« PreviousContinue »
that consolation which I have often received from you when I most wanted it! but your grief is too just, and the cause of it too fresh, to admit of any such endeavour. What, indeed, is all human consolation? Can it efface every little amiable word or action of an object we loved, from our memory? Can it convince us, that all the hopes we had entertained, the plans of future satisfaction we had formed, were ill-grounded and vain, only because we have lost them? The only comfort (I am afraid) that belongs to our condition, is to reflect (when time has given us leisure for reflection) that others have suffered worse; or that we ourselves might have suffered the same misfortune, at times and in circumstances that would probably have aggravated our sorrow. You might have seen this poor child arrived at an age to fulfil all your hopes, to attach you more strongly to him by long habit, by esteem, as well as natural affection, and that towards the decline of your life, when we most stand in need of support, and when he might chance to have been your only support; and then by some unforeseen and deplorable accident, or some painful lingering distemper, j'ou might have lost him. Such has been he fate of many an unhappy father! I know there is a sort of tenderness which infancy and innocence alone produce; but I think you must own the other to be a stronger and a more overwhelming sorrow. Let me then beseech you to try, by every method of avocation and amusement, whether you cannot, by degrees, get the better of that dejection of spirits, which inclines you to see every thing in the worst light possible, and throws a sort of voluntary gloom, not only over your present, but future days; as if even your situation now were not preferable to that of thousands round you; and as if your prospect hereafter might not open as much of happiness to you as to any person you know: the condition of our life perpetually instructs us to be rather slow to hope, as well as to despair; and (I know you will forgive me, if I tell you) you are often a little too hasty in both, perhaps from constitution: it is sure we have great power over our own minds, when we choose to exert it; and though it be difficult to resist the mechanic impulse and bias of our own temper, it is yet possible, and still more so to delay those resolutions it inclines us to take, which we almost always have cause to repent.
You tell me nothing of Mrs. Wharton's or your own state of health; I will not talk to you more upon this subject till I hear you are both well; for that is the grand point, and without it we may as well not think at all. You flatter me in thinking that any thing I can do* could at all alleviate the just concern your loss has given you; but I cannot flatter myself so far, and know how little qualified I am at present to give any satisfaction to myself on this head, and in this way, much less to you. I by no means pretend to inspiration; but yet 1 affirm, that the faculty in question is by no means voluntary; it is the result (I suppose) of a certain disposition of mind, which does not depend on one's self, and which I have not felt this long time. You that are a witness how seldom this spirit has moved me in my life, may easily give credit to what 1 say.
TO MR. PALGRAVE.t
Stoke, Sept. e, 1)11,
I Do not know how to make you amends, having neither rock, ruin, nor precipice near me to send you: they do not grow in the south: but only say the word, if you would have a compact neat box of red brick with sash windows, or a grotto made of flints and shell-work, or a walnut-tree with three mole-hills under it, stuck with honey-suckles round a basin of gold-fishes, and you shall be satisfied; they shall come by the Edinburgh coach.
* His fricnd had requested him to write an epitaph on the child. t Rector of Paljrave and Thrandtsion in Suffolk. He wai mok" ing a tour in Scotland when this letter was written to him.
In the mean time I congratulate you on your new acquaintance with the savage, the rude, and the tremendous. Pray, lell me, is it any thing like what you had read in your book, or seen in two-shilling prints? Do not you think a man may be the wiser (1 had almost said the better) for going a hundred or two of miles; and that the mind has more room in it than most people seem to think, if you will but furnish the apartments? I almost envy your last month, being in a very insipid situation myself; and desire you would not fail to send me some furniture for my Gothic apartment, which is very cold at present. It will be the easier task, as you have nothing to do but transcribe your little red books, if they are not rubbed out; for I conclude you have not trusted every thing tomemory, which is ten times worse than a lead-pencil: half a word fixed upon or near the spot, is worth a cart-load of recollection. When we trust to the. picture that objects draw of themselves on our mind, we deceive ourselves; without accurate and particular observation, it is but ill-drawn at first, the outlines are soon blurred, the colours every day grow fainter; and at last, when we could produce it to aDy body, we are forced to supply its defects with a few strokes of our own imagination.* God forgive me, 1 suppose I have done so myself before now, and misled many a good body that put their trust in me. Pray, tell me, (but with permission, and without any breach of hospitality) is it so much warmer on the other side of the Swale (as some people of honour say) than it is here? Has the singing of birds, the bleating of sheep, the lowing of herds, deafened you at Rainton,? Did the vast old oaks and thick groves in Northumberland keep off the sun too much from you? I am too civil to extend my inquiries beyond Berwick. Every thing, doubtless, must improve upon you as you advanced northward. You