« PreviousContinue »
the trial, a little boy was near him, but not tall enough to see; he made room for the child, and placed him near himself.
When the trial began, the two earls pleaded guilty ; Balmerino not guilty, saying he could prove his not being at the taking of the castle of Carlisle, as was laid in the indictment. Then the king's counsel opened, and Serjeant Skinner pronounced the most absurd speech imaginable ; and mentioned the Duke of Perth, 'who,' said he, 'I see by the papers is dead. Then some witnesses were examined, whom afterwards the old hero shook cordially by the hand. The Lords withdrew to their House, and returning, demanded of the judges whether one point not being proved, though all the rest were, the indictment was false ? to which they unanimously answered in the negative. Then the Lord High Steward asked the peers severally, whether Lord Balmerino was guilty! All said, Guilty upon honour,' and then adjourned, the prisoner having begged pardon for giving them so much trouble. While the Lords were withdrawn, the Solicitor-General Murray (brother of the Pretender's minister) officiously and insolently went up to Lord Balmerino, and asked him how he could give the Lords so much trouble, when his solicitor had informed him that his plea could be of no use to him? Balmerino asked the bystanders who this person was, and being told, he said : "0, Mr Murray! I am extremely glad to see you ; I have been with several of your relations ; the good lady, your mother, was of great use to us at Perth. Are not you charmed with this speech ? how just it was !
When the peers were going to vote, Lord Foley withdrew, as too well a wisher ; Lord Moray, as nephew of Lord Balmerinoand Lord Stair-as, I believe, uncle to his great-grandfather. Lord Windsor very affectedly said: 'I am sorry I must say guilty upon my honour. Lord Stamford would not answer to the name of Henry, having been christened Harry—what a great way of thinking on such an occasion! I was diverted too with old Norsa, an old Jew that kept a tavern ; my brother (Orford), as auditor of the Exchequer, has a gallery along one whole side of the court; I said, 'I really feel for the prisoners !' Old Issachar replied : 'Feel for them! pray, if they had succeeded, what would have become of all us ?' When my Lady Townshend heard her husband vote, she said: 'I always knew my lord was guilty, but I never thought he would own it upon his honour. Lord Balmerino said that one of his reasons for pleading not guilty was, that so many ladies might not be disappointed of their show.
PROSE WRITERS, 1780-1830.
William Cowper, according to Southey, the most popular poet of his
generation, and the best of English letter-writers,' was educated for the hw; but, owing to some constitutional weaknesses which occasionally affected his reason, he retired in the prime of life to reside with a private family in the country. His Poems appeared from 1780 to 1792. His Letters are considered among the finest.specimens of the epistolary style in our language.
LETTER TO REV. WILLIAM UNWIN.
OLNEY, August 6, 1780. You like to hear from me: this is a very good reason why I should write. But I have nothing to say: this seems equally a good reason why I should not. Yet if you had alighted from your horse at our door this morning, and at this present writing, being five o'clock in the afternoon, had found occasion to say to me‘Mr Cowper, you have not spoken since I came in; have you resolved never to speak again ?' it would be but a poor reply, if in answer to the summons I should plead inability as my best and only excuse. And this, by the way, suggests to me a seasonable piece of instruction, and reminds me of what I am very apt to forget, when I have any epistolary business in hand, that a letter may be written upon anything or nothing, just as that anything or nothing happens to occur. A man that has a journey before him, twenty miles in length, which he is to perform on foot, will not hesitate and doubt whether he shall set out or not, because he does not readily conceive how he shall ever reach the end of it; for he knows, that by the simple operation of moving one foot forward first, and then the other, he shall be sure to accomplish it. So it is in the present case, and so it is in every similar case. A letter is written as a conversation is maintained, or a journey performed ; not by preconcerted or premeditated means, a new contrivance, or an invention never heard of before, but merely by maintaining a progress, and resolving, as a postilion does, having once set out, never to stop till we reach the appointed end. If a man may talk without thinking, why may he not write upon the same terms ? A grave gentleman of the last century, a tie-wig, square-toe, Steinkirk figure, would say—“My good sir, a man has no right to do either. But it is to be hoped that the present century has nothing to do with the mouldy opinions of the last; and so good Sir Launcelos, or Sir Paul, or whatever be your name, step into your picture-frane again, and look as if you thought for another century, and leave us moderns in the meantime to think when we can, and to write whether we can or not, else we might as well be dead as you are.
When we look back upon our forefathers, we seem to look back upon the people another nation, almost upon creatures of another species. Their vast rambling mansions, spacious halls, and painted casements, the Gothic porch smothered with honeysuckles, their little gardens and high walls, their box-edgings, balls of holly, and yew-tree statues, are become so entirely unfashionable now, that ve can hardly believe it possible that a people who resembled us so little in their taste should resemble us in anything else. But in everything else, I suppose, they were our counterparts exactly ; and time, that has sewed up the slashed sleeve, and reduced the large trunk hose to a neat pair of silk stockings, has left human nature just where it found it. The inside of man at least has undergone no change. His passions, appetites, and aims are just what they ever were. They wear, perhaps, a handsomer disguise than they did in days of yore; for philosophy and literature will have their effect upon the exterior ; but, in every other respect, a modern is only an ancient in a different dress.
LETTER TO LADY HESKETH.
OLNEY, February 9, 1786. I have been impatient to tell you that I am impatient to see you again. Mrs Unwin partakes with me in all my feelings upon this subject, and longs also to see you. And now, my dear, let me tell you once more that your kindness in promising us a visit has charmed us both. I shall see you again ; I shall hear your voice ; we shall take walks together; I will shew you my prospects, the
hovel, the alcove, the Ouse and its banks, everything that I have described. I anticipate the pleasure of those days not very far distant, and feel a part of it at this moment. Talk not of an inn! Mention it not for your life! We have never had so many visitors but we could easily accommodate them all; though we have received Unwin, and his wife, and his sister, and his son all at once. My dear, I will not let you come till the end of May or beginning of June; because before that time my green-house will not be ready to receive us, and it is the only pleasant room belonging to
When the plants go out, we go in. I line it with mats, and spread the floor with mats; and there you shall sit with a bed of mignonette at your side, and a hedge of honeysuckles, roses, and jasmine; and I will make you a bouquet of myrtle every day. Sooner than the time I mention, the country will not be in complete beauty. And I will tell you what you shall find at your first entrance. Imprimis, as soon as you have entered the vestibule, if you cast a look on either side of you, you shall see on the right hand a box of my making. It is the box in which have been lodged all my hares, and in which lodges Puss at present; but he, poor fellow, is worn out with age, and promises to die before you can see him. On the right hand stands a cupboard, the work of the same author; it was once a dove-cage, but I transformed it. Opposite to you stands a table, which I also made ; but a merciless servant having scrubbed it until it became paralytic, it serves no purpose now but of ornament; and all my clean shoes stand under it. On the left hand, at the further end of this superb vestibule, you will find the door of the parlour into which I will conduct you, and where I will introduce you to Mrs Unwin, unless we should meet her before, and where we will be as happy as the day is long. Order yourself, my cousin, to the Swan at Newport, and there you shall find me ready to conduct you to Olney.
My dear, I have told Homer what you say about casks and urns, and have asked him whether he is sure that it is a cask in which Jupiter keeps his wine. He swears that it is a cask, and that it will never be anything better than a cask to eternity. So if the god is content with it, we nust even wonder at his taste, and be so too.
Adieu ! my dearest, dearest cousin.
WILLIAM PALEY: 1743–1805. Dr Paley, the greatest divine of the period, rose from a humble origin to
be Archdeacon of Carlisle. His works are, The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy; Horce Paulince (Hours with Paul), an exposition of the evidences of Christianity which rest upon the Epistles of St Paul; Evidences of Christianity, a standard book on the subject; and Natural Theology, a convincing demonstration of the existence of a Deity from his works.
THE WORLD WAS MADE WITH A BENEVOLENT DESIGN.
From Natural Theology. It is a happy world after all. The air, the earth, the water, teem with delighted existence. In a spring noon or a summer evening, on whichever side I turn my eyes, myriads of happy beings crowd upon my view. The insect youth are on the wing.' Swarms of new-born flies are trying their pinions in the air. Their sportive motions, their wanton mazes, their gratuitous activity, their continual change of place without use or purpose, testify their joy and the exultation which they feel in their lately-discovered faculties. A bee amongst the flowers in spring is one of the most cheerful objects that can be looked upon. Its life appears to be all enjoyment; so busy and so pleased : yet it is only a specimen of insect life, with which, by reason of the animal being half domesticated, we happen to be better acquainted than we are with that of others. The whole winged insect tribe, it is probable, are equally intent upon their proper employments, and, under every variety of constitution, gratified, and perhaps equally gratified, by the offices which the Author of their nature has assigned to them. But the atmosphere is not the only scene of enjoyment for the insect race. Plants are covered with aphides, greedily sucking their juices, and constantly, as it should seem, in the act of sucking. It cannot be doubted but that this is a state of gratification : what else should fix them so close to the operation and so long? Other species are running about with an alacrity in their motions which carries with it every mark of pleasure. Large patches of ground are sometimes half covered with these brisk and sprightly natures. If we look to what the waters produce, shoals of the fry of fish frequent the margins of rivers, of lakes, and of the sea itself. These are so happy that they know not what to do with themselves. Their attitudes, their vivacity, their leaps out of the