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CATHERINE TALBOT, born 1720, died 1770, was the author of Reflections on the Seven Days of the Week, 1770, 6th edit., Lond., 1771, 12mo; Essays, 1772, 2 vols. 12mo; Letters to a Friend on a Future State; Dialogues, and other works in prose and verse. Collective edition of her Works by E. Carter, new edit., 1795, Svo; by Rev. M. Pennington, A.M., 1809, 8vo, 9th edit., 1819, 8vo.
"So excellent are the compositions of Miss Talbot which have come down to us, that it is to be greatly regretted that she did not devote more time to writing."-MRS. ELLWOOD: Lit. Ladies of Eng., i. 143.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF SUNDAY.
MR. RAMBLER,-There are few tasks more ungrateful than for persons of modesty to speak their own praises. In some cases, however, this must be done for the general good, and a generous spirit will on such Occasions assert its merit, and vindicate itself with becoming warmth.
My circumstances, Sir, are very hard and peculiar. Could the world be brought to treat me as I deserve, it would be a public benefit. This makes me apply to you, that my case being fairly stated in a paper so generally esteemed, may suffer no longer from ignorant and childish prejudices.
My elder brother was a Jew. A very respectable person, but somewhat austere in his manner; highly and deservedly valued by his near relations and intimates, but utterly unfit for mixing in a larger society, or gaining a general acquaintance with mankind. In a venerable old age he retired from the world, and I, in the bloom of youth, came into it, succeeding him in all his dignities, and formed, as I might reasonably flatter myself, to be the object of universal love and esteem. Joy and gladness were born with me; cheerfulness, good humour, and benevolence always attended and endeared my infancy. That time is long past. So long, that idle imaginations are apt to fancy me wrinkled, old, and disagreeable but unless my looking-glass deceives me, I have not yet lost one charm, one beauty, of my earliest years. However, thus far it is too certain I am to every body just what they choose to think me, so that to very few I appear in my right shape; and though naturally I am the friend of human kind, to few, very few, comparatively, am I useful or agreeable.
This is the more grievous, as it is utterly impossible for me to avoid being in all sorts of places and companies; and I am therefore liable to meet with perpetual affronts |
and injuries. Though I have as natural an antipathy to cards and dice as some people have to a cat, many and many an assembly am I forced to endure; and though rest and composure are my peculiar joy, am worn out and harassed to death with journeys by men and women of quality, who never take one but when I can be of the party. Some, on a contrary extreme, will never releast half of the time I have to stay with ceive me but in bed, where they spend at
them; and others are so monstrously illbred as to take physic on purpose when they have reason to expect me. Those who keep upon terms of more politeness with me are generally so cold and constrained in their behaviour that I cannot but perceive myself an unwelcome guest; and even among persons deserving of my esteem, and who certainly have a value for me, it is too evident that generally, whenever I come, I throw a dulness over the whole company, that I am entertained with a formal stiff civility, and that they are glad when I am fairly gone. How bitter must this kind of reception be to one formed to inspire de light, admiration, and love! To one capable of answering and rewarding the greatest warmth and delicacy of sentiments!
I was bred up among a set of excellent people, who affectionately loved me, and treated me with the utmost honour and respect. It would be tedious to relate the variety of my adventures, and strange vicissitudes of my fortune in many different countries. Here in England there was a time when I lived according to my heart's desire. Whenever I appeared, public assemblies appointed for my reception were crowded with persons of quality and fashion, early dressed as for a court, to pay me their devoirs. Cheerful hospitality every where crowned my board, and I was looked upon in every country parish as a kind of social bond between the squire, the parson, and the tenants. The laborious poor every where blest my appearance: they do so still, and keep their best clothes to do me honour; though as much as I delight in the honest country folks, they do now and then throw a pot of ale at my head, and sometimes an unlucky boy will drive his cricket-ball in my face.
Even in these my best days there were persons who thought me too demure and grave. I must forsooth by all means be instructed by foreign masters, and taught to dance and play. This method of education was so contrary to my genius, formed for much nobler entertainment, that it did not succeed at all.
I fell next into the hands of a very different set. They were so excessively scandalized at the gaiety of my appearance, as not
only to despoil me of the foreign fopperies, the paint and the patches that I had been tricked out with by my last misjudging tutors, but they robbed me of every innocent ornament I had from my infancy been used to gather in the fields and gardens; nay, they Blacked my face, and covered me all over with a habit of mourning, and that too very coarse and awkward. I was now obliged to spend my whole life in hearing sermons, nor permitted so much as to smile upon any occasion.
In this melancholy disguise I became a perfect bugbear to all children and young folks. Wherever I came there was a general hush, an immediate stop to all pleasantness of look or discourse; and not being permitted to talk with them in my own language at that time, they took such a disgust to me in those tedious hours of yawning, that having transmitted it to their children, I cannot now be heard, though it is long since I have recovered my natural form and pleasing tone of voice. Would they but receive my visits kindly, and listen to what I could tell them-let me say it without vanity-how charming a companion should I be! to every one could I talk on the subjects most interesting and most pleasing. With the great and ambitious I would discourse of honours and advancements, of distinctions to which the whole world should be witness, of unenvied dignities and durable preferments. To the rich I would tell of inexhaustible treasures, and the sure method to attain them. I would teach them to put out their money on the best interest, and instruct the lovers of pleasure how to secure and improve it to the highest degree. The beauty should learn of me how to preserve an everlasting bloom. To the afflicted I would administer comfort, and relaxation to the busy.
As I dare promise myself you will attest the truth of all I have advanced, there is no doubt but many will be desirous of improving their acquaintance with me; and that I may not be thought too difficult, I will tell you, in short, how I wish to be received.
You must know I equally hate lazy idleness and hurry. I would every where be welcomed at a tolerably early hour with decent good humour and gratitude. I must be attended in the great halls peculiarly appropriated to me with respect; but I do not insist upon finery: propriety of appearance and perfect neatness is all I require. I must at dinner be treated with a temperate, but cheerful, social meal; both the neighbours and the poor should be the better for me. Some time I must have a têteà-tête with my kind entertainers, and the rest of my visit should be spent in pleasant
walks and airings among sets of agreeable people, in such discourse as I shall naturally dictate, or in reading some few selected out of those numberless books that are dedicated to me, and go by my name. A name that, alas! as the world stands at present, makes them oftener thrown aside than taken up. As those conversations and books should be both well chosen, to give some advice on that head may possibly furnish you with a future paper, and any thing you shall offer on my behalf will be of great service to, good Mr. Rambler,
Your faithful friend and servant, "SUNDAY." The Rambler, No. 30, Saturday, June 30, 1750.
a descendant of Archbishop Usher, born about 1720, was successively a farmer, a linen-draper, a priest of the Church of Rome, and a school-teacher; died 1772. He was the author of New System of Philosophy, Lond., 1764, 8vo; Clio; or a Discourse on Taste, Lond., 1772, 2 vols. 8vo; An Elegy, sine anno; privately printed: 1860, with MS. notes by Professor Porson, £3 10s. Usher contributed to The Public Ledger.
THOUGHTS ON ELEGANCE.
When we take a view of the separate parts that constitute personal elegance, we immediately know the seeds that are proper to be cherished in the infant mind to bring forth the beauteous production. The virtues should be cultivated early with sacred care. Good nature, modesty, affability, and a kind concern for others, should be carefully inculcated; and an easy unconstrained dominion acquired by habit over the passions. A mind thus finally prepared is capable of the highest lustre of elegance; which is afterwards attained with as little labour as our first language, by only associating with graceful people of different characters, from whom an habitual gracefulness will be acquired, that will bear the natural unaffected stamp of our minds: in short, it will be our own character and genius stripped of its native rudeness, and enriched with beauty and attraction.
Nature, that bestows her favours without respect of persons, often denies to the great the capacity of distinguished elegance, and flings it away in obscure villages. You sometimes see it at a country fair spread an amiableness over a sun-burnt girl, like the light of the moon through a mist: but such, madam, is the necessity of habitual elegance
acquired by education and converse, that even if you were born in that low class, you could be no more than the fairest damsel at the May-pole, and the object of the hope and jealousy of a few rustics.
People are rendered totally incapable of elegance by the want of good-nature, and the other gentle passions; by the want of modesty and sensibility; and by a want of that noble pride which arises from a consciousness of lofty and generous sentiments. The absence of these native charms is generally supplied by a brisk stupidity, an impudence unconscious of defect, a cast of malice, and an uncommon tendency to ridicule: as if nature had given these her step-children an instinctive intelligence that they can rise out of contempt only by the depression of others. For the same reason it is, that persons of true and finished taste seldom affect ridicule, because they are conscious of their own superior merit. Pride is the cause of ridicule in the one, as it is of candour in the other; but the effects differ as the studied parade of poverty does from the negligent grandeur of riches. You will see nothing more common in the world, than for people, who by stupidity and insensibility are incapable of the graces, to commence wits on the strength of the petite talents of mimicry, and the brisk tartness that ill-nature never fails to supply.
From what I have said it appears that a sense of elegance is a sense of dignity, of virtue, and innocence, united. Is it not natural then to expect that, in the course of a liberal education, men should cultivate the generous qualities they approve and assume? But instead of them, men only aim at the appearances, which require no self-denial; and thus without acquiring the virtues, they sacrifice their honesty and sincerity: whence it comes to pass that there is often the least virtue where is the greatest appearance of it, and that the polished part of mankind only arrive at the subtle corruption of uniting vice with the dress and complexion of virtue. I have dwelt on personal elegance, because the ideas and principles in this part of good taste are more familiar to you. We may then take them for a foundation in our future observations, since the same principles of easy grace and simple grandeur will animate our ideas with an unstudied propriety, and enlighten our judgments in beauty, in literature, in sculpture, painting, and other departments of fine taste.
ON PERSONAL BEAUTY.
I shall but slightly touch on our taste of personal beauty, because it requires no directions to be known. To ask what is beauty, says a philosopher, is the question of a blind
I shall therefore only make a few reflections on this head, that lie out of the common track. But, prior to what I have to say, it is necessary to make some observations on physiognomy.
There is an obvious relation between the mind and the turn of the features, so well known by instinct, that every one is more or less expert at reading the countenance. We look as well as speak our minds; and amongst people of little experience, the look is generally most sincere. This is so well understood, that it becomes a part of education to learn to disguise the countenance, which yet requires a habit from early youth, and the continual practice of hypocrisy, to deceive an intelligent eye. The natural virtues and vices not only have their places in the aspect; even acquired habits that much affect the mind settle there; contemplation, in length of time, gives a cast of thought on the countenance.
Now to come back to our subject. The assemblage called beauty is the image of noble sentiments and amiable passions in the face; but so blended and confused that we are not able to separate and distinguish them. The mind has a sensibility, and clear knowledge, in many instances, without reflection, or even the power of reasoning upon its own perceptions. We can no more account for the relation between the passions of the mind and a set of features than we can account for the relation between the sounds of music and the passions: the eye is judge of the one without principles or rules, as the ear is of the other. It is impossible you should not take notice of the remarkable difference of beauty in the same face, in a good and in ill humour; and if the gentle passions in an indifferent face do not change it to perfect beauty, it is because nature did not originally model the features to the just and familiar expression of those passions, and the genuine expressions of nature can never be wholly obliterated.
Complexion is a kind of beauty that is only pleasing by association. The brown, the fair, the black, are not any of them original beauty; but when the complexion is united in one picture on the imagination, with the assemblage that forms the image of the tender passion, with gentle smiles and kind endearments, it is then inseparable from our ideas of beauty, and forms a part of it.
From the same cause, a national set of features appear amiable to the inhabitants, who have been accustomed to see the amiable dispositions through them.
This observation resolves a difficulty that often occurs in the reflections of men on our present subject. We all speak of beauty as
if it were acknowledged and settled by a public standard; yet we find, in fact, that people in placing their affections often have little regard to the common notions of beauty. The truth is, complexion and form being the charms that are visible and conspicuous, the common standard of beauty is generally restrained to those general attractions: but since personal grace and the engaging passions, although they cannot be delineated, have a more universal and uniform power, it is no wonder people, in resigning their hearts, so often contradict the common received standard. Accordingly, as the engaging passions and the address are discovered in conversation, the tender attachments of people are generally fixed by an intercourse of sentiment, and seldom by a transient view, except in romances and novels. It is further to be observed that when once the affections are fixed, a new face with a higher degree of beauty will not always have a higher degree of power to remove them, because our affections arise from a source within ourselves, as well as from external beauty; and when the tender passion is attached by a particular object, the imagination surrounds that object with a thousand ideal embellishments that exist only in the mind of the lover.
From external beauty we come to the charms of conversation and writing. Words, by representing ideas, become the picture of our thoughts, and communicate them with the greatest fidelity. But they are not only the signs of sensible ideas, they exhibit the very image and distinguishing likeness of the mind that uses them.
Conversation does not require the same merit to please that writing does. The human soul is endued with a kind of natural expression, which it does not acquire. The expression I speak of consists in the significant modulations and tones of voice, accompanied, in unaffected people, by a propriety of gesture. This native language was not intended by nature to represent the transitory ideas that come by the senses to the imagination, but the passions of the mind and its emotions only: therefore modulation and gesture give life and passion to words; their mighty force in oratory is very conspicuous but although their effects be milder in conversation, yet they are very sensible; they agitate the soul by a variety of gentle sensations, and help to form that sweet charm that makes the most trifling subjects engaging. This fine expression, which is not learned, is not so much taken notice of as it deserves, because it is much superseded by the use of artificial and ac
quired language. The modern system of philosophy has also concurred to shut it out from our reflections.
It is in conversation people put on all their graces, and appear in the lustre of good-breeding. It is certain, good-breeding, that sets so great a distinction between individuals of the same species, creates nothing new (I mean a good education), but only draws forth into prospect, with skill and address, the agreeable dispositions and sentiments that lay latent in the mind. You may call good-breeding artificial; but it is like the art of a gardener, under whose hand a barren tree puts forth its own bloom, and is enriched with its specific fruit. It is scarce possible to conceive any scene so truly agreeable as an assembly of people elaborately educated, who assume a character superior to ordinary life, and support it with ease and familiarity.
The heart is won in conversation by its own passions. Its pride, its grandeur, its affections, lay it open to the enchantinent of an insinuating address. Flattery is a gross charmer, but who is proof against a gentle and yielding disposition, that infers your superiority with a delicacy so fine that you cannot see the lines of which it is composed? Generosity, disinterestedness, a noble love of truth that will not deceive, a feeling of the distresses of others, and greatness of soul, inspires us with admiration along with love, and takes our affections as it were by storm; but, above all, we are seduced by a view of the tender and affectionate passions: they carry a soft inflection, and the heart is betrayed to them by its own forces. If we are to judge from symptoms, the soul that engages us so powerfully by its reflected glances is an object of infinite beauty. I observed before, that the modulations of the human voice that express the soul move us powerfully; and indeed we are affected by the natural emotions of the mind expressed in the simplest language: in short, the happy art that, in conversation and the intercourse of life, lays hold upon our affections, is but a just address to the engaging passions in the human breast. But this syren power, like beauty, is the gift of nature.
"Soft pleasing speech and graceful outward show, No arts can gain them, but the gods bestow." Pope's Homer.
WILLIAM ROBERTSON, D.D., born 1721, minister of Gladsmuir, 1743, and from 1759 until his death, in 1793, one of the ministers (Dr. John Erskine was his colleague) of the Old Grey-Friars' Church, Edinburgh, was for thirty years, 1762-1792, Prin
cipal of the University of Edinburgh, and for the same period the controlling spirit of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He was the author of The Situation of the World at the Time of Christ's Appearance, and its Connection with the Success of his Religion Considered, a Sermon, Edin., 1755, 8vo; The History of Scotland during the Reigns of Queen Mary and of King James VI. till his Succession to the Crown of England, etc., Lond., 1758-59, 2 vols. 4to, 17th edit., 1806, 3 vols. 8vo; The History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V., etc., Lond., 1769, 3 vols. 4to, 10th edit., 1802, 4 vols. 8vo; the History of America, Books I-VIII., Lond., 1777, 2 vols. 4to, Books IX. and X., Lond., 1796, 4to and Svo; An Historical Disquisition Concerning the Knowledge which the Ancients had of India, etc., Lond., 1791, 4to. Collective editions of Robertson's Works have frequently been published (most of them with Stewart's Life of Robertson). Among the last editions are those of London, 1828, 9 vols. 8vo, 1840, 8 vols. 8vo, 1860, imp. 8vo, 1865, imp. 8vo.
"Inferior probably to Mr. Gibbon in the vigour of his powers, unequal to him perhaps in comprehension of intellect and variety of knowledge, the Scottish historian has far surpassed him in simplicity and perspicuity of narrative, in picturesque and pathetic description, in the sober use of figurative language, and in the delicate perception of that scarcely discernible boundary which separates
ornament from exuberance and elegance from affectation."-SIR J. MACKINTOSH: Lond. Month. Review.
Robertson's style, Mr. Prescott remarked, was that of a schoolmistress. He thought him greatly wanting in narrative power, and in the faculty of picturesque description. He instanced the bald and commonplace account of the battle of Pavia as a specimen of Robertson's inability to do justice to a great and splendid subject. At the same time he did justice to that historian's eminent qualities of another kind,-to his clearness, penetration, and philosophic tone. He attributed his defects of style to his age rather than to any defect in himself."-Recollections of Prescott by his former Secretary: Prescott Memorial, 1859, pp. 21, 22.
CHARACTER OF MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS. To all the charms of beauty and the utmost elegance of external form she added those accomplishments which render their impression irresistible. Polite, affable, insinuating, sprightly, and capable of speaking and of writing with equal ease and dignity. Sudden, however, and violent in all her attachments, because her heart was warm and unsuspicious. Impatient of contradiction, because she had been accustomed from her infancy to be treated as a queen. No stranger, on some occasions, to dissimulation, which in that perfidious court where she received her education was reckoned
among the necessary arts of government. Not insensible of flattery, or unconscious of that pleasure with which almost every woman beholds the influence of her own beauty. Formed with the qualities which we love, not with the talents that we admire, she was an agreeable woman rather than an illustrious queen. The vivacity of her spirit, not sufficiently tempered with sound judg ment, and the warmth of her heart, which was not at all times under the restraint of discretion, betrayed her both into errors and into crimes.
To say that she was always unfortunate will not account for that long and almost uninterrupted succession of calamities which befell her: we must likewise add that she was often imprudent. Her passion for Darnley was rash, youthful, and excessive. And though the sudden transition to the opposite extreme was the natural effect of her ill-requited love, and of his ingratitude, insolence, and brutality, yet neither these nor Bothwell's artful address and important services can justify her attachment to that nobleman. Even the manners of the age, licentious as they were, are no apology for this unhappy passion; nor can they induce us to look on that tragical and infamous scene which followed upon it with less abhorrence. Humanity will draw a veil over this part of her character which it cannot approve, and may, perhaps, prompt some to impute her actions to her situation, more than to her dispositions, and to lament the unhappiness of the former, rather than accuse the perverseness of the latter. Mary's sufferings exceed, both in degree and in duration, those tragical distresses which fancy has feigned to excite while we survey them, we are apt altogether sorrow and commiseration; and to forget her frailties; we think of her faults with less indignation, and approve of our tears as if they were shed for a person who had attained much nearer to pure virtue.
With regard to the queen's person, a circumstance not to be omitted in writing the history of a female reign, all contemporary authors agree in ascribing to Mary the utmost beauty of countenance and elegance of shape of which the human form is capable. Her hair was black, though, according to the fashion of that age, she frequently wore borrowed locks, and of different colours. Her eyes were a dark grey, her complexion was exquisitely fine, and her hands and arms remarkably delicate, both as to shape and colour. Her stature was of a height that rose to the majestic. She danced, she walked, and rode with equal grace. Her taste for music was just, and she both sung and played upon the lute with uncommon skill. Towards the end of her life she began to