Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

(the several principal officers of the abbey being there,) by all of whom we were received with much politeness. And here give me leave to observe, that if Mother-Church has appointed certain days of abstinence, they must be undutiful children indeed, and froward to their own cost, who disobey her commands; provided always, that in the absence of flesh, they can mortify so luxuriously upon such excellent fish and fruits as we found among the Benedictines."

One specimen more of the author's descriptive powers, which we have selected, because it is as applicable to the Dutch of the present day, as to their ancestors in 1766; and we hasten to say farewell to Mr. Paterson.

"The neatness of the Dutch cities, together with the regularity, thriftiness, industry, and cleanliness of the inhabitants, surpass description, and must be seen, in order to be thoroughly understood.

66

"The smallest filth in the streets would be deemed a nuisance, and a reproach to any one that would suffer it to lie at his door. Regularity, not only in affairs of business, but in the whole domestic conduct, is so essential to the happiness of a Dutchman, that any man would be thought ignorant of what he owes the public and himself, should he neglect it.

"Thriftiness they hold in high esteem- a man must be thrifty who would at all times serve himself, and, now and then, his neighbour. After all, say they, Thriftiness is a never-failing friend.

"To secure this desirable friend, who, they say, is only to be won by perseverance, industry becomes a part of their constitutional virtue. Hence, vagrants of all sorts are discountenanced; neither are beggars, upon any pretence, suffered to patrole the streets.

"Personal cleanliness is so well approved, that a sloven or a slut would want employment, hardly any master or mistress would harbour them; no matter how coarse their covering, but they must be whole and clean.

"On the contrary, dirt is the badge of some professions with us— you may guess at their calling by their beastliness-and, in our metropolis especially, there is an affectation among many of the lower sort, of appearing the offensive sloven and the filthy bunter, the loose companion, the blackguard, and the rascal. Hardly any body decries this humour in the mob-for why?-because it makes a part of our public diversion. Whereas, throughout the States' dominions, you will not meet with a dirty sailor, a dirty fisherman, a dirty waterman, a dirty porter, a dirty carman, or even a dirty chimney-sweeper."

We have now enabled our readers to judge whether we have overrated the good qualities of Coriat, Junior; and it is time, perhaps, that we make our bow and retire. Before doing so, however, we must transfer to our pages, for the benefit of future travellers, one piece of sound advice given by our honest friend; which is the more worthy of attention, inasmuch as it

was verified by his own experience, and fulfilled to the utmost of his expectations. It is as follows:

"And yet, if I mistake not, after this manner most of my countrymen travel they set out with prejudices against the natives they are going to visit; they know their characters before-hand-a Frenchman, is a puppy; an Italian, a cheat; a German, a pedant; and a Dutchman, a brute-for this reason, they chuse to keep their own company, to be waited upon by their own servants, to journey in their own carriages, and to return home almost as wise as they set out."

Now then, most whimsical companion, we part. We have had a pleasant ramble together. Your humour we like-your benevolence we admire-and your liberality and sagacity please us: though, we dare say, there may be critics who do not think you overwise. In short, to use your own language-" After all, Mr. Coriat, you shall have our good word, we promise you; we like you in some things very well; and if you have failed in others, why, Lord help us! we've all our failings.”

ART. VII.-Poems, written by the Right Reverend Dr. Richard Corbet, late Bishop of Norwich. 1st edition, 1647; 2nd edition, 1648; 3rd edition, 1672; 12mo.

Merry Old England! Why merry? Why old? In antiquity, as well as in merriment, we seem far inferior to our neighbours. Certainly, we possess not these accidents in any such degree as entitles us to the epithets as a distinction over other sadder and younger nations. Gaiety, lightheartness, high animal spirits, are not the characteristics of Englishmen now; and, as well as we can judge, never have been. The character of seriousness is engraven upon the chiefest part of our literature; and, in cases of great excellence, the rising of the spirit has not been especially shewn in compositions of wit and drollery, but in passages of wisdom, sublimity, and grandeur. The period in the annals of our literature most distinguished for wit and gaiety was a period of imitation; the style, the air, almost the matter, was imported; the exotic never took deep root. The grave and earnest fanaticism of the Puritanic age, which preceded the times of the witty courtiers of the Merry Monarch, took a far stronger hold of the intellectual soil of this country. Perhaps the tone of composition and the tenor of thought most characteristic of England, is that which may be best described by the epithet biblical. Throughout our national sentiment there breathes the zeal, the earnestness,

the

sublimity, the sternness, of the Jewish Scripture-the library of the peasant, the storehouse of the poet, the model of the man of taste, the authority of the divine, the guide of age, the terror of youth, the text-book of all. Gaiety and lightness of heart are not protestant. The gayest and most cheerful writer of our language is Chaucer. Popery, by divesting religion of the spiritual, and by converting its observances into mere ceremonies, relieves the mind from the contemplation of the future and the supernatural, and confines its circle of consideration to the mere things of this world. What is lost in greatness is gained in lightness. Let our remarks be understood as simply literary. We take not here into account the greater and vastly more important points of the comparison. As a question of mere literature, however, we feel convinced, that an examination into the history of our literature would prove the truth of our remark. If we were to draw a map of Europe, and distinguish its territory according to the gaiety or seriousness of its inhabitants, the same boundaries would pretty nearly serve for the divisions between Catholic and Protestant. It is true, that the religion may not be the cause. The adoption of either one or other faith may even be the mere effect of the very seriousness or gaiety to which we are pointing. But though we allow that a national character of earnestness and reflection would naturally lead to the rejection of popery and the cultivation of protestantism, yet there can be hardly any doubt that such powerful agents as these different faiths must create a very considerable reaction. Protestantism thus making the grave German and Englishman still more serious, and popery still further lightening the already unballasted bark of the Frenchman and Italian.

Some confirmation of our remark may be found even in the poems of Corbet and his time. The wits were all, like him, of the Arminian sect, the party most opposed to puritanism, and chiefly suspected of leaning towards popery. From the earliest period of the Reformation, we think, may be traced the progress of gravity in this country, which spread gradually over the character as the awful truths of religion became more inwardly felt, more constantly dwelt upon, more duly weighed. Up to the Restoration, its course was rapid and unchecked; by that event, a considerable reaction took place, which, however, silently retreated before the march of gospel truth. At the present moment, we believe, the religious world is more populous, more zealous, and more powerful, than it has ever been in England; and, in our opinion, it is also true, that the character of the country is less gay, more earnest, more serious, more attached to truth, less attached to the gladiatorial sport of words and ideas, in which gaiety delights, and in which much of wit consists.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

A remarkable feature of the writings of the time of Corbet is the cheerfulness which reigns in nearly all the compositions, whether of laymen or divines, of the metropolis or the universities. They who were, by office, the gravest characters of the realm, were incessantly interchanging effusions of wit, gaiety, and good-humour, eulogy or elegy, congratulation or satire. Wit overflowed from songs, sonnets, pamphlets, and sermons. The character of wit was universal about town, in the church, at Cambridge and Oxford; in all ranks, from the monarch to the clown. Corbet, successively Bishop of Oxford and Norwich, was an example of it, and seems to have been indebted for his elevation very much to the brilliancy of his fancy. Perhaps, these poems do not give the best example of his powers. They were published after his death, and were never intended to be published at all. They are, however, in many instances, still witty, (for wit is a thing which does not keep, depending so much as it does upon living men and living manners,) and will still create amusement. They are, certainly, not such verses as a bishop would write now-a-days; neither is it probable, that a man given to the composition of such poems would ever grace the episcopal bench. Corbet's real character is, perhaps, more clearly seen, and to more advantage, from the scattered anecdotes of his life, and an extract or two from one of his sermons, than from his verse. For this reason, before we transfer to our pages such parts of his poems as still remain undestroyed by age and the changes of the times, we will, after mentioning the few particulars known of his biography, quote certain passages of and concerning him, collected by the industry of Mr. Gilchrist.†

Richard Corbet, successively bishop of Oxford and Norwich, was born in the village of Ewell, in Surrey, in the year 1582: he was the only son of Benet, or Benedicta, and Vincent Corbet. Of his father, who is highly praised by Ben Jonson

* In The Book of Sports, by King James, 1618, it is declared to be his majesty's pleasure, "that after the end of divine service, our good people shall not be disturbed, letted, or discouraged from any lawful recreation; such as dauncing, either men or women; archerie, for men, leaping, vaulting, or any other such harmless recreation; nor from having of May-games, Witson ales, and Morris dances, and the setting up of May-poles therein used; and that women shall have leave to carry rushes to the church for the decoring of it, according to their old custome." Let any one compare this with the present notions on the subject of profanation of the sabbath.

In his very respectable edition of Corbet, 12mo., 1807. A limited number only was printed, and it is now become difficult to procure a copy.

[ocr errors]

for various virtues, little seems to be known, beyond the fact of his being, either by taste or trade, a gardener. He resided at Whitton, near Twickenham, where his son, the bishop, spent

* AN EPITAPH ON MASTER VINCENT CORBET.

I have my piety too, which, could

It vent itself but as it would,

Would say as much as both have done

Before me here, the friend and son:
For I both lost a friend and father,

Of him whose bones this grave doth gather:
Dear Vincent Corbet, who so long

Had wrestled with diseases strong,

That though they did possess each limb,
Yet he broke them, ere they could him,
With the just canon of his life;
A life that knew nor noise nor strife:
But was, by sweet'ning so his will,
All order and composure still.
His mind as pure, and neatly kept
As were his nurseries, and swept
So of uncleanness, or offence,
That never came ill odour thence!
And add his actions unto these,
They were as specious as his trees.
'Tis true, he could not reprehend,
His very manners taught t' amend,
They were so even, grave, and holy;
No stubbornness so stiff, nor folly
To license ever was so light,
As twice to trespass in his sight;
His looks would so correct it, when
It chid the vice, yet not the men.
Much from him, I profess, I won,
And more, much more, I should have done,

But that I understood him scant:

Now I conceive him by my want;

And pray, who shall my sorrows read,

That they for me their tears will shed:
For, truly, since he left to be,

I feel I'm rather dead than he.

Reader, whose life and name did e'er become
An epitaph, deserv'd a tomb :

« AnteriorContinua »