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For behind it stand the loving nature to which everything human is the object of affectionate concern ; the placid temper that no passion could ruffle; a life unsullied by excess; a deep yet simple piety; powers of observation ever on the watch; the discipline of travel; an inherited love of letters to which the study of his country's masterpieces and the models of classical refinement had given precision, freedom, grace of movement, aptness of illustration, sobriety of tone, unerring sense of proportion. Johnson may justly say that "whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison." He must do so, however, with a contented foreknowledge that as easily may he imprison "the viewless winds as catch the easy grace with which Mr. Spectator bears himself along.
I have to offer my best thanks to Mr. Reginald Brimley Johnson for having kindly undertaken to read the proofs of this volume, and for interesting information on various points also to Dr. J. A. H. Murray for an explanation of the term 'paring-shovel.'
One with a flash begins, and ends in smoke;
Surprises us with dazzling miracles.-Roscommon.
I HAVE observed, that a reader seldom peruses a book with pleasure till he knows whether the writer of it be a black or a fair man, of a mild or choleric disposition, married or a bachelor, with other particulars of the like nature, that 10 conduce very much to the right understanding of an author. To gratify this curiosity, which is so natural to a reader, I design this paper, and my next, as prefatory discourses to my following writings, and shall give some account in them of the several persons that are engaged in this work. As the chief trouble of compiling, digesting, and correcting will fall to my share, I must do myself the justice to open the work with my own history.
I was born to a small hereditary estate, which according to the tradition of the village where it lies, was bounded by 20 the same hedges and ditches in William the Conqueror's
time that it is at present, and has been delivered down from father to son whole and entire, without the loss or acquisition of a single field or meadow, during the space of six hundred years. There runs a story in the family, that, some time before my birth, my mother dreamt that her child was to be a judge. Whether this might proceed from a law-suit which was then depending in the family, or my father's being a justice of the peace, I cannot determine; for I am not so vain as to think it presaged any 10 dignity that I should arrive at in my future life, though that was the interpretation which the neighbourhood put upon it. The gravity of my behaviour at my very first appearance in the world, and afterwards, seemed to favour my mother's dream: for, as she has often told me, I threw away my rattle before I was two months old, and would not make use of my coral till they had taken away the bells from it.
As for the rest of my infancy, there being nothing in it remarkable, I shall pass it over in silence. I find that, during 20 my nonage, I had the reputation of a very sullen youth, but was always a favourite of my schoolmaster, who used to say, that my parts were solid, and would wear well. I had not been long at the university, before I distinguished myself by a most profound silence: for, during the space of eight years, excepting in the public exercises of the college, I scarce uttered the quantity of an hundred words; and indeed do not remember that I ever spoke three sentences together in my whole life. Whilst I was in this learned body, I applied myself with so much diligence to my studies, 30 that there are very few celebrated books, either in the learned or the modern tongues, which I am not acquainted with.
Upon the death of my father I was resolved to travel into foreign countries, and therefore left the university, with the character of an odd unaccountable fellow, that had a great deal of learning, if I would but show it. An insati
able thirst after knowledge carried me into all the countries of Europe, in which there was anything new or strange to be seen; nay, to such a degree was my curiosity raised, that having read the controversies of some great men concerning the antiquities of Egypt, I made a voyage to Grand Cairo, on purpose to take the measure of a pyramid; and, as soon as I had set myself right in that particular, returned to my native country with great satisfaction.
I have passed my latter years in this city, where I am frequently seen in most public places, though there are not 10 above half a dozen of my select friends that know me; of whom my next paper shall give a more particular account. There is no place of general resort wherein I do not often make my appearance; sometimes I am seen thrusting my head into a round of politicians at Will's, and listening with great attention to the narratives that are made in those little circular audiences. Sometimes I smoke a pipe at Child's and, while I seem attentive to nothing but the PostMan, overhear the conversation of every table in the room. I appear on Sunday nights at St. James's coffee house, and 20 sometimes join the little committee of politics in the inner room, as one who comes there to hear and improve. My face is likewise very well known at the Grecian, the CocoaTree, and in the theatres both of Drury Lane and the HayMarket. I have been taken for a merchant upon the Exchange for above these ten years, and sometimes pass for a Jew in the assembly of stock-jobbers at Jonathan's. In short, wherever I see a cluster of people, I always mix with them, though I never open my lips but in my own club.
Thus I live in the world, rather as a spectator of man- 30 kind, than as one of the species; by which means I have made myself a speculative statesman, soldier, merchant, and artizan, without ever meddling with any practical part in life. I am very well versed in the theory of an husband, or a father, and can discern the errors in the economy, business, and diversion of others, better than those who are