Page images
PDF
EPUB

puted to the imperfection of art thofe failures which were caused by the limitation of nature.

Wherever he went, fhe breathed nothing but cenfure and reformation. If the vifited her friends, fhe quarrelled with the fituation of their houses, the difpofition of their gardens, the direction of their walks, and the termination of their views. It was vain to fhew her fine furniture, for fhe was always ready to tell how it might be finer, or to conduct her through fpacious apartments, for her thoughts were full of nobler fabricks, of airy palaces and hefperian gardens. She admired nothing, and praised but little.

Her converfation was generally thought uncivil. If she received flatteries, fhe feldom repaid them; for she fet no value upon vulgar praise. She could not hear a long story without hurrying the speaker on to the conclufion; and obstructed the mirth of her companions, for she rarely took notice of a good jeft, and never laughed except when fhe was delighted.

This behaviour made her unwelcome wherever she went; nor did her fpeculation upon human manners much contribute to forward her reception. She now faw the difproportions between language and fentiment, between paffion and exclamation; fhe difcovered the defects of every action, and the uncertainty of every conclufion; fhe knew the malignity of friendship, the avarice of liberality, the anxiety of content, and the cowardice of temerity.

To fee all this was pleafant, but the greatest of all pleasures was to fhew it. To laugh was fomething, but it was much more to make others laugh. As every deformity of character made a strong impreffion upon her, Bb 3

fhe

نا

she could not always forbear to transmit it to others; as fhe hated falfe appearances, fhe thought it her duty to detect them, till, between wantonness and virtue, scarce any that she knew escaped without fome wounds by the fhafts of ridicule; not that her merriment was always the confequence of total contempt, for fhe often honoured virtue where she laughed at affectation.

67

For these practices, and who can wonder, the cry was raised against her from every quarter, and to hunt her down was generally determined. Every eye was watching for a fault, and every tongue was busy to supply its share of defamation. With the most unpolluted purity of mind, she was cenfured as too free of favours, becaufe fhe was not afraid to talk with men: with generous fenfibility of every human excellence, fhe was thought cold or envious, because she would not scatter praise with undiftinguishing profufion: with tenderness that agonized at real mifery, fhe was charged with delight in the pain of others, when fhe would not condole with those whom she knew to counterfeit affliction. She derided falfe appearances of kindness and of pity, and was therefore avoided as an enemy to fociety. /As fhe feldom commended or cenfured but with fome limitations and exceptions, the world condemned her as indifferent to the good and bad; and because she was often doubtful where others were confident, fhe was charged with laxity of principles, while her days were distracted and her rest broken by niceties of honour and fcruples of morality.

Report had now made her fo formidable, that all flattered and all fhunned her. If a lover gave a ball to his mistress and her friends, it was ftipulated that Floretta fhould

fhould not be invited. If fhe entered a public room, the ladies courtefied, and fhrunk away, for there was no fuch thing as speaking, but Floretta would find fomething to criticife. If a girl was more fpritely than her aunt, fhe was threatened that in a little time fhe would be like Floretta. Vifits were very diligently paid when Floretta was known not to be at home; and no mother trusted her daughter to herself without a caution, if the fhould meet Floretta, to leave the company as foon as fhe could.

With all this Floretta made sport at first, but in time grew weary of general hoftility. She would have been content with a few friends, but no friendship was durable; it was the fashion to defert her, and with the fashion what fidelity will contend? She could have eafily amufed herself in folitude, but that fhe thought it mean to quit the field to treachery and folly.

Perfecution at length tired her conftancy, and she implored Lilinet to rid her of her wit: Lilinet complied and walked up the mountain, but was often forced to ftop and wait for her follower. When they came to the flinty fountain, Floretta filled a small cup, and flowly brought it to her lips, but the water was infupportably bitter. She just tasted it, and dashed it to the ground, diluted the bitterness at the fountain of alabaster, and refolved to keep her wit with all its confequences.

Being now a wit for life, fhe furveyed the various conditions of mankind with fuch fuperiority of sentiment, that the found few diftinctions to be envied or defired, and therefore did not very foon make another vifit to the fountain. At length being alarmed by fickness, she refolved to drink length of life from the golden cup. She B b 4 returned

67

7

72

returned elated and fecure, for though the longevity acquired was indeterminate, fhe confidered death as far diftant, and therefore fuffered it not to intrude upon her pleasures.

But length of life included not perpetual health. She felt herself continually decaying, and faw the world fading about her. The delights of her early days would delight no longer, and however widely fhe extended her view, no new pleasure could be found; her friends, her enemies, her admirers, her rivals dropped one by one into the grave, and with those who fucceeded them fhe had neither community of joys nor ftrife of competition.

By this time he began to doubt whether old age were not dangerous to virtue; whether pain would not produce peevishnefs, and peevifhnefs impair benevolence. She thought that the fpectacle of life might be too long continued, and the vices which were often feen might raise less abhorrence; that refolution might be fapped by time, and let that virtue fink, which in its firmest state it had not without difficulty fupported; and that it was vain to delay the hour which muft come at laft, and might come at a time of lefs preparation and greater imbecillity.

Thefe thoughts led her to Lilinet, whom fhe accompanied to the flinty fountain; where, after a fhort combat with herself, she drank the bitter water. They walked back to the favourite bufh penfive and filent; and row, faid fhe, accept my thanks for the laft benefit that Floretta can receive. Lady Lilinet dropped a tear, impreffed upon her lips the final kifs, and refigned her, as fhe refigned herself, to the courfe of nature.

TO THE FOURTH EDITION OF THE

DICTIONARY of the ENGLISH LANGUAGE*.

MANY are the works of human industry, which

to begin and finish are hardly granted to the fame man. He that undertakes to compile a Dictionary, undertakes that, which, if it comprehends the full extent of his defign, he knows himself unable to perform. Yet his labours, though deficient, may be useful, and with the hope of this inferior praife, he must incite his activity, and folace his weariness.

Perfection is unattainable, but nearer and nearer approaches may be made; and finding my Dictionary about to be reprinted, I have endeavoured, by a revifal, to make it lefs reprehenfible. I will not deny that I found many parts requiring emendation, and many more capable of improvement. Many faults I have corrected, fome fuperfluities I have taken away and fome deficiencies I have fupplied. I have methodifed fome parts that were disordered, and illuminated fome that were obfcure. Yet the changes or additions bear a very small proportion to the whole. The critic will now have lefs to object, but the ftudent who has bought any of the former copies needs not repent; he will not, without nice collation, perceive how they differ; and usefulness feldom depends upon little things.

For negligence or deficience, I have perhaps not need of more apology than the nature of the work will furnish: I have left that inaccurate which never was made exact, and that imperfect which never was completed.

Publifhed in folio, 1773.

DR.

« PreviousContinue »