Page images


Richardson, a printer in London, is celebrated as the author of the first

classical English novel. When fifty years of age, he wrote Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, which appeared in 1741, and immediately obtained great popularity. It was followed by The History of Clarissa Harlowe, in 1749; and in 1753, by The History of Sir Charles Grandison, designed to represent the beau-ideal of a Christian gentleman.


Yesterday we set out, attended by John, Abraham, Benjamin, and Isaac, in fine new liveries, in the best chariot, which had been new cleaned, and lined, and new harnessed, so that it looked like a quite new one. But I had no arms to quarter with my dear spouse's; though he jocularly, upon my taking notice of my obscurity, said that he had a good mind to have the olive-branch quartered for mine. I was dressed in the suit I mentioned, of white flowered with gold, and a rich head-dress, and the diamond necklace, ear-rings, &c., I also mentioned before ; and my dear sir in a fine laced silk waistcoat of blue Paduasoy, and his coat a pearlcoloured fine cloth, with gold buttons and button-holes, and lined with white silk, and he looked charmingly indeed. I said I was too fine, and would have laid aside some of the jewels ; but he said it would be thought a slight to me from him as his wife ; and though, as I apprehended it might be, that people would talk as it was, yet he had rather they should say anything than that I was not put upon an equal foot, as his wife, with any lady he might have married.

It seems the neighbouring gentry had expected us, and there was a great congregation, for, against my wish, we were a little of the latest ; so that, as we walked up the church to his seat, we had abundance of gazers and whisperers. But my dear master behaved with so intrepid an air, and was so cheerful and complaisant to me, that he did credit to his kind choice, instead of shewing as if he was ashamed of it; and as I was resolved to busy my mind entirely with the duties of the day, my intentness on that occasion, and my thankfulness to God for his unspeakable mercies to me, so took up my thoughts, that I was much less concerned than I should otherwise have been at the gazings and whisperings of the ladies and gentlemen, as well as of the rest of the congregation, whose eyes were all turned to our seat.

When the sermon was ended, we stayed the longer because the church should be pretty empty ; but we found great numbers at the church doors and in the church porch, and I had the pleasure of hearing many commendations, as well of my person as my dress and behaviour, and not one reflection or mark of disrespect. Mr Martin, who is single, Mr Chambers, Mr Arthur, and Mr Brooks, with their families, were all there ; and the four gentlemen came up to us before we went into the chariot, and in a very kind and respectful manner complimented us both ; and Mrs Arthur and Mrs Brooks were so kind as to wish me joy ; and Mrs Brooks said : “You sent my spouse, madam, home t'other day quite charmed with that easy and sweet manner, which you have convinced a thousand persons this day is so natural to you.'

“You do me great honour, madam,' replied I. 'Such a good lady's approbation must make me too sensible of my happiness.'

My dear master handed me into the chariot, and stood talking with Sir Thomas Atkyns at the door of it (who was making him abundance of compliments, being a very ceremonious gentleman, a little too extreme in that way), and, I believe, to familiarise me to the gazers, which concerned me a little ; for I was dashed to hear the praises of the country people, and to see how they crowded about the chariot. Several poor people begged my charity, and I beckoned John with my fan, and said : Divide in the further church porch that money to the poor, and let them come to-morrow morning to me, and I will give them something more if they don't importune me now. So I gave them all the silver I had, which happened to be between twenty and thirty shillings ; and this drew away from me their clamorous prayers for charity.

In the afternoon we went again to church, and a little early, at my request; but the church was quite full, and soon after even crowded ; so much does novelty (the more's the pity !) attract the eyes of mankind. The dean preached again, which he was not used to do, out of compliment to us, and an excellent sermon he made on the relative duties of Christianity; and it took my peculiar attention, for he made many fine observations on the subject.

This morning the poor came, according to my invitation, and I sent them away with glad hearts to the number of twenty-five. They were not above twelve or fourteen, on Sunday, that John divided the silver among them, which I gave him for that purpose ; but others got hold of the matter, and made up to the above number.

HENRY FIELDING: 1707-1754.

Henry Fielding, the greatest of English novelists, spent the earlier part of

his life in writing for the stage. Meeting with but little success, he began to study for the bar, to which he was called in 1740. In 1742 appeared his first novel, Joseph Andrews. It was followed by A Journey from this World to the Next, The History of Jonathan Wild, and Tom Jones, which is regarded as master-piece of humorous fiction. His last work was Amelia.




In the first row, then, of the first gallery, did Mr Jones, Mrs Miller, her youngest daughter, and Partridge, take their places. Partridge immediately declared it was the finest place he had ever been in. When the first music was played, he said : 'It was a wonder how so many fiddlers could play at one time without putting one another out. While the fellow was lighting the upper candles, he cried out to Mrs Miller : ‘Look, look, madam ; the very picture of the man in the end of the common-prayer book, before the gunpowder treason service.' Nor could he help observing, with a sigh, when all the candles were lighted : “That here were candles enough burned in one night to keep an honest poor family for a whole twelvemonth.'

As soon as the play, which was Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, began, Partridge was all attention, nor did he break silence till the entrance of the ghost ; upon which he asked Jones : "What man that was in the strange dress ; something,' said he, “like what I have seen in a picture. Sure it is not armour, is it ?'

Jones answered: “That is the ghost.'

To which Partridge replied, with a smile : 'Persuade me to that, sir, if you can. Though I can't say I ever actually saw a ghost in my life, yet I am certain I should know one if I saw him better than that comes to. No, no, sir; ghosts don't appear in such dresses as that neither.' In this mistake, which caused much laughter in the neighbourhood of Partridge, he was suffered too continue till the scene between the ghost and Hamlet, when Partridge gave that credit to Mr Garrick which he had denied to Jones, and fell into so violent a trembling that his knees knocked against each other.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

Jones asked him what was the matter, and whether he was afraid of the warrior upon the stage.

"O la! sir,' said he, 'I perceive now it is what you told me. I am not afraid of anything, for I know it is but a play; and if it was really a ghost, it could do one no harm at such a distance, and in so much company; and yet if I was frightened, I am not the only person!

Why, who, cries Jones, 'dost thou take to be such a coward here besides thyself ?'

• Nay, you may call me coward if you will ; but if that little man there upon the stage is not frightened, I never saw any man frightened in my life. Ay, ay; go along with you! Ay, to be sure! Who's fool, then? Will you ? Lud have mercy upon such foolhardiness! Whatever happens it is good enough for you. Oh! here he is again. No further! No, you have gone far enough already ; further than I'd have gone for all the king's dominions.' Jones offered to speak, but Partridge cried, “Hush, hush, dear sir; don't you hear him?' And during the whole speech of the ghost, he sat with his eyes fixed partly on the ghost and partly on Hamlet, and with his mouth open; the same passions which succeeded each other in Hamlet succeeding likewise in him.

When the scene was over, Jones said: "Why, Partridge, you exceed my expectations. You enjoy the play more than I conceived possible.'

Nay, sir,' answered Partridge, 'if you are not afraid, I can't help it; but, to be sure, it is natural to be surprised at such things, though I know there is nothing in them : not that it was the ghost that surprised me neither; for I should have known that to have been only a man in a strange dress ; but when I saw the little man so frightened himself, it was that which took hold of me.'

• And dost thou imagine then, Partridge, cries Jones, “that he was really frightened ?'

‘Nay, sir,' said Partridge ; did not you yourself observe afterwards, when he found it was his own father's spirit, and how he was murdered in the garden, how his fear forsook him by degrees, and he was struck dumb with sorrow, as it were, just as I should have been, had it been my own case. But hush! O la! what noise is that? There he is again. Well, to be certain, though I know there is nothing at all in it, I am glad I am not down yonder

Ι where those men are. Then turning his eyes again upon Hamlet :


[ocr errors]


“Ay, you may draw your sword ; what signifies a sword against the power of the devil ?'

During the second act, Partridge made very few remarks. He greatly admired the fineness of the dresses ; nor could he help observing upon the king's countenance. "Well,' said he, how people may be deceived by faces ? Who would think, by looking in the king's face, that he had ever committed a murder ?' He then inquired after the ghost; but Jones, who intended he should be surprised, gave him no other satisfaction than that he might possibly see him again soon, and in a flash of fire.'

Partridge sat in fearful expectation of this; and now, when the ghost made his next appearance, Partridge cried out : “There, sir, now; what say you now? is he frightened now or no? As much frightened as you think me ; and, to be sure, nobody can help some fears ; I would not be in so bad a condition as—what's his name?Squire Hamlet is there, for all the world. Bless me! what's become of the spirit? As I am a living soul, I thought I saw him sink into the earth.'

• Indeed you saw right,' answered Jones.

"Well, well, cries Partridge, “I know it is only a play; and besides, if there was anything in all this, Madam Miller would not laugh so; for, as to you, sir, you would not be afraid, I believe, if the devil was here in person. There, there ; ay, no wonder you are in such a passion; shake the vile wicked wretch to pieces. If she was my own mother, I should serve her so. To be sure all duty to a mother is forfeited by such wicked doings. Ay, go about your business ; I hate the sight of you.'

Our critic was now pretty silent till the play which Hamlet introduces before the king. This he did not at first understand, till Jones explained it to him ; but he no sooner entered into the spirit of it, than he began to bless himself that he had never committed murder. Then turning to Mrs Miller, he asked her, “If she did not imagine the king looked as if he was touched; though he is,' said he,' a good actor, and doth all he can to hide it. Well, I would not have so much to answer for as that wicked man there hath, to sit upon a much higher chair than he sits upon. No wonder he ran away; for your sake I'll never trust an innocent face again.

The grave-digging scene next engaged the attention of Partridge, who expressed much surprise at the number of skulls thrown upon

[ocr errors]

the stage.

« PreviousContinue »