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poetry. I do sometimes laugh, and am often angry with myself when I think on it; and if I had a son inclined by nature to the same folly, I believe I should bind him from it by the strictest conjurations of a paternal blessing. For what can be more ridiculous than to labour to give men delight, whilst they labour on their part more earnestly to take offence ? to expose oneself voluntarily and frankly to all the dangers of that narrow passage to unprofitable fame, which is defended by rude multitudes of the ignorant, and by armed troops of the malicious ? If we do ill, many discover it, and all despise us. If we do well, but few men find it out, and fewer entertain it kindly. If we commit errors, there is no pardon ; if we could do wonders, there would be but little thanks, and that too extorted from unwilling givers.”
Of course his play had been coldly received. · Here is another bit of autobiography, singularly interesting, as coming from one who, although he never could retain the rules of grammar, was an eminent scholar, and the most precocious of all poets. It forms part of the essay, headed “ Of Myself.”
“It is a hard and a nice subject for a man to write of himself. It pains his own heart to say anything of disparagement, and the reader's ears to bear anything of praise from him. There is no danger from me of my offending him in that kind; neither my mind, nor my body, nor ny fortune allow me any materials for that vanity.
“ As far as my memory can return back into my past life, before I knew, or was capable of guessing, what the world or the glories or business of it were, the natural affections of my soul gave me a secret bent of aversion from them, as some plants are said to turn away from others by an antipathy, imperceptible to themselves, and inscrutable to man's understanding. Even when I was a very young boy at school, instead of roaming about on holidays, and playing with my fellows, I was wont to steal from them, and walk into the fields, either alone with a book, or with some one companion if I could find him of the same temper. I was then, too, so much an enemy to all constraint, that my master could never prevail on me by any persuasions or encouragements to learn without book the common rules of grammar; in which they dispensed with me alone, because they found I made a shift
to do the same exercise out of my own reading and observation. That I was then of the same mind that I am now (which, I confess, I wonder at myself) may appear by the latter end of an ode, which I made when I was but thirteen years old, and which was then printed with many other verses. The beginning of it is boyish, but of this part which I have set down (if a very little were corrected) I should hardly now be much ashamed:
" This only grant me, that my means may lie,
Some honour I would have,
Rumour can ope the grave.
My house, a cottage more
My garden painted o'er
And in this true delight,
But boldly say each night,
Or in clouds hide them-I have lived to-day. “ You may see by it I was even then acquainted with the poets (for the conclusion is taken out of Horace); and perhaps it was the immature and immoderate love of them which stampt first, or rather engraved these characters in me; they were like letters cut into the bark of a young tree, which, with the tree, still grows proportionably. But how this love came to be produced in me so early is a hard question. I believe I can tell the particular little chance that filled my head first with such chimes of verse as have never since left ringing there : for I remember when I began to read and to take some pleasure in it, there was wont to lie in my mother's parlour (I know not by what accident, for she herself never in her life read any book but of devotion), but there was wont to lie Spenser's works. This I happened to fall upon, and was infinitely delightėd with the stories of the knights, and giants, and monsters, and brave houses which I found everywhere there (though my understanding had little to do with all this); and by degrees with the tinkling of the rhyme and dance of the numbers ; so that I think I had read him all over before I was twelve years old, and was thus made a poet. “A veil of thickened air around them cast,
“With these affections of mind, and my heart wholly set upon letters, I went to the University ; but was soon torn. from thence by that violent public storm which would suffer nothing to stand where it did, but rooted up every plant, even from the princely cedars to me the hyssop. Yet I had as good fortune as could have befallen in such a tempest ; for I was cast by it into the family of one of the best persons, and into the Court of one of the best princesses of the world. Now, though I was here engaged in ways most contrary to the original design of my life, that is, into much company and no small business, and into a daily sight of greatness, both militant and triumphant (for that was the state then of the English and French Courts); yet all this was so far from altering my opinion, that it only added the confirmation of reason to that which was before but natural inclination. I saw clearly all the paint of that kind of life, the nearer I came to it; and that beauty which I did not fall in love with, when, for aught I knew, it was real, was not like to bewilder or entice me, when I saw that it was adulterate. I met with several great persons whom I liked very well, but could not perceive that any part of their greatness was to be liked or desired, no more than I would be glad or content to be in a storm although I saw many ships which rid safely and bravely in it: a storm would not agree with my stomach, if it did with my courage. Though I was in a crowd of as good company as could be found anywhere, though I was in business of great and honourable trust, though I ate at the best table, and enjoyed the best conveniences for present subsistence that ought to be desired by a man of my condition in banishment and public distresses, yet I could not abstain from renewing my old schoolboy's wish in a copy of verses to the same
"Well, then, I now do plainly see
“And I never then proposed to myself any other advantage from his Majesty's happy Restoration, but the getting into some moderately convenient retreat in the country, which I thought in that case I might easily have compassed, as well as some others, who, with no greater probabilities or pretences, have arrived to extraordinary fortune: but I had before written a shrewd prophecy against myself; and I think Apollo inspired me in the truth, though not in the elegance of it:
“ Thou neither great at court, nor in the war,
Nor at the exchange shalt be, nor at the wrangling bar.
Which neglected verse doth raise.
However, by the failing of the forces which I had expected, I did not quit the design which I had resolved on. I cast myself into it a corps perdu without making capitulations, or taking counsel of Fortuno. But God laughs at a man who says to his soul, Take thy ease. I met presently not only with many little encumbrances and impediments, but with so much sickness (a new misfortune to me) as would have spoilt the happiness of an emperor, as well as mine. Yet do I neither repent nor alter my course, non ego perfidum dixi sacramentum, nothing shall separate me from a mistress which I have loved so long, and have now at last married, though she neither has brought me a rich portion, nor lived yet so quietly with me as I hoped from her.
“Nor by me e'er shall you,
As long as life itself forsakes not me.”
“ The pleasantest condition of life is in incognito. What a brave privilege is it to be free from all contentions, from all envying, or being envied, from receiving or paying all kinds of ceremonies ! It is, in my mind, a very delightful pastime for two good and agreeable friends to travel up and down together in places where they are by nobody known, nor know anybody. It was the case of Æneas and his Achates, when they walked invisibly about the fields and streets of Carthage. Venus herself,
That none might know or see them as they past. “ The common story of Demosthenes' confession, that he had taken a great pleasure in hearing of a basket-woman say, as he passed, “This is that Demosthenes,' is wonderfully ridiculous from so solid an orator. I myself have often met with that temptation to vanity (if it were any); but am so far from finding it any pleasure, that it only makes me run faster from the place till I get (as it were) out of sight-shot. Democritus relates, and in such a manner as if he gloried in the good fortune and commodity of it, that when he came to Athens, nobody there did so much as take notice of him; and Epicurus lived there very well, that is, lay hid many years in his gardens, so famous since that time, with his friend Metrodorus ; after whose death, making in one of his letters a kind commemoration of the happiness which they two had enjoyed together, he adds at last, that he thought it no disparagement to those qualifications of their life, that, in the midst of the most talked-of and talking country in the world, they had lived so long, not only without fame, but almost without being heard of. And yet, within a few years afterwards, there were no two names of men more known, or more generally celebrated. If we engage into a large acquaintance, and various familiarities, we set open our gates to the invaders of most of our time: we exposé our life to a quotidian ague of frigid impertinence, which would make a wise man tremble to think of. Now, as for being known much by sight, and pointed at, I cannot comprehend the honour that lies in that. Whatsoever it be, every mountebank has it more than the best orator, and the hangman more than the Lord Chief Justice of a city. Every creature has it, both of nature and art, if it be anyways extraordinary. It was as often said, This is that Bucephalus, or This is that Incitatus, when they were led prancing through the streets, as This is that Alexander, or This is that Domitian ; and truly for the latter, I take Incitatus to have been a much more honourable beast than his master, and more deserving the consulship than he the empire.
“I love and commend a true, good fame, because it is the shadow of virtue ; not that it doth any good to the body which it accompanies, but it is an efficacious shadow, and like