Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

when paragraphs encounter with paragraphs, and

jostle in the dark,' what must be the state of him who sits down to spell the newspapers with the de. termined resolution of believing whatever he sees in

print ?

There is a pleasure in giving good advice, and therefore I must take this opportunity of going a little beyond my friend's commission.

A witty statesman, of the days of our fathers, observed, that John Bull was always in the garret, or in the cellar.' John's own sister Margaret, although not quite so delicate in her sensations, has much of the family disposition. If the wind sets in to the east, then we are a betrayed, and abandoned, and lost people ; but on the wind coming round to the west, what nation so glorious and weilgoverned as ours! Our perfidious enemies shall know what it is to rouse the Lion, to annoy the Thistle, or to put the Harp out of tune.

Such being the disposition of readers apt to be depressed or elevated on every occasion, or on no occasion, the writers of newspapers ought to be cautious as well in slackering as in over-bracing the nerves of their customers; and the only method I can recommend for attaining this happy medium is, * that they report nothing but what they believe to

be true ;' or, if that be to require too much of flesh and blood, that they report nothing which they believe to be fictitious.'

· The Britannia, captain George Manly come mander, is totally lost on the coast of Barbary ; ' every soul on board perished.'

On board the Britannia there was the only son of a widow, whose single fund of subsistence depended on that pittance of his wages which her dutiful child allotted to her. In the same ship there was a sober and industrious young man, who had quitted his his wife a few months after marriage, that he might provide for a young creature whom he hoped to see in its mother's arms at his return.

• It is confidently reported, that six or seven men of the crew of the Britannia got safely to shore, • and that they were made slaves, unless, as is to be feared, they were murdered by the natives.' Here there is a gleam of miserable and dubious hope darting on the minds of those who had relations on board the Britannia.

• The Britannia is safely arrived at Port Mahon ; so that the report of her having been lost is without • foundation.' – The inference is most logical.

In the very next paragraph it is said, “We have • the pleasure of informing the Public, that a capital <figure-dancer will soon make his appearance on the stage.'

Are not such things to be found in the news. papers of every week; and is it not a cruel sporting with the sensibilities of human nature, thus to wring the souls of parents and wives, of the aged and the helpless, and that merely to fill up the columns of a newspaper ?

It is of high national importance that the very earliest notice should be given of the next appearance of a figure-dancer; but, surely, there was no necessity of saying any thing of the Britannia, in whose wel. fare the fate of so many little families were involved, until it should have been certainly known whether she was wrecked, or had safely arrived in port.

Of late years there has a practice crept in, of making the newspapers not only the vehicle of public intelligence, but also of the misfortunes, real or ima. ginary, of private families. For example, · We hear that Mrs. Gadabout was lately detected in an illicit commerce with her husband's postillion, and that a process of divorce will be brought,' &c.

[ocr errors]

Invention immediately busies itself in accounting for this incident. After the first ceremonies of surprise and deep regret, the education of the lady is scrutinized; it was too strict, or it was too loose : the character of the husband is laid before the inquest of gossips : he was morose and sullen, or he had set an example of extravagaiice and libertinism, which poor Mrs. Gadabout inconsiderately followed. Then some one, more expert in tracing effects to their cause, recollects having heard, that something of a like nature befel the family many years ago ; and that the grand-aunt of Mrs. Gadabout's father, if common fame lie not, stept aside with the Duke of Buckingham, when he attended Charles II. into Scotland.

In this state of uncertainty things remain for a week or two, when fresh intelligence is communi. cated to the Public. •The report of Mrs. Gada• bout's affair is premature.-The former article was "copied from another paper. We hope that all 'concerned will accept of this apology.' Doubtles a most satisfying apology to all concerned !

The writers of newspapers are the historians of the day, but I see no cause why they should be the historians of the lie of the day.

N° 76. SATURDAY, JANUARY 29, 1780.

Refinement and delicacy of mind are not more observable in our serious occupations, than in the style of our amusements. Of those who possess them, the most vacant hours will generally be informed by taste, or enlivened by imagination ; but with men destitute of that sentiment which they inspire, pleasure will commonly degenerate into grossness, conviviality into intemperance, and mirth into riot.

Mr. Melfort is one of my friend Mr. Umphraville's early acquaintance, who continues to reside in this city, and of whom he still retains some re. semblance.

That gentleman, in his youth, had applied to the study of the law, and was admitted to the bar; but, having soon after succeeded to a tolerable fortune, he derives no other benefit from his profession than an apology for residing part of the year in town, and such a general acquaintance there, as enables him to spend his time in that society which is suited to his disposition. He is often, indeed, to be seen in court; but he comes there only as he does to the coffee-house, to inquire after the news of the day, or to form a party for soine of those dinners which he usually gives.

In my friend's last visit to town, he met with this gentleman, and came under an engagement to dine with him. I was asked to be of the party, and attended him accordingly.

The company was a large one. Besides Mrs. Melfort and her two daughters, there were three other young ladies who appeared to be intimate in the fa. mily. The male part of the company was still more

It consisted, beside our landlord, Mr. Umphraville, and myself, of two lawyers, a physician, a jolly-looking man in the uniform of a seaofficer, and a gentleman advanced in life, who had somewhat of the air and mannér of a foreigner, and, I afterwards learned, had left this country at an early age, and lived chiefly abroad ever since.

Mr. Umphraville, who was seated next Mrs,

numerous.

Melfort, seemed not less pleased with the conversation than with the manners of that lady, who is indeed perfectly well-bred and accomplished ; and the stranger, whose name was Melville, appeared equally to relish the spirit which distinguished the discourse of Mr. Umphraville. I had early observed him to mark my old friend, as a member of the com: pany not the least worthy of his attention.

The dinner was succeeded by a round of toasts, during which the ladies received scarce any other mark of attention from the company, Mr. Umphra. ville, Mr. Melville, and myself, excepted, than that of Mr. Melfart's calling for their toasts, which he always distinguished, by desiring us to fill a bumper.

Immediately after this ceremony was ended, they withdrew; a circumstance which seemed nowise disa agreeable to the company they left, the greatest part of whom had hitherto sat mute, and plainly felt the presence of the ladies a restraint on the freedom and jollity of conversation.

They had no sooner retired, than Mr. Melfort, raising himself in his chair, announced a bumper to the ladies who had left us; an order which was readily complied with, and seemed to spread an air of satisfaction around the table. The sea-captain said, he was glad the frigates had sheered off; • and now,' added he, if you please, Mr. Melfort, as

the signal is given, we may clear the decks and • form the line of battle.'

The Captain's joke was applauded with a loud laugh; during which honest Umphraville, whose face is no hypocrite, cast to my side of the table a look of displeasure and contempt, which I was at no loss to interpret. Meantime the servants removed one half of the table, that we might sit sociably, as Mr. Melfort termed it, round the other, which was immediately furnished with a set of fresh glasses,

« VorigeDoorgaan »