Page images
PDF
EPUB

and cheerful talking. I can tell you of a man who lived in times when such chairs were made chiefly for sick and gouty people; when other chairs, and some arm chairs too had dreadful straight backs, and cabinet makers seemed not to understand the principle of sitting at ease.

Now in these times of monstrous perpendicular chair backs, there lived a Dr. Samuel Clarke. He flourished in the reign of Queen Anne. He was a profound and almost universal scholar; he was a first-rate university disputant; he understood natural philosophy; he was well acquainted with the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin languages; he preached some of those elaborate lectures established by the Hon. Mr. Bayle, to assert and vindicate the great fundamentals of natural and revealed religion. Dr. Clarke did his part in this lecturing famously. He also published a folio edition of Cæsar's Commentaries, dedicating it to the Duke of Marlborough. Besides these things, he put forth the first twelve books of “Homer's Iliad,” with an almost new translation, and did many other great things. Now here was a man to put into a great arm chair! Well, whether in a chair, or on a stool, or bench, this great man would talk very instructively and delightfully in social conversation, giving himself heartily to the company, and affording them as much gratification as the time for talking would allow.

In parlour company a thinking man should never indulge in mental abstractions or in reverie. When

P

alone, he may do as he likes. Imitate (if he thinks there is something charming in it) the celebrated minister, who boiled his watch instead of his eggs. But before numerous and attached friends he should detach himself as much as possible from private ponderings and broodings. I do not wonderfully admire those men who emerge from the study into the parlour or drawing-room into the midst of company, and fling themselves in their study coats, or loose dressing gowns, on a sofa, stretching themselves at full length, to carry on some great matter which has occupied them in their retirement.

“Lor, Missus !" says Susan Brown, “ if there aint Master just gone bang into the great room whats full of ladies and gentlemens, all dressed bootiful, and he has his grey study coat on, and one slipper, and aint shaved !” Susan Brown is not aware that an appearance of doing much business in the literary line is very gratifying to those geniuses who think that a literary profession exempts men from those little matters of tidiness and order, and decorum in apparel, carefully observed by men in general, when they appear in parties. Little did she know how much her master enjoyed his dishabille! and that her mistress, though not liking it exactly, would soon help him to apologize, on the ground of numerous professional engagements. But our great men given to abstraction are allowed to forget personal appearance as much those attentions to the common conversation which it would become them to give for the comfort and satisfaction of their friends. Had I not seen and known men of this description I could not have mentioned them, except from report, or as the creations of my own fancy. Now as some of our fault-finding Pharisees are fond of fishing up rare specimens and illustrations of eccentricity, they should go amongst these slip-shod, ragged-coated and unshaved literati, and thus ensure good sport; but it may be these literary persons are solemn in their aspect, and so Pharisees let them alone.

CHAPTER XXIX.

ITINERANCY-ITS HOSPITALITIES.

[ocr errors]

NOTWITHSTANDING the pressure arising from small salaries in the humbler classes of Wesleyan circuits, there is one temporal comfort which is general throughout the connexion, not indeed absolutely universal, but yet so general as to leave no ground for serious complaint; or, indeed, for complaint at all, except of a very mild and inoffensive character.

I refer to hospitality. If we are not always well paid, we are well fed; and “good entertainment for man and horse,” might be painted up on sign-boards (as at country inns, near London), in front of most of the houses where we take up our temporary abode in our preaching rounds. We ask no luxuries, as we are not epicures; yet even these come occasionally on festive occasions. At annual district meetings and conferences, the generous and affectionate hospitality of the Wesleyan families, and some few excellent Church of England and other families who entertain us, is the very perfection of kindness and generosity; and I know of no cases in which these table comforts are abused to purposes of extravagance and excess; if they ever happen, a man is sure to be told about it and admonished. For my own part I protest against intemperance in eating and drinking, yet I like a good dinner when I get it, and think I have the sanction of God to enjoy it; and I attribute that health and strength which, by God's good providence, I have had through life to moderately good and temperate living. Nor is a man to be suspected of epicurism who, doing the work of a horse, likes good provender.

Now then about dinners; you like them well enough yourselves, and it is proper you should. Because some men make too much of the comforts of life, and degrade themselves by pampering the body, it does not follow that we are not to make enough of them and reflect ungratefully on the kindness of providence. It is proper, sometimes, both for bodily and mental discipline, that men should fast, but it is not proper to make a boast of these acts of self-denial, as if they were so many great heroic and transcendental virtues.

“Moreover, when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance : for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” Matt. vi. 16 and 17. It has been frequently ascertained that men who talk thankfully and joyously about animal comforts, are much more temperate in the use of them than many who affect to despise

« PreviousContinue »