Page images
PDF
EPUB

Svo. There were collective editions of his Works, Lond., 1755-1779, etc., 25 vols. 8vo, and 18mo; Lond., by John Nichols, 1801, 19 vols. 8vo, and royal 8vo; again, 1803 (some 1804), 24 vols. 18mo; again, 1808, 19 vols. 8vo; New York, 1812-13, 24 vols. 12mo; Edin., by Sir Walter Scott, with Life, 1814 (some 1815), 1250 copies, 19 vols. 8vo, and royal 8vo; 2d ed., 1250 copies, 19 vols. 8vo; Lond., with Memoir by Thomas Roscoe, 1841, also 1848, 1851, 1853, 1858, 1868, each in 2 vols. demy 8vo; New York ("first complete American edition"), 1859, 6 vols. 12mo; again, Dec. 1862, 6 vols. 12mo. A new edition of Swift's Works, prefaced by a Life, Journal, and Letters, has been announced by Mr. John Murray, of London. Of his Select Works there have been a number of editions.

[ocr errors]

"In his works he has given very different spec

allows it, meriting in its vehement plainness the
praise of the most genuine eloquence. His verse
is only, apparently, distinguished by the accident
his prose, is remarkable for sense and wit."-SIR
of measure; it has no quality of poetry, and, like
JAMES MACKINTOSH: Life, ii., ch. iii. See chaps.
i., ii., vii.

REMARKS ON A PROPOSED ABOLITION OF
CHRISTIANITY.

I am very sensible how much the gentlemen of wit and pleasure are apt to murmur and be shocked at the sight of so many daggle-tail parsons, who happen to fall in their way, and offend their eyes; but, at the same time, those wise reformers do not consider what an advantage and felicity it is for great wits to be always provided with objects of scorn and contempt, in order to exercise and improve their talents, and other, or on themselves; especially when divert their spleen frem falling on each mens both of sentiments and expressions. His Tale of a Tub' has little resemblance to his other all this may be done without the least impieces. It exhibits a vehemence and rapidity of aginable danger to their persons. And to mind, a copiousness of images, and vivacity of urge another argument of a parallel nature: diction such as he afterwards never possessed or if Christianity were once abolished, how never exerted. It is of a mode so distinct and pecu- could the free-thinkers, the strong reasonliar that it must be considered by itself; what is true of that is not true of anything else which he ers, and the men of profound learning, be ["What a genius I had when able to find another subject so calculated in I wrote that book!"-Swift, in old age.] In his all points whereon to display their abilities? other works is found an equable tenour of easy What wonderful productions of wit should language, which rather trickles than flows. His we be deprived of from those whose genius, delight was in simplicity. That he has in his by continual practice, hath been wholly works no metaphor, as has been said, is not true; turned upon raillery and invectives against but his few metaphors seem to be received rather by necessity than choice. His style was well religion, and would, therefore, be never suited to his thoughts, which are never subtleised able to shine or distinguish themselves on by nice disquisitions, decorated by sparkling con- any other subject? We are daily complainceits, elevated by ambitious sentences, or varie-ing of the great decline of wit among us, and gated by far-sought learning. . . . In the poetical works of Dr. Swift there is not much upon which the critic can exercise his powers. They are often humorous, almost always light, and have the qualities which recommend such compositions, easiness and gayety. They are, for the most part,

has written. . . .

what their author intended. The diction is cor

rect, the numbers are smooth, and the rhymes exact. There seldom occurs a hard-laboured expression, or a redundant epithet; all his verses exemplify his own definition of good style, they consist of proper words in proper places."-DR. JOHNSON: Life of Swift, in Cunningham's ed. of Johnson's Lives of the English Poets, 1854, iii. 190, 191, 199: q. v. (Index) for the editor's illustrative Notes. See also Croker's Boswell's John

son, Index.

"His style is, in its kind, one of the models of English composition: it is proper, pure, precise, perspicuous, significant, nervous, deriving a certain dignity from a masterly contempt of puerile ornaments, in which every word seems to convey the intended meaning with the decision of the writer's character; not adapted, indeed, to express nice distinctions of thought or shades of feeling, or to convey those new and large ideas which must be illustrated by imagery but qualified beyond any other to discuss the common business of life in such a manner as to convince and persuade the generality of men, and, where occasion

would we take away the greatest, perhaps the only, topic we have left? Who would ever have suspected Asgill for a wit, or Toland for a philosopher, if the inexhaustible stock of Christianity had not been at hand to provide them with materials? What other subject through all art or nature could have produced Tindal for a profound is the wise choice of the subject that alone author, or furnished him with readers? It adorneth and distinguisheth the writer. For had a hundred such pens as these been employed on the side of religion, they would immediately have sunk into silence and oblivion.

Nor do I think it wholly groundless, or my fears altogether imaginary, that the abolishing of Christianity may, perhaps, bring the church in danger, or at least put the senate to the trouble of another securing vote. I desire I may not be misunderstood: I am far from presuming to affirm or think that the church is in danger at present, or as things now stand, but we know not how soon it may be so, when the Christian religion is repealed. As plausible as this pro

ject seems, there may a dangerous design lurk under it. Nothing can be more notorious than that the atheists, deists, socinians, anti-trinitarians, and other subdivisions of free-thinkers, are persons of little zeal for the present ecclesiastical establishment. Their declared opinion is for repealing the sacramental test; they are very indifferent with regard to ceremonies; nor do they hold the jus divinum of episcopacy. Therefore this may be intended as one politic step towards altering the constitution of the church established, and setting up presbytery in its stead; which I leave to be farther considered by those at the helm.

And therefore if, notwithstanding all I have said, it shall still be thought necessary to have a bill brought in for repealing Christianity, I would humbly offer an amendment, that, instead of the word Christianity, may be put religion in general; which I conceive will much better answer all the good ends proposed by the projectors of it. For as long as we leave in being a God and his Providence, with all the necessary consequences which curious and inquisitive men will be apt to draw from such premises, we do not strike at the root of the evil, although we should ever so effectually annihilate the present scheme of the Gospel. For of what use is freedom of thought if it will not produce freedom of action, which is the sole end, how remote soever in appearance, of all objections against Christianity? And therefore the free-thinkers consider it a sort of edifice, wherein all the parts have such a mutual dependence on each other, that if you happen to pull out one single nail the whole fabric must fall to the ground.

THOUGHTS AND APHORISMS.

If the men of wit and genius would resolve never to complain in their works of critics and detractors, the next age would not know that they ever had any.

Imaginary evils soon become real ones by indulging our reflections on them, as he who in a melancholy fancy sees something like a face on the wall or the wainscoat can, by two or three touches with a lead pencil, make it look visible and agreeing with what he fancied.

Men of great parts are often unfortunate in the management of public business, because they are apt to go out of the common road by the quickness of their imagination. This I once said to my Lord Bolingbroke, and desired he would observe that the clerks in his office used a sort of ivory knife with a blunt edge to divide a sheet of paper, which never failed to cut it even, only requiring a steady hand; whereas if they

should make use of a sharp penknife, the sharpness would make it often go out of the crease and disfigure the paper.

"He who does not provide for his own house," St. Paul says, "is worse than an infidel;" and I think he who provides only for his own house is just equal with an infidel.

I never yet knew a wag (as the term is) who was not a dunce.

When we desire or solicit anything, our minds run wholly on the good side or circumstances of it; when it is obtained, our minds run wholly on the bad ones.

The latter part of a wise man's life is taken up in curing the follies, prejudices. and false opinions he had contracted in the former.

Would a writer know how to behave himself with relation to posterity, let him consider in old books what he finds that he is glad to know, and what omissions he most laments.

One argument to prove that the common relations of ghosts and spectres are generally false, may be drawn from the opinion held that spirits are never seen by more than one person at a time; that is to say, it seldom happens to above one person in a company to be possessed with any high degree of spleen or melancholy.

It is pleasant to observe how free the present age is in laying taxes on the next: "Future ages shall talk of this;" This shall be famous to all posterity:" whereas their time and thoughts will be taken up about present things, as ours are now.

I never heard a finer piece of satire against lawyers than that of astrologers, when they pretend by rules of art to tell when a suit will end, and whether to the advantage of the plaintiff or defendant; thus making the matter depend entirely upon the influence of the stars, without the least regard to the merits of the cause.

I have known some men possessed of good qualities, which were very serviceable to others but useless to themselves: like a sundial on the front of a house, to inform the neighbours and passengers, but not the owner within.

If a man would register all his opinions upon love, politics, religion, learning, &c., beginning from his youth, and so go on to old age, what a bundle of inconsistencies and contradictions would appear at last!

The stoical scheme of supplying our wants by lopping off our desires, is like cutting off our feet when we want shoes.

The reason why so few marriages are happy is, because young ladies spend their time in making nets, not in making cages.

The power of fortune is confessed only by

the miserable, for the happy impute all their success to prudence or merit. Complaint is the largest tribute heaven receives, and the sincerest part of our devotion.

The common fluency of speech in many men, and most women, is owing to a scarcity of matter, and a scarcity of words: for whoever is a master of language, and hath a mind full of ideas, will be apt in speaking to hesitate upon the choice of both; whereas common speakers have only one set of ideas, and one set of words to clothe them in; and these are always ready at the mouth so people come faster out of church when it is almost empty than when a crowd is at the door.

WILLIAM WHISTON,

born 1667, died 1752, was author of many mathematical and theological works (some of them opposed to trinitarian views), and published a Translation of Josephus, Lond., 1737, etc., which has been, or ought to be, superseded by the translation of Rev. Dr. Robert Traill, Lond., 1846-51, 3 vols. superroyal 8vo. Among his works were: New Theory of the Earth, Lond., 1696, 8vo; Vindication of the New Theory, Lond., 1698, Svo; Short View of the Chronology of the Old Testament, and of the Harmony of the Four Evangelists, Camb., 1702, 4to, 1707, 4to; Essay on the Revelation of St. John, Camb., 1706, 4to, some large paper, 2d ed., Lond., 1744, 4to; The Accomplishment of Scripture Prophecies: Boyle Lecture, Camb., 1708, 8vo; Primitive Christianity Revived, Lond., 1711-12, 5 vols. 8vo; Sir Isaac Newton's Mathematical Philosophy Demonstrated, Lond., 1716, 8vo; Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Mr. William Whiston, Lond., 1749-50, 3 vols. 8vo.

"The Memoirs of this singular man, published by himself, contain some curious information respecting his times, and afford a view of great honesty and disinterestedness, combined with an extraordinary degree of superstition and love of the marvellous."—Orme's Bibl. Bib., 467.

"The honest, pious, visionary Whiston."-GIBBON: Decline and Fall, ch. xliii., n.

"Poor Whiston, who believed in everything but the Trinity."-LORD MACAULAY: Hist. of Eng., viii., ch. xiv., n.

ON THE EVIDENCES OF DIVINE REVELATION. I cannot but heartily wish, for the common good of all the sceptics and unbelievers of this age, that I could imprint in their minds all that real evidence for natural and for revealed religion that now is, or during my past inquiries has been, upon my own mind thereto relating; and that their temper of mind were such as that this evidence

might afford them as great satisfaction as it has myself. But though this entire communication of the evidence that is or has been in my own mind, for the certainty of natural religion, and of the Jewish and Christian institutions, be, in its own nature, impossible, yet I hope I may have leave to address myself to all, especially to the sceptics and unbelievers of our age; to do what I am able for them in this momentous concern; and to lay before them, as briefly and seriously as I can, a considerable number of those arguments which have the greatest weight with me, as to the hardest part of what is here desired and expected from them. I mean the belief of revealed religion, or of the Jewish and Christian institutions, as contained in the books of the Old and New Testament. But to waive farther prelimimake me believe the Bible to be true are the naries, some of the principal reasons which following:

1. The Bible lays the law of nature for

its foundation; and all along supports and assists natural religion; as every true revelation ought to do.

mathematic sciences do confirm the accounts 2. Astronomy and the rest of our certain of Scripture, so far as they are concerned.

3. The most ancient and best historical accounts now known do, generally speaking, confirm the accounts of Scripture, so far as they are concerned.

4. The more learning has increased the more certain in general do the Scripture accounts appear, and its more difficult places are more cleared thereby.

5. There are, or have been generally, standing memorials preserved of the certain truths of the principal historical facts, which were constant evidences for the certainty of them.

6. Neither the Mosaical law, nor the Christian religion, could possibly have been received and established without such miracles as the sacred history contains.

7. Although the Jews all along hated and persecuted the prophets of God, yet were they forced to believe they were true prophets, and their writings of divine inspiration.

8. The ancient and present state of the Jewish nation are strong arguments for the truth of their law, and of the Scripture prophecy relating to them.

9. The ancient and present state of the Christian church are also strong arguments for the truth of their law, and of the Scripture prophecies relating thereto.

10. The miracles whereon the Jewish and Christian religion are founded were of old owned to be true by their very enemies.

11. The sacred writers, who lived in times and places so remote from one another, do

yet all carry on one and the same grand design, viz., that of the salvation of mankind by the worship of and obedience to the one true God, in and through the King Messiah, which without a divine conduct could never have been done.

12. The principal doctrines of the Jewish and Christian religion are agreeable to the most ancient traditions of all other nations. 13. The difficulties relating to this religion are not such as affect the truth of the facts, but the conduct of Providence, the reasons of which the sacred writers never pretended fully to know, or to reveal to mankind.

14. Natural religion, which is yet so certain in itself, is not without such difficulties as to the conduct of Providence as are objected to revelation.

15. The sacred history has the greatest marks of truth, honesty, and impartiality of all other histories whatsoever; and withal has none of the known marks of knavery and imposture.

16. The predictions of Scripture have been still fulfilled in the several ages of the world whereto they belong.

17. No opposite systems of the universe, or schemes of divine revelation, have any tolerable pretences to be true but those of the Jews and Christians.

These are the plain and obvious arguments which persuade me of the truth of the Jewish and Christian revelations.

SIR RICHARD STEELE, the friend of Addison, born in Dublin, 1671, died 1729, was the author of The Christian Hero, Lond., 1701, 8vo, of plays, political and other treatises, and of many papers in The Tatler, The Spectator, and The Guardian. "Steele seems to have gone into his closet chiefly

to set down what he observed out of doors. Addi

son seems to have spent most of his time in his study, and to have spun out and wire-drawn the hints which he borrowed from Steele or took from nature, to the utmost. I am far from wishing to depreciate Addison's talents, but I am anxious to do justice to Steele, who was, I think, upon the whole, a less artificial and more original writer. The humorous descriptions of Steele resemble loose sketches, or fragments of a comedy; those of Addison are rather comments, or ingenious paraphrases, on the original text."-HAZLITT: Lects. on the English Comic, Lect. V. See also Lect. VIII.

"The great, the appropriate praise of Steele is, to have been the first who, after the licentious age of Charles the Second, endeavoured to introduce the Virtues on the stage."-DR. DRAKE: Essays Illustrative of The Tatler, etc., 2d ed., 1814, i. 58.

ON TEARS.

"What I would have you treat of, is the cause of shedding tears. I desire you would

|

discuss it a little, with observations upon the various occasions which provoke us to that expression of our concern, &c."

To obey this complaisant gentleman, I know no way so short as examining the va rious touches of my own bosom, on several occurrences in a long life, to the evening of which I am arrived, after as many various incidents as anybody has met with. I have often reflected that there is a great similitude in the motions of the heart in mirth and in sorrow; and I think the usual occasion of the latter, as well as the former, is something which is sudden and unexpected. The mind has not a sufficient time to recollect its force, and immediately gushes into tears before we can utter ourselves by speech or complaint. The most notorious causes of these drops from our eyes are pity, sorrow, joy, and reconciliation.

The fair sex, who are made of man and not of earth, have a more delicate humanity than we have; and pity is the most common cause of their tears; for as we are inwardly composed of an aptitude to every circumstance of life, and everything that befalls any one person might have happened to any other of the human race, self-love, and a sense of the pain we ourselves should suffer in the circumstances of any whom we pity, is the cause of that compassion. Such a reflection in the breast of a woman immediately inclines her to tears; but in a man, it makes him think how such a one ought to act on that occasion suitably to the dignity of his nature. Thus a woman is ever moved for those whom she hears lament, and a man for those whom he observes to suffer in silence. It is a man's own behaviour in the circumstances he is under which procures him the esteem of others, and not merely the affliction itself, which demands our pity: for we never give a man that passion which he falls into for himself. He that commends himself never purchases our applause; nor he that bewails himself our pity. . . . In the tragedy of "Macbeth" where Wilks acts the part of a man whose family has been murdered in his absence, the wildness of his passion, which is run over in a torrent of calamitous circumstances, does but raise my spirits, and give me the alarm; but when he skilfully seems to be out of breath, and is brought too low to say more; and upon a second reflection cries only, wiping his eyes, "What, both children! Both, both my children gone!" there is no resisting a sorrow which seems to have cast about for all the reasons possible for its consolation, but has no resource. "There is not one left; but both, both are murdered !" such sudden starts from the thread of the discourse, and a plain sentiment expressed

in an artless way, are the irresistible strokes of eloquence and poetry. The same great master, Shakspeare, can afford us instances of all the places where our souls are accessible; and ever commands our tears. But it is to be observed that he draws them from some unexpected source, which seems not wholly of a piece with the discourse. Thus, when Brutus and Cassius had a debate in the tragedy of "Cæsar," and rose to warm language against each other, insomuch that it had almost come to something that might be fatal, until they recollected themselves, Brutus does more than make an apology for the heat he had been in, by saying, "Portia is dead." Here Cassius is all tenderness, and ready to dissolve, when he considers that the mind of his friend had been employed on the greatest affliction imaginable, when he had been adding to it by a debate on trifles; which makes him, in the anguish of his heart, cry out, "How 'scaped I killing, when I thus provoked you?" This is an incident which moves the soul in all its sentiments; and Cassius's heart was at once touched with all the soft pangs of pity, and remorse, and reconciliation. It is said, indeed, by Horace, "If you would have me weep, you must first weep yourself." This is not literally true; for it would have been as rightly said, if we observe nature," That I shall certainly weep, if you do not; but what is intended by that expression is, that it is not possible to give passion except you shew that you suffer yourself. Therefore the true art seems to be, that when you would have the person you represent pitied, you must shew him at once in the highest grief; and struggling to bear it with decency and patience. In this case, we sigh for him, and give him every groan he suppresses.

The Tatler, No. 68, September 15, 1709.

[blocks in formation]

over next; and our reason surrenders itself with pleasure in the end. Thus the whole soul is insensibly betrayed into morality by bribing the faney with beautiful and agreeable images of those very things that in the books of the philosophers appear austere, and have at the best but a forbidding aspect. In a word, the poets do, as it were, strew the rough paths of virtue so full of flowers, that we are not sensible of the uneasiness of them; and imagine ourselves in the midst of pleasures, and the most bewitching allurements, at the time we are making progress in the severest duties of life. All men agree that licentious poems do, of all writings, soonest corrupt the heart. And why should we not be as universally persuaded that the grave and serious performances of such as write in the most engaging manner, by a kind of divine impulse, must be the most effectual persuasives to goodness? If, therefore, I were blessed with a son, in order to the forming of his manners, which is making him truly my son, I should be continually putting into his hand some fine poet. The graceful sentences, and the manly sentiments, so frequently to be met with in every great and sublime writer, are, in my judgment, the most ornamental and valuable furniture that can be for a young gentleman's head; methinks they shew like so much rich embroidery upon the brain. Let me add to this, that humanity and tenderness, without which there can be no true greatness in the mind, are inspired by the Muses in such pathetic language, that all we find in prose authors towards the raising and improving of these passions is, in comparison, but cold or lukewarm at the best. There is besides a certain elevation of soul, a sedate magnanimity, and a noble turn of virtue, that distinguishes the hero from the plain, honest man, to which verse only can raise us. The bold metaphors, and sounding numbers, peculiar to the poets, rouse up all our sleeping faculties, and alarm the whole powers of the soul, much like that excellent trumpeter mentioned by Virgil:

Quo non præstantior alter
Ære ciere viros, Martemque accendere cantu.
Virg. Æn., vi. 164.
None so renown'd
With breathing brass to kindle fierce alarms.
DRYDEN."
The Tatler, No. 98, November 24, 1709.
ON CASTLE-BUILDING.

[blocks in formation]
« EelmineJätka »