Page images
PDF
EPUB

They cultivate the natural grandeur of the Soul, raise in her a generoos ambition, feed her with hopes of immortality and perfection, and do all they can to widen the partition between the virtuous and the vicious, by making the difference betwixt them as great as between gods and brutes. In short, it is imposlible to read a page in Plata, Tully, and a thousand other ancient Moralists, without being a greater and a better man for it. On the contrary, I could never read any of our modish French Authors, or those of our own country, who are the imitators and admirers of that trifling nation, without being for some time out of humour with myself, and at every thing about me. Their business is, to depreciate human nature, and consider it under its worst appearances. They give mean interpretations and base motives to the worthiest actions: They resolve virtue and vice into constitution. In short, they endeavour to make no distinction between man and man, or between the species of men and that of brutes. As an instance of this kind of Authors, among many others, let any one examine the celebrated Rochesaucault, who is the great Philosopher for administring of consolation to the idle, the envious, and worthless part of mankind.

I remember a young Gentleman of moderate under, standing, but great vivacity, who by dipping into many Authors of this nature, had got a little smattering of knowledge, just enough to make an atheist or a freethinker, but not a philosopher or a man os sefise. With these accomplishments, he went to visit his father in the country, who was a plain, rough, honest man, and wife, though not learned. The son, who took all opportunities to shew his learning, began to establish a new religion in the family, and to enlarge the narrowness of their country notions; in which he succeeded so well, that he had seduced the butler by his table-talk, and staggered his eldest sister. Th« old Gentleman began to be alarmed at the schisms that arose among his children, but did not yet believe his son's doctrine to be so pernicious as it really was, until one day talking of his setting-dog, the son said, he did not question but Trey was as immortal as any one of the family; and in the heat of the argument told his father, that for his own 'part, part, he expected to die like a dog. Upon which, the old man starting up in a very great passion, cried out, then, sirrah, you shall live like one; and taking his cane in his hand, cudgelled him out of his system. This had so good an effect upon him, that he took up from that day, fell to reading good books, and is now a bencher in the Middle-Temple.

I do not mention this cudgelling part of the story with a design to engage the secular arm in matters of this nature; but certainly, if it ever exerts itself in affairs of opinion and speculation, it ought to do it on such fliallow and despicable pretenders to knowledge, who endeavour to give man dark and uncomfortable prospects of his Being, and destroy those principles which are the support, happiness, and glory of all public societies, as well as private persons.

I think it it one of Pytbagoras's golden sayings, *' That a man should take care above all things to have ** a due respect for himself:" And it is certain, that this licentious sort of Authors, who are for depreciating man. kind, endeavour to disappoint and undo what the most refined spirits have been labouring to advance since the beginning of the world. The very design of dress, good-breeding, outward ornaments and ceremony, were to lift upJ human nature, and' set it off to an advantage. Architecture, painting, and statuary, were invented with the fame design; as indeed every art and science contributes to the embellishment of life, and to the wearing off and throwing into shades the mean and low parts of our nature. Poetry carries on this great end more than all the rest, as may be seen in the following passage, taken out of Sir Francis Bacon's "Advancement of Learning," which gives a truer and better account of this art than all the Volumes that were ever written upon it.

*' Poetry, especially heroical, seems to be raised alto*■ gether from a noble foundation, which makes much"for the dignity of man's nature. For seeing this '* sensible world is in dignity inferior to the Soul of

man, poesy seems to endow human nature with that '* which history denies; and to give satisfaction to the "mind, with at least the shadow of things, where the

"substance "substance cannot be had. For if the matter be tho"roughly considered, a strong argument may be drawn "from poesy, that a more stately greatness of things, a "' more perfect order, and a more beautiful variety, de"lights the Soul of man, than any way can be found in "Nature since the fall. Wherefore feeing the acts and "events, which are the subjects of true history, are not "of that amplitude as to content the mind of man; *' poesy is ready at hand to feign acts more heroical. "Because true history reports the successes of business "not proportionable to the merit of virtues and vices, "peesy corrects it, and presents events and fortunes "according to desert, and according to the law of "Providence: Because true history, through the fre"quent satiety and similitude of things, works a distaste "and mifprision in the mind of man; poesy cheareth "and refreslieth the Soul, chanting things rare and va"rious, and full of vicissitudes. So as poesy serveth and "conferreth to delectation, magnanimity and morality; "and therefore it may seem deservedly to have some "participation of divineness, because it doth raise the "mind, and exalt the spirit with high raptures, by "proportioning the shews of things to the desires of the "mind, and not submitting the mind to things as rea"son and history do. And by these allurements and "congruities, whereby it cherilheth the Soul of roan, "joined also with consort of music, whereby it may "more sweetly insinuate itself; it hath won such access, "that it hath been in estimation even in rude times, "and barbarous nations, when other learning stood "excluded." ,

But there is nothing which favours and falls in with this natural greatness and dignity of human nature so much as religion, which does not only promise the entire refinement of the mind, but the glorifying of the body, and the immortality of both.

Tuesday, N" 109. Tuesday, December 20, 1709.

Perdiiur hac inter misero lux,

Hor. Sat. 6. lib. 2. ver. 59.

In such trifles as these they throw away their time.

Sheer-lane, December 19. '•

THERE has not some years been such a tumult in our neighbourhood, as this evening about fix. At the lower end of the lane the word was given, that there was a great funeral coming by. The next moment came forward, and in a very hasty, instead of a solemn manner, a long train of lights, when at last a footmari, in very high youth and health, with all his force, ran through the whole art of beating the door of the house next to me, and ended his rattle with the true finishing rap. This did not only bring one to the door at which he knocked, but to that of every one in the lane in an instant. Among the rest, my country-maid took the alarm, and immediately running to me, told me, there was a fine, fine Lady, who had three men with burial torches making way befors her, carried by two men upon poles, with looking-glasses on each fide of her, and one glass also before, she herself appearing the prettiest that ever was. The girl was going on in her story, when the Lady was come to my door in her chair, having mistaken the house. As soon as she entered I saw slie was Mr. Isaac's scholar, by her speaking air, and the becoming stop (he made when (he began her apology. You will be surprized, Sir, said she, that I tak'e this liberty, who am utterly a stranger to you: Besides that, it may be thought an indecorum that I visit a man. She made here a pretty hesitation, and held her fan to her face—Then, as. if recovering her resolution, she proceeded ceeded But I think you have said, that men of your

age are of no Sex; therefore I may be as free with you as one of my own. The Lady did me the honour to consult me on some particular matters, which I am not at liberty to report. But before she took her leave, she produced a long list of names, which she looked upon to know whither Ihe was to go next. I must confess, I could hardly forbear- discovering to her immediately, that I secretly laughed at the fantastical regularity ihe observed in throwing away her time; but I seemed to indulge her in it, out of a curiosity to hear her own sense of her way of life. Mr. Bickerjiajs, said stie, you cannot imagine how much you are obliged to me in staying thus long with you, having so many visits to make; and indeed, if I had not hopes that a third part of those I am going to will be abroad, I should be unable to dispatch them this evening. Madam, said I, are you in all this haste and perplexity, and only going to such as you have not a mind to fee i Yes, Sir, said she, I have several now with whom I keep a constant correspondence, and return Visit for Visit punctually every week, and yet we have not seen each other since last November was twelvemonth.

She went on with a very good air, and fixing her eyes on her list, told me, she was obliged to ride about three miles and an half before Ihe arrived at her own house. I asked after what manner this list was taken, whether the persons writ their names to her, and desired that favour, or how Ihe knew she was not cheated in her musterroll i The method we take, fays she, is, that the porter or servant who comes to the door, writes down all the names who come to fee us, and all such are intitled to a return of their Visit. But, said s, Madam, I presume those who are searching for each other, and know one another by messages, may be understood as candidates only for each other's savour; and that after so many how-do-ye-does, you proceed to Visit or not, as you like the run of each other's reputation or fortune. You understand it aright, said she; and we become friends, as soon as we are convinced that our dislike to each other may be of any consequence: For to tell you truly, said ihe, for it is in vain to hide any thing from a man

« PreviousContinue »