« ElőzőTovább »
THE CASTLE OF INDOLENCE."'
in description, is clearly shown in both his leading works. On such a theme as Indolence he wrote con amore; for no man could better enjoy the dolce far niente of the lazy Italian than he could himself. And when, after some hard battling with the stern realities of life, he had settled himself down in his quiet nest at Richmond—itself a Cottage of Indolence—all circumstances were most favourable to the composition of his great work. It took its colours from his daily life. With £400 a year and nothing to do for it-lying down and rising when he liked—sauntering in the green lanes around his house, or sucking peaches in sunny nooks of his little garden—he mused and wrote and smoothed his verses, undisturbed by anything which could mar the music of his song.
STANZAS FROM "THE CASTLE OF INDOLENCE."
In lowly dale, fast by a river's side,
I ween, a lovely spot of ground:
SPECIMEN OF THOMSON'S VERSE.
Full in the passage of the vale above,
A pleasing land of drowsy-head it was,
SAMUEL RICHARDSON, the first parent of that countless tribe, the modern novel, was a joiner's son. Born in Derbyshire in 1689, the little ellow went to a village school, where he became a great favourite with his class-fellows by the exercise of his remarkable gift of story-telling. Ragged and bare-footed the little circle
may have been that hemmed in the boy-novelist with its line of berry-brown cheeks and sun-bleached hair; but it was a pleasant picture for the old printer to look back upon through the lens of many years, as the beginning of his fame. We have a companion picture in the group that gathered so often in the Yards of the Edinburgh High School round little Walter Scott, clamorous for another story out of the teeming brain and glowing fancy, which were destined to delight the world with the richlycoloured fictions of a riper time. Nor was it only among the school-boys of the village that young Sam Richardson was a favourite. His quiet, womanly nature, made him love the society of the gentler sex; and while his rougher audiences were scattered through the woods enjoying the savage glories of bird-nesting, or were filling the village green with their noisy games at fives or hockey, he sat, through spring afternoons and long summer evenings, the centre of a little group of needle-women, who sewed and listened while he read some pleasant book, or told one of his enchaining tales. Three of these kind girl-friends put his abilities to another use, when they secretly begged him to write their love-letters for
A THRIVING PRINTER.
them, or at least to put what they had already written into a polished shape. In these occupations of his boyhood we can easily trace the germs, which grew in later years into Pamela and Clarissa Harlowe.
In his fifteenth year young Richardson was bound apprentice to Mr. John Wilde, a London printer. And thenceforward his career of prosperity in trade and of advancement in civic dig. nity resembles strongly the upward progress of the honest apprentice, as delineated by Hogarth's graphic pencil. During his seven years of servitude he is honoured and trusted by his master, who calls him “ the pillar of the house.” His seven years over, he remains for some time as foreman among the old familiar types and presses. Then, setting up in business for himself in Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, he marries his master's daughter, and rises high in the estimation of the booksellers; for he possesses all the qualities most prized in a man of business, and, in addition, a certain literary faculty, which lifts him high above the mere mechanical craftsman. He continues in a small way to use the pen he had found so telling in the service of the Derbyshire lasses. Booksellers whom he knew used often to ask him for a preface or a dedication for the books he was printing. And so this honest London printer flourished and throve, winning, by his gentle, feminine kindness, the good-will of all around him, and amassing, by steady industry and attention to his trade, a very considerable fortune. His position as a business man may be judged from the fact, that the printing of the Journals of the House of Commons was given to him while he was yet comparatively young. He was elected Master of the Stationers' Company in 1754; and, six years later, he bought one-half share in the patent of King's Printer.
But it is not as King's Printer that we remember Samuel Richardson with such reverent affection. When more than fifty years of this printer's life had passed, a talent, which had been slumbering almost unknown in the keen business brain, awoke to active life. A couple of bookselling friends requested him draw up a series of familiar letters, containing hints for guiding the affairs of common life. Richardson undertook the task, but,
PUBLICATION OF “PAMELA.”
inspired with the happy idea of giving a deeper human interest to the letters, he made them tell a connected story, which he justly thought would barb the moral with a keener and surer point. In a similar way the “Pickwick Papers,” perhaps the most humorous book in English fiction, grew into being. A young writer, who had already furnished picturesque sketches of London life to an evening paper, was invited by a publishing firm to write some comic adventures in illustration of a set of sporting plates. He began to write, and, losing sight very soon of the original idea of the work, he produced the narrative over which so many hearty, honest laughs have been enjoyed.
The subject of Richardson's first novel, Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, is the domestic history of a pretty peasant girl who goes out to service; and, after enduring many mishaps and escaping
many dangers, becomes the wife of her rich young master. 1740 A simple, common theme, and quite unlike the subject
matter of those heavy, affected, licentious romances,
which had hitherto supplied readers of fiction with poisonous amusement in their leisure hours. It is surprising with how much truth Richardson has painted the life of this persecuted girl. That spice of the woman in his own nature, to which reference has been already made, and his early love for the playful and innocent chat which beguiles the gentle toil of a circle of happy girls, busy with their needle-work or knitting, give a peculiarly feminine colouring to the pictures of Pamela's life. Little more than three months were occupied with the composition of the first part of this book. It appeared in 1740, and became the rage at once. Five editions were sold within the year. The ladies went wild with rapture over its pages, and began almost to idolize the successful author. The appearance of “Pamela” has been chosen, in our plan, as the opening of a new era in English literature. It marks the turning of the tide. The affectation and deep depravity of the earlier school of fiction had been slowly wearing away. People were sick, without knowing it, of the paint and patches, the brocades and strutting airs, which disguised the foul spirit lurking under the garb of romance; and when a simple tale