« ZurückWeiter »
She fainted as he closed the period, and was carried back to prison in a swoon; while he adjourned the court to go to dinner.
If, unaffected by the 'scene he had witnessed, William sat down to dinner with an appetite, let not the reader conceive that the most distant suspicion had struck his mind of his ever having seen, much less familiarly known, the poor offender whom he had just condemned. Still this forgetfulness did not proceed from the want of memory for Agnes. In every peevish or heavy hour passed with his wife, he was sure to think of her; yet it was self-love, rather than love of her, that gave rise to these thoughts. He felt the lack of female sympathy and tenderness to soften the fatigue of studious labour, to soothe a sullen, a morose disposition—he felt he wanted comfort for himself, but never once considered what were the wants of Agnes.
In the chagrin of a barren bed he sometimes thought, too, even on the child that Agnes bore him ; but whether it were male or female, whether a beggar in the streets or dead, various and important public occupation forbade him to inquire. Yet the poor, the widow, and the orphan frequently shared William's ostentatious bounty. He was the president of many excellent charities, gave largely, and sometimes instituted benevolent societies for the unhappy; for he delighted to load the poor with obligation, and the rich with praise.
There are persons like him who love to do every thing good but that which their immediate duty requires. There are servants that will serve every one more cheerfully than their masters; there are men who will distribute money liberally to all except their creditors; and there are wives who will love all mankind better than their own husbands. Duty is a familiar word which has little effect upon an ordinary mind; and as ordinary minds make a vast majority, we have acts of generosity, self-denial, and honesty, where smaller pains would constitute greater virtues. Had William followed the common dictates of charity, had he adopted private pity instead of public munificence, had he cast an eye at home before he sought abroad for objects of compassion, Agnes had been preserved from an ignominious death, and he had been preserved from-remorse, the tortures of which he for the first time proved on reading a printed sheet of paper, accidentally thrown in his way a few days after he had left the town in which he had condemned her to die.
“ March 10th, 179—. “The last dying words, speech, and confession, birth, parentage, and education, life, character, and behaviour, of Agnes Primrose, who was executed this morning between the hours of ten and twelve, pursuant to the sentence passed upon her by the Honourable Justice Norwynne.
Agnes Primrose was born of honest parents, in the village of Anfield, in the county of —" (William started at the name of the village and county); " but being led astray by the arts and flattery of seducing man, she fell from the paths of virtue, and took to bad company, which instilled into her young heart all their evil ways, and at length brought her to this untimely end. So she hopes her death will be a warning to all young persons of her own sex, how they listen to the praises and courtship of young men,. especially of those who are their betters; for they only court to deceive. But the said Agnes freely forgives all persons who have done her injury or given her sorrow, from the young man who first won her heart, to the jury who found her guilty, and the judge who condemned her to death.
"And she acknowledges the justice of her sentence, not only in respect of her crime for which she suffers, but in regard to many other heinous sins of which she has been guilty, more especially that of once attempting to commit a murder upon her own helpless child; for which guilt she now considers the vengeance of God has overtaken her, to which she is patiently resigned, and departs in peace and charity with all the world, praying the Lord to have mercy on her parting soul."
POSTSCRIPT TO THE CONFESSION.
“So great was this unhappy woman's terror of death and the awful judgment that was to follow, that when sentence was pronounced upon her she fell into a swoon, from that into convulsions, from which she never entirely recovered, but was delirious to the time of her execution, except that short interval in which she made her confession to the clergyman who attended her. She has left one child, a youth almost sixteen, who has never forsaken his mother during all the time of her imprisonment, but waited on her with true filial duty; and no sooner was her final sentence passed than he began to droop, and now lies dangerously ill near the prison from which she is released by death. During the loss of her senses, the said Agnes Primrose raved continually of her child ; and, asking for pen, ink, and paper, wrote an incoherent petition to the judge, recommending the youth to his protection and mercy. But notwithstanding this insanity, she behaved with composure and resignation when the fatal morning arrived in which she was to be launched into eternity. She prayed devoutly during the last hour, and seemed to have her whole mind fixed on the world to which she was going. A crowd of spectators followed her to the fatal spot, most of whom returned weeping at the recollection of the fervency with which she prayed, and the impression which her dreadful state seemed to make
No sooner had the name of " Anfield” struck William, than a thousand reflections and remembrances flashed on his mind to give him full conviction who it was he had judged and sentenced. He recollected the sad remains of Agnes, such as he once had known her; and now he wondered how his thoughts could have been absent from an object so pitiable, so worthy of his attention, as not to give him even suspicion who she was, either from her name or from her person, during the whole trial.
But wonder, astonishment, horror, and every other sensation was absorbed by-remorse. It wounded, it stabbed, it rent his hard heart as it would do a tender one; it havocked on his firm inflexible mind as it would on a weak and pliant brain ! Spirit of Agnes! look down, and behold all your wrongs revenged! William feels-remorse.
THE "HE Life of John Buncle, Esq.; containing various Observations
and Reflections made in several parts of the World, and many Extraordinary Relations, is a book unlike any other in the language, perhaps in the world; and the introduction of passages from it into the present volume must be considered as being, like itself, an exception to rules; for it will resemble rather a notice in a review, than our selections in general. John's Life is not a classic: it contains no passage which is a general favourite: no extract could be made from it of any length, to which readers of good taste would not find objections. Yet there is so curious an interest in all its absurdities; its jumble of the gayest and gravest considerations is so founded in the actual state of things; it draws now and then such excellent portraits from life; and above all, its animal spirits are at once so excessive and so real, that we defy the best readers not to be entertained with it, and having had one or two specimens, not to desire more. Buncle would say, that there is “cut and come again” in him, like one of his luncheons of cold beef and a foaming tankard.
John Buncle, Esq., is the representative of his author, Thomas Amory; of whom little is known, except that he was a gentleman of singular habits and appearance, who led a retired life, was married, was a vehement Unitarian, wrote another extraordinary book professing to be “Lives of Several Ladies” (in which there is a link with John), and died, to the glory of animal spirits, and of rounds of bread and butter (into which his good cheer seems latterly to have merged), at the ripe old age of ninety-seven. He is supposed to have been bred a physician. His father was a barrister, and is understood to have acquired considerable property in Ireland, in consequence of becoming secretary to the forfeited estates.