Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

own the surnames and blood of Bohuns, Mortimers and Plantagenets (though ignorant of their own extractions), are hid in the heap of common people, where they find that under a thatched cottage, which some of their ancestors could not enjoy in a leaded castle,-contentment, with quiet and security."Worthies. Art, Of Shire-Reeves or Shiriffes.

Tenderness of Conscience in a Tradesman.“ Thomas Curson, born in Allhallows, Lombardstreet, armourer, dwelt without Bishopsgate. It happened that a stage-player borrowed a rusty musket, which had lain long leger in his shop: now though his part were comical, he therewith acted an unexpected tragedy, killing one of the standers by, the gun casually going off on the stage, which he suspected not to be charged. O the difference of divers men in the tenderness of their consciences ! some are scarce touched with a wound, whilst others are wounded with a touch therein. This poor armourer was highly afflicted therewith, though done against his will, yea without his knowledge, in his absence, by another, out of mere chance. Hereupon he resolved to give all his estate to pious uses : no sooner had he gotten a round sum, but presently he posted with it in his apron to the Court of

[ocr errors]

Aldermen, and was in pain till by their direction he had settled it for the relief of poor in his own and other parishes, and disposed of some hundreds of pounds accordingly, as I am credibly informed by the then churchwardens of the said parish. Thus as he conceived himself casually (though at a great distance to have occasioned the death of one, he was the immediate and direct cause of giving a comfortable living to many."

Burning of Wickliffe's Body by Order of the Council of Constance.-—" Hitherto [A. D. 1428] the corpse of John Wickliffe had quietly slept in his grave about forty-one years after his death, till his body was reduced to bones, and his bones almost to dust. For though the earth in the chancel of Lutterworth, in Leicestershire, where he was interred, hath not so quick a digestion with the earth of Aceldama, to consume flesh in twentyfour hours, yet such the appetite thereof, and all other English graves, to leave small reversions of a body after so many years. But now such the spleen of the Council of Constance, as they not only cursed his memory as dying an obstinate heretic, but ordered that his bones (with this charitable caution,-if it may be discerned from the bodies of other faithful people) be taken out

of the ground, and thrown far off from any Christian burial. In obedience hereunto, Richard Fleming, Bishop of Lincoln, Diocesan of Lutterworth, sent his officers (vultures with a quick sight scent at a dead carcass) to ungrave him. Accordingly to Lutterworth they come, Sumner, Commissary, Official, Chancellor, Proctors, Doctors, and their servants, (so that the remnant of the body would not hold out a bone amongst so many hands,) take what was left out of the grave, and burnt them to ashes, and cast them into Swift, a neighbouring brook, running hard by. Thus this brook has conveyed his ashes into Avon, Avon into Severn, Severn into the narrow seas, then into the main ocean ; and thus the ashes of Wickliffe are the emblem of his doctrine, which now is dispersed all the world over." -Church History,

* The concluding period of this most lively narrative I will not call a conceit : it is one of the grandest conceptions I ever met with. One feels the ashes of Wickliffe gliding away out of the reach of the Sumners, Commissaries, Officials, Proctors, Doctors, and all the puddering rout of executioners of the impotent rage of the baffled Council : from Swift into Avon, from Avon into Severn, from Severn into the narrow seas, from the narrow seas into the main ocean, where they become the emblem of his doctrine, “ dispersed all the world over.” Hamlet's tracing the body of Cæsar to the clay that stops a beer-barrel, is a no less curious pursuit of “ ruined mortality;" but it is in an inverse ratio to this : it degrades and saddens us, for one part of our nature at least; but this expands the whole of our nature, and gives to the

body a sort of ubiquity,a diffusion, as far as the actions of its partner can have reach or influence.

I have seen this passage smiled at, and set down as a quaint conceit of old Fuller. But what is not a conceit to those who read it in a temper different from that in which the writer composed it? The most pathetic parts of poetry to cold tempers seem and are nonsense, as divinity was to the Greeks foolishness. When Richard II., meditating on his own utter annihilation as to royalty, cries out,

“O that I were a mockery king of snow,

To melt before the sun of Bolingbroke,” if we have been going on pace for pace with the passion before, this sudden conversion of a strong felt metaphor into something to be actually realised in nature, like that of Jeremiah, “Oh! that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears,” is strictly and strikingly natural; but come unprepared upon it, and it is a conceit: and so is a “ head” turned into waters."

182

ON THE GENIUS AND CHARACTER

OF HOGARTH;

WITH SOME REMARKS ON A PASSAGE IN THE WRITINGS

OF THE LATE MR. BARRY.

One of the earliest and noblest enjoyments I had when a boy was in the contemplation of those capital prints by Hogarth, the Harlot's and Rake's Progresses, which, along with some others, hung upon the walls of a great hall in an old-fashioned house in shire, and seemed the solitary tenants (with myself) of that antiquated and life-deserted apartment.

Recollection of the manner in which those prints used to affect me, has often made me wonder, when I have heard Hogarth described as a mere comic painter, as one of those whose chief ambition was to raise a laugh. To deny that there are throughout the prints which I have mentioned circumstances introduced of a laughable tendency would be to run counter to the common notions of

« ZurückWeiter »