Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

pearing on Windsor terrace; how gladly would he give up for the good of his people, that heartfelt satisfaction which he has so often felt, from —' Reading his history in a nation's eyes !'"

Mr. Bowdler afterwards addresses himself to those on whom Providence has bestowed rank, or honor, or wealth, or any other useful talent; earnestly entreating them to withdraw their minds for one moment from all other pursuits, and to consider their own situation, and that of their country, and of the surrounding nations.

"Few," he remarks upon this head,—" few of those to whom I am now speaking, are aware how much mischief they occasion, merely by being in a wrong place; or how much good they must do, if they would only stay where their lot has fallen. It was the observation of a man of much good sense and experience,—' That if every gentleman would reside on his estate, and every clergyman on his living, we should need no other reformation.' Let those, then, who fly to towns and cities, to public places, or foreign countries, in search of paltry amusements, or, under a false pretext, or at best a mistaken notion of repairing their shattered fortunes, no longer think themselves guiltless. Numberless are the ways in which their country is injured by their absence. If resident at their family seats, their example, their influence, their fortune, every talent they possess, dispenses blessings on all around them. In any other place, they almost unavoidably do mischief, by adding to the number of those whom the vices of cities inevitably corrupt.

"But if purer motives cannot prevail, let pride plead the cause of patriotism. It has been often said, that an English country gentleman is the first character in the world:—and truly, when we view him seated in the mansion of his ancestors, surrounded by his family, his relations, his servants, his workmen, his tenants, and his neighbours; all in their due proportion partaking of his hospitality and benevolence! where shall we find a more enviable object? But merely shift the scene, and place him in a dirty lodging, in one of the long and gloomy streets of the metropolis;—where now are his honours, his influence, his respectability ?—All vanished and gone! He becomes at once a mere cypher, without use or value; his next neighbour knows him not; and that income which before procured him and others so much solid and substantial comfort, will barely supply what are deemed the necessary ornaments and amusements of life. Meantime his servants are tainted with the vices of the town, and it is well if the morals even of his wife and daughters are preserved uninjured;—their health certainly is not. Then the sea is ordered; a paltry lodging at Brighton succeeds a paltry lodging in London; his mansion-house is deserted in summer as well as winter j habits of indolence are acquired,— perhaps habits of a worse kind, if worse can be; and he (who was the support and ornament of a considerable district, the fond parent, the indulgent landlord, the hospitable neighbour, the liberal benefactor, the respected magistrate) sinks into useless insignificance and contempt."

And thus the writer proceeds, addressing himself in a manner of which the above extracts may afford a fair specimen, to all in every station, to members of parliament, to the members of the executive government, to the bishops and clergy, to lawyers, merchants, and others engaged in worldly business, and to those of the lower class, as it is called, pointing out the blessings which this country has enjoyed, and the peculiar duties attached to every station. The appeal to the clergy is made with a becoming solemnity:—

"In the name, therefore, of that God who made us, of that Saviour who died to redeem us, and of that Blessed Spirit who is ever ready to assist our weak but sincere endeavours, I call on every bishop, priest, and deacon, who has devoted himself to the service of God in the Church of England, to lay aside every avocation, and instantly to exert his utmost powers in the preservation of our holy religion;—so shall he save many souls from death, and hide a multitude of sins."

The practical good sense for which the writer was so distinguished, appears every where; as in his observations on the duty of our legislators:—

"Let every member of parliament, whether peer or commoner, reflect on the awful trust committed to his care, and attend diligently to the execution of it. Not merely when a political dispute arises, but constantly and uniformly. Let no act receive its fiat without a strict scrutiny into its merits. Let them revise, curtail, and methodise the whole code of statute law; whose bulk and confusion is such, that I fear we may almost say ole ruit sua!"

"If but a small part of that time and those talents which are wasted in long-winded harangues, and bitter disputations, were thus applied, our laws would acquire clearness, precision, and vigour. The number, the length, and the expence of our suits, would no more be the reproach of our nation. Imagination itself can hardly embrace the variety and the magnitude of the national benefits which would be thereby produced."

The title of this pamphlet caught the eyes of many, at a time when every eye was open, and every ear received with eagerness the sound of reform;—the plain blunt manner of the writer captivated a great number; the sound good sense which it contained, and the good principles which it inculcated, independently of all party views, were pleasing to all who were worthy of being pleased; and prodigious numbers of it were sold in a short time. It was, of course, abused by the Morning Chronicle and other Jacobinical writers, whose language and conjectures respecting the author were highly amusing. But it received from the respectable part of the community, and from the public in general, an attention which had been wholly unexpected. The Archbishop of Canterbury was so much pleased with it, that Mr. Bowdler prefixed to some subsequent editions a dedication to his Grace. Bishop Porteus, to whom many persons attributed the pamphlet, spoke of it in high terms; and in the latter part of his life proposed to Mr. Bowdler to republish it. It was printed in Dublin,

with such alterations as adapted it to the state of that country, and was translated into Italian. Mr. Bowdler soon printed an abridgement of it, with a view to bring it more generally into circulation among the lower orders; and he writes thus to a friend on the subject:—

"Hayes, 3d Feb. 1798. "I don't wonder that you are pleased with my book, or that you knew it to be mine: and these give me more sincere pleasure than the applauses of the great and the learned. You and I learned at the feet of the same Gamaliel; and your agreeing to my doctrines convinces me that we have not forgot his precepts. God grant we never may! They are the only armour of proof, and never was such more needful. Not that I am in despair; on the contrary, the rapid sale of my pamphlet convinces me that there are more people than I who like sound principles; as also, that people are really alarmed. I am persuaded that those have praised that tract, who, but a very few years since, would have laughed it to scorn as cant and nonsense. Whether we shall so far repent and amend as to prevent God's judgments from falling upon this land, God only knows; but it is a great and heartfelt comfort to me to have endeavoured to promote such effects. I am still very busy; for as it can only do good in proportion as it is known, I am trying to promote the circulation of it (and still more of the abridgement) in the distant counties and manufacturing towns. With this view, I am offering printers in the provinces leave to print editions of the abridgement on their own account; the most effectual way to make them push it, if they accept the offer; I doubt the

« FöregåendeFortsätt »