NEW MAN OF FEELING.
by WILLIAM GODWIN.
M. Ruffigny continued with me several months; and during the remainder of his life, which was about six years, J generally made a visit once a year to the canton of Uri. The relation which existed between his family and mine was of the most interesting sort. Never in any age or country were two parties bound together by ties so noble. I looked in his face, and saw the features of the venerable Ambrose Fleetwood, and of my beloved father. What I remarked was not the thing we denominate family likeness, -the sort of cast of countenance by which descents and pedigrees, whether wise men or fools, whether knaves or honest, are, like the individuals of different nations, identified all over the world. The resemblance I perceived, though less glaring at first sight, extended its root infinitely deeper. It was that their hearts had been cast in the same mould. He must have been a very slight observer of men, who is not aware that two human creatures, equally good, that love each other, and have during long periods associated together, unavoidably contract a similarity of sentiments, of demeanour, and of physiognomonical expression. But, beside this resemblance of Ruffigny to my parents, which some will regard as fantastical, the countenance of the venerable Swiss was a book where rcould trace the history of my ancestors. It was like the book of the records of King Ahasuerus in the Bible, in which the good deeds and deserts of the virtuous werc written, that they might not perish from the memories of those who were indebted to them, unhonoured and forgotten.
The benefits my father proposed for me from the counsels and intercourse of Ruffigny I extensively obtained. From this period I became an altered man. The ebriety and extravagance of youth were at an end with mc. The sobriety, the delicacy, the sentimental fastidiousness of my childish days, revived in my bosom; and I looked back with astonishment at my adolescence, that I could ever have departed so widely from my genuine character.
The means employed for my conversion were indeed amply commensurate to the end proposed. There was something so venerable in the figure and appearance of Ruffigny, and primitive and patriarchal in his manners and modes of thinking, that it was perhaps impossible to converse intimately with him, and yet continue whelmed in the mire of licentiousness. But, beside his general qualifications for the office, he came recommended to me by considerations so sacred, as to render his expostulations, his persuasives, and his alarms to my virtue and honour, irresistible. What an unexampled friendship was that which bound together the names of Fleetwood and Ruffigny! Could I listen, otherwise than as to the admonitions of a God, to the discourses of a man who had generously, in his Lifetime, and in the full vigour of his age, surrendered to my family a fortune almost princely, and tranquilly retired to the simplicity of his ancestors? In every word he spoke, I felt this circumstance enforcing his remarks. The misery of admonition in general, is that it is so difficult for the person whose benefit it professes, to be convinced of the disinterestedness of his monitor. Some suspicion of selfishness, of ostentation, of vanity, of false colours, and the disingenuousness of a pleader, lurks within, and poisons every clause. Could I suspect any thing of that kind, in this living Curius, who had come from his Sabine farm, the voluntary obscurity to which he had withdrawn his age, purposely to fulfil the last injunctions of my father, and to provide for the tranquility and virtue of the son? While I listened to his voice, my consciencewhispered me, -It is the voice of him, but for whose absolute self-denial and heroic Friendship, my father would have been bankrupt of.
By degrees -let me venture to say -I became assimilated, however imperfectly, to my admirable monitor. I whispered to my swelling heart, 'Never, no, never will I belong to such men as these, and not make it the first object of my solicitude to become like them. Let other men talk of their heroic blood, and swear they will not blot a long line of princes from whom they may be descended! / Here is my patent of nobility, than which I defy all the monarchs of the earth to show a brighter; not sealed by the ruin of provinces and empires, but by the purest and most godlike contempt of all selfish views that ever was exhibited. In me the race of the Fleetwoods shall survive; I will become heir to the integrity and personal honour of the virtuous Ruffigny.'
Why do I write down these elevated vows, which, alas! I have never redeemed? I but the more sincerely subscribe to my own condemnation. My history, as I early remarked, is a register of errors, the final record of my penitence and humiliation.
From this period, however, I ceased to practise the vices of a libertine. The faults I have further to confess are of a different nature. My heart was henceforward pure, my moral tastes revived in their genuine clearness, and the errors I committed were no longer those of a profligate. Thus far I became unequivocally a gainer by this great event of my life.
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