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THE EARL OF M TO THE HON. HORATIO ME NOT
IF there are certain circumstances under which a fond father can address an imprisoned son, without, suffering the bitterest heart-rendings of paternal agony, such are not those under which I now address you. To sustain the loss of the most precious of all human rights, and forfeit cur liberty at the shrine of virtue, in defence of our country abroad, or of our public integrity and principles at home, brings to the heart of the sufferer's dearest sympathizing friend, a soothing. solace almost concomitant to the poignancy of its afflictions, and leaves, the decision difficult, whether in the scale of human feelings, triumphant pride or af fectionate regret preponderate.
"I would not," said the old Earl of Ormond, "give up my dead son for twenty living ones." Oh! how I envy such a father the possession, and even the loss of such a child: with what eagerness my heart rushes back to that period when I too triumphed in my son, when I beheld him glowing in all the unadulterated virtues of the happiest nature, flushed with the proud consciousness of superior genius, refined by a taste intuitively elegant, and warmed by an enthusiasm constitutionally ardent; his character indeed tinctured with the bright colouring of romantic eccentricity, but marked by the indelible traces of innate rectitude, and ennobled by the purest, principles of native generosity, the proudest sense of inviolable honour. I beheld him rush eagerly on life, enamoured of its seeming good, incredulous of its latent evils, till fatally fascinated by the magic spell of the former, he fell an early victim to the successful lures of the latter. The growing influence of his passions kept pace with the expansion of his mind, and the moral powers of the man of genius, gave way to the overwhelming propensities of the man of pleasure. Yet in the midst of these exotic vices (for as such even yet I would consider them) he continued at once the object of my parental partiality and anxious solicitude; I admired while I condemned, I pitied while I reproved.
The rights of primogeniture, and the mild and prudent cast of your brother's character, left me no cares either for his worldly interest or moral welfare: born to titled affluence, his destination in life was ascertained previous to his entrance on its checkered scene; and équally free from passions to mislead, or talents to stimulate, he promised to his father that series of
temperate satisfaction which, if unillumined by those corruscations your superior and promising genius flashed on the parental heart, could not prepare for its sanguine feelings that mortal disappointinent with which you have destroyed all its hopes. On the recent death of my father I found myself possessed of a very large but encumbered property: it was requisite I should make the same establishment for my eldest son, that my father had made for me; while I was conscious that my youngest was in some degree to stand indebted to his own exertions, for independence as well as elevation in life.
You may recollect that during your first college va cation, we conversed on the subject of that liberal profession I had chosen for you, and you agreed with me, that it was congenial to your powers, and not inimical to your taste; while the part I was anxious you should take in the legislation of your country, seemed at once to rouse and gratify your ambition: but the pure flame of laudable emulation was soon extinguished in the destructive atmosphere of pleasure, and while I beheld you, in the visionary hopes of my parental ambition, invested with the crimson robe of legal dignity, or shining brightly conspicuous in the splendid galaxy of senatorial luminaries, you were idly presiding, as the high priest of libertinism, at the nocturnal orgies of vitiated dissipation, or indolently lingering out your site in elegant but unprofitable pursuits.
It were as vain as impossible to trace you through every degree of error, on the scale of folly and imprudence; and such a repetition would be more heartwounding to me than painful to you, were it even made under the most extenuating bias of parental fondness.
I have only to add, that though already greatly dis
tressed by the liquidation of your debts, at a time when I am singularly circumstanced with respect to pecuniary resources, I will make a struggle to free you from the chains of this your present iron-hearted creditor, though the retrenchment of my own expenses, and my temporary retreat to the solitude of my Irish estate, must be the result; provided that by this sacrifice I purchase your acquiescence to my wishes respecting the destiny of your future life, and an unreserved abjuration of the follies which have governed your past. Your, &c. &c.
TO THE EARL OF M
SUFFER me, in the fulness of my heart, and in the language of one prodigal and penitent as myself, to say, "I have sinned against Heaven and thee, an am no longer worthy to be called thy son." Abandon me then, I beseech you, as such; deliver me up to the destiny that involves me, to the complicated tissue of errors and follies I have so industriously woven with my own hands; for though I am equal to sustain the judgment my own vices have drawn down on me, I cannot support the cruel mercy with which your goodness endeavours to avert its weight.
Among the extensive catalogue of my faults, a sordid selfishness finds no place. Yet I should deservedly incur its imputation, were I to accept of freedom on such terms as you are so generous as to offer. No, my Lord, continue to adorn that high and polished @ircle in which you are so eminently calculated to
nor think so lowly of one who, with all his faults, is your son, as to believe him ready to purchase his liberty at the expense of your banishment from your I am, &c. &c.
native country. King's Bench.
TO THE HON. HORATIO M-;
An act to which the exaggeration of your feelings gives the epither of banishment, I shall consider as a voluntary sequestration from scenes of which I am weary, to scenes which, though thrice visited, still preserve the poignant charms of novelty and interest. Your hasty and undigested answer to my letter (written in the promp emotion of the moment, ere the probable consequence of a romantic rejection to an offer not unreflectingly made, could be duly weighed or coolly examined) convinces me experience has contributed little to the modification of your feelings, or the prudent regulation of your conduct. It is this promp-titude of feeling, this contempt of prudence, that formed the predisposing cause of your errors and your follies. Dazzled by the brilliant glare of the splendid virtues, you saw not, you would not see, that prudence was amongst the first of moral excellencies; the director, the regulator, the standard of them all ;--that it is, in fact the corrective of virtue herself; for even virtue, like the sun, has her solstice, beyond which she ought not to move.
If you would retribute what you seem to lament, and unite restitution to penitence, leave this country for a short time, and abandon, with the haunts of your former blamable pursuits, those associates who were