Abbildungen der Seite

ser* by bad fortune, but he who has been deceived by good. If we grow fond of her gifts, fancy that they belong to us, and are perpetually to remain with us; if we lean upon them, and expect to be considered for them; we shall sink into all the bitterness of grief^s soon as these false and transitory benefits pass away, as soon as our vain and childish minds, unfraughtwith solid pleasures, becomedeilitutccven of those which are imaginary. But, if we do not softer ourselves transported with prosperity, neither shall we be reduced by adversity. Our souls will be proof against the dangers of both these states: and having explored our strength, we shall be sure of it; for in the midst of felicity, we shall have tried how we can bear misfortune.

Her Evils disarmed by Patience.

Banishment, with all its train of evils, is so far from being the cause of contempt, that he who bears up with an, undaunted spirit against them, while so many are dejected by them, erects on bis very misfortune a trophy to his honour: for such is the frame and temper of our minds, that nothing strikes us with greater admiration than a man intrepid in the midst of misfortunes. Of all ignominies, an ignominious death must be allowed to be the greatest; and yet where is the blasphemer who will presume to defame the death of Socrates? This faint entered the prison with the same countenance with which he reduced thirty tyrants, and he took off ignominy from the place j for how could it be deemed a prison when Socrates was there? Aristides was led to execution in the fame city; all those who met the fad procession, cast their eyes to the ground, and with throbbing hearts bewailed, not the innocent man, but Justice herself, who was in him condemned. Yet there was a wretch found, for monsters are sometimes produced in contradiction to the ordinary rules of nature, who spit in his face as he passed along. Aristides wiped his cheek, smiled, turned to the magistrate, and said, "Admonish this "man not to be so nasty for the fu5« ture."

Ignominy then ran take no hold on virtue; for virtue is in every condition the fame, and challenges the fame respect. We applaud the world when she prospers; and when she falls into adversity we applaud her. Like the temples of the gods, (he is venerable even in her ruins. After this, must it not appear a degree of madness to defer one moment acquiring the only arms capable of defending us against attacks, which at every moment we are exposed to? Our being miserable, or not miserable, when we fall into misfortunes, depends on the manner in which we have enjoyed prosperity. Bolingbroke.

§ 56. Delicacy, constitutional, and often dangerous.

Some people arc subject to a certain delicacy of passion, which makes them extremely sensible to all the accidents of life, and gives them a lively joy upon every prosperous event, as well as a piercing grief, when they meet with crosses and adversity. Favours and good offices easily engage their friendship, while the smallest injury provokes their resentment. Any honour or mark of distinction elevates them above measure ; but they are as sensibly touched, with contempt. People of this character have, no doubr, much more lively enjoyments, as well as more pungent sorrows, than men of cool and sedate tempers: but I believe, when everything is ballanced, there is no one, who would not rather chuse to be of the latter character, were he entirely master of his own disposition. Good or ill fortune is very little at our own disposal: and when a person who has this sensibility of temper meets with any misfortune, his sorrow or resentment takes entire possession of him, and deprives him of all relish in the common occurrences of life, the right enjoy., ment of which forms the greatest part of our happiness. Great pleasures are much less frequent than great pains; so that a sensible temper cannot meet with fewer trials in the former way than in the latter: not to mention, that men of such lively passions are apt to be transported beyond all bonnds of prudence and discretion, and to take

false fs'fr steps in tile conduct of life, which are often irretrievable.

Delicacy of Taste deferable. There is a delicacy of taste observable in some men, which very much resembles this delicacy of paiiion, and produces the fame sensibility to beauty and deformity of every kind, as that does to prosperity and adversity, obligations and injuries. When you present a poem or a picture to a man possessed of this talent, the delicacy of his feelings makes him to be touched very sensibly with every part of it; nor are the masterly strokes perceived with more exquisite relish and satisfaction, than the negligences or absurdities with disgust and uneasiness. A polite and judicious conversation affords him the highest entertainment; rudeness or impertinence is as great a punishment to iiim. In short, delicacy of taste has the fame effect as delicacy of passion : it enlarges the sphere both of our happiness and misery, and makes us sensible to pains as well as pleasures which escape the rest of mankind.

I bejieve, however, there is no one, who will not agree with me, that, notwithstanding this resemblance, a delicacy of taste is as much to be defired and cultivated as a delicacy of passion is to be lamented, and to be remedied if possible. The good or ill accidents of life are very little at our disposal; but we are pretty much masters what books we shall read, what diversions we shall partake os, and what company we shall keep. Philosophers have endeavoured to render happiness entirely independent of every thing external that is impossible to be attained: but every wise man will endeavour to place his happiness on such objects as depend most upon himself; and that is not to be attained so much by any other means, as by this delicacy of sentiment. When a man is possessed of that talent, he is more happy by what pleases his taste, than by what gratifies his appetites; and receives more enjoyment from a poem or a piece of reasoning, than the most expensive luxury tan afford.

That it tenches us toseleSi curCompany■»

Delicacy of taste is favourable to love and friendship, by corrfining our choice to few people, and making us indifferent to the company and conversation of the greatest part of men. You will very seldom find that mere men of the world, whatever strong sense they may be; endowed with, are very nice in distinguishing of characters, or in marking those insensible differences and gradations which make one man preferable to another. Any one that has competent' sense, is sufficient for their entertainment: they talk to him of their plea* sures and affairs with the fame, frankness as they would to any other; and finding many who are sit to supply his place, they never feel any vacancy or want in his absence. But, to make use of the allusion of a famous French author, the judgment may be compared to a clock or watch, where the most ordinary machine is sufficient to tell the hours; but the most elaborate and artificial can only point the minutes and seconds, and distinguish the smallest differences of time. One who has well digested his knowledge both of books and men, has little enjoyment but in. the company of a few select companions. He feels too sensibly how much all the rest of mankind fall short of the notions which he has entertained; and his as. sections being thus confined within a narrow circle, no wonder he carries them farther than if they were more general and undistinguished. The gaiety and frolic of a bottle - companion improves with him into a solid friend* ship ; and the ardours of a youthful appetite into an elegant passion.

Hume's EJsays.

§ 57. Detraction a detestable Viet. It has been remarked, that men are generally kind in proportion as they are happy; and it is said, even of the devil, that he is good-humoured when he is pleased. Every act, therefore, by which another is injured, from whatever motive, contracts more guilt, and expresses greater malignity, if it is committed in those seasons which are set apart to pleasantry and good-humour,

and tnd brtght«ned with enjoyments pecrfliar to rational and social being?.

Detraction is among those vices which the most languid virtue has sufficient force to prevent ; because by detraction that is not gained which is taken away. "He who filches front me my good name," fays Shakespeare, "enriches not himself, but makes me poor indeed." As nothing therefore degrades human nature more than detraction, nothing more disgraces conversation. The detractor, as he is the lowest moral character, reflects greater dishonour upon his company, than the hangman; and he whose disposition is a scandal to his species, fliould be more diligently avoided, than he who is scandalous only by his offence.

But for this practice, however vile, some have dared to apologize, by contending the report, by which they injured an absent character, was true: this, however, amounts to no more than that they have not complicated malice with falihood, and that there is some difference between detraction and slander. To relate all the ill that is true of the best man in the world, would probably render him the object of suspicion and distrust ; and was this practice universal, mutual confidence and esteem, the comforts of society, and the endearments of friendship, would be at an end.

There is something unspeakably more hateful in those species of villainy by which the law is evaded, than those by which it is violated and defiled. Courage has sometimes preserved rapacity from abhorrence, as beauty has been thought to apologize for prostitution; but the injustice of cowardice is universally abhorred, and, like the lewdness of deformity, has no advocate. Thus hateful are the wretches who detract with caution, and while they perpetrate the wrong, are solicitous to avoid the reproach. They do not fay, that Chloe forfeited her honour to Lysander; but they say, that such a report has been spread, they know not how true. Those who propagate these reports, frequently invent them ; and it is no breach of charity to suppose this to be always the cafe; because no man

who spreads detraction would hart scrupled to produce it: and he Who should diffuse poison in a brook, wonld scarce be acquitted of a malicious design, though he fliould alledge, that he; received it of another whd is doing the fame elsewhere.

Whatever is incompatible with the highest dignity of our nature, should indeed be excluded from ouir conversation: as companions, not only that which we owe to ourselves but to others* is required of us; and they who cad indulge any vice in the presence of each other, are become obdurate in guilt, and insensible to infamy. Rambler.

§ 58. Learning Jhould be sometimes applied to cultivate our Morals.

Envy, curiosity, and our sense of the imperfection of our present state, inclines us always to estimate the advantages which are in the possession of other* above their real value. Every one must have remarked what powers and prerogatives the vulgar imagine to be conferred by learning. A man of science is expected to excel the unlettered and unenlightened, even on occasions where literature is of no use, and among weak minds loses part of hi? reverence by discovering no superiority in those parts of life, in which all are unavoidably equal; as when a monarch makes a progress to the remoter provinces, the rusticks are said sometimes to wonder that they find him of the fame size with themselves.

These demands of prejudice and folly can never be satisfied, and therefore many of the imputations which learning suffers from disappointed ignorance, are without reproach. Yet it cannot be denied, that there are some failures to which men of study are peculiarly exposed. Every condition has its disadvantages. The circle of knowledge is too wide for the most active and diligent intellect, and while science is pursued with ardour, other accomplishments of equal use are necessarily neglected; as a small garrison must leave one part of an extensive fortress naked, when an alarm calls them to another.

The learned, however, might generally support their dignity with more

success. to be misted by superfluous attainments of qualification which few can understand or value, and by skill which they may sink into the grave without any conspicuous opportunities of exerting. Raphael, in return to Adam's enquiries into the courses of the stars and the revolutions of heaven, counsels him to withdraw his mind from idle speculations, and instead of watching motions yhich he has no power to regulate, to emplpy his faculties upon nearer and TOPre interesting objects, the survey of his own life, the subjection os his paslions, the knowledge of duties which must daily be performed, and the detection of dangers which mult daily be Incurred.

success, if they suffered not themselves and shewed the fall of learning In def

Tfiie angelic counsel every man of letters should always have before him. Jje -that devotes himself wholly to retired Audy, naturally sinks from orrislion to forgetfulness of social duties, and from which he must be sometimes awakened, and recalled to the general condition of mankind. Rambler,

Its Progress.

Tt had been observed by the ancients, That all the arts and sciences arose among free nations; and that the Persons and Egyptians, notwithstanding all their eale, opulence, and luxury, made but faintefforts tewards those finer pleasures, which were carried to such perfection by the Greeks, amidst continual wars, attended with poverty, and the greatest simplicity of life and manners. It had also been observed, that as soon as the Greeks lost their liberty, |hough they encreafed mightily in riches, by the means of the conquests of Alexander ; yet the arts, from that moment, declined among them, and }-ave never since been able to raise their head in that climate. Learning was transplanted to Rome, the only free nation at that time in the universe; and having met with so favourable a soil, it made prodigious shoots for above a century; 'till the decay of liberty produced also a decay of letters, and spread a total barbarism over the world. From these two experiments, of which each war double in its kind,

potic governments, as well as its rife in popular ones, Lbnginus thought himself sufficiently justified in asserting, that the arts and sciences could never flourish but in a free government: and in this opinion he has been followed by several eminent writers in our country, who either confined their view merely to ancient facts, or entertained too great a partiality in favour of that form of government which is established amongst us.

But what would these writers have said to the instances of modern Rome and Florence? Of which the former carried to perfection all the finer arts of sculpture, painting, and music, as well as poetry, though they groaned under slavery, and under the slavery of priests: while the latter made the greatest progress in the arts and sciences, "after they began to lose their liberty by the usurpations of lh« family of Medici?. Arioito, Tasso, Galilæo, no more than Raphael and Michael Angelo, were not born in republics. And though the Lombard school was famous as well as the Roman, yet the Venetians have had the smallest share in its honours, and seem rather inferior to the Italians in their genius for the arts and sciences. Rubens established his school at Antwerp, not at Amsterdam; Dresden, not Hamburgh, is the centre of politeness in Germany.

But the most eminent instance of the flourishing state of learning in despotic governments, is that of France, which scarce ever enjoyed an established liberty, and yet has carried the arts and sciences as near perfection as any other nation. The English are, perhaps, better philosophers; the Italians better painters and musicians; the Romans were better orators ; but the French are the only people, except the Greeks, who have been at once philosophers, poets, orators, historians, painters, architects, sculptors, and musicians. With regard to the stage, they have excelled even the Greeks, who have far excelled the English; and in common life, they have in a great measure perfected that art, the moll useful and agreeable of any, Fart de vivrt, the art of society and conversation.


If we consider the state of sciences and polite arts in our country, Horace's observation with regard to the Romans, may, in a great measure, be applied to the British,

fed in longum tamen aevum Manscrunt, hodicque manent vestigia ruris.

The elegance and propriety of stile have been very much neglected among us. We have no dictionary of our language, and scarce a tolerable grammar. The first polite prose we have, was wrote by a man who is still alive. As to Sprat, Locke, and even Temple, they knew too little of the rules of art to be esteemed very elegant writers. The prose os Bacon, Harrington, and Milton, is altogether stiff and pedantic; though their fense be excellent. Men, in this country, have been so much occupied in the great disputes of religion, politics, and philosophy, that they had no relistl for the minute observations of grammar and criticism. And though this turn of thinking must have considerably improved our fense and our talent of reasoning beyond those of other nations, it must be confest, that even in those sciences above mentioned, we have not any standard book which we can transmit to posterity: and the utmost we have to boast of, are a few essays towards a more just philosophy; which, indeed, promise very much, but have not, as yet, reached any degree of perfection.

Useless 'without Taste.

A man may know exactly all the circles and ellipses of the Copernican system, and all the irregular spirals of the Ptolemaic, without perceiving that the former is more beautiful than the latter. Euclid has very fully explained every quality of the circle, bat has not, in any proposition, said a word of its beauty. The reason is evident. Beauty is not a quality of the circle. It lies not in any part of the line, whose parts are all equally distant from a common centre. It is only the effect which that figure operates upon the mind, whose particular fabric nr structure renders it susceptible of such sentiments. In vain would you look for it i

in the circle, or seek it, either by your fense«, or by mathematical reasoning in all the properties of that figure.

The mathematician, who took t\tt other pleasure in reading Virgil bus that of examining Æneas's voyage1 by" the map, might understand perfectly the meaning of every Latin Word Employed by that divine author, and consequently might have a distinct idea of* the whole narration; he Would evetk have a more distinct idea- of it, thai they could have who had riot studied so exactly the geography of the poem. He? knew, therefore, every thing in the poem. But he was ignorant of its beauty; because the beauty, properly speaking, lies not in the poem, but the sentiment or taste of the reader. And Where a man has no such delicacy of temper as to make him feel this sentiment, he must be ignorant of the beauty, though possessed of the science anil understanding of an angel.

Name''j EJpiys.

Its Obstructions.

So many hindrances may obstruct the acquisition of knowledge, that there is little reason for wondering that it is in a few hands. To the greater part of mankind the duties of life are inconsistent with much study, and the hours which they would spend upon letters must be stolen from their occupations and their families. Many suffer themselves to be lured by more sprightly and luxurious pleasures from the shades of contemplation, where they find seldom more than a calm delight, such as, though greater than all others, if its certainty and its duration be reckoned with its power of gratification, is yet easily quitted for some extemporaryjoy, which the present moment offers, and another perhaps will put out osreach.

It is the great excellence of learning that it borrows very little from time or place; it is not confined to season or to climate, to cities or to the country, but may be cultivated and enjoyed where no other pleasure can be obtained. But this quality, which constitutes much ot its value, is one occasion of neglect; what may be done at all times with equal propriety, is deferred from day to da/, till the mind is gradually reconciled

« ZurückWeiter »