William Godwin, 1756-1836
From The History Guide
The annals of the French Revolution prove that the knowledge of the few cannot counteract the ignorance of the many . . . the light of philosophy, when it is confined to a small minority, points out the possessors as the victims rather than the illuminators of the multitude.
---Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Essays on His Own Times, 1850
The father of philosophical anarchism, William Godwin, was born March 3, 1756 in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, and was the seventh of thirteen children of John Godwin and Anna Hull. Physically weak, introverted and intellectually precocious, Godwin held to strict Sandemanian Calvinism almost until the end of his formal education in 1778 at the Dissenting school, Hoxton Academy. John Godwin was a minister of the Sandeman variety and it was expected that young William would follow him into the ministry. Godwin later described Sandeman as a "celebrated north country apostle, who, after Calvin had damned ninety-nine in a hundred of mankind, had contrived a scheme for damning ninety-nine in a hundred of the followers of Calvin." Such an austere religiosity so early in life goes a long way to explain why Godwin would eventually become the prophet of philosophical anarchism.
Political events in America and England, discussions with his associates and his study of the French philosophes (in particular Rousseau, Helvetius, d'Holbach and Montesquieu), the Latin historians and English writers (Locke, Swift and Priestley) converted him to political liberalism. His religious beliefs evolved progressively from Calvinism to deism, Socinianism, agnosticism and atheism. Later in his life Godwin adopted what could only be called a "vague theism."
By 1783, Godwin had abandoned the country and the ministry for London and a literary career of service to his fellow man. His first project, an attempt to start a small school, failed for want of students. At this time he began to experience greater interest in national politics. This led to his frequent contributions to Whig and radical journals. Although he freely associated with radical societies and organizations, he avoided membership.
It was the French Revolution which profoundly influenced the course of Godwin's career. Although he never supported all aspects of the Revolution (basically because much of it was contrary to human reason), he thought it beneficial in general and served on a small committee which helped secure the publication of Paine's Rights of Man. Godwin believed that what was needed at the time was not another refutation of Burke, but rather a thorough analysis of society and government. He was given an advance by his publisher and in January 1793 appeared his most important political treatise, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Political Justice, and Its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness (London, 2 vols.). Despite its length and cost, Political Justice became a bestseller (some 4,000 copies were sold). In Political Justice, Godwin produced a sweeping explication of the general principles that underlay society and a plan for the future based on his comprehension of the past. In 1794 appeared his novel, Things as They Are, or the Adventures of Caleb Williams (London, 3 vols.), a novel which further popularized his political and social views of the individual victimized by society. In the Preface, Godwin explained why he had written Caleb Williams:
The following narrative is intended to answer a purpose more general and important than immediately appears upon the face of it. The question now afloat in the world respecting THINGS AS THEY ARE, is the most interesting that can be presented to the human mind. While one party pleads for reformation and change, the other extols in the warmest terms the existing constitution of society. . . . It is but of late that the inestimable importance of political principles have been adequately apprehended. It is now known to philosophers that the spirit and character of government intrudes itself into every rank of society. But this is a truth highly worthy to be communicated to persons whom books of philosophy and science are never likely to reach. Accordingly it was proposed in the invention of the following work, to comprehend, as far as the progressive nature of a single story would allow, a general review of the modes of domestic and unrecorded despotism, by which man becomes the destroyer of man.
Political Justice and Caleb Williams brought Godwin to the pinnacle of popular acclaim. He continued his onslaught against the government when, repelled by government action against the Scottish radicals and members of the corresponding societies, he produced an anonymous pamphlet on behalf of the accused. His Cursory Strictures on the Charge Delivered by Lord Chief Justice Eyre to the Grand Jury, October 2, 1794 (London, 1794), proved significant to the radical movement: Godwin had demonstrated the false logic in the prosecution's definition of treason. In the Considerations on Lord Grenville's and Mr. Pitt's Bills Concerning Treasonable and Seditious Practices and Unlawful Assemblies (London, 1796), Godwin castigated the government even more. The Considerations reiterated his objections to party and faction alike and attacked the radical appeals to public passions as contrary to reason.
Although Godwin perhaps never abandoned his basic contention that man ought to be guided by the laws of truth, benevolence, candor and justice, his experiences during the mid-1790s caused a shift of emphasis away from the cold rationalism of Political Justice, an emphasis reflected in subsequent revisions in 1796 and 1798. It also appeared in The Enquirer (1797), collection of interesting essays on educational, literary and social topics. In this work, Godwin elaborated his views in a less complex style. One of these essays -- "Of Avarice and Profusion" -- prompted Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) to write his famous Essay on the Principle of Population (London, 1798), in an effort to refute Godwinian concerns (as well as Condorcet's) for universal benevolence as well as the belief in human perfectibility.
Godwin's renewed acquaintance with Mary Wollstonecraft (they had originally met as early as 1791) perhaps altered his mood even more. The cool logician had become the "new man of feeling." Their friendship eventually resulted in marriage when the learned that Mary was pregnant. Such an arrangement appeared to violate Godwin's strictures against marriage and public opinion turned to ridicule as both Godwin and Mary were ridiculed in the popular press, Mary Wollstonecraft died in September 1797, just days after giving birth to a daughter, Mary Godwin Wollstonecraft (1797-1851). The life of young Mary was bound to that of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) from 1814 through 1822, when the poet died. In 1818, Mary Shelley published her most well-known work of fiction, Frankenstein.
Following the death of Mary Wollstonecraft, Godwin published the poignant by poorly-received Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman (London, 1798).
There is little doubt that the remainder of Godwin's career was an anticlimax to the very turbulent decade of the 1790s when he produced his most thoughtful and original contributions to the English literary, philosophical and political tradition. His second marriage, to Mary Jane Clairmont in 1801, was not entirely a happy one -- it complicated his family obligations and forced him to write for money. The books for children under several pseudonyms and printed in the shop he operated from 1805 to 1824 were modestly successful. However, his business venture failed due to his own financial mismanagement of affairs.
His circle of friends was now quite narrow, although at various times it included Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), William Wordsworth (1770-1850), Robert Southey (1774-1843), Charles Lamb (1775-1834), and Francis Place (1771-1854). Percy Shelley became his son-in-law as well as benefactor. Many of Godwin's former friends abandoned him and his ideas now that the French Revolution had gone through its Reign of Terror. Somehow, Godwin faced the isolation with stoic resolve. In the novel, St. Leon (4 vols, London, 1799), a novel which emphasized the newly-found joys of "domestic affections," Godwin had shown how those who used their wisdom for the public good would always face the hostility of a critical society.
The most notable publications of Godwin's later career were Of Population (London, 1820), a belated attempt to refute Malthusian theory by arguing that moral improvement would outrun and even reduce the growth of population; History of the Commonwealth of England, from its Commencement to the Restoration of Charles II (4 vols, London, 1824-28) and Thoughts on Man, his Nature, Productions and Discoveries (London, 1831). Thoughts on Man was a collection of political and philosophical essays in which Godwin asserted that innate traits could impel men to different vocations and stressed that education should develop those talents for which the person was best suited.
Late in life, Godwin's continuous financial straits were finally relieved when in 1833 he was given a government sinecure -- an odd occurrence given Godwin's philosophical anarchism. Despite his fame in the 1790s, when Godwin died on April 7, 1836 he was forgotten by all but a few.
Godwin was no revolutionary and he did not advocate the physical destruction of government. Violence and tumult was anathema to a man like Godwin since they were contrary to human reason. He preferred talk and discussion to action and martyrdom. This explains his general hostility toward the movement for parliamentary reform in general and the corresponding societies in particular. "The interests of the human species require a gradual, but uninterrupted change," Godwin wrote in Political Justice.
He who should make these principles would not rashly insist upon instant abolition of all existing abuses . . . . Truth, however unreserved by the mode of its enunciation, will be sufficiently gradual in is progress. It will be fully comprehended only be slow degrees, by its most assiduous votaries; and the degrees will be still more temperate by which it will pervade so considerable a portion of the community as to render them mature for a change of their common institutions . . . we shall have many reforms, but no revolutions . . . . Revolutions are the produce of passion, not of sober and tranquil reason.
Godwin allowed the continued temporary existence of government because of the persistence of inadequate reasoning and strong vices; since reform came slowly in society, government could restrain those who harmed the well-being of others. "Common deliberation" was the only acceptable basis of government, and while rejecting communal organization, he supported the decentralization of authority. What organization was necessary would be voluntary and on the local or parish level.
Instead of force Godwin contended that progressive enlightenment would free man from his social organization and from the political, economic and social deficiencies of society. Once true values were inculcated in the individual -- through candor, benevolence and sincerity -- and sufficient goods were produced to meet the physical needs of society, the desire for opulence, ostentatious behavior and the need for coercion would disappear. The reduction of wants by the reordering of individual priorities would, Godwin hoped, remedy the unequal distribution of wealth and, with the assistance of machines, most manual labor might even be abolished. State control of education was unacceptable. Education based on freedom, rather than on deception, collective action or force by parent or teacher, would lead to moral progress and the general reform of society. The goal was not to impose knowledge, but rather to strengthen qualities of the mind that would turn the student toward wisdom and guard him against hostile forces.
Godwin anticipated the ideas of P. J. Proudhon (1809-1865), Prince Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), yet he had little direct influence on the radical, socialist and anarchist traditions of the 19th century. His rejection of political parties and authoritarian action and control in favor of education and discussion were among the reasons for his lack of influence. Dismissed as "a quite and amiable man" by Leslie Stephen, as the "man of a single book" by Cecil Driver and as a "philosophical gasbag" by D. C. Somervell, Godwin has been recognized as a thinker of the first magnitude in politics, educational theory and social thought because of his recognition of the tyranny of coercive institutions and his championing of the rights of the individual against these institutions.
focuses on the period immediately following the outbreak of the French Revolution, and considers Godwin in the historical context within which he wrote Political Justice.
P.O. Box 1200,
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
THE ADVENTURES OF CALEB WILLIAMS
OR THINGS AS THEY ARE
The following narrative is intended to answer a purpose, more general and important than immediately appears upon the face of it. The question now afloat in the world respecting THINGS AS THEY ARE, is the most interesting that can be presented to the human mind. While one party pleads for reformation and change, the other extols, m the warmest terms, the existing constitution of society. It seemed as if something would be gained for the decision of this question, if that constitution were faithfully developed in its practical effects. What is now presented to the public, is no refined and abstract speculation; it is a study and delineation of things passing in the moral world. It is but of late that the inestimable importance of political principles has been adequately apprehended. It is now known to philosophers, that the spirit and character of the government intrudes itself into every rank of society. But this is a truth, highly worthy to be communicated, to persons, whom books of philosophy and science ar e never likely to reach. Accordingly it was proposed, in the invention of the following work, to comprehend, as far as the progressive nature of a single story would allow, a general review of the modes of domestic and unrecorded despotism, by which man becomes the destroyer of man. If the author shall have taught a valuable lesson, without subtracting from the interest and passion, by which a performance of this sort ought to be characterized, he will have reason to congratulate himself upon the vehicle he has chosen.
May 12, 1794.
This preface was withdrawn in the original edition, in compliance with the alarms of booksellers. Caleb Williams made his first appearance in the world, in the same month in which the sanguinary
plot broke out against the liberties of Englishmen, which was happily terminated, by the acquittal of its first intended victims, in the close of the year. Terror was the order of the day; and it was feared that even the humble novelist might be shown to be constructively a traitor.
October 29, 1795
ADVERTISEMENT OF 1831
This novel was first published in May, 1794, thirty-seven years ago, "in the same month in which the sanguinary plot broke out against the liberties of Englishmen, which was happily terminated by the acquittal of its first intended victims [Thomas Hardy, John Horne Tooke, Thomas Holcroft, &c.], in the close of that year." (See above, 1795 Preface). Every friend of the true interests of mankind will rejoice with the author, that the prospects of the cause of liberty and sound thinking have so greatly improved since that period.
GODWIN'S OWN ACCOUNT CALEB WILLIAMS
As written for insertion in the edition of FLEETWOOD when that novel was reprinted in Bentley's "Standard Novels' as No. XXII (1832)
London, November 20, 1832
CALEB WILLIAMS has always been regarded by the public with an unusual degree of favour. The proprietor of "THE STANDARD NOVELS" has therefore imagined, that even an account of the concoction and mode of writing the work would be viewed with some interest.
I had always felt in myself some vocation towards the composition of a narrative of fictitious adventure; and among the things of obscure note, which I have above referred to, were two or three pieces of this nature. It is not therefore extraordinary that some project of the sort should have suggested itself on the present occasion [after the publication of Political Justice]
I formed a conception of a book of fictitious adventure, that should in some way be distinguished by a very powerful interest. Pursuing this idea, I invented first the third volume of my tale, then the second, and last of all the first. I bent myself to the conception of a series of adventures of flight and pursuit; the fugitive in perpetual apprehension of being overwhelmed with the worst calamities, and the pursuer, by his ingenuity and resources, keeping prevailed upon by the extreme importunity of an old and intimate friend to allow him the perusal of my manuscript. On the second day he returned it with a note to this purpose: "I return you your manuscript, because I promised to do so. If I had obeyed the impulse of my own mind, I should have thrust it in the fire. If you persist, the book will infallibly prove the grave of your literary fame."
I doubtless felt no implicit deference for the judgment of my friendly critic. Yet it cost me at least two days of deep anxiety, before I recovered the shock. Let the reader picture to himself my situation. I felt no implicit deference for the judgment of my friendly critic. But it was all I had for it. This was my first experiment of an unbiased decision. It stood in the place of all the world to me. I could not, and I did not feel disposed to, appeal any further. If I had, how could I tell that the second and third judgment would be more favourable than the first? Then what would have been the result? No; I had nothing for it but to wrap myself in my own integrity. By dint of resolution I became invulnerable. I resolved to go on to the end, trusting as I could to my own anticipations of the whole, and bidding the world wait its time, before it should be admitted to the consult.
I began my narrative, as is the more usual way, in the third person. But I speedily became dissatisfied. I then assumed the first person, making the hero of my tale his own historian; and in this mode I have persisted in all my subsequent attempts at works of fiction. It was infinitely the best adapted, at least, to my vein of delineation, where the thing in which my imagination reveled the most freely, was the analysis of the private and internal operations of the mind, employing my metaphysical dissecting knife in tracing and laying bare the involutions of motive, and recording the gradually accumulating impulses, which led the personages I had to describe primarily to adopt the particular way of proceeding in which they afterwards embarked.
When I had determined on the main purpose of my story, it was ever my method to get about me any productions of former authors that seemed to bear on my subject. I never entertained the fear, that in this way of proceedimg I should be in danger of servilely copying my predecessors. I imagined that I had a vein of thinking that was properly my own, which would always preserve me from plagiarism. I read other authors, that I might see what they had done, or more properly, that I might forcibly hold my mind and occupy my thoughts in a particular train, I and my predecessors traveling in some sense to the same goal, at the same time that I struck out a path of my own, without ultimately heeding the direction they pursued, and disdaining to inquire whether by any chance it for a few steps coincided or did not coincide with mine.
Thus, in the instance of "Caleb Williams," I read over a little old book, entitled "The Adventures of Mademoiselle de St. Phale," a French Protestant in the times of the fiercest persecution of the Huguenots, who fled through France in the utmost terror, in the midst of eternal alarms and hair-breadth escapes, having her quarters perpetually beaten up, and by scarcely any chance finding a moment's interval of security. I turned over the pages of a tremendous compilation entitled "God's Revenge against Murder," where the beam of the eye of Omniscience was represented as perpetually pursuing the guilty, and laying open the most hidden retreats to the light of day. I was extremely conversant with the "Newgate Calendar," and the "Lives of the Pirates." In the mean time no works of fiction came amiss to me, provided they were written with energy. The authors were still employed upon the same mine as myself, however different was the vein they pursued: we were all of us engaged in exploring the entrails of mind and motive, and in tracing the various reencounter and clashes that may occur between man and man in the diversified scene of human life.
I rather amused myself with tracing a certain similitude between the story of Caleb Williams and the tale of Blue Beard, than derived any hints from that admirable specimen of the terrific. Falkland was my Blue Beard, who had perpetrated atrocious crimes, which if discovered, he might expect to have all the world roused to revenge against him. Caleb Williams was the wife, who in spite of warning, persisted in his attempts to discover the forbidden secret; and, when he had succeeded, struggled as fruitlessly to escape the consequences, as the wife of Blue Beard in washing the key of the ensanguined chamber, who, as often as she cleared the stain of blood from the one side, found it showing itself with frightful distinctness on the other.
When I had proceeded as far as the early pages of my third volume, I found myself completely at a stand. I rested on my arms from the 2nd of January, 1794, to the 1st of April following, without getting forward in the smallest degree. It has ever been thus with me in works of any continuance. The bow will not be for ever bent. "Opere in longo fas est obrepere somnum."
I endeavoured however to take my repose to myself in security, and not to inflict a set of crude and incoherent dreams upon my readers. In the mean time, when I revived, I revived in earnest, and in the course of that month carried on my work with unabated speed to the end.
Thus I have endeavoured to give a true history of the concoction and mode of writing of this mighty trifle. When I had done, I soon became sensible that I had done in a manner nothing. How many flat and insipid parts does the book contain! How terribly unequal does it appear to me! From time to time the author plainly reels to and from like a drunken man. And, when I had done all, what had I done? Written a book to amuse boys and girls in their vacant hours, a story to be hastily gobbled up by them, swallowed in a pusillanimous and unanimated mood, without chewing and digestion. I was in this respect greatly impressed with the confession of one of the most accomplished readers and excellent critics that my author could have fallen in with (the unfortunate Joseph Gerald). He told me that he had received my book late one evening, and had read through the three volumes before he closed his eyes. Thus, what had cost me twelve months' labour, ceaseless heart-aches and industry, now sinking in despair, and now roused and sustained in unusual energy, he went over in a few hours shut the book, laid himself on his pillow, slept and was refreshed, and cried,
"Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new."
My life has for several years been a theater of calamity. I have been a mark for the vigilance of tyranny, and I could not escape. My fairest prospects have been blasted. My enemy has shown himself inaccessible to intreaties and untired in persecution. My fame, as well as my happiness, has become his victim. Every one, as far as my story has been known, has refused to assist me in my distress, and has execrated my name. I have not deserved this treatment. My own conscience witnesses in behalf of that innocence, my pretensions to which are regarded in the world as incredible. There is now, however, little hope that I shall escape from the toils that universally beset me. I am incited to the penning of these memoirs, only by a desire to divert my mind from the deplorableness of my situation, and a faint idea that posterity may by their means be induced to render me a justice, which my contemporaries refuse. My story will at least appear to have that consistency, which is seldom attendant but upon truth.
I was born of humble parents in a remote county of England. Their occupations were such as usually fall to the lot of peasants, and they had no portion to give me, but an education free from the usual sources of depravity, and the inheritance, long since lost by their unfortunate progeny! of an honest fame. I was taught the rudiments of no science, except reading, writing, and arithmetic. But I had an inquisitive mind, and neglected no means of information from conversation or books. My improvement was greater than my condition in life afforded room to expect.
There are other circumstances deserving to be mentioned as having influenced the history of my future life. I was somewhat above the middle stature. Without being particularly athletic in appearance or large in my dimensions, I was uncommonly vigorous and active. My joints were supple, and I was formed to excel in youthful sports. The habits of my mind, however, were to a certain degree at war with the dictates of boyish vanity. I had considerable aversion to the boisterous gaiety of the village gallants, and contrived to satisfy my love of praise with an unfrequent apparition at their amusements. My excellence in these respects, however, gave a turn to my meditations. I delighted to read of feats of activity, and was particularly interested by tales in which corporeal ingenuity or strength are the means resorted to, for supplying resources and conquering difficulties. I inured myself to mechanical pursuits, and devoted much of my time to an endeavour after mechanical invention.
The spring of action which, perhaps more than any other, characterized the whole train of my life, was curiosity. It was this that gave me my mechanical turn; I was desirous of tracing the variety of effects which might be produced from given causes. It was this that made me a sort of natural philosopher; I could not rest until I had acquainted myself with the solutions that had been invented for the phenomena of the universe. In fine, this produced in me an invincible attachment to books of narrative and romance. I panted for the unraveling of an adventure, with an anxiety, perhaps almost equal to that of the man whose future happiness or misery depended on its issue. I read, I devoured compositions of this sort. They took possession of my soul; and the effects they produced, were frequently discernible in my external appearance and my health. My curiosity however was not entirely ignoble: village anecdotes and scandal had no charms for me: my imagination must be excited; and, when that was not done, my curiosity was dormant.
The residence of my parents was within the manor of Ferdinando Falkland, a country squire of considerable opulence. At an early age I attracted the favourable notice of Mr. Collins, this gentleman's steward, who used to call in occasionally at my father's. He observed the particulars of my progress with approbation, and made a favourable report to his master of my industry and genius.
In the summer of the year , Mr. Falkland visited his estate in our county after an absence of several months. This was a period of misfortune to me. I was then eighteen years of age. My father lay dead in our cottage. I had lost my mother some years before. In this forlorn situation I was surprised with a message from the squire, ordering me to repair to the mansion house the morning after my father's funeral.
Though I was not a stranger to books, I had no practical acquaintance with men. I had never had occasion to address a person of this elevated rank, and I felt no small uneasiness and awe on the present occasion. I found Mr. Falkland a man of small stature, with an extreme delicacy of form and appearance. In place of the hard-favoured and inflexible visages I had been accustomed to observe, every muscle and petty line of his countenance seemed to be in an inconceivable degree pregnant with meaning. His manner was kind, attentive, and humane. His eye was full of animation, but there was a grave and sad solemnity in his air, which, for want of experience, I imagined was the inheritance of the great, and the instrument by which the distance between them and their inferiors was maintained. His look bespoke the unquietness of his mind, and frequently wandered with an expression of disconsolateness and anxiety.
My reception was as gracious and encouraging as I could possibly desire. Mr. Falkland questioned me respecting my learning and my conceptions of men and things, and listened to my answers with condescension and approbation. This kindness soon restored to me a considerable part of my self-possession, though I still felt restrained by the graceful, but unaltered dignity of his carriage. When Mr. Falkland had satisfied his curiosity, he proceeded to inform me that he was in want of a secretary, that I appeared to him sufficiently qualified for that office, and that, if, in my present change of situation occasioned by the death of my father, I approved of the employment, he would take me into his family.
I felt highly flattered by the proposal, and was warm in the expression of my acknowledgments. I set eagerly about the disposal of the little property my father had left, in which I was assisted by Mr. Collins. I had not now a relation in the world, upon whose kindness and interposition I had any direct claim. But, far from regarding this deserted situation with terror, I formed golden visions of the station I was about to occupy. I little suspected, that the gaiety and lightness of heart I had hitherto enjoyed were upon the point of leaving me for ever, and that the rest of my days were devoted to misery and alarm.
My employment was easy and agreeable. It consisted partly in the transcribing and arranging certain papers, and partly in writing from my master's dictation letters of business, as well as sketches of literary composition. Many of these latter consisted of an analytical survey of the plans of different authors, and conjectural speculations upon hints they afforded, tending either to the detection of their errors, or the carrying forward their discoveries. All of them bore powerful marks of a profound and elegant mind, well stored with literature, and possessed of an uncommon share of activity and discrimination.
My station was in that part of the house which was appropriated for the reception of books, it being my duty to perform the functions of librarian as well as secretary. Here my hours would have glided in tranquillity and peace, had not my situation included in it circumstances totally different from those which attended me in my father's cottage. In early life my mind had been much engrossed by reading and reflection. My intercourse with my fellow mortals was occasional and short. But, in my new residence, I was excited by every motive of interest and novelty to study my master's character, and I found it an ample field for speculation and conjecture.
His mode of living was in the utmost degree recluse and solitary. He had no inclination to scenes of revelry and mirth. He avoided the busy haunts of men; nor did he seem desirous to compensate for this privation by the confidence of friendship. He appeared a total stranger to every thing which usually bears the appellation of pleasure. His features were scarcely ever relaxed into a smile, nor did that air which spoke the unhappiness of his mind, at any time forsake them. Yet his manners were by no means such as denoted moroseness and misanthropy. He was compassionate and considerate for others, though the stateliness of his carriage and the reserve of his temper were at no time interrupted. His appearance and general behaviour might have strongly interested all persons in his favour; but the coldness of his address, and the impenetrableness of his sentiments, seemed to forbid those demonstrations of kindness to which one might otherwise have been prompted.
Such was the general appearance of Mr. Falkland; but his disposition was extremely unequal. The distemper which afflicted him with incessant gloom, had its paroxysms. Sometimes he was hasty, peevish and tyrannical; but this proceeded rather from the torment of his mind, than an unfeeling disposition; and when reflection recurred, he appeared willing that the weight of his misfortune should fall wholly upon himself. Sometimes he entirely lost his self-possession, and his behaviour was changed into frenzy: he would strike his forehead, his brows became knit, his features distorted, and his teeth ground one against the other. When he felt the approach of these symptoms, he would suddenly rise, and, leaving the occupation, whatever it was, in which he was engaged, hasten into a solitude upon which no person dared to intrude.
It must not be supposed that the whole of what I am describing was visible to the persons about him; nor, indeed, was I acquainted with it in the extent here stated, but after a considerable time, and in gradual succession. With respect to the domestics in general, they saw but little of their master. None of them, except myself from the nature of my functions, and Mr. Collins, from the antiquity of his service and the respectableness of his character, approached Mr. Falkland, but at stated seasons and for a very short interval. They knew him only by the benevolence of his actions, and the principles of inflexible integrity by which he was ordinarily guided; and though they would sometimes indulge their conjectures respecting his singularities, they regarded him upon the whole with veneration, as a being of a superior order.
One day, when I had been about three months in the service of my patron, I went to a closet, or small apartment, which was separated from the library by a narrow gallery that was lighted by a small window near the roof. I had conceived that there was no person in the room, and intended only to put any thing in order that I might find out of its place. As I opened the door, I heard at the same instant a deep groan expressive of intolerable anguish. The sound of the door in opening seemed to alarm the person within; I heard the lid of a trunk hastily shut, and the noise as of fastening a lock. I conceived that Mr. Falkland was there, and was going instantly to retire; but at that moment a voice that seemed supernaturally tremendous, exclaimed, "Who is there?" The voice was Mr. Falkland's. The sound of it thrilled my very vitals. I endeavoured to answer, but my speech failed, and being incapable of any other reply, I instinctively advanced within the door into the room. Mr. Falkland was just risen from the floor upon which he had been sitting or kneeling. His face betrayed strong symptoms of confusion. With a violent effort however these symptoms vanished, and instantaneously gave place to a countenance sparkling with rage. "Villain!" cried he, "what has brought you here?" I hesitated a confused and irresolute answer. "Wretch!" interrupted Mr. Falkland, with uncontrollable impatience, "you want to ruin me. You set yourself as a spy upon my actions; but bitterly shall you repent your insolence. Do you think you shall watch my privacies with impunity?" I attempted to defend myself. "Begone, devill" rejoined he. "Quit the room, or I will trample you into atoms." Saying this, he advanced towards me. But I was already sufficiently terrified, and vanished in a moment. I heard the door shut after me with violence; and thus ended this extraordinary scene.
I saw him again in the evening, and he was then tolerably composed. His behaviour, which was always kind, was now doubly attentive and soothing. He seemed to have something of which he wished to disburthen his mind, but to want words in which to convey it. I looked at him with anxiety and affection. He made two unsuccessful efforts, shook his head, and then, putting five guineas into my hand, pressed it in a manner that I could feel proceeded from a mind pregnant with various emotions, though I could not interpret them. Having done this, he seemed immediately to recollect himself, and to take refuge in the usual distance and solemnity of his manner.
I easily understood that secrecy was one of the things expected from me, and, indeed, my mind was too much disposed to meditate Upon what I had heard and seen, to make it a topic of indiscriminate communication. Mr. Collins, however, and myself happened to sup together that evening, which was but seldom the case, his avocations obliging him to be much abroad. He could not help observing an uncommon dejection and anxiety in my countenance, and affectionately inquired into the reason. I endeavoured to evade his questions, but my youth and ignorance of the world gave me little advantage for that purpose. Beside this, I had been accustomed to view Mr. Collins with considerable attachment, and I conceived from the nature if his situation that there could be small impropriety in making him my confidant in the present instance. I repeated to him minutely every thing that had passed, and concluded with a solemn declaration that, though treated with caprice, I was not anxious for myself; no inconvenience or danger should ever lead me to a pusillanimous behaviour; and I felt only for my patron, who, with every advantage for happiness, and being in the highest degree worthy of it, seemed destined to undergo unmerited distress.
In answer to my communication Mr. Collins informed me that some incidents of a nature similar to that which I related, had fallen under his own knowledge, and that from the whole he could not help concluding that our unfortunate patron was at times disordered in his intellects. "Alas," continued he, "it was not always thus! Ferdinando Falkland was once the gayest of the gay. Not indeed of that frothy sort, who excite contempt instead of admiration, and whose levity argues thoughtlessness rather than felicity. His gaiety was always accompanied with dignity. It was the gaiety of the hero and the scholar. It was chastened with reflection and sensibility, and never lost sight either of good taste or humanity. Such as it was however, it denoted a genuine hilarity of heart, imparted an inconceivable brilliancy to his company and conversation, and rendered him the perpetual delight of the diversified circles he then willingly frequented. You see nothing of him, my dear Williams, but the ruin of that Falkland who was courted by sages, and adored by the fair. His youth, distinguished in its outset by the most unusual promise, is tarnished. His sensibility is shrunk up and withered by events the most disgustful to his feelings. His mind was fraught with all the rhapsodies of visionary honour; and, in his sense, nothing but the grosser part, the mere shell of Falkland, was capable of surviving the wound his pride has sustained."
These reflections of my friend Collins strongly tended to inflame my curiosity, and I requested him to enter into a more copious explanation. With this request he readily complied; as conceiving that whatever delicacy it became him to exercise in ordinary cases, it would be out of place in my situation; and thinking it not improbable that Mr. Falkland, but for the disturbance and inflammation of his mind, would be disposed to a similar communication. I shall interweave with Mr. Collins's story, various information which I afterwards received from other quarters, that I may give all possible perspicuity to the series of events. To avoid confusion in my narrative, I shall drop the person of Collins, and assume to be myself the historian of my patron. To the reader it may appear at first sight as if this detail of the preceding life of Mr. Falkland were foreign to my history. Alas! I know from bitter experience that it is otherwise. My heart bleeds at the recollection of his misfortunes, as if they were my own. How can it fail to do so? To his story the whole fortune of my life was linked; because he was miserable, my happiness, my name, and my existence have been irretrievably blasted.
Among the favourite authors of his early years were the heroic poets of Italy. From them he imbibed the love of chivalry and romance. He had too much good sense to regret the times of Charlemagne and Arthur. But while his imagination was purged by a certain infusion of philosophy, conceived that there was in the manners depicted by these celebrated poets, something to imitate, as well as something to avoid. He believed that nothing was so well calculated to make men delicate, gallant, and humane, as a temper perpetually alive to the sentiments of birth and honour. The opinions he entertained upon these topics were illustrated in his conduct, which was assiduously conformed to the model of heroism that his fancy suggested.
With these sentiments he set out upon his travels at the age at which the grand tour is usually made, and they were rather confirmed than shaken by the adventures that befell him. By inclination he was led to make his longest stay in Italy; and here he fell into company with several young noblemen whose studies and principles were congenial to his own. By them he was assiduously courted, and treated with the most distinguished applause. They were delighted to meet with a foreigner, who had imbibed all the peculiarities of the most liberal and honourable among themselves. Nor was he less favoured and admired by the softer sex. Though his stature was small, his person had an air of common dignity. His dignity was then heightened by certain additions which were afterwards obliterated, an expression of frankness, ingenuity, and unreserve, and a spirit of the most ardent enthusiasm. Perhaps no Englishman was ever in an equal degree idolized by the inhabitants of Italy.
It was not possible for him to have drunk so deeply of the fountain of chivalry without being engaged occasionally in affairs of honour, all of which were terminated in a manner that would not have disgraced the Chevalier Bayard himself. In Italy, the young men of rank divide themselves into two classes, those who adhere to the pure principles of ancient gallantry, and those who, being actuated by the same acute sense of injury and insult, accustom themselves to the employment of hired bravoes as their instruments Of vengeance. The whole difference, indeed, consists in the precarious application of a generally received distinction.
The most generous Italian conceives, that there are certain persons whom it would be contamination for him to call into the open field. He nevertheless believes that an indignity cannot be expiated but with blood, and is persuaded that the life of a man is a trifling consideration, in comparison of the indemnification to be made to his injured honour. There is, therefore, scarcely any Italian that would upon some occasions scruple assassination.
Men of spirit among them, notwithstanding the prejudices of their education, cannot fail to have a secret conviction of its baseness, and will be desirous of extending as far as possible the cartel of honour. Real or affected arrogance teaches others to regard almost the whole species as their inferiors, and of consequence incites them to gratify their vengeance without danger to their persons. Mr. Falkland met with some of these. But his undaunted spirit and resolute temper gave him a decisive advantage even in such perilous reencounter. One instance, among many, of his manner of conducting himself among this proud and high- spirited people it may be proper to relate. Mr. Falkland is the principal agent in my history; and Mr. Falkland, in the autumn and decay of his vigour, such as I found him, cannot be completely understood, without a knowledge of his previous character, as it was in all the gloss of youth, yet unassailed by adversity, and unbroken in upon by anguish or remorse.
At Rome he was received with particular distinction at the house of Marquis Pisani, who had an only daughter, the heiress of his immense fortune, and the admiration of all the young nobility of that metropolis. Lady Lucretia Pisani was tall, of a dignified form and uncommonly beautiful. She was not deficient in amiable qualities, but her soul was haughty, and her carriage not infrequently contemptuous Her pride was nourished by the consciousness of her charms, by her elevated rank, and the universal adoration she was accustomed to receive
Among her numerous lovers Count Malvesi was the individual most favoured by her father, nor did his addresses seem indifferent to her. The count was a man of considerable accomplishments, and of great integrity and benevolence of disposition. But he was too ardent a lover, to be able always to preserve the affability of his temper. The admirers whose addresses were a source of gratification to his mistress, were a perpetual uneasiness to him. Placing his whole happiness in the possession of this imperious beauty, the most trifling circumstances were capable of alarming him for the security of his pretensions. But most of all he was jealous of the English cavalier. Marquis Pisani, who had spent many years in France, was by no means partial to the suspicious precautions of Italian fathers, and indulged his daughter in considerable freedoms. His house and his daughter, within certain judicious restraints, were open to the resort of male visitants. But above all Mr. Falkland, as a foreigner, and a person little likely to form pretensions to the hand of Lucretia, was received upon a footing of great familiarity. The lady herself, conscious of innocence, entertained no scruple about trifles, and acted with the confidence and frankness of one who is superior to suspicion.
Mr. Falkland, after a residence of several weeks at Rome, proceeded to Naples. Meanwhile certain incidents occurred that delayed the intended nuptials of the heiress of Pisani. When he returned to Rome, Count Malvesi was absent. Lady Lucretia, who had been considerably amused before with the conversation of Mr. Falkland, and who had an active and inquiring mind, had conceived, in the interval between his first and second residence at Rome, a desire to be acquainted with the English language, inspired by the lively and ardent encomiums of our best authors that she had heard from their countryman. She had provided herself with the usual materials for that purpose, and had made some progress during his absence. But upon his return she was forward to make use of the opportunity, which, if missed, might never occur again with equal advantage, of reading select passages of our poets with an Englishman of uncommon taste and capacity.
This proposal necessarily led to a more frequent intercourse. When Count Malvesi returned, he found Mr. Falkland established almost as an intimate of the Pisani palace. His mind could not fail to be struck with the criticalness of the situation. He was perhaps secretly conscious that the qualifications of the Englishman were superior to his own, and he trembled for the progress that each party might have made in the affection of the other, even before they were aware of the danger. He believed that the match was in every respect such as to flatter the ambition of Mr. Falkland; and he was stung even to madness by the idea of being deprived of the object dearest to his heart by this tramontane upstart.
He had, however, sufficient discretion first to demand an explanation of Lady Lucretia. She, in the gaiety of her heart, trifled with his anxiety. His patience was already exhausted, and he proceeded in his expostulation, in language that she was by no means prepared to endure with apathy. Lady Lucretia had always been accustomed to deference and submission; and, having got over something like terror, that was at first inspired by the imperious manner in which she was now catechized, her next feeling was that of the warmest resentment. She disdained to satisfy so insolent a questioner, and even indulged herself in certain oblique hints calculated to strengthen his suspicions. For some time she described his folly and presumption in terms of the most ludicrous sarcasm, and then, suddenly changing her style, bid him never let her see him more except upon a footing of the most distant acquaintance, as she was determined never again to subject herself to so unworthy a treatment. She was happy that he had at length disclosed to her his true character, and would know how to profit of her present experience to avoid a repetition of the same danger. All this passed in the full career of passion on both sides, and Lady Lucretia had no time to reflect upon what might be the consequence of thus exasperating her lover.
Count Malvesi left her in all the torments of frenzy. He believed that this was a premeditated scene, to find a presence for breaking off an engagement that was already all but concluded; or, rather, his mind was racked with a thousand conjectures; he alternately thought that the injustice might be hers or his own; and he quarreled with Lady Lucretia, himself and the whole world. In this temper he hastened to the hotel of the English cavalier. The season of expostulation was now over, and he found himself irresistibly impelled to justify his precipitation with the lady, by taking for granted that the subject of his suspicion was beyond the reach of doubt.
Mr. Falkland was at home. The first words of the count were, an abrupt accusation of duplicity in the affair of Lady Lucretia, and a challenge. The Englishman had an unaffected esteem for Malvesi, who was in reality a man of considerable merit, and who had been one of Mr. Falkland's earliest Italian acquaintance, they having originally met at Milan. But more than this, the possible consequence of a duel in the present instance burst upon his mind. He had the warmest admiration for Lady Lucretia, though his feelings were not those of a lover: and he knew that, however her haughtiness might endeavour to disguise it, she was impressed with a tender regard for Count Malvesi. He could not bear to think that any misconduct of his should interrupt the prospects of so deserving a pair. Guided by these sentiments, he endeavoured to expostulate with the Italian. But his attempts were ineffectual. His antagonist was drunk with choler, and would not listen to a word that tended to check the impetuosity of his thoughts. He traversed the room with perturbed steps, and even foamed with anguish and fury. Mr. Falkland, finding that all was to no purpose, told the count that, if he would return tomorrow at the same hour, he would attend him to any scene of action he should think proper to select.
From Count Malvesi Mr. Falkland immediately proceeded to the palace of Pisani. Here he found considerable difficulty in appeasing the indignation of Lady Lucretia. His ideas of honour would by no means allow him to win her to his purpose by disclosing the cartel he had received; otherwise that disclosure would immediately have operated as the strongest motive that could have been offered to this disdainful beauty. But, though she dreaded such an event, the vague apprehension was not strong enough to induce her instantly to surrender all the stateliness of her resentment. Mr. Falkland, however, drew so interesting a picture of the disturbance of Count Malvesi's mind, and accounted in so flattering a manner for the abruptness of his conduct, that this, together with the arguments he adduced, completed the conquest of Lady Lucretia's resentment. Having thus far accomplished his purpose, he proceeded to disclose to her every thing that had passed.
The next day Count Malvesi appeared, punctual to his appointment, at Mr. Falkland's hotel. Mr. Falkland came to the door to receive him, but requested him to enter the house for a moment, as he had still an affair of three minutes to dispatch. They proceeded to a parlour. Here Mr. Falkland left him, and presently returned leading in Lady Lucretia herself, adorned in all her charms, and those charms heightened upon the present occasion by a consciousness of the spirited and generous condescension that she was exerting. Mr. Falkland led her up to the astonished count; and she' gently laying her hand upon the arm of her lover, exclaimed with the most attractive grace, "Will you allow me to retract the precipitate haughtiness into which I was betrayed?" The enraptured count, scarcely able to believe his senses, threw himself upon his knees before her, and stammered out his reply, signifying that the precipitation had been all his own, that he only had any forgiveness to demand, and, though they might pardon, he could never pardon himself for the sacrilege he had committed against her and this god-like Englishman. As soon as the first tumults of his joy had subsided, Mr. Falkland addressed him thus:
"Count Malvesi, I feel the utmost pleasure in having thus by peaceful means disarmed your resentment, and effected your happiness. But I must confess you put me to a severe trial. My temper is not less impetuous and fiery than your own, and it is not at all times that I should have been thus able to subdue it. But I considered that in reality the original blame was mine. Though your suspicion was groundless, it was not absurd. We have been trifling too much in the face of danger. I ought not, under the present weakness of our nature and forms of society, to have been so assiduous in my attendance upon this enchanting woman. It would have been little wonder if, having so many opportunities, and playing the preceptor with her as I have done, I had been entangled before I was aware, and harboured a wish which I might not afterwards have had courage to subdue. I owed you an atonement for this imprudence.
"But the laws of honour are in the utmost degree rigid, and there was reason to fear that, however anxious I were to be your friend, I might be obliged to be your murderer. Fortunately the reputation of my courage is sufficiently established, not to expose it to any impeachment by my declining your present defiance. It was lucky, however, that in our interview of yesterday you found me alone, and that accident by that means threw the management of the affair into my disposal. If the transaction should become known, the conclusion will now become known along with the provocation, and I am satisfied. But if the challenge had been public, the proofs I had formerly given of courage would not have excused my present moderation; and, though desirous to have avoided the combat, it would not have been in my power. Let us hence each of us learn to avoid haste and indiscretion, the consequences of which may be inexpiable but with blood; and may heaven bless you in a consort of whom I deem you every way worthy!"
I have already said that this was by no means the only instance in the course of his travels, in which Mr. Falkland acquitted himself in the most brilliant manner as a man of gallantry and virtue. He continued abroad during several years, every one of which brought some fresh accession to the estimation in which he was held, as well as to his own impatience of stain or dishonour. At length he thought proper to return to England, with the intention of spending the rest of his days at the residence of his ancestors.
From the moment he entered upon the execution of this purpose, dictated as it probably was, by an unaffected principle of duty, his misfortunes took their commencement. All I have further to state of his history is the uninterrupted persecution of a malignant destiny, a series of adventures that seemed to take their rise in various accidents, but pointing to one termination. Him they overwhelmed with an anguish he was of all others least qualified to bear; and these waters of bitterness, extending beyond him, poured the deadly venom upon others, I being myself the most unfortunate of their victims.
The person in whom these calamities originated, was Mr. Falkland's nearest neighbour, a man of estate equal to his own, by name, Barnabas Tyrrel. This man one might at first have supposed of all others least qualified from instruction, or inclined by the habits of his life, to disturb the enjoyments of a mind so richly endowed as that of Mr. Falkland, Mr. Tyrrel might have passed for a true model of the English squire. He was early left under the tuition of his mother, a woman of narrow capacity, and who had no other child. The only remaining member of the family it may be necessary to notice, was Miss Emily Melville, the orphan daughter of Mr. Tyrrel's paternal aunt; who now resided in the family mansion, and was wholly dependent on the benevolence of its proprietors.
Mrs. Tyrrel appeared to think that there was nothing in the world so precious, as her hopeful Barnabas. Every thing must give way to his accommodation and advantage; every one must yield the most servile obedience to his commands. He must not be teased or restricted by any forms of instruction; and of consequence his proficiency, even in the arts of writing and reading, was extremely slender. From his birth he was muscular and sturdy; and, confined to the ruelle of his mother, he made much such a figure as the whelp lion that a barbarian might have given for a lap-dog to his mistress,)
But he soon broke loose from these trammels, and formed an acquaintance with the groom and the game-keeper. Under their instruction he proved as ready a scholar, as he had been indocile and restive to the pedant who held the office of his tutor. It was now evident that his small proficiency in literature was by no means to be ascribed to want of capacity. He discovered no contemptible sagacity and quick-wittedness in the science of horsefiesh, and was eminently expert in the arts of shooting, fishing and hunting. Nor did he confine himself to these, but added the theory and practice of boxing, cudgel play, and quarter-staff. These exercises added tenfold robustness and vigour to his former qualifications.
His stature, when grown, was somewhat more than five feet ten inches in height, and his form might have been selected by a painter as a model for that hero of antiquity, whose prowess consisted in felling an ox with his fist, and devouring him at a meal. Conscious of his advantage in this respect, he was insupportably arrogant, tyrannical to his inferiors, and insolent to his equals. The activity of his mind being diverted from the genume field of utility and distinction, showed itself in the rude tricks of an overgrown lubber. Here, as in all his other qualifications, he rose above his competitors; and if it had been possible to overlook the callous and unrelenting disposition which they manifested, one could scarcely have denied his applause to the invention these freaks displayed and the rough, sarcastic wit with which they were accompanied.
Mr. Tyrrel was by no means inclined to permit these extraordinary merits to rust in oblivion. There was a weekly assembly at the nearest market-town, the resort of all the rural gentry. Here he had hitherto figured to the greatest advantage, as grand master of the coterie, no one having an equal share of opulence, and the majority, though still pretending to the rank of gentry, greatly his inferiors in this essential article. The young men in this circle looked up to this insolent bashaw with timid respect, conscious of the comparative eminence that unquestionably belonged to the powers of his mind; and he well knew how to maintain his rank with an inflexible hand. Frequently indeed he relaxed his features, and assumed a temporary appearance of affableness and familiarity; but they found by experience that if any one, encouraged by his condescension, forgot the deference which Mr. Tyrrel considered his due, he was soon taught to repent his presumption.
It was a tiger that thought proper to toy with a mouse, the little animal at every moment in danger of being crushed by the fangs of his ferocious associate. As Mr. Tyrrel had considerable copiousness of speech, and a rich' but undisciplined imagination, he was always sure of an audience. His neighbours crowded round, and joined in the ready laugh, partly from obsequiousness, and partly from unfeigned admiration. It frequently happened, however, that, in the midst of his good humour, a characteristic refinement of tyranny would suggest itself to his mind. When his subjects, encouraged by his familiarity, had discarded their precaution, the wayward fit would seize him, a sudden cloud overspread his brow, his voice transform from the pleasant to the terrible, and a quarrel of a straw immediately ensue with the first man whose face he did not like.
The pleasure that resulted to others from the exuberant sallies of his imagination was, therefore, not unalloyed with sudden qualms of apprehension and terror. It may be believed that this despotism did not gain its final ascendancy without being contested in the outset. But all opposition was quelled with a high hand by this rural Antaeus. By the ascendancy of his fortune, and his character among his neighbours, he always reduced his adversary to the necessity of encountering him at his own weapons, and did not dismiss him without making him feel his presumption through every joint in his frame. The tyranny of Mr. Tyrrel would not have been so patiently endured, had not his colloquial accomplishments perpetually come in aid of that authority which his rank and prowess originally obtained. The situation of our squire with the fair, was still more enviable than that which he maintained among persons of his own sex. Every mother taught her daughter to consider the hand of Mr. Tyrrel as the highest object of her ambition. Every daughter regarded his athletic form and his acknowledged prowess with a favorable eye. A form eminently athletic is perhaps always well proportioned; and one of the qualifications that women are early taught to look for in the male sex, is that of a protector. As no man was adventurous enough to contest his superiority, so scarcely any woman in this provincial circle would have scrupled to prefer his address to those of any other admirer. His boisterous wit had peculiar charms for them; and there was no spectacle more flattering to their vanity. than the seeing this Hercules exchange his club for a distaff. It was pleasing to them to consider, that the fangs of this wild beast, the very idea of which inspired trepidation into the boldest hearts, might be played with by them with the utmost security.
Such was the rival that fortune in her caprice had reserved for the accomplished Falkland. This untamed, though not undiscerning brute, was found capable of destroying the prospects of a man, the most eminently qualified to enjoy and to communicate happiness. The feud that sprung up between them was nourished by concurring circumstances, till it attained a magnitude difficult to be paralleled; and, because they regarded each other with a deadly hatred, I have become an object of misery and abhorrence.
The arrival of Mr. Falkland gave an alarming shock to the authority of Mr. Tyrrel in the village assembly, and in all scenes of indiscriminate resort. His disposition by no means inclined him to withhold himself from scenes of fashionable amusement, and he and his competitor were like two stars fated never to appear at once above the horizon. The advantages Mr. Falkland possessed in the comparison are palpable; and, had it been otherwise, the subjects of his rural neighbour were sufficiently disposed to revolt against his merciless dominion. They had hitherto submitted from fear, and not from love; and if they had not rebelled, it was only for want of a leader. Even the ladies regarded Mr. Falkland with particular complacence. His polished manners were peculiarly in harmony with feminine delicacy. The sallies of his wit were far beyond those of Mr. Tyrrel in variety and vigour; in addition to which they had the advantage of having their spontaneous exuberance guided and restrained by the sagacity of a cultivated mind. The graces of his person were enhanced by the elegance of his deportment; and the benevolence and liberality of his temper were upon all occasions conspicuous. It was common indeed to Mr. Tyrrel, together with Mr. Falkland, to be little accessible to sentiments of awkwardness and confusion. But for this Mr. Tyrrel was indebted to a self-satisfied effrontery and a boisterous and overbearing elocution by which he was accustomed to discomfit his assailants; while Mr. Falkland, with great ingenuity and candour of mind, was enabled, by his extensive knowledge of the world and acquaintance with his own resources, to perceive almost instantaneously the proceeding it most became him to adopt.
Mr. Tyrrel contemplated the progress of his rival with uneasiness and aversion. He then commented upon it to his particular confidants as a thing altogether inconceivable. Mr. Falkland he described as an animal that was beneath contempt. Diminutive and dwarfish in his form, he wanted to set up a new standard of human nature adapted to his miserable condition. He wished to persuade people that the human species were made to be nailed to a chair, and to pore over books. He would have them exchange those robust exercises which make us joyous in the performance and vigorous in the consequences, for the wise labour of scratching our heads for a rhyme and counting our fingers for a verse. Monkeys were as good men as these. A nation of such animals would have no chance with a single regiment of the old English votaries of beef and pudding. He never saw anything come of learning but to make people foppish and impertinent; and a sensible man would not wish a worse calamity to the enemies of his nation, than to see them run mad after such pernicious absurdities. It was impossible that people could seriously feel any liking for such a ridiculous piece of goods as this outlandish, foreign-made Englishman. But he knew very well how it was: it was a miserable piece of mummery that was only played in spite to him. But God for ever blast his soul, if he were not bitterly revenged upon them all!
If such were the sentiments of Mr. Tyrrel, his patience found ample exercise in the language which was held by the rest of his neighbours on the same subject. While he saw nothing in Mr. Falkland but matter for contempt, they appeared to be never weary of recounting his praises. Such dignity, such affability, so perpetual an attention to the happiness of others, such delicacy of sentiment and expression! Learned without ostentation, refined without foppery, elegant without eminacy! Perpetually anxious to prevent his superiority from being painfully felt, it was so much the more certainly felt to be real; and excited congratulation instead of envy in the spectator. It is scarcely necessary to remark, that the revolution of sentiment in this rural vicinity, belongs to one of the most obvious features of the human mind. The rudest exhibition of art is at first admired, till a nobler is presented, and we are taught to wonder at the facility with which before we had been satisfied. Mr. Tyrrel thought there would be no end to the commendation; and expected when their common acquaintance would fall down and adore the intruder. The most inadvertent expression of applause indicated upon him the torment of demons. He writhed with agony his features became distorted, and his looks inspired terror. Such suffering would probably have soured the kindest temper, what must have been its effect upon Mr. Tyrrel's, always fierce, unrelenting and abrupt.
The advantages of Mr. Falkland seemed by no means to diminish with their novelty. Every new sufferer from Mr. Tyrrel's tyranny immediately went over to the standard of his adversary. The ladies though treated by their rustic swain with more gentleness than the men, were occasionally exposed to his capriciousness and insolence. They could not help remarking the contrast between these two leaders in the fields of chivalry, the one of whom paid no attention to any one's pleasure but his own, while the other seemed all good humour and benevolence. It was in vain that Mr. Tyrrel endeavoured to restrain the ruggedness of his character. His motive was impatience, his thoughts were gloomy, and his courtship was like the pawings of an elephant. It appeared as if his temper had been more human while he indulged it in its free bent, than now that he sullenly endeavoured to put fetters upon its excesses.
Among the ladies of the village assembly already mentioned, there was none that seemed to engage more of the kindness of Mr. Tyrrel than Miss Hardingham. She was also one of the few that had not yet gone over to the enemy, either because she really preferred the gentleman who was her oldest acquaintance, or that she conceived from calculation this conduct best adapted to insure her success in a husband. One day however she thought proper, probably only by way of experiment, to show Mr. Tyrrel that she could engage in hostilities, if he should at any time give her sufficient provocation. She so adjusted her maneuvers as to be engaged by Mr. Falkland as his partner for the dance of the evening, though without the smallest intention on the part of that gentleman (who was unpardonably deficient in the sciences of anecdote and matchmaking) of giving offense to his country neighbour. Though the manners of Mr. Falkland were condescending and attentive, his hours of retirement were principally occupied in contemplations too dignified for scandal, and too large for the altercations of a vestry, or the politics of an election-borough.
A short time before the dances began, Mr. Tyrrel went up to his fair inamorata and entered into some trifling conversation with her to fill up the time, as intending in a few minutes to lead her forward to the field. He had accustomed himself to neglect the ceremony of soliciting beforehand a promise in his favour, as not supposing it possible that anyone would dare dispute his behests; and, had it been otherwise, he would have thought the formality unnecessary in this case, his general preference to Miss Hardingham being notorious.
While he was thus engaged, Mr. Falkland came up. Mr. Tyrrel always regarded him with aversion and loathing. Mr. Falkland, however, slided in a graceful and unaffected manner into the conversation already begun, and the animated ingeniousness of his manner was such, as might for the time have disarmed the devil of his malice. Mr. Tyrrel probably conceived that his accosting Miss Hardingham was an accidental piece of general ceremony, and expected every moment when he-would withdraw to another part of the room.
The company now began to be in motion for the dance, and Mr. Falkland signified as much to Miss Hardingham. "Sir," interrupted Mr. Tyrrel abruptly, "that lady is my partner." "I believe not, sir; that lady has been so obliging as to accept my imvitation." "I tell you, sir, no. Sir, I have an interest in that lady's affections, and I will. suffer no man to intrude upon my claims." "The lady's affections are not the subject of the present question." "Sir, it is to no purpose to parley. Make room, sir" Mr. Falkland gently repelled his antagonist. "Mr. Tyrrel!" returned he with some firmness, "let us have no altercation in this business: the master of the ceremonies is the proper person to decide in a difference of this sort, if we cannot adjust it: we can neither of us intend to exhibit our velour before the ladies, and shall therefore cheerfully submit to his verdict." "Damn me, sir, if I understand" "Softly, Mr. Tyrrel; I intended you no offense. But, sir, no man shall prevent my asserting that, to which I have once acquired a claim!"
Mr. Falkland uttered these words with the most unruffled temper in the world. The tone in which he spoke had acquired elevation, but neither roughness nor impatience. There was a fascination in his manner, that made the ferociousness of his antagonist subside into impotence. Miss Hardingham had begun to repent of her experiment but her alarm was speedily quieted by the dignified composure of her new partner. Mr. Tyrrel walked away without answering a word. He muttered curses as he went, which the laws of honour did not oblige Mr. Falkland to overhear, and which indeed it would have been no easy task to have overheard with accuracy. Mr. Tyrrel would not perhaps so easily have given up his point, had not his own good sense presently taught him that, however eager he might be for revenge, this was not the ground he should desire to occupy. But, though he could not openly resent this rebellion against his authority, he brooded over it in the recesses of a malignant mind; and it was evident enough that he was accumulating materials for a bitter account, to which he trusted his adversary should one day be brought.
This was only one out of innumerable instances that every day seemed to multiply, of petty mortifications which Mr. Tyrrel was destined to endure on the part of Mr. Falkland. In all of them Mr. Falkland conducted himself with such unaffected propriety, as perpetually to add to the stock of his reputation. The more Mr. Tyrrel struggled with his misfortune, the more conspicuous and inveterate it became. A thousand times he cursed his stars, which took, as he apprehended, a malicious pleasure in making Mr. Falkland at every turn the instrument of his humiliation. Smarting under a succession of untoward events, he appeared to feel in the most exquisite manner the distinctions paid to his adversary, even in those points in which he had not the slightest pretensions. An instance of this now occurred.
Mr. Clare, a poet whose works have done immortal honour to the country that produced him, had lately retired, after a life spent in the sublimes" efforts of genius, to enjoy the produce of his economy and the reputation he had acquired, in this very neighbourhood. Such an inmate was looked up to by the country-gentlemen with a degree of adoration. They felt a conscious pride in recollecting that the boast of England was a native of their vicinity; and they were by no means deficient in gratitude, when they saw him, who had left them an adventurer, return into the midst of them in the close of his days, crowned with honours and opulence. The reader is acquainted with his works: he has, probably, dwelt upon them with transport; and I need not remind him of their excellence. But he is, perhaps, a stranger to his personal qualifications; he does not know that his productions were scarcely more admirable than his conversation. In company he seemed to be the only person ignorant of the greatness of his fame. To the world his writings will long remain a kind of specimen of what the human mind is capable of performing; but no man perceived their defects so acutely as he, or saw so distinctly how much yet remained to be effected: he alone appeared to look upon his works with superiority and indifference. One of the features that most eminently distinguished him was a perpetual suavity of manners, a comprehensiveness of mind, that regarded the errors of others without a particle of resentment, and made it impossible for any one to be his enemy. He pointed out to men their mistakes with frankness and unreserve: his remonstrances produced astonishment and conviction, but without uneasiness, in the party to whom they were addressed: they felt the instrument that was employed to correct their irregularities, but never mangled what it was intended to heal. Such were the moral qualities that distinguished him among his acquaintance. The intellectual accomplishments he exhibited were, principally, a tranquil and mild enthusiasm, and a richness of conception which dictated spontaneously to his tongue and flowed with so much ease, that it was only by retrospect you could be made aware of the amazing variety of ideas that had been presented.
Mr. Clare certainly found few men in this remote situation that were capable of participating in his ideas and amusements. It has been among the weaknesses of great men to fly to solitude, and converse with woods and groves, rather than with a circle of strong and comprehensive minds like their own. From the moment of Mr. Falkland's arrival in the neighbourhood, Mr. Clare distinguished him in the most flattering manner. To so penetrating a genius there was no need of long experience and patient observation, to discover the merits and defects of any character that presented itself. The materials of his judgment had long since been accumulated; and, at the close of so illustrious a life, he might almost be said to see through nature at a glance. What wonder that he took some interest in a mind in a certain degree congenial with his own? But to Mr. Tyrrel's diseased imagination, every distinction bestowed on in-is neighbour seemed to be expressly intended as an insult to him. On the other hand Mr. Clare, though gentle and benevolent in his remonstrances to a degree that made the taking offense impossible, was by no means parsimonious of praise, or slow to make use of the deference that was paid him, for the purpose of procuring justice to merit.
It happened at one of those public meetings at which Mr. Falkland and Mr. Tyrrel were present, that the conversation, in one of the most numerous sets into which the company was broken, turned upon the poetical talents of the former. A lady, who was present, and was distinguished for the acuteness of her understanding, said, she had been favoured with a sight of a poem he had just written, entitled an Ode to the Genius of Chivalry, which appeared to her of exquisite merit. The curiosity of the company was immediately excited, and the lady added, she had a copy in her pocket, which was much at their service, provided its being thus produced would not be disagreeable to the author. The whole circle immediately entreated Mr. Falkland to comply with their wishes, and Mr. Clare, who was one of the company, enforced their petition. Nothing gave this gentleman so much pleasure, as to have an opportunity of witnessing and doing justice to the exhibition of intellectual excellence. Mr. Falkland had no false modesty or affection, and therefore readily yielded his consent.
Mr. Tyrrel accidentally sat at the extremity of this circle. It cannot be supposed that the turn the conversation had taken was by ,, any means agreeable to him. He appeared to wish to withdraw himself, but there seemed to be some unknown power that, as it were | by enchantment, retained him in his place, and made him consent to drink to the dregs the bitter potion which envy had prepared for him.
The poem was read to the rest of the company by Mr. Clare, whose elocution was scarcely inferior to his other accomplishments. Simplicity, discrimination and energy constantly attended him in the act of reading, and it is not easy to conceive a more refined delight than fell to the lot of those who had the good fortune to be his auditors. The beauties of Mr. Falkland's poem were accordingly exhibited with every advantage. The successive passions of the author were communicated to the hearer. What was impetuous and what was solemn, were delivered with a responsive feeling, and a flowing and unlaboured tone. The pictures conjured up by the creative fancy of the poet were placed full to view, at one fine overwhelming the soul with superstitious awe, and at another transporting it with luxuriant beauty.
The character of the hearers upon this occasion has already been described. They were for the most part plain, unlettered, and of little refinement. Poetry in general they read, when read at all from the mere force of imitation, and with few sensations of pleasure; but this poem had a peculiar vein of glowing inspiration. This very poem would probably have been seen by many of them with little effect; but the accents of Mr. Clare carried it home to the heart. He ended: and, as the countenances of his auditors had before sympathized with the passions of the composition, so now they emulated each other in declaring their approbation. Their sensations were of a sort to which they were little accustomed. One spoke, and another followed by a sort of uncontrollable impulse; and the rude and broken manner of their commendations rendered them the more singular and remarkable. But what was least to be endured was the behaviour of Mr. Clare. He returned the manuscript to the lady from whom he had received it, and then, addressing Mr. Falkland, said with emphasis and animation: "Ha! this is as it should be. It is of the right stamp. I have seen too many hard essays strained from the labour of a pedant, and pastoral ditties distressed in lack of a meaning. They are such as you, sir, that we want. Do not forget however, that the Muse was not given to add refinements to idleness, but for the highest and most invaluable purposes. Act up to the magnitude of your destiny."
A moment after, Mr. Clare quitted his seat, and with Mr. Falkland and two or three more withdrew. As soon as they were gone, Mr. Tyrrel edged further into the circle. He had sat silent so long that he seemed ready to burst with gall and indignation. "Mighty pretty verses," said he, half talking to himself, and not addressing any particular person: "why, aye, the verses are well enough. Damnation! I should like to know what a ship-load of such stuff is good for."
"Why, surely," said the lady who had introduced Mr. Falkland's Ode on the present occasion, "you must allow that poetry is an agreeable and elegant amusement."
"Elegant, quote! Why, look at this Falkland! A puny bit of a thing! In the devil's name, madam, do you think he would write poetry if he could do any thing better?"
The conversation did not stop here. The lady expostulated. Several other persons fresh from the sensation they had felt, contributed their share. Mr. Tyrrel grew more violent in his invectives, and found ease in uttering them. The persons who were able in any degree to check his vehemence were withdrawn. One speaker after another shrunk back into silence, too timid to oppose, or too indolent to contend with, the fierceness of his passion. He found the appearance of his old ascendancy; but he felt its deceitfulness and uncertainty, and was gloomily dissatisfied.
In his return from this assembly he was accompanied by a young man, whom similitude of manners had rendered one of his principal confidants, and whose road home was in part the same as his own. One might have thought that Mr. Tyrrel had sufficiently vented his spleen in the dialogue he had just been holding. But he was unable to dismiss from his recollection the anguish he had endured. "Damn Falkland!" said he. "What a pitiful scoundrel is here to make all this bussle about! But women-and fools always will be fools; there is no help for that! Those chat set them on have most to answer for; and most of all Mr. Clare. He is a man that ought to know something of the world, and past being duped by gewgaws and tinsel. He seemed too to have some notion of things: I should not have suspected him of hallooing to a cry of mongrels without honesty or reason. But the world is all alike. Those chat seem better than their neighbours are only more artful. They mean the same thing, though they take a different road. He deceived me for a while, but it is all out now. They are the makers of the mischief. Fools might blunder, but they would not persist, if people that ought to set them right, did not encourage them to go wrong."
A few days after this adventure Mr. Tyrrel was surprised to receive a visit from Mr. Falkland. Mr. Falkland proceeded without ceremony to explain the motive of his coming.
"Mr. Tyrrel," said he, "I am come to have an amicable explanation with you."
"Explanation! What is my offense?"
"None in the world, sir; and for that reason I conceive this the fittest time to come to a right understanding."
"You are in a devil of a hurry, sir. Are you clear that haste will not mar, instead of make an understanding?"
"I think I am, sir. I have great faith in the purity of my intentions, and I will not doubt, when you perceive the view with which I come, that you will willingly co-operate with it."
"Mayhap, Mr. Falkland, we may not agree about that. One man thinks one way, and another man thinks another. Mayhap I do not think I have any great reason to be pleased with you already."
"It may be so. I cannot, however, charge myself with having given you reason to be displeased."
"Well, sir, you have no right to put me out of humour with myself. If you come to play upon me, and try what sort of a fellow you shall have to deal with, damn me, if you shall have any reason to hug yourself upon the experiment."
"Nothing, sir, is more easy for us than to quarrel. If you desire that, there is no fear that you will find opportunities."
"Damn me, sir, if I do not believe you are come to bully me."
"Mr. Tyrrel! sir have a care!"
"Of what, sir? Do you threaten me? Damn my soul! who are you? what have you come here for?"
The fieriness of Mr. Tyrrel brought Mr. Falkland to his recollection.
"I am wrong," said he. "I confess it. I came for purposes of peace. With that view I have taken the liberty to visit you. Whatever therefore might be my feelings upon another occasion, I am bound to suppress them now."
"Ho! Well, sir; and what have you further to offer?"
"Mr. Tyrrel," proceeded Mr. Falkland, "you will readily imagine that the cause that brought me was not a slight one. I would not have troubled you with a visit but for important reasons. My coming is a pledge how deeply I am myself impressed with what I have to communicate.
"We are in a critical situation. We are upon the brink of a whirlpool once it get hold of us, will render all further deliberation impotent. An unfortunate jealousy seems to have insinuated itself between us, which Could willingly remove; and I come to ask your assistance. We are both of us nice of temper; we are both apt to kindle, and warm of resentment. Precaution in this stage can be dishonourable to neither; the time may come when we shall wish we had employed it, and find it too late. Why should we be enemies? Our tastes are different; our pursuits need not interfere. We both of us amply possess the means of happiness; we may be >respected by all, and spend a long life of tranquillity and enjoyment. Will it be wise in us to exchange this prospect for the fruits of strife? A strife between persons with our peculiarities and our weaknesses, includes consequences that I shudder to think of. I fear, sir, that it is pregnant with death at least to one of us, and with misfortune and remorse to the survivor."
"Upon my soul, you are a strange man! Why trouble me with your prophecies and forebodings?"
"Because it is necessary to your happiness! Because it becomes me to tell you of our danger now, rather than wait till my. character will allow this tranquillity no longer!
"By quarreling we shall but imitate the great mass of mankind, who could easily quarrel in our place. Let us do better. Let us show that we have the magnanimity to contemn petty misunderstandings. By thus judging we shall do ourselves most substantial honour. By a contrary conduct we shall merely present a comedy for the amusement of our acquaintance."
"Do you think so? there may be something in that. Damn me, if I consent to be the jest of any man living."
"You are right, Mr. Tyrrel. Let us each act in the manner best calculated to excite respect. We neither of us wish to change roads let us each suffer the other to pursue his own track unmolested. Be this our compact; and by mutual forbearance let us preserve mutual peace."
Saying this, Mr. Falkland offered his hand to Mr. Tyrrel in token of fellowship. But the gesture was too significant. The wayward rustic, who seemed to have been somewhat impressed by what had preceded, taken as he now was by surprise, shrunk back. Mr. Falkland was again ready to take fire upon this new slight, but he checked himself.
"All this is very unaccountable," cried Mr. Tyrrel. "What the devil can have made you so forward, if you had not some sly purpose to answer by which I am to be overreached?"
"My purpose," replied Mr., Falkland, "is a manly and an honest purpose. Why should you refuse a proposition dictated by reason and an equal regard to the interest of each?" Mr. Tyrrel had had an opportunity for pause, and fell back into his habitual character.
Well, sir, in all this I must own there is some frankness. Now I will return you like for like. It is no matter how I came by it, my temper is rough, and will not be controlled. Mayhap you may think it is a weakness, but I do not desire to see it altered. Till you came I found myself very well; I liked my neighbours, and my neighbours humoured me. But now the case is entire1y altered ; and, as long as I cannot stir abroad without meeting with some mortification in which you are directly or remotely concerned, I am determined to hate you. Now, sir, if you will only go out of the county or the kingdom, to the devil if you please, so as I may never hear of you any more, I will promise never to quarrel with you as long as I live. Your rhymes and your rebusses, your quirks and your conundrums, may then be every thing that is grand for what I care."
"Mr. Tyrrel, be reasonable! Might not I as well desire you to leave the county, as you desire me? I come to you, not as a master, but an equal. In the society of men we must have something to endure, as well as to enjoy. No man must think that the world was made for him. Let us take things as we find them; and accommodate ourselves as we can to unavoidable circumstances."
"True, sir, all that is fine talking. But I return to my text; we are as God made us. I am neither a philosopher nor a poet, to set out upon a wild-goose chase of making myself a different man from what you find me. As for consequences, what must be must be. As we brew, we must bake. And so do you see? I shall not trouble myself about what is to be, but stand up to it with a stout heart when it comes. Only this I can tell you, that as long as I find you thrust into my dish every day, I shall hate you as bad as senna and valerian. And damn me, if I do not think I hate you the more for coming to-day in this pragmatical way when nobody sent for you, In purpose to show how much wiser you are than all the world besides."
"Mr. Tyrrel I have done. I foresaw consequences, and came as friend. I had hoped that, by mutual explanation, we should have one to a better understanding. I am disappointed; but perhaps when you coolly reject on what has passed, you will give me credit or my intentions, and think that my proposal was not an unreasonable one."
Having said this, Mr. Falkland departed. Through the interview he, no doubt, conducted himself m a manner that did him peculiar reedit. Yet the warmth of his temper could not be entirely suppress and even when he was most exemplary, there was an apparent loftiness in his manner that was calculated to irritate; and the very grandeur with which he suppressed his passions, operated indirectly as a taunt to his opponent. The interview was prompted by' the noblest sentiments; but it unquestionably served to widen the breach it was intended to heal.
For Mr. Tyrrel, he had recourse to his old expedient, and unburthened the tumult of his thoughts to his confidential friend. "This," cried he, is a new artifice of the fellow, to prove his imagined superiority. We knew well enough that he had the gift of gab. To be sure, if the world were to be governed by words, he would be in the right box. Oh, yes, he had it all hollow! But what signifies prating? Business must be done in another guess way than that. I wonder what possessed me that I did not kick him! But that is all to come. This is only a new debt added to the score, which he shall one day richly pay. This Falkland haunts me like a demon. I cannot wake, but I think of him. I cannot sleep, but I see him. He poisons all my pleasures. I should be glad to see him torn with tenter-hooks, and to grind his heart-strings with my teeth. I shall know no joy, till I see him ruined. There may be some things right about him; but he is my perpetual torment. The thought of him hangs like a dead weight upon my heart, and I have a right to shake it off. Does he think I will feel all that I endure for nothing?"
In spite of the acerbity of Mr. Tyrrel's feelings, it is probable however, he did some justice to his rival. He regarded him, indeed, with added dislike; but he no longer regarded him as a despicable foe. He avoided his encounter; he forbore to treat him with random hostility; he seemed to lie in wait for his victim. and to collect his us nom for a mortal assault.
It was not long after that a malignant distemper broke out m the neighbourhood, which proved fatal to many of the inhabitants, and was of unexampled rapidity in its effects. One of the first persons that was seized with it, was Mr. Clare. It may be conceived, what grief and alarm this incident spread through the vicinity. Mr. Clare was considered by them as something more than mortal. The equanimity of his behaviour, his unassuming carriage, his exuberant benevolence and goodness of heart, joined with his talents, his inoffensive wit, and the comprehensiveness of his intelligence, made him the idol of all that knew him. In the scene of his rural retreat, at least, he had no enemy. All mourned the danger that now threatened him. He appeared to have had the prospect of long life, and of going down to his grave full of years and of honour. Perhaps these appearances were deceitful. Perhaps the intellectual efforts he had made, which were occasionally more sudden, violent, and unintermitted, than a strict regard to health would have dictated, had laid the seeds of future disease. But a sanguine observer would infallibly have predicted, that his temperate habits, activity of mind, and unabated cheerfulness, would be able even to keep death at bay for a time, and baffle the attacks of distemper, provided their approach were not uncommonly rapid and violent. The general affliction therefore was doubly pungent upon the present occasion.
But no one was so much affected as Mr. Falkland. Perhaps no man so well understood the value of the life that was now at stake. He immediately hastened to the spot; but he found some difficulty in gaining admission. Mr. Clare, aware of the infectious nature of his disease, had given directions that as few persons as possible should approach him. Mr. Falkland sent up his name. He was told that he was included in the general orders. He was not however after a temper to be easily repulsed; he persisted with obstinacy, and at length carried his point, being only reminded in the first instance, to employ those precautions which experience has proved most effectual in counteracting infection.
He found Mr. Clare in his bedchamber, but not in bed. He was sitting in his night-gown at a bureau near the window. His appearance was composed and cheerful, but death was in his countenance. "I had a great inclination, Falkland," said he, "not to have suffered you to come in; and yet there is not a person in the world it could give me more pleasure to see. But upon second thoughts I believe there are few people that could run a danger of this kind with a better prospect of escaping. In your case, at least the garrison will not, I trust, be taken through the treachery of the commander. I cannot tell how it is that I, who can preach wisdom to you, have myself been caught. But do not be discouraged by my example. I had no notice of my danger, or I would have acquitted myself better."
Mr. Falkland, having once established himself in the apartment of his friend, would upon no terms consent to retire. Mr. Clare considered that there was perhaps less danger m this choice, than in a frequent change from the extremes of a pure to a tainted air, and desisted from expostulation. "Falkland," said he, "when you came in, I had just finished making my will. I was not pleased with what I had formerly drawn up upon that subject, and I did not choose in my present situation to call in an attorney. In fact, it would be strange, if a man of sense with pure and direct intentions, should not be able to perform such a function for himself."
Mr. Clare continued to act in the same easy and disengaged manner as in perfect health. To judge from the cheerfulness of his tone and the firmness of his manner, the thought would never once have occurred that he was dying. He walked, he reasoned, he jested, in a way that argued the most perfect self-possession. But his appearance changed perceptibly for the worse every quarter of an hour. Mr. Falkland kept his eye perpetually fixed upon him with mingled sentiments of anxiety and admiration. Falkland," said he, after having appeared for a short period absorbed in thought, "I feel that I am dying. This is a strange distemper of mine. Yesterday I seemed in perfect health, and to-morrow I shall be an insensible corpse. How curious is the line that separates life and death to mortal men. To be at one moment active, gay' penetrating, with stores of knowledge at one's command, capable of delighting, instructing and animating mankind, and the next lifeless and loathsome, an encumbrance upon the face of the earth! Such is the history of many men, and such will be mine.
"I feel as if I had yet much to do in the world; but it will not be. I must be contented with what is past. It is in vain that I muster all my spirits to my heart. The enemy is too mighty and too merciless for me; he will not give me time so much as to breathe. These things are not yet at least in our power. They are parts of a great series that is perpetually flowing. The general welfare, the great business of the universe, will go on, though I bear no further share in promoting it. That task is reserved for younger strengths, for you, Falkland, and such as you. We should be contemptible indeed if the prospect of human improvement did not yield us a pure and perfect delight, independently of the question of our existing to partake of it. Mankind would have little to envy to future ages, if they had all enjoyed a serenity as perfect as mine has been for the latter half of my existence."
Mr. Clare sat up through the whole day, indulging himself in easy and cheerful exertions, which were perhaps better calculated to refresh and invigorate the frame, than if he had sought repose in its direct form. Now and then he was visited with a sudden pang; but it was no sooner felt, than he seemed to rise above it, and smiled at the impotence of these attacks. They might destroy him, but they could not disturb. Three or four times he was bedewed with profuse sweats, and these again were succeeded by an extreme dryness and burning heat of the skin. He was next covered with small livid spots. Symptoms of shivering followed, but these he drove away with a determined resolution. He then became tranquil and composed, and after some time decided to go to bed, it being already night. "Falkland," said he, pressing his hand, "the task of dying is not so difficult as some imagine. When one looks back from the brink of it, one wonders that so total a subversion can take place at so easy a price."
He had now been sometime in bed, and, as every thing was still, Mr. Falkland hoped that he slept. But in that he was mistaken. Presently Mr. Clare threw back the curtain, and looked in the countenance of his friend. "I cannot sleep," said he. "No, if I could sleep, it would be the same thing as to recover; and I am destined to have the worst in this battle.
"Falkland, I have been thinking about you. I do not know any one whose future usefulness I contemplate with greater hope. Take care of yourself. Do not let the world be defrauded of your virtues. I am acquainted with your weakness as well as your strength. You have impetuosity, and an impatience of imagined dishonour, that if once set wrong, may make you as eminently mischievous, as you will otherwise be useful. Think seriously of exterminating this error!
"But, if I cannot, in the brief expostulation my present situation will allow, produce this desirable change in you, there is at least one thing I can do. I can put you upon your guard against a mischief I foresee to be imminent. Beware of Mr. Tyrrel. Do not commit the mistake of despising him as an unequal opponent. Petty causes may produce great mischiefs. Mr. Tyrrel is boisterous, rugged and unfeeling; and you are too passionate, too acutely sensible of injury. It would be truly to be lamented, if a man so inferior, so utterly unworthy to be compared with you, should be capable of changing your whole history into misery and guilt. I have a painful presentiment upon my heart, as if something dreadful would reach you from that quarter. Think of this. I exact no promise from you. I would not shackle you with the fetters of superstition, I would have you governed by justice and reason."
Mr. Falkland was deeply affected with this expostulation. His sense of the generous attention of Mr. Clare at such a moment, was so great as almost to deprive him of utterance. He spoke in short sentences and with visible effort. "I will behave better," replied he.
"Never fear me! Your admonitions shall not be thrown away upon me."
Mr. Clare adverted to another subject. "I have made you my executor; you will not refuse me this last office of friendship. It is but a short time that I have had the happiness of knowing you; but in that short time I have examined you well, and seen you thoroughly. Do not disappoint the sanguine hope I have entertained!
"I have left some legacies. My former connections, while I lived amidst the busy haunts of men, as many of them as were intimate, are all of them dear to me. I have not had time to summon them about me upon the present occasion, nor did I desire it. The remembrances of me will, I hope, answer a better purpose than such as are usually thought of on similar occasions."
Mr. Clare, having thus unburdened his mind, spoke no more for several hours. Towards morning Mr. Falkland quietly withdrew the curtain, and looked at the dying man. His eyes were open, and were now gently turned towards his young friend. His countenance was sunk, and of a death-like appearance. "I hope you are better," said Falkland in a half-whisper, as if afraid of disturbing him. Mr. Clare drew his hand from the bed-clothes, and stretched it forward; Mr. Falkland advanced, and took hold of it. "Much better," said Mr. Clare in a voice inward and hardly articulate; "the struggle is now over; I have finished my part; farewell; remember!" These were his last words. He lived still a few hours; his lips were sometimes seen to move; he expired without a groan.
Mr. Falkland had witnessed the scene with much anxiety. His hopes of a favourable crisis, and his fear of disturbing the last moments of his friend, had held him dumb. For the last half hour he had stood up, with his eyes intently fixed upon Mr. Clare. He witnessed the last gasp, the little convulsive motion of the frame. He continued to look; he sometimes imagined that he saw life renewed. At length he could deceive himself no longer, and exclaimed with a distracted accent, "And is this all?" He would have thrown himself upon the body of his friend; the attendants withheld, and would have forced him into another apartment. But he struggled from them, and hung fondly over the bed. "Is this the end of genius, virtue, and excellence? Is the luminary of the world thus for ever t gone? Oh, yesterday! yesterday! Clare, why could not I have died in your stead? Dreadful moment! Irreparable loss! Lost in the very maturity and vigour of his mind! Cut off from a usefulness ten thousand times greater than any he had already exhibited! Oh, his was - a mind to have instructed sages, and guided the moral world! This e is all we have left of him! The eloquence of those lips is gone! The incessant activity of that heart is still! The best and wisest of men is gone, and the world is insensible of its loss!"
Mr. Tyrrel heard the intelligence of Mr. Clare's death with emotion, but of a different kind. He avowed that he had not forgiven him his partial attachment to Falkland, and therefore could not recall his remembrance with kindness. But, if he could have overlooked his past injustice, sufficient care, it seems, was taken to keep alive his resentment. "Falkland, forsooth, attended him on his deathbed, as if nobody else were worthy of his confidential communications." But what was worst of all was this executorship. "In every thing this pragmatical rascal throws me behind. Contemptible wretch, that has nothing of the man about him! Must he perpetually trample on his betters? Is every body incapable of saying what kind of stuff a man is made of? caught with mere outside? choosing the flimsy before the substantial? And upon his death-bed tool [Mr. Tyrrel with his uncultivated brutality mixed, as usually happens, certain rude notions of religion.] Sure the sense of his situation might have shamed him. Poor wretch! his soul has a great deal to answer for. He has made my pillow uneasy; and, whatever may be the consequences, it is he we have to thank for them."
The death of Mr. Clare removed the person who could most effectually have moderated the animosities of the contending parties, and took away the great operative check upon the excesses of Mr. Tyrrel. This rustic tyrant had been held in involuntary restraint by the intellectual ascendancy of his celebrated neighbour; and, notwithstanding the general ferocity of his temper, he did not appear till lately to have entertained a hatred against him. In the short time that had elapsed, from the period in which Mr. Clare had fixed his residence in the neighbourhood to that of the arrival of Mr. Falkland from the Continent, the conduct of Mr. Tyrrel had even shown tokens of improvement. He would indeed have been better satisfied not to have even this intruder into a circle where he had been accustomed to reign. But with Mr. Clare he could have no rivalship; the venerable character of Mr. Clare disposed him to submission; this great man seemed to have survived all the acrimony of contention, and all the jealous subtleties of a mistaken honour.
The effects of Mr. Clare's suavity however, so far as related to Mr. Tyrrel, had been in a certain degree suspended by considerations of rivalship between this gentleman and Mr. Falkland. And now that the influence of Mr. Clare's presence and virtues was entirely removed, Mr. Tyrrel's temper broke out into more criminal excesses than ever. The added gloom which Mr. Falkland's neighbourhood inspired, overflowed upon all his connections; and the new examples of his sullenness and tyranny which every day afforded, reflected back upon this accumulated and portentous feud.
The consequences of all this speedily manifested themselves. The very next incident in the story was in some degree decisive of the catastrophe. Hitherto I have spoken only of preliminary matters, seemingly unconnected with each other, though leading to that state of mind in both parties which had such fatal effects. But all that remains is rapid and tremendous. The death-dealing mischief advances with an accelerated motion, appearing to defy human wisdom and strength to obstruct its operation.
The vices of Mr. Tyrrel, in their present state of augmentation, were peculiarly exercised upon his domestics and dependents. But the principal sufferer was the young lady mentioned on a former occasion, the orphan daughter of his father's sister. Miss Melville's mother had married imprudently, or rather unfortunately, against the consent of her relations, all of whom had agreed to withdraw their countenance from her in consequence of that precipitate step. Her husband had turned out to be no better than an adventurer; had spent her fortune, which in consequence of the irreconcilableness of her family was less than he expected, and broken her heart. Her infant daughter was left without any resource. In this situation the representations of the people with whom she happened to be placed, prevailed upon Mrs. Tyrrel, the mother of the squire, to receive her into her family. In equity perhaps she was entitled to that portion of fortune which her mother had forfeited by her imprudence, and which had gone to swell the property of the male representative. But this idea had never entered into the conceptions of either mother or son. Mrs. Tyrrel conceived that she performed an act of the most exalted benevolence in admitting Miss Emily into a sort of equivocal situation, which was neither precisely that of a domestic, nor yet marked with the treatment that might seem due to one of the family.
She had not, however, at first been sensible of all the mortifications that might have been expected from her condition. Mrs. Tyrrel, though proud and imperious, was not ill natured. The female, who lived in the family in the capacity of housekeeper, was a person who had seen better days, and whose disposition was extremely upright and amiable. She early contracted a friendship for the little Emily, who was indeed for the most part committed to her care. Emily, on her side, fully repaid the affection of her instructress, and learned with great docility the few accomplishments Mrs. Jakeman was able to communicate. But most of all she imbibed her cheerful and artless temper, that extracted the agreeable and encouraging from all events, and prompted her to communicate her sentiments, which were never of the cynical cast, without modification or disguise. Besides the advantages Emily derived from Mrs.
Jakeman, she was permitted to take lessons from the masters who were employed at Tyrrel Place for the instruction of her cousin; and indeed, as the young gentleman was most frequently indisposed to attend to them, they would commonly have had nothing to do, had it not been for the fortunate presence of Miss Melville. Mrs. Tyrrel therefore encouraged the studies of Emily on chat score; in addition to which she imagined chat this living exhibition of instruction might operate as an indirect allurement to her darling Barnabas, the only species of motive she would suffer to be presented. Force she absolutely forbade; and of the intrinsic allurements of literature and knowledge she had no conception.
Emily, as she grew up, displayed an uncommon degree of sensibility, which under her circumstances would have been a source of perpetual dissatisfaction, had it not been qualified with an extreme sweetness and easiness of temper. She was far from being entitled to the appellation of a beauty. Her person was petite and trivial; her complexion savored of the brunette; and her face was marked with the small pox, sufficiency to destroy its evenness and polish, though not enough to destroy its expression. But, though her appearance was not beautiful, it did not fail to be in a high degree engaging. Her complexion was at once healthful and delicate; her long dark eye- brows adapted themselves with facility to the various conceptions of her mind; and her looks bore the united impression of an active discernment and a good-humored frankness. The instruction she had received, as it was entirely of a casual nature, exempted her from the evils of untutored ignorance, but |not from a sort of native wildness, arguing a mind incapable of guile |itself, or of suspecting it in others. She amused, without seeming conscious of the refined sense which her observations contained: or rather, having never been debauched wild, applause, she set light by her own qualifications, and talked from the pure gaiety of a youthful heart acting upon the stores of a just understanding, and not with any expectation of being distinguished and admired.
The death of her aunt made very little change in her situation. This prudent lady, who would have thought it little less than sacrilege to have considered Miss Melville as a branch of the stock of the Tyrrels, took no ocher notice of her in her will, than barely putting her down for a hundred pounds in a catalogue of legacies to her servants. She had never been admitted into the intimacy and confidence of Mrs. Tyrrel; and the young squire, now that she was under his sole protection, seemed inclined to treat her with even more liberality than his mother had done. He has seen her grow up under his eye, and therefore, though there were but six years difference in their ages, he felt a kind of paternal interest in her welfare. Habit had rendered her in a manner necessary to him, and, in every recess from the occupations of the field and the pleasures of the table, he found himself solitary and forlorn without the society of Miss Melville. Nearness of kindred, and Emily's want of personal beauty, prevented him from ever looking on her with the eyes of desire. Her accomplishments were chiefly of the customary and superficial kind, dancing and music. Her skill in the first led him sometimes to indulge her with a vacant corner in his carriage, when he went to the neighboring assembly; and, in whatever light he might himself think proper to regard her, he would have imagined his chambermaid, introduced by him, enticed to an undoubted place in the most splendid circle. Her musical talents were frequently employed for his amusement. She had the honor occasionally of playing him to sleep after the fatigues of the chase; and, as he had some relish for harmonious sounds, she was frequency able to soothe him by their means from the perturbations of which his gloomy disposition was so eminency a slave. Upon the whole she might be considered as in some sort his favorite. She was the mediator to whom his tenants and domestics, when they had incurred his displeasure, were accustomed to apply; the privileged companion chat could approach this lion with impunity in the midst of his roaring. She spoke to him without fear; her solicitations were always good- natured and disinterested; and, when he repulsed her, he disarmed himself of half his terrors, and was contented to smile at her presumption.
Such had been for some years the situation of Miss Melville.
Its precariousness had been beguiled, by the cheerfulness of her own temper, and the uncommon forbearance with which she was treated by her savage protector. But his disposition, always brutal, had acquired a gradual accession of ferocity since the settlement of Mr. Falkland in his neighborhood. He now frequently forgot the gentleness with which he had been accustomed to treat his good-natured cousin. Her little playful arts were not always successful in softening his rage; and he would sometimes turn upon her blandishments with an impatient sternness that made her tremble. The careless ease of her disposition however soon effaced these impressions, and she fell without variation into her old habits.
A circumstance occurred about this time, which gave peculiar strength to the acrimony of Mr. Tyrrel, and ultimately brought to its close the felicity that ,Miss Melville, in spite of the frowns of fortune, had hitherto enjoyed. Emily was exactly seventeen, when Mr. Falkland returned from the continent. At this age she was peculiarly susceptible to the charms of beauty, grace, and moral excellence, when united in a person of the other sex. She was imprudent, precisely because her own heart was incapable of guile. She had never yet felt the sting of the poverty to which she was condemned, and had not reflected on the insuperable distance that custom has placed between the opulent and the poorer classes of the community. She beheld Mr. Falkland, whenever he was thrown in her way at any of the public meetings, with admiration; and, without having precisely explained to herself the segments she indulged, her eyes followed him through all the changes of the scene, with eagerness and impatience. She did not see him, as the rest of the assembly did, born to one of the amplest estates in the county, and qualified to assert his tide to the richest heiress. She thought only of Falkland, with those advantages which were most intimately his own, and of which no persecution of adverse fortune had the ability to deprive him. In a word she was transported when he was present; he was the perpetual subject of her reveries and her dreams; but his image excited no sentiment in her mind beyond that of the immediate pleasure she took in his idea.
The notice Mr. Falkland bestowed on her in return appeared sufficiently encouraging to a mind so full of prepossession as that of Emily. There was a particular complacency in his looks when directed towards her. He had said in a company, of which one of the persons present repeated his- remarks to Miss Melville, that she appeared to him amiable and interesting, that he felt for her unprovided and destitute situation, and that he should have been glad to be more particular in his attention to her, had he not been apprehensive of doing her a prejudice in the suspicious mind of Mr. Tyrrel. All this she considered as the ravishing condescension of a superior nature; for, if she did not recollect with sufficient assiduity his gifts of fortune, she was, on the other hand, filled with reverence for his unrivaled accomplishments. But, while she thus seemingly disclaimed all comparison between Mr. Falkland and herself, she probably cherished a confused feeling as if some event, that was yet in the womb of fate, might reconcile things apparently the most compatible. Fraught with these prepossessions, the civilities that had once or twice occurred in the bustle of a public circle, the restoring her fan which she had dropped, or the disembarrassing her of an empty tea-cup, made her heart palpitate, and gave birth to the wildest chimeras in her deluded imagination.
About this time an event happened chat helped to give a precise determination to the fluctuations of Miss Melville's mind. One evening, a short time after the death of Mr. Clare, Mr. Falkland had been at the house of his deceased friend in his quality of executor, and, by some accidents of little intrinsic importance, had been detained three or four hours later than he expected. He did not set out upon his return till two o'clock in the morning. At this time, in a situation so remote from the metropolis, every thing is as silent as it would be in a region wholly uninhabited. The moon shown bright; and the objects around being marked with strong variations of light and shade, gave a kind of sacred solemnity to the scene. Mr. Falkland had taken Collins with him, the business to be settled at Mr. Clare's being in some respects similar to that to which this faithful domestic had been accustomed in the routine of his ordinary service. They had entered into some conversation, for Mr. Falkland was not then in the habit of obliging the persons about him by formality and reserve to recollect who he was. The attractive solemnity of the scene made him break off the talk somewhat abruptly, that he might enjoy it without interruption. They had not ridden far, before a hollow wind seemed to rise at a distance, and they could hear the hoarse roaring of the sea. Presently the sky on one side assumed the appearance of a reddish brown, and a sudden angle in the road placed the phenomenon directly before them. As they proceeded, it became more distinct, and it was at length sufficiency visible that it was occasioned by a fire. Mr. Falkland put spurs to his horse; and, as they approached, the object presented every instant a more alarming appearance. The flames ascended with fierceness; they embraced a large portion of the horizon; and, as they carried up with them numerous little fragments of the materials chat fed them, impregnated with fire, and of an extremely bright and luminous color, they presented some feeble image of the tremendous eruption of a volcano.
The flames proceeded from a village directly in their road. There were eight or ten houses already on fire, and the whole seemed to be threatened with immediate destruction. The inhabitants were in the utmost consternation, having had no experience of a similar calamity. They conveyed with haste their moveable and furniture into the adjoining fields. When any of them had effected this as far as it could be attempted with safety, they were unable to conceive any further remedy, but stood wringing their hands and contemplating the ravages of the fire in an agony of powerless despair. The water that could be procured, in any mode practiced in that place, was but as a drop contending with an element in arms. The wind in the mean time was rising, and the flames spread with more and more rapidity.
Mr. Falkland contemplated this scene for a few moments, as if ruminating with himself as to what could be done. He then directed some of the country people about him to pull down a house, next to one chat was wholly on fire, but which itself was yet untouched.
They seemed astonished at a direction which implied a voluntary destruction of property, and considered the task as too much in the heart of the danger to be undertaken. Observing chat they were motionless he dismounted from his horse, and called upon them in an authoritative voice to follow him. He ascended the house in an instant, and presently appeared upon the top of it, as if in the midst of the flames. Having, with the assistance of two or three persons chat followed him most closely, and who by this time had supplied themselves with whatever tools came next to hand, loosened the support of a stack of chimneys, he pushed them headlong into the midst of the fire. He passed and repassed along the roof; and having set people to work in all parts, descended in order to see what could be done in any ocher quarter.
At this moment an elderly woman burst from the midst of a house in flames. The utmost consternation was painted in her looks and, as soon as she could recollect herself enough to have a proper idea of her situation, the subject of her anxiety seemed in an instant to be totally changed. "Where is my child?" cried she, and cast an anxious and piercing look among the surrounding crowd. "Oh, she is lost! she is in the midst of flames Save her! save her my child!" She filled the air with heart-rending shrieks. She turned towards the house. The people that were near, endeavored to prevent her, but she shook them off in a moment. She entered the passage; viewed the hideous ruin; and was then going to plunge into the blazing staircase. Mr. Falkland saw, pursued, and seized her by the arm; it was Mrs. Jakeman. "Stop!" he cried, with a voice of grand, yet benevolent, authority. "Remain you in the street! I will seek, and will save her!" Mrs. Jakeman obeyed. He charged the persons who were near to detain her; he inquired which was the apartment of Emily. Mrs. Jakeman was upon a visit to a sister who lived in the village, and had brought Emily along with her Mr. Falkland ascended a neighboring house, and entered chat in which Emily was, by a window in the roof.
He found her already awaked from her sleep; and, becoming sensible of her danger, she had that instant wrapped a loose gown round her. Such is the almost irresistible result of feminine habits; but having done this, she examined the surrounding objects with the wildness of despair. Mr. Falkland entered the chamber. She flew into his arms with the rapidity of lightning. She embraced and clung to him, with an impulse that did not wait to consult the dictates of her understanding. Her emotions were indescribable. In a few short moments she had lived an age in love. In two minutes Mr. Falkland was again in the street with his lovely, half-naked burden in his arms. Having restored her to her affectionate protector, snatched from the immediate grasp of death, from which, if he had not, none would have delivered her, he returned to his former task. By his presence of mind, by his indefatigable humanity and incessant exertions, he saved three-fourths of the village from destruction.
The conflagration being at length abated, he sought again Mrs. Jakeman and Emily, who by this time had obtained a substitute for the garments she had lost in the fire. He displayed the tenderest solicitude for the young lady's safety, and directed Collins to go with as much speed as he could, and send his chariot to attend her. More than an hour elapsed in this interval. Miss Melville had never seen so much of Mr. Falkland upon any former occasion, and the spectacle of such humanity, delicacy, firmness, and justice in the form of man, as he crowded into this small space, was altogether new to her, and in the highest degree fascinating. She had a confused feeling as if there had been something indecorous in her behavior or appearance when Mr. Falkland had appeared to her relief; and this combined with her ocher emotions to render the whole critical and intoxicating.
Emily no sooner arrived at the family mansion, than Mr. Tyrrel ran out to receive her. He had just heard of the melancholy accident that had taken place at the village, and was terrified for the safety of his good-humored cousin. He displayed chose unpremeditated emotions, which are common to almost every individual of the human race. He was greedy shocked at the suspicion that Emily might possibly have become the victim of a catastrophe, which had thus broken out in the dead of night. His sensations were of the most pleasing sort, when he folded her in his arms, and fearful apprehension was instantaneously converted into joyous certainty. Emily no sooner entered under the well-known roof, than her spirits were brisk, and her tongue incessant in describing her danger and her deliverance. Mr. Tyrrel had formerly been tortured with the innocent eulogies she pronounced of Mr. Falkland. But these were tameness itself, compared with the rich and various eloquence that now howled from her lips. Love had not the same effect upon her, especially at the present moment, which it would have had upon a person, instructed to feign a blush, and inured to a consciousness of wrong. She described his activity and his resources the promptitude with which every thing was conceived, and the cautious but daring wisdom with which it was executed. All was fairy-land and enchantment in the tenor of her artless tale, you saw a beneficent genius surveying and controlling the whole, but could have no notion of any human means by which his purposes were effected.
Mr. Tyrrel listened for a while to these innocent effusions with patience; he could even bear to hear the man applauded, by whom he had just obtained so considerable a benefit. But the theme by amplification became nauseous, and he at length with some roughness put an end to the tale. Probably upon recollection it appeared still more insolent and intolerable than while it was passing; the sensation of gratitude wore off, but the hyperbolical praise that had been bestowed, still haunted his memory, and sounded in his ear: Emily had entered into the confederacy chat disturbed his re( pose. For herself she was wholly unconscious of offense, and upon every occasion quoted Mr. Falkland as the model of elegant manners and true wisdom. She was a total stranger to dissimulation, and she could not conceive that any one beheld the subject of her admiration with less partiality than herself. Her artless love became more fervent than ever. She flattered herself that nothing less than a reciprocal passion, could have prompted Mr. Falkland to the desperate attempt of saving her from the flames; and she trusted that this passion would speedily declare itself, as well as induce the object of her adoration to overlook her comparative unworthiness.
Mr. Tyrrel endeavored at first with some moderation to check Miss Melville in her applauses, and to convince her by various tokens that the subject was disagreeable to him. He was accustomed to treat her with kindness. Emily, on her part, was disposed to yield an unreluctant obedience, and therefore it was not difficult to restrain her. But upon the very next occasion her favorite topic would force its way to her lips. Her obedience was the acquiescence of a frank and benevolent heart; but it was the most difficult thing in the world to inspire her with fear. Conscious herself that she would not hurt a worm, she could not conceive that any one would harbor cruelty and rancor against her. Her temper had preserved her from obstinate contention with the persons under whose protection she was placed; and, as her compliance was unhesitating, she had had no experience of a severe and rigorous treatment. As Mr. Tyrrel's objection to the very name of Falkland became more palpable and uniform, Miss Melville increased in her precaution. She would stop herself in the half-pronounced sentences chat were meant to his praise. This circumstance had necessarily an ungracious effect; it was a cutting satire upon the imbecility of her kinsman. Upon these occasions she would sometimes venture upon a good-humored expostulation: "Dear sir well, I wonder how you can be so ill-natured! I am sure Mr. Falkland would do you any good office in the world" till she was checked by some gestureof impatience and fierceness.
At length she wholly conquered her heedlessness and inattention. But it was too late. Mr. Tyrrel already suspected the existence of chat passion which she had thoughtlessly imbibed. His imagination, ingenious in torment, suggested to him all the different openings in conversation, in which she would have introduced the praise of Mr. Falkland, had she not been placed under this unnatural restraint. Her present reserve upon the subject was even more insufferable than her former loquacity. All his kindness for this unhappy orphan gradually subsided. Her partiality for the man who was the object of his unbounded abhorrence, appeared to him as the last persecution of a malicious destiny. He figured himself, as about to be deserted by every creature in human form; all men, under the influence of a fatal enchantment, approving only what was sophisticated and artificial, and holding the rude and genuine offspring of nature in mortal antipathy. Impressed with these gloomy presages, he saw Miss Melville with no sentiments but those of rancorous aversion; and, accustomed as he was to the uncontrolled inclulgence of his propensities, he determined to wreak upon her a signal revenge.
William Godwin on Education
Nothing can be more pitiable...
There is but one considerable objection that seems to oppose all these advantages [to a libertarian education]. The preceptor is terrified at the outset, and says, How shall I render the labors of literature an object of desire, and still more how shall I maintain this desire in all its vigour, in spite of the discouragements that will daily occur, and in spite of the quality incident to almost every human passion, that its fervour disappears in proportion as the novelty of the object subsides?
But let us not hastily admit this for an insuperable objection. If the plan here proposed augments the difficulties of the teacher in one particular point, let it be remembered that it relieves him from an insufferable burthen in other repects.
Nothing can be more pitable than the condition of the instructor in the present modes of education. He is the worst of slaves. He is consigned to the severest of imprisonments... Like the unfortunate wretch upon whom the lot has fallen in a city reduced to extremities, he is destroyed, that others may live... He is regarded as a tyrant by those under his jurisdiction, and he is a tyrant. He mars their pleasures. He appoints to each his portion of loathed labour. He watches their irregularities and errors. He is accustomed to speak to them in tones of dictation and censure. He is the beadle to chastise their follies. He lives alone in the midst of a multitude. ("Of the Communication of Knowledge", Enquirer, IX.)
How do we actually learn?
Study with desire is real activity; without desire it is but the semblance and mockery of activity. ("Of the Communication of Knowledge", Enquirer, IX.)
Man is a creature that loves to act from himself; and actions performed in this way, have infinitely more of health and vigour in them, than the actions to which he is prompted by a will foreign to his own. ("Of Choice In Reading", Enquirer, XV.)
...I desire to excite a given individual to the acquisition of knowledge. The only possible method in which I can excite a sensitive being to the performance of a voluntary action, is by the exhibition of motive.
Motives are of two sorts, intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motives are those which arise from the inherent nature of the thing recommended. Extrinsic motives are those which have no constant and unalterable connection with the thing recommended, but are combined with it by accident or at the pleasure of some individual.
Thus, I may recommend some species of knowledge by a display of the advantages which will necessarily attend upon its acquisition, or flow from its possession. Or, on the other hand, I may recommend it despotically, by allurements or menaces, by showing that the pursuit of it will be attended with my approbation, and that the neglect of it will be regarded by me with displeasure.
The first of these classes of motives is unquestionably the best. To be governed by such motives is the pure and genuine condition of a rational being. By exercise it strengthens the judgement. It elevates us with a sense of independence. It causes a man to stand alone, and is the only method by which he can be rendered truly an individual, the creature, not of implicit faith, but of his own understanding. ("Of the Communication of Knowledge", Enquirer, IX.)
...Public education has always expended its energies in the support of prejudice; it teaches its pupils, not the fotritude that shall being every proposition to the test of examination, but the art of vindicating such tenets as may chance to be established. We study Aristotle, or Thomas Aquinas, or Bellarmine, or chief justice Coke, not that we may detect their errors, but that our minds may be fully impregnated with their absurdities. This feature runs through every species of public establishment... the chief lessons that are taught are a superstitious veneration for the church of England, and to bow to every man in a handsome coat. All this is directly contrary to the true interests of mankind. (Political Justice, VI, viii.; "http://melbecon.unimelb.edu.au/het/godwin/pj6.htm”)
Milton has written a sublime poem upon a ridiculous story of eating an apple, and of the eternal vengeance decreed by the Almighty against the whole human race, because their progenitor was guilty of this black and detestable offence. The object of this poem, as he tells us, was
To justify the ways of God to men. B. I, ver. 25.
But one of the most memorable remarks that suggest themselves under this branch of the subject is, that the true moral and fair inference from a composition has often lain concealed for ages from its most diligent readers. Books have been handed down from generation to generation, as the true teachers of piety and the love of God, that represent him as so merciless and tyrannical a despot, that, if they were considered otherwise than through the medium of prejudice, they could inspire nothing but hatred. It seems that the impression we derive from a book, depends much less on its real contents, than upon the temper of mind and preparation with which we read it. ("Of Choice In Reading", Enquirer, XV.)
What should children learn?
Is it really necessary that a child should learn a thing, before it can have any idea of its value? It is probable that there is no one thing that it is of eminent importance for a child to learn. The true object of juvenile education, is to provide, against the age of five and twenty, a mind well regulated, active, and prepared to learn. Whatever will inspire habits of industry and observation, will sufficiently answer this purpose. ("Of the Communication of Knowledge", Enquirer, IX.)
...If the systems we read, were always to remain in masses on the mind, unconcocted and unaltered, undoubtedly in that case they would only deform it. But, if we read in a just spirit, perhaps we cannot read too much: in other words, if we mix our own reflections with what we read; if we dissect the ideas and arguments of our author; if, by having recourse to all subsidiary means, we endeavour to clear the recollection of him in our minds; if we compare part with part, detect his errors, new model his systems, adpot so much of him as is excellent, and explain within ourselves the reason of our disapprobation as to what is otherwise. A judicious reader will have a greater number of ideas that are passing through his mind, than of ideas presented to him by his author. ("Of Learning", Enquirer, XI.)
Learning is the ally, not the adversary of genius... he who reads in a proper spirit, can scarcely read too much. ("Of Learning", Enquirer, XI.)
Liberty and knowledge
In what manner would reason, independently of the received modes and practices of the world, teach us to communicate knowledge?
Liberty is one of the best of all sublunary advantages. I would willingly therefore communicate knowledge, without infringing, or with as little possible violence to, the volition and individual judgement of the person to be instructed. ("Of the Communication of Knowledge", Enquirer, IX.)
Speak the language of truth and reason to your child, and be under no apprehension for the result. Show him that what you recommend is valuable and desirable, and fear not but he will desire it. (Political Justice, I, iv.)
If a thing be really good, it can be shown to be such. ("Of the Communication of Knowledge", Enquirer, IX.)
...As the true object of education is not to render the pupil the mere copy of his preceptor, it is rather to be rejoiced in, than lamented, that various reading should lead him into new trains of thinking... ("Of Choice In Reading", Enquirer, XV.)
If we would have our children frank and sincere in their behaviour, we must take care that frankness and sincerity shall not be a source of evil to them... punishment would find no share in a truly excellent system of education; even angry looks and words of rebuke would be wholly excluded. ("Of Deception and Frankness", Enquirer, XII.)
It has already been shown that the impression we derive from a book, depends much less upon its real contents, than upon the temper of mind and preparation with which we read it. Hence it should seem to follow that a skillful preceptor need be under little apprehension respecting the books which his pupil should select for his perusal. In this sense a celebrated maxim of the apostle Paul may be admitted for true, To the pure all things are pure. ("Of Choice In Reading", Enquirer, XV.)
Trust [the student] in a certain degree with himself. Suffer him in some instances to select his own course of reading. There is danger that there should be something to studied and monotonous in the selection we should make for him. Suffer him to wander through the wilds of literature. ("Of Choice in Reading", Enquirer, XV.)
...It must be to a real discussion that [the children] are invited, and not to the humiliating scene of a mock discussion. ("Of Reasoning and Contention", Enquirer, XI.)
Knowledge and power
There is no such disparity among the human race as to enable one man to hold several other men in subjection, except so far as they are willing to be subject. All government is founded in opinion. Men at present live under any particular form because they conceive it their interest to do so. One part indeed of a community or empire may be held in subjection by force; but this cannot be the personal force of their despot; it must be the force of another part of the community, who are of opinion that it is their interest to support his authority. Destroy this opinion, and the fabric which is built upon it falls to the ground.
(Political Justice, II,iii.)
INSTRUCTIONS TO A STATESMAN.
HUMBLY INSCRIBED TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE GEORGE EARL TEMPLE.
LO N D O N:
Printed for J. MURRAY, Fleet-Street; J. DEBRETT, Piccadilly; and J. SEWELL, Cornhill.
THE following papers fell into my hands by one of those unaccountable accidents, so frequent in human life, but which in the relation appear almost incredible. I will not however trouble your lordship with the story. If they be worthy of the press, it is of no great consequence to the public how they found their way thither. If they afford your lordship a moment's amusement, amidst the weightier cares incident to your rank and fortune, I have obtained my end.
D E D I C A T I O N.
I have endeavoured in vain to investigate who was their author, and to whom they were addressed. It should seem, from the internal evidence of the composition, that they were written by a person, who was originally of a low rank or a menial station, but who was distinguished by his lord for those abilities and talents, he imagined he discovered in him. I have learned, by a kind of vague tradition, upon which I can place little dependence, that the noble pupil was the owner of a magnificent chateau not a hundred miles from your lordship's admired seat in the county of Buckingham. It is said that this nobleman, amidst a thousand curiosities with which his gardens abounded, had the unaccountable whim of placing a kind of artificial hermit in one of its wildest and most solitary recesses. This hermit it seems was celebrated through the whole neighbourhood, for his ingenuity in the carving of tobacco-stoppers, and a variety of other accomplishments. Some of the peasants even mistook him for a conjuror. If I might be allowed in the conjectural licence of an editor, I should be inclined to ascribe the following composition to this celebrated and ingenious solitaire.
Since however this valuable tract remains without an owner, I thought it could not be so properly addressed to any man as your lordship. I would not however be misunderstood. I do not imagine that the claim this performance has upon the public attention, consists in the value and excellence of it's precepts. On the contrary, I consider it as the darkest and most tremendous scheme for the establishment of despotism that ever was contrived. If the public enter into my sentiments upon the subject, they will consider it as effectually superseding Machiavel's celebrated treatise of The Prince, and exhibiting a more deep-laid and desperate system of tyranny. For my part, I esteem these great and destructive vices of so odious a nature, that they need only be exposed to the general view in order to the being scouted by all. And if, which indeed I cannot possibly believe, there has been any noble lord in this kingdom mean enough to have studied under such a preceptor, I would willingly shame him out of his principles, and hold up to him a glass which shall convince him how worthy he is of universal contempt and abhorrence.
The true reason, my lord, for which I have presumed to prefix your name to these sheets is, that the contrast between the precepts they contain, and the ingenuous and manly character that is universally attributed to your lordship, may place them more strongly in the light they deserve. And yet I doubt not there will be some readers perverse enough to imagine that you are the true object of the composition. They will find out some of those ingenious coincidences, by which The Rape of the Lock, was converted into a political poem, and the Telemaque of the amiable Fenelon into a satire against the government under which he lived. I might easily appeal, against these treacherous commentators, to the knowledge of all men respecting every corner of your lordship's gardens at Stowe. I might boldly defy any man to say, that they now contain, or ever did contain, one of these artificial hermits. But I will take up your lordship's defence upon a broader footing. I will demonstrate how contrary the character of your ancestors and your own have always been to the spirit and temper here inculcated. If this runs me a little into the beaten style of dedication, even the modestly of your lordship will excuse me, when I have so valuable a reason for adopting it.
I shall confine myself, my lord, in the few thoughts I mean to suggest upon this head, to your two more immediate ancestors, men distinguished above the common rate, by their virtues or their abilities. Richard earl Temple, your lordship 's immediate predecessor, as the representative of your illustrious house, will be long remembered by posterity under the very respectable title of the friend of the earl of Chatham. But though his friend, my lord, we well know that he did not implicitly follow the sentiments of a man, who was assuredly the first star in the political hemisphere, and whose talents would have excused, if any thing could have excused, an unsuspecting credulity. The character of lord Chatham was never, but in one instance, tarnished. He did not sufficiently dread the omnipotence of the favourite. He fondly imagined that before a character so brilliant, and success so imposing as his had been, no little system of favouritism could keep its ground. Twice, my lord, he was upon the brink of the precipice, and once he fell. When he trembled on the verge, who was it that held him back? It was Richard earl Temple. Twice he came, like his guardian angel, and snatched him from his fate. Lord Chatham indeed was formed to champ the bit, and spurn indignant at every restraint. He knew the superiority of his abilities, he recollected that he had twice submitted to the honest counsels of his friend, and he disdained to listen any longer to a coolness, that assimilated but ill to the adventurousness of his spirit; and to a hesitation, that wore in his apprehension the guise of timidity. What then did Richard earl Temple do? There he fixed his standard, and there he pitched his tent. Not a step farther would he follow a leader, whom to follow had been the boast of his life. He erected a fortress that might one day prove the safeguard of his misguided and unsuspecting friend.
And yet, my lord, the character of Richard earl Temple, was not that of causeless suspicion. He proved himself, in a thousand instances, honest, trusting, and sincere. He was not, like some men, that you and I know, dark, dispassionate, and impenetrable. On the contrary, no man mistook him, no man ever charged him with a double conduct or a wrinkled heart. His countenance was open, and his spirit was clear. He was a man of passions, my lord. He acted in every momentous concern, more from the dictates of his heart, than his head. But this is the key to his conduct; He kept a watchful eye upon that bane of every patriot minister, secret influence. If there were one feature in his political history more conspicuous than the rest, if I were called to point out the line of discrimination between his character and that of his contemporaries upon the public stage, it would be the hatred of secret influence.
Such, my lord, was one of your immediate ancestors, whose name, to this day, every honest Briton repeats with veneration. I will turn to another person, still more nearly related to you, and who will make an equal figure in the history of the age in which he lived, Mr. George Grenville. His character has been represented to us by a writer of no mean discernment as that of "shrewd and inflexible." He was a man of indefatigable industry and application. He possessed a found understanding, and he trusted it. This is a respectable description. Integrity and independency however mistaken, are entitled to praise. What was it, my lord, that he considered as the ruin of his reputation? What was it, that defeated all the views of an honed ambition, and deprived his country of the services, which his abilities, under proper direction, were qualified to render it? My lord, it was secret influence. It was in vain for ministers to be able to construct their plans with the highest wisdom, and the most unwearied diligence; it was in vain that they came forward like men, and risqued their places, their characters, their all, upon measures, however arduous, that they thought necessary for the salvation of their country. They were defeated, by what, my lord? By abilities greater than their own? By a penetration that discovered blots in their wisest measures? By an opposition bold and adventurous as themselves? No: but, by the lords of the bed chamber; by a "band of Janiffaries who surrounded the person of the prince, and were ready to strangle the minister upon the nod of a moment."
With these illustrious examples ever rushing upon your memory, no man can doubt that your lordship has inherited that detestation of influence, by which your ancestors were so honourably distinguished. My lord, having considered the high expectations, which the virtues of your immediate progenitors had taught us to form upon the heir of them both, we will recollect for a moment the promises that your first outset in life had made to your country.
One of your lordship's first actions upon record, consists in the high professions you made at the county meeting of Buckingham, in that ever-venerable aera of oeconomy and reform, the spring of1780. My lord, there are certain offices of sinecure, not dependent upon the caprice of a minister, which this country has reserved to reward those illustrious statesmen, who have spent their lives, and worn out their constitutions in her service. No man will wonder, when he recollects from whom your lordship has the honour to be descended, that one of these offices is in your possession. This, my lord, was the subject of your generous and disinterested professions. You told your countrymen, that with this office you were ready to part. If a reformation so extensive were thought necessary, you were determined, not merely to be no obstacle to the design, but to be a volunteer in the service. You came forward in the eye of the world, with your patent in your hand. You were ready to sacrifice that parchment, the precious instrument of personal wealth and private benevolence, at the shrine of patriotism.
Here then, my lord, you stood pledged to your country. What were we not to expect from the first patriot of modern story? Your lordship will readily imagine that our expectations were boundless and indefinite. "Glorious and immortal man!" we cried, "go on in this untrodden path. We will no longer look with drooping and cheerless anxiety upon the misfortunes of Britain, we have a resource for them all. The patriot of Stowe is capable of every thing. He does not resemble the vulgar herd of mortals, he does not form his conduct upon precedent, nor defend it by example. Virtue of the first impression was never yet separated from genius."
"We will trust then in the expedients of his inexhaustible mind. We will look up to him as our assured deliverer. --We are well acquainted with the wealth of the proprietor of Stowe. Thanks, eternal thanks to heaven, who has bestowed it with so liberal a hand! We consider it as a deposit for the public good. We count his acres, and we calculate his income, for we know that it is, in the best sense of the word, our own."
My lord, there are the prejudices, which Englishmen have formed in your favour. They cannot refuse to bull a man, descended from so illustrious progenitors. They cannot suspect anything dark and dishonourable in the generous donor of 2700l. a year. Let then the commentators against whom I am providing, abjure the name of Briton, or let them pay the veneration that is due to a character, in every view of the subject, so exalted as that of your lordship.
I have the honour to be,
with the most unfeigned respect,
most devoted servant.
INSTRUCTIONS TO A STATESMAN.
I HAVE long considered as the greatest happiness of my life, the having so promising a pupil as your lordship. Though your abilities are certainly of the very first impression, they are not however of that vague and indefinite species, which we often meet with in persons, who, if providence had so pleased, would have figured with equal adroitness in the character of a shoe- black or a link- boy, as they now flatter themselves they can do in that of a minister of state. You, my lord, were born with that accomplishment of secrecy and retentiveness which the archbishop of Cambray represents Telemachus as having possessed in so high a degree in consequence of the mode of his education. You were always distinguished by that art, never to be sufficiently valued, of talking much and saying nothing. I cannot recollect, and yet my memory is as great, as my opportunity for observation has been considerable, that your lordship, when a boy, ever betrayed a single fact that chanced to fall within your notice, unless indeed it had some tendency to procure a school-fellow a whipping. I have often remarked your lordship with admiration, talking big and blustering loud, so as to frighten urchins who were about half your lordship's size, when you had no precise meaning in any thing you said. And I shall never forget, the longer day I have to live, when I hugged you in my arms in a kind of prophetic transport, in consequence of your whispering me, in the midst of a room-full of company, in so sly a manner that nobody could observe you, that you had just seen John the coachman bestow upon Betty the cook-maid, a most devout and cordial embrace. From your rawest infancy you were as much distinguished, as Milton represents the goddess Hebe to have been, by "nods and becks and wreathed smiles;" with this difference, that in her they were marks of gaiety, and in you of demureness; that in her they were unrestrained and general, and in you intended only for a single confidant My lord, reflecting upon all these circumstances, it is not to be wondered at that I treated your lordship even in clouts with the reverence due to an infant Jove, and always considered myself as superintending the institution of the first statesman that ever existed.
But, my lord, it has ever been my opinion, that let nature do as much as she will, it is in the power of education to do still more. The many statesman-like qualities that you brought into the world with you, sufficiently prove, that no man was ever more deeply indebted to the bounty of nature than your lordship. And yet of all those qualities she has bestowed upon you, there is not one that I hold in half so much esteem, as that docility, which has ever induced you to receive my instructions with implicit veneration. It is true, my coat is fustian, and my whole accoutrement plebeian. My shoes are clouted, and it is long since the wig that defends this penetrating brain, could boast a crooked hair. But you, my lord, have been able to discover the fruit through the thick and uncomely coat by which it was concealed; you have cracked the nut and have a right to the kernel.
My lord, I thought it necessary to premise these observations, before I entered upon those important matters of disquisition, which will form the object of my present epistle. It is unnecessary for me to inform a person of so much discernment as your lordship, that education is, by its very nature, a thing of temporary duration. Your lordship's education has been long, and there have been cogent reasons why it should be so. God grant, that when left to walk the world alone, you be not betrayed into any of those unlucky blunders, from the very verge of which my provident hand has often redeemed your lordship! Do not mistake me, my lord, when I talk of the greatness of your talents. It is now too late to flatter: This is no time for disguise. Pardon me therefore, my dear and ever-honoured pupil, if I may seem to offend against those minuter laws of etiquette, which were made only for common cases. At so important a crisis it is necessary to be plain.
Your lordship is very cunning, but I never imagined that you were remarkably wise. The talents you received at your birth, if we were to speak with mathematical strictness, should rather be denominated knacks, than abilities. They consist rather in a lucky dexterity of face, and a happy conformation of limb, than in any very elevated capacities of the intellect. Upon that score, my lord, --you know I am fond of comparisons, and I think I have hit upon one in this case, that must be acknowledged remarkably apposite. I have sometimes seen a ditch, the water of which, though really shallow, has appeared to careless observers to be very deep, for no other reason but because it was muddy. Believe me, my lord, experienced and penetrating observers are not so to be taken in.
But, as I was saying, education is a temporary thing, and your lordship's, however lasting and laborious, is at length brought to a period. My lord, if it so pleases the sovereign disposer of all things, I should be very well satisfied to remain in this sublunary state for some years longer, if it were only that I might live to rejoice in the exemplification of my precepts in the conduct of my pupil. But, if this boon be granted to my merits and my prayers, at any rate I shall from this moment retire from the world. From henceforth my secret influence is brought to its close. I will no longer be the unseen original of the grand movements of the figures that fill the political stage. I will stand aloof from the giddy herd. I will not stray from my little vortex. 1 will look down upon the transactions of courts and ministers, like an etherial being from a superior element. There I shall hope to see your lordship outstrip your contemporaries, and tower above the pigmies of the day. To repeat an idea before delivered, might be unbecoming in a fine writer, but it is characteristic and beautiful under the personage of a preceptor. The fitnesses which nature bellowed upon your frame would not have done alone. But joined with the lessons I have taught you, they cannot fail, unless I grossly flatter myself, to make the part which your lordship shall act sufficiently conspicuous.
Receive then, my lord, with that docility and veneration, which have at all times made the remembrance of you pleasant and reviving to my heart, the last communications of the instructor of your choice. Yes, my lord, from henceforth you shall see me, you shall hear from me no more. From this consideration I infer one reason why you should deeply reflect upon the precepts I have now to offer. Remembering that these little sheets are all the legacy my affection can bestow upon you, I shall concenter in them the very quintessence and epitome of all my wisdom. I shall provide in them a particular antidote to those defects to which nature has made you most propense.
But I have yet another reason to inforce your attention to what I am about to write. I was, as I have said, the instructor of your choice. When I had yet remained neglected in the world, when my honours were withered by the hand of poverty, when my blossoms appeared in the eyes of those who saw me of the most brown and wintery complexion, and, if your lordship will allow me to finish the metaphor, when I stank in their noses, it was then that your lordship remarked and distinguished me. Your bounty it was that first revived my native pride. It is true that it ran in a little dribbling rivulet, but still it was much to me. Even before you were able to afford me any real assistance, you were always ready to offer me a corner of your gingerbread, or a marble from your hoard. Your lordship had at all times a taste for sumptuousness and magnificence, but you knew how to limit your natural propensity in consideration of the calls of affinity, and to give your farthings to your friends.
Do not then, my dear lord, belie the first and earliest sentiments of your heart. As you have ever heard me, let your attention be tripled now. Read my letter once and again. Preserve it as a sacred deposit. Lay it under your pillow. Meditate upon it fasting. Commit it to memory, and repeat the scattered parcels of it, as Caesar is said to have done the Greek alphabet, to cool your rising choler. Be this the amulet to preserve you from danger! Be this the chart by which to steer the little skiff of your political system safe into the port of historic immortality!
My lord, you and I have read Machiavel together. It is true I am but a bungler in Italian, and your lordship was generally obliged to interpret for me. Your translation I dare say was always scientifical, but I was seldom so happy as to see either grammar or sense in it. So far however as I can guess at the drift of this celebrated author, he seems to have written as the professor of only one science. He has treated of the art of government, and has enquired what was wise, and what was political. He has left the moralists to take care of themselves.
In the present essay, my lord, I shall follow the example of Machiavel. I profess the same science, and I pretend only to have carried to much greater heights an art to which he has given a considerable degree of perfection. Your lordship has had a great number of masters. Your excellent father, who himself had some dabbling in politics, spared no expence upon your education, though I believe he had by no means so high an opinion of your genius and abilities as I entertained. Your lordship therefore is to be presumed competently versed in the rudiments of ethics. You have read Grotius, Puffendorf, and Cumberland. For my part I never opened a volume of any one of them. I am self-taught. My science originates entirely in my unbounded penetration, and a sort of divine and supernatural afflatus. With all this your lordship knows I am a modest man. I have never presumed to entrench upon the province of others. Let the professors of ethics talk their nonsense. I will not interrupt them. I will not endeavour to set your lordship against them. It is necessary for me to take politics upon an unlimited scale, and to suppose that a statesman has no character to preserve but that of speciousness and plausibility. But it is your lordship's business to enquire whether this be really the case.
I need not tell you, that I shall not, like the political writers with which you are acquainted, talk in the air. My instructions will be of a practical nature, and my rules adapted to the present condition of the English government. That government is at present considerably, though imperfectly, a system of liberty. To such a system the most essential maxim is, that the governors shall be accountable and amenable to the governed. This principle has sometimes been denominated responsibility. Responsibility in a republican government is carried as high as possible. In a limited monarchy it stops at the first ministers, the immediate servants of the crown. Now to this system nothing can be more fatal, than for the public measures not really to originate with administration, but with secret advisers who cannot be traced. This is to cut all the nerves of government, to loosen all the springs of liberty, to make the constitution totter to its lowest foundations.
I say this, my lord, not to terrify your lordship. The students and the imitators of Machiavel must not be frightened with bugbears. Beside, were cowardice as congenial to the feelings of your lordship as I confess it has sometimes been to mine, cowardice itself is not so apt to be terrified with threats hung up in terrorem, and menaces of a vague and general nature. It trembles only at a danger definite and impending. It is the dagger at the throat, it is the pistol at the breast, that shakes her nerves. Prudence is alarmed at a distance, and calls up all her exertion. But cowardice is shortsighted, and was never productive of any salutary effort. I say not this therefore to intimidate, but to excite you. I would teach you, that this is a most important step indeed, is the grand desideratum in order to exalt the English monarchy to a par with the glorious one of France, or any other absolute monarchy in Christendom.
In order, my lord, to annihilate responsibility, nothing more is necessary than that every individual should be as free, and as much in the habit of advising the king upon the measures of government, as his ministers. Let every discarded, and let every would-be statesman, sow dissention in the royal councils, and pour the poison of his discontent into the royal ear. Let the cabinet ring with a thousand jarring sentiments; and let the subtlest courtier, let him that is the most perfect master of wheedling arts and pathetic tones, carry it from every rival. This, my lord, will probably create some confusion at first.. The system of government will appear, not a regular and proportioned beauty, like the pheasant of India, but a gaudy and glaring system of unconnected parts, like Esop's daw with borrowed feathers. Anarchy and darkness will be the original appearance. But light shall spring out of the noon of night; harmony and order shall succeed the chaos. The present patchwork of three different forms of government shall be changed into one simple and godlike system of despotism. Thus, when London was burned, a more commodious and healthful city sprung as it were out of her ashes.
But neither Rome nor London was built in a day. The glorious work I am recommending to you must be a work of time. At first it will be necessary for the person who would subvert the silly system of English government, to enter upon his undertaking with infinite timidity and precaution. He must stalk along in silence like Tarquin to the rape of Lucretia. His horses, like those of Lear, must be shoed with felt. He must shroud himself in the thickest shade. Let him comfort himself with this reflexion: "It is but for a time. It will soon be over. No work of mortal hands can long stand against concussions so violent. Ulysses, who entered troy, shut up in the cincture of the wooden horse, shall soon burst the enclosure, shall terrify those from whose observation he lately shrunk, and carry devastation and ruin on whatever side he turns."
My lord, I have considered the subject of politics with as much acuteness as any man. I have revolved a thousand schemes, which to recommend to the pursuit of the statesman of my own creation. But there is no plan of action that appears to me half so grand and comprehensive, as this of secret influence. It is true the scheme is not entirely new.
It has been a subject of discussion ever since the English nation could boast any thing like a regular system of liberty. It was complained of under king William. It was boasted of, even to ostentation, by the Tory ministers of queen Anne. The Pelhams cried out upon it in lord Carteret. It has been the business of half the history of the present reign to fix the charge upon my lord Bute.
And yet in spite of these appearances, in spite of all the deductions that modesty can authorise I may boldly affirm that my scheme has something in it that is truly original. My lord, I would not have you proceed by leaps and starts, like these half-fledged statesmen. I would have you proceed from step to step in a finished and faultless plan. I have too an improvement without which the first step is of no value, which yet has seldom been added, which at first fight has a very daring appearance, but which I pretend to teach your lordship to practise with perfect safety. But it is necessary for me, before I come to this grand arcanum of my system, to premise a few observations for the more accurately managing the influence itself.
My lord, there are a variety of things necessary to absolute secrecy. There is nothing more inconvenient to a political character than that gross and unmanageable quantity of flesh and blood that fortune has decreed that every mortal should carry about with him. The man who is properly initiated in the arcana of a closet, ought to be able to squeeze himself through a key hole, and, whenever any impertinent Marplot appears to blast him, to change this unwieldy frame into the substance of the viewless winds. How often must a theoretical statesman like myself, have regretted that incomparable invention, the ring of Gyges! How often must he have wished to be possessed of one of those diabolical forms, described by Milton, which now were taller than the pole, and anon could shrink into the compass of an atom!
But I forget the characteristic of my profession. It is not ours, my lord, to live in air-built castles, and to deal in imaginary hypotheses. On the contrary, we are continually talking of the weakness and the frailty of humanity. Does any man impeach one of our body of bribery and corruption? We confess that these practices may seem to run counter with the fine-spun systems of morality; but this is our constant apology, human affairs can be no otherwise managed. Does any man suggest the most beautiful scheme of oeconomy, or present us with the most perfect model of liberty? We turn away with a sneer, and tell him that all this is plausible and pretty; but that we do not concern ourselves with any thing but what is practicable.
In conformity to these ideas, I beg leave, my lord, to recal the fantastic wishes that have just escaped me. To be corporeal is our irrevocable fate, and we will not waste our time in fruitlessly accusing it. My lord, I have one or two little expedients to offer to you, which, though they do not amount to a perfect remedy in this case, will yet, I hope, prove a tolerable substitute for those diabolical forms of which I was talking.
I need not put your lordship in mind how friendly to such practices as ours, is the cover of darkness, and how convenient those little machines commonly called back-stairs. I dare say even your lordship, however inconsequently you may often conduct yourself, would scarcely think of midday as the most proper season of concealment, or the passing through a crowded levee, the most natural method of entering the royal closet unobserved.
But, my lord, you will please to recollect, that there are certain attendants upon the person of the sovereign whom I find classed in that epitome of political wisdom, the Red Book, under the name of pages. Most wise is the institution, (and your lordship will observe that I am not now deviating into the regions of fable) which is common to all the Eastern courts, of having these offices filled by persons, who, upon peril of their life, may not, in any circumstances whatsoever, utter a word. But unfortunately in the western climates in which we reside, the thing is otherwise. The institution of mutes is unknown to us. The lips of our pages have never been inured to the wholesome discipline of the padlock. They are as loquacious, and blab as much as other men. You know, my lord, that I am fond of illustrating the principles I lay down by the recital of facts. The last, and indeed the only time that I ever entered the metropolis, I remember, as my barber was removing the hair from my nether lip: --My barber had all that impertinent communicativeness that is incident to the gentlemen of his profession; he assured me, that he had seen that morning one of the pages of the back-stairs, who declared to him, upon the word of a man of honour, that he had that moment admitted a certain nobleman by a private door to the presence of his master; that the face of the noble lord was perfectly familiar to him, and that he had let him in some fifty times in the course of the past six months. "How silly is all this!" added the page; "and how glad should I be," licking his lips, "that it were but an opera girl of a countess! And yet my mistress is the very best mistress that ever I see!" Oh this was poor, and showed a pitiful ambition in the man that did it! I will swear, my lord, that the nobleman who could thus have been betrayed, must have been a thick-headed fellow, and fit for no one public office, not even for that of turnspit of his majesty's kitchen!*
My lord, if you would escape that rock, upon which this statesman terminated his political career, ever while you live make use of bribery. Let the pages finger your cash let them drink your health in a glass of honest claret, and let them chuckle over the effects of your lordship's munificence. I know that you will pour forth many a pathetic complaint over the money that is drawn off by this copious receiver, but believe the wisest man that now exists, when he assures you, that it is well bestowed. Your lordship's bounty to myself has sometimes amounted to near ten
pounds in the course of a twelvemonth. That drain, my lord, is stopped. I shall receive from you no more. Let then the expence, which you once incurred for my sake, be henceforth diverted to this valuable purpose.
I believe, my lord, that this is all the improvement that can be made upon the head of pages. I think we can scarcely venture upon the expedient that would otherwise be admirable, of these interviews being carried on without the intervention of any such impertinent fellows, from whom one is ever in danger, without the smallest notice, of having it published at St. James's-Market, and proclaimed from the statue at Charing Cross. If however you should think this expedient adviseable, I would recommend it to you not to mention it to your gracious master. Courts are so incumbered and hedged in with ceremony, that the members of them are always prone to imagine that the form is more essential and indispensable, than the substance. Suppose then, my lord, you were, by one of those sly opportunities, which you know so well how to command, to take off the key in wax, and get a picklock key made exactly upon the model of it. The end, my lord, take my word for it, would abundantly sanctify the apparent sordidness of the means. In this situation I cannot help picturing to myself the surprise and the joy, that would be in a moment lighted up in the countenance of your friend. Your rencounter would be as unexpected and fortunate as that of Lady Randolph and her son, when she fears every moment to have him murdered by Glenalvon. You would fly into each others arms, and almost smother one another in your mutual embrace.
But another thing that is abundantly worthy of your lordship's attention, is the subject of disguises and dark lanthorns. Harley, afterwards earl of Oxford, was in the practice, if I remember right, for it is some time since I read Dr. Swift's political pamphlets, of crossing the park in a horseman's coat. But this is too shallow and thin a disguise. A mask, on the other hand, might perhaps be too particular. Though indeed at midnight, which is the only time that I would recommend to your lordship in which to approach within a hundred yards of the palace, it might probably pass without much observation. A pouched hat, and a bob wig, your lordship may at any time venture upon. But there is nothing that is of so much importance in this affair as variety. I would sometimes put on the turban of a Turk, and sometimes the half breeches of a Highlander. I would sometimes wear the lawn sleeves of a bishop, and sometimes the tye-wig of a barrister. A leathern apron and a trowel might upon occasion be of sovereign efficacy. The long beard and neglected dress of a Shylock should be admitted into the fill. I would also occasionally lay aside the small clothes, and assume the dress of a woman. I would often trip it along with the appearance and gesture of a spruce milliner; and I would often stalk with the solemn air and sweeping train of a duchess. But of all the infinite shapes of human dress, I must confess that my favourite is the kind of doublet that prince Harry wore when he assaulted Falstaff. The nearer it approaches to the guise of a common carman the better, and his long whip ought to be inseparable. If you could add to it the sooty appearance of a coal-heaver, or a chimney-sweep, it would fit, upon this more precious than velvet garb, like spangles and lace. I need not add, that to a mind of elegance and sensibility, the emblematical allusion which this dress would carry to the secrecy and impenetrableness of the person that wears it, must be the source of a delightful and exquisite sensation.
And now, my lord, for the last head, which it is necessary to mention under this division of my subject, I mean that of lanthorns. Twenty people, I doubt not, whom your lordship might consult upon this occasion would advise you to go without any lanthorn at all. Beware of this, my lord. It is a rash and a thoughtless advice. It may possibly be a false and insidious one. Your lordship will never think of going always in the same broad and frequented path. Many a causeway you will have to cross, many a dark and winding alley to tread. Suppose, my lord, the pavement were to be torn up, and your lordship were to break your shin! Suppose a drain were to have been opened in the preceding day, without your knowing any thing of the matter, and your lordship were to break your neck! Suppose, which is more terrible than all the rest, you were to set your foot upon that which I dare not name, and by offending the olfactory nerves of majesty, you were to forfeit his affections for ever!
So much, my lord, by way of declamation against the abolition of lanthorns. Your lordship however does not imagine I shall say any thing upon affairs so common as the glass lanthorn, the horn lanthorn, and the perforated tin lanthorn. This fall indeed is most to my purpose, but it will not do, my lord, it will not do. There is a kind of lanthorns, your lordship has seen them, that have one side dark, and the other light. I remember to have observed your lordship for half a day together, poring over the picture of Guy Faux, in the Book of Martyrs. This was one of the early intimations which my wisdom enabled me to remark of the destination which nature had given you. You know, my lord, that the possessor of this lanthorn can turn it this way and that, as he pleases. He can contrive accurately to discern the countenance of every other person, without being visible himself. I need not enlarge to your lordship upon the admirable uses of this machine. I will only add, that my very dear and ever-lamented friend Mr. Pinchbeck, effected before he died an improvement upon it so valuable, that it cannot but preserve his name from that oblivious power, by which common names are devoured. In his lanthorn, the shade, which used to be inseparable, may be taken away at the possessor's pleasure, like the head of a whisky, and it may appear to all intents and purposes one of the common vehicles of the kind. He had also a contrivance, never to be sufficiently commended, that when the snuff of the candle had attained a certain length, it moved a kind of automatous pair of snuffers that hung within side, and amputated itself. He left me two of these lanthorns as a legacy. Such is my value for your lordship, that I have wrought myself up to a resolution of parting with one of them in your lordship's favour. You will receive it in four days from the date of this by Gines's waggon, that puts up in Holborn.
But, my lord, there is a second object of consideration still more important than this. It is in vain for your lordship, or any other person, to persuade the sovereign against any of the measures of his government, unless you can add to this the discovery of those new sentiments you have instilled, to all such as it may concern. It is the business of every Machiavelian minister, such as your lordship, both from nature and choice, is inclined to be, to prop the cause of despotism. In order to this, the dignity of the sovereign is not to be committed, but exalted. To bring forward the royal person to put a negative upon any bill in parliament, is a most inartificial mode of proceeding. It marks too accurately the strides of power, and awakens too pointedly the attention of the multitude. Your lordship has heard that the house of lords is the barrier between the king and the people. There is a sense of this phrase, of which I am wonderfully fond. The dissemination of the royal opinion will at any time create a majority in that house, to divert the odium from the person of the monarch. Twenty-two bishops, thirteen lords of the bedchamber, and all the rabble of household troops, will at any time compose an army. They may not indeed cover an acre of ground, nor would I advise your lordship to distribute them into a great number of regiments. Their countenances are not the most terrific that were ever beheld, and it might be proper to officer them with persons of more sagacity than themselves. But under all this meekness of appearance, and innocence of understanding, believe me, my lord, they are capable of keeping at bay the commons and the people of England united in one cause, for a considerable time. They have been too long at the beck of a minister, not to be somewhat callous in their feelings. And they are too numerous, not to have shoulders capacious enough to bear all the obloquy, with which their conduct may be attended.
But then, my lord, as I would not recommend it to you to bring into practice the royal negative, so neither perhaps would it be advisable for the sovereign, to instruct those lords immediately attendant upon him, in person. Kings, you are not to be informed, are to be managed and humoured by those that would win their confidence. If your lordship could invent a fort of down, more soft and yielding than has yet been employed, it might be something. But to point out to your master, that he must say this, and write that, that he must fend for one man, and break with another, is an unpleasant and ungrateful office. It must be your business to take the burden from his shoulders. You must smooth the road you would have him take, and drew with flowers the path of ruin. If he favour your schemes with a smile of approbation, if he bestow upon your proceedings the sanction of a nod, it is enough. It is godlike fortitude, and heroic exertion.
But secrecy is the very essence of deep and insidious conduct. I would advise your lordship to bring even your own name into question, as little as possible. My lord Chesterfield compares a statesman, who has been celebrated for influence during the greatest part of the present reign, to the ostrich. The brain of an ostrich, your lordship will please to observe, though he be the largest of birds, may very easily be included in the compass of a nut-shell. When pursued by the hunters, he is said to bury his head in the sand, and having done this, to imagine that he cannot be discovered the keenest search. Do not you, my lord, imitate the manners of the ostrich. Believe me, they are ungraceful; and, if maturely considered, will perhaps appear to be a little silly.
There is a contrivance that has occurred to me, which, if it were not accompanied with a circumstance somewhat out of date, appears to me in the highest degree admirable. Suppose you were to treat the lords of the bedchamber with a sight of St. Paul's cathedral? There is a certain part of it of a circular form, commonly called the whispering gallery.
You have probably heard, that by the uncommon echo of this place, the weakest sound that can possibly be articulated, is increased by that time it has gone half round, into a sound, audible and strong. Your lordship, with your flock of geese about you, would probably be frolic and gamesome. You may easily contrive to scatter them through the whole circumference of this apartment. Of a sudden, you will please to turn your face to the wall, and utter in a solemn tone the royal opinion. Every body will be at a loss from whence the mandate proceeds. Some of your companions, more goose-like than the rest, will probably imagine it a voice from heaven. The sentence must be two or three times repeated at proper intervals, before you can contrive to have each of the lords in turn at the required distance. This will demand a considerable degree of alertness and agility. But alertness and agility are qualities by which your lordship is so eminently distinguished, that I should have very few apprehensions about your success. Meanwhile it will be proper to have a select number of footmen stationed at the door of the gallery, armed with smelling-bottles. Some of your friends, I suspect, would be so much alarmed at this celestial and ghost-like phenomenon, as to render this part of the plan of singular service.
But after all, I am apprehensive that many of the noble lords to whom I allude, would be disgusted at the very mention of any thing so old-fashioned and city-like, as a visit to this famous cathedral. And even if that were not the case, it is proper to be provided with more than one scheme for the execution of so necessary a purpose. The question is of no contemptible magnitude, between instructions viva voce, and a circular letter. In favour of the first it may be said, that a letter is the worst and most definite evidence to a man's disadvantage that can be conceived. It may easily be traced. It can scarcely be denied. The sense of it cannot readily be explained away. --It must be confessed there is something in this; and yet, my lord, I am by all means for a letter. A voice may often be overheard. I remember my poor old goody used to say, (heaven rest her soul!) That walls had ears. There are some lords, my dear friend, that can never think of being alone. Bugbears are ever starting up in their prolific imagination, and they cannot be for a moment in the dark, without expecting the devil to fly away with them. They have some useful pimp, some favourite toadeater, that is always at their elbow. Ever remember, so long as you live, that toadeaters are treacherous friends. Beside, it would be a little suspicious, to see your lordship's carriage making a regular tour from door to door among the lords of the bed-chamber. And I would by no means have Pinchbeck's dark-lanthorn brought into common use. Consider, my lord, when that is worn out, you will not know where to get such another.
A letter may be disguised in various ways. You would certainly never think of signing your name. You might have it transcribed by your secretary. But then this would be to commit your safety and your fame to the keeping of another. No, my lord, there are schemes worth a hundred of this. Consider the various hands in which a letter may be written. There is the round hand, and the Italian hand, the text hand, and the running hand. You may form your letters upon the Roman or the Italic model. Your billet may be engrossed. You may employ the Ger[man] text or the old primero. If I am not mistaken, your lordship studied all these when you were a boy for this very purpose. Yes, my lord, I may be in the wrong, but I am confidently of opinion, that this is absolutely the first, most important, and most indispensible accomplishment of a statesman. I would forgive him, if he did not know a cornet from an ensign, I would forgive him, if he thought Italy a province of Asia Minor. But not to write primero! the nincompoop! the numbscul!
If it were not that the persons with whom your lordship has to correspond, can some of them barely spell their native tongue, I would recommend to your lordship the use of cyphers. But no, you might as well write the language of the Mantcheux Tartars. For consider, your letters may be intercepted. It is true, they have not many perils to undergo. They are not handed from post-house to post-house. There are no impertinent office-keepers to inspect them by land. There are no privateers to capture them by sea. But, my lord, they have perils to encounter, the very recollection of which makes me tremble to the inmost fibre of my frame. They are ale-houses, my lord. Think for a moment of the clattering of porter-pots, and the scream of my goodly hostess. Imagine that the blazing fire smiles through the impenetrable window, and that the kitchen shakes with the peals of laughter. These are temptations, my lord, that no mortal porter can withstand. When the unvaried countenance of his gracious sovereign smiles invitation upon him from the weather beaten signpost, what loyal heart but must be melted into compliance.
From all these considerations, my lord, I would advise you to write with invisible ink. Milk I believe will serve the purpose, though I am afraid, that the milk that is hawked about the streets of London, has rather too much water in it. The juice of lemon is a sovereign recipe. There are a variety of other preparations that will answer the purpose. But these may be learned from the most vulgar and accessible sources of information. And you will please to observe, that I suffer nothing to creep into this political testament, more valuable than those of Richelieu, Mazarine, and Alberoni, that is not entirely original matter. My lord, I defy you to learn a single particular of the refinements here communicated from the greatest statesman that lives. They talk of Fox! He would give his right hand for an atom of them!
I will now suppose you, my lord, by all these artifices, arrived at the very threshold of power. I will suppose that you have just defeated the grandest and the wisest measure of your political antagonists. I think there is nothing more natural, though the rule will admit of many exceptions, than for people who act uniformly in opposition to each other, upon public grounds, to be of opposite characters and dispositions. I will therefore imagine, that, shocked with the boundless extortions and the relentless cruelties that have been practised in some distant part of the empire, they came forward with a measure full of generous oblivion for the past, providing with circumspect and collected humanity for the future. I will suppose, that they were desirous of taking an impotent government out of the hands of Jews and pedlars, old women and minors, and to render it a part of the great system. I will suppose, that they were desirous of transferring political power from a company of rapacious and interested merchants, into the hands of statesman, men distinguished among a thousand parties for clear integrity, disinterested virtue, and spotless fame. This, my lord, would be a held worthy of your lordship's prowess. Could you but gain the interested, could you eternize rapacity, and preserve inviolate the blot of the English name, what laurels would not your lordship deserve?
I will therefore suppose, that your gracious master meets you with a carte blanche, that he is disposed to listen to all your advices, and to adopt all your counsels. Your lordship is aware that the road of secret influence, and that of popular favour, are not exactly the same. No ministry can long preserve their seats unless they possess the confidence of a majority of the house of commons. The ministry therefore against which your lordship acts, we will take it for granted are in this predicament. In this situation then an important question naturally arises. Either a majority in the house of commons must be purchased at any rate, or the government must be conducted in defiance of that house, or thirdly, the parliament must be dissolved. Exclusive of these three, I can conceive of no alternative. We will therefore examine each in its turn.
Shall a majority in the house of commons be created? Much may be said on both sides. A very ingenious friend of mine, for whose counsels I have an uncommon deference, assured me, that nothing would be so easy as this. Observing with a shrewdness that astonished me, that ministry, upon a late most important question, mustered no more than 250 votes, and that there were 558 members, he inferred, that you had nothing more to do than to fend for those that were absent out of the country, and you might have upwards of 300 to pit against the 250. It is with infinite regret that I ever suffer myself to dissent from the opinion of this gentleman. But suppose, my lord, which is at least possible, that one half of the absentees should be friends to the cause of the people; what would become of us then? There remains indeed the obvious method of purchasing votes, and it might be supposed that your lordship's talent of insinuation might do you knight's service in this business. But no, my lord, many of these country gentlemen are at bottom no better than boors. A mechlin cravat and a smirking countenance, upon which your lordship builds so much, would be absolutely unnoticed by them. I am afraid of risquing my credit with your lordship, but I can assure you, that I have heard that one of these fellows has been known to fly from a nobleman covered with lace, and powdered, and perfumed to the very tip of the mode, to follow the standard of a commoner whose coat has been stained with claret, and who has not had a ruffle to his shirt. My lord, if common fame may be trusted, these puppies are literally tasteless enough to admire wit, though the man who utters it be ever so corpulent, and to discover eloquence in the mouth of one, who can suffer himself to spit in an honourable assembly. I am a plain man, my lord; but I really think that among marquisses and dukes, right honourables and right reverends, these things are intolerable.
I would therefore have your lordship give up at once, and with a grace, the very idea of bringing over to your side the partisans of these huge slovenly fellows. The scheme of governing the country without taking the house of commons along with you, is much more feasible than this. This might be done by passing an act of parliament by the authority of two estates of the realm, to declare the house of commons useless. For my part, I am far from thinking this so bold a step as by some it may be imagined. Was not Rome a free state, though it had no house of commons? Has not the British house of commons been incessantly exclaimed upon, as corrupt and nugatory? Has not a reform respecting them been called for from all quarters of the kingdom? I am much of opinion in the present case, that that is the most effectual reform, which goes to the root. Rome had her hereditary nobility, which composed her senate. She had her consuls, an ill-imagined substitute for monarchical power. In these, my lord, was comprehended, in a manner, the whole of her government. I shall be told indeed that they had occasionally their comitia, or assemblies of the citizens of the metropolis. But this is so far from an objection to my reasoning, that it furnishes me with a very valuable hint for the improvement of the English constitution.
Let the present house of commons be cashiered, and let the common council of the city of London be placed at St. Stephen's chapel in their room. These your lordship will find a much more worthy and manageable set of people, than the representatives of the nation at large. And can any sensible man doubt for a moment, which are the most respectable body of men? Examine their persons. Among their predecessors I see many poor, lank, shriveled half-starved things, some bald, some with a few straggling hairs, and some with an enormous bag, pendant from no hair at all. Turn, my lord, to the other side. There you will see a good, comely, creditable race of people. They look like brothers. As their size and figure are the same, so by the fire in their eyes, and the expression in their countenances, you could scarcely know one of them from another. Their very gowns are enough to strike terror into the most inattentive. Each of them covers his cranium with a venerable periwig, whose flowing curls and voluminous frizure bespeak wealth and contentment. Their faces are buxom, and their cheeks are florid.
You will also, my lord, find them much more easy and tractable, than the squeamish, fretful, discontented wretches, with which other ministers have had to do. There is but one expence that will be requisite. It is uniform, and capable of an easy calculation. In any great and trying question, I was going to say debate, but debates, I am apt to think, would not be very frequent, or very animated, --your lordship has nothing to do, but to clear the table of the rolls and parchments, with which it is generally covered, and spreading a table cloth, place upon it half a score immense turtles, smoking hot, and larded with green fat. My lord, I will forfeit my head, if with this perfume regaling their nostrils, a single man has resolution enough to divide the house, or to declare his discontent with any of the measures of government, by going into the lobby.
So much, my lord, for this scheme. It is too considerable to be adopted without deliberation; it is too important, and too plausible, to be rejected without examination. The only remaining hypothesis is that of a dissolution. Much, I know, may be said against this measure; but, for my own part, next to the new and original system I have had the hour of opening to your lordship, it is with me a considerable favourite. Those, whose interests it is to raise an outcry against it, will exclaim, "What, for the petty and sinister purposes of ambition, shall the whole nation be thrown into uproar and confusion? Who is it that complains of the present house of parliament? Is the voice of the people raised against it? Do petitions come up from every quarter of the kingdom, as they did, to no purpose, a few years ago, for its dissolution? But it is the prerogative of the king to dissolve his parliament. And because it is his prerogative, because he has a power of this kind reserved for singular emergencies, does it follow, that this power is to be exercised at caprice, and without weighty and comprehensive reasons? It may happen, that the parliament is in the midst of its session, that the very existence of revenue may be unprovided for, and the urgent claims of humanity unfulfilled. It is of little consequence," they will perhaps contend, "who is in, and who is out, so the national interests are honestly pursued, and the men who superintend them be not defective in abilities. That then must be a most lawless and undisguised spirit of selfishness, that can for these baubles risk the happiness of millions, and the preservation of the constitution."
All these observations, my lord, may sound well enough in the harangue of a demagogue; but is it for such a man, to object to a repetition of that appeal to the people in general, in the frequency and universality of which the very existence of liberty consists? Till lately, I think it has been allowed, that one of those reforms most favourable to democracy, was an abridgment of the duration of parliaments. But if a general abridgment be so desirable, must not every particular abridgment have its value too? Shall the one be acknowledged of a salutary, and yet the other be declared of a pernicious tendency? Is it possible that the nature of a part, and of the whole, can be not only dissimilar, but opposite? But I will quit these general and accurate reasonings. It is not in them that our strength lies.
They tell us, that the measure of a dissolution is an unpopular one. My lord, it is not so, that you and I are to be taken in. Picture to yourself the very kennels flowing with rivers of beer. Imagine the door of every hospitable alehouse throughout the kingdom, thrown open for the reception of the ragged and pennyless burgess. Imagine the whole country filled with the shouts of drunkenness, and the air rent with mingled huzzas. Represent the broken heads, and the bleeding noses, the tattered raiment, and staggering bodies of a million of loyal voters. My lord, will they pretend, that the measure that gives birth to this glorious scene, is unpopular? We must be very ill versed in the science of human nature, if we could believe them. But a more important consideration arises. A general election would be of little value, if by means of it a majority of representatives were not to be gained to the aristocratical party. If I were to disadvise a dissolution, it would be from the fear of a sinister event. It is true, your lordship has a thousand soft blandishments. You can smile and bow in the newest and most approved manner. But, my lord, in the midst of a parcel of Billingsgate fishwomen, in the midst of a circle of butchers with marrow-bones and cleavers, I am afraid these accomplishments would be of little avail. It is he, most noble patron, who can swallow the greatest quantity of porter, who can roar the best catch, and who is the compleatest bruiser, that will finally carry the day. He must kiss the frostbitten lips of the green-grocers. He must smooth the frowzy cheeks of chandlersshop women. He must stroke down the infinite belly of a Wapping landlady. I see your lordship tremble at the very catalogue. Could you divide yourself into a thousand parts, and every part be ten times more gigantic than the whole, you would shrink into non-entity at the disgustful scene.
In this emergency I can invent only one expedient. Your lordship I remember had six different services of plate when you were in Ireland, and the duke of P------- could boast only of three. You had also five footmen and a scullion boy more than his grace. By all this magnificence I have been told that you dazzled and enchanted a certain class of the good people of that kingdom. My lord, you must now improve the popularity you gained. Import by the very first hoy a competent number of chairmen. You are not to be told that they are accustomed to put on a gold-lace coat as soon as they arrive upon our shore, and dub themselves fortune-hunters. It will be easy therefore to pass them here for gentlemen, whose low familiarity shall be construed into the most ravishing condescension. No men, my lord, can drink better than they. There is no constitution, but that of an Irish chairman, that can dispense with the bouncing whisky. They are both brawny and courageous, and must therefore make excellent bruisers. Their chief talent lies in the art of courtship, and they are by no means nice and squeamish in their stomach for a mistress. They can also occasionally put off the assumed character of good breeding, and if it be necessary to act over again the celebrated scenes of Balse and M'Quirk, they would not be found at a loss. My lord, they seem to have been created for this very purpose, and if you have any hope from a general election, you must derive every benefit from their distinguished merit. I own however, I am apprehensive for the experiment, and after all would advise your lordship to recur to the very excellent scheme of the common -council men.
There is only one point more which it remains for me to discuss. I have already taken it for granted, that you are offered your choice of every post that exists in the government of this country. Here again, if you were to consult friends less knowing than myself, you would be presented with nothing but jarring and discordant opinions. Some would say, George, take it, and some, George, let it alone. For my part, my lord, I would advise you to do neither the one nor the other. Fickleness and instability, your lordship will please to observe, are of the very essence of a real statesman. Who were the greatest statesmen this country ever had to boast? They were, my lord, the two Villiers's, dukes of Buckingham. Did not the first of these take his young master to the kingdom of Spain, in order to marry the infanta, and then break off the snatch for no cause at all? Did he not afterwards involve the nation in a quarrel with the king of France, only because her most christian majesty would not let him go to bed to her ? What was the character of the second duke ? This nobleman,
Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong,
Was every thing by starts, and nothing long,
But, in the course of one revolving moon,
Was chymist, fiddler, statesman, and buffoon.
My lord, I do not flatter you so far as to suppose that your abilities are as great, or that you will ever make so distinguished a figure as either of these noblemen. But I would have you imitate them in your humbler circle, and venture greatly, though the honour you should derive from it, should be only, that you greatly fell. Accept therefore, my lord, of one of the principal responsible offices with thought and without hesitation. Through terror or manly spirit, or whatever you choose to call it, resign again the next day. As soon as you have done this, make interest for another place, and if you can obtain it, throw it up as soon again. This, my lord, is not, as an ignorant and coxcomical writer has represented it, "the vibration of a pendulum," but a conduct, wise, manly, judicious, and heroic. Who does not know, that the twinkling stars are of a more excellent nature, than those which shine upon us with unremitted lustre? Who does not know that the comet, which appears for a short time, and vanishes again for revolving years, is more gazed upon than either? But I am afraid the comet is too sublime an idea for your lordship's comprehension. I would therefore recommend to you, to make the cracker the model of your conduct. You should snap and bounce at regular intervals; at one moment you should seem a blazing star, and the next be lost in trackless darkness.
My lord, there is nothing, which at all times I have taken more pains to subdue, than that overweening pride, and immeasurable conceit, which are the principal features of your lordship's character. Nature, indeed, has furnished you with one corrective to them, or they must infallibly have damned you. It is timidity. Other people may laugh at this quality. For my part I esteem it worthy the loudest praise and most assiduous cultivation. When the balance hangs in doubt between the adventurousness of vanity and the frigidity of fear, ever incline to the latter side. I had rather your lordship should be a coward, than a coxcomb. If however you could attain to that reasonable and chastised opinion of yourself, which should steer a proper mean between these extremes, should make you feel your strength, when menaced by the most terrible adversaries, and your weakness, when soothed by the most fawning parasites, this, my lord, would be the highest perfection to which you could possibly attain. I will therefore close my epistle with the discussion of a case, which your lordship may think parallel to the species of behaviour I have recommended to your cultivation. I mean that of the celebrated and incomparable earl Granville, in the year 1746. I will show you what this nobleman did, and in how many particulars you must forever hope in vain to resemble him.
I remember, my lord, that you and I once studied together the History of England, in Question and Answer. If your lordship recollects, the year 1746 began in the very height of the celebrated rebellion. The ministers of the sovereign at this time, were, that mixed and plausible character, Mr. Pelham, and that immortalized booby, the duke of Newcastle. These gentlemen possessed their full proportion, of that passion, so universally incident to the human frame, the love of power. They had formed such a connection with the monied interest of the kingdom, that no administration could go on without them. Conscious to this circumstance, they had no toleration for a rival, they could "bear no brother near the throne." From this sentiment, they had driven that most able minister I have mentioned, from the cabinet of his sovereign, in no very justifiable manner, about twelve months before. The same jealousy kept alive their suspicions: they knew the partiality of their master: they imagined their antagonist still lurked behind the curtain. The distresses of the kingdom were to them the ladder of ambition. This was the language they held to their sovereign: "The enemy is already advanced into the heart of your majesty's dominions. We know that you cannot do with out us. You must therefore listen with patience to what we shall dictate. Drive from your presence forever the wisest and the ablest of all your counsellors. This is the only condition, upon which we will continue to serve you in this perilous moment." Majesty, as it was but natural, was disgusted with this language. The Pelhams resigned. Lord Granville accepted the seals. And he held them I believe for something more than a fortnight.
My lord, I will tell you, what were the Pelhams, and what was the true character of lord Granville. Whatever may be said, and much I think may justly be said, in favour of the former, they were not men of genius. Capable of conducting, and willing upon the whole to conduct with loyalty and propriety the affairs of their country, while they kept within the beaten channel, they were not born to grapple with arduous situations. They had not that commanding spirit of adventure, which leads a man into the path of supererogation and voluntary service: they had not that firm and collected fortitude which induces a man to look danger in the face, to encounter it in all its force, and to drive it from all its retrenchments. They were particularly attached to the patronage, which is usually annexed to their high situations. They did not come into power by the voice of the people. They were not summoned to assume the administration by a vote of the house of commons. They were introduced into the cabinet by an inglorious and guilty compromise of sir Robert Walpole; a compromise, that shunned the light; a compromise, that reflected indelible disgrace upon every individual concerned in it. We will suppose them ever so much in the right in the instance before us. For certainly, the same responsibility, that ought to remove a minister from the helm, when he is become obnoxious to his countrymen, equally makes it improper that he should be originally appointed by the fancy or capricious partiality of the sovereign. But were they over so much in the right, it will yet remain true, that they took a poor and ungenerous advantage of the personal distresses of their master, which men of a large heart, and of sterling genius, could never have persuaded themselves to take.
Such were the ministers, whom it appears that king George the second would have had no objection to strip of their employments. I will tell you who it was, that he was willing to have substituted in their place. It was a man of infinite genius. His taste was a standard to those, who were most attached to the fine arts, and most uninterruptedly conversant with them. His eloquence was splendid, animated, and engaging. Of all the statesmen then existing in Europe, he was perhaps the individual, who best understood the interests and the politics of all her courts. But your lordship may probably find it somewhat more intelligible, if I take the other side of the picture, and tell you what he was not. He was not a man of fawning and servility. He did not rest his ambitious pretensions upon any habitual adroitness, upon the arts of wheedling, and the tones of insinuation. He rested them upon the most solid talents, and the most brilliant accomplishments. He did not creep into the closet of his sovereign uncalled, and endeavour to make himself of consequence by assiduities and officiousness. He pleaded for years, in a manly and ingenuous manner, the cause of the people in parliament. It was by a popularity, great, and almost without exception, that he was introduced into power. When defeated by the undermining and contemptible art of his rivals; when convinced that it was impossible for him, to employ his abilities with success in the service of his country, he retired. And it was only by the personal intreaties of his sovereign, and to assist him in that arduous and difficult situation, in which those who ought to have served, deserted him, that he once again accepted of office. He accepted it, for the temporary benefit of his country, and till those persons, who only could come into administration with efficiency and advantage, should again resume their places. He made way for them without a struggle. He did not pretend to set practical impotence, though accompanied with abilities incomparably the superior, against that influence and connexion by which they were supported. Of consequence, my lord, his memory will always be respected and cherished by the bulk of mankind.
I do not mean to propose him to your lordship for a model. I never imagined that your talents qualified you for the most distant resemblance of him; and I wished to convince you how inferior they were. Beside, my lord, he did not act upon the Machiavelian plan. His system was that of integrity, frankness, and confidence. He desired to meet his enemies; and the more extensive the ground upon which he could meet them, the better. I was never idle enough to think of such a line of conduct for your lordship. Go on then in those crooked paths, and that invisible direction, for which nature has so eminently fitted you. Intrench yourself behind the letter of the law. Avoid, carefully avoid, the possibility of any sinister evidence. And having uniformly taken these precautions, defy all the malice of your enemies. They may threaten, but they shall never hurt you.
They may make you tremble and shrink with fancied terrors, but they shall never be able to man so much as a straw against you. Immortality, my lord, is suspended over your head. Do not shudder at the found. It shall not be an immortality of infamy. It shall only be an immortality of contempt.
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