Slike stranica

heightened and perpetuated by a mutual, zealous cultivation of piety and moral and intellectual improvement. We are thoroughly well acquainted with each other's character, tastes, and habits; and both of us believe there is a singular, even an extraordinary degree of mutual adaptation, in all our views, feelings, and wishes. Perhaps I might have mentioned that my dear friend is about six years younger than myself. Two months hence I shall be thirty-seven years of age. Our acquaintance has now been as much as seven years, and our avowed connection about five. I regret that the union has been, though unavoidably, deferred to so advanced a period of life, but I never wish I had been married very young. My general health is very good. The state of my eyes is not worse, nor the complaint which has compelled me to desist from preaching."

[ocr errors]

About two months before his marriage, he says, "It would be a foolish stoicism if I did not meet the snowdrops, and other signs and approaches of this spring, with a degree of interest which has never accompanied any former vernal equinox. I expect to leave this place in less than two weeks, which, however, I should not do so soon but for the necessity of decamping from this house, my host being obliged immediately to leave it. A few days will be spent in Bath with P., &c., and then I go forward, if all is well, to Bourton, to reside there perhaps a month, or perhaps more, chiefly in one room of the appointed habitation, before my beloved companion can be united to me to reside in it also. I do feel very grateful to Heaven for the combination of valuable things which I hope for in this appropriation. Her conscience, intellect, and tenderness, are the chief. In her society and co-operation I do indulge a sanguine hope of improving, in every respect, by a much more quick and pleasing progression than I have done in a given space during all these past years of gloomy solitude. For a long time,

[ocr errors]

however, I must be at a great expense for books, of which my stock is miserably deficient. There are innumerable things incessantly which I have occasion to want to know, but have no means of informing myself; and this will be felt as much at Bourton, while we may stay there, as it is here, from its distance from any great mart of knowledge."*

* To Mr. Hughes, Feb. 15, 1808.



Frome, Feb., 1804.

MY DEAR FRIEND,I reached here in safety, but with feelings very far from anything like cheerfulness. The pensiveness caused by leaving Downend, uniting with the consciousness of no very favorable prospects here, made me gloomy. I was received, as I expected, with kindness by the family in which I spent the time of my previous visit, and in which I still am, without any certainty as yet how soon or into what house I shall remove my residence. It is a respectable family, and each of the persons in it is very kind; one of them is the very superior young man that you heard me mention; he is to take this letter. There is some expectation of my lodging in the house in which Mrs. Rowe lived and died, in which I wish I may not be disappointed, as it is in a very convenient situation: if I had a little superstition, I should be interested in the house on her account; but I am too old to be strongly susceptible of a feeling of this kind.

I probably expressed to you that no very sanguine prospects attended my removal hither. Nothing can be more dreary than a large lofty meeting-house with a very small handful of hearers, who are never likely to become much more numerous. Some fatal destiny seems to have decreed that I am not to be anywhere of much use as a public speaker, nor perhaps indeed in any other capacity. It required all the force that I felt in the reasons which induced me to leave Downend, to determine me to fix in a situation like this.


I left your house with great regret, and shall always feel an animated pleasure in seeing you again. Your habitual and extreme kindness can never be lost to my memory, nor the recollection of the immense number of animated conversations that we have held on so many subjects. Some of those subjects I hope we shall discuss yet again. These are very gloomy times, and there is too little reason to hope for any speedy amendment. But no times and no successes would exempt reflective minds from feeling a fatal deficiency in all the resources under the sun. It is only the anticipation of a superior state, that can save life in any circumstances from deserving to be called wretched.


Frome, June 20, 1804

I have no expectation of finding here any friends equally inter

esting as those that I have found in former times, nor do I wish to replace

the former by new ones if I could. As to that other most interesting person on whom so much of my happiness depends, I am yet far enough from having appropriated her as a domestic associate; nor can any divinations within my power to use, inform me or you when such an event will take place. It might soon perhaps be accomplished if I were to dream of some spot where one of the great pots full of old pieces of gold had been hidden and lost for centuries; and then were to go to the marked place in the night, and after digging several hours near the old tree or under the old wall, should strike at last on the crock which contains the dear omnipotent dust. A little of this material I want, not at all for the sake of satisfying any desires of vanity or pride, in the one individual or the other, but just for the sake of necessary use, since these are very bad times you know that abominable vermin called taxes, a far more mischievous creature than the locusts of Egypt, eating up every green thing, and every other thing of every other color. I do hope, however, that the time may not be very far distant when even in spite of this voracious breed, I may hope to reap a little harvest of the sweetest kind of felicity.

. . . . I fear you may be again the victim of that grievous head-ache, which will render a season of so much beauty a season of unmingled melancholy. I should be very glad to know, that this is not the case; but that the brilliance of the morning, and the solemnity of the evening, the beauties of the field, and the songs of the grove, bring you their whole tribute of luxury, which tribute they bring only to health. If you are again oppressed with illness, you need other consolations than all the visible creation can impart ! and most happily, my friend, it is not now the first time that you have had recourse to those superior consolations, the efficacy of which you have found capable of alleviating the heaviest griefs, and which you know it is not in vain to seek. The Being that gives beauty to the earth and grandeur to the sky, is well able to sustain those souls that are more estimable in his regard than the whole material creation. To that Being there is ready access at every moment, and one short pathetic supplication to him will be of more value to the mind than all the rhapsodies that the enthusiasts of nature ever uttered, and the reveries that poets ever dreamed. If, however, you are in tolerable health, you are unpardonable, if you do not sometimes, as often as possible, regale yourself with rural sweetness. This I say with emphasis, though I have myself scarcely taken a walk this month, except as part of a journey that I was lately obliged to make. . . I was interested and amused by some of the articles of intelligence which you gave me. . . As to that spiritless dog, John S- —, I have lost all hope of him, if he have not by this time accomplished his business. Perhaps, however, I may be mistaken; he may be proceeding most regularly with measured steps to his purpose, having begun the undertaking on a calculation that by waiting on the lady an hour and a half or so, each Christmas-day, the great achievement might be accomplished

in thirty years. Patience, then, my good friend S., for twenty-five years more, and you shall be the happiest fellow in Sussex. There's nothing like your steady rogues, that can follow a purpose for fifty years at a heat. I was something very like sorry to hear that Mr. R., notwithstanding all his merits and sacrifices, is finally excluded from the band of gentle warriors. Really when a worthy old man has set his heart on some interest, that is not absolutely bad, though it be foolish for him to pursue it, one is sorry when he is disappointed. I was pleased to hear that your old servant Dolly was married; it looks like a kind of safety for the character of a wild girl. One has, however, I think seldom known a composition less likely to make a respectable wife than she. So little sense and so much caprice will be a pleasant mess for her good owner, whoever it be that has caught this piece of good fortune. I wonder if she is still pretty; that very likely did the business.


[Introductory Letter to the Essays.*]

Near Bristol, August 30, 1804.

MY DEAR FRIEND,-You will accept my most sincere acknowledgments for the allowance you have given me. I shall prove how far I am sensible of its value, by the ample and frequent use I shall make of it.

The coldness and languor incident to solitary speculation will be relieved by the half-social spirit supplied by the constant recollection, that I am writing to a reflective friend, to whom no sentiment of importance can come without its interest, and from whom a little power of imagination will seem to draw intermingled remarks and replies.

My mind, I am fully conscious, cannot do justice to any subject; but yet it does appear extremely possible, in such a series of letters as I have engaged to write, to suggest many thoughts not altogether common, and adapted, on their correct application, to produce a considerable effect on taste, on character, and on happiness.

In our many conversations while you were here, it could not fail to occur to us, by what a vast world of subjects for consideration we are surrounded. Any glance into the distance in quest of a limit, found no limit to the diffused and endless multitude of subjects, though it would soon find one to the power of investigating and understanding them.

It appeared that all things in the creation are marked with some kind of characters, which attention may decipher into truth-pervaded by some kind of element, which thought may draw out into instruction. Amidst these various views it could not fail often to occur to us, how many exercises of the judgment are absolutely necessary to secure the attainments which form even a tolerably accomplished human being. In

* Vide page 179.

these letters I shall revive some of the subjects which engaged and interested the social hour, and shall perhaps recall some of the hints or views that then presented themselves, in order to display them with greater amplitude and precision. And any topics on which I have or have not thought before, will be introduced, just as my mind may be in the disposition to select them, or as casualty or observation may suggest them.

For myself, I hope to gain by this course of writing some advantage in respect of intellectual discipline. A little studious labor will indeed be amply repaid, if it will assist to reclaim my mind from its inveterate and unfortunate habits of indolent, desultory, musing vagrancy, into something like method in its operations, and conclusiveness in their results. If this reformation cannot be effected now, I may justly despair of its ever being possible. But I am determined not, without an effort, to surrender my mind finally to the state of a garden which produces a few scattered flowers, only to make one regret its being irretrievably abandoned to weeds.

Another advantage may be, that I shall be compelled to make, or rather to admit, an estimate of what has really been gained from observation on a world which I have seen so long, and from the various lessons of experience. This will be to find, if I may express it so, the amount of the annual value, to the mind, of this mortal routine of rising each morning to view again the scenes of nature, to mingle and talk with various society, to transact accustomed business, to notice the occurrences of a little, or the events of a larger sphere, to read books, to observe the manners and disclosures of character among persons around, and ever and anon to turn attention on one's self.

It might be presumed that much would be taught by all these diversities, to an attentive and diligent spirit, formed to be the pupil of its situation, and not of a temper to yield either its character in obsequious conformity to the scene it inhabits, or its faculties to that thoughtless slumber which perceives none of the views that present instruction, but as the visions of a dream.


My friend, to have thought far too little, we shall find among capital faults in the review of life. To have in our nature a noble part that can think would be a cause for infinite exultation, if it actually did think as much and as well as it can think, and if to have an unthinking mind were not equivalent to having no mind at all. The mind might, and it should be, kept in a state of habitual exertion, that would save us from needing to appeal for proof of its existence to some occasion yesterday when we did think, or to-morrow when we shall.

As to myself, I have often been severely mortified in considering, if all the short spaces of time in which I have strongly exerted my faculties could be ascertained, and reckoned together into one place, what a small part of life it would fill. The space, however, may be deemed the measure of the total of real life.

« PrethodnaNastavi »