ページの画像
PDF

pupil, and during the time of the lesson. This mutual labour served to excite the attention. Sometimes, Fenelon pretended to seek for a word which he knew was not yet effaced from the memory of the pupil, and the pupil triumphed in the idea of being able to suggest, to his master, a more accurate or more felicitous expression. Fenelon, however, never forgot that this pupil was the hcir to a throne. Hence, he always contrived to take his themes and versions from mythology, which he considered as a pleasing embellishment of the mind, or from some events of modern or ancient history, which he judiciously turned to his moral instruction. He particularly endeavoured to mingle with them the most remarkable facts of sacred history. He thus fixed deeply in the heart of the young prince, those important truths of religion, which can, alone, repress the pride of kings, and interpose a check upon the abuse of absolute power; and thus, while he appeared to be instructing him in merely human science, he familiarized him, in fact, with that knowledge which is intimately combined with religion and publick morals. After having given to his pupil, models of composition, he excited him to elicit subjects of the same kind from his own imagination, and to discuss them, with such materials only, as could be within his power from the natural progress of years and instruction. Many of these attempts are yet extant, and they display more connexion of ideas, than would be supposed to belong to a child of his age. Some of them are fables, and others themes and versions. It must not be supposed, however, that the vanity of self-love induced the preceptors of the duke of Bur

gundy to exact from him performances which were beyond his age and power to produce; nor did they wish to make his education remarkable for a premature degree of success which would exalt their own skill and labour. Fenelon himself relates (after the death of the young prince”) “that he was always careful to make him relinquish his studies whenever he showed any inclination for discourse, or when he could acquire useful kilowledge, and this often happened. There was still time enough for study, for he was naturally inclined to it; but his preceptor had also to give him a taste for rational conversation that he might become sociable; and to accuston, him to contemplate and to know mankind as they appeared in society. In these conversations his mind continued to make a perceptible progress upon questions of literature and politicks, and even of metaphysicks. All the evidences of religion were also made to form a part, by a natural and easy transition. His character was meliorated by these conversations; he became tranquil, affable, gay, and interesting. Every one was delighted with him. He had no haughtiness, and he was more entertained than with his own childish amusements, for, during them, he was often angry without a cause.”

It was during the pleasing familiarity of these conversations, that he used sometimes to say: “I have left the duke of Burgundy behind the door, and now I am only little Louis with you.” These were remarkable words in the mouth of a child only nine years of age; they showed how sensible he was of the rank to which he was born, even at the very moment when he wished it to be forgotten.

“He has frequently said to us,”

adds Fenelon, “that he should never forget the delight which he felt in being permitted to study without constraint. He has often desired to be read to during his meals, such was his fondness for whatever he needed to learn. I never knew a child who understood with such celerity, and with so much propriety, the most refined parts of poetry and eloquence. He conceived, without any difficulty, the most abstract principles. Whenever he saw me doing any thing for him, he always began to do the same, and continued at it without being bidden so to do.” This young prince entered, with such enthusiasm, into the situations and feelings of those persons with whom he became acquainted in the course of his reading, that Fenelon delighted to recall, after the death of his pupil, the first emotions that had agitated his youthful bosom. “I have seen,” says he, in his letter to the French Academy, “I have seen a young prince of eight years old, filled with terrour, as he contemplated the danger of Joas; I have

[ocr errors]

seen him angry because the high priests concealed from him his name and his birth; I have seen him weep bitterly as he heard these lines:—

Ah! miseram Eurydicen anima fugiente vocabat, Eurydicen toto referebant flumine ripz.

When we consider the premature intellectual powers of the duke of Burgundy, we shall not be surprised to learn, that in his tenth year he was able to write, elegantly, in Latin, to translate the most difficult authors with a precision and with a felicity of style, which astonished every one; that he could explain Horace, Virgil, and the Metamorphoses of Ovid; and feel all the beauties of Cicero's Orations. At eleven years, he had read the whole of Livy; he had translated the Commentaries of Cesar, and begun a translation of Tacitus, which he afterwards finished, but which was subsequently lost.

[ocr errors][merged small]

IF we were seeking a character which, to general benevolence and desire of doing good, united those oddities of diction and manners, which mark, without degrading such a man, we could no where find it better portrayed than in the sir Hugh Evans of Shakspeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor. Intent on restoring peace, so far as his power extends, he appears in the very first scene in which we become acquainted with him, to undertake the troublesome office of a mediator, and arbitrator, between Falstaff, who had transgressed the laws, and Mr. Justice Shallow who had been offended by the insult, no less than by the injury. Now this interference in Shakspeare's time, implied a weight and influence of character, beyond what modern days can readily discern.

Vol. iv. H

For, in fact, as a magistrate, though in a remote county, Shallow had sundry advantages over Falstaff; and the power to induce him to admit of a firivate reference, is honourable to the cloth; and what only a clergyman could be supposed to possess. “If sir John Falstaff have committed disparagements unto you, I am of the church, and will be glad to do my benevolenee, to make atonements and com.hromises between you.” This is a sentiment truly honourabie to a churchman. It may be recommended to general adoption, and it marks the disposition of the person by whom it is uttered. There is a delicacy also, in sir Hugh's desire to, avoid “the councils hearing of a riot; the council shall desire to hear of the fear of Got.”

- - - - - ::. y

The very simplicity of sir Hugh's benevolence, however, betrays him into a proposal of marriage between master Slender and Ann Page. This is no instance of the parson's wisdom, or of his knowledge of the world, or of mankind. Like master Slender, “his meaning is good,” but a practised worldling, would not have stood forward in the business. Apractised worldling too, would, perhaps, have laid a much smaller stress on the disposition of Slender toward the damsel; and the poet has contrived to balance the sentiments of sir Hugh with wonderful nicety on this point. In his first discourse with Shallow he seems to attribute great if not undue importance to wealth: “Her grandsire left her seven hundred pounds and her father is make her a petter penny;” but he is, nevertheless, anxious to learn from Slender himself whether “ he can affection the 'oman; or carry his good will to the maid;” and he insists on a “possitable” answer. That Slender evades this possitableness, is no fault of sir Hugh, who insists on knowing the true state of his affections, before he proceeds further in the affair. In the scene of the expected duel, sir Hugh mingles great reluctance with great resolution. He is punctual to his appointment, but is unable to restrain his melancholy; he is full of “cholers,” which urge him on, but of “trempling of mind,” which repels his animosity. He admits that he should be “glad to be deceived,” one moment; the next his anger rises and he will “knog his foe's urinals about his knave's costard.” Unable to restrain his feelings, yet unable to express them, he sings to amuse himself; but he sings without order, or connexion, and we find an exercise of memory, rendered easy b habit and familiarity, not an effort of mind, intent on sentiments, poesy, or melody. He has “great dispositions to cry”—but at the supposed approach of his antagonist his courage exclaims: “Heaven prosper

the right! What weapons is he ” He falls into a passion at the very mention of Dr. Caius's name, and his valour struggles against the benevolence of his mind, which intends evil to no one, and the habits of his profession, which extends kindness to every one. After this highly entertaining and prolonged equilibrium, what does the poet do with this character : He attaches him intimately to his adversary Dr. Caius, throughout the rest of the drama, and they conjointly take their revenge on the Host of the Garter, who had amused himself at their expense. Sir Hugh has good sense enough to perceive that he has been made a “vlouting stock:” his passion subsides; and the proposal of amity with his quondam enemy comes from him. That a person so far from thinking evil of any, should reprove Ford for being jealous of his wife without cause; should advise him to “pray, and not to follow the imaginations of his own heart,” is but natural: indeed, so far is the simple minded sir Hugh from suspicion, that he takes Falstaff’s “peard” in proof of his being a witch, and though he observes this unequivocal mark of sex distinctly, yet he rests satisfied with the superficial ideas which occur to his mind, nor attributes te them the smallest importance in a case wherein they are properly entitled to the greatest. He “likes not when a 'omans has a great peard;” but he never adverts to the supposition that this “peard” might belong to a man, which man was the very object of the present search. Sir Hugh contributes his share to the mortifications thrown upon Falstaff; advises him to “serve Got, and leave his desires, that fairies may not piuse him”—and reproves him for being “given to fornications and to taverns, and sacks, and wines, and metheglins, and to drinkings, and swearings, and starings, pribbles and prabbles.” He utters his sentiments with vehemence, but they never discredit his heart, or his profession. We must, however, consider this character as the poet drew it; for an uncleanly equivoque, in which he appears to transgress, is not in the original, the first folio; and ought not to be admitted. We must also, abstract from the character of sir Hugh the whole of the fairy scene. This was given to him, as an actor, whom it was convenient to spare for the purpose; but to suppose that it was originally intended as a part of sir Hugh's character, is absurd; and no less absurd, than to suppose that dame Quickly could be qualified for delivering a poetical address in correct language, on the subject of fairy pastimes and manners. The paucity of capable actors in Shakspeare's company, must bear the blame of this anomaly. Now, if we inquire what are the drawbacks on the character of sir Hugh, we find little beyond a slight degree of pedantry, which we know not how to blame, and a redundance of words, which may very easily be pardoned. The rapidity of his ideas leads him to employ many synonyms to express the same thing; and if the smaller incidents, and the phra-seologies, which mark his character approach towards ridicule, yet they never are ridiculous. It is perfectly correct, that, as a churchman, he should not be “absent at the grace” before dinner: and as a Welshman that he should attend to the close of the repast, as there were “pyppins and cheese to come.” As to his examination of his scholar in Latin, the scene appears to have been written to please the “groundlings,” and puts the patience of the reader to the test as well as that of the parson. Yet here his benevolence triumphs; and we discover neither dogmatism nor despotism in the simple sir Hugh. National characters are so rare in our immortal bard, that we are Hed to pay uncommon attention to

those which he has drawn. There is, also, a source of interest additional, when we recollect, that queen Elizabeth was of the Tudor family, and certainly had Welch blood in her veins. To have drawn Iago as a Welchman, would have been offensive; to have laid the scene of Measure for Measure in Wales, might have been hazardous. The character of King Lear, and that of Owen Glendower are historical; the bard might appeal to authority for his delineations of these: but in his effusions of fancy, he has happily seized those traits which afford amusement, yet incur no censure, and excite a smile, which is infinitely distant from the sneer of contempt, or the broad laughter of sarcasm. If we compare the characters of Fluellen and sir Hugh Evans, we find them alike, yet different. They possess some features in common; while others are varied. The soldier is learned and pious; the churchman is resolute and valiant: the soldier is straight forward; brave even to heroism; the churchman is more considerate, and his sensations are mixed; both are pictures of benevolonce, simplicity, candour of mind; both are sudden, but easily appeased; they use a multiplicity of words, but their meaning is not obscure; they are free from vice, arising from the mind, or degrading manners; they are gentlemen though of different professions; and they may be loved and respected while, nevertheless, we cannot overlook their oddities, or be insensible to their whimsies. If we consider these characters as indications of a historical fact, they might lead us to inquire, whether such was the general estimation of the ancient Britons in the days of our dramatist; did he draw these from observation, and nature ? are they portraits, or from general report? Whatever might be the result of these inquiries, they could not prove otherwise than honourable to the nation which furnished them, as they certainly are instances of that nice discrimination in which Shak

speare has hitherto been, and probably will always continue, unrivalled.

The following anecdotes of the nunnery of St. Clara, at Salamanca, are from one of R. K. Porter's Letters from Portugal and Spain.

H WENT thither yesterday with a party of our officers, but could not obtain admittance beyond the outer hall. However, the sisterhood designed to open the great door which led out of the convent into this apartment, and which would otherwise have divided us from them; and presenting us with chairs, we seated ourselves in a semicircle before its threshold, and held a discourse much more conveniently than if we had been reduced to the Thisbe-like expedient of conversing through the chinks of a door. Most of these ladies were rather ancient; yet many wore the remains of past beauty, and filled one with sad reflection that such charms should have been doomed to bloom and fade, and die unseen, unappreciated, unbeloved; but these regrets were to ourselves: our gentle companions did not seem to partake

of them. They were even gay, and prosecuted the conversation with a vivacity which showed they were pleased with our visit; nay, they even paid us compliments which few of the sex that had not forsworn their interest in such qualifications would have ventured to pronounce. They spoke highly of our nation; extolled its military men for the respect we had shown to them; and said how very handsome Englishmen were, how captivating their manners. Of course, we could not do less than bow to these frank expressions of approbation, and replying to them in kind. They next descanted on the probable approach of the French to Salamanca, and declared their wish to be enabled to fly to England before the completion of such a calamity.

The following is a jeu d'esprit of Dr. John Wallis, sometime Savilian professor of geometry in the university of Qxford, member of the royal society, and chaplain in ordinary to Charles II. It is thus related by himself.

A certain learned French gentleman proposed to me the underwritten four chosen French verses, composed on purpose; boasting from it wonderfully of the felicity of his French language, which expressed kindred senses by kindred words; complaining, in the mean while, of our English one, as very often expressing kindred senses by words conjoined by no relation: Quand un cordier, cordant, veult corder corde; Pour sa corde corder, trois cordons il accorde; Mais, si un des gordons de la corde déscorde, t

Le cordon déscordant fait déscorder la corde.

But, that I might show that this felicity of language was not wanting to our own, immediately, without making choice of fresh matter, I translated verbally the same four verses into the English tongue, rctaining the same turn of words which he had observed in his, only substituting the word twist, purely English, for the exotick word cord, which he expected me to use:

When a twister, a twisting, will twist him a twist,

« 前へ次へ »