Slike stranica

portant, and to me most difficult of all lessons. In religion I hope I am rather advancing than declining. I have to attend to Latin and Greek every day. A person in the city is at present reading a course of lectures in experimental philosophy, which most of us attend.

[ocr errors]


Bristol, Nov. 16, 1791.

[ocr errors]

If you had been my Dulcinea I certainly durst not now write at all, after having delayed it so long. You see I am attempting to pass off with a jest what you may think needs a serious apology. I confess it does; but as the case stands I have none to offer. I have been prevented by an odd mixture of business and idleness, each of which you know is unfavorable to writing letters, particularly when letters cost so much labor as mine generally do. I must yet request you to dismiss the suspicion that "I have forgotten you all" at Brearley Hall, and for this reason, that I assure you it is without foundation; at the same time, a sort of confidence that you are all mighty gay and felicitous, enjoying yourselves and one another, has done something toward quieting my conscience in the neglect of writing. I am more obliged to you than I can express for your very curious and sprightly letter. Nothing could have been more acceptable, or more entertaining, not only on account of its coming from you, but on account also of its contents. It will, besides, furnish me with a few ideas (a scarce article at Bristol) to reverberate, and assist me to fill three sides of a sheet, which might otherwise have been a very difficult affair. My regard for you and my other worthy friends at Brearley Hall and at Mount, is not at all diminished by absence and distance. Perhaps I never felt it more warm than at this moment. Probably I shall never enter with such real cordiality into any other friendships. I feel no inclination, nay, I feel a strong aversion, to any attempt to cultivate general or numerous intimacies. Nature never formed me for it. Imagination itself can scarcely place me in a more perfectly pleasing situation than ascending the hill below your father's, and sitting down to tea with your mother. I hope to renew this delightful satisfaction, if all continue well, in something less than eight months. And within this interval I flatter myself (and I am ready to suppose you do the same) with the hope of making very great improvement in learning and in piety. What an estimable possession is time! Permit me to urge you, as I am urging myself, to a nobler improvement of it. I have lately laid down a kind of plan for the distribution of my time and studies, which I already find to be of service. One part of it is, to devote all the time from rising in the morning, which is generally about six o'clock, till half-past eight (when we have family worship succeeded by breakfast), to prayer and reading the bible, together

with a little of some other book of a religious and devotional kind, as Night Thoughts, Saurin's Sermons, or some other. I trust you are growing in religion; probably neither of us can be more fully convinced than we are, of the vast importance of this. We see some in low circumstances in life, privileged with none of our advantages for the acquisition of knowledge, for retirement, reading, and contemplation, yet glowing with the zeal, and melting with the warmth of piety. Is not the world then entitled to expect from us, something approaching to angelic excellence? "Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required!" I am resolving to be more intimately conversant with the scriptures, and a better resolution, I think, cannot be formed. I wish to read them with vigilant attention and devotional seriousness. A diligent and pious frame of heart will be found, I believe, the best assistance to understand the sacred books. As to expositors, we have here Gill, Henry, Poole, Doddridge, Guyse, Patrick, Hammond, Owen, and twenty more; but I very rarely open any of them.

[ocr errors]

Nothing could

be better adapted to check levity, than the account you give me of Mr. Ingham. Where is the person, as you observe, more likely for life than he was? Neither of us, I suppose, can stand in any comparison. Happiness, my friend, absolutely consists in such a state of mind, that death shall be welcome, and life still shall be sweet; that is, in being equally prepared to improve life, or to resign it. I often think that no gratitude can be equal to the mercies with which I am indulged. I very seldom do anything in the way of preaching. I hope you will not cease to pray for me.

[ocr errors]


Bristol, Dec. 26, 1791.

I THINK that absence, distance, and time, have augmented my regard for you, and my other much valued friends at Brearley. The recollection of the advantages and the pleasures of my situation, when that situation placed me near you, always affects me with gratitude to heaven, with self-congratulation, and at the same time with feelings of regret from the remembrance of pleasures which I now enjoy no more. Brearley is the scene to which fancy recurs with fondness; and I often feel a wish to give some more expressive testimony than I am able of the gratitude and respect I bear to you, and the other characters who honor it. I hope that the happiness of having you for a friend will ever continue, and that I shall ever be concerned to deserve it. Next to the favor of God, my ambition aspires to the esteem and friendship of such men as you; and I wish to acquire and exhibit that superiority of character and abilities which will most effectually tend to ensure them. My present circumstances are very favorable to improvement both in literature and

piety. I wish to advance with rapid, and still accelerated progress. The value of time, the deficiencies of my character, and possible attainments, flash upon my mind with more forcible conviction than ever before. I can sometimes grasp the idea of universal and transcendent excellence; and it always excites, at least, a temporary ebullition of spirit. I cannot doubt the possibility of becoming greatly wise and greatly good; and while such an object places itself in view, and invites pursuit, no spirit that possesses the least portion of ethereal fire can remain unmoved. I despise mediocrity. I wish to kindle with the ardor of genius. I am mortified almost to death, to feel my mind so contracted, and its energies so feeble or so torpid. I read such writers as Young and Johnson with a mixture of pleasure and vexation. I cannot forbear asking myself, Why cannot I think in a manner as forcible and as original as theirs? Why cannot I rise to their sublimities of sentiment, or even to an elevation still more stupendous? Why cannot I pierce through nature with a glance? Why cannot I effuse those beams of genius which penetrate every object, and illuminate every scene? I believe the possible enlargement of the human mind is quite indefinite, and that Heaven has not fixed any impassable bounds.

I am solicitous to cultivate warm and growing piety. I know that on it happiness entirely depends, and that without it intellectual pursuits either cannot be successful, or in proportion to the degree of success will be injurious. That character is the most dignified which reflects the most lively image of the divine excellence. Heaven is the proper region of sublimity; and the more we dwell there, the more we shall triumph in conscious grandeur of soul. Intimate communion with the Deity will invest us, like Moses, with a celestial radiance. At the same time, I am experimentally convinced that the spirit of religion is extremely delicate and fine, and no moderate degree of vigilance is requisite to preserve it. This vigilance is absolutely incompatible with indolence and thoughtlessness; and these are the evil spirits that most particularly haunt me, and from which I have suffered, and still suffer, greatly. Oh for a mind all alive to religion, completely consecrated to God, and habitually devotional! Habitual piety is indeed a very interesting subject it has lately often struck my thoughts. I am wishing to know how far, and by what means, it is really attainable. Though I would wish to concentre in myself all the genuine piety in the world, I yet suspect there is such a thing as a romantic religion. Amidst the laborious, the even painfully laborious, efforts which religion requires, amidst opposition from within and from without, amidst the intricacies that perplex, the burdens that fatigue, the impediments that obstruct, and the allurements that divert, I hope I am making some progress; and I request that your prayers may promote it. . . . . Intelligence of any importance seems rather scarce at the north end of Bristol; probably not so at Brearley, as it is communicated through so many different channels. I hear of no very capital projects or manœuvres in the republic

of letters, as it is called.

[ocr errors]

Perhaps you have seen Cowper's Homer. I still cannot but wish that he had been differently employed. I have not taken much notice of it. On reading a few passages I thought, This may possibly be Homer himself, but if it is, Pope is a greater poet than Homer. I continue on terms of the most perfect intimacy with Mr. Hughes, which I consider as a very great felicity. His age is only twenty-three. His mental vigor is very great, and of such a nature as to communicate a kind of contagion. ... Next week I expect to be some time with Mr. Hughes at Bath, where the Miss Mores reside during the winter. You will allow that a few of my hours may be well spent in forming plans of study and improvement for the next half year, and that the design is laudable of beginning to live anew.



Bristol, Jan. 6, 1792.

I MOST humbly beg your pardon for this long interval between receiving and answering your letter. You must know I affect to be a genius, and geniuses claim an indulgence to be irregular. But yet, if I had felt a proper degree of sympathy with you in the very afflictive circumstances which your letter describes, my sensibility would have led me to write sooner. As I will never relinquish the character of sensibility, which has been generally found connected with genius, I exculpate myself by observing that when you wrote "the bitterness of death was past," and your letter was calculated, not to infuse melancholy, but to excite those pleasurable sensations which are felt in reflecting on sorrows that are gone. At the same time, I feel for you painfully in the apprehension that the afflictions from which I hope you at present experience a happy exemption, may too frequently return upon you. For my own part, I confess I wish to be taught to sympathize with sorrow without so much of the discipline of actual suffering. Still, however, may I be resigned to the gracious will of Heaven!


I was requesting pardon ;-how fortunate that other mortals are guilty, and need pardon as well as myself! This is particularly the case with Certainly, to send me half a sheet was most notorious; and but for the passionate cries, and entreaties, and promises with which you conclude, I should fall on you without mercy. Even these can scarcely secure you from the effects of my indignation; but I will endeavor to calm the furious passion, with the hope that you will never do so again, if I will but excuse this once. It is long since I wrote to you before, but silence itself may instruct. As for instance, from my silence you may infer, first, that my esteem for you is such that I have not words in which to express it; secondly, that the city suggests no new ideas to be communicated; thirdly, that I have not yet fallen in love; or, fourthly,

what you tell me of

that I dare not tell it; fifthly, that I am not extremely concerned about certain persons of our acquaintance, and their attempts and designs. These are inferences which you would not, perhaps, have drawn, but could anything be more obvious?

. . . I am a little acquainted with two or three very worthy and amiable females, and from them, you must know, my intellectual qualities have gained me great respect... "Tis time to inform you that you are a set of ignorant, tasteless things in Yorkshire, for these ladies pronounce that my countenance, though very grave, has yet a pleasing air, expressive of sensibility and benevolence. What silly folks you were to take up a different opinion when I was among you! . . . .I perfectly accord to your very serious reflexion on ruffles and hair-dressing. But it happens oddly, that while you are grave, I am in the humor to laugh. I am thinking how you would look with powder. It is said to give my appearance a considerable advantage; you will not therefore wonder that I frequently use it. What contributed a good deal to gain me the respect of the ladies I mentioned was, an Oration on Sensibility, written as an academical exercise; it has been bandied about, and read, more than it deserves. It was sent, without my knowing it, to Dr. Stennett, and is now, I believe, somewhere in Oxfordshire. I have repeatedly designed to burn it. I think I have produced an abler composition since. I wrote all the sermon I preached last Sunday at our meeting in Broadmead. . . . . I hope you are advancing in learning and religion. I sometimes ask myself what it is to live well. It is to be pious, benevolent, and diligent. To be pious, is to be fully consecrated to God-to cherish his love, to obey his commands, and to live and act with a direct view to his glory. To be benevolent, is to be kindly affectioned towards men, to pray for them, to employ all our ability for their good. To be diligent, is [the manuscript is here imperfect] . . . . I would urge you to read the Bible, morning and evening. . . . the genuine, original, untainted fountain, with an attention exclusive of almost all... The work of religion is difficult, difficult indeed. "Trust in the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thy heart." I request an interest in your prayers.


Bristol, March 13, 1792.

The engagements and possessions of this life are to us valuable, precisely in that proportion in which they prepare, or conduce to prepare us for another. You express a hope of being a better man by the time you see me. I would cordially and ardently adopt the same hope for myself. If Providence shall bring about that event, at the time and in the manner desired, it must yet be preceded by a long train of

« PrethodnaNastavi »