Page images

flippancy of controversy, called the author of The Philoleutherus Lipsiensis and detector of Phalaris aut Caprimulgus aut fossor, his genius has produced those living witnesses that must for ever put that charge to shame and silence. Against such idle ill-considered words, now dead as the language they were conveyed in, the appeal is near at hand; it lies no further off than to his works, and they are upon every reading man's shelves; but those would have looked into his heart, should have stepped into his house, and seen him in his private and domestic hours; therefore it is that I adduce these little anecdotes and trifling incidents, which describe the man, but leave the author to defend himself.

fore, bar all such misinterpretations
as may attempt to set the mark of
infirmity upon those emotions,
which had no other source or on-
gin but in the natural and pure be
'nevolence of his heart.


"He was communicative to all without distinction, that sought in. formation, or resorted to him for assistance; fond of his coll ge most to enthusiasm, and ever zealou for the honour of the purple gon of Trinity. When he held examina. tions for fellowships, and the modest candidate exhibited marks of agita. tion and alarm, he never failed to interpret candidly of such symptoms; and on those occasions he was nere? known to press the hesitating and embarrassed examinant, but often. times on the contrary, would take "His ordinary style of conversa- all the pains of expounding on him. tion was naturally lofty, and his self, and credit the exonerated canfrequent use of thou and thee with didate for answers and interpreta his familiars, carried with it a kind tions of his own suggesting. If this of dictatorial tone, that savoured was not rigid justice, it was, at least more of the closet than the court; in my conception of it, something this is readily admitted, and this on better and more amiable; and how first approaches might mislead a liable he was to deviate from the stranger; but the native candour strict line of justice, by his partiaand inherent tenderness of his lity to the side of mercy, appears heart could not long be veiled from from the anecdote of the thief, whe observation, for his feelings and af- robbed him of his plate, and was fections were at once too impulsive seized and brought before him with to be long repressed, and he was too the very articles upon him: the careless of concealment to attempt tural process in this man's case at qualifying them, Such was his pointed out the road to prison; sensibility towards human sufferings, my grandfather's process was more that it became a duty with his fa. summary, but not quite so legal mily to divert the conversation from While commissary Greaves, who all topics of that sort; and if he was then present, and of counsel touched upon them himself he was for the college er officio, was exp betrayed into agitations, which if tiating on the crime, and prescrib the reader ascribes to paralytic ing the measures obviously to be weakness, he will very greatly mis- taken with the offender, doctor "Why take a man, who to the last hour of Bentley interposed, saying, his life possessed his faculties firm tell the man he is a thief? he knows and in their fullest vigour ; I, there that well enough, without thy in


formation Greaves.-Harkye, fellow, thou seest the trade which thou has taken up is an unprofitable trade, therefore get thee gone, lay aside an occupation by which thou canst gain nothing but a halter, and follow that by which thou mayest earn an honest livelihood." Having said this, he ordered him to be set at liberty, against the remou.. strances of the bye-standers, and insisting upon it that the fellow was duly penitent for his offence, bade him go his way and never steal again.


"I leave it with those, who con sider mercy as one of man's best at. tributes, to suggest a plea for the informality of this proceeding, and to such I will communicate one other anecdote, which I do not deliver upon my own knowledge, though, from unexceptionable authority, and this is, that when Col. fins had fallen into decay of circumstances, doctor Bentley, suspecting he had written him out of credit by his Philoleutherus Lipsiensis, secretly contrived to administer to the necessities of his baffled opponent, in a manner that did no less credit to his delicacy than to his liberality.

"A morose and over-bearing man will find himself a solitary being in creation; doctor Bentley, on the contrary, had many intimates; judicious in forming his friendships, he was faithful in adhering to them, With sir Isaac Newton, doctor Mead, doctor Wallace, of Stamford, baron Spanheim, the lamented Roger Cotes, and several other distin. guished and illustrious contemporaries, he lived on terms of uninterrupted harmony, and I have good authority for saying, that it is to his

interest and importunity with sit Isaac Newton, that the inestimable publication of the Principia was ever resolved upon by that truly great and luminous philosopher. Newton's portrait, by sir James Thornhill, and those of baron Spanheim and my grandfather, by the same haud, now hanging in the master's lodge of Trinity, were the bequest of doctor Bentley. I was possessed of letters in sir Isaac's own hand to my grandfather, which, together with the corrected volume of bishop Cumberland's Laws of Nature, I lately gave to the library of that flourishing and illustrious college.

"The irreparable loss of Roger Cotes in early life, of whom Newton had pronounced-Now the world' will know something, doctor Bentley never mentioned but with the deepest regret; he had formed the highest expectations of new lights and discoveries in philosophy, from the penetrating force of his extraordinary genius, and on the tablet devoted to his memory in the cha pel of Trinity College, doctor Bent. ley has recorded his sorrows and those of the whole learned world, in the following beautiful and pathetic epitaph:

[blocks in formation]

Societatis hujus spes altera

Et decus gemellum;

Cui ad summam doctrinæ laudem, Omnes morum virtutumque dotes

In cumulum accesserunt; Eo magis spectabiles amabilesque, Quod in formoso corpore Gratiores venirent.

Natus Burbagii

In agro Leicestriensi.

Jul. X. MDCLXXXII. Obiit. Jun, v, MDCCXVI."

"His domestic habits, when I knew him, were still those of unabated study; he slept in the room adjoining to his library, and was never with his family till the hour of din. her; at these times he seemed to have detached himself most com. pletely from his studies; never appearing thoughtful and abstracted, but social, gay, and possessing perfect serenity of mind and equability of temper. He never dictated to pics of conversation to the company he was with, but took them up as they came in his way, and was a patient listener to other people's discourse, however trivial or unin teresting it might be. When The Spectator's were in publication, I have heard my mother say he took a great delight in hearing them read to him, and was so particularly amused by the character of sir Roger de Coverley, that he took his literary decease most seriously to heart. She also told me, that, when in conversation with him on the subject of his works, she found occasion to lament that he had bestowed so great a portion of his time and talents upon criticism, instead of employing them upon original composition, he acknowledged the justice of her regret with extreme sensibi

lity, and remained for a considerable time thoughtful, and seemingly embarrassed by the nature of her re mark; at last recollecting himself he said "Child, I am sensible I have not always turned my talents to the proper use for which I should presume they were given to me: yet I have done some. thing for the honour of God and the edification of my fellow creatures; but the wit and genius of those old heatheus beguiled me. and as I despaired of raising myself up to their standard upon fair ground, I thought the only chance I had of looking over their heads was to get upon their shoulders.",


· Of his pecuniary affairs he took no account; be had no use for money, and dismissed it entirely from his thoughts: his establish ment in the mean time was respect. able, and his table affluently and hospitably served. All these mat ters were conducted and arranged in the best manner possible, by one of the best women living; for such, by the testimony of all who know her, was Mrs. Bentley, daughter of sir John Bernard, of Brampton, a Huntingdonshire, a family of great opulence and respectability, allied to the Cromwells and Saint Johnsy and by intermarriages connected with other great and noble houses. I have perfect recollection of the person of my grandmother, and a full impression of her manners habits, which, though in some de gree tinctured with hereditary serve and the primitive cast of cha racter, were entirely free from the hypocritical cant and affected sanc tity of the Oliverians. Her whole life was modelled on the purest principles of piety, benevolence,



id Christian charity; and in her ving moments, my mother being resent, and voucher of the fact, e breathed out her soul in a kind beatic vision, exclaiming in rapire as she expired-It is all bright, is all glorious !"

Account of the Tiranna. "Count Pietra Santa, lieutenant olonel of the Italian band of bodyuards, was my most dear and inti ate friend; by that name in its uest and most appropriate sense, must ever remember him, (for he now no more) and though the ays that I passed with him in pain did not out-number those of a ingle year, yet in every one of hese I had the happiness to enjoy b many hours of his society, that in is case, as in that of the good old bbe Curtis, whilst we were but Beroung in acquaintace, we might be airly said to be old in friendship. t is ever matter of delight to me, when I can see the world disposed o pay tribute to those modest unassuming characters, who exact no tribute, but in plain and pure simplicity of heart recommend themselves to our affections, and borrow. ing nothing from the charms of wit, or the display of genius, exhibit virtue-in itself how lovely. Such was my deceased friend, a man, whom every body with unanimous assent denominated the good Pietra Santa, whom every body loved, for he that ran could read him, and who together with the truest courage of a soldier and the highest principles of honour, combined such moral virtues with such gentle manners and so sweet a temper, that he seemed destined to give the rare example of a human creature, in whom no fault could be discovered.

"In this society I could not fail

to pass my hours of relaxation very much to my satisfaction, without resorting to public places or assemblies, in which species of amusement Madrid was very scantily provided, for there was but one theatre for plays, no opera, and a most unsocial gloomy style of living seemed to characterise the whole body of the nobles and grandees. I was not often tempted to the theatre, which was small, dark, ill-furnished, and ill-attended, yet when the cele brated tragic actress, known by the title of the l'iranna, played, it was a treat, which I should suppose no other stage then in Europe could compare with. That extraordinary woman, whose real name I do not re member, and whose real origin can. not be traced, till it is settled from what particular nation or people we are to derive the outcast race of gipsies, was not less formed to strike beholders with the beauty and commanding majesty of her person, than to astonish all that heard her by the powers that nature and art had combined to give her. My friend, count Pietra Santa, who had honourable access to this great stage heroine, intimated to her the very high expectation I had formed of her performances, and the eager desire I had to see her in one of her capital characters, telling her at the same time that I had been a writer for the stage in my own country: in consequence of this intimation she sent me word that I should have notice from her when she wished me to come to the theatre, till when, she desired I would not present myself in my box upon any night, though her name might be in the bill, for it was only when she liked her part, and was in the humour to play well, that she wished me to be present. 3 Z4

" In

[ocr errors]

"In obedience to her message, I waited several days, and at last received the looked-for summons; I had not been many minutes in the theatre before she sent a mandate to me to go home, for that she was in no disposition that evening for playing well, and should neither do justice to her own talents nor to my expectations. I instantly obeyed this whimsical injunction, knowing it to be so perfectly in character with the capricious humour of her tribe. When something more than a week had passed, I was again invited to the theatre, aud permitted to sit out the whole representation, I had not then enough of the lan. guage to understand much more than the incidents and action of the play, which was of the deepest cast of tragedy, for, in the course of the plot she murdered her infant children, and exhibited them dead on the stage, lying on each side of her, whilst she, sitting on the bare floor between them, (her attitude, action, features, tones, defying all description) presented such a high-wrought picture of hysteric phrensy, laughing wild amidst severest woe, as placed her, in my judgment, at the very summit of her art; in fact I have no conception that the powers of acting can be carried higher, and such was the effect upon the audience, that whilst the spectators in the pit, having caught a kind of sympathetic phrenzy from the scene, were rising up in a tumultuous manner, the word was given out by authority for letting fall the curtain, and a catastrophe, probably too strong for exhibition, was not allowed to be completed.

"A few minutes had passed, when this wonderful creature, led in by Pietra Santa, entered my box;

the artificial paleness of her cheeks, her eyes, which she had dyed of a bright vermillion round the edges of the lids, her fine arms bare to the shoulders, the wild magnificence of her attire, and the profusion of her dishevelled locks, glossy black as the plumage of the raven, gave her the appearance of something so more than human, such a Sybil, such an imaginary being, so awful, so impressive, that my blood chilled as she approached me, not to ask but to claim my applause, demanding of me if I had ever seen any ac tress, that could be compared with her in my own or any other country.


I was determined,' she to exert myself for you this night; and if the sensibility of the audience would have suffered me to have concluded the scene, I should have convinced you that I do not boast of my own performances without reason.'

"The allowances which the Spanish theatre could afford to make to its performers, were so very moderate, that I should doubt if the whole year's salary of the Tiranna would have more than paid for the magnificent dress in which she thea appeared; but this and all other charges appertaining to her esta blishment, were defrayed from the coffers of the duke of Osuna, grandee of the first class, and com mander of the Spanish Guards. This noble person found it indispensably necessary for his honour to have the finest woman in Spain upon his pension, but by no means necessary to be acquainted with her, and at the very time of which I am now speaking, Pietra Santa seriously assured me, that his excellency had, indeed, paid large sums to her or der, but had never once visited or

« EelmineJätka »