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come upon us, in that we saw the anguish of our brother's soul without pity! How moving must it be to Joseph to hear Reuben accuse the rest, that they would not hear what he pleaded in behalf of his innocence and distress! He turns from them, and
weeps; but commands his passion so far as to give orders for binding one of them in the presence of the rest, while he at leisure observed their different sentiments and concern in their gesture and countenance. When Benjamin is demanded in bondage for stealing the cup, with what love and what resignation does Judah address his brother!
“ In what words shall I speak to my lord ? with what confidence can I say any thing ? Our guilt is but too apparent; we submit to our fate. We are my lord's servants, both we and he also with whom the
cup is found.” When that is not accepted, how pathetically does he recapitulate the whole story! And, approaching nearer to Joseph, delivers himself as follows; which, if we fix our thoughts upon the relation between the pleader and the judge, it is impossible to read without tears :
“ Let me intrude so far upon you, even in the high condition in which you are, and the miserable one in which you see me and my brethren, to inform you of the circumstances of us unhappy men that prostrate ourselves before you. When we were first examined by you, you inquired-for what reason my lord inquired we know not—but you inquired, whether we had not a father or a brother. We then acquainted you, that we had a father, an old man, who had a child of his old age, and had buried another son, whom he had by the same woman. You were pleased to command us to bring the child he had remaining down to you: we did so; and he has forfeited his liberty. But my father said to us, You know that my wife bare me two sons: one of them was torn in pieces; if mischief befal this also, it will bring my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. Accept, therefore, oh my lord ! me for your bondman, and let the lad return with his brethren, that I may not see the evil which shall come on my father." Here Joseph's passion grew too great for further disguise, and he reveals himself with exclamations of transport and tenderness.
After their recovery from their first astonishment, his brethren were seized with fear for the injuries they had done him; but how generously does he keep them in countenance, and make an apology for them! “ Be not angry with yourselves for selling me hither; call it not so, but think Providence sent me before you to preserve life !"
It would be endless to go through all the beauties of this sacred narrative; but any one who shall read it, at an hour when he is disengaged from all other regards or interests than what arise from it, will feel the alternate passion of a father, a brother, and a son, so warm in him, that they will incline him to exert himself in such of those characters as happen to be his, much above the ordinary course of his life.
N° 234. SATURDAY, OCTOBER 7, 1710.
my own Apartment, October 6. I have reason to believe, that certain of my contemporaries have made use of an art I some time ago professed, of being often designedly dull; and for that reason shall not exert myself when I see them lazy. He that has so much to struggle with, as the man who pretends to censure others, must keep up his fire for an onset, and may be allowed to carry his arms a little carelessly upon an ordinary march. This Paper therefore shall be taken up by my correspondents, two of which have sent me the two following plain, but sensible and honest letters, upon subjects no less important than those of Education and Devotion.
“I am an old man retired from all acquaintance with the town, but what I have from your Papers, not the worst entertainment of my solitude; yet being still a well-wisher to my country, and the commonwealth of learning (a qua confiteor nullam ætatis meæ partem abhorruisse), and hoping the plain phrase in writing that was current in my younger days would have lasted for my time, I was startled at the picture of modern politeness, transmitted by your ingenious correspondent, and grieved to see our sterling English language fallen into the hands of Clippers and Coiners. That mutilated epistle, consisting of Hippo, Rep’s, and such like enormous curtailings, was a mortifying spectacle, but with the reserve of comfort to find this and other abuses of our mother tongue so pathetically complained of, and to the proper person for redressing them, the Censor of Great Britain.
“He had before represented the deplorable ignorance that for several years past has reigned amongst our English writers, the great depravity of our taste, and continual corruption of our style. But, Sir, before you give yourself the trouble of prescribing remedies for these distempers, which you own will require the greatest care and application, give me leave, having long had my eye upon these mischiefs, and thoughts exercised about them, to mention what I humbly conceive to be the cause of them, and in your friend Horace's words, Quo fonte derivata clades in patriam populumque fluxit.
“I take our corrupt ways of writing to proceed from the mistakes and wrong measures in our common methods of Education, which I always looked upon as one of our national grievances, and a singularity that renders us, no less than our situation, -Penitus toto divisos orbe Britannos,
VIRG. I Ecl. 67. A race of men from all the world disjoin'd.
DRYDEN. “ This put me upon consulting the most celebrated critics on that subject, to compare our practice with their precepts, and find where it was that we came short, or went wide.
“ But after all, I found our case required something more than these doctors had directed, and the principal defect of our English discipline to lie in the initiatory part, which although it needs the greatest care and skill, is usually left to the conduct of those blind guides, viz. Chance and Ignorance.
“ I shall trouble you with but a single instance, pursuant to what your sagacious friend has said, that he could furnish you with a catalogue of English books, which would cost you a hundred pounds at first hand, wherein you could not find ten lines together of common grammar; which is a necessary consequence of our mismanagement in that province.
“ For can any thing be more absurd than our way of proceeding in this part of literature ? to push tender wits into the intricate mazes of grammar, and a Latin grammar ? to learn an unknown art by an unknown tongue? to carry them a dark roundabout way
to let them in at the back door? Whereas by teaching them first the grammar of their mothertongue, so easy to be learned, their advance to the grammars of Latin and Greek would be gradual and easy; but our precipitate way of hurrying them over such a gulph, before we have built them a bridge to it, is a shock to their weak understandings, which they seldom, or very late, recover. In the mean time we wrong nature, and slander infants, who want neither capacity nor will to learn, until we put them upon service beyond their strength, and then indeed we balk them.
- The liberal arts and sciences are all beautiful as the Graces ; nor has Grammar, the severe mother of all, so frightful a face of her own; it is the vizard put upon it that scares children. She is made to speak hard words, that to them sound like conjuring. Let her talk intelligibly, and they will listen to her.
“ In this, I think, as on other accounts, we show ourselves true Britons, always overlooking our natural advantages. It has been the practice of the wisest nations to learn their own language by stated rules, to avoid the confusion that would follow from leaving it to vulgar use. Our English tongue, says a learned man, is the most determinate in its construction, and reducible to the fewest rules ; whatever language has less grammar in it, is not intelligible; and whatever has more, all that it has more is superfluous; for which reasons he would have it made the foundation of learning Latin, and all other languages.
"To speak and write without absurdity the language of one's country is commendable in persons of all stations, and to some indispensably necessary; and to this purpose I would recommend, above all things, the having a grammar of our mother-tongue first taught in our schools, which would facilitate our youths learning their Latin and Greek grammars, with spare time for arithmetic, astronomy, cosmography, history, &c. that would make them pass the spring of their life with profit and pleasure, that is now miserably spent in grammatical perplexities.