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upon one os those insamous writers who makes his court to them by tearing to pieces the reputation of a competitor, we should quickly fee an end put to this race of vermin, that are a scandal to government, and a reproach to human nature. Such a proceeding would make a minister of state shine in history, and would nil all mankind with a just abhorrence of persons who should treat him unworthily, and employ against him those arms which he scorned to make use of against his enemies.
I cannot think that any one will be so unjust as to imagine what I have here said or spoken with respect to any party or iaction. Every one who has in him the sentiments either of a christian or gentleman, cannot but be highly offended at this wicked and ungenerous practice which is so much in use among us at present, that it is become a kind of national crime, and distinguishes us from all the governments that lie about us. 1 cannot but look upon the sinest strokes of satire which are aimed at particular persons, and which are supported even with the appearances of truth, to be the marks of an evil mind, and highly criminal in themselves. Insamy, like other punishments, is under the direction and distribution of the magistrate, and not of any private person. Accordingly we learn from a fragment of Cicero, that tho' there were very few capital punishments in the twelve tables, a libel or lampoon which took away the good name of another, was to be punished by death. But this is far from being our case. Our satire is nothing but ribaldry, and Billinjgate. Scurrility passes for wit; and he who can call names in the greatest variety of phrases is looked upon to have the shrewdest pen. By this means the honour of families is ruined, the highest posts and greatest titles are render'd cheap and vile in the sight of the people; the noblest virtues, and most exalted parts exposed to the contempt of the vicious
nothing of our private factions, or one who is to act his part in the world when our present heats and animosities are forgot, should, I say, such an one form to himself a notion of the greatest men of all sides in the £ri~ tijh nation, who are now living, from the characters
Should a foreigner, who knows which are given them in some or other of those abomi* nable writings which are daily published among us, what a nation of monsters must we appear!
As ihis cruel practice tends to the utter subversion of all truth and humanity among us, it deserves the utmost detestation and discouragement of all who have either the love of their country, or the honour of their religion at heart. I would therefore earnestly recommend it to the consideration of those who deal in these pernicious arts of writing; and of those who take pleasure in the reading of them. As for the sirst, I have spoken of them in iormer papers, and have not stuck to rank them with the murderer and assassin. Every honest man sets as high a value upon a good name, as upon life itself; and I cannot but think that those who privily assault the one, would destroy the other, might they do it with the same security and impunity.
As for persons who take pleasure in the reading and dispersing of such detestable libels, I am afraid they fall very little short of the guilt of the siist composers. By a law of the emperors Valentinian and P'alens, it was made death for any person not only to write a libel, but if he met with one by chance, net to tear or burn it. But because I would net be thought singular in my opinion of this matter, I shall conclude my paper with the words of monsieur Bayle, who was a man of great freedom of thought, as well as of exquisite learning and judgment.
'I cannot imagine, that a man who disperses a libel,
* is less desirous of doing mischief than the author him
* self. But what shall we say of the pleasure which a
* man takes in the reading of a defamatory libel? Is it
* not an heinous sin in the sight of God? We must di« 'stinguish in this point. This pleasure is either an agree'able sensation we are affected with, when we meet 'with a witty thought which is well expressed, or it is 'a joy which we conceive from the dishonour of the 'person who is defamed. I will fay nothing to the sirst 'of these cases; for perhaps some would think that my
* morality is not severe enough, if I should assirm that a
* manisnot masterof those agreeable sensations, any more 'than of those occasioned by sugar or honey, when they
. « touch touch his tongue; but as to the second, every one will own that pleasure to be a heinous sin. The pleasure in the sirst case is of no continuance; it prevents our reason and reflexion, and may be immediately followed by a secret grief, to fee our neighbour's honour blasted. If it does not cease immediately, it is a sign that we are not displeased with the ill nature of the satirist, but are glad to see him defame his enemy by all kinds of stories; and then we deserve the punishment to which the writer of the libel is subject. I shall here add the words of a modern author. St. Gregory, upon excommunicating those writers who bad dijhonoured Castorius, does not except those vohoread their works i because says he, if calumnies have always been the delight of their bearers, and a gratification of those persons who have no other advantage over henest men, is not he <who takes pleasure in reading them as guilty as be wiho composed them? It is an uncontested maxim, that they who approve an action would certainly do it if they could; that is, if some reason of self-love did not hinder them. There is no difference, fays Cicero, between advising a crime, and approving it when committed. The Roman law consirmed this maxim, having subjected the approvers and authors of this evil to the fame penalty. We may therefore conclude, that those who are pleased with reading defamatory libels, so far as to approve the authors and difperfers of them, are as guilty as if they had composed them; for if they do not write such libels themselves, it is because they have not the talent of writing, or because they will run no hazard.
N" 452 Friday, August 8.
Est natura hominum novitatis avida. Plin. apud Lillium. Human nature is fond of novelty.
THERE is no humour in my countrymen, which I am more inclined to wonder at, than their general thirst after news. There are about half a dozen ingenious men, who live very plentifully upon this curiosity of their fellow subjects. They all of them receive the fame advices from abroad, and very often in the fame words; but their way of cookipg it is so different, that there is no citizen, who has an eye to the public
food, that can leave the coffee-house with peace of mind efore he has given every one of them a reading. These several dishes of news are so very agreeable to the palate of my countrymen, that they are not only pleased with them when they are served up hot, but when they are again set cold before them, by those penetrating politicians, who oblige the public with their reflections and observations upon every piece of intelligence that is sent us from abroad. The text is given us by one set of writers and the comment by another.
But notwithstanding we have the fame tale told uc in so many different papers, and if occasion requires in so many articles of the fame paper; notwithstanding in a scarcity of foreign posts we hear the fame story repeated by different advices from Paris, Brujsels, the Hague, and from every great town in Europe; notwithr standing the multitude of annotations, explanations, reflexions, and various readings which it passes through, pur time lies heavy on our hands till the arrival of a fresh mail: We long to receive further particulars, to hear what will be the next step, or what will be the consequences of that which we have already taken. A westerly wind keeps the whole town in sulpence, and puts a stop to conversation.
This general curiosity has been raised and inflamed by our late wars, and if rightly directed might be of good use to a person who has such a thirst awakened in him. Why should not a man, who takes delight in reading every thing that is new, apply himself to history, travels, and other writings of the fame kind, where he will sind perpetual fuel for his curiosity, and meet with much more pleasure and improvement than in these papers of the week? An honest tradesman who languishes a whole summer in expectation of a battle, and perhaps is balked at last, may here meet with half a dozen in a day. He may read the news of a whole campaign, in less time than he now bestows upon the productions of a single post. Fights, conquests and revolutions lie thick together. The reader's curiosity is raised and satissied every moment, and his passions disappointed or gratisied, without being detained in a state of uncertainty from day to day, or lying at the mercy of the sea and wind; in short, the mind Is not here kept in a perpetual gape after knowledge, nor punished with that eternal thirst, which is the portion of all our modern news-mongers and coffee-house politicians.
All matters of fact, which a man did not know be-' fore, are news to him; and I do not fee how any haberdasher in Chcaffide is more concerned in the present quarrel of the cantons, than he was in that of the league. At least, I believe every one will allow me, it is of more importance to an Englifiman to know the history of his ancestors, than that of his contemporaries who live upon the banks of the Danube or the Boristbenti. As for those who are of another mind, I shall recommend to them the following letter, from a projector, who is willing to turn a penny by this remarkable curiosity of his countrymen.
• \TOU must have observed, that men who frequent
• X coffee-houses, and delight in news, are pleased « with every thing that is matter of fact, so it be what « they have not heard before. A victory, or a defeat, 'are eqnally agreeable to theifi. The (hutting of a cardi
• nal's mouth pleases them one post, and the opening of