Page images

ness) to a lord, who was a libertine. All my stos ries carried with them, I am bold to say, an useful


Richardson found a still more congenial body of listeners among the female sex. An old lady, indeed, seems to have resented an admonitory letter, in which the future teacher of morals contrasted her pretensions to religion with her habitual indulgence in slander and backbiting ; but with the young and sentimental his reception was more gracious. “ As a bashful and not forward boy,” he says, “ I was an early favourite with all the young women of taste and reading in the neighbourhood. Half-a-dozen of them, when met to work with their needles, used, when they got a book they liked, and thought I should, to borrow me to read to them ; their mothers sometimes with them ; and both mothers and daughters used to be pleased with the observations they put me upon making I was not more than thirteen, when three of these young women, unknown to each other, having an high opinion of my taciturnity, revealed to me their love secrets, in order to induce me to give them copies to write after, or correct, for answers to their lovers' letters ; nor did any one of them ever know that I was the secretary to the others. I have been directed to chide, and even repulse, when an offence was either taken or given, at the very


i Life of Richardson, vol. i., p. 36, 37.

[It is impossible to consider without delight and admiration the con. trast between Richardson's boyish fictions and those of his biographer himself, as described in the General Preface to the Waverley Novels. There Sir Walter Scott says, “I must refer to a very early period of my life, were I to point out my first achievements as a tale-teller, but I believe some of my old school-fellows can still bear witness that I had a distinguished character for that talent, at a time when the applause of my companions was my recompense for the disgraces and punishments which the future romance-writer incurred for being idle himself, and keeping others idle, during hours that should have been employed on our tasks. The chief enjoyment of my holidays was to escape with a chosen friend, who had the same taste with myself, and alternately to recite to each other such wild adventures as we were able to devise. We told, each in turn, interminable tales of knight-errantry, and battles, and enchantments, which were continued from one day to another as opportunity offered, without ever thinking of bringing them to a conclusion. Aswe observed a strict secrecy on the subject of this intercourse, it acquired all the character of a concealed pleasure, and we used to select, for the scenes of our indulgence, long walks through the solitary and romantic environs of Arthur's Seat, Salisbury Craigs, Braid Hills, and similar places in the vicinity of Edinburgh ; and the recollection of those holidays still forms an oasis in the pilgrimage which I have to look back upon.”]

time when the heart of the chider or repulser was open before me, overflowing with esteem and affection ; and the fair repulser, dreading to be taken at her word, directing this word, or that expression, to be softened or changed. One, highly gratified with her lover's fervour, and vows of everlasting love, has said, when I have asked her direction, I cannot tell

you what to write ; but (her heart on her lips) you cannot write too kindly. All her fear was only, that she should incur slight for her kindness.”

1 Life of Richardson, vol. i., p. 39, 40. (Mrs Barbauld adds, “ Human nature is human nature in every class; the hopes and the fears, the perplexities and struggles, of these low-bred girls, in probably an obscure village, supplied the future author with those ideas which, by their gradual developement, produced the characters of a Clarissa and a Clementina; nor was he probably happier, or amused in a more

[ocr errors]

His father had nourished some ambitious views of dedicating young Richardson to the ministry, but, as his circumstances denied him the means of giving him necessary education, Samuel was destined to that profession most nearly connected with literature, and was bound apprentice to Mr John Wilde, of Stationers' Hall, in the year 1706. Industrious as well as intelligent, regulated in his habits, and diverted by no headstrong passion from the strictest course of duty, Richardson made rapid progress in his employment as a printer.

« I served,” he says, a diligent seven years to it; to a master who grudged every hour to me that tended not to his profit, even of those times of leisure and diversion, which the refractoriness of my fellow-servants obliged him to allow them, and were usually allowed by other masters to their apprentices. I stole from the hours of rest and relaxation my reading times for improvement of my mind; and, being engaged in a correspondence with a gentleman, greatly my superior in degree, and of ample fortune, who, had he lived, intended high things for me, those were all the opportunities I had in my apprenticeship to carry it on. But this little incident I may mention; I took care that even my candle was of my own purchasing, that I might not, in the most trifling instance, make my master a sufferer, (and who used to call me the

lively manner, when sitting in his grotto, with a circle of the best-informed women in England about him, who, in after times, courted his society, than in reading to these girls in, it may be, a little back shop, or a mantuamaker's parlour, with a brick floor.”—Ib., p. 40, 41.]



Henry Fielding,......




SAMUEL Johnson,..



CLARA Reeve, ........


Alain Rene Le Sage,.


Robert BAGE,.....













« PreviousContinue »