Abbildungen der Seite

fancy, as the consequence of an ambition to surpass and eclipse our equals. Whoever thinks that taste has nothing to do here, must confine the expression to improper limits; assuredly imagination may find it's account in them, wholly independent of worldly homage and considerations more invidious. In the warmth of friendship for this gentleman, I am sometimes prompted to go further. I insist, it is not birth or fortune only that give a person claim to a splendid appearance; that it may be conferred by other qualifications, in which my friend is acknowledged to have a share.

I have sometimes urged that remarkable ingenuity, any great degree of merit. in learning, arts or sciences, are a more reasonable authority for a splendid appearance than those which are commonly presumed to be so. That there is something more personal in this kind of advantages than in rank or fortune, will not be denied : and surely there ought to be some proportion observed betwixt the case and the thing inclosed. The propensity of rich and worthless people to appear with a splendor on all occasions, puts one in mind of the country shopkeeper, who gilds his boxes in order to be the receptacle of pitch or tobacco. It is not unlike the management at our theatres royal, where you see a piece of candle honoured with a crown. I have generally considered those as privileged people, who are able to support the character they assume. Those who are incapable of sbining but by dress, would do well to consider that the contrast betwixt them and their clothes turns out much to their disadvantage. It is on this account I have sometimes observed with pleasure some noblemen of immense fortune to dress exceed. ingly plain. If dress be only allowable to persons of family, it may then be considered as a sort of family-livery, and Jack, the groom, may with equal justice, pride himself on the gaudy wardrobe his master gives him. Nay more-for a gentleman, before he hires a servant, will require some testimony of his merit; whereas the master challenges his own right to splendor, tho' possessed of no merit at all. On my present scheme of dress, it may seem to answer some very good purposes. It is then established on the same foundation as the judge's robe and the prelate's lawn. If dress were only authorized in men .of ingenuity, we should find many aiming at the previous merit in hopes of the subsequent distinction. The finery of an empty fellow would render him as ridiculous as a star and garter would one never knighted: and men would use as commendable a diligence to qualify themselves for a brocaded waistcoat, or a gold-snuff box, as they now do to procure themselves a right of investing their limbs in lawn or ermine. We should not esteem a man a concomb for his dress, till, by frequent conversation we discovered a flaw in his title. If he was incapable of uttering a bon mot, the gold upon his coat would seem foreign to his circumstances. A man should not wear a French dress, till he could give an account of the best French authors; and he should be versed in all the oriental languages before he should presume to wear a diamond. It may be urged, that men of the greatest merit may not be able to shew it in their dress, on account of their slender income. But here it should be considered, that another part of the world would find their equipage so much reduced by a sumptuary law of this nature, that a very mod

V hat

erate degree of splendor would distinguish them more than a greater does at present. I propose, however, on the whole is, that men of merit should be allowed to dress in proportion to it; but this with the privilege of appearing plain, whenever they found an expediency in so doing: as a nobleman lays aside bis garter, when he sees no valuable consequence in the discovery of his quality.


"* Animæ nil magnæ landis egentes.” There is an order of persons in the world, whose thoughts never deviate from the common road; whatever events occur, whatever objects present themselves, their observations are as uniform as tho' they were the consequence of instinct. There is nothing places these men in a more insignificant point of light, than a comparison of their ideas with the refinements of some great genius. I shall only add, by way of reflection, that it is people of this stamp, who, together with the soundest health, often enjoy the greatest equanimity: their passions, like dull steeds, being the least apt to endanger or misguide them : yet such is the fatality! Men of genius are often expected to act with most discretion, on account of that very fancy which is their greatest impediment. I was taking a view of Westminster-abbey, with an old gentleman of exceeding honesty, but the same degree of understanding as that I have described.

There had nothing passed in our way thither, beside the customary salutations, and an endeavour to decide with accuracy on the

4.4. present temperature of the weather. On passing over the threshold, he observed, with an air of thoughtfulness, that it was a brave ancient place. I told him, I thought there was none more suitable, to moralize on the futility of all earthly glory, as there was none which contained the ashes of men that had acquired a greater share of it. On this he gave a nod of approbation, but did not seem to comprehend me.

Silence ensued for many minutes ; when having had time to reflect on the monuments of men famous in their generations, he stood collected in himself; assuring me there was no sort of excellence could exempt a man from death.' · Iapplauded the justice of his observation; and said, it was not only my present opinion, but had been so for a number of years. 'Right,' said, he, and for my own part I seldom love to publish my remarks on a subject, till I have had them confirmed to me by a long course of experience. This last maxim, somewhat beyond his usual depth, occasioned a siJence of some few minutes. The spring had been too much bent to recover immediately it's wonted vigour. We had taken some few turns up and down the left hand aisle, when he caught sight of a monument somewhat larger than the rest, and more calculated to make impression on an ordinary imagination. As I remember, it was raised to an ancestor of the D. of Newcastle. Well,' said he, - with an air of cunning, “this is, indeed, a fine piece of workmanship; but I camot conceive this finery is of any signification to the person buried there. I told him, I thought not; and that, under a notion of respect to the deceased, people were frequently imposed on by their own pride and affectation.

We were now arrived at the nionument of Sir George Chamberlain; where my friend had just perused enough to inform him that he was an eminent physician, when he broke out with precipitation, and as tho' some iinportant discovery had struck his fancy on a sudden. I listened to him with attention, till [ found him labouring to insinuate that physicians themselves could not save their lives when their time was come.

He had not proceeded many steps from it before he beckoned to our Ciceroni. * Friend,' said he, pointing with his cane, “how long has that gentleman been dead?' The man set him right in that particular; after which, putting on a woeful countenance, 'Well,' said he, 'to behold how fast time flies away! 'Tis but a small time to look back on, since he and I met at the Devil. * Alas,' continued he,' we shall never do so again :' indulging myself with a pun that escaped me on a sudden, I told him I hoped not; and immediately took my leave. This old gentleman, as I have since heard, passed his life chiefly in the country; where it faintly participated either of pleasure or of pain. His chief delights, indeed, were sensual, but those of the less vigourous kind; an afternoon's pipe, an evening walk, or a nap after dinner. His death, which happened, it seems, quickly after, was occasioned by an uniform application to Bostock's cordial, whatever his case required. Indeed, his discourse, when any complained of sickness, was a little exuberant in the praises of this noble cathartic. But his distemper proving of a nature to which this remedy was wholly foreign, as well as his precluding the use of a more effectual recipe, he expired, not with

*A well-known tavern near Temple-bar.

« ZurückWeiter »