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trash and rubbish of a noisy fellow's history, and wait upon
memory backwards and forwards, from the gaming-house to the brothel, is the most degrading office in the world; and sooner than have any hand in such a business, I would have them both immersed a whole day in the most pestilential abyss in his majesty's three dominions.
You make no distinctions between the different orders and degrees in which biographers may be classed. Your intellect is as muddy as your occupation. You will not surely rank yourself with Plutarch, and with geniuses of a similar order in our own country.
KENNEL-SCRAPER. Pardon me, sir; my business was always to separate and select. I wish to be understood to speak only of the latest biographers. I have a very proper respect for those great men to whom
you allude; and I observe that they have enough for themselves, to keep as distant from you as possible; for in yonder meadow, covered with the bloom of the amaranth, and intersected with amber streams, I can discern the venerable Plutarch, surrounded by a set of heroes and philosophers, who strive with each other in their testimonies of gratitude and esteem.
No 12. TUESDAY, APRIL 17.
Est mollis fiamma medullas
My good-natured readers will pardon me if sometimes I discover the vanity of a grey-headed man in speaking of these papers, which I consider in a manner as my grandchildren. When I take my usual saunter in our little filbert-walk, before our old lady summons me to breakfast, I am tempted, I own, to make a comparison between the gradual opening of my plan in these essays, and the lively progress of vegetation at this cherishing time of the year. The same kindling influence which unfolds the bud, and spreads out the blossom, seems also to impart a sort of growth to my fancy, and to fructify within me every germ of thought, of feeling, and of affeetion.
Now turning from the wintry signs, the Sun
Till gentle heat, and soft repeated rains,
FLOWER AND THE LEAF.
Without these physical aids of fine weather, and the sort of renovation which the spring seems to produce in me, I do not know how such a little frosty old fellow as myself could ever find sufficient animation in his bosom to give my fair countrywomen a chapter upon love. It is almost impossible, indeed, amidst this universal “ passion of the groves," when every feathered songster is warbling out his sweet pain, and every sprig is conscious of the double weight of some newly-wedded pair—it is almost impossible, I say, for a heart that is disengaged from low pursuits and pleasures, not to yield to these gentle sympathies and gay emotions. It was at this season of the year, when the honeysuckle sends forth new shoots, and the bosom new desires; when the passions feel a fresh impulse towards their object, and the ivy embraces the elm anew; that my mother used to make her strongest efforts to persuade me to marry:
That the Olive-branch family should become extinct after me, was a thought which she never could dwell upon without uneasiness; and I really would have married fifty times over, to have spared her this pain, but that my little pinched-up, mummylike figure would never let me think of matrimony without shame and confusion. Besides which, after my poor friend Eugenio's death, after he had breathed out on my breast his last hope and his last sorrow, all my care and assistance were wanting to console the virtuous Amelia, who survived her lover about ten years, and then died a virgin, in purest faith, and thought, and act, at the age of thirtysix.
For these reasons I used to avail myself of the same subterfuge which was used by the philosopher Thales, who, when his mother pressed him to marry, would excuse himself for a length of years, by alleging that he was yet too young, till, after turning a critical corner in life, he suddenly shifted his ground, and maintained that he was now too old to think of it. By these evasions I gained leisure to cultivate the friendship of the chaste Amelia, during the course of ten years: and whatever tenderness mingled itself in our intercourse and correspondence, it was borrowed from the soft recollection of Eugenio, which cast over it a sombre and refracted light, like that which remains to the world after the sun has abandoned it.
I never could prevail on myself to open the little packet which Eugenio had put into my hands, till the death of Amelia, when my thoughts could rest on no other object but the loves of this gentle pair; and there was a sort of void and craving in my mind, which could only be satisfied by the constant repetition of the names and the sentiments of my poor young friends. This looked most like conversing with them, and has always been a balm to my spirits which I would not have foregone for any pleasures or preferments the world could offer me. Since I am become old, these letters are still the lecture I most delight in: oftentimes, in reading them, I stretch out my hand to find Eugenio's, and take off my eyes to meet the blue languish that used to beam from those of Amelia.
Now then, since the worms have preyed upon what was mortal of these tender friends, and no heart remains but my own, to beat at the recollec
tion of their sorrows, I shall take out from my parcel the letters which have passed between them, and single out such as I think will give most entertainment; hoping that they will meet with some sympathising bosoms even in this shallow age, and moisten the cheeks of some of my female readers, in honour of faithful love and virtuous calamity.
As to those vulgar spirits whose time is spent in the gross amusements of the town, or those dull plodders whose hearts are stuffed with pedlar principles and mean cares, or those pigmy politicians who have frittered away their feelings with puzzle and chicane, I tell them fairly, whenever, in turning their eyes over one of my papers, they encounter the name of Eugenio, to lay it down as no concern of theirs; for there is something mysterious in love, as there is also something sacred in its sufferings, by which they are veiled over in the presence of the uninitiated and profane;—it is only here and there that we find a tender bosom which has a true feel. ing and conception of the pangs or the pleasures of this generous passion.
I shall give these letters to the public, as nearly as I can, according to the order in which they were written. The following one seems to have been composed just after the false news had been received of the death of the young gentleman in the EastIndies, to whom Amelia had been long promised, but for whom it does not appear that she ever felt more than a great regard.
My dearest Amelia,
" It has of late become a part of my plan of conduct, to prevent a too great elation or depression under circumstances of joy or sorrow, by sometimes forcing my thoughts, as far as I am able, on subjects