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These are the public joys, and these are mine:Hither then haste and let them too be thine. And when no longer now the sounding stage Our eyes shall fix, our every thought engage, With our best loved companion — common friend — With N. retired the social night we'll spend, And at St. Clement's, o'er the generous bowl Exalt our joys and ' pour out all the soul.' Till then, at least, the obtrusive verse forgive, And let it's author in your memory live;It claims no merit and it asks no fame, It's only boast to bear your valued name.
"Jas. Mainstone, 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,
"Sweetest Shakspeare, fancy's child,
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 .
"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 thought of, and which I believe to be a very just one, and that is, that every body thinks others reserved; but though
this be true, yet all are not equally so. Perhaps there
are very few who are quite free from reserve to any one body, yet this I think I am to you, and I wish you to be
as much so as you can to me As to your brother, I
rejoice to find you speaking of him as you do, for I believe he is capable of being a most valuable and agreeable friend; and I pray God you and he may always continue to be brothers indeed, and that nothing may ever breed any, even the least discord between you. The partiality of a father may blind me, but it is with great satisfaction I say, that I do not believe there are in the world two young men more
to my mind than you two are. 1 have many blessings
to be thankful for, and I am particularly so to Almighty God for having given me two such sons as I think no other man has."
Nor were the letters of this excellent man only effusions of parental kindness; they contained many solid and judicious observations, and much useful advice.
"Your last letter found me a prisoner with the gout, a disorder I little expected ever to have been troubled with, not having heard that any one either of my father's or my mother's family ever had it. But so it is; this is my second fit; for if you remember, I had one last autumn, which was the beginning of my sorrows of that kind. I hope you will never have it, yet if you should, you must say as I do, after St . Augustine, in all afflictions that befal mej Domine hie ure, hie seca, ibi parce. I am sure I suffer less, and enjoy more than I deserve, and better men than I am may say the same. ... I think France is under a cloud, and has long