Page images
PDF
EPUB

has written, not his own sentiments, but such as were most likely to catch the public mind at the time.

But, feeling and writing under the popular impression of the moment, Johnstone has never failed to feel and write like a true Briton, with a sincere admiration of his countr.y's laws, an ardent desire for her prosperity, and a sympathy with her interests, which more than atone for every error and prejudice. He testifies on many occasions his l'espect for the House of Brunswick, and leaves his testimony against the proceedings first commenced by Wilkes, and so closely followed by imitators of that unprincipled demagogue, for the purpose of courting the populace by slandering the throne. It is remarkable, that notwithstanding his zeal for King George and the Protestant religion, the Jacobite party, though their expiring intrigues might have furnished some piquant anecdotes, are scarcely mentioned in Chrysal.

A Key to the personages introduced to the reader in Chrysal, was furnished by the author himself to Lord Mount Edgecomb, and another to Captain Mears, with whom he sailed to India. It is published by Mr William Davis, in his collection of Bibliographical and Literary Anecdotes, with this caveat —“ The author's intention was to draw general characters; therefore, in the application of the Key, the reader must exercise his own judgment.”ı The Key is subjoined to the text, with a few addi

[See Davis's Olio, pr., 13, 21.]

tional notes, illustrative of such incidents and characters as properly belong to history or to public life. Anecdotes of private scandal are willingly left in the mystery in which the text has involved them; and some instances occur, in which the obvious misrepresentations of the satirist have been modified by explanation. . But when all exaggeration has been deducted from this singular work, enough of truth will still remain in Chrysal, to incline the reader to congratulate himself, that these scenes have passed more than half a century before his time.

ROBERT BAGE.

ROBERT BAGE, a writer of no ordinary merit in the department of fictitious composition, was one of that class of men occurring in Britain alone, who unite successfully the cultivation of letters with those mechanical pursuits, which, upon the continent, are considered as incompatible with the character of an author. The professors of letters are, in most nations, apt to form a caste of their own, into which they may admit men educated for the learned professions, on condition, generally speaking, that they surrender their pretensions to the lucrative practice of them ; but from which mere burghers, occupied in ordinary commerce, are as severely excluded, as roturiers were of old from the society of the noblesse. The case of a papermaker or a printer employing their own art upon their own publications, would be thought uncommon in France or Germany; yet such were the stations of Bage and Richardson.

The Editor has been obliged by Miss Catherine Hutton, daughter of Mr Hutton of Birmingham, well known as an ingenious and successful antiquary,' with a memoir of the few incidents mark

[William Hutton, F.S.A. Edin., bookseller, Birmingham, a native of Derby, who raised himself by industry, from a very small beginning, to a state of affluence and respectability, died

ing the life of Robert Bage, whom a kindred genius, as well as a close commercial intercourse, combined to unite in the bonds of strict friendship. The communication is extremely interesting, and the extracts from Bage's letters show, that amidst the bitterness of political prejudices, the embarrassment of commercial affairs, and all the teazing technicalities of business, the author of Barham Downs still maintained the good-humoured gaiety of his natural temper. One would almost think the author must have drawn from his own private letter-book and correspondence, the discriminating touches which mark the men of business in his novels.

The father of Robert Bage was a paper-maker at Darley, a hamlet on the river Derwent, adjoining the town of Derby, and was remarkable only for having had four wives. Robert was the son of the first, and was born at Darley on the 29th of February, 1728. His mother died soon after his birth; and his father, though he retained his mill, and continued to follow his occupation, removed to Derby, where his son received his education at a common school. His attainments here, however, were very remarkable, and such as excited the surprise and admiration of all who knew him. At seven years old, he had made a proficiency in Latin. To a knowledge of the Latin language 1815, aged 92. He employed his pen on a variety of subjects, antiquarian, statistical, poetical, and historical.]

succeeded a knowledge of the art of making paper, which he acquired under the tuition of his father.

At the age of twenty-three, Robert Bage married a young woman, who possessed beauty, good sense, good temper, and money. It may be presumed that the first of these was the first forgotten; the two following secured his happiness in domestic life; the last aided him in the manufacture of paper, which he commenced at Elford, four miles from Tamworth, and conducted to the end of his days. • Though no man was more attentive to business, and no one in the country made paper so good of its kind, yet the direction of a manufactory, combined with his present literary attainments, did not satisfy the comprehensive mind of Robert Bage. His manufactory, under his eye, went on with the regularity of a machine, and left him leisure to indulge his desire of knowledge. He acquired the French language from books alone, without any instructor ; and his familiarity with it is evinced by his frequent, perhaps too frequent, use of it in the Fair Syrian. Nine years after his marriage, he studied mathematics ; and, as he makes one of his characters say, and as he probably thought respecting himself, “ He was obliged to this science for a correct imagination, and a taste for uniformity in the common actions of life.”

In the year 1765, Bage entered into partnership with three persons, (one of them the celebrated · Dr Darwin,) in an extensive manufactory of iron ; and, at the end of fourteen years, when the partnership terminated, he found himself a loser, it is

« PreviousContinue »