Page images

all relations of events do not entertain in the same degree.

It is always necessary that facts should appear to be produced in a regular and connected series, that they should follow in a quick succession, and yet that they should be delivered with discriminating circumstances. If they have not a necessary and apparent connexion, the ideas which they excite obliterate each other, and the mind is tantalized with an imperfect glimpse of innumerable objects that just appear and vanish; if they are too minutely related they become tiresome; and if divested of all their circumstances, insipid: for who that reads in a | table of chronology, or an index, that a city was swallowed up by an earthquake, or a kingdom depopulated by a pestilence, finds either his attention engaged or his curiosity gratified?

Those narratives are most pleasing which not only excite and gratify curiosity, but engage the passions.

History is a relation of the most natural and important events: history, therefore, gratifies curiosity, but it does not often excite either terror or pity; the mind feels not that tenderness for a falling state which it feels for an injured beauty; nor is it so much alarmed at the migration of barbarians who mark their way with desolation and fill the world with violence and rapine, as at the fury of a husband, who, deceived into jealousy by false appearances, stabs a faithful and affectionate wife, kneeling at his feet, and pleading to be heard.

Voyages and travels have nearly the same excellences, and the same defects: no passion is strongly excited except wonder; or if we feel any emotion at the danger of the traveller, it is transient and languid, because his character is not rendered sufficiently important; he is rarely discovered to have any excellencies but daring curiosity; he is never the object of admiration and seldom of esteem.

Biography would always engage the passions if it could sufficiently gratify curiosity: but there have been few among the whole human species whose lives would furnish a single adventure: I mean such a complication of circumstances as hold the mind in an anxious yet pleasing suspense, and gradually unfold in the production of some unforeseen and important event; much less such a series of facts as will perpetually vary the scene, and gratify the fancy, with new views of life. But nature is now exhausted: all her wonders have been accumulated, every recess has been explored, deserts have been traversed, Alps climbed, and the secrets of the deep disclosed; time has been compelled to restore the empires and the heroes of antiquity; all

have passed in review; yet fancy requires new gratifications, and curiosity is still unsatisfied.

The resources of Art yet remain: the simple beauties of nature, if they cannot be multiplied, may be compounded, and an infinite variety produced, in which by the union of different graces both may be heightened, and the coalition of different powers may produce a proportionate effect.

The Epic Poem at once gratifies curiosity and moves the passions; the events are various and important; but it is not the fate of a nation, but of the hero, in which they terminate, and whatever concerns the hero engages the passions: the dignity of his character, his merit, and his importance, compel us to follow him with reverence and solicitude, to tremble when he is in danger, to weep when he suffers, and to burn when he is wronged: with the vicissitudes of passion every heart attends Ulysses in his wanderings and Achilles to the field.

Upon this occasion the Old Romance may be considered as a kind of Epic, since it was intended to produce the same effect upon the mind nearly by the same means.

In both these species of writing truth is apparently violated: but though the events are not always produced by probable means, yet the pleasure arising from the story is not much lessened; for fancy is still captivated with variety, and passion has scarce leisure to reflect that she is agitated with the fate of imaginary beings, and interested in events that never happened.

The Novel, though it bears a near resemblance to truth, has yet less power of entertainment; for it is confined within the narrower bounds of probability, the number of incidents is necessarily diminished, and if it deceives us more, it surprises us less. The distress is indeed frequently tender, but the narrative often stands still; the lovers compliment each other in tedious letters and set speeches; trivial circumstances are enumerated with a minute exactness, and the reader is wearied with languid descriptions and impertinent declamations.

But the most extravagant, and yet perhaps the most generally pleasing, of all literary performances are those in which supernatural events are every moment produced by Genii and Fairies: such are the Arabian Nights' Entertainment, the Tales of the Countess d'Anois, and many others of the same class. It may be thought strange that the mind should with pleasure acquiesce in the open violation of the most known and obvious truths; and that relations which contradict all experience, and exhibit a series of events that are not only impossible but ridiculous, should be read by

almost every taste and capacity with equal eagerness and delight. . .

Dramatic Poetry, especially tragedy, seems to unite all that pleases in each of these species of writing, with a stronger resemblance of truth, and a closer imitation of nature: the characters are such as excite attention and solicitude; the action is important, its progress is intricate yet natural, and the catastrophe is sudden and striking; and as we are present to every transaction, the images are more strongly impressed, and the passions more forcibly moved.

The Adventurer, No. 4, Saturday, November 18, 1752.


Among other favourite and unsuspected topics is the excellency of virtue. Virtue is said necessarily to produce its own happiness, and to be constantly and adequately its own reward; as vice, on the contrary, never fails to produce misery, and inflict upon itself the punishment it deserves: propositions of which every one is ready to affirm that they may be admitted without scruple and believed without danger. But from hence it is inferred that future rewards and punishments are not necessary either to furnish adequate motives to the practice of virtue, or to justify the ways of God. In consequence of their being not necessary, they become doubtful; the Deity is less and less the object of fear and hope; and as virtue is said to be that which produces ultimate good below, whatever is supposed to produce ultimate good below is said to be virtue: right and wrong are confounded, because remote consequences cannot perfectly be known; the principal barrier by which appetite and passion is restrained is broken down; the remonstrances of conscience are overborne by sophistry; and the acquired and habitual shame of vice is dued by the perpetual efforts of vigorous resistance.

happy than those who, with the same degree of virtue, enjoy health, and ease, and plenty, who are distinguished by fame, and courted by society; it follows that virtue alone is not efficient of happiness, because virtue cannot always bestow those things upon which happiness is confessed to depend.

It is indeed true that virtue in prosperity enjoys more than vice, and that in adversity she suffers less: if prosperity and adversity, therefore, were merely accidental to virtue and vice, it might be granted that setting aside those things upon which moral conduct has no influence, as foreign to the question, every man is happy, either negatively or positively, in proportion as he is Virtuous: though it were denied that virtue alone could put into his possession all that is essential to human felicity.

But prosperity and adversity, affluence and want, are not independent upon moral conduct: external advantages are frequently obtained by vice, and forfeited by virtue; for as an estate may be gained by secreting a will, or loading a die, an estate may also be lost by withholding a vote, or rejecting a job.

[ocr errors]

If it be possible by a single act of vice to increase happiness upon the whole of life, from what rational motives can the temptation to that act be resisted? From none, surely, but such as arise from the belief of a future state in which virtue will be rewarded and vice punished: for to what can happiness be wisely sacrificed but to greater happiness? and how can the ways of God be justified, if a man by the irreparable injury of his neighbour becomes happier upon the whole, than he would have been if he had observed the eternal rule, and done to another as he would that another should do to him? Perhaps I may be told that to talk of sacrificing happiness to greater happiness, as virtue, is absurd; and that he who is resub-strained from fraud or violence merely by the fear of hell, is no more virtuous than he who is restrained merely by the fear of the gibbet.

But the inference from which these dreadful consequences proceed, however plausible, is not just; nor does it appear from experience that the premises are true. That "virtue alone is happiness below," is indeed a maxim in speculative morality, which all the treasures of learning have been lavished to support, and all the flowers of wit collected to recommend; it has been the favourite of some among the wisest and best of mankind in every generation; and is at once venerable for its age and lovely in the bloom of a new youth. And yet if it be allowed that they who languish in disease and indigence, who suffer pain, hunger, and nakedness, in obscurity and solitude, are less

But supposing this to be true, yet with respect to society mere external rectitude answers all the purposes of virtue; and if I travel without being robbed, it is of little consequence to me whether the persons

whom I meet on the road were restrained from attempting to invade my property by the fear of punishment or the abhorrence of vice: so that the gibbet, if it does not produce virtue, is yet of such incontestable utility, that I believe those gentlemen would be very unwilling that it should be removed, who are, notwithstanding, so zealous to steel every breast against the fear of damnation: nor would they be content, however

negligent of their souls, that their property should be no otherwise secured than by the power of Moral Beauty, and the prevalence of ideal enjoyments.

The Adventurer, No. 10, Saturday, December 9, 1752.


Of the duties and the privileges of religion, prayer is generally acknowledged to be the chief: and yet I am afraid that there are few who will not be able to recollect some seasons in which their unwillingness to pray has been more than in proportion to the labour and the time that it required; seasons in which they would have been less willing to repeat a prayer than any other composition; and rather than have spent five minutes in an address to God, would have devoted an equal space of time wholly to the convenience of another, without any enjoyment or advantage to themselves.

[ocr errors]

A man who lives apparently without religion declares to the world that he is without virtue, however he may otherwise conceal his vices: for when the obstacles to virtue are surmounted, the obstacles to religion are few. What should restrain him who has broken the bonds of appetite from rising at the call to devotion? Will not he who has accomplished a work of difficulty secure his reward at all events, when to secure it is easy? Will not he that has panted in the race stretch forth his hand to receive the prize?

It may, perhaps, be expected that from this general censure I should except those who believe that all religion is the contrivance of tyranny and cunning; and that every human action which has Deity for its object is enthusiastic and absurd. But of these there are few who do not give other evidence of their want of virtue than their neglect of religion; and even of this few it must be acknowledged that they have not equal motives to virtue, and therefore to say that they have not equal virtue, is only to affirm that effects are proportionate to their causes: a proposition which, I am confident, no philosopher will deny.

By these motives I do not mean merely the hope and fear of future reward and punishment; but such as arise from the exercise of religious duties, both in public and private, and especially of prayer.

I know that concerning the operation and effects of prayer there has been much doubtful disputation, in which innumerable metaphysical subtilties have been introduced, and the understanding has been bewildered in sophistry, and affronted with jargon.

Those who have no other proof of the fitness and advantage of a prayer than are to be found among these speculations are but little acquainted with the practice.

He who has acquired an experimental knowledge of this duty knows that nothing so forcibly restrains from ill as the remembrance of a recent address to Heaven for protection and assistance. After having petitioned for power to resist temptation, there is so great an incongruity in not continuing the struggle, that we blush at the thought, and persevere, lest we lose all reverence for ourselves. After fervently devoting our souls to God, we start with horror at immediate apostacy. Every act of deliberate wickedness is then complicated with hypocrisy and ingratitude: it is a mockery of the Father of Mercy; the forfeiture of that peace in which we closed our address, and a renunciation of the hope which it inspired.


For a proof of this, let every man ask himself, as in the presence of "Him who searches the heart," whether he has never been deterred from prayer by his fondness for some criminal gratification which he could not with sincerity profess to give up, and which he knew he could not afterward repeat without greater compunction. prayer and immorality appear to be thus incompatible, prayer should not surely be lightly rejected by those who contend that moral virtue is the summit of human perfection; nor should it be encumbered with such circumstances as must inevitably render it less easy and less frequent. It should be considered as the wings of the soul, and should be always ready when a sudden impulse prompts her to spring up to God. We should not think it always necessary to be either in a church, or in our closet, to express joy, love, desire, trust, reverence, or complacency, in the fervour of a silent ejacu lation. Adoration, hope, and even a petition, may be conceived in a moment; and the desire of the heart may ascend, without words, to "Him to whom our thoughts are known afar off." He who considers himself as perpetually in the presence of the Almighty need not fear that gratitude or homage can ever be ill-timed, or that it is profane thus to worship in any circumstances that are not criminal.

There is no preservative from vice equal to this habitual and constant intercourse with God neither does anything equally alleviate distress or heighten prosperity: in distress, it sustains us with hope; and in prosperity, it adds to every other enjoyment the delight of gratitude.

The Adventurer, Saturday, February 10, 1753.

[ocr errors]

ELIZABETH CARTER, born 1717, died 1806, published in 1738 Poems upon Several Occasions, Lond., 4to, some of which were republished, 1762, new editions, 1776, 1789, 8vo; and subsequently gave to the world translations from Anacreon, Cronsaz, and Algorotti; but her great work was All the Works of Epictetus which are now Extant, with an Introduction and Notes by the Translator, Lond., 1758, 4to, 4th edit., Lond., 1807, 2 vols. 8vo. This is an excellent translation. Miss Carter was acquainted with Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, and German. See Memoirs of her Life, by the Rev. M. Pennington, Lond., 1807, 4to, etc.; her Letters to Miss Talbot and Mrs. Vesey, 1808, 2 vols. 4to, and to Mrs. Montagu, 1817, 3 vols. 8vo. Dr. Johnson (see Boswell's Johnson) was a great admirer of this learned and excellent



Stoicism is indeed in many points inferior to the doctrine of Socrates, which did not teach that all externals were indifferent; which did teach a future state of recompense; and agreeably to that, forbade suicide. It doth not belong to the present subject to show how much even this best system is excelled by Christianity. It is sufficient just to observe, that the author of it died in a profession which he had always made of his belief in the popular deities, whose superstitious and impure worship were the great source of corruption in the heathen world; and the last words he uttered were a direction to a friend for the performance of an idolatrous ceremony. This melancholy instance of ignorance and error in the most illustrious character for wisdom and virtue in all heathen antiquity is not mentioned as a reflection on his memory, but as a proof of human weakness in general. Whether reason could have discovered the great truths which in these days are ascribed to it, because now seen so clearly by the light of the Gospel, may be a question; but that it never did, is an undeniable fact; and that is enough to teach us thankfulness for the blessing of a better information. Socrates, who had, of all mankind, the fairest pretensions to set up for an instructor and reformer of the world, confessed that he knew nothing, referred to tradition, and acknowledged the want of a superior guide: and there is a remarkable passage in Epictetus in which he represents it as the office of his supreme God, or of one deputed by him, to appear among mankind as a teacher and example.

Upon the whole, the several sects of

heathen philosophy serve as So many striking instances of the imperfection of human wisdom; and of the extreme need of a divine assistance, to rectify the mistakes of depraved reason, and to replace natural religion on its true foundation. The Stoics every where testify the noblest zeal for virtue and the honour of God; but they attempted to establish them on principles inconsistent with the nature of man, and contradictory to truth and experience. By a direct consequence of these principles they were liable to be seduced, and in fact they were seduced, into pride, hard-heartedness, and the last dreadful extremity of human guilt, self-murder.

But however indefensible the philosophy of the Stoics in several instances may be, it appears to have been of very important use in the Heathen world; and they are, on many accounts, to be considered in a very respectable light.

Their doctrine of evidence and fixed principles was an excellent preservative from the mischiefs that might have arisen from the scepticism of the Academics and Pyrrhonists, if unopposed; and their zealous defence of a particular providence, a valuable antidote to the atheistical scheme of Epicurus. To this may be added, that their strict notions of virtue in most points (for they sadly failed in some), and the lives of several among them, must contribute a great deal to preserve luxurious states from an absolutely universal dissoluteness, and the subjects of arbitrary government from a wretched and contemptible pusillanimity.

Even now, their compositions may be read with great advantage, as containing excellent rules of self-government and of social behaviour; of a noble reliance on the aid and protection of heaven, and of a perfect resignation and submission to the divine will points which are treated with great clearness, and with admirable spirit, in the lessons of the Stoics: and though their directions are seldom practicable, their principles, in trying cases, may be rendered highly useful in subordination to Christian reflections.

If among those who are so unhappy as to remain unconvinced of the truth of Christianity, any are prejudiced against it by the influence of unwarrantable inclinations, such persons will find very little advantage in rejecting the doctrines of the New Testament for those of the Portico; unless they think it an advantage to be laid under moral restraints almost equal to those of the Gospel, while they are deprived of its encouragements and supports. Deviations from the rules of sobriety, justice, and piety meet with small indulgence in the stoic writings;

and they who profess to admire Epictetus, unless they pursue that severely virtuous conduct which he every where proscribes will find themselves treated by him with the utmost degree of scorn and contempt. An immoral character is, indeed, more or less, the outcast of all sects of philosophy; and Seneca quotes even Epicurus to prove the universal obligation of a virtuous life. Of this great truth God never left himself without witness. Persons of distinguished talents and opportunities seem to have been raised, from time to time, by Providence, to check the torrent of corruption, and to preserve the sense of moral obligations on the minds of the multitude, to whom the various occupations of life left but little leisure to form deductions of their own. But then they wanted a proper commission to enforce their precepts; they intermixed with them, through false reasoning, many gross mistakes; and their unavoidable ignorance, in several important points, entangled them with doubts which easily degenerated into pernicious errors.

If there are others, who reject Christianity from motives of dislike to its peculiar doctrines, they will scarcely fail of entertaining more favourable impressions of it, if they can be prevailed on, with impartiality, to compare the Holy Scriptures, from whence alone the Christian religion is to be learned, with the stoic writings; and then fairly to consider whether there is anything to be met with in the discoveries of our blessed Saviour, in the writings of his apostles, or even in the obscurest parts of the prophetic books, by which, equitably interpreted, either their senses or their reason are contradicted, as they are by the paradoxes of these philosophers; and if not, whether notices from above of things in which, though we comprehend them but imperfectly, we are possibly much more interested than at present we discern, ought not to be received with implicit veneration; as useful exercises and trials of that duty which finite understandings owe to infinite wisdom.


born 1717, became fourth Earl of Orford 1791, and died 1797. He was the author of Edes Walpolianæ, Lond.. 1747, 4to; Fugitive Pieces in Prose and Verse, Strawberry Hill, 1758, 8vo; Catalogue of the Royal and Noble Authors of England, Strawberry Hill, 1758, 2 vols. sm. 8vo, by T. Park, Lond., 1806, 5 vols. 8vo; Anecdotes of Painting in England, from the MSS. of George Virtue, Strawberry Hill, 1762-71, '63,

[ocr errors]

5 vols. 4to, by R. N. Wornum, Esq., Lond., 1839, etc., 3 vols. 8vo; The Castle of Otranto, Lond., 1765, 8vo; The Mysterious Mother, a Tragedy, Strawberry Hill, 1768, 8vo; Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard the Third, Lond., 1768, 4to; Memoirs of the Last Ten Years, 1751-1760, of the Reign of King George II., Lond., 1822, 2 vols. royal 4to; Memoirs of the Reign of King George III., Lond., 1845, 4 vols. 8vo; Journal of the Reign of King George the Third, Lond., 1859, 2 vols. demy 8vo; and other works (see Bohn's Lowndes, 28182823). A collective edition of his Letters, by Peter Cunningham, was published, Lond., Bentley, 1857-59, 9 vols. 8vo, Bohn, 1861, 9 vols. demy 8vo. A collective edition of his Works, edited by Robert Berry (and Agnes and Mary Berry), was published, Lond., 1795, 5 vols. 4to.

"Walpole's Letters' are generally considered as his best performances, and, we think, with reason. His faults are far less offensive to us in his correspondence than in his books. His wild, absurd, and ever-changing opinions about men and things scoffing, depreciating disposition does not show are easily pardoned in familiar letters. His bitter, itself in so unmitigated a manner as in his Memoirs.' A writer of letters must be civil and friendly to his correspondent, at least, if to no other person."-LORD MACAULAY: Edin. Rev., lviii. 240, and in his Essays.


The rebels are come into England: for two days we believed them near Lancaster, but the ministry must own that they don't know if they have passed Carlisle. Some think that they will besiege that town, which has an old wall, and all the militia in it of Cumberland and Westmoreland; but as they can pass by it, I don't see why they should take it, for they are not strong enough to leave garrisons. Several desert them as they advance south; and altogether, good men and bad, nobody believes them ten thousand. By their marching westward to avoid Wade, it is evident that they are not strong enough to fight him.

They may yet retire back into their mountains, but if once they get to Lancaster their retreat is cut off: for Wade will not stir from Newcastle till he has embarked them deep into England, and then he will be behind them. He has sent General Handasyde from Berwick with two regiments to take possession of Edinburgh. The rebels are certainly in a very desperate situation: they dared not meet Wade; and if they had waited for him their troops would have deserted. Unless they meet with great risings in their favour in Lancashire, I don't see what they can hope, except from a continuation of our neglect. That, indeed, has nobly exerted

« EelmineJätka »