« PreviousContinue »
reflecting, how happy he must be who now takes the reward of his excellencies, without the possibility of falling away from them and losing the virtue which he professed, op whose character death has fixed a kind of seal, and placed him out of the reach of vice and infamy ! for death only closes a mau's reputation, and determines it as either good or bad. On the contrary, in life nothing is certain ; whilst any one is liable to alteration, we may possibly be forced to retract our esteem for him, and some time or other he may appear to us, as under a different light than what he does at present; for the life of no man can be pronounced either happy or miserable, virtuous or abandoned, before the conclusion of it. It was upon this reflection, that Solon, being asked by Croesus, a monarch of immense riches, Who was the happiest man? answered, After your death I. shall be able to determine. Besides, though a man should pursue a constant and determinate course of virtue, though he were to keep a regular symmetry and uniformity in his actions, and preserve the beauty of his reputation to the last, yet (while he lives) his very virtue may incur some evil inputation, and provoke a thousand murmurs of detraction; for, believe me, my dear sister, there is no instance of any virtue, or social excellence, which has not excited the envy of innumerable assailants, whose acrimony is raised barely by seeing others pleased, and by hearing commendation which another enjoys. It is not easy in this life for any man to escape censure; and infamy requires very little labour to assist its circulation. But there is a kind of sanction in the characters of the dead, which gives due force and reward to their merits, and defends them from the suggestions of calumny. But to return to the point; what reason is there to disturb yourself on this melancholy occasion ? Do but reflect that thousands die every : moment of time; that even while we speak, some unhappy wretch or other is either pining with hunger, or pinched with poverty, sometimes giving up his life to the point of the sword, torn with convulsive agonies, and undergoing many miseries which it were superfluous to mention. We should therefore compare our afflictions with those who are more miserable, and not with those who are more happy. I am ashamed to add more, lest I should seem to mistrust your prudence; but next week, when I understand your mind is more composed, I shall write you word how all things go here. I designed to write you this letter in French, but I thought I could express my thoughts with more energy, in my own language.'
I come now, after a long interval, to mention some more private circumstances. Pray give my duty to my Mamma, and thank her for my shirts. They fit, in my opinion, very well; though Biddy says they are too little in the arms. You may expect a letter from me every day in the week till I come home; for Mrs. Biscoe has desired it, and has given me some franks. When
- you see her, you may tell her that her little boy
sends his duty to her, and Mr. Biscoe his love to
his sister, and desires to be remembered to Miss u Cleeve: he also sends his compliments to my
Mamma and you. Upon my word I never thought
our bleak air would have so good an effect upon o him. His complexion is now ruddy, which before
was sallow and pale, and he is indeed much grown :
If I am not deceived by my partiality for the memory of Sir William Jones, this letter will be perused with interest by the public. The topics selected for the consolation of his sister, are not
indeed of tlie most novel nature, nor the best adapted to afford it; and we may sinile at the gravity of the young moralist, contrasted with the familiarity of the circumstances detailed in the latter part of the epistle, which I found no disposition to reject : but the letter, as it stands, will furnish no contemptible proof of his talents and fraternal affection, and may serve as a standard of comparison to parents, for estimating the abilities of their own children.
The period of tuition under Dr. Sumner passed rapidly, to the mutual satisfaction of the master and scholar, until Jones had reached his seventeenth year; when it was determined to remove hiin to one of the Universities. This determination was not adopted without much hesitation ; for it had been strongly recommended to his mother, by Sergeant Prime, and other Lawyers, to place him, at the age of sixteen, in the office of some eminent special pleader: and they supported their recommendation by an observation, equally flattering to him and tempting to his mother, that his talents,. united with such indefatigable industry, must ensure the most brilliant success, and consequently the acquisition of wealth and reputation. It is a singular proof of his curiosity to explore unusual tracks of learning, that, at this early age, he had perused the Abridgement of Coke's Institutes, by Ireland, with so much attention, that he frequently amused the legal friends of his mother, by reasoning with them on old
Cases, which were supposed to be confined to the learned in the profession. The law, however, at that time, had little attraction for him; and he felt no inclination to renounce his Demosthenes and Cicero for the pleadings in Westminster-Hall. His disgust to the study of the law had also been particularly excited, by the perusal of some old and inaccurate abridgement of law-cases in barbarous Latin. This disinclination on his part, the solicitude of Dr. Sumner, that he should devote some years to the completion of his studies at the University, and the objections of his mother, founded on reasons of economy, to a profession. which could not be pursued without considerable expense, fixed her decision against the advice of her legal friends. The choice of an University was also the occasion of some discussion. Cambridge was recommended by Dr. Sumner, who had received his education there : but Dr. Glasse, who had private pupils at Harrow, and had always distinguished Jones by the kindest attention, recommended Oxford. His choice was adopted by Mrs. Jones, who, in compliance with the wishes of her son, had deterinined to reside at the University with him, and greatly preferred the situation of Oxford. .
In the Spring of 1764, he went to the University for the purpose of being matriculated and entered at College*: but he returned to Harrow •
for * The following is the form of his admission into University