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Pieces of Prose and Poetry.
SHOULD any austere reader throw down this book, indignant at the frivolity of it, I would have them to know that I can read their moroseness such a lecture, upon puddings and the honour in which they were formerly held, as would make them lower their tone. I can inform such fastidious persons, that the most enlightened men of ancient times thought them not only strengtheners of the body, but sharpeners of the mind, wherefore it was said :
Quid farto melius ?
MÆB DE FARTOPHAGIS. Nay, upon this principle, the Romans even erected a statue to F. Agricola, the inventor of the lentil dumplings, but no more to be compared with our improved compound of flour, milk, and eggs, than a shin of beef to a haunch of venison. I could also tell him, that the learned University of Oxford is as proud of its college puddings, as of its logick, sausages, mathematics or brawn; that the very mention of these culinary compositions is of such national importance, as to be entwined in the stopples of our language, by forming the basis of sundry proverbs; as, “ Too much pudding will choke a dog ;” which is a caution against excess, (“ The proof of the pudding is in the eating;” which is a precept to trust only to absolute experience); “Hungry dogs eat dirty pudding;” which is a satire upon the distress of epicures, during a scarcity of provisions; and as, according to Shakespeare, “there is a tide in the affairs of men,” so the good luck of settling concerns of the greatest consequence, exactly at the critical minute, is expressed by being “just in pudding time." I can, moreover, instruct him, that John Bran, of Norfolk, was ordered up to Court, and appointed cook to King John, of Magna Charta memory, on account of his skill in pudding making, when so great was John Bran's fame, that he was called Jack Pudding throughout the kingdom, and being the first whoever boiled these dainties, the Monarch instituted him Knight of the Gridiron of Gold, the Ensign of the Order of Jack Puddings (who have since degenerated into Merry Andrews), which he always wore as a mark of his Sovereign's favour.
It is enough, then, on this subject, to tell any gentleman who may take up this book (or let it alone as he pleases), that the puddings I have apostrophised, were in much celebrity.
SAYINGS. It has been remarked that witty and other good sayings are as easily lost as the pearls slipping off a string. That a little nonsence, now and then, is relished by the wisest men. And that we should read a book as a bee does a flower.
REMARKS ON THE PRESENT STATE OF
LITERATURE. What characterises the literature of our time, is its human interest. It is true that we do not see scholars addressing scholars, but men addressing men; not that scholars are fewer, but that the reading public is more large. Authors in all ages address themselves to what interests their readers; the same things do not interest a vast community, which interest half a score of bookworms. The literary polis was once an oligarchy, it is now a republic. It is the general brilliancy of the atmosphere which prevents your noticing the size of any particular star. Do you not see that the cultivation of the masses, has awakened the literature of the affections ? Every sentiment finds an expositor, every feeling an oracle
“ 'Tis thus the spirit of one single mind
READ IN MODERATION. HE that reads much should have powerful organs of intellectual digestion, he would otherwise receive but little nutriment into his mind, and what is worse, will derange the healthy functions of his mental system. The ingenious Mr. Hobbs did not much value a large library, and used to remark, though with singular vanity, that had he read as much as some other men he would have been as ignorant as they are !
SORROWS OF AUTHORS. Many an immortal work, that is a source of excellent enjoyment to mankind, has been written with the blood of the author, at the expence of his happiness and his life. Even the most jocose productions have been composed with a wounded spirit. Cowper's humorous ballad of Gilpir, was written in a state of despondency, that borders on madness. “I wonder,” says the poet, in a letter to Mr. Newton, “that a sportive thought should ever knock at the door of my intellects, and still more that it should gain admittance.”
It is as if harlequin should intrude himself into the gloomy chamber where a corpse is deposited in state. In the Quarterly Review, it has been justly observed, that our very greatest wits have not been men of a gay and vivacious disposition. Of Butler's private history, nothing remains but the records of his miseries; and Swift was never known to smile. Lord Byron, who was irritable and unhappy, wrote some of the most amusing stanzas of Don Juan in his dreariest moods. In fact, the cheerfulness of an author's style is always but a doubtful indication of the serenity of his heart. An author is an abstract creation—a living puzzle to himself, to his friends, and to all his acquaintance.
VERITABLE TRANSLATION, A FRENCAMAN anxious to shew a fellow countryman the vigorous style of one of the old poets, “ translated” hail, horrors hail, as follows, “ How do you do, horrors ? how do you do ?”
THE LIGHT OF ALL NATIONS. FRANCE is like the sun. Her brilliancy is glory. She resembles the sun because she is the centre of the European system. All the states of the Continent move around her, as planets, round the solar luminary. In the mean time France, fixed in her splendid position, yet rotating on her own axis, exists in a continual state of revolution, without ever getting on.
AN IRRITABLE MAN. Hoop gives this graphic picture of an irritable man. “ He lies like a hedge-hog rolled up the wrong way, tormenting himself with prickles.
THE LIFE OF A SCHOLAR, Dr. GOLDSMITH has remarked, “seldom abounds with adventure : his fame is acquired in solitude; and the historian, who only views him at a distance, must be content with a dry detail of actions by which he is scarce distinguished from the rest of mankind: but we are fond of talking of those who have given us pleasure; not that we have any thing important to say, but because the subject is pleasing."
GUILT. Though it may attain temporal splendour, can never confer real happiness. The evil consequences of our crimes, long survive their commission, and like the ghost of the murdered, for ever haunt the steps of the malefactor. The paths of virtue, seldom those of worldly greatness; are always those of pleasantness and peace.
OBSERVATIONS ON ENGLAND. I know no nation to which I would rather belong as a citizen than the English; not only on account of their constitution, but from my delight in the hard working, active, intelligent, and the strong and straightforward common sense of the thinking men, and because of the superior, almost universal, cultivation of the burgher class. Every body here is in action, idleness and half done work are certainly less common, than with us, practical ability is certainly more general, a false shew of knowledge rarer; a shewy exterior gains little respect, the word of a man may be depended on, and I believe the better sort trouble themselves little about the opinion of others. But it cannot be denied that mediocrity is very common, and is by no means looked down upon !-Neiburgh's Opinion.
SINCERITY. SINCERITY is to speak as we think, to do as we pretend and profess, to perform and make good what we promise, and really to be what we would seem and appear to be. It is an excellent instrument for the speedy dispatch of business, by creating confidence in those we have to deal with, and saving the labour of many enquiries.-Tollotson.
DOCTOR JOHNSON (BEGGARS). What signifies, says some one to Doctor Johnson, giving half pence to common beggars ? they only lay them out in gin or tobacco. “ And why,” replied the Doctor, “ should they be denied such sweeteners of their existence ? It is surely very savage to shut out from them every possible avenue to those pleasures reckoned too coarse for our own acceptance. Life is a pill which none of us can swallow without gilding, yet the poor, we delight in stripping it still more bare, and are not ashamed to shew even visible marks of displeasure, if ever the bitter taste is taken from their mouths.”
SAME AUTHOR (PLEASURE), AGAIN observes, that ardent pursuit of pleasure generally deseats its own purpose, for when we have wasted days and nights, and exhausted our strength in the chase, it eludes our grasp, and vanishes from our view.
COMPASSION, Is an emotion of which we ought never to be ashamed. Graceful, particularly in youth, are the tears of sympathy, and the heart that melts at the tale of woe. We should not permit ease and indulgence to contract our affections, and to warp us up in selfish