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His death was not less remarkable than have foreseen the end of all his schemes, his life. Homer was never more fond of for whom he was improving, and what a glass than he; he would drink whole changes his designs were to undergo, he pints of usquebaugh, and, as he used to would have scarcely amused his innocent think, without any ill consequence.
His life with what, for several years, employed intemperance, however, in this respect, at him in a most harmless manner, and length brought on an incurable disorder ; ' abridged his scanty fortune. As the proand when just at the point of death, he gress of this improvement is a true picture called for a cup of his beloved liquor. of sublunary vicissitude, I could not help Those who were standing round him, sur- calling up my imagination, which, while prised at the demand, endeavoured to per- I walked pensively along, suggested the suade him to the contrary; but he persisted, following Reverie. and when the bowl was brought to him, As I was turning my back upon a beauattempted to drink, but could not ; where- tiful piece of water, enlivened with cascades fore, giving away the bowl, he observed, and rock-work, and entering a dark walk, with a smile, that it would be hard if two by which ran a prattling brook, the Genius such friends as he and the cup should part of the place appeared before me, but more at least without kissing, and then expired. resembling the God of Time, than him
more peculiarly appointed to the care of ESSAY XXI.
Instead of shears he bore a
scythe ; and he appeared rather with the On the Tenants of the Leasowes.
implements of husbandry than those of a Of all men who form gay illusions of modern gardener. Having remembered distant happiness, perhaps a poet is the this place in its pristine beauty, I could most sanguine. Such is the ardour of his not help condoling with him on its present hopes, that they often are equal to actual ruinous situation. I spoke to him of the enjoyment; and he feels more in expect many alterations which had been made, ance than actual fruition. I have often and all for the worse; of the many shades regarded a character of this kind with which had been taken away, of the bowers some degree of envy. A man possessed that were destroyed by neglect, and the of such warm imagination commands all hedge-rows that were spoiled by clipping. nature, and arrogates possessions of which The Genius, with a sigh, received my conthe owner has a blunter relish. While life dolement, and assured me that he was continues, the alluring prospect lies before equally a martyr to ignorance and taste, him; he travels in the pursuit with confi- to refinement and rusticity. Seeing me dence, and resigns it only with his last desirous of knowing farther, he went on: breath.
“You see, in the place before you, the It is this happy confidence which gives paternal inheritance of a poet; and, to a life its true relish, and keeps up our spirits man content with little, fully sufficient for amidst every distress and disappointment. his subsistence : but a strong imagination, How much less would be done, if a man and a long acquaintance with the rich, are knew how little he can do ! How dangerous foes to contentment. Our poet, wretched a creature would he be if he instead of sitting down to enjoy life, saw the end as well as the beginning of resolved to prepare for its future enjoy. his projects ! He would have nothing ment, and set about converting a place of left but to sit down in torpid despair, profit into a scene of pleasure. This he and exchange employment" for actual at first supposed could be accomplished calamity.
at a small expense; and he was willing I was led into this train of thinking upon for a while to stint his income, to have an lately visiting the beautiful gardens of the opportunity of displaying his taste. The late Mr. Shenstone, who was himself a poet, improvement in this manner went forward; and possessed of that warm imagination one beauty attained led him to wish for which made him ever foremost in the pur- some other; but he still hoped that every suit of flying happiness. Could he but emendation would be the last,
now therefore found, that the Improve penny, a button maker, who was possessed ment exceeded the subsidy—that the place of three thousand pounds, and was willing was grown too large and too fine for the also to be possessed of taste and genius. inhabitant. But that pride which was As the poet's ideas were for the natural once exhibited could not retire; the garden wildness of the landscape, the button was made for the owner, and though it maker's were for the more regular producwas become unfit for him, he could not tions of art. He conceived, perhaps, that willingly resign it to another. Thus the as it is a beauty in a button to be of a first idea, of its beauties contributing to the regular pattern, so the same regularity happiness of his life, was found unfaithful ; ought to obtain in a landscape. Be this so that, instead of looking within for satis- as it will, he employed the shears to some faction, he began to think of having re- purpose; he clipped up the hedges, cut course to the praises of those who came down the gloomy walks, made vistas upon to visit his Improvement.
the stables and hog-sties, and showed his “ In consequence of this hope, which friends that a man of taste should always now took possession of his mind, the be doing. gardens were opened to the visits of every “The next candidate for taste and genius stranger; and the country flocked round was a captain of a ship, who bought the to walk, to criticize, to admire, and to do garden because the former possessor could mischief. He soon found that the ad- find nothing more to mend : but unformirers of his taste left by no means such tunately he had taste too. strong marks of their applause, as the passion lay in building, in making Chinese envious did of their malignity. All the temples and cage-work summer-houses. windows of his temples and the walls of As the place before had an appearance his retreats were impressed with the of retirement and inspired meditation, he characters of profaneness, ignorance, and gave it a more peopled air; every turning obscenity ; his hedges were broken, his presented a cottage, or ice-house, or a statues and urns defaced, and his lawns temple ; the Improvement was converted worn bare. It was now, therefore, neces- into a little city, and it only wanted inhasary to shut up the gardens once more, and bitants to give it the air of a village in to deprive the public of that happiness the East Indies. which had before ceased to be his own. “In this manner, in less than ten years,
“In this situation the poet continued the Improvement has gone through the for a time, in the character of a jealous hands of as many proprietors, who were lover, fond of the beauty he keeps, but all willing to have taste, and to show their unable to supply the extravagance of every taste too. As the place had received its demand. The garden by this time was best finishing from the hand of the first completely grown and finished; the marks possessor, so every innovator only lent a of art were covered up by the luxuriance hand to do mischief. Those parts which of nature; the winding walks were grown were obscure, have been enlightened ; dark; the brook assumed a natural sylvage; those walks which led naturally, have and the rocks were covered with moss. been twisted into serpentine windings. Nothing now remained but to enjoy the The colour of the flowers of the field is beauties of the place, when the poor poet not more various than the variety of tastes died, and his garden was obliged to be that have been employed here, and all in sold for the benefit of those who had direct contradiction to the original aim of contributed to its embellishment.
the first improver. Could the original The beauties of the place had now for possessor but revive, with what a sorrowful some time been celebrated as well in prose heart would he look upon his favourite as in verse ; and all men of taste wished spot again! He would scarcely recollect for so envied a spot, where every turn was a Dryad or a Wood-nymph of his former marked with the poet's pencil, and every acquaintance, and might perhaps find himwalk awakened genius and meditation. self as much a stranger in his own plan. The first purchaser was one Mr. True- tation as in the deserts of Siberia."
Nor is this rule without the strongest
foundation in nature, as the distresses of Sentimental Comedy.
the mean by no means affect us so strongly The theatre, like all other amusements,
as the calamities of the great. When has its fashions and its prejudices; and tragedy exhibits to us some great man when satiated with its excellence, man- fallen from his height, and struggling with kind begin to mistake change for improve want and adversity, we feel his situation ment. For some years tragedy was the in the same manner as we suppose he reigning entertainment; but of late it has himself must feel, and our pity is increased entirely given way to comedy, and our in proportion to the height from which best efforts are now exerted in these lighter he fell. On the contrary, we do not so kinds of composition. The pompous train, strongly sympathise with one born in the swelling phrase, and the unnatural humbler circumstances, and encountering rant are displaced for that natural portrait accidental distress; so that while we melt of human folly and frailty, of which all are
for Belisarius, we scarce give halfpence to judges, because all have sat for the picture. the beggar who accosts us in the street. But as in describing nature it is pre
The one has our pity; the other our consented with a double face, either of mirth tempt. Distress, therefore, is the proper or sadness, our modern writers find them object of tragedy, since the great excite selves at a loss which chiefly to copy our pity by their fall; but not equally so from; and it is now debated, whether the of comedy, since the actors employed in exhibition of human distress is likely to it are originally so mean, that they sink afford the mind more entertainment than but little by their fall. that of human absurdity?
Since the first origin of the stage, tragedy Comedy is defined by Aristotle to be a and comedy have run in distinct channels, picture of the frailties of the lower part and never till of late encroached upon of mankind, to distinguish it from tragedy, the provinces of each other. Terence, which is an exhibition of the misfortunes who seems to have made the nearest apof the great. When comedy, therefore, proaches, always judiciously stops short ascends to produce the characters of before he comes to the downright pathetic; princes or generals upon the stage, it is and yet he is even reproached by Cæsar out of its walk, since low life and middle for wanting the vis comica. All the other life are entirely its object. The principal comic writers of antiquity aim only at question therefore is, whether, in de rendering, folly or vice ridiculous, but scribing low or middle life, an exhibition never exalt their characters into buskined of its follies be not preferable to a det
pomp, or make what Voltaire humorously of its calamities? ‘Or, in other words, calls a tradesman's tragedy. which deserves the preference, ---the weep
Yet notwithstanding this weight of ing sentimental comedy so much in fashion authority, and the universal practice of at present, or the laughing and even low former ages, a new species of dramatic comedy which seems to have been last composition has been introduced, under exhibited by Vanbrugh and Cibber?
the name of sentimental comedy, in which If we apply to authorities, all the great the virtues of private life are exhibited, masters in the dramatic art' have but one rather than the vices exposed; and the opinion. Their rule is, that as tragedy distresses rather than the faults of mandisplays the calamities of the great, so
kind make our interest in the piece. comedy should excite our laughter' by These comedies have had of late great ridiculously exhibiting the follies of the success, perhaps from their novelty, and lower part of mankind. Boileau, one
also from their flattering every man in his of the best modern critics, asserts that favourite foible. In these plays almost comedy will not admit of tragic distress : all the characters are good, and exceedLe comique, ennemi des soupirs et des pleurs,
ingly generous; they are lavish enough N'admet point dans ses vers de tragiques dou- of their tin money on the stage; and leurs
though they want humour, have abundance
of sentiment and feeling. If they happen opposite parents, and marked with sterility. to have faults or foibles, the spectator is If we are permitted to make comedy weep, taught, not only to pardon, but to applaud we have an equal right to make tragedy them, in consideration of the goodness of laugh, and to set down in blank verse the their hearts; so that folly, instead of being jests and repartees of all the attendants ridiculed, is commended, and the comedy in a funeral procession. aims at touching our passions without the But there is one argument in favour of power of being truly pathetic. In this sentimental comedy, which will keep it manner we are likely to lose one great on the stage, in spite of all that can be source of entertainment on the stage; for said against it. It is, of all others, the while the comic poet is invading the most easily written. Those abilities that province of the tragic muse, he leaves her can hammer out a novel are fully suffilovely sister quite neglected. Of this, cient for the production of a sentimental however, he is no way solicitous, as he comedy. It is only sufficient to raise the measures his fame by his profits.
characters a little; to deck out the hero But it will be said that the theatre is with a ribbon, or give the heroine a title; formed to amuse mankind, and that it then to put an insipid dialogue, without matters little, if this end be answered, by character or humour, into their mouths, what means it is obtained. If mankind give them mighty good hearts, very fine find delight in weeping at comedy, it clothes, furnish a new set of scenes, make would be cruel to abridge them in that a pathetic scene or two, with a sprinkling or any other innocent pleasure. If those of tender melancholy conversation through pieces are denied the name of comedies, the whole, and there is no doubt but all yet call them by any other name, and if the ladies will cry, and all the gentlemen they are delightful, they are good. Their applaud. success, it will be said, is a mark of their Humour at present seems to be demerit, and it is only abridging our happi. parting from the stage, and it will soon ness to deny us an inlet to amusement. happen that our comic players will have
These objections, however, are rather nothing left for it but a fine coat and a specious than solid. It is true that song.
It depends upon the audience amusement is a great object of the theatre, whether they will actually drive those and it will be allowed that these senti- poor merry creatures from the stage, or mental pieces do often amuse us; but the sit at a play as gloomy as at the tabernacle. question is, whether the true comedy It is not easy to recover an art when once would not amuse us more? The question lost; and it will be but a just punishment, is, whether a character supported through that hen, by our being too fastidious, out a piece with its ridicule still attending, we have banished humour from the stage, would not give us more delight than this we should ourselves be deprived of the species of bastard tragedy, which only is art of laughing. applauded because it is new? À friend of mine, who was sitting
ESSAY XXIII. unmoved at one of these sentimental
Scottish Marriages. pieces, was asked how he could be so indifferent? “Why, truly,” says he," as As I see you are fond of gallantry, and the hero is but a tradesman, it is indif- seem willing to set young people together ferent to me whether he be turned out of as soon as you can, I cannot help lending his counting-house on Fish-street Hill, my assistance to your endeavours, as I since he will still have enough left to am greatly concerned in the attempt. open shop in St. Giles's."
You must know, sir, that I am landlady The other objection is as ill-grounded; of one of the most noted inns on the road for though we should give these pieces to Scotland, and have seldom less than another name, it will not mend their eight or ten couples a week, who go efficacy. It will continue a kind of mulish down rapturous lovers, and return man production, with all the defects of its and wife, -
If there be in this world an agreeable Miss Rachel Runfort went off with a situation, it must be that in which a young grenadier. They spent all their money couple find themselves, when just let loose going down; so that he carried her down from confinement, and whirling off to the in a post-chaise, and coming back, she land of promise. When the post-chaise helped to carry his knapsack. is driving off, and the blinds are drawn Miss Racket went down with her lover up, sure nothing can equal it. And yet, in their own phaeton; but upon their I do not know how, what with the fears return, being very fond of driving, she of being pursued, or the wishes for greater would be every now and then for holding happiness, not one of my customers but the whip. This bred a dispute; and before seems gloomy and out of temper. The they were a fortnight together, she felt gentlemen are all sullen, and the ladies that he could exercise the whip on somediscontented.
body else besides the horses. But if it be so going down, how is it Miss Meekly, though all compliance to with them coming back? Having been the will of her lover, could never reconcile for a fortnight together, they are then him to the change of his situation. It mighty good company to be sure. It is seems he married her supposing she had then the young lady's indiscretion stares a large fortune; but being deceived in her in the face, and the gentleman himself their expectations, they parted;
and they finds that much is to be done before the now keep separate garrets in Rosemary money comes in.
Lane. For my own part, sir, was married in
The next couple of whom I have any the usual way; all my friends were at the account actually lived together in great wedding ; I was conducted with great cere- harmony and uncloying kindness for no mony from the table to the bed; and I do less than a month; but the lady, who was not find that it any ways diminished my a little in years, having parted with her happiness with my husband, while, poor fortune to her dearest life, he left her to man! he continued with me. For my make love to that better part of her which part, I am entirely for doing things in the he valued more. old family way; I hate your new-fashioned The next pair consisted of an Irish manners, and never loved an outlandish fortune-hunter and one of the prettiest, marriage in my life.
modestest ladies that ever my eyes beheld. As I have had numbers call at my As he was a well-looking gentleman, all house, you may be sure I was not idle in dressed in lace, and as she seemed very inquiring who they were, and how they did fond of him, I thought they were blest in the world after they left me. I cannot for life.
Yet I was quickly mistaken. say that I ever heard much good come of The lady was no better than a common them: and ofan history of twenty-five that woman of the town, and he was no better I noted down in my ledger, I do not know than a sharper; so they agreed upon a a single couple that would not have been mutual divorce: he now dresses at the full as happy if they had gone the plain York Ball, and she is in keeping by the way to work, and asked the consent of member for our borough in Parliament. their parents.
To convince you of it, I In this manner we see that all those will mention the names of a few, and refer marriages, in which there is interest on the rest to some fitter opportunity. one side, and disobedience on the other,
Imprimis, Miss Jenny Hastings went are not likely to promise a long harvest of down to Scotland with a tailor, who, to delights. If our fortune-hunting gentlemen be sure,
for a tailor, was a very agreeable would but speak cut, the young lady, sort of a man. But, I do not know how, instead of a lover, would often find a sneakhe did not take proper measure of the ing rogue, that only wanted the lady's young lady's disposition: they quarrelled purse, and not her heart. For my own at my house on their return; so she left part, I never saw anything but design and him for a cornet of dragoons, and he went falsehood in every one of them; and my back to his shop-board,
blood has boiled in my veins when I saw