« PreviousContinue »
to receive any thing that tends to the diminution of such as bave been conspicuous instruments in our service. Such inclinations proceed from the most low and vile corruption, of which the soul of man is capable. This effaces not only the practice, but the very approbation of honour and virtue; and has had such an effect, that to speak freely, the very sense of public good has no longer a part even of our conversations. Can then the most generous motive of life, the good of others, be so easily ba. nished the breast of mau? Is it possible to draw all our passions inward ? Shall the boiling heat of youth be sunk in pleasures, the ambition of manhood in selfish intrigues ? Shall all that is glorious, all that is worth the pursuit of great minds, be so easily rooted out? When the universal bent of a people seems diverted from the sense of their com. mon good, and common glory, it looks like a fatality, and crisis of impending misfortune.
The generous pations we just now mentioned understood this so very well, that there was hardly an oration ever made, which did not turn upon this general sense, “ That the love of their country was the first and most essential quality in an honest mind.” Demosthenes, in a cause wherein his fame, reputation, and fortune, were embarked, puts his all upon this issue; “ Let the Athenians," says he, “ be benevolent to me, as they think I bave been zealous for them.” This great and discerning orator kwew, there was nothing else in nature could bear him up against his adversaries, but this one quality of having shown himself willing or able to serve his country. This certainly is the test of merit; and the first foundation for deservipg good-will is, having it yourself. The adversary of this orator at that time was Æscbines, a man of wily arts and skill in the world, who could, as occasion served, fall in with a national start of passion, or sullenness of humour, which a whole nation is sometimes taken with as well as a private man; and by that means divert them from their common sense, into an aversion for receiving any thing in its true light. But when Demosthenes had awakened his audience with that one hint of judging by the general tenor of his life towards them, his services bore down his opponent before him, who fled to the covert of his mean arts, until some more favourable occasion should offer against the superior merit of Demosthenes.
It were to be wished, that love of their country were the first principle of action in men of business, even for their own sakes; for when the world begins to examine into their conduct, the generality, who have no share in, or hopes of any part in power or riches, but what is the effect of their own labour or property, will judge of them by no other method than that of how profitable their administration has been to the whole. They who are out of the influence of inen's fortune or favour, will let them stand, or fall by this one only rule; and men who can bear being tried by it, are always popular in their fall, Those who cannot suffer such a scrutiny, are contemptible in their advancement.
But I am here running into shreds of maxims from reading Tacitus this morning, that has driven me from my recommendation of public spirit, which was the intended purpose of this Lucubration. There is not a more glorious instance of it, than in the character of Regulus. This same Regulus was taken prisoner by the Carthaginians, and was sent by them to Rome, in order to demand some Punic noblemen, who were prisoners, in exchange for himself: and was bound by an oath that he would return to Carthage, if he failed in his commission
He proposes this to the senate, who were in suspense upon it, which Regulus observing, without having the least notion of putting the care of his own life in competition with the public good, desired them to consider that he was old, and almost useless; that those demanded in exchange were men of daring tempers, and great merit in military affairs : and wondered they would make any doubt of permitting him to go back to the short tortures prepared for him at Carthage, where he should have the advantage of ending a long life both gloriously and usefully. This generous advice was consented to; and he took his leave of his country and his weeping friends, to go to a certain death, with that cheerful composure, as a man, after the fatigue of business in a court or a city, retires to the next village for the air.
N° 184. TUESDAY, JUNE 13, 1710.
Una de multis face nuptiali
Hor. 2 Od. iii. 33.
Yet worthy of the nuptial flame-
From my own Apartment, June 12. THERE are certain occasions of life which give propitious omens of the future good conduct of it, as well as others which explain our present inward state, according to our behaviour in them. Of the latter sort are funerals; of the former, weddings. The manner of our carriage, when we lose a friend, shows very much our temper, in the humility of our words and actions, and a general sense of our destitute condition, which runs through all our deportment. This gives a solemn testimony of the generous
affection we bore our friends, when we seem to disrelish every thing, now we can no more enjoy them, or see them partake iu our enjomeuts. It is very proper and humane to put ourselves, as it were, in their livery after their decease, and wear a habit unsuitable to prosperity, while those we loved and honoured are mouldering in the grave. As this is laudable on the sorrowful side, so on the other, incidents of success may no less justly be represented and acknowledged in our outward figure and carriage. Of all such occasions, that great change of a single life into marriage is the most important; as it is the source of all relations, and from whence all other friendship and commerce do principally arise. The general intent of both sexes is to dispose of themselves happily and honourably in this state; and, as all the good qualities we have are exerted to make our way into it, so the best appearance, with regard to their minds, their persons, and their fortunes, at the first entrance into it, is a due to each other in the married pair, as well as a compliment to the rest of the world. It was an instruction of a wise law-giver, that unmarried women should wear such loose habits, which, in the flowing of their garb, should incite their beholders to a desire of their persons ; and that the ordinary motion of their bodies might display the figure and shape of their limbs in such a manner, as at once to preserve the strictest decency, and raise the warmest inclinations.
This was the economy of the legislature for the eyes
increase of people, and at the same time for the preservation of the genial bed. She, who was the admiration of all who beheld her while unmarried, was to bid adieu to the pleasure of shining in the
of many, as soon as she took upon her tbe wedded condition. However, there was a festival of life allowed the new-married, a sort of intermediate state between celibacy and matrimony, which continued certain days. During that time, entertainments, equipages, and other circumstances of rejoicing, were encouraged ; and they were permitted to exceed the common mode of living, that the bride and bridegroom might learn from such freedoms of conversation to run into a general conduct to each other, made out of their past and future state, so to temper the cares of the man and the wife with the gaieties of the lover and the mistress.
In those wise ages the dignity of life was kept up, and on the celebration of such solemnities there were no impertinent whispers, and senseless interpretatious put upon the unaffected cheerfulness or accidental seriousness of the bride; but men turned their thoughts upon the general reflections, on what issue might probably be expected from such a couple in the succeeding course of their life, and felicitated them accordingly upon such prospects.
I must confess, I cannot, froni any antient manuscripts, sculptures, or medals, deduce the rise of our celebrated custom of throwing the stocking ; but have a faint memory of an account a friend gave me of an original picture in the palace of Aldobrandini in Rome. This seems to show a sense of this affair very different from what is usual among us. Grecian wedding; and the figures represented are a person offering sacrifice, a beautiful damsel dancing, and another playing on the harp. The bride
It is a