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very bold, others indifferent, and others frivolous, this author, I say, though otherwise much to be recommended, yet having never been able to make verses, although he possesses imagination and often superiority of style, makes himself amends, by saying that “contempt is heaped upon poetry,” that “ lyric poetry is harmonious extravagance,” &c. Thus do men often seek to depreciate the talents which they cannot attain.
“ We cannot reach it,” says Montaigne; " let us revenge ourselves by speaking ill of it.” But Montaigne, Montesquieu's predecessor and master in imagination and philosophy, thought very differently of poetry.
Had Montesquieu been as just as he was witty, he could not but have felt that several of our fine odes and good operas are worth infinitely more than the
leasantries of Rica to Usbeck, imitated from Dufréni's Siamois, and the details of what passed in Usbeck's seraglio at Ispahan.
We shall speak more fully of this too frequent injustice, in the article CRITICISM.*
(Article dedicated to the King of Prussia.] SIRE,—The small society of amateurs, a part of whom are labouring at these rhapsodies at Mount Krapak, will say nothing to your majesty on the art of war. It is an heroic, or- it may be—an abominable art. If there were any thing fine in it, we would tell your majesty, without fear of contradiction, that you are the finest man in Europe. t
* We suspect that many will differ in opinion with Voltaire, in his parallel between Horace and Boileau; and many more agree with Montesquieu on a tendency in poets to decry acquirements which have little congeniality with their own. The article, however, although too local in its interest, is worth retaining as a general reproof to exclusive predilections.-T.
+ We here omit some very insipid compliment to Frederick; at least it would be so felt at this time.-T.
You know, Sire, the four ages of the arts. Almost every thing sprung up and was brought to perfection under Louis XIV. after which many of these arts, banished from France, went to embellish and enrich the rest of Europe, at the fatal period of the destruction of the celebrated edict of Henry IV. pronounced irrevocable, yet so easily revoked. Thus, the greatest injury which Louis the XIV. could do to himself, did good to other princes against his will: this is proved by what you have said in your history of Brandenburgh.
If that monarch were known only from his banishment of six or seven hundred thousand useful citizens,— from his irruption into Holland, whence he was soon obliged to retreat,-from his greatness, which stayed him at the bank,* while his troops were swimming across the Rhine;—if there were no other monuments of his glory than the prologues to his operas, followed by the battle of Hochstet, his person and his reign would go down to posterity with but little eclât. But the encouragement of all the fine arts by his taste and munificence; the conferring of so many benefits on the literary men of other countries; the rise of his kingdom's commerce at his voice; the establishment of so many manufactories; the building of so many fine citadels; the construction of so many admirable ports; the union of the two seas by immense labour, &c. still oblige Europe to regard Louis XIV. and his age, with respect.
And, above all, those great men, unique in every branch of art and science, whom nature then produced at one time, will render his reign eternally memorable. The age was greater than Louis XIV. but it shed its glory upon him.
Emulation in art has changed the face of the continent, from the Pyrenees to the Icy Sea. There is hardly a prince in Germany who has not made useful and glorious establishments.
* “Sa grandeur, qui l'attachait au rivage."
BOILEAU.—Passage of the Rhine.
What have the Turks done for glory?-Nothing. They have ravaged three empires and twenty kingdoms; but any one city of ancient Greece will always have a greater reputation than all the Ottoman together.*
See what has been done in the course of a few years at Petersburg, which was a bog at the beginning of the seventeenth century. All the arts are there assembled, while in the country of Orpheus, Linus, and Homer, they are annihilated. That the recent Birth of the Arts proves not the recent
Formation of the Globe. All philosophers have thought matter eternal; but the arts appear to be new. Even the art of making bread is of recent origin. The first Romans ate boiled grain; those conquerors of so many nations had neither wind-mil nor water-mills. This truth seems, at first sight, to controvert the doctrine of the antiquity of the globe as it now is, or to suppose
terrible revolutions in it. Irruptions of barbarians can hardly annihilate arts which have become necessary. Suppose that an army of Negroes were to come upon us, like locusts, from the mountains of southern Africa, through Monomotapa, Monoëmugi, &c. traversing Abyssinia, Nubia, Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor, and all Europe, ravaging and overturning everything in its way: there would still be a few bakers, tailors, shoemakers, and carpenters left; the necessary arts would survive; luxury alone would be annihilated. Such was the case at the fall of the Roman empire; even the art of writing became very rare; nearly all those which contribute to render life agreeable were for a long time extinct. Now, we are every day inventing From all this no well-grounded inference can be drawn against the antiquity of the globe. For, supposing that a flood of barbarians had entirely swept away the arts of writing and making bread--supposing even that we had had bread, or pens, ink, and paper, only for ten years,—the country which could exist for ten years without eating bread or writing down its thoughts, could exist for an age, or a hundred thousand ages, without these helps.
* This question, which was put by Voltaire more than half a century ago, can never be more timely repeated than at present. The support of this peoj either directly or indirectly, against the glorious exertions of the Greeks, is not merely repressing freedom, but perpetuating incurable tyranny and bar. barity.-T.
It is quite clear that man and the other animals can very well subsist without bakers, without romancewriters, and without divines, as witness America, and as witness also three-fourths of our own continent. The recent birth of the arts amongst us, does not prove the recent formation of the globe, as was pretended by Epicurus, one of our predecessors in reverie, who supposed that, by chance, the declination of atoms one day formed our earth. Pomponatius used to say, “Se il mondo non è eterno, per tutti santi è molto vecchio."*
Slight Inconveniences attached to the Arts. They who handle lead and quicksilver are subject to dangerous colics and very serious affections of the
They who use pen and ink are attacked by vermin, which they have continually
. to shake off; these vermin are some ex-jesuits, who employ themselves in manufacturing libels. You, Sire, do not know this race of animals; they are driven from your states, as well as from those of the Empress of Russia, the King of Sweden, and the King of Denmark, my other protectors. The ex-jesuits Polian and Nonotle, who like me cultivate the fine arts, persecute me even unto Mount Krapak, crushing me under the weight of their reputation, and that of their genius, the specific gravity of which is still greater. Unless your majesty vouchsafe to assist me against these great men, I am undone.t
* If this world be not eternal,-by all the saints, it is very old.-T.
+ This banter, on the part of Voltaire, is pleasant enough. The Jesuits are once more reviving, and with thenı some very
No one at all versed in antiquity is ignorant that the Jews knew nothing of the angels but from the Persians and Chaldeans, during the Captivity. It was they, who, according to Calmet, taught them that there are seven principal angels before the throne of the Lord. They also taught them the names of the devils. He whom we call Asmodeus, was named Hashmodai or Chammadaï. “We know,” says Calmet, there are various sorts of devils, some of them princes and master-demons, the rest subalterns."*
How was it that this Hashmodaï was sufficiently powerful to twist the necks of seven young men who successively espoused the beautiful Sarah, a native of Rages, fifteen leagues from Ecbatana ? The Medes must have been seven times as great Manichees as the Persians. The good principle gives a husband to this maiden; and behold! the bad principle, this king of demons, Hashmodaï, destroys the work of the beneficent principle seven times in succession.
But Sarah was a Jewess, daughter of the Jew Raguel, and a captive in the country of Ecbatana. How could a Median demon have such power over Jewish bodies? It has been thought that Asmodeus or Chammadaï was a Jew likewise; that he was the old serpent which had seduced Eve; and that he was passionately fond of women, sometimes seducing them, and some times killing their husbands through an excess of love and jealousy.
Indeed the Greek version of the Book of Tobit gives us to understand, that Asmodeus was in love with Sarah
_" oti daimonion philei autein." It was the opinion of all the learned of antiquity, that the genii, whether good or evil, had a great inclination for our virgins, and the fairies for our youths. Even the Scriptures,
amusing absurdities. What a piquant article would our author furnish, were he now alive, under the bead Hohenlone!-T.
* Calmet.- Dissertation on Tobit, p. 205.