Page images
PDF
EPUB

over wit, and it was never afked whether he had ftrength. We hear no exceptions against the beauty of Minerva, or the wisdom of Venus. Thefe wife heathens were glad to immortalize any one ferviceable gift, and overTook all imperfections in the perfon who had it but with us it is far otherwife, for we reject many eminent virtues, if they are accompanied with one apparent weakness. The reflecting after this manner, made me account for the ftrange delight men take in reading lampoons and fcandal, with which the age abounds, and of which I receive frequent complaints. Upon mature confideration, I find it is principally for this reafon, that the worst of mankind, the libellers, receive so much encouragement in the world. The low race of men take a fecret pleasure in finding an eminent character levelled to their condition by a report of its defects, and keep themselves in countenance, though they are excelled in a thousand virtues, if they believe they have in common with a great perfon any one fault. The libeller falls in with this humour, and gratifies this bafenefs of temper, which is naturally an enemy to extraordinary merit. It is from this, that libel and fatire are promifcuoufly joined together in the notions of the vulgar, though the fatirift and libeller differ as much as the magiftrate and the murderer. In the confideration of human life, the fatirift never falls upon perfons who are not glaringly faulty, and the libeller on none but who are confpicuoufly commendable. Were I to expose any vice in a good or great man, it fhould certainly be by correcting it in fome one where that crime was the moft diftinguishing part of the character; as pages are chaftized for the admonition of princes. When it is performed otherwife, the vicious are kept in credit, by placing men of merit in the fame accufation. But all the pafquils, lampoons and libels, we meet with now a days, are a fort of playing with the four and twenty letters, and throwing them into names and characters, without fenfe, truth or wit. In this cafe, I am in great perplexity to know whom they mean, and fhould be in diftrefs for those they abuse, if I did not fee their judgment and ingenuity in thofe they commend. This is the

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

the true way of examining a libel; and when men
confider, that no one man living thinks the better of
their heroes and patrons for the panegyrick given them,
none can think themselves leffened by their invective.
The hero or patron in a libel, is but fcavenger to
carry off the dirt, and by that very employment is the
filthiest creature in the street. Dedications and pane-
gyricks are frequently ridiculous, let them be addressed
where they will; but at the front, or in the body of a
libel, to commend a man, is faying to the perfon ap-
plauded, "My Lord, or Sir, I have pulled down all
men that the reft of the world think great and ho-
"nourable, and here is a clear ftage; you may as you.
please be valiant or wife; you may choose to be on
"the military or civil lift; for there is no one brave who
"commands, or juft who has power: You may rule
"the world now it is empty, which exploded you when
"it was full: I have knocked out the brains of all
"whom mankind thought good for any thing; and J
"doubt not, but you will reward that invention, which
"found out the only expedient to make your lordship,
or your worship, of any confideration."

<s

Had I the honour to be in a libel, and had efcaped the approbation of the author, I fhould look upon it: exactly in this manner. But though it is a thing thus perfectly indifferent, who is exalted or debased in fuch. performances, yet it is not fo with relation to the authors of them; therefore I fhall, for the good of my country, hereafter take upon me to punish these wretches. What is already paffed, may die away according to its nature, and continue in its prefent oblivion; but for the future, I fhall take notice of fuch enemies to honour and virtue, and preferve them to immortal infamy: their namesfhall give fresh offence many ages hence, and be detefted à thousand years after the commiffion of their crime. It fhall not avail, that thefe children of infamy publish their works under feigned names, or under none at all; for I am fo perfectly well acquainted with the ftyles of all my contemporaries, that I fhall not fail of doing. them juftice, with their proper names, and at their full length. Let therefore thefe mifcreants enjoy their

N 3

prefent

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

prefent act of oblivion, and take care how they offend hereafter.

But to avert our eyes from fuch objects, it is methinks but requifite to fettle our opinion in the case of praife and blame and I believe, the only true way to cure that fenfibility of reproach, which is a common weakness with the moft virtuous men, is to fix their regard firmly upon only what is strictly true, in relation to their advantage, as well as diminution. For if I am pleafed with commendation which I do not deferve, 1 fhall from the fame temper be concerned at fcandal I do not deferve. But he that can think of false applause with as much contempt as falfe detraction, will certainly be prepared for all adventures, and will become all occafions. Unreferved praife can pleafe only those who want merit, and undeferved reproach frighten only thofe who want fincerity. I have thought of this with fo much attention, that I fancy there can be no other method in nature found for the cure of that delicacy, which gives good men pain under calumny, but placing fatisfaction no where but in a juft fenfe of their own integrity, without regard to the opinion of others. If we have not fuch a foundation as this, there is no help against fcandal, but being in obfcurity, which to noble minds is not being at all. The truth of it is, this love of praife dwells moft in great and heroic fpirits; and those who beft deferve it, have generally the moft exquifite relish of it. Methinks I fee the renowned Alexander, after a painful and laborious march, amidst the heats of a parched foil and a burning climate, fitting over the head of a fountain, and after a draught of water pronounce that memorable faying, Oh Athenians! how much do I fuffer that you may fpeak well of me? The Athenians were at that time the learned of the world, and their libels against Alexander were written as he was a profeffed enemy of their flate but how monftrous would fuch invectives have appeared in Macedonians.

As love of reputation is a darling paffion in great men, fo the defence of them in this particular is the bufinefs of every man of honour and honefty. fhould run on fuch an occafion (as if a public building

We

was

was on fire) to their relief; and all who fpread or publith fuch deteftable pieces as traduce their merit, should be used like incendiaries. It is the common caufe of our country to fupport the reputation of those who preferve it againft invaders; and every man is attacked in the perfon of that neighbour who deferves well of him.

On the Ufe of focial Intercourfe between Perfons of dif ferent Ages and Profeffions. [Connoiffeur, No. 78.]

To Mr. TOWN.

N

WOTHING is more neceffary, in order to wear off any particularities in our behaviour, or to root out any perverfenefs in our opinions, than mixing with perfons of ages and occupations different from our Own. Whofoever confines himself entirely to the fociety of those who are engaged in the fame purfuits, and whofe thoughts naturally take the fame turn with his own, acquires a certain ftiffness and pedantry of behaviour, which is fure to make him difagreeable, except in one particular fet of company. Inftead of cramping the mind by keeping it within fo narrow a circle, we fhould endeavour to enlarge it by every worthy notion and accomplishment; and temper each qualification with it's oppofite, as the four elements are com pounded in our natural frame.

The neceffity of this free converfation, to open and improve the mind, is evident from the confequences, which always follow a neglect of it. The employment each man is engaged in, wholly engroffes his attention, and tinges the mind with a peculiar die, which fhews itfelf in all the operations of it, unless prevented by natural good fenfe or a liberal education. The phyfician, the lawyer, and the tradefman will appear in company, though none of thofe occupations are the subject of difcourfe; and the clergyman will grow morofe and fevere, who feldom or never converfes with the laity. N4 If

SIR,

If no particular profeffion has this influence over us, fome darling paffion or amufement gives a colour to our thoughts and actions, and makes us odious or at leaft ridiculous. Fine ladies, for inftance, by defpifing the converfation of fenfible men, can talk of nothing but routs, balls, affemblies, birth-day fuits, and intrigues, and fine gentlemen, for the fame reason, of almost nothing at all. In like manner the furious partizan, who has not been weaned from a mad attachment to particular principles, is weak enough to imagine every man of a different way of thinking a fool and a fcoundrel; and the fectary or zealot devotes to eternal damnation all thofe, who will not go to heaven in the fame road with himself, under the guidance of Whitefeld, Wesley, or Count Zinzendorff. To the fame caufe we owe the rough country fquire, whofe ideas are wholly bent on guns, dogs, hoifes, and game; and who has every thing about him of a piece with his diverfions. His hall must be adorned with ftags heads, inftead of bus and Ratues; and in the room of family pictures, you will fee prints of the moft famous ftallions and racehorfes: all his doors open and shut with foxes feet; and even the buttons of his cloaths are impreffed with the figures of dogs, foxes, ftags, and horfes. To this abfurd practice of cultivating only one fet of ideas, and shutting ourselves out from any intercourfe with the reft of the world, is owing that narrowness of mind, which has infected the converfation of the polite world with infipidity, made roughness and brutality the characteriftics of a mere country gentleman, and produced the moft fatal confequences in politics and religion.

But if this commerce with the generality of mankind is fo neceffary to remove any impreffions, which we may be liable to receive from any particular employment or darling amufement, what precautions ought to be used, in order to remedy the inconveniences naturally brought on us by the different ages of life! It is not certain that a perfon will be engaged in any profeffion, or given up to any peculiar kind of pleafure; but the mind of every man is fubject to the inclinations arifing from the feveral stages of his existence, as well as his body to chronical

« EelmineJätka »