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Should this attempt to rescue the name and character of this illustrious woman from oblivion, fall into the hands of any of the female readers of The Port Folio, who have been accustomed to feel an elevation of soul in contemplating the honour which Madame Dacier, i. Madame Sevignè; Lady Rachael Russel, and Mrs. Rowe, have con- . ferred upon their respective countries; let them exult not less in reflecting, that a similar honour has been conferred upon the United States, by the singular attainments and virtues of Mrs. Elizabeth Ferguson
THE WANDERER-FOR THE PORT FOLIO.
Malo est audar. OVID.
How apt we are to complain of the very causes of our success, and to think the hand that is raised to give us bounty uplifted to strike us. Adversity, which is frequently the hand of heaven, extended in beneficence to man, is generally regarded as the stroke of fate, that is to prostrate him in the dust, and is the constant subject and burthen of his complaints. Nay, the kindness of the blow is often in proportion to its severity ; and countless characters, that have gleamed with transcendent effulgence in this night of time, have been indebted to the extreme chillness of adversity for giving them lustre.
Niobe is drawn by Ovid audax malo, bold from distress. The arrow, winged by Apollo himself, from which the startled air drew back, passed by her “as the idle wind;"
Praeter Nioben unam, conteruit omnes.
It had not power to move what had already sunk into firmness. Excessere metum sua jam mala. Evil was now her good, but both were beyond fear. The celestials were defeated. She was now fearless from grief.
In the fate of Tantalus's daughter, the Roman bard has illustrated and enforced a moral truth. Adversity gives a hardihood to character, as the fibre is hardened against the winds of heaven by expo, sure to their blasts. Never was there a revolution but the storm found out its genius. Never adversity, that it did not probe to the quick of talent. If ability inheres, adversity will try it and search it out. If it be a sight worthy of the gods, "A brave man struggling with the storms of fatę,” those storms making a man struggle into bravery are far worthier
the divinities' attention. From being long engaged in the conflict with Destiny, you at length get to master him. You in some degree control events, or in the bold language of the poet, “ take a bond of fate.”
Philosophers account for the introduction of natural or physical evil consistently with the perfections of the introducer by supposing it the necessary and only possible mean of exciting the virtues. Without distress there could be no room for compassion, and without an object in need of relief the very bond of perfectness, charity, would be cancelled in the system. There seems to be a similar necessity for this evil for the production of talent. Such is the indolence of the human animal, it seems as though he would prefer natural darkness as favourable to rest, to the light of that sun, which would compel him to exertion to procure shelter from the heat of his beams. As moralists and mathematicians agree that to succeed in an experiment the power must be proportionate to the degree of resistance, great, indeed, must be the force to overcome this passive principle. When we add to this the clouds and darkness, that overshadow every human enterprise and project, we can hardly doubt for a moment, that this boasted lord of the creation would be torpid throughout the winter of existence, did not necessity mingle with the blood in his veins and stimulate him to action. It is, that torpor would be 'numbness, and that that blood must else cease to flow, that reluctant man is ever prevailed upon to put himself in motion. The same power that produces is alone competent to preserve, and when the necessity, real or apprehended, has ceased, the subject relapses into congenial inaction.
The belles lettres of the language are mostly the mere result of this principle. The writers of the most brilliant productions, that adorn the shelf of the scholar, have been goaded by necessity to the points of composition, as the least of the evils. Gloomy adversity has been the melancholy genius of their inspiration. Goldsmith and Johnson are striking illustrations of this remark. Of the poets, alas, who are they, that are not? Nor is it confined to our own language. Boethius passed off in the van of that melancholy troop, who, from the shortness of their stay, "come like shadows, so depart."
The storm, indeed, may blow away twigs, but it deepens the roots of the oak and gives vigour and extent to its branches. The twigs would be worthless, did the storm leave them. The oak becomes invaluable, as it rises in strength and might, extending still wider shelter and shade, and affording more abundant means of support and defence. Few characters are so light, that adversity would blow them away. On the contrary, scarcely one can be found, that it might not establish. O, that some youth of the neighbourhood could once pass under its gale, that it might be seen, whether it would not brace them into vigour or chill them into firmness; whether by bearing away the bushel of chaff it might not lay open and bring to light the single grain of wheat, that is now buried and lost. The characters are not scarce that want winnowing:
The world have often been surprised at the sudden rise of men, who, without capital, without any rare endowments, and without friends, have raised themselves to affluence, and the homage that follows as its shade. It is these very negative qualities that insured them success. It is “the art in their necessities” has made “these vile things precious.” Adversity is the crucible in which tempers as well as talents are tried, as by fire. Patience, justice, and fortitude, three of the cardinal virtues, it often purifies to additional splendour. It is, indeed, poor consolation to the daughter of affliction, that she learns meekness from the frowns of a mother. But there is solid comfort in the reflection, that the head gains an energy from every pang of the heart, that the courage and resources of the mind rise with the terrors of the seige, and that it at length may “come off more than conqueror.” Thus is comprehended the blessing of adversity. Thus is it seen how heaven lo
veth whom it chasteneth, and how Piety, writhing under its scourge, · may yet “bow and kiss the rod." The contemplation of the uses of ad
versity will satisfy the philosopher with the superintendence of Providence; and nothing can more promote in a Christian, resignation to the direst dispensations of Deity, than the consciousness, that, in this state of probation, he is, in some degree, “made perfect through suffering.”
THE CELEBRATED CORINNA. THERE has been no biography of any authentic stamp of this celebrated woman; and our readers will perhaps feel a pleasure from the brief narrative which we now lay before them, collected with difficulty, and from no common source.
Corinna (whose real name was Mrs. Thomas), the pride of the gay world, and no less celebrated for her charms, than for her genius, was born in 1675. She seems to have inherited from her father, who was far advanced in life, and whose health had been long infirm, an unhappy constitution, rendered yet more delicate by the injudicious tenderness, with which she was nurtured. From her infancy she was afflicted with fevers and defluxions; but, with these physical disadvantages, she possessed a gay and lively temper, and gave early pro
mise of a vigorous intellect. Before she had completed her second year, the death of her father, of whose circumstances his family, from his expensive manner of living, had formed an erroneous calculation, involved them in embarrassment and distress.
The Duke of Montague made flattering professions of service; and when Mrs. Thomas solicited him, as Captain of the band of pensioners, to bestow a post on a Mr. Gwynnet, a young gentleman, who had long addressed her daughter, actually assented to her request, on condition that the bride-elect should apply to him in person. The guileless mother overwhelmed her generous benefactor with grateful acknowledgments, and instantly hastened to inform her daughter of their flattering prospects, when, to her extreme surprise, she received from Corinna, who had been accustomed to yield to her commands an implicit obedience, a peremptory refusal to avail herself of the bounty of the noble Duke. Compelled at length to explain the motives for a conduct so unreasonable and extraordinary, the young lady confessed that his Grace had attempted to allure her from the paths of chastity. To this she added, that in the condition he had annexed to his services to her lover, she had but too just cause to fear a renewal of his dishonourable purposes. The feelings of a mother upon such an occasion required no description.
The mind of Corinna had been highly cultivated by a perusal of the best authors, while, as her taste refined, her sentiments became delicate and elevated, and her character strongly tinctured with those virtues which
* The sons of interest deem romance.es
· Their circumstances becoming daily more perplexed and involved, . she remonstrated with her lover on the inequality of their fortunes and prospects, and the imprudence of the connexion which he solicited. The attachment of Mr. Gwynnet, who was already in a great degree independent of his family, was increased by the delicacy and disinterestedness of his mistress; nor was it long before he gained the consent of his father to a union in which his happiness was so deeply involved. With this sanction he came to London, to claim the reward of his affection and fidelity.
Mrs. Thomas being at this time in an infirm state of health, her amiable daughter refused, in her own better prospects, to abandon her mother to the care of strangers. She replied to the solicitations of her lover, that as she had not thought sixteen years too long a period to wait for him, she hoped he would not consider six months as tedious, in expectation of receiving, at the end of that time, the recompense of his generous constancy. “ Six months at present, my Corinna,” he replied, with a sigh, “are more than the sixteen years that are passed; you now defer our union, and God will put it off forever.” His words were prophetic. The next day he returned into the country, and made his will, by which he bequeathed to Corinna six hundred pounds; he sickened shortly after, and expired April 16th, 1711. To express the feelings of his inistress on this event language is inadequate :-“Sorrow," said she, “ has been my portion ever since.”
· The deed of conveyance, by which the father of Mr. Gwynnet had empowered his son to dispose of his effects, with the will which he had in consequence made, were suppressed by his brother. She had, in the course of this suit, been obliged to sign an instrument to empower the lawyers to receive the money, and pay themselves the costs.
The consequences may be foreseen: thirteen pounds sixteen shillings was the residue which these conscientious gentleman, who sell justice very dear, paid into her hands. Reduced by this event to the necessity of retiring from her creditors to obscurity and want, she was betrayed by a pretended friend, and thrown into prison.
After her liberation from confinement, Mrs. Thomas resided in a small and humble lodging in Fleet-street, where she died, February, 1730, in the fifty-sixth year of her age. She was interred in the church of St. Bride's.
CORRESPONDENCE-FOR THE PORT FOLIO. MR. OLDSCHOOL,
Your correspondent “ Atticus,” wishes to know, whether “Paracelsus” be correct in his analysis of Atmospheric air; he is therefore informed, that Paracelsus in stating the theory of combustion, was desirous to keep out of view, every thing which might embarrass his description; the minute history of Atmospheric air being foreign from his purpose was of course omitted.
Paracelsus now takes the liberty to remark, that he cannot acknowfedge himself in an error, while he is supported by the authority of · Chaptal and Lavoisier. “Atticus” is mistaken in supposing “carbonic acid gas" a component part of Atmospheric air. It is a distinct substance, accidentally mixed with it, and no more forms one of its constituent principles, than water, smoke, or miasmata,
To solve the difficulty stated by X Y in No. II of The Port Folio, I beg leave to inform him, that õpe, take care, is understood before the infinitive in leaves. The substituting an infinitive for the imperative mood where a word is wanting belongs to the genius of the Greek language. I am of opi. nion that Greek literature will never flourish in the United States till professor Dalzel's A y Mixta are reprinted. By the importation of Dalzel's Collec. tanea at Richmond, the nobly-sounding phrases and periphrases of the Greeks are understood in Virginia better, perhaps, than in any other State. I am, &c.