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With curious eye his antique piles explore,
“ Already hoary winter, bursting forth, Has left the regions of the dreary North ; Through the brown woods the quivering leaves display His near approach, and point him on his way; And soon, alas ! he'll take his annual round, With horrid step deform the verdant ground, His purple crown shall tear from autumn's head, And o’er the earth his scatter'd honours spread. But here, the drama opes its 'witching doors, And Shakspeare greets me with his richest stores. . Here Garrick, Barry, Holland, all combine To stamp new force and spirit on each line. Oh! how I joy to taste his festal hour! . Ev'n now I feel his more than magic pow'r. – Inhuman Thane ! hide, hide the murdering knife ! Nor touch the guest, — the friend, — the monarch's life; But see the dagger leads him to the bed! And now it falls ! - he's number'd with the dead! What shall the hand its wonted white restore? Not ocean's self — Macbeth shall sleep no more. Amidst the blustering horrors of the night; What forms fantastic strike my aching sight? Inhuman daughters ! - where is pity fled ? To the wild storm expose a parents head? But hark! I hear !.— Ye winds, O catch the sound, And bear it on your rosy pinions round. Proclaim — the tempest's past, the sky's serene, And virtue crowns Cordelia more than queen.
These are the public joys, and these are mine:
6 JAS. MAINSTONÉ, 6th Nov. 1769,"
Mr. Bowdler at this time frequently attended the “ well-trod stage,” where, under the genius of Garrick and Barry, Mossop and Holland, Mrs. Pritchard and Mrs. Clive, our best plays were exhibited to an advantage never known, probably, in any other age, and in particular his favourite bard,
6 Sweetest Shakspeare, fancy's child,
Warbled his native woodnotes wild.”
It was then a rational, most captivating, and, if it ever could be so, an innocent amusement. To him it was undoubtedly innocent; yet he often subsequently expressed his doubts whether the theatre can be rendered a place of harmless entertainment; and whether, considering the scenes which pass before and behind the stage, the characters of the actors and actresses, and the exhibitions by which a manager feels himself compelled to court the popular taste (“ for they who live to please must please to live"), it can ever be lawful for a Christian to seek his pleasure there, or to give countenance and encouragement to any thing so seductive and so dangerous.
To the companions who have been mentioned might be added many others, almost all of whom have sunk to the grave. Two at least, however, still survive, and will, perhaps, pardon the writer if he seek to grace his narrative by recording their kind regard for himself, as well as their friendship for the deceased :- John Sargent, Esq. of Lavington, in Sussex, the elegant author of “ The Mine," and other poems; and Rowland Burdon, Esq. of Castle Eden, in the county of Durham, which he represented in parliament for many years, and it will long owe him a large debt of gratitude for great and disinterested services.
With such companions Mr. Bowdler entered the walk of busy life, well fitted to enjoy the gay, and improve the sober hour. No person had a heart which more willingly opened its thoughts and feelings at the call of friendship, or more actively exerted all its powers in the cause of those it loved. There was a warmth, a zeal, a freedom from disguise or reserve, an affectionate participation in joy and sorrow, which attached him
strongly to his friends, and his friends to him. But besides those who have been mentioned, and others who might be named, he had in his father a kind and valuable friend, with whom he maintained a free and unreserved communication. It has probably seldom, if ever, happened that a father and his son were more closely united in sentiment and affection, or expressed their thoughts and wishes with more entire confidence. A few extracts from their correspondence will be interesting on this account. 66 Dear Jack,
March 18th, 1767. “ Though I have no thought of sending you a letter at present, yet I had a mind to begin one to you to-day, because it is your birth-day; nor do I now sit down to write to you till after having first given God thanks for the joy I feel on this day, that your life has not only been preserved; but, which is of much more consequence, that you have, as I believe, been kept from all deadly sin, even in the most trying time of life. This is matter of great comfort to me, and I pray God to bless you with a happy life, and to preserve you from all great misfortunes. In other words, may you live as becometh a Christian, and then you cannot be miserable; for though you must expect to go through great trials in the course of your life, yet none of those things will move you, while you only consider this life as a state of probation, and keep your eyes constantly fixed on the joy that is set before you. God grant you may so do; and may you be more happy, that is, may you be a better Christian than your father. First seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness, I hope you will be able to wade through the hardships of this world, and to be rather helpful to the poor than burthensome to the rich; but, in all events, may you learn, in whatever state you are, therewith to be content; and may you and I hereafter meet in a better place, where there shall be no sorrow. As you are now legally capable of acting in your own name, I shall, as opportunity offers, lessen the trouble I give others as much as I can, and throw my business in London upon you.”
“ My aim and wish is to make you happy; you know the state of my affairs; and I am willing to do whatever I can for you, being sure you will desire nothing that is at all unreasonable. I take very kindly the pretty manner in which you express yourself on this head. I hope you will always consider me as being, above all others, your most intimate friend, to whom, upon all occasions, you are to speak without reserve, for that is a thing I hate, and you will be sure of my assistance in every thing in which I can contribute to your happiness. If I was to see any thing in your conduct which I thought wrong, I would tell you of it; but, God be thanked, you give me no occasion.”
“ I wish, on all material occasions, to have your opinion, and I hope you will at all times give it without any reserve. I have no secrets that I wish to conceal from you ; I have a thorough confidence in you; and shall never take it amiss if we happen to differ in opinion, and therefore hope you will always be open and free with me; for when I suspect any body to be on the reserve with me, it lessens them in my esteem, I being myself naturally open and free with those I have a liking to; and though I have often suffered for it, I still have the same disposition in me, which makes me; dislike reserve in whoever I find it. I remember your Sister once made an observation to me which I have often