Page images
PDF
EPUB

“ But here, methinks, I see the reader smile, and ready to ask me, as the lawyer did sexton Diego on his bequeathing rich legacies to the poor of the parish, where are these mighty sums to be raised ? Where is there such a grammar to be had? I will not answer as he did, · Even where your Worship pleases.' No, it is our good fortune to have such a grammar, with notes, now in the press, and to be published next term.

“I hear it is a chargeable work, and wish the publisher to have customers of all that have need of such a book; yet fancy that he cannot be much a sufferer, if it is only bought by all that have more need for it than they think they have.

“ A certain author brought a poem to Mr. Cowley, for his perusal and judgement of the performance, which he demanded at the next visit with a poetaster's assurances; and Mr. Cowley, with his usual modesty, desired that he would be pleased to look a little to the grammar of it. To the grammar of it! what do you mean, Sir, would you send me to school again? Why, Mr. H-, would it do you any harm ?'

“ This put me on considering how this voyage of literature may be made with more safety and profit, expedition and delight; and at last, for completing so good a service, to request your directions in so deplorable a case : hoping that as you have had compassion on our overgrown coxcombs in concerns of less consequence, you will exert your charity towards innocents, and vouchsafe to be guardian to the children and youth of Great Britain in this important affair of education, wherein mistakes and wrong measures have so often occasioned their aversion to books, that had otherwise proved the chief ornament and pleasure of their life. I am, with sincerest respect, Sir,

“Your's, &c.”

• Mr. Bickerstaff, St. Clements, Oct. 5. I observe, as the season begins to grow cold so does people's devotion; insomuch, that instead of filling the churches, that united zeal might keep one warm there, one is left to freeze in almost bare walls by those who in hot weather are troublesome the contrary way. This, Sir, needs a regulation that none but you can give to it, by causing those who absent themselves on account of weather only this winter-time, to pay the apothecaries' bills occasioned by coughs, catarrhs, and other distempers, contracted by sitting in empty seats. Therefore, to you I apply myself for redress, having gotten such a cold on Sunday was sevennight, that has brought me almost to your Worship’s age from sixty, within less than a fortnight. I am, “Your Worship's in all obedience,

W. E.”

N° 235. TUESDAY, OCTOBER 10, 1710.

{ Scit Genius, natale comes qui temperat astrum.

HOR. 2. Ep. ii. 187.
But whence these turns of inclination rose,
The Genius this, the God of Nature knows :
That mystic Power, which our actions guides,
Attends our stars, and o'er our lives presides.

FRANCIS. From my own Apartment, October 9. AMONG those inclinations which are common to all men, there is none more unaccountable than that unequal love by which parents distinguish their children from each other. Sometimes vanity and self-love appear to have a share towards this effect; and in other instances I have been apt to attribute it to mere instinct: but, however that is, we frequently see the child, that has been beholden to neither of these impulses in his parents, in spite of being neglected, snubbed, and thwarted at home, acquire a behaviour which makes him as agreeable to all the rest of the world, as that of every one else of their family is to each other. I fell into this way of thinking from an intimacy which I have with a very good house in our neighbourhood, where there are three daughters of a very different character and genius. The eldest has a great deal of wit and cunning; the second has good sense, but no artifice; the third has much vivacity, but little understanding. The first is a fine, but scornful woman; the second is not charming, but very winning; the third is no way commendable, but very desirable. The father of these young creatures was ever a great pretender to wit, the mother a woman of as much coquetry. This turn in the parents has biassed their affections towards their children. The old man supposes the eldest of his own genius; and the mother looks

upon the youngest as herself renewed. By this means, all the lovers that approach the house are discarded by the father, for not observing Mrs. Mary's wit and beauty; and by the mother, for being blind to the mien and air of Mrs. Biddy. Come never so many pretenders, they are not suspected to have the least thought of Mrs. Betty, the middle daughter. Betty, therefore, is mortified into a woman of a great deal of merit, and knows she must depend on that only for her advancement. The middlemost is thus the favourite of all her acquaintance, as well as mine; while the other two carry a certain insolence about them in all conversations, and expect the partiality which they meet with at home to attend them whereever they appear. So little do parents understand that they are, of all people, the least judges of their children's merit, that what they reckon such is seldom any thing else but a repetition of their own faults and infirmities.

There is, methinks, some excuse of being particular, when one of the offspring has any defect in nature. In this case, the child, if we may so speak, is so much the longer the child of its parents, and calls for the continuance of their care and indulgence from the slowness of its capacity, or the weakness of its body. But there is no enduring to see men enamoured only at the sight of their own impertinences repeated, and to observe, as we may sometimes, that they have a secret dislike of their children for a degeneracy from their very crimes. Command me to Lady Goodly; she is equal to all her own children, but prefers them to those of all the world beside. My lady is a perfect hen in the care of her brood: she fights and she squabbles with all that

appear where they come, but is wholly unbiassed in dispensing her favours among them. It is no small pains she is as to defame all the young women in her neighbourhood, by visits, whispers, intimations, and hearsays; and all which she ends with thank heaven, “that no one living is so blessed with such obedient and well-inclined children as herself. Perhaps,” says she, “Betty cannot dance like Mrs. Frontinet, and it is no great matter whether she does or not; but she comes into a room with a good grace: though she says it that should not, she looks like a gentlewoman. Then, if Mrs. Rebecca is not so talkative as the mighty wit Mrs. Clapper, yet she is discreet, she knows better what she says when she does speak. If her wit be slow, her tongue never runs before it.” This kind parent lifts up

and hands in congratulation of her own good fortune, and is maliciously thankful that none of her girls are like any of her neighbours ; but this preference of her own to all others is grounded upon an impulse of nature ; while those, who like one before another of their own, as so unpardonably unjust, that it could hardly be equalled

her eyes

1

in her children, though they preferred all the rest of the world to such parents. It is no unpleasant entertainment to see a ball at a dancing-school, and observe the joy of relations when the young ones, for whom they are concerned, are in motion. You need not be told whom the dancers belong to. At their first appearance, the passions of their parents are in their faces, and there is always a nod of approbation stolen at a good step, or a graceful turn.

I remember, among all my acquaintance, but one man whom I have thought to live with his children with equanimity and a good grace. He had three sons and one daughter, whom he bred with all the care imaginable in a liberal and ingenious way. I have often heard him say, “ he had the weakness to love one much better than the other, but that he took as much pains to correct that as any other criminal passion that could arise in his mind.” His method was, to make it the only pretension in his children to his favour, to be kind to each other; and he would tell them, “ that he who was the best brother, he would reckon the best son.” This turned their thoughts into an emulation for the superiority in kind and tender affection towards each other. The boys behaved themselves very early with a manly friendship; and their sister, instead of the gross familiarities, and impertinent freedoms in behaviour, usual in other houses, was always treated by them with as much complaisance as any other young lady of their acquaintance. It was an unspeakable pleasure to visit, or sit at meal, in that family. I have often seen the old man's heart flow at his

eyes upon occasions which would appear indifferent to such as were strangers to the turn of his mind; but a very slight accident, wherein he saw his children's good-will to one another, created in him the godlike pleasure of loving them because they loved each other. This great command of himself, in hiding

with joy,

« PreviousContinue »