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agonized with the pain, which my very shafts had given him, whilst I was foremost to arraign the scurrility of the age, and encourage him to disregard it: the practice I had been in of masking my style facilitated my attacks upon every body, who either moved my envy or provoked my spleen.
The meanest of all passions had now taken entire possession of my heart, and I surrendered myself to it without a struggle : still there was a consciousness about me, that sunk me in my own esteem, and when I met the eye of a man whom I had secretly defamed, I felt abashed ; society became painful to me; and I shrunk into retirement, for my self-esteem was lost: though I had gratified my malice, I had destroyed my comfort; I now contemplated myself a solitary being, at the very moment when I had every requisite of fortune, health and endowments, to have recommended me to the world, and to those tender ties and engagements which are natural to man, and constitute his best enjoyments.
The solitude I resorted to, made me every day more morose, and supplied me with reflections that rendered me intolerable to myself, and unfit for society. I had reason to apprehend, in spite of all my caution, that I was now narrowly watched, and that strong suspicions were taken up against me; when I was feasting my jaundiced eye one morning with a certain newspaper, which I was in the habit of employing as the vehicle of my venom, I was startled at discovering myself conspicuously pointed out in an angry column as a cowardly defamer, and menaced with personal chastisement, as soon as ever proofs could be obtained against me: and this threatening denunciation evidently came from the very author, who had unknowingly given me such ums brage when he recited my poem.
The sight of this resentful paragraph was like an arrow to my brain: habituated to skirmish only béhind entrenchments, I was ill prepared to turn into the open field, and had never put the question to my heart, how it was provided for the emergency: In early life I had not any reason to suspect my courage, nay it was rather forward to meet occasions in those days of innocence; but the meanness I had lately sunk into, had sapped every manly principle of my nature, and I now discovered to my sorrow, that, in taking up the lurking malice of an assassin, I had lost the gallant spirit of a gentleman.
There was still an alleviation to my terrors : it so chanced that I was not the author of the particular libel which my accuser had imputed to me: and though I had been father of a thousand others, I felt myself supported by truth in almost the only charge against which I could have fairly appealed to it. It seemed to me therefore adviseable to lose no time in disculpating myself from the accusation, yet to seek an interview with this irascible man, was a service of some danger: chance threw the opportunity in my way, which I had probably else wanted spirit to invite; accosted him with all imaginable civility, and made the strongest asseverations of my innocence : whether I did this with a servility that might aggravate bis suspicion, or that he had others impressed upon him besides those I was labouring to remove, so it was, that he treated all I said with the most contemptuous incredulity, and elevated his voice to a tone that petrified me with fear, bade me avoid his sight, threatening me, both with words and actions, in a manner too humiliating to relate.
Alas! can words express my feelings? Is there à being more wretched than myself to be friendless, an exile from society, and at enmity with my self, is a situation deplorable in the extreme: let what I have now written be made public; if I could believe my shame would be turned to others' profit, it might perhaps become less painful to myself; if men want other motives to divert them from defamation, than what their own hearts supply, let them turn to my example, and if they will not be reasoned, let them be frightened out of their propensity.
am, Sir, &c.
The case of this correspondent is a melancholy one, and I have admitted his letter, because I do not doubt the present good motives of the writer ; but I shall not easily yield a place in these essays to characters so disgusting, and
representations so derogatory to human nature. The historians of the day, who profess to give us intelligence of what is passing in the world, ought not to be condemned, if they sometimes make a little free with our foibles and our follies; but downright libels are grown too dangerous, and scurrility is become too dull to find a market; the pillory is a great reformer. The detail of a court drawing-room, though not very edifying, is perfectly inoffensive; a lady cannot greatly complain of the liberty of the press, if it is contented with the humble task of celebrating the workmane ship of her mantua-maker: as for such inveterate malice, as my correspondent Wormwood describes, I fatter myself it is very rarely to be found : I can only say, that though I have often heard of it in conversation, and read of it in books, I do not meet in human nature originals so strongly featured as their paintings: amongst a small collection of sonnets in manuscript, descriptive of the human pas
sions, which has fallen into my hands, the following lines upon Envy, as coinciding with my subject, shall conclude this
Far from the social haunts of men !
Fang'd like the wolf it was, and all as gaunt,
Rolling its squinting eyes askaunt,
Furious thereat, the self-tormenting sprite
Facilitas Animæ ad partem stultitiæ rapit.
TO THE OBSERVER. SIR, The ancient family of the Saplins, whereof your humble servant is the unworthy representative, has been for many generations distinguished for a cer
tain pliability of temper, which with some people passes for good humour, and by others is called weakness; but however the world may differ in describing it, there seems a general agreement in the manner of making use of it.
Our family estate, though far from contemptible, is considerably reduced from its 'antient splendor, not only by an unlucky tumble that my grandfather Sir Paul got in the famous Mississippi scheme, but also various losses, bad debts, and incautious securities, which have fallen heavy upon the purses of my predecessors at different times; but as every man must pay for his good character, I dare say they did not repent of their purchase, and for my part it is a reflection that never gives me any disturbance. This aforesaid grandfather of mine, was supposed to have furnished Congreve with the hint for his character of Sir Paul Pliant, at least it hath been so whispered to me very frequently by my aunt Jemima, who was a great collector of family anecdotes; and, to speak the truth, I am not totally without suspicion, that a certain ingenious author, lately deceased, had an eye towards my insignificant self in the dramatic portrait of his Good-natured Man.
Though I scorn the notion of setting myself off to the public and you by panegyrics of my own penning, (as the manner of some is) yet I may truly say without boasting, that I had the character at school of being the very best fag that ever came into it; and this I believe every gentleman, who was my contemporary at Westminster, will do me the juse tice to acknowledge: it was a reputation I confess that I did not earn for nothing, for whilst I worked the clothes off my back, and the skin off my bones in scouting upon every body's errands, I was pummeled to a mummy by the boys, shewed up by the ushers, flead alive by the masters, and reported for