« 이전계속 »
from each writer, curiously indicative of his peculiar humour: the subject is the same, and the mood the very gravest. We have said
at the present writing is mighty well employed in tumbling on the floor of the room and sweeping the sand with a feather. He grows a most delightful child, and very full of play and spirit. He is also a very great scholar : he can read his primer ; and I have brought down my Virgil. He makes most shrewd remarks about the pictures. We are very intimate friends and playsellows. He begins to be very ragged ; and I hope I shall be pardoned if I equip him with new clothes and frocks, or what Mrs. Evans and I shall think for his service."
“ To LADY STEELE.
[Undated.] “You tell me you want a little flattery from me. I assure you I know no one who deserves so much commendation as yourself, and to whom saying the best things would be so little like flattery. The thing speaks for itself, considering you as a very handsome woman that loves retirement-one who does not want wit, and yet is extremely sincere ; and so I could go through all the vices which attend the good qualities of other people, of which you are exempt. But, indeed, though you have every perfection, you have an extravagant fault, which almost frustrates the good in you to me; and that is, that you do not love to dress, to appear, to shine out, even at my request, and to make me proud of you, or rather to indulge the pride I have that you are mine. ... “Your most affectionate, obsequious husband,
“ RICHARD STEELE. “ A quarter of Molly's schooling is paid. The children are perfectly well.”
" To LADY STEELE. “MY DEAREST PRUE,
“ March 26, 1717. “I HAVE received yours, wherein you give me the sensible affliction of telling me enow of the continual pain in your head.
When I lay in your place, and on your pillow, I assure you I fell into tears last night, to think that my charming little insolent might be then awake and in pain ; and took it to be a sin to go to sleep.
“For this tender passion towards you, I must be contented that your Prueship will condescend to call yourself my well-wisher .
At the time when the above later letters were written, Lady Steele was in Wales, looking after her estate there. Steele, about this time, was much occupied with a project for conveying fish alive, by which, as he constantly assures his wife, he firmly believed he should make his fortune. It did not succeed, however.
Lady Steele died in December of the succeeding year. She lies buried in Westminster Abbey.
that upon all the actions of man, the most trifling and the most solemn, the humourist takes upon himself to comment. All readers of our old masters know the terrible lines of Swift, in which he hints at his philosophy and describes the end of mankind :-*
“ Amazed, confused, its fate unknown,
The world stood trembling at Jove's throne ;
* Offending race of human kind,
I damn such fools-go, go, you're bit !'" Addison, speaking on the very same theme, but with how different a voice, says, in his famous paper on Westminster Abbey (Spectator, No. 26) :-“For my own part, though I am always serious, I do not know what it is to be melancholy, and can therefore take a view of nature in her deep and solemn scenes with the same pleasure as in her most gay and delightful ones. When I look upon the tombs of the great, every emotion of envy dies within me; when I read the epitaphs of the beautiful, every inordinate desire goes out; when I meet with the grief of parents on a tombstone, my heart melts with compassion; when I see the tomb of the parents themselves, I consider the vanity of grieving for those we must quickly follow.” (I have owned that I do not think Addison's heart melted very much, or that he indulged very inordinately in the “vanity of grieving.") “When,” he goes on, “when I see kings lying by those who deposed them: when I consider rival wits placed side by side, or the holy men that divided the world with their contests and disputes,—I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind. And, when I read the several dates on the tombs of some that died yesterday and some 600 years ago, I consider that Great Day when we shall all of us be contemporaries, and make our appearance together."
* Lord Chesterfield sends these verses to Voltaire in a characteristic letter,
Our third humourist comes to speak upon the same subject. You will have observed in the previous extracts the characteristic humour of each writer—the subject and the contrast—the fact of Death, and the play of individual thought, by which each comments on it, and now hear the third writer-death, sorrow, and the grave being for the moment also his theme. “The first sense of sorrow I ever knew," Steele says in the Tatler, was upon the death of my father, at which time I was not quite five years of age: but was rather amazed at what all the house meant, than possessed of a real understanding why nobody would play with us. I remember I went into the room where his body lay, and my mother sate weeping alone by it. I had my battledore in my hand, and fell a beating the coffin, and calling papa; for, I know not how, I had some idea that he was locked up there. My mother caught me in her arms, and, transported beyond all patience of the silent grief she was before in, she almost smothered 'me in her embraces, and told me in a flood of tears, ‘Papa could not hear me, and would play with me no more: for they were going to put him under ground, whence he would never come to us again.' She was a very beautiful woman, of a noble spirit, and there was a dignity in her grief amidst all the wildness of her transport, which methought struck me with an instinct of sorrow that, before I was sensible what it was to grieve, seized my very soul, and has made pity the weakness of my heart ever since.”
Can there be three more characteristic moods of minds and men ? “ Fools, do you know anything of this mystery?" says Swift, stamping on a grave, and carrying his scorn for mankind actually beyond it. “ Miserable, purblind wretches, how dare you to pretend to comprehend the Inscrutable, and how can your dim eyes pierce the unfathomable depths of yonder boundless heaven?” Addison, in a much kinder language and gentler voice, utters much the same sentiment: and speaks of the rivalry of wits, and the contests of holy men, with the same sceptic placidity. “Look what a little vain dust we are," he says, smiling over the tombstones; and catching, as is his wont, quite a divine effulgence as he looks heavenward, he speaks, in words of inspiration almost, of "the Great Day, when we shall all of us be contemporaries, and make our appearance together.”.
The third, whose theme is Death, too, and who will speak his word of moral as Heaven teaches him, leads you up to his father's coffin, and shows you his beautiful mother weeping, and himself an unconscious little boy wondering at her side. His own natural tears flow as he takes your hand and confidingly asks your sympathy. “See how good and innocent and beautiful women are,” he says ; “how tender little children! Let us love these and one another, brother-God knows we have need of love and pardon.” So it is each man looks with his own eyes, speaks with his own voice, and prays
his own prayer. When Steele asks your sympathy for the actors in that charming scene of Love and Grief and Death, who can refuse it? One yields to it as to the frank advance of a child, or to the appeal of a woman. A man is seldom more manly than when he is what you
call unmanned - the source of his emotion is championship, pity, and courage; the instinctive desire to cherish those who are innocent and unhappy, and defend those who are tender and weak. If Steele is not our friend he is nothing. He is by no means the most brilliant of wits nor the deepest of thinkers : but he is our friend : we love him, as children love their love with an A, because he is' amiable. Who likes a man best because he is the cleverest or the wisest of mankind; or a woman because she is the most virtuous, or talks French, or plays the piano better than the rest of her sex? I own to liking Dick Steele the man, and Dick Steele the author, much better than much better men and much better authors. The misfortune regarding Steele is, that most part of the company here present must take his amiability upon hearsay, and certainly can't make his intimate acquaintance. Not that Steele was worse than his time ; on the contrary, a far better, truer, and higher-hearted man than most who lived in it. But things were done in that society, and names were named, which would make you shudder now. What would be the sensation of a polite youth of the present day, if at a ball he saw the young object of his affections taking a box out of her pocket and a pinch of snuff: or if at dinner, by the charmer's side, she deliberately put her knife into her mouth? If she cut her mother's throat with it, mamma would scarcely be more shocked. I allude to these peculiarities of by-gone times as an excuse for my favourite, Steele, who was not worse, and often much more delicate than his neighbours.
There exists a curious document descriptive of the manners of the last age, which describes most minutely the amusements and occupations of persons of fashion in London at the time of which we are speaking; the time of Swift, and Addison, and Steele.
When Lord Sparkish, Tom Neverout, and Colonel Alwit, the immortal personages of Swift's polite conversation, came to breakfast with my Lady Smart, at eleven o'clock in the morning, my Lord. Smart was absent at the levée. His lordship was at home to dinner at three o'clock to receive his guests; and we may sit down to this meal, like the Barmecide's, and see the fops of the last century before us. Seven of them sat down at dinner, and were joined by a country baronet who told them they kept court hours. These persons of fashion began their dinner with a sirloin of beef, fish, a shoulder of veal, and a tongue. My Lady Smart carved the sirloin, my Lady Answerall helped the fish, and the gallant Colonel cut the shoulder of veal. All made a considerable inroad on the sirloin and the shoulder of veal with the exception of Sir John, who had no appetite, having already partaken of a beefsteak and two mugs of ale, besides a tankard of March beer as soon as he got out of bed. They drank claret, which the master of the house said should always be drunk after fish; and my Lord Smart particularly recommended some