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THE AYRSHIRE LEGATEES;
Or, the Correspondence of the Pringle Family.
ON Sunday morning, before going to church, Mr Micklewham called at the Manse, and said that he wished particularly to speak to Mr Snodgrass. Upon being admitted, he found the young helper engaged at breakfast, with a book lying on his table, very like a volume of a new novel called Ivanhoe, in its appearance, but of course it must have been sermons done up in that manner to attract fashionable readers. As soon, however, as Mr Snodgrass saw his visitor he hastily removed the book, and put it into the table-drawer. The precentor having taken a seat at the opposite side of the fire, began somewhat diffidently to mention, that he had received a letter from the doctor, that made him at a loss whether or not he ought to read it to the elders, as usual, after worship, and therefore was desirous of consulting Mr Snodgrass on the subject, for it recorded, among other things, that the doctor had been at the playhouse, and Mr Micklewham was quite sure that Mr Craig would be neither to bind nor to hold when he heard that, although the transgression was certainly mollified by the nature of the performance. As the clergyman, however, could offer no opinion until he saw the letter, the precentor took it out of his pocket, and Mr Snodgrass found the contents, as Mr M'Gruel has fairly and entirely transcribed it, to be as follows:
The Rev. Z. Pringle, D. D. to Mr Micklewham, Schoolmaster and Sessionclerk, Garnock.
DEAR SIR,-You will recollect that about twenty years ago, there was a great sound throughout all the West that a playhouse in Glasgow had been converted into a tabernacle of religion. I remember it was glad tidings to our ears in the parish of Garnock; and that Mr Craig, who had just been ta'en in for an elder that fall, was for having a thanksgiving-day on the account thereof, holding it to be a signal manifestation of a new birth in the of-old-godly town of Glasgow, which had become slack in the way of welldoing, and the church therein lukewarm, like that of Laodicea. It was then said, as I well remember, that when the tabernacle was opened, there had not been seen, since the Kaimslang wark, such a congregation as was there assembled, which was a great proof that it's the matter handled, and not the place, that maketh pure; so that when you and the elders hear that I have been at the theatre of Drury-Lane, in London, you must not think that I was there to see a carnal stage play, whether tragical or comical, or that I would so far demean myself and my cloth, as to be a
witness to the chambering and wantonness of ne'er-du-weel playactors. No, Mr Micklewham, what I went to see was an Oratorio, a most edifying exercise of psalmody and prayer, under the management of a pious gentleman, of the name of Sir George Smart, who is, as I am informed, at the greatest pains to instruct the exhibitioners, they being, for the most part, before they get into his hands, poor uncultivated creatures, from Italy, France, and Germany, and other atheistical and popish countries. They first sung a hymn together very decently, and really with as much civilized harmony as could be expected from novices; indeed so well, that I thought them almost as melodious as your own singing class of the trades lads from Kilwinning. Then there was a Mr Braham, a Jewish proselyte, that was set forth to show us a specimen of his proficiency. In the praying part, what he said was no objectionable as to the matter, but he drawled in his manner to such a pitch, that I thought he would have broken out into an even down song, as I sometimes think of yourself when you spin out the last
word in reading out the line in a warm summer afternoon. In the hymn by himself, he did better; he was, however, sometimes like to lose the tune, but the people gave him great encouragement when he got back again. Upon the whole, I had no notion that there was any such Christianity in practice among the Londoners, and I am happy to tell you, that the house was very well filled, and the congregation wonderful attentive. No doubt that excellent man, Mr W**********, has a hand in these public strainings after grace, but he was not there that night; for I have seen him; and surely at the sight I could not but say to myself, that it's beyond the compass of the understanding of man to see what great things Providence worketh with small means; for Mr W. is a small creature. When I beheld his deminutive stature, and thought of what he had achieved for the poor negroes and others in the house of bondage, I said to myself, that here the hand of Wisdom is visible, for the load of perishable mortality is laid lightly on his spirit, by which it is enabled to clap its wings and crow so crously on the dunghill top of this world, yea even in the House of Parliament.
I was taken last Thursday morning to breakfast with him in his house at Kensington, by an East India director, who is likewise surely a great saint. It was a heart-healing meeting of many of the godly, which he holds weekly in the season; and we had such a warsle of the spirit among us that the like cannot be told. I was called upon to pray, and a worthy gentleman said, when I was done, that he never had met with more apostolic symplicity-indeed, I could see with the tail of my eye, while I was praying, that the chief saint himself was listening with a pleasant satisfaction.
As for our doings here anent the legacy, things are going forward in the regular manner, but the expense is terrible, and I have been obliged to take up money on account; but as it was freely given by the agents, I am in hopes all will end well; for considering that we are but strangers to them, they would not have awarded us in this matter had they not been sure of the means of payment in their own hands.
The people of London are surpris
ing kind to us; we need not, if we thought proper ourselves, eat a dinner in our own lodgings; but it would ill become me, at my time of life, and with the character for sobriety that I have maintained, to show an example in my latter days of riotous living, therefore Mrs Pringle and her daughter and me have made a point of going no where three times in the week; but as for Andrew Pringle, my son, he has forgathered with some acquaintance, and I fancy we will be obliged to let him take the length of his tether for a while. But not altogether without a curb neither, for the agent's son, young Mr Argent, had almost persuaded him to become a member of Parliament, which he said he could get him made, for more than a thousand pounds less than the common price, the state of the new king's health having lowered the commodity of seats. But this I would by no means hear of; he is not yet come to years of discretion enough to sit in council, and moreover, he has not been tried, and no man till he has out of doors shown
something of what he is, should be entitled to power and honour within. Mrs Pringle, however, thought he might do as well as young Dunure, but Andrew Pringle, my son, has not the solidity of head that Mr K*****dy has, and is over free and out spoken, and cannot take such pains to make his little go a great way, like that well-behaved young gentleman. But you will be grieved to hear that Mr K*****dy is in opposition to the government, and truly I am at a loss to understand how a man of whig principles can be an adversary to the House of Hanover. But I never meddled much in politick affairs, except at this time, when I prohibited Andrew Pringle, my son, from offering to be a member of Parliament, notwithstanding the great bargain that he would have had of the place.
And since we are on public concerns, I should tell you, that I was minded to send you a newspaper at the second hand, every day when we were done with it. But when we came to inquire, we found that we could get the newspaper for a shilling a week every morning but Sunday, to our breakfast, which was so much cheaper than buying a whole paper, that Mrs Pringle thought it would be a great extravagance, and indeed when
I came to think of the loss of time a newspaper every day would occasion to my people, I considered it would be very wrong of me to send you any at all. For I do not think that honest folks in a far off country-parish, should make or meddle with the things that pertain to government, the more especially, as it is well known, that there is as much falsehood as truth in newspapers, and they have not the means of testing the statements. Not, however, that I am an advocate for passive obedience, God forbid, on the
contrary, if ever the time should come, in my day, of a saint-slaying tyrant attempting to bind the burden of prelatic abominations on our backs, such a blast of the gospel trumpet would he heard in Garnock, as it does not become me to say, but I leave it to you and others, who have experienced my capacity as a soldier of the word so long, to think what it would then be. Meanwhile, I remain, my dear sir, your friend and pastor,
When Mr Snodgrass had perused this epistle, he paused sometime, seemingly in doubt, and then he said to Mr Micklewham, that, considering the view which the doctor had taken of the matter, and that he had not gone to the play-house for the motives which usually take bad people to such places, he thought there could be no possible harm in reading the letter to the elders, and that Mr Craig, so far from being displeased, would doubtless be exceed ingly rejoiced to learn, that the play-houses of London were occasionally so well employed as on the night when the doctor was there.
Mr Micklewham then inquired if Mr Snodgrass had heard from Mr Andrew, and was answered in the affirmative; but the letter was not read. Why it was withheld, our readers must guess for themselves; but the following copy was obtained by Mr M'Gruel, when, in the course of the week, he called at the manse, to inquire respecting the health and welfare of the reverend doctor and his worthy family.
Andrew Pringle, Esq. to the Rev. Mr Charles Snodgrass.
MY DEAR FRIEND, As the season advances, London gradually unfolds, like nature, all the variety of her powers and pleasures. By the Argents we have been introduced effectually into society, and have now only to choose our acquaintance among those whom we like best. I should employ another word than choose, for I am convinced that there is no choice in the matter. In his friendships and affections, man is subject to some inscrutable moral law, similar in its effects to what the chemists call affinity. While under the blind influence of this sympathy, we, forsooth, suppose ourselves free agents! But a truce with philosophy.
The amount of the legacy is now ascertained. The stock, however, in which a great part of the money is vested, being shut, the transfer to my father cannot be made for some time; and till this is done, my mother cannot be persuaded that we have yet got any thing to trust to an unfortunate no
tion, which renders her very unhappy. The old gentleman himself takes no interest now in the business. He has got his mind at ease by the payment of all the legacies; and having fallen in with some of the members of that political junto, the saints, who are worldly enough to link, as often as they can, into their association, the powerful by wealth or talent, his whole time is occupied in assisting to promote their humbug: and he has absolutely taken it into his head, that the attention he receives from them for his subscriptions is on account of his eloquence as a preacher, and that hitherto he has been altogether in an error with respect to his own abilities. The effect of this is abundantly amusing; but the source of it is very evident. Like most people who pass a sequestered life, he had formed an exaggerated opinion of public characters; and on seeing them in reality so little superior to the generality of man
kind, he imagines that he was all the time nearer to their level than he had ventured to suppose; and the discovery has placed him on the happiest terms with himself. It is impossible that I can respect his manifold excellent qualities and goodness of heart more than I do; but there is an innocency in this simplicity which, while it often compels me to smile, makes me feel towards him a degree of tenderness somewhat too familiar for that filial reverence that is due from a son.
Perhaps, however, you will think me scarcely less under the influence of a similar delusion when I tell you, that I have been somehow or other drawn also into an association, not indeed so public or potent as that of the saints, but equally persevering in the objects for which it has been formed. The drift of the saints, as far as I can comprehend the matter, is to procure the advancement to political power of men distinguished for the purity of their lives and the integrity of their conduct; and in that way, I presume, they expect to effect the accomplishment of that blessed epoch, the millenium, when the saints are to rule the whole earth. I do not mean to say that this is their decided and determined object; I only infer, that it is the necessary tendency of their proceedings: and I say it with all possible respect and sincerity, that, as a public party, the saints are not only perhaps the most powerful, but the party which, at present, best deserves power.
The association, however, with which I have happened to become connected, is of a very different description. Their object is, to pass through life with as much pleasure as they can obtain, with out doing any thing unbecoming the rank of gentlemen, and the character of men of honour. We do not assemble such numerous meetings as the saints, the whigs, or the radicals, nor are our speeches delivered with so much vehemence. We even, I think, tacitly exclude oratory. In a word, our meetings seldom exceed the perfect number of the muses; and our object on these occasions is not so much to deliberate on plans of prospective benefits to mankind, as to enjoy the present time for ourselves, under the temperate inspiration of a well-cooked dinner, flavoured, with elegant wine, and just so much of mind as suits the
fleeting topics of the day. T whom I formerly mentioned, introduced me to this delightful society. The members consist of about fifty gentlemen, who dine occasionally at each others' houses; the company being chiefly selected from the brotherhood, if that term can be applied to a circle of acquaintance, who, without any formal institution of rules, have gradually acquired a consistency that approximates to organization.-But the universe of this vast city contains a plurality of systems, and the one into which I have been attracted may be described as that of the idle intellects. In a general society, the members of our party are looked up to as men of taste and refinement, and are received with a degree of deference that bears some resemblance to the respect paid to the hereditary endowment of rank. They consist either of young men who have acquired distinction at college, or gentlemen of fortune who have a relish for intellectual pleasures, free from the ascerbities of politics, or the dull formalities which so many of the pious think essential to their religious pretensions. The wealthy furnish the entertainments, which are always in a superior style, and the ingredient of birth is not requisite in the qualifications of a member, although some jealousy is entertained of professional men, and not a little of merchants. T
to whom I am also indebted for this view of that circle of which he is the brightest ornament, gives a felicitous explanation of the reason. He says, professional men, who are worth any thing at all, are always ambitious, and endeavour to make their acquaintance subservient to their own advancement; while merchants are liable to such casualties, that their friends are constantly exposed to the risk of being obliged to sink them below their wonted equality, by granting them favours in times of difficulty, or, what is worse, by refusing to grant them.
I am much indebted to you for the introduction to your friend G. He is one of us, or rather, he moves in an eccentric sphere of his own, which crosses, I believe, almost all the orbits of all the classed and classifiable systems of London. I found him exactly what you described; and we were on the frankest footing of old friends in the course of the first
quarter of an hour. He did me the honour to fancy that I belonged, as a matter of course, to some one of the literary fraternities of Edinburgh, and that I would be curious to see the associations of the learned here. What he said respecting them was highly characteristic of the man. "They are," said he, "the dullest things possible. On my return from abroad I visited them all, expecting to find something of that easy disengaged mind which constitutes the charm of those of France and Italy. But in London, among those who have a character to keep up, there is such a vigilant circumspection, that I should as soon expect to find nature in the ballets of the Opera-house, as genius at the established haunts of authors, artists, and men of science. Bk gives, I suppose officially, a public breakfast weekly, and opens his house for conversation on the Sundays. I found at his breakfasts, tea and coffee, with hot rolls, and men of celebrity afraid to speak. At the conversations there was something even worse. Á few plausible talking fellows created a buzz in the room, and the merits of some paltry nick-nack of mechanism or science was discussed. The party consisted undoubtedly of the most eminent men of their respective lines in the world; but they were each and all so apprehensive of having their ideas purloined, that they took the most guarded care never to speak of any thing that they deemed of the slightest consequence, or to hazard an opinion that might be called in
question. The man who either wishes to augment his knowledge or to pass his time agreeably, will never expose himself to a repetition of the fastidious exhibitions of engineers and artists who have their talents at market. But such things are among the curiosities of London; and if you have any inclination to undergo the initiating mortification of being treated as a young man who may be likely to interfere with their professional interests, I can easily get you introduced."
I do not know whether to ascribe these strictures of your friend to humour or misanthropy; but they were said without bitterness, indeed so much as matters of course, that, at the moment, I could not but feel persuaded they were just. I spoke of them to T
who says, that undoubtedly G- -'s account of the exhibitions is true in substance, but that it is his own sharp-sightedness which causes him to see them so of fensively; for that ninety-nine out of the hundred in the world, would deem an evening spent at the conversations of Sir JB- - a very high
On the same Sunday on which Mr Micklewham consulted Mr Snodgrass as to the propriety of reading the doctor's letter to the elders, the following epistle reached the post office of Irvine, and was delivered by Saunders Dickie himself, at the door of Mrs Glibbans, to her servan lassie, who, as her mistress had gone to the relief church, told him, that he would have to come for the postage the morn's morning. "O," said Saunders, "there's naething to pay but my ain trouble, for it's frankit, but aiblins the mistress will gie me a bit drappie, and so I'll come betimes i' the morning."
MY DEAR MRS GLIBBANS,-The breking up of the old parlament has been the cause why I did not right you before, it having taken it out of my poor to get a frank for my letter
till yesterday, and I do ashure you, that I was most extraordinar uneasy at the great delay, wishing much to let you know the decayt state of the gospel in thir perts, which is the plea