Page images

it daily more difficult of attainment, till the passion for reading, like other strong appetites, produced by indulgence a sort of satiety.

Ere he attained this indifference, however, he had read over, and stored in a memory of uncommon tenacity, much curious, though ill-arranged and miscellaneous information. In English literature he was master of Shakspeare and Milton, of our earlier dramatic authors, of many picturesque and interesting passages from our old historical chronicles, and particularly of Spenser, Dryden, and other poets, who have exercised themselves on romantic fiction, of all themes the must fascinating to a youthful imagination, before the passions have roused themselves, and demand poetry of a more sentimental description. In this respect his acquaintance with the Italian opened him yet a wider range. He had perused the numerous romantic poems, which, from the days of Pulci, have been a favourite exercise of the wits of Italy, and had sought gratification in the numerous collections of novelle which were brought forth by the genius of that elegant, though luxurious nation, in emulation of the Decameron. In classical literature Waverley had made the usual progress, and read the usual authors; and the French had afforded him an almost exhaustless collection of memoirs scarcely more faithful than romances, and of romances so well written as hardly to be distinguished from memoirs. The splendid pages of Froissart, with his heart-stirring and eye-dazzling description of war and of tournaments, were among his chief favourites; and from those of Brantome and De la Noue he learned to compare the wild and loose, yet superstitious cha racter of the nobles of the League, with the stern, rigid, and sometimes turbulent disposition of the Huguenot party. The Spanish had contributed to his stock of chivalrous and romantic lore. The earlier literature of the northern nations did not es cape the study of one who read rather to awaken the imagination than to benefit the understanding. And yet, knowing much that is known but to few, Edward Waverley might justly be considered as ignorant, since he knew little of what adds dignity to man, and qualifies him to support and adorn an elevated situation in society.


• FEMALE EXCELLENCE.-Kirwan's Sermons.

If the sex, in their intercourse, be of the highest importance to the moral and religious state of society, they are still more

[ocr errors]

so in their domestic relations. What a public blessing, what an instrument of the most exalted good is a virtuous Christian mother? It would require a far other pen than mine to trace the merits of such a character. How many, perhaps, who now hear me, feel that they owe to it all the virtue and piety that adorns them; or may recollect at this moment, some saint in heaven, that brought them into light to labour for their happiness, temporal and eternal! No one can be ignorant of the irresistible influence which such a mother possesses, in forming the hearts of her children, at a season when nature takes in lesson and example at every pore, Confined by duty and inclination within the walls of her own house, every hour of her life becomes an hour of instruction; every feature of her conduct a transplanted virtue. Methinks, I behold her encircled by her beloved charge, like a being more than human, to which every mind is bent, and every eye directed; the eager simplicity of infancy inhaling from her lips the sacred truths of religion, in adapted phrase and familiar story; the whole rule of their moral aud religious duties simplified for easier infusion. The countenance of this fond and anxious parent, all beaming with delight and love, and her eye raised occasionally to heaven in fervent supplication for a blessing on her work. O! what a glorious part does such a woman act on the great theatre of humanity; and how much is the mortal to be pitied, who is not struck with the image of such excellence! When I look to its consequences direct and remote, I see the plants she has raised and cultivated, spreading through the community with the richest increase of fruit. I see her diffusing happiness and virtue through a great portion of the human race. I can fancy generations yet unborn rising to prove and to hail her worth. I adore that God who can destine a single human creature to be the stem of such extended and incalculable benefit to the world. It is scarce possible for the human mind to offer an argument more powerful in support of an institution like this, to those whose views are christian and public.

In the character of wife we find a virtuous woman equally existing for the happiest purposes. Marriage, 'tis true, is often a state in which neither of the parties is much the better for coming together. When all study and consideration of their worth is put out of the question in the motives that bring on the connexion, the result must generally be, and naturally is, both unfavourable to their felicity and their manners. Judge what a miserable business it is that terminates at best, after a short period, in a compromise to detest each other, with ceremony and politeness, and pursue their respective way of folly or de


pravity, according to their fancy; a case where terms of endearment are used that the heart disavows, and a mask of union and affection put on in the vain hope of blindfolding the world. Yet such, I fear, is the fate of many, many a pair; and must ever be so where the only inducement to the state is passion, interest, or the pride of alliance. Nothing, however, is more true than what the Apostle has asserted, that a Christian wife is the salvation of her husband. For, surely, if any thing can have power to wean a man from evil, it is the living image of all that is perfect, constantly before his eyes, in the person whom, next to God, he is forced to reverence and respect; and who, next to God, he must be assured, has his present and future felicity most at heart; who joins to the influence of her example, the most assiduous attention to please; who knows, from the experience of every hour, where his errors and vices. may be assailed with any prospect of success; who is instructed, by the close study of his disposition, when to speak, and when to be silent; who watches and distinguishes that gleam of reflection, which no eye can perceive but her own; who can fascinate by the mildness and humility of her manner, at the moment she expostulates and reproves; who receives him with smiles and kindness, even when conscience smites him the most with a sense of his neglect and unworthiness; who has always a resource at hand in his difficulties, and tender apologies to reprieve him from himself: and a gracious presentiment ever on, her lips, that the day will come, when he will know how to value the advantages of good conduct, and the unruffled serenity of virtue. Yes, the ministry of such a woman is daily found to work the reformation of our sex, when all other resources. fail; when neither misfortune, nor shame, nor the counsels of friendship, nor the considerations of hell nor heaven have any more effect than the whistling of the elements. Merciful God! how zealously should we therefore labour to diffuse such cha racters through the people!

A TALE by a Country Curate.

The duties of the day discharged, and the casualties of tomorrow anticipated, the conductress of Cumberland House was blessing her stars for the prospects of an evening undisturbed by any professional engagement, when the current of her ejacu lations was unexpectedly deranged by a summons to the par lour. She found there a gentleman-young, but grave and dig

nified in appearance-accompanied by a still younger and certainly most lovely female. His age was apparently about thirty-hers might be guessed at seventeen. He stated himself to be her guardian. Her education had been neglected. It was his wish, as well as that of the young lady herself, to whom he had the honour of standing in so responsible a relation, that it should now be completed. He was anxious that she should have the first masters; and that every grace and every accomplishment which art could bestow, should be added to the gifts of nature. Expense was in no instance to be regarded. Her comfort her improvement-her interests alone were to be consulted.

The lady conductress smiled-showed her house-her grounds-ran over with inimitable complacency and singular glibness a long list of young nobility who had entered and adorned the fashionable world on leaving her establishmentand concluded an elaborate, and all things considered, a very prettily turned harrangue, by a modest and rather hesitating inquiry of "Whom have I the honour of addressing ?"

"That is foreign to the purpose. I can neither give you my name-my address-nor a reference of any kind. The name of this young lady will probably be sufficient on the one hand and this note, by way of security, on the other." He laid down, as he spoke, a bank bill of a very considerable amount,' and turned to the window.

Madame La Roche stood amazed.

"How very extraordinary! Here's mystery. O! there's something wrong beyond a doubt!" and she glanced from one to the other. Yet, as her eye caught the noble and commanding figure of the stranger, -scanned that calm unruffled brow,and then reverted to the confiding and ingenious expression of his youthful companion, she felt ashamed of the supposition.

"You hesitate? I have no wish of surprising you into an assent. Deliberate an hour if you please; I will await your decision. My bankers, I omitted to state, are Fry and Chapman ; on whom your drafts will be punctually honoured ;" and he resumed his station at the window.

The conductress paused and hesitated-and for the first time in her life was dumb!" He's monstrous young to be a Guardian' but he is certainly somebody; and she looks purity itself; yet to come alone to be accompanied by no female friend.- I really don't know what to say." She began-"]”»

-she looked at the bank note which lay so temptingly upon the table-cast another glance at the well appointed equipage

at the door and concluded-"I shall be most happy to receive Miss-Miss--the lady in question."

"I will not then return," said she, speaking for the first time. "Whatever I may require more than the carriage contains can be forwarded to me to-morrow." There was a tone of melancholy in her voice which touched even the selfish heart of Madame La Roche. She fancied she could discover a sob with difficulty suppressed. "You can probably receive Miss Hamilton to-night," said the stranger? "To-night," echoed Madame, evidently disconcerted at the promptitude which characterized the measures of her new acquaintance.To-night."-An expression of the most comic distress passed over her face--a shrug succeeded-then a smile—“Ö, certainly." Ce n'est que le premier pas qui coute," "she murmured in an under tone, and carefully deposited the note in her reticule.

The young lady was indefatigable. In the attainment of her object no labour appeared excessive, no confinement irksome, The rays of early morning found her actively engaged in the pursuit of improvement: the dews of evening found her wearied but still employed. She avoided society; she courted solitude. Yet there were times when traces of tears appeared on her cheek, and a sigh, deep-deep-and unbroken, would steal from her bosom, and an expression of uncontroulable anguish would chequer a countenance fair as the poet's dream.

The only indulgence which she allowed herself was the care of a little orphan of five years old, who had been sent over to the conductress from India by a dying mother. For this little wayward, capricious, but engaging being, she would throw aside her favourite pursuit; enter into the whim of the moment -caress, and romp, and play with her by the hour together. It seemed as if not only all the affections of her nature had fastened upon her lively companion, but that some dear and secret association was connected with her for on more than one occasion the youthful beauty was discovered caressing her little plaything with all the affection of a mother, and mingling with her caresses-tears.


All this was 66 sadly perplexing" to Madame La Roche.There was no want of wealth, that was very clear-or of propriety, for her life was purity itself-or of self respect, for she would awe the most presuming ;-but there was "a most unpardonable want of information !" The young lady herself was silent as the grave. Not a syllable could be extorted from her by inuendo, by inquiry, flattery, or surmise, as to her guardian or

« PreviousContinue »