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so very light, that it worked imperceptibly, and after a thousan? touches, scarce produced any visible effect in the picture on which he was employed. However, as he busied himself incessantly and repeated touch after touch without rest or intermission, he wore off insensibly every little disagreeable gloss that hung upon a figure : he also added such a beautiful brown to the shades, and mellowness to the colours, that he made every picture appear more perfect than when it came fresh from the master's pencil. I could not forbear looking upon the face of this ancient workman, and immediately, by the long lock of hair upon his forehead, discovered him to be Time.'
Whether it were because the thread of my dream was at an end, I cannot tell, but upon my taking a survey of this imaginary old man, my sleep left me.
C. 1 The received opinion that time improves the colouring of pictures is strongly controverted by Hogarth. See his Analysis of Beauty, 4to. 1753, p. 118, note.-C.
Cole, a still higher authority, accepts the common opinion, and gives a reason for it: “Many old pictures have pleasing qualities which did not exist when fresh from the hand of the artist. We see in them a mellowness and lustre, a kind of inward light, which is the effect of the touchings of time and not of the pencil, that gave them their new being on the canvas. The cause of this highly valued quality appears to me extremely simple. It arises, evidently, from an artificial atmosphere, formed by particles of opaque matter gradually deposited upon the surface. This medium through which we see the picture is dark and negative, and the light that breaks through it has great value from the contrast.” V. Noble's Life of Cole pp. 116, 117.-G.
NO. 85. THURSDAY, JUNE 7.
Interdum speciosa locis, morataque recte
Hor. Ars Poet. v. 819.
It is the custom of the Mahometans, if they see any printed or written paper upon the ground, to take it up, and lay it aside carefully, as not knowing but it may contain some piece of their Alcoran.' I must confess I have so much of the Mussulman in me, that I cannot forbear looking into every printed paper which comes in my way, under whatsoever despicable circumstances it may appear : for as no mortal author, * in the ordinary fate and vicissitude of things, knows to what use his works may, time or other, be applied, a man may often meet with very
celebrated names in a paper of tobacco.' I have lighted my pipe
1 Or more correctly—the name of God-a trait which has been used by Voltaire to prove that no true Mussulman could have ordered the library of Alexandria to be burnt.-G.
? “I forgot to tell you that two days ago I was in the House of Com mons, when an English gentleman came to me, and told me that he had lately sent to a grocer's shop for a pound of raisins, which he received wrapt up in a paper that he showed me. How would you have turned pale at the sight! It was a leaf of your history, and the very character of Queen Elizabeth, which you had labored so finely, little thinking it would so soon come to so disgraceful an end.” V. an humorous letter of Hume to Robertson, in Stewart's Account of the Life and Writings of Dr. Robertson ; Stewart's Works, vol. vii. p. 108. Boston ed., 1829.-G.
* No mortal author. The epithet “mortal,” as applied, in this place, to "author," is very expressive. But the humour of the expression de pends on knowing that, no mortal man is used, in familiar discourse, simply
more than once with the writings of a prelate; and know a friend of mine, who, for these several years, has converted the essays of a man of quality into a kind of fringe for his candlesticks. I remember, in particular, after having read over a poem of an eminent author on a victory, I met with several fragments of it upon the next rejoicing day, which had been employed in squibs and crackers, and by that means celebrated its subject in a double capacity. I once met with a page of Mr. Baxter under a Christmas pie. Whether or no the pastry cook had made use of it through chance or waggery, for the defence of that superstitious viand, I know not; but upon the perusal of it, I conceived so good an idea of the author's piety, that I bought the whole book. I have often profited by these accidental readings, and have sometimes found very curious pieces, that are either out of print, or not to be met with in the shops of our London booksellers. For this reason,
friends take a survey of my library, they are very much surprised to find, upon the shelf of folios, two long bandboxes standing upright among my books, till I let them see that they are both of them lined with deep erudition and abstruse literature. I might likewise mention a paper-kite, from which I have received great improvement; and a hat-case, which I would not exchange for all the beavers in Great Britain. This my inquisitive temper, or rather impertinent humour of prying into all sorts of writing, with my natural aversion to loquacity, gives me a good deal of employment when I enter any house in the country; for I cannot for my
heart leave a room before I have thoroughly studied the walls of it, and examined the several printed papers which are usually pasted:
• The Puritans scrupled eating what are called Christmas pyes Hence the raillery. But that this raillery might not be construed to extend further than the subject of it, he takes care, at the same time, to speak well of the author's (Mr. Baxter's] general worth and piety. So wise was this excellent writer, even in his mirth !-H.
upon them. The last piece that I met with upon this sccasion, gave me a most exquisite pleasure. My reader will think I am not serious, when I acquaint him, that the piece I am going to speak of was the old ballad of the Two Children in the Wood, which is one of the darling songs of the common people, and has peen the delight of most Englishmen in some part of their age.'
This song is a plain simple copy of nature, destitute of all the helps and ornaments of art. The tale of it is a pretty tragical story, and pleases for no other reason but because it is a copy of nature. There is even a despicable simplicity in the verse; and yet, because the sentiments appear genuine and unaffected, they are able to move the mind of the most polite reader with inward meltings of humanity and compassion. The incidents grow out of the subject, and are such as are the most proper to excite pity; for which reason the whole narration has something in it very moving, notwithstanding the author of it (whoever he was) has delivered it in such an abject phrase and poorness of expression, that the quoting any part of it would look like, a design of turning it into ridicule. But though the language is mean, the thoughts, as I have before said, from one end to the other are natural, and therefore cannot fail to please those who are not judges of language, or those who, notwithstanding they are judges of language, have a true and unprejudiced taste of nature. The condition, speech, and behaviour, of the dying parents, with the age, innocence, and distress of the children, are set forth in such tender circumstances, that it is impossible for a realer of common humanity not to be affected with them. As for the circumstance of the Robin-red-breast, it is indeed a little poetical ornament; and to shew the genius of the author amidst
* V. Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, v. 3, B. ii. No. 8.-G
all his simplicity, it is just the same kind of fiction which one of the greatest of the Latin poets has made use of upon a parallel occasion; I mean that passage in Horace, where he describes himself when he was a child, fallen asleep in a desert wood, and covered with leaves by the turtles that took pity on him.'
Me fabulosæ Vulture in Appulo,
Fronde novâ puerum palumbes
HOR. I. iii. Od. 4.
I have heard that the late Lord Dorset, who had the greatest wit tempered with the greatest candour, and was one of the finest critics, as well as the best poets, of his age, had a numerous collection of old English ballads, and took a particular pleasurc in the reading of them. I can affirm the same of Mr. Dryden; and
1 No burial this pretty pair
any man receives,
Ut. sup. v. 125, &c. A stanza which Gray probably had in his mind when he wrote the exqui. site lines which in a moment of unpardonable hypercriticism, he rejected from his elegy
.There scattered oft, the earliest of the year,
By hands unseen are showers of violets found:
A Jl little footsteps lightly print the ground.'
The Red-breast oft, at evening hours,
Shall kindly lend his little aid,
To deck the ground where thou art laid.'-G.