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may be sincere, open, honourable, above dissimulation, and free from disguise; but he never can possess that ease of behaviour, and that elegance of manners, which nothing but a familiar acquaintance with the world, and the habit of mingling in society, and of conversing with persons of different ranks and different characters can bestow.
Let us not repine, however, at the superiority of our neighbours in this respect. It is, perhaps, impossible to possess, at once, the useful and the agreeable qualities in an eminent degree; and if ease and politeness be only attainable at the expense of sincerity in the men, and chastity in the women, I flatter myself, there are few of my readers who would not think the purchase made at too high a price.
I have, of late, remarked, with regret, an affectation of the manners of France, and a disposition in some of the higher ranks to introduce into this island that species of gallantry which has so long prevailed in that nation. But, happily, neither the habits, the dispositions, the genius of our people, nor that mixture of ranks which our constitution necessarily produces, will admit of it. In France they contrive to throw over their greatest excesses a veil so delicate and so fine, as in some measure to hide the deformity of vice, and even at times to bestow upon it the semblance of virtue. But with us, less delicate and less refined, vice appears in its native colours, without concealment and without disguise; and were the gallantry of Paris transplanted into this soil, it would soon degenerate into gross debauchery. At present my countrywomen are equally respected for their virtue as admired for their beauty; and I trust it will be long before they cease to be so.-M.
No 19. TUESDAY, MARCH 30, 1779.
My friend Mr. Umphraville's early retirement, and long residence in the country, have given him many peculiarities, to which, had he continued longer in the world, and had a freer intercourse with mankind, he would probably not have been subject. These give to his manner an apparent hardness, which, in reality, is widely different from his natural disposition.
As he passes much time in study and solitude, and is naturally of a thoughtful cast, the subjects of which he reads, and the opinions which he forms, make a strong and deep impression on his mind ; they become, as it were, friends and companions from whom he is unwilling to be separated. Hence he commonly shews a disposition to take a lead in, and give the tone to conversation, and delivers his opinions too much in the manner of a lecture. And though this curiosity and love of information concur with that politeness which he is ever studious to observe, to make him listen with patience and attention to the opinions of others, yet, it must be confessed, that he is apt to deliver his own with an uncommon degree of warmth, and I have very seldom found him disposed to surrender them.
I find, however, nothing disagreeable in this peculiarity of my friend. The natural strength of his understanding, the extent of his knowledge, and that degree of taste which he has derived from a strong conception of the sublime, the tender, and the beautiful, assisted by an extensive acquaintance with the elegant writers, both of ancient and modern times, render his conversation, in many respects, both in
structive and entertaining; and that singularity of opinion, which is the natural consequence of his want of opportunities of comparing his own ideas with those of others, affords me an additional pleasure. But, above all, I am delighted with the goodness of heart which breaks forth in every sentiment he delivers.
Mr. Umphraville's sister, who is often present, and sometimes takes a part in those conversations, is of a character at once amiable and respectable.
In her earlier days, she spent much of her time in the perusal of novels and romances: but though she still retains a partiality for the few works of that kind which are possessed of merit, her reading is now chiefly confined to works of a graver cast.
Miss Umphraville, though she has not so much learning, possesses, perhaps, no less ability as a woman, than her brother does as a man: and, having less peculiarity in her way of thinking, has, consequently, a knowledge better fitted for common life. It is pleasing to observe how Miss Umphraville, while she always appears to act an under-part, and sometimes, indeed, not to act a part at all, yet watches with a tender concern, over the singularities of her brother's disposition; and without betraying the smallest consciousness of her power, generally contrives to direct him in the most material parts of his conduct.
Mr. Umphraville is the best master, and the best landlord, that ever lived. The rents of his estate have undergone scarce any alteration since he came to the possession of it; and his tenants too are nearly the same. The ancient possessors have never been removed from motives of interest, or without some very particular reason; and the few new ones he has chosen to introduce, are, for the most part, persons who have been servants in his family, whose
fidelity and attachment he has rewarded by a small farm at a low rent.
I have had many a pleasant conversation, about sun-set in a summer evening, with those venerable gray-headed villagers. Their knowledge of country affairs, the sagacity of their remarks, and the manner, acquired by a residence in Mr. Umphraville's family, with which they are accustomed to deliver them, have afforded me much entertainment.
It is delightful to hear them run out in praises of their landlord. They have told me there is not a person in his neighbourhood, who stands in need of his assistance, who has not felt the influence of his generosity; which, they say, endears him to the whole country. Yet, such is the effect of that reserved and particular manner which my friend has contracted, that while his good qualities have procured him great esteem, and the disinterestedness of his disposition, with the opinion entertained of his honour and integrity, has always prevented him from falling into disputes or quarrels with his neighbours, there is scarcely one of them with whom he lives on terms of familiarity.
Mr. Umphraville, in the earlier part of his life, had an attachment to an amiable young lady. Their situation at that time might have made an avował of his passion equally fatal to both; and, though it was not without a severe struggle, Mr. Umphraville had firmness enough to suppress the declaration of an attachment he was unable to subdue. The lady, some time after, married; since that period, Mr. Umphraville has never seen her, or been known so much as once to mention her name: but I am credibly informed, that, by his interest, her eldest son has obtained high preferment in the army. The only favour which Mr. Umphraville ever asked from any great man was for this young gentleman; but
neither the lady herself, nor any of her family, know by whose influence his advancement has been procured.
Though it is possible, that, if Mr. Umphraville had married at an early period of life, his mind, even in a state of retirement, would have retained a polish, and escaped many of those peculiarities it has now contracted; yet, I own, I am rather inclined to believe his remaining single a fortunate circumstance. Nor have my fair readers any reason to be offended at the remark: great talents, even in a generous and benevolent mind, are sometimes attended with a certain want of pliability, which is ill suited to the cordialities of domestic life. A man of such a disposition as Mr. Umphraville has now acquired, might consider the delicacy, the vivacity, and the fine shades of female character, as frivolous and beneath attention; or, at least might be unable, for any length of time, to receive pleasure from those indulgences, which minds of a softer mould may regard as the great and amiable perfection of what Mr. Pope calls
The last best work of Heaven.
With all those respectable talents which Mr. Umphraville possesses, with all that generosity of sentiment, and goodness of heart, so conspicuous in every thing he says or does, which so strongly endear him to his friends, I am apt to think, that, in the very intimate connexion of the married life, the woman of delicacy and sensibility might often feel herself hurt by the peculiarities of character to which he is subject.
The situation of a wife is, in this respect, very different from that of a sister. Miss Umphraville's observation of her brother's peculiarities, neither lessens her esteem nor her affection for him; these