صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

vented him from renouncing a society in which the secret admonitions of his heart frequently told him he could not continue, without forfeiting the strongest support of virtue and honour, a proper respect for himself.

“ Sir Robert Walpole was at last obliged to resign, and along with him a few of his friends who were most obnoxious to the leaders of the successful party. The Earl of W was not of the number; he still preserved his place in the cabinet; and the new and the old ministers having adjusted their different pretensions, a calm tranquillity succeeded, as the less powerful and disappointed patriots, rendered suspicious by the defection of their principal leaders, could not at once connect themselves into a formidable opposition.

“ Antonio thought this a proper time to renew his application. That delicacy which made him formerly shrink at the idea of asking a pecuniary favour, was now no more ; his growing necessities, and the habits of submission they produced, had blunted the fine feelings of independence, and he could now, though unnoticed, dance attendance at the levees of the great, like one who had never felt himself their equal. Fortunately, there soon happened a vacancy in an office, in the department of the Earl of W

which was every way suited to Antonio. He modestly reminded the earl of his former promises; and, having made the first application, his request was instantly granted. At that moment, Lord C who was supposed to be Prime Minister, arrived to ask the office for the son of a butcher in Kent, who was returning officer in a borough where there was a contested election. The Earl of W-- told the minister that he had just now promised it to that gentleman, pointing to Antonio.

)

[ocr errors]

The minister had frequently seen Antonio, and was not acquainted with his character - congratulated him with much seeming cordiality; and, turning to the Earl of W paid him many compliments on his bestowing the office upon one of so distinguished merit: “That consideration,' added he, 'can compensate for the disappointment I feel in not having obtained it for the person I mentioned to your lordship.' Antonio was too well acquainted with the language of the court not to understand the tendency of all this. The Earl of W immediately observed, that, to oblige his lordship, he had no doubt Antonio would readily give up the promise. This was instantly done; and these two noble persons vied with each other in their offers of service; he was given to understand, that the first opportunity should be taken to provide for him in a manner exceeding his wishes.

Though Antonio was not, upon the whole, very well pleased with this incident, he endeavoured to comfort himself with reflecting that he had now acquired a right of going directly to the minister, which was so much the more agreeable, as he plainly perceived that the sons of the Earl of W , though they still behaved to him with more ease and attention than many others of his former companions, would, like the rest, soon be estranged from him. At school, at college, on their travels, and even for some time after their return, their pursuits were the same. Whether it was instruction or entertainment, they were mutually assisting to each other, and they found Antonio to be in every thing their equal, perhaps, in some things, their superior. The scene was now changed. In the midst of their family and relations, possessed of the adventitious, though daz

zling qualities of rank and fortune, the real merit of Antonio was hardly perceived. They now found him to be in some thi their inferior. This alone would have, in time, put an end to their intimacy, unless, like many others, he would have contented himself with acting the part of an humble attendant. Having once opened to their views the career of ambition, and the prospect of rising in the state, they estimated their friendships by the extent of their political influence. Virtue and merit were now out of the question, or were at best but secondary considerations. Former services, compared to the objects in which they were now engaged, sunk to nothing; at the same time, a consciousness of duty led them to behave civilly to a man they had once esteemed, and who had done nothing to forfeit their good opinion. Perhaps, even if applied to in a fortunate moment, when impelled by a sudden emanation of half-extinguished virtue, they might have exerted themselves to serve him; but these exertions would not have been of long continuance ; they would soon have been smothered by cold political prudence.

“ After two years' solicitation, during which his patrons sometimes cajoled him with promises, and, at others, hardly deigned to take notice of his request, Antonio gave up all hopes of success. His fortune was now totally gone. His friends in Scotland had frequently informed him of this; but he continued to solicit and to receive small sums of money from time to time, which he was in hopes of being soon able to repay. These hopes being extinguished, he could not ask for more. He had also contracted several debts to the different tradesmen he employed. He frankly told them his situation; but they remembered the liberality of his conduct

and behaviour in the days of his prosperity, and would not use the barbarous right of imprisonment to increase his calamities.

6. The accumulated distress to which Antonio was now exposed, was more than he could bear. After combating some time with the agitation of his mind, he was seized with a slow fever, attended with a delirium, which made it necessary to acquaint his friends. His sister, Leonora, hastened to his relief. At the end of some weeks, his health was so far reestablished, that she ventured to propose his undertaking a journey to Scotland; to which he at last consented, but not without reluctance.

“He learned, by degrees, that the money he received for the last two years he resided in London, had come from Leonora ; that she had paid all his debts there, and, with the small remains of her fortune, had purchased an annuity of an hundred and fifty pounds for his and her own life. In a short time, they retired to a village, in the county of

not far from my father's residence, who had been an early acquaintance of Antonio's. My father joined his endeavours to those of Leonora, to recover him from that depression of spirits, into which his misfortunes, and the reflection on his past conduct, had thrown him. They at last succeeded, and saw him, with pleasure, regain those mild and engaging manners which they had formerly admired. But his spirit and vivacity could not be restored. He seemed to engage in the usual pastimes and occupations of a country life, rather with patience than satisfaction, and to suffer society as a duty which he owed to a sister who had preserved him, and to those friends who showed so much solicitude for his happiness, rather than to enjoy it as a source of pleasure and entertainment to himself. If ever he

[ocr errors]

He en

was animated, it was in the company of a few

young men who looked up to him for instruction. tertained them, not with murmurings against the world, or complaints of the injustice or depravity of mankind. His pictures of society were flattering and agreeable, as giving the most extensive scope for the exercise of the active virtues. “My young friends,' he was wont to say, 'carry

with
you

into the world a spirit of independence, and a proper respect for yourselves. These are the guardians of virtue. No man can trust to others for his support, or forfeit his own good opinion with impunity. Extravagant desires and ill-founded hopes pave the way for disappointment, and dispose us to cover our own errors with the unjust accusation of others. Society is supported by a reciprocation of good offices; and, though virtue and humanity will give, justice cannot demand, a favour, without a recompense. Warm and generous friendships are sometimes, nay, I hope, often found in the world; but, in those changes and vicissitudes of life which open new views, and form new connections, the old are apt to be weakened or forgotten. Family and domestic friendships,' would he add with a sigh, will generally be found the most lasting and sincere; but here, my friends, you will think me prejudiced ; you all know my obligations to Leonora.

6 Antonio and Leonora are now no more; he died a few days after my last visit. His sister he had buried about a twelvemonth before; and I have often heard him mention, with a kind of melancholy satisfaction, that, to her other distresses, there had not been added the regret of being left behind him.”

U

« السابقةمتابعة »