Abbildungen der Seite

lins had drawn from me, and almost in continual agony at the thoughts of Vernon, who fortunately made no demand of his money till several years after.

In the account of my first voyage from Boston to Philadelphia, I omitted, I believe, a trifling circumstance, which will not, perhaps, be out of place here. During a calm, which stopped us above Block Island, the crew employed themselves in fishing for cod, of which they caught a great number. I had hitherto adhered to my resolution of not eating any thing that had possessed life; and I considered, on this occasion, agreeably to the maxims of my master Tyron, the capture of every fish as a sort of murder, committed without provocation, since these animals had neither done, nor were capable of doing, the smallest injury to any one that should justify the measure. This mode of reasoning I conceived to be unanswerable. Meanwhile, I had formerly been extremely fond of fish; and, when one of these cod was taken out of the fryingpan, thought its flavor delicious. I hesitated some time between principle and inclination, till at last recollecting, that when the cod had been opened some small fish were found in its belly, I said to myself, if you eat one another, I see no reason why we may not eat you. I accordingly dined on the cod with no small degree of pleasure, and have since continued to eat like the rest of mankind, returning only occasionally to my vegetable plan. How convenient does it prove to be a rational animal, that knows how to find or invent a plausible pretext for whatever it has an inclination to do.

I continued to live upon good terms with Keimer, who had not the smallest suspicion of my projected establishment. He still retained a portion of his former enthusiasm; and, being

fond of argument, we frequently disputed together. I was so much in the habit of using my Socratic method, and had so frequently puzzled him by my questions, which appeared at first very distant from the point in debate, yet, nevertheless, led to it by degrees, involving him in difficulties and contradictions from which he was unable to extricate himself, that he became at last ridiculously cautious, and would scarcely answer the most plain and familiar question without previously asking me-What would you infer from that? Hence he formed so high an opinion of my talents for refutation, that he seriously proposed to me to become his colleague in the establishment of a new religious sect. He was to propagate the doctrine by preaching, and I to refute every opponent.

When he explained to me his tenets, I found many absurdities which I refused to admit, unless he would agree in turn to adopt some of my opinions. Keimer wore his beard long, because Moses had somewhere said, "Thou shalt not mar the corners of thy beard." He likewise observed the Sabbath; and these were with him two very essential points. I disliked them both: but I consented to adopt them, provided he would agree to abstain from animal food. "I doubt," said he, "whether my constitution will be able to support it." I assured him on the contrary, that he would find himself the better for it. He was naturally a glutton, and I ́wished to amuse myself by starving him. He consented to make trial of this regimen, if I would bear him company; and, in reality, we continued it for three months. A woman in the neighborhood prepared and brought us our victuals, to whom I gave a list of forty dishes; in the composition of which there entered neither flesh nor

fsh. This fancy was the more agreeable, to me, as it turned to good account; for the whole expense of our living did not exceed for each eighteen-pence a week.

I have since that period observed several Lents with the greatest strictness, and have suddenly returned again to my ordinary diet, without experiencing the smallest inconvenience; which has led me to regard as of no importance the advice commonly given, of introducing gradually such alterations of regimen.

I continued it cheerfully; but poor Keimer suffered terribly. Tired of the project, he sighed for the flesh pots of Egypt. At length he ordered a roast pig, and invited me and two of our female acquaintance to dine with him; but the pig being ready a little too soon, he could not resist the temptation, and ate it all up before we arrived.

During the circumstances I have related, I had paid some attentions to Miss Read. I entertained for her the utmost esteem and affection; and I had reason to believe that these sentiments were mutual. But we were both young, scarcely more than eighteen years of age; and, as I was on the point of undertaking a long voyage, her mother thought it prudent to prevent matters being carried too far for the present, judging that, if marriage was our object, there would be more propriety in it after my return, when, as at least I expected, I should be established in my business. Perhaps also she thought that my expectations were not so well founded as I imagined.

My most intimate acquaintance at this time were Charles Osborne, Joseph Watson, and James Ralph; young men who were all fond of reading. The two first were clerks to Mr.

Charles Brockdon, one of the principal attor neys in the town, and the other clerk to a mer chant. Watson was an upright, pious, and sensible young man: the others were somewhat more loose in their principles of religion, particularly Ralph, whose faith, as well as that of Collins, I had contributed to shake; each of whom mademe suffer a very adequate punishment. Osborne was sensible, and sincere and affectionate in his friendships, but too much inclined to the critic in matters of literature. Ralph was ingenuous and shrewd, genteel in his address, and extremely eloquent. I do not remember to have met with a more agreeable speaker. They were both enamoured of the Muses, and had already evinced their passion by some small poetical productions.

It was a custom with us to take a charming walk on Sundays, in the woods that border the Schuylkill. Here we read together, and afterwards conversed on what we read. Ralph was disposed to give himself up entirely to poetry. He flattered himself that he should arrive at great eminence in the art, and even acquire a fortune. The sublimest poets, he pretended, when they first began to write, committed as many faults as himself. Osborne endeavored to dissuade him, by assuring him that he had no genius for poetry, and advised him to stick to the trade in which he had been brought up. "In the road of commerce," said he, "you will be sure, by diligence and assiduity, though you have no capital, of so far succeeding as to be employed as a factor; and may thus, in time, acquire the means of setting up for yourself." I concurred in these sentiments, but at the same time expressed my approbation of amusing ourselves sometimes with poetry, with a view to improve our style

In consequence of this it was proposed, that, at our next meeting, each of us should bring a copy of verses of his own composition. Our object in this competition was to benefit each other by our mutual remarks, criticisms, and corrections; and as style and expression were all we had in view, we excluded every idea of invention, by agreeing that our task should be a version of the eighteenth Psalm, in which is described the descent of the Deity.

The time of our meeting drew near, when Ralph called upon me, and told me that his performance was ready. I informed him that I had been idle, and, not much liking the task, had done nothing. He showed me his piece, and asked me what I thought of it. I expressed myself in terms of warm approbation; because it really appeared to have considerable merit.He then said, "Osborne will never acknowledge the smallest degree of excellence in any production of mine. Envy alone dictates to him a thousand animadversions. Of you he is not so jealous: I wish, therefore, you would take the verses, and produce them as your own.

I will

pretend not to have had leisure to write any thing. We shall then see in what manner he will speak of them. I agreed to this little artifice, and immediately transcribed the verses to prevent all suspicion.

We met. Watson's performance was the first that was read. It had some beauties, but many faults. We next read Osborne's, which was much better. Ralph did it justice, remarking a few imperfections, and applauding such parts as were excellent. He had himself nothing to show. It was now my turn. I made some difficulty; seemed as if I wished to be excused; pretended that I had no time to make corrections, &c.

« ZurückWeiter »