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did him the honour to eat a bit of mutton with him. All this, however, is true. As is also another anecdote, which Muckworm forgot to mention : his first cousin dined that day with the servants, who took compassion on the lad, after he had been turned down stairs, with a refusal of twenty pounds to set him up in the trade of a shoemaker.
There is pedantry in every disquisition, however masterly it may be, that stops the general conversation of the company. When Silius delivers that sort of lecture he is apt to get into, though it is supported by the most extensive information and the clearest discernment, it is still pedantry; and while I admire the talents of Silius, I cannot help being uneasy at his exhibition of them. In the course of this dissertation, the farther a man proceeds, the more he seems to acquire strength and inclination for the progress. Last night, after supper, Silius began upon Protestantism, proceeded to the Irish massacre, went through the Revolution, drew the character of King William, repeated anecdotes of Schomberg, and ended at a quarter past twelve, by delineating the course of the Boyne, in half a bumper of port, upon my best table; which river, happening to overflow its banks, did infinite damage to my cousin Sophy's white satin petticoat.
In short, every thing, in this sense of the word, is pedantry, which tends to destroy that equality of conversation which is necessary to the perfect ease and good humour of the company. Every one would be struck with the unpoliteness of that person's behaviour, who should help himself to a whole plate of peas or strawberries which some friend had sent him for a rarity in the beginning of the season. Now, conversation is one of those good things of which our guests or companions are equally entitled to a share,
as of any other constituent part of the entertainment; and it is as essential a want of politeness to engross the one, as to monopolize the other.
Besides, it unfortunately happens, that we are very inadequate judges of the value of our own discourse, or the rate at which the dispositions of our company will incline them to hold it. The reflections we make, and the stories we tell, are to be judged of by others, who may hold a very different opinion of their acuteness or their humour. It will be prudent, therefore, to consider, that the dish we bring to this entertainment, however pleasing to our own taste, may prove but moderately palatable to those we mean to treat with it; and that, to every man, as well as ourselves (except a few very humble ones), his own conversation is the plate of peas or strawberries.-V.
N° 6. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 1779.
Nec excitatur classico miles truci
GREAT talents are usually attended with a proportional desire of exerting them; and indeed, were it otherwise, they would be in a great measure useless to those who possess them, as well as to society.
But, while this disposition generally leads men of high parts and high spirit to take a share in active life, by engaging in the pursuits of business or ambition, there are, amidst the variety of human character, some instances, in which persons eminently
possessed of those qualities, give way to a contrary disposition.
A man of an aspiring mind and nice sensibility may, from a wrong direction, or a romantic excess of spirit, find it difficult to submit to the ordinary pursuits of life. Filled with enthusiastic ideas of the glory of a general, a senator, or a statesman, he may look with indifference, or even with disgust, on the less brilliant, though, perhaps, not less useful occupations of the physician, the lawyer, or the trader.
My friend Mr. Umphraville is a remarkable instance of great talents thus lost to himself and to society. The singular opinions which have influenced his conduct, I have often heard him attempt, with great warmth, to defend.
In the pursuit of an ordinary profession,' would say, ' a man of spirit and sensibility, while he is subjected to disgusting occupations, finds it necessary to submit with patience, nay often with the appearance of satisfaction, to what he will be apt to esteem dulness, folly, or impertinence, in those from whose countenance, or opinion, he hopes to derive success; and, while he pines in secret at so irksome a situation, perhaps, amidst the crowds with whom he converses, he may not find a friend to whom he can communicate his sorrows.
( If, on the other hand,' he would add, he betakes himself to retirement, it is true, he cannot hope for an opportunity of performing splendid actions, or of gratifying a passion for glory; but if he attain not all that he wishes, he avoids much of what he hates. Within a certain range he will be master of his occupations and his company; his books will, in part, supply the want of society; and, in contemplation, at least, he may often enjoy those pleasures from which fortune has precluded him.
If the country, as will generally happen, be the place of his retirement, it will afford a variety of objects agreeable to his temper. In the prospect of a lofty mountain, an extensive plain, or the unbounded ocean, he may gratify his taste for the sublime; while the lonely vale, the hollow bank, or the shady wood, will present him a retreat suited to the thoughtfulness of his disposition.'
Such are the sentiments which have formed the character of Mr. Umphraville, which have regulated
the choice and the tenor of his life.
His father, a man of generosity and expense beyond his fortune, though that had once been considerable, left him at the age of twenty-five, full of the high sentiments natural, at these years, to a young gentleman brought up as the heir of an ancient family, and a large estate, with a very inconsiderable income to support them; for though the remaining part of the family-fortune still afforded him a rentroll of 1000l. a year, his clear revenue could scarcely be estimated at 3001.
Mr. Umphraville, though he wanted not a relish for polite company and elegant amusements, was more distinguished for an ardent desire of knowledge; in consequence of which he had made an uncommon progress in several branches of science. The classical writers of ancient and modern times, but especially the former, were those from whose works he felt the highest pleasure; yet he had, among other branches of learning, obtained a considerable knowledge of jurisprudence, and was a tolerable proficient in mathematics.
On these last circumstances his friends founded their hopes of his rising in the world. One part of them argued, from the progress he had made in jurisprudence, that he would prove an excellent lawyer;
the other, that his turn for mathematics would be a useful qualification in a military life; and all agreed in the necessity of his following some profession in which he might have an opportunity of repairing his fortune.
Mr. Umphraville, however, had very different sentiments. Though he had studied the science of jurisprudence with pleasure, and would not have declined the application of its principles, as a member of the legislature, he felt no inclination to load his memory with the rules of our municipal law, or to occupy himself in applying them to the uninteresting disputes of individuals; and, though he neither wanted a taste for the art, nor a passion for the glory of a soldier, he was full as little disposed to carry a pair of colours at a review, or to line the streets in a procession. Nor were his objections to other plans of bettering his fortune, either at home or abroad, less unsurmountable.
In short, after deliberating on the propositions of his friends, and comparing them with his own feelings, Mr. Umphraville concluded, that, as he could not enter into the world in a way suited to his inclination and temper, the quiet and retirement of a country life, though with a narrow fortune, would be more conducive to his happiness, than the pursuit of occupations to which he felt an aversion, even should they be attended with a greater degree of success than, from that circumstance, he judged to be probable.
Agreeably to this opinion he took his resolution; and, notwithstanding the opposition of his friends, retired, a few months after his father's death, to his estate in the country, where he has lived upwards of forty years; his family, since the death of his mother, a lady of uncommon sense and virtue, who survived