at, and wish for a little of my old friend Bayes's insinuation to direct me.'—You mean, Sir, that the plot is involved.'— Pardon me, Sir, not at all; 'tis a perfectly clear plot, as clear as the sun in the cucumber,' as Anthonio in Venice Preserved says. The hero and heroine are to be married, and they are at a loss how to get it put off till the fifth act.'* You will see, Sir, how the last scene will wind it up.'-'Oh! I have no doubt, Sir, that it will end at the dropping of the curtain.'

Before the dropping of the curtain, however, it was not easy to attend to that winding up of the plot which was promised us. Between gentlemen coming into the house from dinner-parties, and ladies going out of it to evening ones, the disorder in the boxes,

and the calling to order in the pit, the business of the comedy was rather supposed than followed; and the actors themselves seemed inclined to slur it a little, being too well-bred not to perceive that they interrupted the arrangement of some of the genteel. est part of their audience.

When the curtain was down, I saw Colonel Cause tic throw his eye round the house with a look which I knew had nothing to do with the comedy. After a silence of two or three minutes, in which I did not choose to interrupt him, “ Amidst the various calcu. lations of lives,' said he, is there any table for the life of a beauty?'-'I believe not,' said I, smiling; there is a fragility in that, which neither Price nor Maseres ever thought of applying figures to.'-''Tis a sort of mortality, continued the Colonel, which, at such a time as this, at the ending of some public entertainment, I have often thought on with a very melancholy feeling. An old bachelor like me, who has no girls of his own, except he is a very peevish fellow, which I hope I am not, looks on every one of these young creatures in some measure as daughter; and when I think how many children of that sort I have lost--for there are a thousand ways of a beauty's dying-it almost brings tears into my eyes. Then they are so spoiled while they do live. Here I am as splenetic as before I was melancholy. Those flower-beds we see, so fair to look on,-what useless weeds are suffered to grow up with them!' - I do not think, Colonel, that the mere flower part is left uncultivated.'— Why, even as to that, ’tis artificially forced before its time. A woman has a character even as a beauty. A beauty, a toast, a fine woman, merely considered as such, has a sort of professional character, which it requires some sense and accomplishinents to maintain. Now-adays there are so many irregulars who practise at


fifteen, without a single requisite except mere outside !--if we go a little further, and consider a woman as something more than a beauty; when we regard the sex as that gentle but irresistible power that should mould the world to a finer form, that should teach benignity to wisdom, to virtue grace, humanity to valour ; when we look on them in less eminent, but not less useful points of view, as those diż pénates, those household deities, from whom man is to find comfort and protection, who are to smooth the ruggedness of his labours, the irksomeness and cares of business; who are to blunt the sting of his sorrows and the bitterness of his disappointments !-- You think me a fool for declaiming thus.'— No, upon my soul, don't I; I hope you think better of me than to suppose so.'— But I may come down from


declamation. Yonder are a set, fluttering in that box there,--young to be sure, but they will never be older, except in wrinkles. I don't suppose they have an idea in their heads beyond the colour of a riband, the placing of a feather, or the step of a cotillonAnd yet they may get husbands.'— If it please God,' said I.- And be the mothers of the next generation.'— 'Tis to be hoped.'—Well, well, old Caustic will be in his grave by that time!'

There was what Shakspeare calls a humorous sadness' in the thought, at which I did not well know whether to smile or be sorrowful. But on the whole, it was one I did not choose to press too close on. I feel that I begin to love this old man exceedingly; and having acquired him late, I hope I shall not lose him soon.


[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

SIR, “ The art of knowing ourselves has been recom. mended by the moralists of all ages; and its attainment inculcated with that earnestness which implies both a conviction of its htgh value, and a sense of its difficulty. The great obstacle to the acquisition of this most desirable species of instrution, is acknowledged to be that self-deceit by which the same vices or defects which we keenly note in the character of others, and judge of with rigour and severity, are viewed in ourselves through a medium of partial indulgence. Though unable to resist the seductions to a deviation from duty, we cannot endure the avowal of our own depravity, We are anxious to hide our weakness from our. selves, as well as from others; and our ingenuity is exerted to devise specious apologies and subterfuges. “Reason panders Will;' and thus it be said, though paradoxically, yet truly, that the love of virtue itself is a secondary cause of our continuance in the practice of vice.

“ The effectual removal of this veil of self-deceit is what the weakness of our nature, perhaps, prevents us to hope can ever be accomplished : yet, though not completely removed, it may be partially withdrawn. I have often thought, that should a man be really in earnest in the desire of attaining a knowledge of his own character, there are times and cir,

may tude, may

cumstances which lay it open before him : there are situations which dissipate for a while that mist of errors which hides him from his own eyes, and force an acknowledgment of many defections from virtue, many a desertion to vice, which he would blush to be suspected of by others.

“ In estimating the characters of men, we are often sensible of great revolutions in our opinions. The same person who at one time possessed our approbation or esteem, at another is perhaps become the object of our aversion. The man whom formerly perhaps we disregarded as of a weak understanding, we afterwards discover to possess considerable abi. lities. He whom some unfavourable circumstances have led us to suspect of a deficiency in moral recti

afterwards, on a more intimate acquaintance, be found of the most scrupulous integrity.The frequent experience of those errors in judgement, will evince to us the folly and danger of an implicit reliance on our own opinions; will inculcate a salutary distrust of their foundation, and a conviction of the perverting influence of our ruling passions and prejudices. And this, Sir, is no inconsiderable advance in the science of self-knowledge.

“ In the perusal of history, or of the more limited pictures which biography presents to us, there is no reader who does not take a warm interest in every thing that regards a truly deserving character; who does not feel a sensible pleasure in those instances where the benevolent purposes of such a person have been attended with success, or his virtuous actions followed by reward. This approbation paid to virtue is a tribute of the heart, which is given with ease, which is bestowed even with pleasure. But in life itself, it is unhappily found that virtue has not the same concomitant approbation. The same instances of generosity, of humanity, of candour, temperance,

« VorigeDoorgaan »