Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

26+

THACKERAY ON ADDISON'S STYLE.

[ocr errors]

cherished a deep, reverential gratitude to God, passed at forty

eight from this troubled life, let us humbly trust, to that 1719

golden city of everlasting peace, which needs no sun to A.D.

light it, for the Lamb is the light thereof. No better close for this slight sketch could be found than the charming picture of Addison in his prime, which we owe to Thackeray's brilliant pen.*

“ Addison wrote his papers as gaily as if he was going out for a holiday. When Steele's 'Tatler' first began his prattle, Addison, then in Ireland, caught at his friend's notion, poured in paper after paper, and contributed the stores of his mind, the sweet fruits of his reading, the delightful gleanings of his daily observation, with a wonderful profusion, and, as it seemed, an almost endless fecundity. He was six-and-thirty years old : full and ripe. He had not worked crop after crop from his brain, manuring hastily, subsoiling indifferently, cutting and sowing and cutting again, like other luckless cultivators of letters. He had not done much as yet; a few Latin poems—graceful prolusions; a polite book of travels; a dissertation on medals, not very deep; four acts of a tragedy, a great classical exercise; and the 'Campaign,' a large prize poem that won an enormous prize. But with his friend's discovery of the "Tatler,' Addison's calling was found, and the most delightful talker in the world began to speak. ... . His writings do not show insight into or reverence for the love of women, which I take to be, one the consequence of the other. He walks about the world watching their pretty humours, fashions, follies, flirtations, rivalries; and noting them with the most charming archness. He sees them in public, in the theatre, or the assembly, or the puppet-show; or at the toy-shop, higgling for gloves and lace; or at the auction, battling together over a blue porcelain dragon, or a darling monster in japan; or at church, eyeing the width of their rivals' hoops, or the breadth of their laces, as they sweep down the aisles. Or he looks out of his window at the Garter in St. James's Street, at Ardelia's coach, as she blazes to the drawing-room with her coronet and six footmen; and remeni.

* See English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century, Lecture in

SPECIMEN OF ADDISON'S PROSE.

265

bering that her father was a Turkey merchant in the city, calculates how many sponges went to purchase her ear-rings, and how many drums of figs to build her coach box; or he demurely watches behind a tree in Spring Garden as Saccharissa (whom he knows under her mask) trips out of her chair to the alley where Sir Fopling is waiting."

SKETCH OF WILL WIMBLE.

(SPECTATOR, NO. 108.) As I was yesterday morning walking with Sir Roger before his house, a country fellow brought bim a huge fish, which, he told him, Mr. William Wimble had caught that very morning; and that he presented it with his service to him, and intended to come and dine with him. At the same time he delivered a letter, which my friend read to me as soon as the messenger left him. “SIR ROGER,

“I desire you to accept of a jack, which is the best I have caught this season. I intend to come and stay with you a week, and see how the perch bite in the Black river. I observed with some concern, the last time I saw you upon the bowling-green, that your whip wanted a lash to it; I will bring half a dozen with me that I twisted last week, which I hope will serve you all the time you are in the country. I have not been out of the saddle for six days last past, having been at Eton with Sir John's eldest son. He takes to his learning hugely.

I am, Sir, your humble servant,

“WILL WIMBLE."

This extraordinary letter, and message that accompanied it, made me very curious to know the character and quality of the gentleman who sent them; which I found to be as follow :-Will Wimble is younger brother to a baronet, and descended of the ancient family of the Wimbles. He is now between forty and fifty; but being bred to no business and born to no estate, he generally lives with his eldest brother as superintendent of his game. He hunts a pack of dogs better than any man in the country, and is very famous for finding out a hare. He is extremely well versed in all the little handicrafts of an idle man. Не makes a May-fly to a miracle; and furnishes the whole country with angle-rods. As he is a good-natured, officious fellow, and very much esteemed on account of his family, he is a welcome guest at every house, and keeps up a good correspondence among all the gentlemen about him. He carries a tulip root in his pocket from one to another, or exchanges a puppy between a couple of friends, that live perhaps in the opposite sides of the country. ese gentleman-like manufactures and obliging little humours make Will the darling of the country..

[blocks in formation]

ALTHOUGH Newton's fame does not rest upon his contributions to English literature, we need make no apology for presenting here a brief view of the life and works of that Englishman who wrote the Principia, and won for his native land the fame of having given birth to the greatest natural philosopher the world has ever seen.

The hamlet of Woolsthorpe, eight miles south of Grantham in Lincolnshire, was the birth-place of Isaac Newton. His father farmed a small estate. During his school-life at Grantham and elsewhere, a remarkable taste for mechanics led him to spend his leisure in the construction of such things as model wind-mills and water-clocks; but his progress in his studies was very slow, until a strange accident produced a change. The boy above him gave him a heavy kick in the stomach one day; and this so roused the energies of young Isaac, that he worked industriously until he got above his injurer. He then continued his successful career until he stood at the head of his class.

At seventeen he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, became ultimately a Fellow, and in 1669 succeeded Dr. Barrow as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. Here were performed most of those splendid optical experiments which placed the science of light on new foundations. Here and at Woolsthorpe, where he sometimes spent a while, he busied himself with those sublime investigations, resulting in his discovery of that grand law of universal

NEWTON'S “ PRINCIPIA.

267

ness.

gravitation which the stars obey, as they wheel in huge ellipses round a central sun, and which at the same time guides the fall of the tiniest leaflet that flutters dead to the earth in the silence of an autumn wood.

In 1672 Newton was elected a member of the Royal Society, which was then an infant association, only twelve years old. Through the studious years that followed, his great work-a Latin treatise entitled in full, Philosophic Naturalis Principia Mathematica—was slowly but steadily growing to complete

It was published in 1687, at the expense of the 1687 members of the Royal Society, who were justly proud of A.D. the distinguished author. In the following year the University of Cambridge returned him as one of the members who represented her in Parliament an honour which he enjoyed more than once. But through all these years of honour and success he remained a comparatively poor man, until in 1695 he received his appointment as Warden of the Mint, a post worth about £600 a year.

This he held for four years, when he was promoted to be Master, with a salary of more than double what he had been receiving as Warden.

In 1692 occurred that distressing accident which some believe to have shaken his great mind for a time. The commonly received story—and a pretty one it is, often quoted to show how a gentle patience adorned the character of this great philosopher-runs thus : One winter morning, having shut his pet dog Diamond in his study, he came back from early chapel to find all his manuscripts upon the theory of colours, notes upon the experiments of twenty busy years, reduced to a heap of tinder. The dog had knocked down a lighted candle and set the papers in a blaze. "Ah! Diamond, Diamond, little do you know the mischief you have done,” was the only rebuke the dog received—though, as a Cambridge student writing in his diary at that very time tells us, “Every one thought that Newton would have run mad.”

High honours crowned the later life of the philosopher; of these the chief were his election in 1703 as President of the Royal Society, an office conferred on him every succeeding year until his

268

NEWTON'S ENGLISH WORKS.

death; and his knighthood in 1705, under the royal hand of good Queen Anne. His long life, more fruitful, perhaps, in great wonders of scientific discovery than that of any other man in ancient or modern times, came to a close at Kensington in 1727, when the old man had passed his eighty-fourth year.

From the long list of Newton's works, the principal of which were written in Latin, some English publications may be selected. The first edition of his Optics (1704) appeared in his own tongue. A work entitled, The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended, was printed after the author's death. And, more interesting than either, both as affording a favourable specimen of Newton's literary power, and a proof how deeply this great interpreter of nature's laws was fascinated by the shadowy mysteries of prophecy, is the theological treatise, styled Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John, which his executors published in 1733.

THE LANGUAGE OF PROPHECY.

For understanding the prophecies, we are, in the first place, to acquaint ourselves with the figurative language of the prophets. This language is taken from the analogy between the world natural and an empire or kingdom considered as a world politic.

Accordingly, the whole world natural, consisting of heaven and earth, signifies the whole world politic, consisting of thrones and people; or so much of it as is considered in the prophecy. And the things in that world signify the analogous things in this. For the heavens, and the things therein, signify thrones and dignities, and those who enjoy them; and the earth, with the things thereon, the inferior people; and the lowest parts of the earth, called Hades or Hell, the lowest or most miserable part of them. Whence, ascending towards heaven, and descending to the earth, are put for rising and falling in power and honour; rising out of the earth or waters, and falling into thein, for the rising up to any dignity or dominion, out of the inferior state of the people, or falling down from the same into that inferior state; descending into the lower parts of the earth, for descending to a very low and unhappy state; speaking with a faint voice out of the dust, for being in a weak and low condition; moving from one place to another, for translation from one office, digníty, or dominion to another; great earthquakes, and the shaking of heaven and earth, for the shaking of dominions, so as to distract or overthrow them; the creating a new heaven and earth, and the passing away of an old one, or the beginning and end of the world, for the rise and reign of the body politic signified thereby.

« ElőzőTovább »