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for all the world. Bless me! what's become of the spirit? As I am a living soul, I thought I saw him sink into the earth.”
“Indeed you saw right,” answered Jones.
“Well,” cries Partridge, “I know it is only a play; and besides, if there was anything in all this, Madam Miller would not laugh so; for, as to you, sir, you would not be afraid, I believe, if the devil was here in person. There, there; ay, no wonder you are in such a passion; shake the vile, wicked wretch to pieces. If she was my own mother, I should serve her so. To be sure, all duty to a mother is forfeited by such wicked doings. Ay, go about your business; I hate the sight of you.”
Our critic was now pretty silent till the play which Hamlet introduces before the king. This he did not at first understand, till Jones explained it to him; but lie no sooner entered into the spirit of it than he began to bless himself that he had never committed murder. Then turning to Mrs. Miller, he asked her if she did not imagine the king looked as if he was touched; “though he is,” said he, “a good actor, and doth all he can to hide it. Well, I would not have so much to answer for as that wicked man there hath, to sit upon a much higher chair than he sits upon. No wonder he ran away; for your sake I'll never trust an innocent face again.”
The grave-digging scene next engaged the attention of Partridge, who expressed much surprise at the number of skulls thrown upon the stage. To which Jones answered that it was one of the most famous burialplaces about town.
“No wonder, then," cries Partridge, “that the place is haunted. But I never saw in my life a worse grave-digger. I had a sexton, when I was clerk, that should have dug three graves while he is digging one. The fellow handles a spade as if it was the first time he had ever had one in his hand. Ay, ay, you may sing. You had rather sing than work, I believe.” Upon Hamlet's taking up the skull, he cried out, “Well! it is strange to see how fearless some men are; I never could bring myself to touch anything belonging to a dead man, on any account. He seemed frightened enough, too, at the ghost, I thought.”
Little more worth remembering occurred during the play; at the end of which Jones asked him which of the players he had liked best. To this he answered, with some appearance of indignation at the question, “ The king, without doubt.”
Indeed, Mr. Partridge,” says Mrs. Miller, "you are not of the same opinion with the town; for they are all agreed that Hamlet is acted by the best player who ever was on the stage.”
“He the best player!” cries Partridge, with a contemptuous sneer, “why, I could act as well as he myself. I am sure, if I had seen a ghost, I should have looked in the very same manner, and done just as he did. And then, to be sure, in that scene, as you called it, between him and his mother, where you told me he acted so fine, why, Lord help me, any man, that is, any good man, that had such a mother, would have done exactly the same. I know you are only joking with me; but, indeed, madam, though I was never at a play in London, yet I have seen acting before in the country; and the king for my money; he speaks all his words distinctly, half as loud again as the other. Anybody may see he is an actor."
Thus ended the adventure at the playhouse, where Partridge had afforded great mirth not only to Jones and Mrs. Miller but to all who sat within hearing, who were more attentive to what he said than to anything that passed on the stage. He durst not go to bed all that night for fear of the ghost; and, for many nights after, sweated two or three hours, before he went to sleep, with the same apprehensions, and waked several times in great horrors, crying out, “Lord have mercy upon us! there it is."
LESSON 43. HISTORY.—“History, to which we now turn, was raised into the rank of literature in the latter half of the eighteenth century by three men.
DAVID HUME's History of England, finished 1761, is, in the importance it gives to letters, in its clear narrative and style, and in the writer's endeavor to make it a philosophic whole, our first literary history. Of DR. ROBERTSON'S Histories of Scotland, of Charles V., and of America, the two last are literary by their descriptive and popular style, and show how our historical interests were reaching beyond our own land.
EDWARD GIBBON, 1737-1794, excelled the others in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, completed in 1788. The execution of his work was as accurate and exhaustive as a scientific treatise. Gibbon's conception of the whole subject was as poetical as a great picture. Rome, eastern and western, was painted in the centre, dying slowly like a lion. Around it he pictured all the nations and hordes that wrought its ruin, told their stories from the beginning, and the results on themselves and on the world of their victories over Rome. The collecting and use of every detail of the art and costume and manners of the times he described, the reading and use of all the contemporary literature, the careful geographical detail, the marshalling of all this information with his facts, the great imaginative conception of the work as a whole, and the use of a full, and perhaps too heightened, style to add importance to the subject gave a new impulse and a new model to historical literature. The contemptuous tone of the book is made still more remarkable by the heavily-laden style, and the monotonous balance of every sentence. The bias Gibbon had against Christianity illustrates a common fault of historians. The historical value of Hume's history was spoiled by his personal dislike of the principles of our Revolution."
" The faults of Gibbon's style are obvious enough, and its compensatory merits are not far to seek. No one can overlook its frequent tumidity and constant want of terseness. It lacks suppleness, ease, variety. It is not often distinguished by happy selection of epithet, and seems to ignore all delicacy of nuance. A prevailing grandiloquence, which easily slides into pomposity, is its greatest blemish. It seems as if Gibbon had taken the stilted tone of the old French tragedy for his model, rather than the crisp and nervous prose of the best French writers. We are constantly offended by a superfine diction lavished on barbarous chiefs and rough soldiers of the Lower Empire, which almost reproduces the high-flown rhetoric in which Corneille's and Racine's characters address each other. Such phrases as the 'majesty of the throne,''the dignity of the purple,' the 'wisdom of the senate’ recur with a rather jarring monotony, especially when the rest of the narrative was designed to show that there was no majesty nor dignity nor wisdom involved in the matter. We feel that the writer was thinking more of his sonorous sentence than of the real fact.
On the other hand, nothing but a want of candor or taste can lead any one to overlook the rare and great excellences of Gibbon's style. First of all, it is singularly correct—a rather common merit now, but not common in his day. But its sustained vigor and loftiness will always be uncommon; above all, its rapidity and masculine length of stride are quite admirable. When he takes up his pen to describe a campaign or any great historic scene, we feel that we shall have something worthy of the occasion, that we shall be carried swiftly and grandly through it all, without the suspicion of a breakdown of any kind's being possible. An indefinable stamp of weightiness is impressed on Gibbon's writing; he has a baritone manliness which banishes everything small, trivial, or weak. On the whole, we may say that his manner, with certain manifest faults, is not unworthy of his matter, and the praise is great.”—J. C. Morrison.
BIOGRAPHY AND TRAVELS. “ These are linked at many points to History. The first was lifted into a higher place in literature by Johnson's Lives of the Poets, 1779-81, and by BOSWELL's Life of Johnson, 1791. The production of books of Travel, since James Bruce left for Africa in 1762 till the present day, has increased as rapidly almost as that of the Novel, and there is scarcely any part of the world that has not been visited and described. In this way a vast amount of materials has been collected for the use of philosophers, poets, and historians. Travel has rarely produced literature, but it has been one of its assistants.
Classic Comedy may be said to be represented by The Goodnatured Man and She Stoops to Conquer of GOLDSMITH, and by The Rivals and the School for Scandal of SHERIDAN, all of which appeared between 1768 and 1778. Both men were Irishmen, but Goldsmith has more of the Celtic grace, and Sheridan of the Celtic wit. With Sheridan we may say
that the history of the English drama closes."
BIBLIOGRAPHY. HUME, ROBERTSON, and GIBBON.- Eng. Men of Let. Series ; H. Brougham's Lives of Men of Let.; J. Forster's Crit. Essays ; Hume's My Own Life; Contem. Rev., v. 11, 1869 ; E. Lawrence's Lives of Brit. Hist.; Bagehot’s Estimates of some Englishmen and Scotchmen; Sainte Beuve's Eng. Portraits ; Ecl. Mag., Nov., 1852,
From Gibbon's Decline and Fall. The noblest of the Greeks and the bravest of the allies were summoned to the palace to prepare them, on the evening of the 28th, for the duties and dangers of the general assault. The last speech of Palæologus was the funeral oration of the Roman Empire; he promised, he conjured, and he vainly attempted to infuse the hope which was extinguished in his own mind. In this world all was comfortless and gloomy; and neither the gospel nor the church has proposed any conspicuous recompense to the heroes who fall in the service of their country.
But the example of their prince and the confinement of a siege had armed these warriors with the courage of despair; and the pathetic scene is described by the feelings of the historian Phranza, who was himself present at this mournful assembly. They wept, they embraced; regard: less of their families and fortunes, they devoted their lives; and each commander, departing to his station, maintained all night a vigilant and anxious watch on the rampart. The emperor and some faithful companions, entered the dome of St. Sophia, which in a few hours was to be converted into a mosque, and devoutly received, with tears and prayers, the sacrament of the holy communion. He reposed some moments in the palace, which resounded with cries and lamentations; solicited the pardon of all whom he might have injured; and mounted on horseback to visit the guards and explore the motions of the enemy. The distress and fall of the last Constantine are more glorious than the long prosperity of the Byzantine Cæsars.
In the confusion of darkness, an assailant may sometimes succeed; but in this great and general attack, the military judgment and astrological knowledge of Mahomet advised him to expect the morning, the memorable 29th of May, in the fourteen hundred and fifty-third year of the Christian era. The preceding night had been strenuously employed : the troops, the cannon, and the fascines were advanced to the edge of the ditch, which in many parts presented a smooth and level passage to the breach; and his fourscore galleys almost touched with the prows and their scaling-ladders the less defensible walls of the harbor. Under pain of death, silence was enjoined; but the physical laws of motion and sound are not obedient to discipline or fear; each individual might suppress his voice and measure his footsteps; but the march and labor of thousands must inevitably produce a strange confusion of dissonant clamors, which reached the ears of the watchmen of the towers.
At daybreak, without the customary signal of the morning-gun, the Turks assaulted the city by sea and land; and the similitude of a twined or twisted thread has been applied to the closeness and continuity of