« 이전계속 »
much assist this object; and it is a sensible pleasure to look forward to the time, when the reading-clubs and debating-clubs together may prevent this garrulity from overflowing our churches. It is also a consolation to reflect how sacred from all this clamour is the gaming-table, where nothing interrupts the silence, the order, the religio loci, but now and then a hollow murmur of repentance, or a burst of pious resolutions,
The solace however which we feel in these considerations, is checked by the reflection, that the mental decay of the World is so apparent in many other instances. No small suspicion of it is conveyed in that nice and difficult humour which she has of date contracted; her many odd appetites and caprices; her strange affection for wizards, witches, and conjurers ; her dotage in respect to some of her youngest children, who consume her substance on the lowest pleasures; her jealousy of such as discover any real worth, and growing promise; and above all, her unwearied course of repetition, and the manifest decay of her inventive and original powers. To repair this loss of intellectual vigour, and to remove these moral complaints, is fairly out of the reach of any medicines of the mind, however administered. I could wish it were not too sanguine to hope that something might yet be done, while there is a portion of stamina remaining, in the way of palliation and diversion. Medicines of rude operation do not much agree with the patient's habit; and I should doubt of the success of any but those which act in a slow and alterative manner, and require to be administered in slight and regular doses.
Here I think I may drop my allegory, and tell my readers in unfigurative terms, that it is my design
to devote four sheets of paper a-week, to such as can be amused without the sacrifice of decency, or the prostitution of language; who can be grave without chagrin, inquisitive without malice, merry without victims; who are parties to whatever touches humanity, and can view with just sorrow the follies and infirmities of our nature, but without any contracted
art, or unsocialness of ntiment. I have always found myself, I don't know how, insensibly drawn towards the opinion of the Philosophical Bedlamite, who, being visited by an old friend, called him aside with a look of much importance, in order to disclose to him a very valuable secret, the purport of which was, that the bulk of mankind were mad, and had shut up within those walls all the sensible people they could find. I shall not undertake for the whole and literal acceptation of my friend the Madman's remark: but perhaps it might only be a mad kind of figure, by which he meant no more, than that, if all those who are disturbed in their intellects were inclosed within the pale of that charity, the professions would be considerably thinned, and that we should have very good elbow-room in all our public places; that to go down a countrydance would no longer be fatiguing; and that grass enough would grow in our squares to maintain all our coach and saddle horses, while the asses and goats might soon pick up a very comfortable subsistence on the road side between Charing-Cross and Temple-Bar. If our Madman had any such meaning as this, I do not see it in a light of such great absurdity; and perhaps some of those who shall follow up my papers, may be more and more reconciled to it as they proceed. In the mean time I shall do no more than my duty, in giving some account of myself, and of my qualifications for this undertaking.
I am descended from an ancient family by my mother's side, who, besides being an heiress, was a woman of great virtue and understanding. It so happened, that she was forbidden, by the conditions of the estate, to lay aside her name; a circumstance which might have brought her into difficulties, if she had not found in my father, a man who, having no particular obligations to his own name, was not unwilling to adopt hers for the sake of her good qualities. As I was the only child, I came in for a very large share of my good mother's attention; and the first piece of instruction she impressed on my mind, and which has certainly had a ruling influence on my subsequent conduct and behaviour, was drawn from a circumstance relating to her family which can never be sufficiently admired. As far back as she could trace, and she could trace very far back by the help of a variety of old records anxiously preserved, there was not one of her ancestors who had not been distinguished for a singular mildness of character, and serenity of deportment: none of them had figured at a tilt or tournament, or borne arms by profession; but in peaceful and domestic occupations, they had followed each other in quiet order to the grave, like the soft undulations of a silvery lake, where each wave that dies is renewed in its successor, which makes way for another, and another, and another, just to fill its place and depart. From this peaceful line I inherit the name of Olive-branch, to which that of Simon was added, in memory of my mother's grandfather, who was the most of a philosopher of the whole race.
Together with the name, I believe I may say I inherit some of the qualities also of the good family of the Olive-branches. What makes me think I am not degenerate, is, that I can conscientiously declare hat I was never much ruffled or provoked but once,
about thirty years ago, when a careless servant threw by mistake into the fire a curious antique tobacco-stopper of my great-grandfather's, which my mother assured me it was his custom to play with between his fingers, when the buz of any debate grew high around him, with his eyes fixed on a little figure of Harpocrates, not badly expressed upon it, to prevent the danger of an appeal from either party: My mother had a pious regard for this relic, which was always one of her little penates, or pocket-gods; and as it had been my plaything when an infant, and constantly cured me of crying, she had almost brought herself to consider it as endued with certain sedative properties, and capable of calming the spirits under any provocation or disappointment.
My father died while I was young, and left to my mother the sole care of my education. To acquit herself of this trụst, she sent me to Oxford in the year 1740. The succeeding ten years of my life passed so evenly and quietly, that they furnish me with no incident, except the considerable diminution of my mother's fortune, which arose from her own inattention to these matters, added to the mismanagement of her steward. This was somewhat made up to us, however, by my election to a fellowship of the college, in the year 1751, to which my quiet inoffensive character principally recommended me. From this time I spent a great many years in the pursuits of literature and philosophy, but chiefly in ihe observation of what passed around me; without ever forgetting the rule of my forefathers, to maintain a rigid neutrality among my friends and neighbours, and a catholic charity towards all mankind.
In this manner did forty years of my life steal on ingloriously, without occupation, without noise, without notoriety, and with little variation of pulse or principle. My ease, however, was not of a slumbering or torpid kind: it was always a pleasure to me to speculate on the good of my species, to study the dispositions and characters of men, and to treasure up rules of life and conduct, in order to add to that store of observations and maxims, which it had been the ancient custom of our family to collect. Circumstances have since persuaded me to make a free offer to my contemporaries of this whole patrimony of common sense, accumulated and approved through many generations of the Olive-branch family. The public will as easily distinguish between what I have added myself, and what I have borrowed from my mother's manuscripts, as between old Hock or Canary, and the flavour of English port; or, to carry the allusion more home to the Olive-branches, they will find in my own produce none of that essential balsamic oil, which my ancestors had the art of expressing and bottling for preservation; and where I'make an attempt to mix them together, they will think of those lines of Dryden's on the poor poet laureate :
But so transfus'd as oil and water flow,
But to go on with my history_When I had attained
age of forty-five, my mother, who loved tranquillity, but not inoccupation, persuaded me to enter into holy orders; and in ten years afterwards she was able to purchase the living I at present enjoy in Northamptonshire, where I have now spent six years of my life with my usual serenity, and in perfect good understanding with all my parishioners, young and old. It is a great happiness to me, to have my mother still with me, and in good general health,