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It is easy to observe, that comic writers exaggejate every character, and draw their fop or coward with stronger features than are any where to be met with in nature. This moral kind of painting for the stage has been often compared to the painting for cupolas and ceilings, where the colours are overcharged, and every part is drawn excessively large, and beyond nature. The figures seem mon. strous and disproportioned, when seen too nigh; but become natural and regular, when set at a distance, and placed in that point of view, in which they are intended to be surveyed. For a like reafon, when characters are exhibited in theatrical representations, the want of reality removes, in a manner, the personages; and rendering them more cold and unentertaining, makes it necessary to compensate, by the force of colouring, what they want in substance. Thus we find in common life, that when a man once allows himself to depart from truth in his narrations, he never can keep within bounds of-probability; but adds still some new cir. cumstance to render his stories more marvellous, and to satisfy: his imagination. Two men in buckram suits became eleven to Sir John Falstaff, before the end of his story.
There is only one vice, which may be found in life with as strong features, and as high a colour. ing as need be employed by any satirist or comic poet; and that is Avarice. Every day we meet with men of immenfe fortunes, without heirs, and on the very brink of the grave, who refuse themselves the most common necessaries of life, and
go on heaping possessions on poffesfions under all the real pressures of the severest poverty. An old usurer, fays the story, lying in his last agonies was presented by the priest with the crucifix to worship, He opens his eyes a moment before he expires, considers the crucifix, and cries, These jewels are not true ; I can only lend ten pistoles upon such a pledge. This was probably the invention of fome epigrammatist; and yet every one, from his own experience, may be able to recollect almost as strong instances of perseverance in avarice. It is commonly reported of a famous miser in this city, that finding himself near death, he sent for fome of the magistrates, and gave them a bill of an hun. dred pounds, payable after his decease, which sum he intended should be disposed of in charitable uses; but scarce were they gone, when he orders them to be called back, and offers them ready money if they would abate five pounds of the sum. Another noted mifer in the north, intending to defraud his heirs, and leave his fortune to the building an hospital, protracted the drawing of his will from day to day; and it is thought, that if those interested in it had not paid for the drawing of it, he would have died intestate. In short, none of the most
furious excefses of love and ambition are, in
any respect, to be compared to the extremes of avarice.
The best excuse that can be made for avarice is, that it generally prevails in old men, or in men of cold tempers, where all the other affections are extinct ; and the mind being incapable of remaining without fome paffion or pursuit, at lak finds out this mon. frously absurd one, which suits the coldness and inactivity of its temper.
At the same time, it seems very extraordinary, that fo frosty, spiritless a passion fhould be able to carry us farther than all the warmth of youth and pleasure. But if we look more narrowly into the matter, we shall find, that this very circumstance renders the explication of the case more easy. When the temper is warm and full of vigour, it naturally shoots out more ways than one, and produces inferior pafsions to counterbalance, in some degree, its predominant inclination. It is impossible for a person of that temper, however bent on any pursuit, to be deprived of all sense of shame, or all regard to the sentiments of mankind. His friends must have some influence over him; and other considerations are apt to have their weight. All this serves to restrain him within some bounds. But it is no wonder that the avaritious man, being, from the coldness of his temper, without regard to reputation, to friendship or to pleasure, should be carried so far by his prevailing inclination, and should display his passion in fach surprizing instances.
Accordingly we find no vice so irreclaimable as avarice: and though there scarcely has been a moralist or philosopher, from the beginning of the world to this day, who has not levelled a stroke at it, we hardly find a single instance of any person's being cured of it. For this reason, I am more apt to approve of those, who attack it with wit and hu. mour, than of those who treat it in a serious man.
Their being so little hopes of doing good to the people infected with this vice, I would have the rest of mankind, at least, diverted by our manner of exposing it: as indeed there is no kind of diver. fion, of which they seem so willing to partake.
Among the fables of Monsieur de la Motte, there is one levelled against avarice, which seems to me more natural and easy than most of the fables of that ingenious author. A miser, says he, being dead, and fairly interred, came to the banks of the Styx, desiring to be ferried over along with the other ghosts. Charon demands his fare, and is surprised to see the miser, rather than pay it, throw himself into the river, and swim over to the other fide, notwithstanding all the clamour and opposition that could be made to himn. All hell was in an uproar; and each of the judges was meditating fome punishment, suitable to a crime of such dangerous consequence to the infernal revenues. Shall he be chained to the rock with Prometheus? Or tremble below the precipice in company with the Danaides? Or aslist Sisyphus in rolling his stone ? No, fays Minos, none of these. We must invent fome severer punishment. Let him be sent back to the earth, to see the use his heirs are making of his riches,
I hope it will not be interpreted as a design of setting myself in opposition to this celebrated author, if I proceed to deliver a fable of my own, which is intended to expose the same vice of avam rice. The hint of it was taken from these lines of Mr. Pope :
Damn’d to the mines, an equal fate betides
Our old mother Earth once lodged an indictment against Avarice before the courts of heaven, for her wicked and malicious counsel and advice in tempting, inducing, persuading, and traitorously seducing the children of the plaintiff to commit the deteitable crime of parricide upon her, and, mangling her body, ransack her very bowels for hidden treasure. The indictment was very long and verbose; but we must omit a great part of the repetitions and synonymous terms, not to tire our readers too much with our tale. Avarice, being called before Jupi. ter to answer to this charge, had not much to say in her own defence. The injury was clearly proved upon her. "The fact, indeed, was notorious, and the injury had been frequently repeated. When, therefore, the plaintiff demanded justice, Jupiter very readily gave sentence in her favour; and his decree was to this purpose - That, since dame Ava