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ABRAHAM COWLEY Abraham Cowley (1618-1667) was known to his contemporaries as a poet. The method of versification that he affected won from Johnson the somewhat inaccurate caption metaphysical because of its intellectual straining after conceits, and its labored prosody. His wooden verses contrast strangely with the genuine feeling of his familiar essays. Like Bacon, he regarded these attempts as of little value, but his work marks a distinct step in the evolution of the familiar essay; for, conceiving of himself as a possible subject, he attained the distinctively personal note which had marked the earlier work of Montaigne. "Of Myself” was published posthumously in 1688 as one of Several Discourses by Ways of Essays, in Verse and Prose.
It is a hard and nice subject for a man the same mind as I am now-which, I to write of himself; it grates his own confess, I wonder at myself—may appear heart to say anything of disparagement, at the latter end of an ode which I made and the reader's ears to hear anything of when I was but thirteen years old, and praise from him. There is no danger which was then printed, with many other from me of offending him in this kind; verses. The beginning of it is boyish; neither my mind, nor my body, nor my but of this part which I here set down, fortune, allow me any materials for that if a very little were corrected, I should vanity. It is sufficient, for my own con- hardly now be much ashamed. tentment, that they have preserved me from being scandalous, or remarkable on This only grant me, that my means may lie the defective side. But besides that, I shall
Too low for envy, for contempt too high.
Some honor I would have, here speak of myself only in relation to
Not from great deeds, but good alone; the subject of these precedent discourses,
Th' unknown are better than ill-known. and shall be likelier thereby to fall into
Rumor can ope the grave; the contempt, than rise up to the estima- Acquaintance I would have; but when't detion, of most people. As far as my
Not on the number, but the choice of friends. memory can return back into my past life, before I knew or was capable of
Books should, not business, entertain the light, guessing what the world, or glories, or And sleep, as undisturbed as death, the night. business of it were, the natural affections
My house a cottage, more
Than palace, and should fitting be of my soul gave a secret bent of aversion
For all my use, no luxury. from them, as some plants are said to turn
My garden painted o'er away from others, by an antipathy imper- With Nature's hand, not Art's; and pleasures ceptible to themselves, and inscrutable to yield, man's understanding. Even when I was
Horace might envy in his Sabine field. a very young boy at school, instead of run
Thus would I double my life's fading space, ning about on holidays, and playing with For he that runs it well, twice runs his race. my fellows, I was wont to steal from
And in this true delight, them, and walk into the fields, either These unbought sports, that happy state,
I would not fear nor wish my fate, alone with a book, or with some one com
But boldly say each night, panion, if I could find any of the same To-morrow let my sun his beam display, temper. I was then, too, so much an Or in clouds hide them; I have lived to-day. enemy to constraint, that my masters could never prevail on me, by any persua- You may see by it I was even then sions or encouragements, to learn, with acquainted with the poets, for the conout book, the common rules of grammar,
clusion is taken out of Horace; and perin which they dispensed with me alone, haps it was the immature and immoderate because they found I made a shift to do love of them which stamped first, or the usual exercise out of my own reading rather engraved, the characters in me. and observation. That I was then of | They were like letters cut in the bark of a
young tree, which, with the tree, still which I did not fall in love with, when, grow proportionably. But how this love for aught I knew, it was real, was not came to be produced in me so early, is like to bewitch or entice me when I saw hard question: I believe I can tell the it was adulterate. I met with several particular little chance that filled my great persons, whom I liked very well, head first with such chimes of verse, as but could not perceive that any part of have never since left ringing there: for I their greatness was to be liked or deremember when I began to read, and take sired, no more than I would be glad or some pleasure in it, there was wont to lie content to be in a storm, though I saw in my mother's parlor-I know not by many ships which rid safely and bravely what accident, for she herself never in her in it. A storm would not agree with my life read any book but of devotion—but stomach, if it did with my courage; there was wont to lie Spenser's works; though I was in a crowd of as good comthis I happened to fall upon, and was in- pany as could be found anywhere, though finitely delighted with the stories of the I was in business of great and honorable knights, and giants, and monsters, and trust, though I eat at the best table, and brave houses, which I found everywhere enjoyed the best conveniences for present there—though my understanding had lit- subsistence that ought to be desired by a tle to do with all this—and by degrees, man of my condition, in banishment and with the tinkling of the rhyme, and dance public distresses; yet I could not abstain of the numbers; so that I think I had from renewing my old school-boy's wish, read him all over before I was twelve in a copy of verses to the same effect : years old. With these affections of mind, and my heart wholly set upon letters, I Well, then, I now do plainly see
This busy world and I shall ne'er agree, &c. went to the university; but was soon torn from thence by that public violent
And I never then proposed to myself any storm, which would suffer nothing to
other advantage from his majesty's happy stand where it did, but rooted up every
restoration, but the getting into some plant, even from the princely cedars, to
moderately convenient retreat in the me, the hyssop. Yet I had as good for
country, which I thought in that case I tune as could have befallen me in such a
might easily have compassed, as well as tempest; for I was cast by it into the fam
some others, who, with no greater probaily of one of the best persons, and into the bilities or pretences, have arrived to excourt of one of the best princesses in the traordinary fortunes. But I had before world. Now, though I was here en
written a shrewd prophecy against mygaged in ways most contrary to the self, and I think Apollo inspired me in the original design of my life; that is, into truth, though not in the elegance of itmuch company, and no small business, and into a daily sight of greatness, both mili- Thou neither great at court, nor in the war, tant and triumphant for that was the Nor at the Exchange shalt be, nor at the state then of the English and the French
wrangling bar; courts—yet all this was so far from alter
Content thyself with the small barren praise
Which thy neglected verse does raise, &c. ing my opinion, that it only added the confirmation of reason to that which was However, by the failing of the forces before but natural inclination. I saw which I had expected, I did not quit the plainly all the paint of that kind of life, design which I had resolved on; I cast the nearer I came to it; and that beauty myself into it a corpus perditum, with
out making capitulations, or taking counThe English Civil War which forced the sel of fortune. But God laughs at man, Royalist Cowley into exile. His fidelity was who says to his soul, Take thy ease: I rewarded by appointment in Paris as secretary to the erstwhile queen Henrietta Maria, "one of the best princesses in the world.” 2“A lost man;" i.e., in desperation.
yet so quietly with me as I hoped from her.
met presently not only with many little incumbrances and impediments, but with so much sickness—a new misfortune to me—as would have spoiled the happiness of an emperor as well as mine. Yet I do neither repent nor alter my course; Non ego perfidum dixi sacramentum.' Nothing shall separate me from a mistress which I have loved so long, and have now at last married; though she neither has brought me a rich portion, nor lived
Nec vos dulcissima mundi
Nor by me e'er shall you,
RECOLLECTIONS OF CHILDHOOD
SIR RICHARD STEELE Sir Richard Steele (1672-1729) is best known for his association with Addison in bringing out The Tatler and The Spectator papers, which first furnished an adequate medium for the distribution of the essay. Steele's humor is frequently boisterous and sometimes coarse; his style is familiar and not always carefully polished; but his work is simple in nature and remarkably free from sarcasm and pedantry. In the following selection is revealed the underlying strain of pathos which so frequently accompanies a vein of humor. The essay "Recollections of Childhood" appeared originally without title as Number 181 of The Tatler in 1710. -Dies, ni fallor, adest, quem semper acerbum, | pleasing entertainment than to recollect Semper honoratum, sic dii voluistis, habebo..
in a gloomy moment the many we have VIRG, Æn. V. 49.
parted with, that have been dear and And now the rising day renews the year; agreeable to us, and to cast a melancholy A day for ever sad, for ever dear.
thought or two after those with whom, DRYDEN.
perhaps, we have indulged ourselves in From my Own Apartment, June 5.
whole nights of mirth and jollity. With THERE are those among mankind, who
such inclinations in my heart I went to can enjoy no relish of their being, except
my closet yesterday in the evening, and
resolved to be sorrowful; upon which octhe world is made acquainted with all that relates to them, and think every thing
casion I could not but look with disdain lost that passes unobserved; but others
upon myself, that though all the reasons
which I had to lament the loss of many find a solid delight in stealing by the crowd, and modelling their life after such
my friends are now as forcible as at the
moment of their departure, yet did not a manner, as is as much above the approba
my heart swell with the same sorrow tion as the practice of the vulgar. Life
which I felt at that time; but I could, being too short to give instances great
without tears, reflect upon many pleasing enough of true friendship or good-will,
adventures I have had with some who some sages have thought it pious to preserve a certain reverence for the Manes
have long been blended with common of their deceased friends; and have with earth. Though it is by the benefit of nadrawn themselves from the rest of the
ture, that length of time thus blots out world at certain seasons, to commemorate
the violence of afflictions; yet with temin their own thoughts such of their ac
pers too much given to pleasure, it is alquaintance who have gone before them most necessary to revive the old places out of this life. And indeed, when we
of grief in our memory; and ponder step are advanced in years, there is not a more
by step on past life, to lead the mind into
that sobriety of thought which poizes the 1“I have not sworn a false oath,”
heart, and makes it beat with due time,
without being quickened with desire, or future application. Hence it is, that retarded with despair, from its proper good-nature in me is no merit; but having and equal motion. When we wind up a been so frequently over-whelmed with her clock that is out of order, to make it go tears before I knew the cause of any well for the future, we do not immediately affliction, or could draw defences from set the hand to the present instant, but my own judgment, I imbibed considerawe make it strike the round of all its tion, remorse, and an unmanly gentleness hours, before it can recover the regularity of mind, which has since insnared me into of its time. Such, thought I, shall be my ten thousand calamities; and from whence method this evening; and since it is that I can reap no advantage, except it be, day of the year, which I dedicate to the that, in such a humor as I am now in, I memory of such in another life as I much can the better indulge myself in the softdelighted in when living, an hour or nesses of humanity, and enjoy that sweet two shall be sacred to
anxiety which arises from the memory of their memory, while I
past afflictions. all the melancholy circumstances of this We, that are very old, are better able kind which have occurred to me in my to remember things which befel us in our whole life.
distant youth, than the passages of later The first sense of sorrow I ever knew days. For this reason it is, that the comwas upon the death of my father, at panions of my strong and vigorous years which time I was not quite five years of present themselves more immediately to age; but was rather amazed at what all me in this office of sorrow. Untimely or the house meant, than possessed with a unhappy deaths are what we are most apt real understanding why nobody was will- to lament; so little are we able to make it ing to play with me. I remember I went indifferent when a thing happens, though into the room where his body lay, and my we know it must happen. Thus we groan mother sat weeping alone by it. I had under life, and bewail those who are remy battledore in my hand, and fell a-beat- lieved from it. Every object that returns ing the coffin, and calling Papa; for, I to our imagination raises different pasknow not how, I had some slight ideasions, according to the circumstances of that he was locked up there. My mother their departure. Who can have lived in catched me in her arms, and, transported an army, and in a serious hour reflect beyond all patience of the silent grief she upon the many gay and agreeable men was before in, she almost smothered me that might long have flourished in the arts in her embrace; and told me in a flood of of peace, and not join with the imprecatears, "Papa could not hear me, and tions of the fatherless and widow on the would play with me no more, for they tyrant to whose ambition they fell sacriwere going to put him under ground, fices ? But gallant men, who are cut off whence he could never come to us again.” by the sword, move rather our veneration She was a very beautiful woman, of a than our pity: and we gather relief noble spirit; and there was dignity in enough from their own contempt of death, her grief amidst all the wildness of her to make it no evil, which was approached transport, which, methought, struck me with so much cheerfulness, and attended with an instinct of sorrow, which, before with so much honor. But when we turn I was sensible of what it was to grieve, our thoughts from the great parts of life seized my very soul, and has made pity on such occasions, and instead of lamentthe weakness of my heart ever since. The ing those who stood ready to give death mind in infancy is, methinks, like the body to those from whom they had the forin embryo; and receives impressions so tune to receive it; I say, when we let our forcible, that they are as hard to be re- thoughts wander from such noble objects, moved by reason, as any mark with which and consider the havoc which is made a child is born, is to be taken away by any among the tender and the innocent, pity enters with an unmixed softness, and memory, when my servant knocked at my possesses all our souls at once.
closet door, and interrupted me with a Here, were there words to express such letter, attended with a hamper of wine, of sentiments with proper tenderness, I the same sort with that which is to be put should record the beauty, innocence, and to sale on Thursday next, at Garraway's untimely death, of the first object my eyes coffee-house. Upon the receipt of it, I ever beheld with love. The beauteous sent for three of my friends. We are so virgin! how ignorantly did she charm, intimate, that we can be company in whathow carelessly excel! Oh Death! thou ever state of mind we meet, and can enhast right to the bold, to the ambitious, to tertain each other without expecting althe high, and to the haughty; but why this ways to rejoice. The wine we found to cruelty to the humble, to the meek, to the be generous and warming, but with such undiscerning, to the thoughtless? Nor a heat as moved us rather to be cheerful age, nor business, nor distress, can erase than frolicsome. It revived the spirits withthe dear image from my imagination. In out firing the blood. We commended it till the same week, I saw her dressed for a two of the clock this morning; and having ball, and in a shroud. How ill did the to-day met a little before dinner, we found, habit of death become the pretty trifler! that though we drank two bottles a man, I still behold the smiling earth-A large we had much more reason to recollect than train of disasters were coming on to my forget what had passed the night before.
Joseph ADDISON Joseph Addison (1672-1719) was a formal, precise man of the quiet scholarly type. In company he was diffident, and yet there was a grace and ease about his conversation that was delightfully charming. This same quality in his prose work has won for him a host of admirers and a permanent place among English essayists. Johnson said that one who desired "to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison." His best work was done in collaboration with Steele in The Tatler and The Spectator papers where his skill in character portrayal helped to create the immortal Sir Roger de Coverley. The dignity and stateliness of his style give an impression of austerity which is softened somewhat by a certain sweetness of temper that is revealed to the discerning reader. "Westminster Abbey" is Number 26, and "On London Cries,” Number 251, of The Spectator, both appearing in 1711. Pallida mors æquo pulsat pede pauperum the Condition of the People who lye in tabernas
it, are apt to fill the Mind with a kind of Regumque turres, o beate Sesti, Vitæ summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare
Melancholy, or rather Thoughtfulness, longam,
that is not disagreeable. I Yesterday Jam te premet nox, fabulæque manes,
pass'd a whole Afternoon in the ChurchEt domus exilis Plutonia- -HORACE
yard, the Cloysters, and the Church, When I am in a serious Humor, I
amusing my self with the Tomb-stones
and Inscriptions that I met with in those very often walk by myself in Westminster
several Regions of the Dead. Most of Abbey; where the Gloominess of the
them recorded nothing else of the buried Place, and the Use to which it is applied,
Person, but that he was born upon one with the Solemnity of the Building, and
Day and died upon another: The whole l“With equal step pale death treads upon History of his Life being comprehended peasants' cottages and the towers of kings, o in those two Circumstances, that are comhappy sestius. Life's brief span forbids us
mon to all mankind. I could not but to prolong our hopes. Presently Night and the fabled shades and the narrow house of
look upon these Registers of Existence, Pluto will envelop thee."
whether of Brass or Marble, as a kind of