« السابقةمتابعة »
my lap, I began to read : and though my voice was at first languid, tremulous, and irrefolute, yet my attention was at length drawn from my situation to my subject; I pronounced with great emphasis and propriety, and I began to watch for the effects which I expected to produce upon my auditors; but I was extremely mortified to find, that whenever I paused to give room for a remark or encomium, the interval was filled with an ejaculation of pity for the dog, who still continued to whine
upon his cushion, and was lamented in these affectionate and pathetic terms: .“ Ah! poor, dear,
pretty, little creature.”
It happened however, that by some incidents in the fourth act the passioas-were apparently interested, and I was just exulting in my success, when the lady who fat next me unhappily opening her snuff-box, which was not effected without some difficulty, the duft that flew up threw me into a fit of sneezing, which instantly caused my upper lip to put me again out of counter nance : I therefore hastily felt for my handkerchief, and it was not with less emotion than if I had seen a ghost, that I discovered it had been picked out of my pocket. In the mean time the opprobrious effufion descended like an icicle to my and the eyes
of the comgany, which this accident had drawn upon me, were now turned away, with looks which shewed that their pity was not proof against the ridicule of my distress. What I suffered at this moment, can neither be expreffed nor conceived: I turned
and that in the anguish of my mind, without knowing what I fought; and at last holding up my manuscript before my face, I was compelled to make use of the end of my Deckloth, which I again battoned into my bofom. Af
ter many painful efforts I proceeded in my lecture, and again fixed the attention of my hearers. The fourth act was finished, and they expressed great impatience to hear the catastrophe : I therefore began the fifth with fresh confidence and vigour ; but before I had read a page, I was interrupted by two gentlemen of great quality, professors of Buckism, who came witha a design to wait upon the ladies to an auction.
I rose up with the rest of the company when they came in; but what was my astonishment, to perceive the napkin, which I had unfortunately secured by one corner, hang down from my waist to the ground ! From this dilemma, however, I was delivered by the noble Buck who stood nearest to me, who, fwearing an oath of astonishment, twitched the napkin from me, and throwing it to the servant, told him that he had redeemed it from the rats, who were dragging it by degrees into a place where he would never have looked for it. The
scarce less confounded at this accident than I ; and the noble matron herself was somewhat disconcerted : she saw my extreme confufion; andt hought fit to apologize for her cousin's behaviour: “ He is a wild boy, Sir," says she," he plays " these tricks with every body; but it is his way,
and nobody minds it.” When we were once more seated, the Bucks, upon the peremptory refusal of the ladies to go out, declared they would stay and hear the last act of my tragedy ; I was therefore requested to go on. But my spirits were quite exhausted by the violent agi. tation of my mind; and I was intimidated by the presence of two persons, who appeared to consider me and my performance as objects only of merriment and sport,
I would gladly have renounced all that in the morning had been the object of my hope, to recover the dignity which I had already lost in my own estimation; and had scarce
further disgrace into the quiet shades of obscurity. The ladies, however, would take no denial, and I was at length obliged to comply.
I was much pleased and surprised at the attention with which my new auditors seemed to listen as I went on: the dog was now filent; I increased the pathos of my voice in proportion as I ascended the climax of diftress, and flattered myfelf that poetry and truth would be ftill victorious : but just at this crisis, the gentleman, who had disengaged me from the napkin, defired me to stop half a moment ; fomething, he faid, had just ftarted into his mind, which if he did not communicate he might forget: then turning to his companion,
Jack,” fays he, “there was sold in Smithfield no “ longer ago than last Saturday, the largest ox that
I beheld in my life," The ridicule of this malicious apostrophe was so striking, that pity and decorum gave way, and my patronness herself burst into laughter: upon me, indeed, it produced a very different effect: for if he had been detected in an unsuccessful attempt to pick a pocket, I could not have felt more shame, confusion and anguish. The laughter into which the company had been surprized, was, however, immediately suppressed, and a fevere censure passed upon the person who produced it. To atone for the mortification which I had suffered, the ladies expressed the utmost impatience to hear the conclusion, and I was encouraged by repeated encomiums to proceed; but though I once more attempted to recollect myself, and
again began the speech in which I had been interrupted, yet my thoughts were still distracted; my voice faltered, and I had scarce breath to finish the first period.
This was remarked by my tormentor the Buck, who fuddenly snatched the manuscript out my hands, declared that I did not do my play justice, and that he would finish it himself. He then began to read; but the effected gravity of his countenance, the unnatural tone of his voice, and the remembrance of his late anecdote of the ox, excited sensations that were incompatible both with pity and terror, and rendered me extremely wretched by kecping the company perpetually on the brink of laughter.
In the action of my play, virtue had been sustained by her own dignity, and exulted in the enjoyment of intellectual and independent happiness, during a series of external calamities that terminated in death; and vice, by the success of her own projects, had been betrayed into shame, perplexity and confusion. These events were indeed natural; and therefore I poetically inferred, with all the confidence of demonftration, that "the “ torments of Tartarus, and the felicity of Elysium,
were not necessary to the justification of the Gods; “ fince whatever inequality might be pretended in “ the distribution of externals, peace is still the prero“ gative of virtue, and intellectual misery can be in. “ flicted only by guilt.”
But the intellectual misery which I suffered at the very moment when this favourite sentiment was read, produced an irrififtable conviction that it was false; because, except the dread of that punishment which I had indirectly denied, I felt all the torment that could be
inflicted by guilt. In the prosecution of an undertaking which I believed to be virtuous, peace had been driven from my heart, by the concurrence of accident with the vices of others; and the misery that I suffered, suddenly propagated itself: for not only enjoyment but hope was now at an end ; my play, upon which both had depended, was overturned from its foundation; and I was so much affected that I took my leave with the abrupt haste of distress and perplexity. I had no concern about what should be said of me when I was departed; and, perhaps,'at the moment when I went out of the house, there was not in the world any human being more wretched than myself. The next morning, when I reflected coolly upon these events, I would willingly have reconciled my experience with my principles, even at the expence of my morals. I would have supposed that my desire of approbation was inordinate, and that a virtuous indifference about the opinion of others would have prevented all my distress; but I was compelled to acknowledge, that to acquire this indifference was not possible, and that no man becomes vicious by not effecting impoflibilities: there may be heights of virtue beyond our reach ; but to be vicious, we must either do something from which we have power to abstain, or neglect something which we have power to do : there remained, therefore, no expedient to recover any part of the credit I had loft, but setting a truth, which I had newly discovered by means fo extraordinary, in a new light; and with this view I am a.candidate for a place in the Adventurer.
I am, SIR, your's, &c.