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seems quite an act of condescension to speak to you."
This speech, to be sure, was made half ludicrously,
but it paints the heart.

Even some of the characters drawn in the Specta-
tor, are not the original productions of nature, though
they are polished monuments of the nice observation
and boundless genius of the author. The truth is,
there are two classes of characters before us in the
living world — primary and secondary characters ;
those who act from the eternal principles of nature,
and those who act from nature modified by station,
by fortune, by accident, by place or time. Nay, both
these ingredients are sometimes blended in the same
man. Cromwell, for instance, must have been a dis-
sembler and an ambitious man in all ages and places ;
but it was only in his own time, that he could have
wept before he deceived, and prayed amidst his car-
nage. It is the business of an author to describe the
world as it lies before him ; to paint both these forms
— the superficial manners and secret natures of men.
It is no reproach to Addison, that he does not always
dive into the depths of nature, for the lineaments of
the heart. He has mixed, as he ought to have
done, the transient and permanent in one variegated
piece. I remember that the author of the Peep at the
Pilgrims, has attempted to make Peregrine White, a
kind of Will Wimble. But in New England, Will
Wimble would be an impossible character. We


may have just such hearts, but we want the manners
which shape them to their last resuh. We may have
just such water in our rivers, as flowed in the Nalir
Ibraliim ; but we want the red ochre in our tinctured
soil, which converted its mirific streams into the
blood of Adonis.

The truth is, New England is inhabited by a rising
people, with manners as rough as their native rocks,
but with hearts comparatively as pure as their inland
streams. Every man here has been the artificer of
hi& own fortune. We have but few gentlemen among
us, if to that word we are to attach the European
idea. The revolutionary war, which called away all
the pensioners of the crown, such as the Hutchinsons,
the Olivers, and the Jacksons, effectually sifted the
land of all such pageants, and left us the instruments
of republican simplicity. It is evident that such a
people must form their manners on their own exigen-
cies. As there are plants on our soil whose hue
and fragrance are unknown to Great Britain ; as
there are winds which sweep over our mountains
more cold and more bracing than the gales of Corn-
wall or Somersetshire, so, I believe, there are char-
acters and modes of life, which some native author
might describe with effect. We wish to hold up a little
pocket mirror to a very humble scene. Leaving to
our mother land their crowns and coronets, their
titles and honors, let us describe our deacons and


our cornfields, our rugcred mountains and our native
streams, our liberty and its excesses, our faults and
follies, our virtue and happiness.

In fair Columbia's realms, how changed the plan ;
Where all things bloom, but, first of all things, man !
Lord of himself, the independent swain,
Sees no superior stalk the happy plain :
His house, his herd, his harvest, all his own,
His farm a kingdom, and his chair a throne.

DioighVs Epistle to Humphreys.

P. S. The reader will perceive that in speaking
of the Spectator, I have said very little of Steele — all
its glory belongs to Addison. Well might the former
have treated the latter w^ith all the servility of friend-
ship ; for his leader bore him on his more povi^erful
vv^ing ; and notvi^ithstanding what has been said of
his pathos, if Addison had not existed, Steele would
never have been known ; the difference between
them was almost as great as that between Johnson
and Bos well.


No. 3.

Let historians give the detail of our charters, the succession of our several
governors and of their administrations ; of our political struggles and of
the foundatian of our towns •■ let annalists amuse themselves with collecting
anecdotes of the establishment of our modern provinces : eagles soar high —
I a feebler bird, cheerfully content myself with skipping from bush to bush,
and living on insignificant insects.

Farmer^s Letters.

In the town of Bundle borough I have already
remarked, there was a well selected social library,
containing some of the most approved books of Eu-
ropean authors. In my youthful days, America had
made but little progress towards acquiring a literature
of her own. Wiggles worth's Dai/ of Doom, and the
rebusses and anagrams of Mather's Mao;nalia, com-
prised about all the poetry of native growth that was
found in my grandfather's library. But the social
library supplied the deficiencies of the domestic one ;
and indeed contained some books, which, I have
often wondered how my grandfather, strict as he was


in his own theological principles, could admit among
his inmates. There was one book, which had a most
disastrous influence on my dear aunt Hannah. It
was Sir Charles Grandison. I verily believe that
Harriet Byron's matrimonial felicity, made my aunt
an old maid.

Hannah Oldbug was already verging to some of her
latest blooms, when my earliest recollections are
associated with her fate. I shall never forget her
kindness to me — how she used to hear me say all Dr.
Watts' s hymns for children before retiring to bed —
make me a turnover every Thanksgiving day — tie the
little black ribbon around my Sunday-collar, before I
went to meeting — comb my head before I went to
school, and perform all the offices of a watchful and
affectionate mother. She had one of the warmest
hearts that ever beat beneath a female bosom ; and,
had she been left to the influence of her Bible and
catechism, she might have lived and died contented
and in peace. But she had a heart tod susceptible to
be exposed with safety to the fires of overwrought
genius ; and Richardson, I suspect, who, in his grave
will always continue to speak, robbed her of her
, lover and her mental tranquillity. It is for this reason
I have always had (except in one short interval of my
life) a mortal aversion to long winded novels ; I could
never afford to cry over more than ten pages at a

I shall never forget the day when I was packed off


to the library with four books bound up in a checked
handkerchief, and directed, with a solemn "air of
secrecy, to ask, together with Baxter's Saint's Rest
and the Practice of Piety, for the first volume of the
History of Sir Charles Grandison and the Hon. Miss
Harriet Byron, and to say nothing to grandpa' about
it. Who Sir Charles Grandison was, whether he was
a pirate or a robber, and how a woman could have
the title of Honorable, were mysteries of which I
had no more conception, than of Hebrew or Arabic.
However, I obeyed my orders, brought home the book,
delivered it to my aunt Hannah, and found she
read it more intently than the Bible itself The first
volume brought the second, and the second the third ;
and my poor aunt, though her cheese-press remained
unscrewed, and her churn stood still, never left
reading until she got through those interminable
pages. As Othello says, '' the work did oft beguile
her of her tears ; 'Mt was the first time I ever saw
her or any body else weep over a book ; and I was
astonished like Tony Lumkin, when, she told me, she
liked the hooJc the better, the more it made her cry.
Oft has it happened to us, that I sat on one end of
the great meal-chest and she on the other, each with
the favorite author in hand — my hair rising with hor-
ror, as I accompanied my poor persecuted pilgrim
through the valley of the shadow of death, to giant
Despair's castle ; and she, pouring out her eye water
over the sorrows of lady Clementina. I shall never


forget the speech she made when she bade me carry
back the last vokime (the twentieth I believe.) " Dear,
dear Sir Charles Grandison ! How soon are these
short volumes finished ! Why are there no such men

I ought to have mentioned before, that my aunt had
for some time been courted by Robert Crane, the son
of old Col. Crane, whose house stood on the other
side of the great fresh meadow, which lay before my
grandfather's door. Robert Crane was a bachelor of
about thirty-five, who went to meeting and went to
mill in the proper time, and with about the same
emotions ; he had been incited to seek him a wife, by
the death of his mother ; and I must confess, he was
not a lover for a maiden's heart to repose on, who
had been feasting her imagination with the perfections
of Sir Charles Grandison. He used to shave himself
uniformly once a week ; he wore a large pair of mixed
blue stockings, drawn in wrinkles over his trowsers :
his coat was a homespun drab, with very large buttons,
the two waist buttons behind set wide apart; his
hair was braided and clubbed behind and tied with an
eel-skin. He had an exceedingly hard hand, and, I
believe, a very honest heart. Such was the lover,
whose prudence or passion had been smitten by the
charms of Miss Hannah Oldbug, daughter of Deacon
Oldbug, and aunt to me, John Oldbug, the writer of
this veracious volume.

My aunt Hannah had been pretty faithfiil to this


redoubtable beau ; and all the town believed that they
were soon to be married. The young men were
waiting for the publishment-treat, and the young
ladies were beginning to talk with my aunt about her
wedding cake, when unluckily another accident hap-
pened, in addition to the reading of Sir Charles
Grandison, to infuse jealousy into a heart where love
itself had hardly entered before. There moved into
our village, a Scotch schoolmaster, who taught one
of our public schools, and boarded at the house next
to my grandfather's. He was a short, chubbed man,
with gray eyes, hazel hair, round cheeks rather in-
clined to the red, large calves to his legs, and a voice
with a foreign accent, yet clear enough to be well
understood. His dress was rather aristocratic ; he
wore a ruffled shirt, sometimes ruffles on his wrists, a
crimson velvet waistcoat, trimmed with gold lace ;
and he had on his hand a ring with a stone in it,
which, if not a diamond, shone almost as bright. Of
all self-praisers he was the most skilful I ever knew.
He would mention in the most incidental manner
imaginable, some of the great men or families in the
Old Countrij, to which he was related ; he would
weave into an anecdote some of his own sayings or
exploits in such a way as to seem necessary to the
story ; and all with such an air of non-chalance, that
we began to regard him as a superior being, graced
with all the blood of all the Howards. He never
seemed to be boasting ; and yet none could hear him


talk for five minutes, without seeing that, like a bal-
loon, he constantly went up by his own inflation.

Republicans after all love nobility ; and Mr. Mac-
Frail constantly gained on our admiration. He was
a frequent visiter at Deacon Oldbug's ; and for five
Sabbaths in succession, he had been seen walking
home from meeting, swinging his snuff-colored cane,
and in close confabulation with my aunt Hannah. I
was pretty sure there would soon be a racket ; and
that the fine cane and fine ruffles, aided by Sir
Charles Grandison to boot, would be instruments
strong enough to eject Robert Crane from his prem-
ises in the heart, however much possession may be
nine points in the law.

Mr. Crane was very regular in his attendance on
my aunt on courting nights, which as he commenced
on a Tuesday evening after a March town-meeting,
(that being the time assigned by our rural beaux to
the beginning of their love adventures,) we always ex-
pected him as much as the setting sun. It was our
custom to sit and chat together until nine o'clock,
then my grandfather took down his leather covered
Bible, squeezed on his nose his branchless spectacles,
washed with copper ; read ; prayed ; and we all re-
tired to sleep ; leaving the sedate lovers to those
important negotiations, supposed so necessary pre-
vious to an expected marriage.

It was the Tuesday evening after my aunt had
walked home with the Scotchman for the fifth time.


when Mr. Crane came, as usual, to fulfil the duties
of, an accepted lover. I saw nothing peculiar on his
brow ; but impelled by that curiosity which destroyed
our mother Eve, but has delighted all her posterity, I
resolved to know the utmost of the affair. There
stood in my grandfather's kitchen, a long wooden
seat, with a high back, called a settle, which supplied
the place of a modern sofa. When the family retired,
I, pretending at first to go to bed, slipped softly be-
hind this piece of antique furniture, and, covered by
an old saddle cloth, resolved for once to play the
listener, and partake of a dish of sentimental conver-

Reader, behold this scene ! The firebrands are
wasted, flickering to decay. That old butter-boat
iron lamp, that hangs from the mantelpiece, gives a
very dim and imperfect light. It is late — the gloomy
hours drawn on by the dragons of the night. On that
settle sits two lovers in the most profound retirement,
just seven feet apart, about to commence their most
intimate conversation. The flame of the expiring
hearth casts a gleam, fitfully, as the poets say, on
the great beam and joists which adorn the top of the
room, on the well-scoured pewter, on that dresser,
and on the gentle tabby cat which sleeps on a soft
holder, in yonder corner ; while behind the ancient
sofa or settle, lies my carcass, curled up in an old
saddle cloth, hardly daring to breathe, descending to
the disgraceful station of an eaves-dropper for thy ad-


vantage ; expecting pleasure from an action for
which I ought to have expected a whipping.

The retired lovers sit so long mute, that I began •
to imagine that courting was like a quaker meeting.
At last the gentleman broke the ice ; and the fol-
lowing dialogue ensued, which I shall faithfully re-

Robert Crane. Fine weather for fishing.

Aunt Hannah. It is a pity, Sir, you had not im-
proved it for that purpose.

C. I never go a fishing in weeding time. We
must finish hoeing the six-acre lot, and then for a sail
six leagues below the lighthouse.

H. Pray, Sir, what do you bait your hooks with?

C. Clams, to be sure ; sometimes with a piece of
red baize ; red baize is best for mackerel.

H. And suppose you wanted to catch a lady's
heart, what would be your bait?

C. I would come to see her every Tuesday night,
and sit with her until the cock crew in the morning.

H. And what would you talk about during these
precious interviews ?

C. Talk ! why talk as I have talked to you.

H. Mr. Crane, don't you think there ought to
be a sympathy of hearts before one ventures on the
indissoluble union ?

C. Miss Hannah, what has got into you lately;
you talk in such a high-blown style, I cannot follow
you. I should think you had swallowed a dictionary^


H. Alas, Mr. Crane, I am afraid I shall never
find in you a Grandison.

C. Find in me a grandson ! No — nor a grand-
father neither. I am just ten years older than you ;
and you, Miss, are old enough to come to years of
discretion. But if you are hinting at any thing, I am
willing to be published to-morrow.

H. O odious ! hateful ! Do you impute such
motives to me 1 No, Sir, I do not think I shall con-
quer my scruples for these ten years.

C Ten years ! Ha, ha, ha.

H. Tell me seriously, what led you first to pay
your devoirs to me ?

C. Anan?

H. What led you to solicit my hand ?

C. Your hand ! I never took your hand in my

H. Well, if I must speak plain, what led you to
make love to me 1

C. Do you mean to ask why I asked you to set
up with me ?

H. Yes, if we must use such terms.

C. Because mother was dead, and father was
growing old, and the cows wanted milking, and the
cream wanted churning, and I wanted a wife.

H. O ! I am the most wretched creature under
heaven. Death or poverty would be infinitely pre-
ferable to such an union.


C. What's the matter, Miss Oldbug ; does your
head ache?

H. No — my heart bleeds.

C. I see the difficulty ; it is that foppish stranger
that walked home from meeting with you last Sunday.

H. Well, Mr. Crane, you and 1 shall never agree,
and perhaps

C. Look ye, Miss Hannah, if so be you are off,
I'm off. And but however

Here he started up— took his hat — twisted it for
ten minutes in his hand, — strided towards the door —
kept his hand ten minutes on the latch ; and finally
tost his hat over his eyes — went out, shutting the
door with a clap, just half way between violence and
moderation. 'Twas the last time that Robert Crane
darkened the door of Hannah Oldbug. Six weeks
after he was married to the widow Fowler, whose six
children soon became six stout lads to work on his

I have reason to think that my aunt was really
sorry- when she found her lover actually gone. I
heard her say to be sure, " good riddance to you,
Sir," after he had shut the door ; but the speech was
followed by a sigh too deep to come from any place
but some angle in the heart. For several days after,
she was seen to be occasionally in tears ; but whether
they were drawn from her by Robert Crane or Charles
Grandison, was a secret I never knew. Soon after


Mr. MacFrail left the town, being dismissed from his
school for his excessive severity ; the fable of the dog
and shadow came to my mind.

And so aunt Hannah to the grave you went
Without a husband, very well content
An old maid for to be ; to eat your mess,
In tidy cares and single blessedness.


No. 4.

O, who hath tasted of thy clemency
In greater measure, or more oft, than I >.
My grateful verse thy goodness shall display,
O thou that went'st along in all my way.

George Sandys.

I AM almost ashamed of myself that I have written
three papers and have not yet touched on the impor-
tant subject of religion, the best gift of God ; the last
hope of forlorn and fallen man. Religion is such
an element in Puritanism, that no one, who assumes
that name, can possibly neglect it. A Puritan without
religion, would be a rose without fragrance, a star
without lustre or beauty. It was the pervading prin-
ciple at Oldbug house ; and if I wished to show to
the libertine and unbeliever, the gospel in its sweetest
developement, I would point him to the life of my
grandfather and his affectionate daughter.

It is true they were Calvinists, but without a par-


tide of that austerity or rigor which has been some-
times imputed to that system. They had never been
irritated by opposition, or fretted by controversy ; and
having heard the Bible and the Catechism delivered
by the same traditionary wisdom, and taught by similar
maternal lips, I doubt whether they very accurately
distinguished the human composition from the divine.
Their religion consisted in a deep reverence^ for God
and all his institutions ; a hearty love for their fellow-
creatures ; a humility which controlled the temper ;
and a faith, which, amidst all its sublime abstractions,
governed the life. I am sure if all Calvinists were
like tliem, it would be well for mankind if all the
world were Calvinists.

Years have passed over my head since I enjoyed
their society ; and when tossed on the billows of life,
and exposed to the temptations of infidelity, the
recollection of their meek principles and holy lives
has been my surest defence. I am pretty confident,
if, at the tender age of boyhood, Voltaire could have
been led to bed by my aunt Hannah, or have set out
his winter evenings on my grandfather's settle, he
never could have been an infidel. No ; the recollec-
tions of his youth would have been too powerful for
the corruptions of his heart.

Since those days, I have turned on the gospel a
severer and more scrutinizing eye ; and have been
led to ask, what is this reliorion which bands men
into parties, which has been the root of some of the


noblest virtues and the cloak of some of the basest
crimes ; a religion so shadowy, as that scarce two
agree in describing its nature ; and yet so substantial,
as to last for ages, amidst the perishing wreck of
superstition and the changing manners of men. It
was foretold that Christ should be a sign spoken
against, and never was prediction more manifestly
fulfilled. By all, who think deeply on the subject, he
is either detested or adored.

In an old closet beside my grandfather's fireplace,
there was a little bundle of rods and rings called
puzzling irons, which were often delivered to the
stranger to exercise his ingenuity, and, at the first
trial, it was no slight matter to slip off the rings, and
disentangle the complication, to undo the' chain and
reveal the mystery. It puzzled me more than the
hardest theory has in Euclid since. But when you
were once shown the process, or had found it by your
own sagacity, ever after nothing could be more simple
and plain. I have been led to inquire whether there
is not some such clue to divine truth ; some process
by which the mind may be led into the interior of the
system ; and discover, by a simultaneous light, at
once powerful and convincing, the doctrines which
rectified reason welcomes, and the duties on v/hich
the conscience may forever repose.

All ages and countries have had a conception of
virtue and vice ; of right and wrong ; and, since these
sublime ideas could not arise fi:om a blind instinct,


we must look for their origin in another source. It
cannot be, certainly, that a voluntary being is virtuous,
as water is clear, or a nectarine delicious, without
thought or intention. Nor do I like, for I can hardly
understand, those modes of explaining virtue, by
which one abstraction is brought to expound another :
as when it is said, virtue is disinterested benevolence,
or acting according to the fitness of things, or accord-
ing to nature or utility, &c. &c., all which seem to
me rash attempts to illustrate the plain by the obscure.
Such theories communicate no light (to me at least.)
Yet virtue is not an empty name ; it is the purest ray
that darts from heaven to earth to illuminate and
beautify the path of man. What then is it ? What
is the c^tral light, which, like a chandelier in a
church, makes virtue plain, and all other objects plain
around it.

Now if there be a distinction between a good man
and any of the conveniences of nature ; for example,
between a good intention and a loaf of bread, then it
seems necessary that virtue should be the conformity
to some law. Certain of our ideas are wholly refer-
ential ; they are not to be understood but by being
compared to some pattern or rule from which we at
first derived them, and to which they must silently be
referred. The idea of magnitude is an example. Vir-
tue is not an impulse, a blind propensity, a thoughtless
good nature arising from the milkiness of the blood.
But it is a fixed purpose ; a formed motive.; which con-


trols the native propensities, rather than, is controlled
by them. But the very vi^ord motive, is (not ambiguous,
but) a duplicate; it implies a purpose within and an
object without ; and where will you find the external
object, but in the requirements of some law ? Take
away law, and you take away the very conception and
being of virtue. Some men may be troublesome, and
some fawning or useful, like spaniels or puppies, but
all the lofty ideas of duty and obligation are levelled
to the dust.

In this view of the subject there are several ad-

In the first place, it is a most satisfactory analysis,
terminating in something which our reason can grasp.
When we resolve a complex object into its elements,
we wish those elements to be clear, simple, and the
simplest objects of knowledge. This analysis is clear
in two ways. It carries up to God, (for law implies
a law-giver and law-executor,) and shows that the
existence of the Deity is the prime truth in religion.
In the second place, it resolves virtue, not into a
shadowy abstraction, but into a grand fact that God
is, and God governs the world by a law ; and all
virtue is obedience to his will. Here we must stop r
when we know this, we know all we can know.
Obey my voice, is the requisition of Jehovah, and the

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Online LibraryLeonard WithingtonThe Puritan : a series of essays, critical, moral, and miscellaneous (Volume v. 1) → online text (page 2 of 14)