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ugly; her eyes hollow and red, her face shrivelled; she goes double, and her voice trembles. It frequently happens, that this rueful figure frightens a child into the palpitation of the heart: home he runs, and tells his mamma, that Goody such a one looked at him, and he is very ill. The good woman cries out her dear baby is bewitched, and sends for the parson and the constable.
It is moreover necessary that she be very poor. It is true, her master, Satan, has mines and hidden treasures in his gift; but no matter, she is, for all that, very poor, and lives on alms. She goes to Sisly the cook-maid for a dish of broth, or the heel of a loaf, and Sisly denies them to her. The old woman goes away muttering, and perhaps in less than a month's time, Sisly hears the voice of a cat, and strains her ancles, which are certain signs that she is bewitched.
A farmer sees his cattle die of the murrain, and his sheep of the rot, and poor Goody is forced to be the cause of their death, because she was seen talking to herself the evening before such a ewe departed, and had been gathering sticks at the side of the wood where such a cow ran mad.
The old woman has always for her companion an old gray cat, which is a disguised devil too, and confederate with Goody in works of darkness. They frequently go journeys into Egypt upon a broom-staff in half an hour's time, and now and then Goody and her cat change shapes. The neighbours often overhear them in deep and solemn discourse together, plotting some dreadful mischief you may
There is a famous way of trying witches, recommended by King James I. The old woman is tied hand and foot, and thrown into the river, and if she swims she is guilty, and taken out and burned; but if she is innocent, she sinks, and is only drowned.
The witches are said to meet their master frequently in churches and church-yards. I wonder at the boldness of
* Upper Egypt is particularly famous in the tales of Eastern romance writers, as the country of magicians: in this respect, it yields only to the celebrated Dom-daniel of Tunis. It was probably by means of the Crusaders that the prejudices of the Asiatics against Africa found a place in European demonology. Our witches still visit Egypt, and the most effectual way of laying a ghost, is by conjuring him into the Red Sea. B.
Satan and his congregation, in revelling and playing
It would have been both dangerous and impious to have
AN ACCOUNT OF THE AUGUSTAN AGE OF ENGLAND.
THE history of the rise of language and learning is calculated to gratify curiosity rather than to satisfy the understanding. An account of that period only when language and learning arrived at its highest perfection, is the most conducive to real improvement, since it at once raises emulation, and directs to the proper objects. The age of Leo X. in Italy, is confessed to be the Augustan age with them. The French writers seem agreed to give the same appellation to that of Louis XIV; but the English are yet undetermined with respect to themselves.
Some have looked upon the writers in the times of Queen Elizabeth as the true standard for future imitation; others have descended to the reign of James I, and others still lower, to that of Charles II. Were I to be permitted to offer an opinion upon this subject, I should readily give my vote for the reign of Queen Anne, or some years before that period. It was then that taste was united to genius; and as before our writers charmed with their strength of thinking, so then they pleased with strength and grace united. In that period of British glory, though no writer attracts our attention singly, yet, like stars lost in each other's brightness, they have cast such a lustre upon the age in which they lived, that their minutest transactions will be attended to by posterity with a greater eagerness, than the most important occurrences of even empires which have been transacted in greater obscurity.
At that period there seemed to be a just balance between patronage and the press. Before it, men were little esteemed whose only merit was genius; and since, men who can prudently be content to catch the public, are certain of living without dependence. But the writers of the period of which I am speaking, were sufficiently esteemed by the great, and not rewarded enough by booksellers to set the ove dependence. Fame, consequently, then was the truest road to happiness; a sedulous attention to the mechanical business of the day, makes the present never-failing resource.
The age of Charles II, which our countrymen term the age of wit and immorality, produced some writers that at once served to improve our language and corrupt our hearts. The king himself had a large share of knowledge, and some wit; and his courtiers were generally men who had been brought up in the school of affliction and experience. For this reason, when the sunshine of their fortune returned, they gave too great a loose to pleasure, and language was by them cultivated only as a mode of elegance. Hence it became more enervated, and was dashed with quaintnesses, which gave the public writings of those times a very illiberal air.
L'Estrange, who was by no means so bad a writer as some have represented him, was sunk in party faction; and having generally the worst side of the argument, often had recourse to scolding, pertness, and, consequently, a vulgarity that discovers itself even in his more liberal compositions. He was the first writer who regularly enlisted himself under the banners of a party for pay, and fought for it, through right and wrong, for upwards of forty literary campaigns. This intrepidity gained him the esteem of Cromwell himself, and the papers he wrote even just before the Revolution, almost with the rope about his neck, have his usual characters of impudence and perseverance. That he was a standard writer cannot be disowned, because a great many very eminent authors formed their style by his. But his standard was far from being a just one; though, when party considerations are set aside, he certainly was possessed of elegance, ease, and perspicuity.
Dryden, though a great and undisputed genius, had the same cast as L'Estrange. Even his plays discover him to be a party man, and the same principle infects his style in
subjects of the lightest nature; but the English_tongue, as it stands at present, is greatly his debtor. He first gave it regular harmony, and discovered its latent powers. It was his pen that formed the Congreves, the Priors, and the Addisons, who succeeded him; and had it not been for Dryden, we never should have known a Pope, at least, in the meridian lustre he now displays. But Dryden's excellences, as a writer, were not confined to poetry alone. There is, in his prose writings, an ease and elegance that have never yet been so well united in works of taste or criticism.
The English language owes very little to Otway, though, next to Shakespeare, the greatest genius England ever produced in tragedy. His excellences lay in painting directly from nature, in catching every emotion just as it rises from the soul, and in all the powers of the moving and pathetic. He appears to have had no learning, no critical knowledge, and to have lived in great distress. When he died, (which he did in an obscure house near the Minories,) he had about him the copy of a tragedy, which, it seems, he had sold for a trifle to Bentley the bookseller. I have seen an advertisement at the end of one of L'Estrange's political papers, offering a reward to any one who should bring it to his shop. What an invaluable treasure was there irretrievably lost by the ignorance and neglect of the age he lived in!
Lee had a great command of language, and vast force of expression, both which the best of our succeeding dramatic poets thought proper to take for their models. Rowe, in particular, seems to have caught that manner, though in all other respects inferior. The other poets of that reign contributed but little towards improving the English tongue, and it is not certain whether they did not injure, rather than improve it. Immorality has its cant as well as party, and many shocking expressions now crept into the language, and became the transient fashion of the day. The upper galleries, by the prevalence of party spirit, were courted with great assiduity, and a horse-laugh following ribaldry was the highest instance of applause, the chastity as well as energy of diction being overlooked or neglected.
Virtuous sentiment was recovered, but energy of style never was. This, though disregarded in plays and party writings, still prevailed amongst men of character and business. The despatches of Sir Richard Fanshaw, Sir
William Godolphin, Lord Arlington, and many other ministers of state, are all of them, with respect to diction, manly, bold, and nervous. Sir William Temple, though a man of no learning, had great knowledge and experience. He wrote always like a man of sense and a gentleman; and his style is the model by which the best prose writers in the reign of Queen Anne formed theirs. The beauties of Mr Locke's style, though not so much celebrated, are as striking as that of his understanding. He never says more nor less than he ought, and never makes use of a word that he could have changed for a better. The same observation holds good of Dr Samuel Clarke.
Mr Locke was a philosopher; his antagonist, Stillingfleet, Bishop of Worcester, was a man of learning; and therefore the contest between them was unequal. The clearness of Mr Locke's head renders his language perspicuous, the learning of Stillingfleet's clouds his. This is an instance of the superiority of good sense over learning, towards the improvement of every language.
There is nothing peculiar to the language of Archbishop Tillotson, but his manner of writing is inimitable; for one who reads him, wonders why he himself did not think and speak it in that very manner. The turn of his periods is agreeable, though artless, and every thing he says seems to flow spontaneously from inward conviction. Barrow, though greatly his superior in learning, falls short of him in other respects. *
The time seems to be at hand when justice will be done to Mr Cowley's prose, as well as poetical writings; and though his friend Dr Sprat, Bishop of Rochester, in his diction falls far short of the abilities for which he has been celebrated, yet there is sometimes a happy flow in his periods, something that looks like eloquence. The style of his successor, Atterbury, has been much commended by his friends, which always happens when a man distinguishes himself in party; but there is in it nothing extraordinary. Even the speech which he made for himself at the bar of the House of Lords, before he was sent into exile, is void of eloquence, though it has been cried up by his friends to such a degree, that his enemies have suffered it to pass uncensured.
The author must mean in respect of manner, for in acuteness and power of thinking, Barrow certainly does not "fall short" of Tillotson, or of any other writer of his age.-B.