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rid of their own spleen, by communicating it ; the wretchedness of a man in this life, the happiness of some wrought out of the miseries of others, the necessity that wretches should expire under punishment, that rogues might enjoy affluence in tranquillity; I led him on from the inhumanity of the rich, to the ingratitude of the beggar; from the insincerity of refinement to the fierceness of rusticity; and at last had the good fortune to restore him to his usual serenity of temper, by permitting him to expatiate upon all the modes of human misery.
“ Some nights ago,” says my friend, “ sitting alone “ by my fire, I happened to look into an account of " the detection of a set of men called the thief-takers. “ I read over the many hideous cruelties of those ha“ ters of mankind, of their pretended friendship to “ wretches they meant to betray, of their sending « men out to rob and then hanging them. I could not “ avoid sometimes interrupting the narrative by cry“ ing out, Yet these are men! As I went on, I was “ informed that they had lived by this practice seve“ ral years, and had been enriched by the price of “ blood; and yet, cried I, I have been sent into the world, " and am desired to call these men brothers! I read « that the very man who led the condemned wretch “ to the gallows, was he who falsely swore his life away ;
and yet, continued I, that perjurer had just "such a nose, such lips, such hands, and such eyes as « Newton. I at last came to the account of the wretch " that was searched after robbing one of the thief-ta6 kers of half-a-crown. Those of the confederacy « knew that he had got but that single half-crown in " the world : after a long search therefore, which " they knew would be fruitless, and taking from him “ the half-crown, which they knew was all he had,
one of the gang compassionately cried out, Alas!
fioor creature, let him keep all the rest he has got, it “ will do him service in Newgate, where we are sending
This was an instance of such complicated “ guilt and hypocrisy. that I threw down the book in
an agony of rage, and began to think with malice of “ all the human kind. I sat silent for some minutes, “S and soon perceiving the ticking of my watch begin“ ning to grow noisy and troublesome, I quickly pla* ced it out of hearing, and strove to resume my se“ renity. But the watch-man soon gave me a second “ alarm. I had scarcely recovered from this, when
my peace was assaulted by the wind at my window; < and when that ceased to blow, I listened for death6. watches in the wainscot. I now found my whole
system discomposed. I strove to find a resource in philosophy and reason; but what could I oppose, or where direct my blow, when I could see no ene
my to combat. I saw no misery approaching, vor “ knew any I had to fear, yet still I was miserable. * Morning came ; I sought for tranquillity in dissipa“tion, sauntered from one place of public resort to
another, but found myself disagreeable to my ac“ quaintance, and ridiculous to others. I tried at dif“ ferent times, dancing, fencing, and riding ; I solved
geometrical problems, shaped tobacco-stoppers ;
wrote verses, and cut paper. At last I placed my " affections on music, and find, that earnest employ* ment if it cannot cure, at least will palliate every " anxiety."
FROM THE SAME.
It is no unpleasing contemplation to consider the influence which soil and climate have upon the dispo. sition of the inhabitants, the animals and vegetables of different countries. That among the brute creation is much more visible than in man, and that in vegetables more than either. In some places those plants which are entirely poisonous at home, lose their deleterious quality by being carried abroad ; there are serpents in Macedonia so harmless, as to be used as playthings for children, and we are told that in some parts of Fez, there are lions so very timorous as to be scared
away, though coming in herds, by the cries of women
I know of no country where the influence of climate and soil is more visible than in England; the same hidden cause which gives courage to their dogs and cocks, gives also fierceness to their men. But chiefly this ferocity appears among the vulgar. The polite of every country pretty nearly resemble each other. But as in simpleing, it is among the uncultivated productions of Nature, we are to examine the characteristic differences of climate and soil, so in an estimate of the genius of the people we must look among the sons of unpolished rusticity. The vulgar English therefore may be easily distinguished from all the rest of the world, by superior pride, impatience, and a peculiar hardiness of soul.
Perhaps no qualities in the world are more susceptible of a fine polish than these ; artificial complaisance and easy deference being superinduced over:
these generally form a great character ; something at once elegant and majestic, affable yet sincere. Such in general are the better sort ; but they who are left in primitive rudeness are the least disposed for society with others, or comfort internally, of any people under
The poor indeed of every country are but little prone to treat each other with tenderness; their own miseries are too apt to engross all their pity; and perhaps too they give but little commiseration, as they find but little from others. But in England the poor treat each other upon every occasion with more than Savage animosity, and as if they were in a state of open war by nature. In China, if two porters should meet in a narrow street, they would lay down their burthens, make a thousand excuses to each other for the accidental interruption, and beg pardon on their knees; if two men of the same occupation should meet here, they would first begin to scold, and at last to beat each other. One would think they had miseries enough resulting from penury and labour not to increase them by ill-nature among themselves, and subjection to new penalties; but such considerations never weigh with them.
But to recompense this strange absurdity they are in the main generous, brave, and enterprising. They feel the slightest injuries with a degree of ungoverned impatience, but resist the greatest calamities with surprising fortitude. Those miseries under which any other people in the world would sink, they have often showed they were capable of enduring; if accidentally cast upon some desolate coast, their perseverance is beyond what any other nation is capable of sustaining ; if imprisoned for crimes, their efforts to escape are greater than among others. culiar strength of their prisons, when compared to
those elsewhere, argues their hardiness; even the strongest prisons I have ever seen in other countries would be very insufficient to confine the untameable spirit of an Englishman. In short, what man dares do in circumstances of danger, an Englishman will. His virtues seem to sleep in the calm, and are called out only to combat the kindred storm.
But the greatest eulogy of this people is the generosity of their miscreants ; the tenderness in general of their robbers and highwaymen. Perhaps no people can produce instances of the same kind, where the desperate mix pity with injustice; still show that they understand a distinction in crimes, and even in acts of violence have still some tincture of remaining virtue. In every other country robbery and mur. der go almost always together ; here it seldom happens, except upon ill-judged resistance or pursuit. The banditti of other countries are unmerciful to a supreme degree; the highwayman and robber here are generous at least in their intercourse among each other. Taking therefore my opinion of the English from the virtues and vices practised among the vul. gar, they at once present to a stranger all their faults, and keep their virtues up only for the inquiring eye of a philosopher.
Foreigners are generally shocked at their insolence upon first coming among them; they find themselves ridiculed and insulted in every street; they meet with none of those trifling civilities, so frequent elsewhere which are instances of mutual good-will without previous acquaintance ; they travel through the country either too ignorant or too obstinate to cultivate a closer acquaintance, meet every moment something to excite their disgust, and return home to characterise this as the region of spleen, insolence, and ill-natureIn short, England would be the last place in the world