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which, in the first days of the world, the demi-god Michael, who executes the vengeance of the Most High, overthrew the eternal enemy of the world and the Creator. The most beautiful of the plumage of the angels that stand about the throne, plucked from their immortal backs, waved over his casque; and around it hovered Terror, destroying War, unpitying Revenge, and Death the terminator of man's calamities. He came like a comet in its rapid course, darting through the orbits of the wondering planets, and leaving far behind its rays, pale and terrible, announcing to weak mortals the fall of kings and nations.
“ He alighted on the banks of the Charente, and the sound of his immortal arms was echoed from the spheres of Jupiter and Saturn. Two strides brought him to the spot where the son of the magnanimous Edward waited for the son of the intrepid Philippe de Valois,” &c.
The Florentine continued in this strain for more than a quarter of an hour. The words fell from his lips, as Homer says, more thickly and abundantly than the snows descend in winter: but his words were not cold; they were rather like the rapid sparks escaping from the furnace, when the Cyclops forge the bolts of Jove on resounding anvil.
His two antagonists were at last obliged to silence him, by acknowledging that it was easier than they had thought it was to string together gigantic images, and call in the aid of heaven, earth, and hell; but they maintained that to unite the tender and moving with the sublime, was the perfection of the art.
“ For example," said the Oxonian, “ can anything be more moral, and at the same time more voluptuous, than to see Jupiter reposing with his wife on Mount Ida?"
His lordship then spoke--"Gentlemen,” said he, “ I ask your pardon for meddling in the dispute. Perhaps to the Greeks there was something very interesting in a God's lying with his wife upon a mountain; for my own part, I see nothing in it very refined or very attractive. I will agree with
that the handkerchief, which commentators and imitators have been pleased to call the girdle of Venus, is a charming figure; but I never un. derstood that it was a soporific, nor how Juno could receive the caresses of the Master of the Gods for the purpose of putting him to sleep. A queer god, truly, to fall asleep so soon! I can swear that, when I was young, I was not so drowsy. It may, for aught I know, be noble, pleasing, interesting, witty, and decorous, to make Juno say to Jupiter, - If you are determined to embrace me, let us go to your apartment in heaven, which is the work of Vulcan, and the door of which closes so well that none of the gods can enter.'
“ I am equally at a loss to understand how the god of Sleep, whom Juno prays to close the eyes of Jupiter, can be so brisk a divinity. He arrives in a moment from the isles of Lemnos and Imbros;--there is something fine in coming from two islands at once. He then mounts a pine, and is instantly among the Greek ships; he seeks Neptune, finds him, conjures him to give the victory to the Greeks, and returns with a rapid flight to Lemnos. I know of nothing so nimble as this god of Sleep.
“ In short, if in an epic poem there must be amorous matters, I own that I incomparably prefer the assignations of Alcina with Rogero, and of Armida with Rinaldo.
“ Come, my dear Florentine, read me those two admirable cantos of Ariosto and Tasso.”
The Florentine readily obeyed, and his lordship was enchanted: during which time the Scotsman re-perused Fingal, the Oxford professor re-perused Homer; and every one was content.
It was at last agreed, that happy is he who is sensible to the merits of the Ancients and of the Moderns, appreciates their beauties, knows their faults, and pardons them.
ANECDOTES. If Suetonius could be confronted with the valetsde-chambre of the twelve Cæsars, think you that they would in every instance corroborate his testimony? And in case of dispute, who would not back the valets-de-chambre against the historian?
In our own times, how many books are founded on nothing more than the talk of the town!—just as the science of physics was founded on chimeras which have been repeated from age to age to the present time.
Those who take the trouble of noting down at night what they have heard in the day, should, like St. Augustin, write a book of retractations at the end
of the year.
Some one related to the grand-audiencier* L'Etoile, that Henry IV. hunting near Creteil, went alone into an inn, where some Parisian lawyers were dining in an upper room. The king, without making himself known, sent the hostess to ask them if they would admit him at their table, or sell him a part of their dinner. They sent him for answer that they had private business to talk of, and had but a short dinner; they therefore begged that the stranger would excuse them.
Henry called his guards, and had the guests outrageously beaten, to teach them, says L'Etoile, to show more courtesy to gentlemen,
Some authors of the present day, who have taken upon them to write the life of Henry IV., copy this anecdote from L'Etoile without examination, and, which is worse, fail not to praise it as a fine action in Henry.
The thing is, however, neither true nor likely; and were it true, Henry would have been guilty of an act at once the most ridiculous, the most cowardly, the most tyrannical, and the most imprudent.
First, it is not likely that, in 1502, Henry IV. whose physiognomy was so remarkable, and whọ showed himself to every body with so much affability, was unknown at Creteil near Paris.
Secondly, L'Etoile, far from verifying his impertinent story, says he had it from a man who had it from M. de Vitri; so that it is nothing more than an idle rumour,
Thirdly, it would have been very cowardly, and very hateful, to inflict a shameful punishment on citizens, assembled together on business, who certainly committed no crime in refusing to share their dinner with a stranger (and, it must be allowed, an indiscreet one) who could easily find something to eat in the same house.
* An officer in the French Chancery.-T.
Fourthly, this action, so tyrannical, so unworthy not only of a king but of a man, so liable to punishment by the laws of every country, would have been as imprudent as ridiculous and criminal; it would have drawn upon Henry IV. the execrations of the whole commonalty of Paris, whose good opinion was then of so much importance to him.
History, then, should not have been disfigured by so stupid a story, nor should the character of Henry IV. have been dishonoured by so impertinent an anecdote.
In a book, entitled Anecdotes Littéraires, printed by Durand in 1752, avec privilège, there appears the following passage, (vol. 3, page 183.) “The Amours of Louis XIV. having been dramatised in England, that prince wished to have those of King William performed in France. The Abbé Brueys was directed by M. de Torcy to compose the piece; but though applauded, it was never played, for the subject of it died in the mean time.”
There are almost as many absurd lies as there are words in these few lines. The Amours of Louis XIV. were never played on the London stage. Louis XIV. never lowered himself so far as to order a farce to be written on the amours of King William. King William never had a mistress; no one accused him of weak. ness of that sort. The Marquis de Torey never spoke to the Abbé Brueys; he was incapable of making to the Abbé, or to any one else, so indiscreet and childish a proposal. The Abbé Brueys never wrote the piece in question. So much for the faith to be placed in anecdotes. The same book says,
that“ Louis XIV, was so much pleased with the opera of Isis, that he ordered a decree to be passed in council, by which men of rank were permitted to sing at the opera, and receive a salary for so doing, without demeaning themselves. This decree was registered in the parliament of Paris.”
No such declaration was ever registered in the parliament of Paris. It is true that Lulli obtained in 1672, long before the opera of Isis was performed, letters permitting him to establish his opera,
in which letters he got it inserted that “ladies and gentlemen might sing in this theatre without degradation." But no declaration was ever registered.*
Of all the anas, that which deserves to stand foremost in the ranks of printed falsehood is the Segraisiana: it was compiled by the amanuensis of Segrais, one of his domestics,
and was printed long after the master's death. The Menagiana, revised by La Monnoye, is the only one that contains anything instructive.
Nothing is more common than to find in our new miscellanies old bon-mots attributed to our contemporaries, or inscriptions and epigrams, written on certain princes, applied to others.
We are told in the Histoire Philosophique et Politique du Commerce dans les deux Indes (the Philosophical and Political History of the Commerce of the two Indies)+ that the Dutch having driven the Portuguese from Malacca, the Dutch captain asked the Portuguese commander when he should return; to which he replied, when your sins are greater than ours.
This answer had before been attributed to an Englishman in the time of Charles VII. of France, and before then to a Saracen emir in Sicily; after all, it is the answer rather of a Capuchin than of a politician; it was not because the French were greater sinners than the English, that the latter deprived them of Canada.
The author of this same history relates, in a serious manner, a little story invented by Steele, and inserted in the Spectator; and would make it pass for one of the real causes of war between the English and the savages.
The tale which Steele opposes to the much pleasanter story of the Widow of Ephesus, is as follows. It is designed to prove that men are not more constant than women: but, in Petronius, the Ephesian matron exhibits only an amusing and pardonable weakness; while the merchant Inkle, in the Spectator, is guilty of the most frightful ingratitude.
This young traveller Inkle is on the point of being taken by the Caribbees on the continent of America, without its being said at what place, or on what occasion.
Yarico, a pretty Caribbee, saves his life,
* See OPERA.