« AnteriorContinuar »
acted by school discipline, or the elegant pursuits of literature, the Tobins became remarkable for their simple modes of life; their contempt of luxury, and indifference for those accidental distinctions of fortune to which vulgar minds attach immeasurable importance.
It must, however, be acknowledged, that Mr. Webbe's school was a bad preparation for a regular seminary. To be transported from that mansion of liberty, cheerfulness, and hospitality, to walls of academic strictness and seclusion, was some trial of juvenile fortitude: yet John Tobin readily accom. modated himself to a change in situation which, to some of his companions, appeared intolerable. Ever disposed to receive pleas, ing and exhilarating impressions, he enjoyed to-day without regretting yesterday, or anticipating tomorrow. In a few hours the restraints of school were by him unfelt or disregarded. Such was the quickness of
his parts, that he outstripped all the boys of his own age; and such the sweetness of his disposition, that he was generally be. loved even by those he had surpassed. No sooner was the grammatical exercise coma pleted which composed his morning task, than he employed himself to correct the blunders or supply the deficiencies of his less forward companions; and happy they who, by sitting in the same class, had the good fortune to profit by his promptitude and kindness. To these superior attainments he appears not to have attached the least importance; and he was so perfectly unambitious of pre-eminence, that when it was proposed to act the play of Cato as a school exercise, he aspired to no higher part than that of Lucius.
The town of Southampton was annually visited by a company of players, and it was the reward of those scholars who had produced a superior Latin composition to
attend the little theatre. On these occasions the diligence of young Tobin was quickened at the expence of his equanimity; and such was his ardour, that it even betrayed him to expressions of impatience foreign to his character. With a passion for the drama so decided and invincible, it might have been expected, that, like many other juvenile amateurs, he should seek opportunities to distinguislr himself as an actor ; but this propensity, if it really existed, was completely counteracted by his aversion for active pursuits, and any thing like personal exhibition. Already devoted to the pleasures of the imagination, he relished not the exercises which disturbed the harmony of his thoughts, and forced him from his own aerial castle of indolence and meditation. During the vacations he was observed to take no interest in gardening, and to shew little ambition for the reputation of a keen sportsman: his favourite
recreation was angling, which he could pursue without effort and without interruption to his solitary musings.
It was on the rural banks of the Avon that he first attempted to reduce his desultory ideas to order and measure. There, apparently absorbed in the angler's indolent and almost passive amusement, he surrendered himself to the delightful impressions of beauty and harmony, which in cultivated minds are produced by the genial aspect of nature. Having taken his station in some squestered spot, whilst he inhaled the fresh air and enjoyed its stillness, he meditated, without withdrawing his attention from external objects, and often began and ended a song which was never committed to paper : to his brother alone was this clandestine indulgence acknowledged, for from him only did he look for sympathy and encouragement,
From the days of Ben Jonson* to the present hour, we shall find the opulent citizen and substantial landholder among the inveterate enemies of those literary pursuits which lead not to the attainment of fortune : and poetry has been so rarely the associate of wealth and prosperity, that it appears to be often held synonimous with profligacy and penury. It is not to be supposed that Mr. Webbe or his friends were superior to this common prejudice; and it was, perhaps, from the consciousness of their sentiments on this subject, that young Tobin acquired a shyness and caution, with regard to his literary com. positions, which invariably attended him through succeeding life.
* Myself was once a student, and, indeed,
Fed with the self-same humour he is now,
Every Man in his Humour.