Page images

generous persons, liable to his temptations, and superior to them. Such persons have made such objections, though not unaccompanied with assumptions that might have been spared; probably in consequence of the re-action in Steele’s favor in the writings of Hazlitt and others. The objections, however, deserve to be respectfully replied to; and the just reply, we think, is, that you must consider every writer and every man as the result of all the circumstances that have made him what he is, bodily and mental, and then judge whether that result is a gain and pleasure to the world, and a compensation for the less allowable of those circumstances. For a man cannot be one man and another too; cannot be Steele and Addison both ; at least we are not aware that any such person has been met with, however modified the varieties of their like may be. Would you have had no such thing as Steele's imprudence, and been content to lose the Tatler and the Guardian ? as Fielding's, and been without Tom Jones and Amelia? as Smollett’s, and had no Roderick Random or Humphrey Clinker? Or, if you say that Addison could have written, and did write, as good and humorous things as those, will you say that the others did not write with a difference from Addison ; and with such a difference as the world strongly feels and highly delights in? You will grant this of course. What constitutes, then, the difference of Steele, of Fielding, and of Smollet, from such a writer as Addison ? and could that difference have delighted us as it does, had it not resulted from the entire natures and circumstances of the men? Very foolish and very presumptuous, we grant, would it be in any given imprudent person to quote their mple in his defence, even though he should turn out some day to have had warrant for it, or be regarded with indulgence meantime by such as think he has. Those who have nothing in them to justify such an exceptional consideration, come under another category altogether, whatever may be said in their excuse; and those who have something, must be content modestly to await the chance of its recognition, and to pay in the meantime the penalty of its drawbacks.

If there were no worse men in the world than Steele, what a planet we should have of it ? Steele knew his own foibles as well as any

He regretted, and made amends for them, and left posterity a name for which they have reason to thank and love him. Posterity thanks Addison too; but it can hardly be said to love him, even by the help of the good old knight Sir Roger, whom Steele invented for him.


Perhaps they would have loved him more, had he too confessed his faults ; or even had he told them in what the only one consisted, at which he hinted when he sent for Gay on his death-bed, and asked his pardon for having done him some wrong. Steele asked pardon for wrong, long before he died. The last thing we hear of him is neither a solitary acknowledgment nor a Christian vaunt, but his sitting out of doors in his retirement, giving the village maidens prizes to contend for. He said modestly of his life-(far too modestly, for he was a loving husband and father, and a disinterested patriot), that it was but pardonable ;” and in his beautiful effusion to the memory of his friend Estcourt the comedian, he expressed his gratitude to that honest mimic for having made him sensible of his defects, and taught him to care for nothing but the subjection of his will.

The reader will find the passage below.*

Truly curious was it, and lucky for the world that Dick Steele and Joseph Addison should have grown up together from childhood, and become the Beaumont and Fletcher of social ethics. But they had

*"What was peculiarly excellent in this memorable companion was, that in the accounts he gave of persons and sentiments he did not only hit the figure of their faces and manner of their gestures, but he would, in his narrations, fall into their way of thinking, and this when he recounted passages wherein men of the best wits were concerned, as well as such wherein were represented men of the lowest rank of understanding. It is certain as great an instance of self-love to a weakness, to be impatient of being mimicked, as any can be imagined. There were none but the vain, the formal, the proud, or those who were incapable of amending their faults, dreaded him; to others he was in the highest degree pleasing :and I do not know any satisfaction of any different kind I ever tasted so much, as having got over an impatience of seeing myself in the air he could put me when I had displeased him. It is indeed owing to his exquisite talent this way, more than any philosophy I could read on the subject, that my person is very little of my care; and it is indefferent to me what is said of my shape, my air, my manner, my speech, or my address. It is to poor Estcourt I chiefly owe, that I am arrived at the happiness of thinking nothing a diminution to me, but what argues a depravity of my will.

[ocr errors][merged small]

“ I have been present with him among men of the most delicate taste the whole night, and have known him (for he saw it was desired) keep the discourse to himself the most part of it, and maintain his good-humor with a countenance and in a language so delightful, without offence to any person or thing upon earth, still preserving the distance his circumstances obliged him to; I say, I have seen him do all this in such a charming manner, that I am sure none of those I hint at will read this, without giving some sorrow for their abundant mirth, and one gush of tears for so many bursts of laughter. I wish it were any honor to the pleasant creature's memory, that my eyes are too much suffused to let me go on

tastes in common, and admirable was the result; a music more charming for the counter-point; Addison's band the staider and the calmer, the more artful, the more informed, yet playful withal, though never losing its self-possession ;-Steele's the more wandering and capricious, the lighter, the less solemn, yet now and then touching forth notes of a more tender sweetness, and such as fill the eyes with tears. Addison knew nothing of those.

The reader will find evidences of this pathos in most of the following stories. Those of Valentine and Unnion, and Inkle and Yarico, he has probably been acquainted with from childhood; but they are repeated for that reason. Both are master-pieces; the latter would be not unworthy of perusal after one of Chaucer's. The Dream is lovely; and the Fire, and the Wedding Day, heart-rending. It is remarkable, considering the gaiety of most of Steele's writings, that there should be only one comic story out of the eight. The husband's flopping down by the side of his wife, and whispering in her insensible ear, is very ludicrous.



T the siege of Namur by the allies, there were in the

ranks of the company commanded by Captain Pincent, in Colonel Frederick Hamilton's regiment, one Unnion a corporal, and one Valentine a private sentinel ; there happened between these two men a dispute about a matter of love, which upon some aggravations grew to an irreconcilable hatred. Unnion, being the officer of Valentine, took all opportunities even to strike his rival, and profess the spite and revenge which moved him to it. The sentinel bore it without resistance, but frequently said he would die to be revenged of that tyrant. They had spent whole months thus, one injuring, the other complaining, when in the midst of this

rage towards each other they were commanded upon the attack of the castle, where the corporal received a shot in the thigh, and fell;, the French pressing on, and he expecting to be trampled to death, called out to his enemy, " Ah, Valentine ! can you leave me here ?" Valentine immediately ran back, and in the midst of a thick fire of the French took the corporal upon his back and brought him through all that danger as far as the Abbey of Salsine, where a cannon ball took off his head : his body fell under his enemy, whom he was carrying off. Unnion immediately forgot his wound, rose up, tearing his hair, and then threw himself upon the bleeding carcase, crying, “ Ah, Valentine ! was it for me who have so barbarously used thee, that thou hast died? I will not live after thee.” He was not by any means to be forced from the body, but was removed with it bleeding in his arms, and attended with tears by all their comrades who knew their enmity. When he was brought to a tent his wounds were dressed by force; but the next day, still calling upon Valentine, and lamenting his cruelties to him, he died in the pangs of remorse and despair.



YLARINDA and Chloe, two very fine women, were bred

up as sisters in the family of Romeo, who was the father of Chloe and guardian of Clarinda. Philander, a young gentleman of a good person and charming conversation, being a friend of old Romeo, frequented his house, and by that means was much in conversation with the young ladies, though still in the presence of the father and the guardian. The ladies both entertained a secret passion for him, and could see well enough, notwithstanding the delight which he really took in Romeo's conversation, that there was something more in his heart which made him so assiduous a visitant. Each of them thought herself the happy woman, but the person beloved was Chloe. It happened that both of them were at a play on a carnival evening, when it is the fashion there,* as well as in most countries of Europe, both for men and women, to appear in masks and disguises. It was in that memorable night in the year 1679, when the playhouse by some unhappy accident was set on fire. Philander, in the first hurry of the disaster, immediately ran where his treasure was, burst open the door of the box, snatched the lady up in his arms, and with unspeakable resolution and good fortune carried her off safe. He was no sooner out of the crowd but he set her down, and grasping her in his arms with all the raptures of a deserving lover, “ How happy am I," says he, “ in an opportunity to tell you I love you more than all things, and of showing you the sincerity of my passion at the very first declaration of it.” “My dear, dear Philander,” says the lady, pulling off her mask, “this is not the time for art; you are mruch dearer to me than the life

you have preserved, and the joy of my present deliverance does not transport me so much as the passion which occasioned it." Who can tell the grief, the astonishment, the terror, that appeared in the face of Philander when he saw the person he spoke to was Clarinda ! After a short pause, “ Madam," says he, with the looks of a dead man, we are both mistaken;" and immediately flew away, without hearing the distressed Clarinda, who had just strength enough to cry out, “Cruel Philander ! why did you not leave me in the theatre ?" Crowds of people immediately gathered about her, and after having brought

* In Denmark, Philander, Chloe, &c. sound very absurd as Danish people, but this application of ancient names to modern persons was the taste of the age. Romeo, however, was an innovation still more fantastical. Steele, I suppose, in despair for some fresh name, had it suggested to him by the theatrical ground of this most affecting story.

« PreviousContinue »