Page images
[merged small][ocr errors]






No jealousy their dawn of love o'ercast,

Nor blasted were their wedded days with strife;
Each season look'd delightful as it pass'd,
Found in the lowly vale of shepherd life.


“DEPEND upon it, Mrs Lewis, your son is a boy of genius, uncommon genius,” said a gentleman to the wife of an artist, as he looked over some loose sketches which lay upon her work-table, at one end of which sat a sicklylooking boy of about twelve years old, at work with his pencil; and who now looking up, exhibited his pale face, so illuminated by the pleasure praise seldom fails to convey, however administered, that the gentleman thought he had seldom seen so intelligent a countenance, or been regarded with a look so prepossessing. He was recalled from his observations on the boy, by the words which immediately fell from the mother, accompanied by a look of apprehensive tenderness lest her son should be injured by the flattery he had incautiously conveyed.

“Indeed, sir, you are mistaken; my son has no genius, but he has industry, and sufficient talent to make that industry profitable, I hope."

“You underrate his powers, ma’am; I am convinced he has really genius, and will some day cut a very great figure in the world; you must not damp the ardour, or be too severe on the eccentricities, of a mind like his; he who can do such things as these are, now, will at a future period claim the highest honours fame can bestow."

The mother answered by a deep sigh; and as the tears rose into her eyes, involuntarily, though almost inarticulately, exclaimed, “God forbid that he should seek them!" The gentleman was sorry to see her so much affected, though he concluded that she was

a weak woman, whose stupidity, vulgarity, or obstinacy of mind, were but too likely to injure the expanding talents of her son; and he quitted the apartment with a sense of sorrow for the wan-looking boy, and vexation at the perverse mother, whom he considered the cruel controller of genius she could not comprehend, and therefore sought to repel, by, reducing the high soarings of fancy to the drudgery of common labour and the fatigues of incessant application.

The gentleman was extremely mistaken in this conclusion ; for Mrs Lewis was a woman of strong natural understanding, and had some portion of that finer perception of beauty and excellence, which, in whatever path it walks, may be designated genius; but she had an aversion to the word, amounting almost to horror, from having observed its application tend to injure, either nearly or remotely, every one to whom it had been her lot to see it applied. It was in her mind associated with imprudence, imbecility, folly, or vice; made the excuse for one man's eccentricities, another man's errors, and not unfrequently

connected with the crimes of a third. No wonder that she shrunk from its application to a son, who was to her the very soul of all her earthly hopes, and had been nourished by her with a tenderness so exquisite, a love so unceasing in its care, and so judicious in its efforts, that, in relating the history of this mother and her son, we flatter ourselves every young person who, like him, has been praised for this rare, indefinite, and often blameably extolled quality, so much the subject of attention in the present day, will see the folly of depending upon it, either for happiness or respectability, in this world, and the sin of daring to make it an excuse for neglecting that “which is to come;" and, that those young people whose more moderate talents, or less vivid imagination, have preserved their minds from being inflated by this silly method of extolling that which implies no merit, since it exacts no exertion, will learn that much may be gained by industry, even where nature has not been liberal; and that the attainments for which men, in all stations and all ages, were most esteemed, were the result of patient investigation, unwearied diligence, and incessant labour : without these the most brilliant talents have failed to produce either individual comforts or true celebrity. In proportion as the mind is endued with higher powers and acuter sensibilities, it is annoyed with stronger passions and more dangerous propensities, and calls in a more peculiar manner for the control of reason, and the aids and restrictions of religion.

Mr Rumney, the father of Mrs Lewis, was a clergyman who resided on a very small living in Cumberland : he was married to a plain, sensible, good woman, the daughter of a neighbouring farmer, and he had five children; of whom Agnes was the eldest very considerably, as the two who succeeded her were taken by the diseases incident to infancy. This circumstance was an advantage to her; as, by rendering her for some time the sole object of her father's attention, it secured for her all the instruction such a companion could bestow; so that before she was called to participate her mother's duties in her household department, she had gained as much knowledge of the rudiments of education as was necessary to give her a taste for improvement, which never fails to lead youth into such a disposition of their time, as to enable them to seize every precious moment circumstances will allow for mental cultivation; and the little thus acquired is too dear, too valuable, to be wasted and misapplied. Thus Agnes became mistress of much estimable knowledge. She was well read in the Bible, she thoroughly understood the prayers and the doctrines of her own church, and had a sufficient knowledge of the various modes in which others professed the Christian faith,—to feel charity for all, and respect for many. She had likewise read the history of the Jews, that of her own country, and as much of the Greek and Roman as enabled her to converse with her father on the subjects to which he occasionally referred relative to those extraordinary people. She was likewise conversant in Thomson's “Seasons,” Goldsmith's “ Deserted Village," and Gray's “Poems;" had read three volumes of the “Spectator," one of the “Rambler," and all Tillotson's “Sermons.” To this stock of erudition, she added a knowledge of her needle above the common standard; she had an excellent ear, and sung and read with singular sweetness and fluency; she wrote a neat hand; understood her own language, and was not ignorant of Latin ; to which it may be added, that she knew sufficient mineralogy, botany, and natural philosophy, to ren

« PreviousContinue »