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but the fact is, I never set a great value on money: if I had enough to carry me through, I was content ; but though I can accuse myself of a neglect of my own interest, I thank Ğod I cannot fix on any action inconsistent with moral rectitude.
We cannot be exactly certain of the compass of meaning with which the phrase, "moral rectitude,' is here employed. If nothing more is intended than integrity in pecuniary transactions, we may easily believe that Mr. Murphy claimed credit for a high degree of this virtue with ihe strictest justice. But if the expression means, and it would seem a very pompous one to mean less), a rectitude as general and comprehensive as the terrestrial legislation of that Divine Governor to whom Mr. M. ventured so confident a reference, either he entertained a mistaken opinion of himself, or he was the most eminent of all the saints that ever lived. And it would be very striking to compare this strain of high self-complacency with the reflections uttered in the review of life by the noblest benefactors of mankind, the most illustrious reformers, confessors, and martyrs, in the whole history of time. These men, in looking back on their career when it was nearly finished, have not disclaimed the integrity with which they had substantially acted, but have accompanied the avowal with humble confessions of defect and error, the pardon of which has been the object of some of their latest petitions.
These observations, made in obedience to the duty of holding forth to view, on all proper occasions, the Christian standard of morality, do by no means imply that Mr. Murphy was, according to the current meaning of the word, an immoral man. On the contrary, he seems to have been, especially for a person so much involved in theatrical interests and society, a respectable pattern of decorum, a contrast to the profligacy for which that department of society has been so generally notorious; a laudable opposite, for instance, to the character of his friend and coadjutor Foote. In his intercourse with society in general, he appears, from this work, to have been very much the man of honour, and without the vices of which that character does not necessarily imply the absence : he is described as independent, equitable, friendly, and generous. He was kind to his relations, always ready to serve his friends to the utmost of his power, and would not do a mean thing to gain the most advantageous friendship, or prevent or disarm the most formidable enmity. Another worthy distinction would be established in his favour, by the biographer's assertion, that there was not 'any sort of oaths' in his conversation--were not some degree of doubt excited as to the exact im
These of their the pa
port and value of this assertion, by a reference to a conversation in which Mr. M. is made to exclaim, "O! heavens!' on a very trifling occasion. But the practical avoidance of profane language, supposing the fact established, will be of no avail towards proving the existence of the slightest sentiment of real piety in the man, the pleasure of whose latest recollections of the conversation of Samuel Footé, does not appear to have been allayed by the remenibrance of his gross irreligion. We question whether any thing more curious can be extracted from the book than some of the paragraphs descriptive of this man's character and manners.
• That Mr. Murphy knew Mr. Foote well, the following remark upon him will prove better than I could otherwise have explained it. It is taken from Mr. M's. memorandum-books. “Foote gives a dinner large company-characters come one by one :-sketches them as they come: each enters,-he glad to see each - At dinner, his wit, affecta. tion, pride, his expense, his plate, his jokes, his stories ;-mall laugh ; all go, one by one,-all abused, one by one ; his toad-eaters stay ; he praises himself: in a passion against all the world.”' p. 172.
He had a fund of wit, humour and sense ; but he did not make a good use of his talents, though he got money by them, which he very idly squandered. He was too fond of detraction and mimicry, which were blemishes in his conversation, though you were entertained by them. He was ridiculously vain of his family, and of his classical knowledge, which was superficial, and boasted of his numerous relations among the old nobility. He was very extravagant, but by no means generous. Though he spared no expense in entertainments, nor in wine, yet he did not understand a table, He affected to have disguised cookery, and French dishes, and never eat plain meat. He was not clean in his person, and was disgusting in his manner of eating ; but he was so pleasant a fellow, and had such a flow of spirits, that you forgot his faults, and pardoned his want of elegance and decency. He always took the lead in conversation, and was generally the chief or sole performer, and he had such a rage for shining, and was so delighted with applause, that he often brought to my mind those lines of Pope in his character of the Duke of Wharton:
Though listening senates hung on all he spoke,
The club must hail him master of the joke.' • He was civil to your face, and seldom put you out of humour with yourself; but you paid for his civility the moment you went out of company, and were sure of being made ridiculous; yet he was not as malignant as some men I have known; but his vanity, and the desire he had of shewing his wit, made him run into satire and detraction. He loved titled men, and was proud of their company, though he gave himself airs of treating them with scorn. He was licentious and profligate, and frequently made a jest of religion and morality. He told a story very well, and added many pleasant circumstances of his own invention to heighten it. He had likewise a good choice of words and apt expressions, and would speak plausibly on grave subjects; but he soon grew tired of serious conversacioc, and returned naturally to his favourite amusement, mimicry, is
which he did not excel ; for he was coarse and unfair, and drew caricatures. But he entertained you more than a closer mimic. If he had applied to the Bar, and took pains in the profession of the law, it is probable he would have succeeded in it ; for he was very quick and discerning, and could relate the material occurrences of a debate in Parliament with wonderful precision and perspicuity –He was a bad actor and always ran into farce, and in tragedy he was detestable : for whenever he aimed at expression he was distorted. His voice, face, and figure were equally disagreeable.
• He was always buying rings, snuff-boxes, toys, &c. which were the great expense to him, and was a bubble at play. Upon the whole, his life and character would furnish matter for a good farce with an instructive moral. It would shew us, that parts and talents are of little use without prudence or virtue ; and tht flashes of wit and humour give only a mo. mentary pleasure, but no solid entertainment.' pp. 431–433.
He rented Charlton-house, the family seat in Worcestershire, where he lived in some splendour for about a year and a half. During his magnificence there, he invited his old schoolmaster, Mr. Miles, to dine with him, who, admiring his service of plate, and well furnished side board, very innocently asked Mr. Foute what it might cost. Indeed, says he, I know not, but sure I am, I shall soon know what it will bring. p. 431.
But we should briefly notice a few particulars of the life of Mr. Murphy. He states he was born in Ireland, in 1727, a year or two before his father was lost at sea, in a voyage for Aincrica. His mother removed to London ; and, if there be any meaning in a joke of his about her going to mass, would have no scruples on a religious account in sending him to be educated at St. Omer's, whither he went at the age of ten, and where he made very rapid advances in classical literature, and passed six years so agreeably, that he always recollected that period as the happiest of his life. He had a maternal uncle, of the name of Jeffery French, a member of Parliament, who took on himself something like the character of patron to Arthur, and an elder brother, and exercised for a while a good deal of the authority of that character, omitting only the benevolence. Nothing could have been less fortunately adapted for acting in that capacity to young men of spirit and talent than this West India planter, and representative of a rotten borough, who appears to have been crai bed, capricious, stingy, and in every respect illiberal. Mr. M. relates an interview and dialogue with this uncle, to whom he was introduced soon after his return from St. Omer's.
He talked with me for some time about indifferent things, and then repeating a line from Virgil. asked me if I could construe it. I told him I had the whole Æneid by heart. He made me repeat ten or a dozen lines, and then said, “If I had fifty acres of land to plough,' and can only get two labouring men to work at two acres per day, how many days will it take to do the whole ?»! « Sir!” said I, staring at him; “ Can't you answer that question ?" said he ; “ Then I would not give a farthing for all you know. Get Cocker's Arithmetic; you may buy it for a shilling at any stall; and mind me, young man, did you ever hear Mass, while you was abroad?"' “ Sir, I did, like the rest of the boys." " Then, mark my words; let me never hear that you go to Mass again, it is a mean, beggarly, blackguard religion.” He then rose, stepped into his chariot, and drove away.' p. 9.
By this gentleman, young Murphy was placed in the counting house of an eminent merchant of Cork, where, though not over fond of his occupation, nor much delighted with his prospects, he says he applied himself with the greatest asssiduity to the acquisition of mercantile knowledge and habits, resolved to qualify himself as soon as possible for some undertaking that should exempt bim from the irksomeness of dependence on any one, but especially on uncle French. But the assistance of this same ungracious personage was necessary in the first instance, as introductory to any plan of independence; and it was of course that when consu/ted and urged on the subject he would assume to dictate the plan itself. Accordingly, in answer to the application of Murphy and his mother, the young man received orders to prepare for going to Jamaica, to be employed on an estate there. He was convinced this would be the d-struction of his health, probably of his life, and had his mother's sanction to refuse compliance, which disobedience' so enraged the old gentleman that he would never see him afterwards, and made no mention of him in bis will; notwithstanding that, to convince this worthy relative that idleness had not been, as he had chosen to take it, the motive of non-compliance, the young man had placed himself in a mercantile house in London, and conducted himself, he says, with exemplary propriety for several years. The only benefit the gentleman conferred on his nephew was one he could not help; he served as a basis for some of the ridiculous characters in Murphy's comedies.
At length, about the age of three or four and twenty, this imprisoned bel esprit, like Asmodeus escaping from his earthen jar, made his way out of the counting-house, to return to it no more, rambled over the town, and suddenly found himself in the midst of a gang of wits, players, and we suppose rakes, that frequented several coffee-houses in Covent Garden and at Temple bar. He boldly commenced a publication of periodical essays, under the title of the Gray's Inn Journal, which he continued with a flattering success for nearly two years, during which period his talents were much invigorated through the necessity of great ex
age of three deus escaping hou
ertions both in collecting materials and in working them up.-The demise and will of uncle Jeffery putting an end to all the expectations from that quarter, which had till then, notwithstanding the said uncle's declaration of war, been entertained, Mr. Murphy put an end also to his journal; and took his friend Foote's advice to seek, like him, a more lucrative employment in Covent Garilen, where he set himself, with as much gravity as if he had been attending mass at St. Omer's, or as if he had been writing out a 'copy of the Creed,' in order to sign it, for a proof of his being a Christian,--to begrime his visage and inflate himself with sham fury, in order to come out in the character of Othello. He came out accordingly, roaring, and stamping, and strangling his dramatic wife. And when he did so, it does not appear from any thing here recorded, that the spectators were moved to ask, “What is the meaning of all this? Is the man really in a furious passion ? Has he been deluded and wrought to madness by that ill-looking fellow they choose to call lago, but who is put down by the name of Hull, or Mattocks, or Foote, in his taylor's account of bad debts? Is that soot coloured man actually about murdering the woman ? But if all this is, to every one's constant perception, a mere mock exhibition, on what principle are we expected to have any one of those feelings which it would be natural to have at sight of a reality which should be as dreadful as this pageant is essentially by. its mock quality ludicrous ? For can any thing be more essentially ludicrous, than that wbich pretends to claim from us emotions of pity and terror, on behalf of certain persons and actions, on the ground of their being such persons and actions as we know them not to be? Vur being required to feel such emotions in reading a powerful tragedy is a totally different thing. Then imagination can go into the distance of time and place, and figure to itself the true Alexander and Roxana, or the supposed Othello, Desdemona and lago, and give them an intellectual reality capable of exciting all the required emotions. But here certain real persons are brought before our eyes, calling themselves and one another by names of Moorish warriors, Italian princesses, and the like: and, while attending to them, it is impossible to retire into the imagination, and create and fix the thoughts and affections upon that intellectual reality; at the same time we cannot be for a moment beguiled into any feeling that acknowledges the persons before us to be an African hero and his bride. Thus we are deprived of both the intel. lectual reality and the reality of fact. There is no hero or princess presented to the mind, either by the imagination