« ElőzőTovább »
scription. The names of the subscribers proved how widely his fame had been spread. That his countrymen should be eager to possess his writings, even in a costly 5 form, is not wonderful. But it is wonderful that, though English literature was then little studied on the Continent, Spanish grandees, Italian prelates, marshals of France, should be found in the list. Among the most remarkable names are those of the Queen of Sweden, of Prince Eugene, of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, of the Dukes of Parma, Modena, and Guastalla, of the Doge of Genoa, of the Regent Orleans, and of Cardinal Dubois. We ought to add that this edition, though eminently beautiful, is in some important points defective; nor, indeed, do we yet possess a complete collection of Addi
son's writings. 6 It is strange that neither his opulent and noble widow,
nor any of his powerful and attached friends, should have thought of placing even a simple tablet inscribed with his name on the walls of the Abbey. It was not till three generations had laughed and wept over his pages that the omission was supplied by the public veneration. At length, in our own time, his image, skillfully graven, appeared in Poet's Corner. It represents him, as we can conceive him, clad in his dressing-gown and freed from his wig, stepping from his parlor at Chelsea into his trim little garden, with the account of the “Everlasting Club” or the “Loves of Hilpa and Shalum,” just finished for the next day's “Spectator,” in his hand. 7 Such a mark of national respect was due to the unsullied
statesman, to the accomplished scholar, to the master of pure English eloquence, to the consummate painter of life and manners. It was due, above all, to the great satirist, who alone knew how to use ridicule without abusing it, who, without inflicting a wound, effected a
HISTORY OF ENGLAND."
to a mittimus. If he went to school and to college, he generally returned before he was twenty to the seclusion of the old hall, and there, unless his mind were very hap
great social reform, and who reconciled wit and virtue after a long and disastrous separation, during which wit had been led astray by profligacy and virtue by fanaticism. THE ENGLISH COUNTRY GENTLEMAN OF 1688.
MACAULAY's The English country gentleman of 1688 is an illustration of Macaulay's method of “holding the mirror up to nature," and showing the very form and feature of an era.
A COUNTRY gentleman who witnessed the revolution 1 was probably in the receipt of about the fourth part of the rent which his acres now yield to his posterity ; he was therefore, as compared with his posterity, a poor man, and was generally under the necessity of residing, with little interruption, on his estate. To travel on the Continent, to maintain an establishment in London, or even to visit London frequently, were pleasures in which only the great proprietors could indulge. It may be confidently affirmed that, of the squires whose names were in King Charles's commission of peace and lieutenancy, not one in twenty went to town once in five years, or had ever in his life wandered so far as Paris. Many lords of manors had received an education differing little from that of their menial servants. The heir of an estate 2 often passed his boyhood and youth at the seat of his family, with no better tutors than grooms and gamekeepers, and scarce attained learning enough to sign his name
pily constituted by nature, soon forgot his academical 3 pursuits in rural business and pleasures. His chief seri
ous employment was the care of his property. He examined samples of grain, handled pigs, and on market days made bargains over a tankard with drovers and hopmerchants. His chief pleasures were commonly derived from field-sports and from an unrefined sensuality. His language and pronunciation were such as we should now expect to hear only from the most ignorant clowns. His oaths, coarse jests, and scurrilous terms of abuse were uttered with the broadest accent of his province. It was easy to discern from the first words which he spoke whether he came from Somersetshire or Yorkshire. He troubled himself little about decorating his abode, and, if he attempted decoration, seldom produced anything but deformity. The litter of a farm-yard gathered under the
windows of his bed-chamber, and the cabbages and goose4 berry-bushes grew close to his hall-door. His table was loaded with coarse plenty, and guests were cordially welcome to it; but, as the habit of drinking to excess was general in the class to which he belonged, and as his fortune did not enable him to intoxicate large assemblies daily with claret or canary, strong beer was the ordinary beverage. The quantity of beer consumed in those days was indeed enormous; for beer was then to the middle and lower classes, not only all that beer now is, but all that wine, tea, and ardent spirits now are; it was only at great houses or on great occasions that foreign drink was placed on the board. The ladies of the house, whose business it had commonly been to cook the repast, retired as soon as the dishes had been devoured, and left the gentlemen to their ale and tobacco. The coarse jollity of the afternoon was often prolonged till the revelers were laid under the table.
It was very seldom that the country gentleman caught 5 glimpses of the great world, and what he saw of it tended rather to confuse than to enlighten his understanding. His opinions respecting religion, government, foreign countries, and former times, having been derived, not from study, from observation, or from conversation with enlightened companions, but from such traditions as were current in his own small circle, were the opinions of a child; he adhered to them, however, with the obstinacy which is generally found in ignorant men accustomed to be fed with flattery. His animosities were numerous 6 and bitter. He hated Frenchmen and Italians, Scotchmen and Irishmen, Papists and Presbyterians, Independents and Baptists, Quakers and Jews. Toward London and Londoners he felt an aversion which more than once produced important political effects. His wife and daughter were in tastes and acquirements below a housekeeper or a still-room inaid of the present day. They stitched and spun, brewed gooseberry wine, cured marigolds, and made the crust for the venison pastry.
From this description it might be supposed that the 7 English esquire of the seventeenth century did not materially differ from a rustic miller or ale-house keeper of our time. There are, however, some important parts of his character still to be noted, which will greatly modify this estimate. Unlettered as he was, and unpolished, he was still in some important points a gentleman. He was a member of a proud and powerful aristocracy, and was distinguished by many both of the good and of the bad qualities which belong to aristocrats. His family pride was beyond that of a Talbot or a Howard. He knew the genealogies and coats-of-arms of all his neighbors, and could tell which of them had assumed supporters without any right, and which of them were so unfortunate as to
8 be great-grandsons of aldermen. He was a magistrate,
and as such administered gratuitously to those who dwelt around him a rude patriarchal justice, which, in spite of innumerable blunders and of occasional acts of tyranny, was yet better than no justice at all. He was an officer of the train-bands, and his military dignity, though it might move the mirth of gallants who had served a campaign in Flanders, raised his character in his own eyes and in the eyes of his neighbors. Nor indeed was his soldiership justly a subject of derision. In every county there were elderly gentlemen who had seen service which was no child's play. One had been knighted by Charles I, after the battle of Edgehill; another still wore a patch over the scar which he had received at Naseby; a third
had defended his old house till Fairfax had blown in the 9 door with a petard. The presence of these old Cavaliers,
with their old swords and holsters, and with their old stories about Goring and Lunsford, gave to the musters of militia an earnest and warlike aspect which would otherwise have been wanting. Even those country gentlemen who were too young to have themselves exchanged blows with the cuirassiers of the Parliament, had from childhood been surrounded by the traces of recent war,
and fed with stories of the martial exploits of their 10 fathers and uncles. Thus the character of the English
esquire of the seventeenth century was compounded of two elements which we are not accustomed to find united. His ignorance and uncouthness, his low tastes and gross phrases, would in our time be considered as indicating a nature and a breeding thoroughly plebeian. Yet he was essentially a patrician, and had in large measure both the virtues and the vices which flourish among men set from
their birth in high places, and accustomed to authority, to 11 observance, and to self-respect. It is not easy for a gen