Sir, did you tell-relating the affair-
Yes, sir, I did: and if it's worth your care,
Ask Mr. Such-a-one, he told it me,
But, by the by, 'twas two black crows, not three.-

Resolved to trace so wondrous an event,
Whip, to the third, the virtuoso went;
Sir-and so forth-Why, yes; the thing is fact,
Though in regard to number, not exact;
It was not two black crows, 'twas only one,
The truth of that you may depend upon,
The gentleman himself told me the case-
Where may I find him ?-Why, in such a place.

Away goes he, and having found him out,
Sir, be so good as to resolve a doubt.
Then to his last informant he referr'd,
And begg’d to know, if true what he had heard ?
Did you, sir, throw up a black crow?- Not I-
Bless me! how people propagate a lie!
Black crows have been thrown up, three, two, and one ;
And here, I find, all comes, at last, to none !
Did you say nothing of a crow at all ?
Crow-crow-perhaps I might, now I recall
The matter over-And, pray, sir, what was't?
Why, I was horrid sick, and, at the last,
I did throw up, and told my neighbor so,
Something that was—as black, sir, as a crow.

WILLIAM KING. 1685—1763. DR. WILLIAM KING, born at Stepney, in Middlesex, in 1685, “ was known and esteemed,” says his biographer, “ by the first men of his time for wit and learning; and must be allowed to have been a polite scholar, an excellent orator, and an elegant and easy writer, both in Latin and English.” He died in 1763, having sketched his own character in an elegant epitaph, in which, while he acknowledges his failings, he claims the praise of benevolence, temperance, and fortitude. The work by which he is now chiefly known is that from which the following extracts are taken— Political and Literary Anecdotes of his own Times.”


Most of the commentators on the Greek and Roman poets think it sufficient to explain their author, and to give us the various readings. Some few indeed have made us remark the excellency of the poet's plan, the elegance of his diction, and the propriety of his thoughts, at the same time pointing out as examples the most striking and beautiful descriptions. Ruæus, in his comment on Virgil, certainly excelled all his fellow-laborers, who were appointed to explain and publish a series of the Roman classics for the use of the Dauphin. His mythological, historical, and geographical notes are a great proof of his learning and diligence. But he hath not entered into the spirit of the author, and dis



played the great art and judgment of the poet, particularly his knowledge of men and manners. The learned Jesuit perhaps imagined that remarks of this sort were foreign to the employment of a commentator, or for some political reasons he might think proper to omit them. And yet, in my opinion, nothing could have been more instructive arıd entertaining, as his comment was chiefly designed for the use of a young prince. The Æneid furnishes us with many examples to the purpose

I tion. However, that I may be the better understood, the following remark will explain my meaning. In the beginning of the first book, Juno makes a visit to Æolus, and desires him to raise a storm and destroy the Trojan fleet, because she hated the whole nation on account of the judgment of Paris, or, as she was pleased to express herself, because the Trojans were her enemies. Gens inimica mihi, &c. Juno was conscious that she asked a god to oblige her by an act which was both unjust and cruel, and therefore she accompanied her request with the offer of Deiopeia, the most beautiful nymph in her train : a powerful bribe, and such as she imagined Æolus could not resist. She was not disappointed: Æolus accepted her offer, and executed her commands as far as he was able. What I have to observe here, in the first place, is the necessity of that short speech, in which Juno addresses herself to Æolus. She had no time to lose. The Trojan fleet was in the Tuscan sea, sailing with a fair wind, and in a few hours would probably have been in a safe harbor. Æolus therefore answered in as few words as the goddess had addressed herself to him. But his answer is very curious. He takes no notice of the offer of Deiopeia, for whom upon any other occasion he would have thanked Juno upon his knees. But now, when she was given and accepted by him as a bribe, and as the wages of cruelty and injustice, he endeavored by his answer to avoid that imputation, and pretended he had such a grateful sense of the favors which Juno had formerly conferred on him, when she introduced him to Jupiter's table, that it was his duty to obey her commands on all occasions :

“ 'Tis your's, great queen, replies the power, to lay

The task, and mine to listen and obey." And thus insinuated even to Juno herself, that this was the sole motive of his ready compliance with her request. I am here put in mind of something similar which happened in Sir Robert Walpole's administration. He wanted to carry a question in the House of Commons, to which he knew there would be great opposition, and which was disliked by some of his own dependants. As he was passing through the Court of Requests, he met a mem


1 Tuus, O Regina, &c. Æn. 1. 76.

ber of the contrary party, whose avarice he imagined would not reject a large bribe.

He took him aside, and said, “ Such a question comes on this day; give me your vote, and here is a bank bill of 20001. ;" which he put into his hands. The member made him this answer : “ Sir Robert, you have lately served some of my particular friends; and when my wife was last at court the king was very gracious to her, which must have happened at your instance. I should therefore think myself very ungrateful (putting the bank bill into his pocket) if I were to refuse the favor you are now pleased to ask me.” This incident, if wrought up by a man of humor, would make a pleasant scene in a political farce. But to return to Virgil. The short conference between Juno and Æolus is a sufficient proof of the poet's excellent judg. ment. It demonstrates his knowledge of the world, and more particularly his acquaintance with the customs and manners of a great prince's court. Hence we may learn, that a bribe, if it be large enough, and seasonably offered, will frequently overcome the virtue and resolution of persons of the highest rank, and that the

power of love and beauty will sometimes corrupt a god, and compel him to discover a weakness unworthy of a man.



A repartee, or a quick and witty answer to an insolent taunt, or to any ill-natured or ironical joke or question, is always well received (whether in a public assembly or a private company) by the persons who hear it, and gives a reputation to the man who makes it. Cicero, in one of his letters to Atticus, informs him of some reproaches, a kind of coarse raillery, which passed between himself and Clodius in the senate, and seems to exult and value himself much on his own repartees: though I do not think that this was one of Cicero's excellencies. Atterbury, Bishop of Rochester, when a certain bill was brought into the House of Lords, said, among other things, that he prophesied last winter this bill would be attempted in the present session, and he was sorry to find that he had proved a true prophet.My Lord Coningsby, who spoke after the bishop, and always spoke in a passion, desired the House to remark, that one of the Right Reverends had set himself forth as a prophet; but for his part he did not know what prophet to liken him to, unless to that furious prophet BALAAM, who was reproved by his own ass." The bishop, in a reply, with great wit and calmness, exposed this rude attack, concluding thus : “ Since the noble Lord hath discovered in our. manners such a similitude, I am well content to be compared to the prophet BALAAM: but, my Lords, I am at a loss how to make out the other part of the parallel : I am sure that I have been reproved by nobody but his Lordship.



About the year 1706, I knew one Mr. Howe, a sensible wellnatured man, possessed of an estate of £700 or £800 per annum: he married a young lady of a good family in the west of England; her maiden name was Mallet; she was agreeable in her person and manners, and proved a very good wife. Seven or eight years after they had been married, he rose one morning very early, and told his wife he was obliged to go to the Tower to transact some particular business: the same day, at noon, his wife received a note from him, in which he informed her that he was under a necessity of going to Holland, and should probably be absent three weeks or a month. He was absent from her seventeen years, during which time she neither heard from him, or of him. The evening before he returned, whilst she was at supper, and with her some of her friends and relations, particularly one Dr. Rose, a physician, who had married her sister, a billet, without any name subscribed, was delivered to her, in which the writer requested the favor of her to give him a meeting the next evening in the Birdcage Walk, in St. James's Park. When she had read her billet, she tossed it to Dr. Rose, and laughing, “ You see, brother,” said she, “ as old as I am, I have got a gallant.” Rose, who perused the note with more attention, declared it to be Mr. Howe's handwriting: this surprised all the company, and so much affected Mrs. Howe, that she fainted away: however, she soon recovered, when it was agreed that Dr. Rose and his wife, with the other gentlemen and ladies who were then at supper, should attend Mrs. Howe the next evening to the Birdcage Walk: they had not been there more than five or six minutes, when Mr. Howe came to them, and after saluting his friends, and embracing his wife, walked home with her, and they lived together in great harmony from that time to the day of his death. But the most curious part of my tale remains to be related. When Howe left his wife, they lived in a house in Jermyn-street, near St. James's church; he went no farther than to a little street in Westminster, where he took a room, for which he paid five or six shillings a week, and changing his name, and disguising himself by wearing a black wig, (for he was a fair man,) he remained in this habitation during the whole time of his absence. He had had two children by his wife when he departed from her, who were both living

1 “I was very well acquainted with Dr. Rose, and he frequently entertained me with this remarkable story."

2 London is the only place in all Europe where a man can find a secure retreat, or remain, if he pleases, many years unknown. If he pays constantly for his lodging, for his provisions, and for whatsoever else he wants, nobody will ask a question concerning him, or inquire whence he comes, or whither he goes.


at that time: but they both died young in a few years after. However, during their lives, the second or third year after their father disappeared, Mrs. Howe was obliged to apply for an act of parliament to procure a proper settlement of her husband's estate, and a provision for herself out of it during his absence, as it was uncertain whether he was alive or dead : this act he suffered to be solicited and passed, and enjoyed the pleasure of reading the progress of it in the votes, in a little coffee-house, near his lodging, which he frequented. Upon his quitting his house and family in the manner I have mentioned, Mrs. Howe at first imagined, as she could not conceive any other cause for such abrupt elopement, that he had contracted a large debt unknown to her, and by that means involved himself in difficulties which he could not easily surmount; and for some days she lived in continual apprehensions of demands from creditors, of seizures, executions, &c. But nothing of this kind happened ; on the contrary, he did not only leave his estate quite free and unencumbered, but he paid the bills of every tradesman with whom he had any dealings; and upon examining his papers, in due time after he was gone, proper receipts and discharges were found from all persons,

whether tradesmen or others, with whom he had any manner of transactions or money concerns.

Mrs. Howe, after the death of her children, thought proper to lessen her family of servants, and the expenses of her housekeeping; and, therefore, removed from her house in Jermyn-street to a little house in Brewer-street, near Golden Square. Just over against her lived one Salt,a cornchandler. " About ten years after Howe's abdication, he contrived to make an acquaintance with Salt, and was at length in such a degree of intimacy with him, that he usually dined with Salt once or twice a week. From the room in which they eat, it was not difficult to look into Mrs. Howe's dining-room, where she generally sate and received her company; and Salt, who believed Howe to be a bachelor, frequently recommended his own wife to him as a suitable match. During the last seven years of this gentleman's absence, he went every Sunday to St. James's church, and used to sit in Mr. Salt's seat, where he had a view of his wife, but could not easily be seen by her. After he returned home, he never would confess, even to his most intimate friends, what was the real cause of such a singular conduct; apparently, there was none: but whatever it was, he was certainly ashamed to own it. Dr. Rose has often said to me, that he believed his brother Howe

[ocr errors]


1 "I knew Salt, who related to me the particulars which I have here mentioned, and many others, which have escaped my memory."

2 “And yet I have seen him after his return addressing his wife in the language of a young bridegroom. And I have been assured by some of his most intimate friends, that he treated her during the rest of their lives with the greatest kindness and affection." 2 M


« VorigeDoorgaan »