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A Taylor “ Is a creature made up of shreds, that were pared off from Adam, when he was rough cast; the end of his being differeth from that of others, and is not to serve God, but to cover sin; other men's pride is his best patron, and their negligence a main passage to his profit.
He handleth the Spanish pike to the hazard of many poor Egyptian vermin, and in show of his valour, scorneth a greater gauntlet than will cover the top of his middle finger; of all weapons he most affecteth the long bill, and this he will manage to the great prejudice of a customer's estate; his spirit, notwithstanding, is not so much as to make you think him a man; like a true mongrel, he neither bites nor barks but when your back is towards him. His heart is a lump of congealed snow; Prometheus was asleep while it was making; he differeth altogether from God, for with him the best pieces are still marked out for damnation, and without hope of recovery shall be cast down into hell; he is partly an alchymist, for he extracteth his own apparel out of other men's clothes, and, when occasion serveth, making a broker's-shop an alembick, can turn your silks into gold, and having furnished his necessities, after a month or two, if he be urged unto it, reduce them again to their proper substance. He is in part likewise an arithmetician, cunning enough in multiplication and addition, but cannot abide subtraction; summa totalis is the language of his Canaan, and usque ad ultimum quadrantem, the period of his charity. For any skill in geometry, I dare not commend him, for he could never yet find out the dimensions of his own conscience; notwithstanding he hath many bottoms, it seemeth this is always bottomless.”
“ The Prisoner" is likewise filled with this same kind of wit, which, when it does not lose itself in its quaintness, is very amusing. This is the beginning of it:
A Prisoner “ Is one that hath been a monied man, and is still a very close fellow; whosoever is of his acquaintance, let them make much of him, for they shall find him as fast a friend as any in England;
is a sure man, and you know whereto find him. The corruption of a bankrupt is commonly the generation of this creature, he dwells on the backside of the world, or in the suburbs of society, and lives in a tenement which he is sure none will go about to take over his head."
The “Noble and Retired Housekeeper" is another lofty picture of a high character, in the same style as the “ Noble Spirit.” It is pleasant to think that among our nobility we have always had originals for a picture like the following.
A Noble and Retired Housekeeper “ Is one whose bounty is limited by reason, not ostentation, and to make it last, he deals it discreetly as we sow the furrow, not by the
sack, but by the handful. His word and his meaning never shake hands and part, but always go together. He can survey good and love it, for he loves to do it himself, for its own sake, not for thanks. He knows there is no such misery as to outlive a good name, nor no such folly, as to put it in practice. His mind is so secure, that thunder rocks him to sleep, which breaks other men's slumbers; nobility lightens in his eyes, and in his face and gesture is painted the God of hospitality. His great houses bear in their front more durance than state, unless this add the greater state to them, that they promise to out-last much of our new fantastical building. His heart grows old no more than his memory, whether at his book, or on horseback : he passes
his time in such noble exercise; a man cannot say any time is lost by him, nor hath he only years to approve he hath lived till he be old, but virtues. His thoughts have a high aim, though their dwelling be in the vale of an humble heart, whence, as by an engine (that raises water to fall, that it may rise higher) he is heightned in his humility. The Adamant serves not for all seas, but his doth, for he hath, as it were, put a gird about the whole world, and sounded all her quicksands. He hath his hand over fortune, that her injuries, how violent or sudden soever, do not daunt him ; for whether his time call him to live or die, he can do both nobly; if to fall, his descent is breast to breast with virtue, and even then, like the sun near his set, he shows unto the world his clearest countenance.”
Sir Thomas Overbury seems to have had a high regard for the profession of an actor, and, if we mistake not, there are marks in the following portrait of his having taken it from personal observation. Probably, like many other accomplished men, from the time of Cicero, he sought the society of a set of men whose occupation, to excel in it, requires the cultivation of the most attractive graces, both of mind and body, and is of a nature to cast a romantic and elevated tinge over the character.
will think you
An excellent Actor. “ Whatsoever is commendable in the grave orator, is most exquisitely perfect in him ; for by a full and significant action of body, he charms our attention; sit in a full theatre, and you see so many lines drawn from the circumference of so many ears, while the actor is the center. He doth not strive to make nature monstrous, she is often seen in the same scene with him, but neither on stilts nor crutches; and for his voice, 'tis not lower than the prompter, nor louder than the foil and target. By his action he fortifies moral precepts with example, for what we see him personate, we think truly done before us; a man of a deep thought might apprehend the ghosts of our ancient heroes walked again, and take him (at several times) for many of them. He is much affected to painting, and ’tis a question, whether that makes him an excellent player, or his playing an exquisite painter. He adds grace to the poet's labours; for what in the poet is but ditty, in him is both ditty and music. He entertains us in the best leisure of our life, that is between meals, the most unfit time for study or bodily exercise. The flight of hawks and chace of wild beasts, either of them are delights noble; but some think this sport of men the worthier, despight all calumny. All men have been of his occupation; and, indeed, what he doth feignedly, that do others essentially. This day one plays a monarch, the next a private person. Here one acts a tyrant, on the morrow an exile ; a parasite this man to night, to-morrow a precisian, and so of divers others. I observe, of all men living, a worthy actor in one kind is the strongest motive of affection that can be; for when he dies, we cannot be persuaded any man can do his parts like him. But to conclude, I value a worthy actor, by the corruption of some few of the quality, as I would do gold in the ore; I should not mind the dross, but the purity of the metal.”
Coupling this admirable character of the “ Franklin,” with that of the Milkmaid," we may conclude that Sir Thomas Overbury had a keen taste for the pleasures of a rural life--but whether he had an opportunity of indulging it, we are unable to judge, from the scanty particulars which are left of his short life.
“ His outside is an ancient yeoman of England, though his inside
may give arms (with the best gentleman) and never see the herald. There is no truer servant in the house than himself. Though he be master, he says not to his servants, go to field, but let us go ; and with his own eye, doth both fatten his flock, and set forward all manner of husbandry. He is taught by nature to be contented with a little ; his own fold yields him both food and raiment, he is pleased with any nourishment God sends, whilst curious gluttony ransacks, as it were, Noah's ark for food, only to feed the riot of one meal. He is never known to go to law; understanding, to be law-bound among men, is like to be hide-bound among his beasts ; they thrive not under it, and that such men sleep as unquietly, as if their pillows were stuft with lawyers' pen-knives. When he builds, no poor tenant's cottage hinders his prospect; they are, indeed, his alms-houses, though there be painted on them no such superscription. He never sits up late, but when he hunts the badger, the vowed foe of his lambs ; nor uses he any cruelty, but when he hunts the hare; nor subtilty, but when he setteth snares for the snipe, or pitfals for the black-bird ; nor oppression, but when in the month of July, he goes to the next river and sheers his sheep. He allows of honest pastime, and thinks not the bones of the dead any thing bruised, or the worse for it, though the country lasses dance in the church-yard after even song. Rock-monday, and the wake in summer, shrovings, the wakeful ketches on Christmas-eve, the hoky, or seed-cake, these he yearly keeps, yet holds them no relics of popery. He is not so inquisitive after news derived from the privy-closet, when the finding an eiery of hawks in his own ground, or the foaling of a colt come of a good strain, are tidings more pleasant and more profitable. He is lord paramount within himself, though he hold by never so mean a tenure, and dies the more contentedly, (though he leave his heir young) in regard, he leaves him not liable to a covetous guardian. Lastly, to end him; he cares not when bis end comes; he needs not fear his audit, for his quietus is in heaven."
At the end of this numerous gallery of portraits, the author gives you
“ a Character of a Character," which, says he, “ To square out a character by our English level, is a picture (real or personal) quaintly drawn in various colours, all of them heightned by one shadowing.
“ It is a quick and soft touch of many strings, all shutting up in one musical close: it is wit's descant on any plain song."
It is needless to tell the reader, after the many specimens we have given, that this is a very accurate definition of the author's own“ Characters.” They are, in truth,“ a quick and soft touch of many strings,” and do altogether discourse most excellent music. This description of writing is very old, as old as Theophrastus; and though many similar writers have given more true and verisimilar portraits of the characters they drew, we do not think one of this numerous race of authors has produced more amusing, ingenious, and, in some cases, more beautiful compositions of the kind, than some of those we have quoted. It unfortunately happens, that the vice of the times, the love of conceit, shews itself too conspicuously, and that the change of manners has rendered the language of too many parts totally unfit to meet a modern ear.
The book concludes with a few pages of lively matter, which the author terms “ News from any Whence,'or old Truth under a Supposal of Novelty.” We give a specimen or two.
News from Court. " It is thought here, that there are as great miseries beyond happiness, as on this side it, as being in love. That truth is every man's by assenting; that time makes every thing aged, and yet itself was never but a minute old. That, next sleep, the greatest devourer of time is business, the greatest stretcher of it, passion; the truest measure of it, contemplation. To be saved, always is the best plot; and virtue always clears her way as she goes. Vice is ever behind hand with itself. That wit and a woman are two frail things, and both the frailer by concurring.”
From the Bed. That the bed is the best rendezvous of mankind, and the most necessary ornament of a chamber. That soldiers are good antiquaries
in keeping the old fashion, for the first bed was the bare ground. That a man's pillow is his best counsellor. That Adam lay in state when the heaven was his canopy. That the naked truth is, Adam and Eve lay without sheets.”
Art. VI. The Athenaid, a Poem in Thirty Books.* By Richard
Glover. 3 vols. 12mo. 1788.
It is proverbially the fate of those, who have been too highly or too exclusively extolled in their own day, to be unduly depreciated in the age which succeeds them; and this may serve to account for the churlish measure of praise, which is usually dealt to the poets of the school of Queen Anne by critics of the present day. We confess that we see no adeguate motive for such jealous parsimony. Their reign is decidedly gone by ; no danger is to be apprehended to the taste of the “reading public,” from their writings; the revival of the critical system, under which they flourished, is as little to be dreaded as the restoration of the Stuarts ; we can now afford to canvas their merits dispassion
* The following remarks are from the pen of a well-known critic in the Quarterly Review.—“The Athenaid, which could not be included in Anderson's collection, is contained in this, ( Chalmers's Poets.) It ought always to accompany the Leonidas. Mr. Chalmers censures it, because, he says, the events of history are so closely followed as to give the whole the air of a poetical chronicle. To this opinion we may oppose the fact of having ourselves repeatedly perused it in early youth, for the interest which the story continually excited. Glover endeavoured to imitate the ancients, but wanted strength to support the severe style which he had chosen. He has, however, many and great merits; this especially among others, that instead of treading in the sheep-track wherein the writers of modern epics, till his time, servum pecus, had gone one after the other, he framed the stories of both his poems according to their subject, without reference to any model, or any rule but that of propriety and good sense.” Quart. Rev. vol. xi. p.
498 -9. The critic triumphs unmercifully over Mr. Chalmers's assertion (if, indeed, it is not adopted by him from some former writer) that“ Glover thought that iambic feet only should be used in heroic verse, without admitting any trochaic:” without, however, undertaking to defend this proposition, we may observe, that Glover appears to have had an objection to the frequent use of the trochee (if the term may be used) in heroic blank verse; as may be seen, by comparing any passage of either of his poems with one of equal length from Paradise Lost. The reviewer has not noticed the omission of Glover's two dramatic works, in a collection which contains Mickie's Siege of Marseilles.