Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub

NUMBER CVII.

Alter in obsequium plus æquo pronus, et ini
Derisor lecti, sic nutuin divitis horret,
Sic iterat voces, et verba cadentia tollit.

HOP.AT

I am bewildered by the definitions, which metaphysical writers give us of the human passions : I can understand the character of Theophrastus, and am entertained by his sketches; but when your profound thinkers take the subject in hand, they appear to me to dive to the bottom of the deep in search of that which floats upon its surface : if a man in the heat of anger would describe the movements of his mind, he might paint the tempest to the life; but as such descriptions are not to be expected, moral essayists have substituted personification in their place, and by the pleasing introduction of a few natural incidents, form a kind of little drama, in which they make their fictitious hero describe those follies, foibles, and passions, which they who really feel them are not so forward to confess.

When Mr. Locke in his Essay on the Human Understanding describes all pity as partaking of contempt, I cannot acknowledge that he is speaking of pity, as I feel it: when I pity a fellow-creature in pain, (a woman,, for instance, in the throes of childbirth) I cannot submit to own there is any ingredient of so bad a quality as contempt in my pity : but if the metaphysicians tell me that I do not know how to call my feelings by their right name, and that my pity is not pity properly so defined, I will

not pretend to dispute with any gentleman whose language I do not understand, and only beg permission to enjoy a sensation, which I call pity, without indulging a propensity which he calls contempt.

The flatterer is a character which the moralists and wits of all times and all nations have ridiculed more severely and more successfully than almost any other; yet it still exists, and a few pages perhaps would not be misapplied, if I was to make room for a civil kind of gentleman of this description, (by name Billy Simper) who, having seen his failings in their proper light of ridicule, is willing to expose them to public view for the amusement, it is hoped, if not for the use and benefit, of the reader.

I beg leave therefore to introduce Mr. Billy Simper to my candid friends and protectors, and shall leave him to tell his story in his own words.

I am the youngest son of a younger brother: my father qualified himself for orders in the university of Aberdeen, and by the help of an insinuating address, a soft counter-tenor voice, a civil smile, and happy flexibility in the vertebræ of his back-bone, recommended himself to the good graces of a right reverend patron, who, after a due course of attendance and dependence, presented him to a comfortable benefice, which enabled him to support a pretty numerous family of children. The good bishop it seems was passionately fond of the game of chess, and my father, though the better player of the two, knew how to make a timely move so as to throw the victory into his lordship's hand after a hard battle, which was a triumph very grateful to his vanity, and not a little serviceable to my father's purposes.

Under this expert professor I was instructed in all the shifts and movements in the great game of

a

life, and then sent to make my way in the world as well as I was able. My first objcct was to pay my court to my father's elder brother, the head of our family; an enterprize not less arduous than important. My uncle Antony was a widower, parsimonious, peevish, and recluse, he was rich, however, egregiously self-conceited, and in his own opinion a deep philosopher and metaphysician; by which I would be understood to say that he doubted every thing, disputed every thing, and believed nothing. He had one son, his only child, and him he had lately driven out of doors and disinherited for nonsuiting him in an argument upon the immortality of the soul : here then was an opening no prudent man could miss, who scorned to say his soul was his own, when it stood in the way of his interest : and as I was well tutored beforehand, I no sooner gained admission to the old philosopher, than I so far worked my way into his good graces, as to be allowed to take possession of a truckle-bed in a spare garret of the family mansion : envy must have owned (if envy could have looked asquint upon so humble a situation as mine was) that considering what a game I had to play, I managed my cards well; for uncle Antony was an old dog at a dispute, and as that cannot well take place, whilst both parties are on the same side, I was forced at times to make battle for the good of the argument, and seldom failed to find Antony as completely puzzled with the zigzaggeries of his metaphysics, as uncle Toby of more worthy memory was with the horn-works and counterscarpe of his fortifications.

Amongst the various topics, from which Antony's ingenuity drew matter to dispute, some were so truly ridiculous, that if I were sure my reader was as much at leisure to hear, as I am just now to relate them, I should not scruple the recital. One morning having been rather long-winded in describing the circumstances of a dream, that had disturbed his imagination in the night, I thought it not amiss to throw in a remark in the

way

of consola. tion upon the fallacy of dreams in general. This was enough for him to turn over to the other side, and support the credit of dreams totis viribus: I now thought it advisable to trim, and took a middle course between both extremes, by humbly conceiving dreams might be sometimes true and sometimes false: this he contended to be nonsense upon the face of it, and if I would undertake to shew they were both true and false, he would engage to prove by sound logic they could be neither one nor the other :—*But why do we begin to talk,' added he, before we settle what we are to talk about ? What kind of dreams are you speaking of, and how do you distinguish dreams?' _ I see no distinction between them,' I replied; • Dreams visit our fancios in sleep, and are all, according to Mr. Locke's idea, made up of the waking man's thoughts.' - 'Does Mr. Locke say that ?' exclaimed my uncle. Then Mr. Locke's an impostor for telling you so, and you are a fool for believing him: wiser men than Mr. Locke have settled that matter many centuries before he was born or even dreamt of: but perhaps Mr. Locke forgot to tell you how many precise sorts of dreams there are, and how to denominate and define them? perhaps he forget that I say.' I confessed that I neither knew any thing of the matter myself, nor did I believe the author alluded to had left

any clue towards the discovery.

I thought as much,' retorted my uncle Antony in a tone of triumph, and yet this is the man who

for an investigator of the human understanding; but I will tell you, Sir, though he could nots that there are neither more nor less than five several

sets up

sorts of dreams particularly distinguished, and I defy even the seven sleepers themselves to name a sixth. The first of these was by the Greeks denominated Oneiros, by the Latins Somnium, (simply a Dream) and you must be asleep to dream it,' — Granted,' quoth I, What is granted ?' rejoined the philosopher, Not that sleep is in all cases indispensable to the man who dreams.'--' Humph!' quoth I. - My uncle proceeded. • The second sort of dreams

you shall understand was by the aforesaid Greeks called Orama, by the Latins Visio, or as we may say a vision ; in this case take notice you may be asleep, or you may be awake, or neither, or as it were between both; your eyes may be shut, or they may be open, looking inwards or outwards or upwards, either with sight or without sight, as it pleases God, but the vision you must see, or how else can it rightly be called a vision ?'-'True' replied I, there is a sect who are particularly favoured with this kind of visions.'

Prythee, don't interrupt me,' said my uncle, and again went on.

• The third sort of dreams, to speak according to the Greeks, we shall call Chrematismos, according to the Latins we must denominate it Oraculum, (an oracle); now this differs from a vision, in as much as it may happen to a man born blind as well as to Argus himself, for he has nothing for it but to listen, understand and believe, and whatever it tells him shall come true, though it never entered into his head to preconceive one tittle of what is told him : and where is Mr. Locke and his waking thoughts here.?' -— He is done for,' I answered, there is no disputing against an oracle.

The fourh sort, resumed he, “is the Enuption of the aforesaid Greeks, and answers to the Latin Insomnium, which is in fact a dream and no dream, a

« ÖncekiDevam »