« VorigeDoorgaan »
certain dignity of character. In a word, I am happy enough, and I think Madam S. M. might have been so too, if she had had a mind.
I am, &c.
The situation which is described in the above letter is not, I believe, altogether an uncommon one. I should be very unwilling to make Mr. Joseph displeased with it; on the contrary, I think his cheerfulness and good-humour are to be envied. At the same time, without expressing those sentiments which, I doubt not, will occur to many of my readers upon the perusal of his letter, I cannot but observe, that I have sometimes felt regret, that, in certain circumstances, a more equal distribution of fortune were not made among the children of some great landed proprietors, or that care were not taken to moderate their education to that style of life in which their circumstances are likely to place them. A young man, who is left a small patrimony, ought not surely to be accustomed to habits of extravagance and dissipation, but ought to be early inured to œconomy, and be qualified for some business. Without this (though accident may sometimes conduct such young men to fortune or to eminence), there must be always great danger of their proving unfit for any valuable purpose in life, of their deserving no higher appellation than that of Mr. Joseph.
N° 70. SATURDAY, JANUARY 8, 1780.
Ingentes Dominos, et claræ nomina famæ,
Illustrique graves nobilitate domos,
IN an excursion I made some months to the county of. —, I paid a visit to Antonio, an old acquaintance of my father's, whom I had known from my infancy. He had been exceedingly attentive to me when a boy; and, as he was something of a sportsman, my guardians often permitted me to accompany him to the field, where, as indeed on every occasion, he treated me with the ease and freedom of a companion and an equal. This behaviour, so different from that to which boys are generally accustomed, while it flattered my self-importance, gave me so much favour and affection for Antonio, that I never saw him afterwards, without feeling those agreeable sensations, which accompany the recollection of that happy period of life, when we catch the pleasures of the moment, equally regardless of what is past or to come.
I had not heard of Antonio for many months. When I arrived at the village where he lived, I hastened to his house without any previous inquiry. The countenance of the servant made me suspect all was not well; and, when I entered his apartment, I found him in the last stage of a dropsy. The sensations that crowded on my mind at the squalid and
death-like appearance of the good old-man, so different from those in which I was prepared to indulge, had almost overcome me; but the growing emotion was checked by the countenance with which he beheld it. No sooner was I seated, than, taking my hand, What a change,' said he, with a look of melancholy composure, is here, since you last saw 'me!-I was two years older than your father; had he been alive, he would have been seventy-four 'next Christmas.'
The particulars of the conversation, though they have made a lasting impression on my mind, would be uninteresting to many of my readers; but as the life of Antonio will afford an important lesson to the younger part of them, I give the following short account of it, as the subject of this and the subsequent paper.
The father of Antonio was one of the first men of family in Scotland, who had been bred to the 'profession of a merchant; in which he was so successful, that about the beginning of this century he had acquired the sum of twenty thousand pounds, which was at that time, reckoned no inconsiderable fortune. He had two children who survived him; Antonio, and a daughter, Leonora, 'who was several years younger than her brother. As the father had received a liberal education, he was attentive to bestow the same benefit upon his son; but, being equally sensible of the advantages of industry, he was, at the same time, determined, that he should be educated to some profession or employment, though he did not restrain him in his choice. Antonio, on his part, seconded his father's views. His genius was inferior to none of his contemporaries; allowing for some little excesses, which the liveliness, and pliancy of his disposition engaged him in, he exceeded them all in the assi
duity of his application; and, as his manners were at the same time mild and spirited, he was both be• loved and respected by his companions.
Being arrived at an age which made it necessary to regulate his studies by the profession he was to follow, he made choice of that of physic, which, including the different branches of science usually 'connected with it, may be said to embrace the whole study of Nature: to these he applied ra⚫ther as a philosopher than as one who intended to be a practitioner in the art; he was, nevertheless, preparing to take his degree, when the death of his father left him, at the age of twenty, possessed
of a handsome fortune.
'Antonio continued his studies for some time with his usual assiduity; but, finding his income more than sufficient for his wants, he gave up all thoughts of engaging in practice. His house became the rendezvous of his former school-companions, many of them the sons of the first families in the kingdom, who were now entering into life (I speak of a period above fifty years ago), and who found themselves flattered by those engaging 'manners in the man, which had attached them to • the boy.
In consequence of these connections, Antonio ⚫ found himself engaged in a line of life to which he • had been little accustomed; but, as he had mixed the study of polite literature with science, and was master of the exercises of dancing, fencing, and riding, he soon acquired that ease in his address and ⚫ conversation, which mark the gentleman, while • they hide the man of learning from a common observer. His good-nature and benevolence, proceeding from an enlarged and liberal mind, prevented him from viewing, with too severe an eye, the oc'casional excesses of some of his companions; an
elegant taste, and a sound understanding, prevented him from engaging in them too deeply.
• Antonio's time was now mostly spent among the 'great. He made long and frequent visits at their seats in the country; he joined them in excursions 'from time to time to the different courts on the 'continent; and, when he was not abroad, he resided almost constantly in London, or the neighbourhood; * so that he became, in a great measure, a stranger in his own country.
Among the companions of Antonio were two sons of the Earl of W- who were particularly ' attached to him. Their father was not more envied by the ambitious for the distinguished rank he held in the councils of his Sovereign, than by the • wise and moderate for being father to two of the most promising young men of the age. They had 'been acquainted with Antonio from their infancy. They had grown up at the same schools, and stu• died under the same masters. · After an absence of three years, they happened to meet at Venice, where Antonio had the good fortune to render them essential service, in extricating them from difficulties in which the impetuosity of the best 'conditioned young men will sometimes involve them, especially in a foreign country. They returned together to Britain. Their father, who knew their former connection with Antonio, and • had heard of their recent obligation to him, expres'sed his sense of it in very flattering terms, and earnestly wished for an opportunity to reward it.
'I have seen few men who who were proof against the attention of ministers. Though it does always ' gratify, it seldom fails to excite three of the most powerful passions, vanity, ambition, and avarice. Antonio, I am afraid, did not form an exception to the rule. Though naturally an economist, his