Page images
PDF
EPUB

company he was in, he never created envy or disquiet by aiming at the first. The captain was no partyman, having made an observation, that there were as good dinners among the Whigs as among the Tories.

With these qualifications, about thirty years ago, Captain N. was a welcome guest at every table in town. He filled up a place with a most becoming propriety; and while he never diminished the pleasure of

any company, he most commonly added to its enjoyment. His mornings were spent in paying visits: and though he might now and then disturb the family-economy of a Mrs. Careful *, and interrupt her instructions to her daughters; yet there were so many persons as idle as himself, that he could easily contrive so to bestow his visits as to have them received with a welcome face. These visits were sure to produce some future dinners, and these future dinners ended in as many suppers.

Thirty years have made a great change in poor N's situation. He is no longer the gay-looking fashionable man he was; his legs are shrivelled; his face bears upon it the marks of bumpers; his voice is broken, and the whole man has the appearance of a superannuated beau.

The tables where he used to dine and to sup are no longer open to receive him. Death has removed some of his friends, change of residence others; in some places his chair is occupied by younger men, and in others it is occupied by nobody at all. Poor N. dares no longer offer his hand to conduct a young lady through the crowd in an assembly-room, lest the lady should show a desire to be conducted by some younger beau. He is no longer invited to dine with my Lady Rumpus, that he may attend her to the theatre, my lady having bespoke some other attendant; and he is no longer croupier at Lord E.'s, his place there being filled up by Tom Toastwell.

* Vide No. 8.

In this situation, the captain is frequently obliged to go home and dine by himself on a cold chicken; or he is forced to spend his evenings in the coffeehouse, amidst the hubbub of waiters, and the hum of coffee-house politicians, over a bit of toasted cheese and a can of punch, because he is afraid of the solitariness and want of stir in his own home.

At a dancing-school ball, where I happened to be not long ago, I was struck with the solitary figure of Captain N. looking demure, and stuck up in a corner. It attracted my attention the more, from the circumstance of observing, not far from him, my friend Mr. H. This gentleman is a Lounger, like Mr. N. and with fewer abilities to support the character. He possesses, however, a good plain understanding, which nobody can despise, and nobody envies, and obtains the good will and regard of all his companions and acquaintance, by an honest openness of disposition, and a social warmth of heart.He married early in life a lady agreeable in her person, though not a beauty; possessed of good understanding, though not a wit; and endowed with very amiable dispositions. By her he has a family of very fine children, for the purpose of whose education he now lives in town, and only visits his paternal estate now and then to superintend the management, in which he is reckoned very

skilful. H. saunters like N.;—but he has that asy good-humoured look, that results from his being independent of the idlers around him; from which, f he should tire of them, his house is open to receive aim. His house is not splendid, but he contrives to make it hospitable; and the happiness of the familyscene which his guests now and then witness, gives him a certain rank, a certain respectability in life, which neither the abilities nor the accommodating complacence of N. could ever procure him. At that same ball I mentioned, it would have done one's heart good to have seen how Mr. H.'s eyes glistened, when he saw two of his daughters make a most elegant appearance in a cotillon, and heard every one around the place where he and Mrs. H. were seated asking whose pretty children these were. He led them out of the room himself, and was particularly careful that they should be protected from the cold air in getting out. I went away at the same time; and we left poor N. in his corner, with the same grave face as ever, seemingly weary of being there, but afraid to

After all, N.'s fate is a hard one; for on the whole he has many good qualities, which might have been put to a very good account. What is worse, he is now sensible of this himself. I knew not whether to smile or to cry, when, the other day, I heard him say, he was now growing old; but one comfort he had, that die when he would, he would not leave one sad heart behind him on that account.-- I shall slip out of the world,' said he, without being missed.'

S.

go home.

No. 27. SATURDAY, AUGUST 6, 1785,

Maxima pars vatum, pater, et juvenes patre digni, .
Decipimur specie recti.

HOR.

In forming the minds and regulating the conduct of men, nothing seems to be of greater importance than a proper system of what may be termed domestic mom rality; the science of those relative duties, which do not apply only to particular situations, to large fortunes, to exalted rank, to extensive influence, but which constitute that part and character in life which almost every one is called to perform.

Of all above the lower ranks, of all who claim the station or the feelings of a gentleman, the knowledge of this science is either inculcated by family precept and example, or is endeavoured to be instilled by reading. In the latter case, the works made use of for that purpose are either purely didactic, which speak the language of authoritative wisdom; histo rical, which hold forth the example of past events to the judgment; or they are of that sort which are calculated to mould the heart and the manners through the medium of the imagination. Of this last class, the principal are stories or novels. I have in a former paper delivered a few general remarks, calculated to ascertain their moral tendency. In this I propose extending my consideration to dramatic writing; and, as it is nearest to the novel, at least to that species which I principally considered in the paper alluded to, I shall begin with a similar examination of tragedy:

The engines which tragedy professes to use for moral instruction are the passions. The father of dramatic criticism has told us, that tragedy purges the passions by exciting them:' a proposition which, from its short apothegmatical form, is subject to considerable obscurity. A modern writer, in his defence of tragedy as a moral exhibition, explains its meaning, by the analogy of the Spartan custom of making their slaves drunk, and showing them in that beastly state to their children, in order to inspire a detestation for the vice of intemperance. But if this is to furnish us with an illustration of Aristotle's assertion, I am afraid it will not aid the cause of tragedy as a school of morals. It was from the previous contempt of the rank and manners of the drunkard, that the Spartan boy was to form his estimate of drunkenness. The vice of a slave could hardly fail to disgust him. But had they shown him the vice itself, how loathsome and degrading soever in its own nature, in a person of superior respect and estimation, what would have been the consequence? The fairest answer may be drawn from the experience of those countries where freemen get drunk, where senators and leaders of armies are sometimes intoxicated. The youths who behold these examples the oftenest are not the least liable to follow them. I am afraid it is even so with tragedy: Scenes presenting passions and vices, round which the poet throws the veil of magnanimity, which he decorates with the pomp of verse, with the splendour of eloquence, familiarise the mind to their appearance, and take from it the natural disgust which the crimes, presented in their native form, would certainly excite. Cruelty, revenge, and murder, are often the attributes of the hero; for he must always be the hero on whom the principal stress of the action lies. What punishment awaits, or what misfortunes attend his crimes, is little to the purpose; if the

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »