« FöregåendeFortsätt »
able than the brilliancy of his wit or the extent of his knowledge. Through him, Mr. Bowdler became acquainted with a person of extraordinary wit and talent, Robert Cobb, and a mutual regard speedily grew up between them. Mr. Cobb resided at Lydd, in the county of Kent, and his strong sense and quick discernment soon raised him above his neighbours, as they would have, perhaps, carried him to a distinguished eminence in any line in which he had engaged. His company was solicited, and his conversation admired in every part of the county; and it might sometimes,
perhaps, excite surprise to see a person of no great
* pretensions, and living in a place which nature Seen blank
seemed to have shut out from the bustle of active leaves at the bepsinings
life and the attractions of elegant society, courted the book. equally by the gay and the serious, the life of every
party, affording instruction upon every topic, as playful as the youngest, as full of experience as the oldest, better read in their respective studies than many a lawyer and a theologian, equally distinguished for the variety and accuracy of his information, and for the sound sense and engaging kindness with which he communicated it. In the retired situation where he lived, his well selected library formed a source of continual amusement and instruction, and at one time of his life he never was in his room for even five minutes without taking a book in his hand. With such a person, (to whom the writer of these pages would willingly pay a tribute of fond remembrance,) the
reader may, perhaps, be desirous to become better acquainted by perusing some extracts from his letters to his friend; for there the heart is open, and shows itself undisguised by art, and unfettered by the restraints which society sometimes imposes.
July 30th, 1769. “ I detest apologies as much as you can, therefore will make no other for my long silence, than that I have been so accablé with business that I have never been able to get my mind in tune. Observe, this is not one of N.'s excuses for want of time, for that I have read and think is allowable to no man but a cobbler, who by his work is forced to maintain a wife and nine children. I am now in a humour to write, but I fear I am not in unison with you, especially if you are amidst the elegant dissipations of Bath, and enjoying the happy sunshine of the company of your friends, --for I have just lost one:-I parted with James Dan last Wednesday evening, in high spirits, on Barham Down, and this day I have received advice that he died on Thursday of an inflammation in his bowels. I am shocked and grieved beyond expression. We sincerely loved each other, and had you known him better you would have loved him more. Here, my dear Bowdler, here is room for meditation. This lesson is urged home to our feelings. How soon may one or both of us be called on to pay that debt which has been demanded of him on so short a notice. The long account of follies and infirmities is now sealed up, and no penitence can revoke the sentence passed upon him. Yet do I firmly believe that his life has been such as to recommend him to the mercy of his Creator. I think I see him now hovering over my head a tutelar spirit, warning me not to fix my mind on a world
from whence I must soon, and may immediately, be summoned. But I have done with the subject, though not with the idea. 66 After life's fitful fever he sleeps well.” My melons are now ripe; I wept over them this morning, for Dan was to have come and eat some. I can write no more. -Adieu !"
• Lydd, May 5, 1771. 666 Quid agis ? thou villain-art thou sick or more than usually stupid, or cross ? or is Bath parcel of that land where all things are forgotten? Thou art the worst correspondent, the worst friend, the worst every thing, (observe, I am now quoting) — Where is your sister, and what is she about, that she does not make you write? But female friendship is of all things fickle the ficklest, - I speak by experience, — I do assure you, Sir, you may believe me, and is not worth I can't get fairly off without saying something your sister will not like, and as she is the only incognita I seriously love and admire, I do not mean to offend her. Well! but, Bowdler, have you got into a new set of acquaintance at Bath? You cannot plead business there — the seat of idleness ! It must be something new that has made you leave a sheet of mine written by the first post so long unanswered; sure you know little of the longings I feel for a letter every post night.
“ The nymphs may perhaps be as fair,
And the face of the vallies as fine,
But their friendship's not equal to mine."
“ I am seriously hurt at your long silence, and still more seriously 6 Your affectionate friend,
66 R. C.”
“ Lydd, Oct. 5th, 1771. “ You are very concise, friend Bowdler; however, I can excuse it. Before I go any further it will be necessary to premise, that I am writing this at nine o'clock in the morning, and as that is twelve hours sooner than my fits of inspiration generally come on, you will have a plain matter of fact letter. I am glad your are still at Spring Grove, for I have a kind of satisfaction in knowing that you are near me, though I do not see you. I should have liked your scheme monstrously, and it has no other objection than compound impossibility. To-day is our general quarter sessions and gaol delivery. • Now awful justice puts on all her frowns.' Luckily, however, there is nothing to deliver our gaol from,—rats excepted. We dine in great form with our grand jury. My wife is much concerned at the misfortune you mention with regard to her: it is still more unlucky, as you are entrenched to the teeth in her good opinion. I beg you will not come to reside here, for I shall be jealous. Observe, I omit here to give you a long quotation from Shakspeare on the attributes of jealousy. I am going to Hardres, to return on Monday morning, and wish I could meet you there: but we are not to be always happy, else should I be always with you. However, you can send your representative a letter ; and I desire you to do so regularly, frequently, and, above all, speedily, for it seems I have no chance of meeting you again soon; well, we must rest in hope: perchance we may meet, as N. says, ' in the windings of our way,' sooner than we expect. Adieu !-believe me your affectionate friend."
Lydd. “ Plerique perverse (ne dicam impudenter) amicum habere talem volunt, quales ipsi esse non possunt ; quæque ipsi non
tribuunt amicis hæc ab iis desiderant. Now that saying of Cicero's will, I ingenuously own, be verified in myself. quis ego sum ? aut quæ in me est facultas ? Doctorum (such as you) est ista consuetudo eaque Græcorum (Guyon for instance) ut iis ponatur de quo disputent quamvis subito. Magnum opus est egetque exercitatione non parva. Indeed, friend, you must not expect that I can always fill you a sheet, even with nonsense. Consider, first, the tenuity of my intellect; consider, next, the scarcity of matter to write on in this desert. Unless, indeed, you choose a dissertation, or a disputation, or an essay, or any thing of that sort; but then you must first set me an example. But all the while you mean to write on
I was going to say frivolous, but that's impossible with you — common every day subjects, I shall always, as in every thing else, fall infinitely short of you. O, did I live where you do, I could never want subjects, but I have none without I go deep, and that, as Cicero says above, • Magnum opus est egetque exercitatione non parva. But stop, and let me answer thine. I do not remember that the first page of my last was filled with apologies, but as you say so, I suppose it was, and that they were not dressed in language to your mind; for the necessity of them, I suppose, you will not disavow, the general opinion of the world having stamped them current. I do not know whether I express myself very clearly, but if I do not you must blame Shakspeare, for I have been studying him till my apprehension and style are both somewhat confused. I am much obliged to you for so often calling at the Sussex; and will say no more of the many
obligations I have to you on this subject, since it seems to offend you, than to assure you they will never be forgotten. You are a rascal to say that your last letter in breadth of margin, &c. &c. is a pattern of mine, and then to put your