페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

SURPRISING STORY TELLERS.

Ultra
Finem tendere opus.

HOR.
To launch beyond all bounds.
SURPRISE is so much the life of stories, that every

one aims at it, who endeavours to please by telling them. Smooth delivery, an elegant choice of words, and a sweet arrangement, are all beautifying graces, but not the particulars in this point of couversation, which either long command the attention, or strike with the violence of a sudden passion, or occasion the burst of laughter which accompanies humour. I have sometimes fancied that the mind is in this case like a traveller who sees a fine seat in haste; he acknow. ledges the delightfulness of a walk set with regularity, but would be uneasy if he were obliged to pace it over, when the first view had let him into all its beauties from one end to the other.

However a knowledge of the success which stories will have when they are attended with a turn of sur. prise, as it has bappily made the characters of some, so has it also been the ruin of the characters of others. There is a set of men who outrage truth, instead of affecting us with a manner in telling it; who overleap the line of probability, that they may be seen to move out of the common road, and endeavour only to make their hearers stare by imposing upon them with a kind of nonsense against the philosophy of nature, or sech a heap of wonders told upon their own knowledge, as it is not likely one man should ever have met with.

I have been led to this observation by a company into which I fell accidentally. The subject of Antipathies was a proper field wherein such false surprisers might expatiate, and there were those present who ap

[ocr errors]

d very fond to show it in its full extent of tradihistory. Some of them, in a learned manner, ed to onr consideration the miraculous powers ch the effluviums of cheese have over bodies whose es are disposed to receive them in a noxious man

; others gave an account of such who could indeed -ar the sight of cheese, but not the taste; for which ey brought a reason from the milk of their nurses. thers again discoursed without endeavouring at reaBons, concerning an unconquerable aversion which some stomachs have against a joint of meat when it is whole, and the eager inclination they have for it, when, by its being cut up, the shape which affected them is altered. From hence they passed to eels, then to parsnips, and so from one aversion to another, till We had worked up ourselves to such a pitch of complaisance, that when the dinner was to come in, we inquired the wame of every dish, and hoped it would be no offence to any in company, before it was admitted. When we had sat down, this civility among us turned the discourse from eatables to other sorts of aversions ; and the eternal cat, which plagues every conversation of this nature, began then to engross the subject. One had sweated at the sight of it, another had smelled it ont as it lay concealed in a very distant cupboard; and be who crowned the whole set of these stories, reckoned

up

the number of times in which it bad occasioned him to swoon away. At last, says he, that that person you may all be satisfied of my invincible aversion to a

cat, I shall give an unanswerable instance: as I was going through a street of London, where I never had been till then, I felt a general damp and faintness all

which I could not tell how to account for, till I chanced to cast my eyes upwards, and found tbat I was passing under a sign-post on which the picture of a cat was hung.

The extravagance of this turn in the way of surprise, gave a stop to the talk we had been carrying on: some were silent because they doubted, and others because

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

over me,

[ocr errors]

this aberrata

[ocr errors]

there were the

woandin

roman adve

thither

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

they were conquered in their own way; so that the gestienza bad oppostanity to press the belief of it op a &, and let us see that he was rather esposing binhseii tih na ndicaling others.

I mos freely own that I did not all this while dis beixte every thing that was said; but yet I thought svese in the company bad been endeavouring who sculpich the car farthest; that it had for some time kea 2 msuring cast, and at last my friend of the ex aed siga-pes bau thrown beyoud them all.

i bea considered the manner in which this story As been revived, and the possibility that it might have passei für a jest opon others, if he had not la bereizgaiss himself. From hence, thought I, there we (wo Rar which the well-bred world generally təšes to catradict sech 2 practice, when they do not tiak fit to contradict it daily. would not advise any one to interpret in his own be

The first of these is a general silence, which I balf. It is often the effect of prudence in avoiding a quarrel, when they see another drive so fast ubat there is no stopping bin without being run against; and bar rery seldom the effect of weakness in belier. grossly ignorant, as some over bearing spirits would ing suddenly. The generality of mankind are not so persuade themselves, and if the authority of a charac ter or a caution against danger make us suppress our opinions, yet weither of these are of force enough to suppress our thoughts of them. If a man who has endeavoured to amuse bis company with improbabili. ties could but look into their minds, he would find that they imagine he sightly esteems of their sense when be thinks to impose upon them, and that he is less esteeried by them for his attempt in doing so. His endea vour to glory at their expence becomes a ground of quarrel, and the scorn and indifference with which they entertain it begins the immediate punishment: and indeed (if we should even go no further) silence or, a negligent indifference, has a

[ocr errors]

to con wear

bietet

ther

deeper way

of

g than opposition, because opposition proceeds - anger that has a sort of generous sentiment for ersary mingling along with it, wbile it shows ere is some esteem in your mind for him; in nat you think bim worth while to contest with : ence, or a negligent indifference, proceeds from - mixed with a scorn that shows another he is at by you too contemptible to be regarded. se other method which the world has taken for ecting this practice of false surprise, is to overshoot

talkers in their own bow, or to raise the story further degrees of impossibility, and set up for a acher to them in such a manner as must let them see y stand detected. Thus I bave heard a discourse As once managed upon the effects of fear. One of ee company bad given an account how it had turned is friend's hair gray in a night, while the terrors of a ipwreck encom passed him. Another taking the hint Trom hence, began, upon his own knowledge, to enlarge his instances of the like nature to such a number, that it was not probable he could ever have met with them; and as he still grounded those upon different causes, for the sake of variety, it might seem at last, from his share of the conversation, almost impossible that

any one who can feel the passiou of fear should all his life escape so common an effect of it. By this time some of the company grew negligent, or desirous to contradict him: but one rebuked the rest with an appearance of severity, and with the known old story in his head, assured them they need not scruple to be. lieve that the fear of any thing can make a jnan's hair gray, since he knew one wbose perriwig had suffered 80 by it. Thus he stopped the talk, and made them easy. Thus is the same method taken to bring us to shame, which we fondly take to increase our charac. ter. It is indeed a kind of mimicry, by which another puts on our air of conversatiou to show us to ourselves : he seems to look ridiculous before

you, that you may remember how near a resemblance you bear to him, or that you may kvow that he will not lie onder the impulation of believing you. Then it is that you are struck dumb immediately with a conscientious shame for what you have been saying. Then it is that you are inwardly grieved at the sentiments which you cannot but perceive others entertain concerving you. In short, you are against yourself; the laugh of the company runs against yon; the censuring world is obliged to you for that triumph wbich you have allow. ed them at your own expence; and truth, which

yon have injured, has a near way of being revenged on yon, when by the bare repetition of your story Fou become a frequent diversion for the public.

THOUGHTS IN SICKNESS.

Aflata est numine quando
Jam propriore Dei-

VIRG.
When all the God came rushing on her soul.

DRYDEN.

AMONG all the reflections which

usually rise in the mind of a sick man, who has time and inclination to consider his approaching end, there is none more natural than that of his going to appear naked and onbodied before him who made him. When a man considers, that as soon as the vital union is dissolved, he shall see that Supreme Being, whom he now contemplates at a distance, and only in his works; or, to speak more philosophically, when by some faculty in the soul he shall apprehend the Divine Being, and be more sensible of his presence, than we are now of the presence of any object which the eye beholds, a man must be lost in carelessness and stupidity who is not alarmed at snch a thought. Dr. Sherlock, in bis er cellent Treatise upon Death, has represented, in very strong and lively colours, the state of the soul in its

« 이전계속 »