Page images

that a man has of his own worth: both of them, certainly, very unfit qualifications for a petitioner.

Secondly. The second thing that naturally shows itself in paucity of words is discretion; and particularly that prime and eminent part of it that consists in a care of offending, which Solomon assures us that in much speaking it is hardly possible for us to avoid. In Prov. x. 19, In the multitudc of words, says he, there wanteth not sin. It requires no ordinary skill for a man to make his tongue run by rule, and at the same time to give it both its lesson and its liberty too. For seldom or never is there much spoke, but something or other had better been not spoke, there being nothing that the mind of man is so apt to kindle and take distaste at as at words; and, therefore, whensoever any one comes to prefer a suit to another, no doubt the fewer of them the better, since, where so very little is said, it is sure to be either candidly accepted, or, which is next, easily excused; but at the same time to petition and to provoke too is certainly very preposterous.

Thirdly. The third thing that brevity of speech commends itself by in all petitioning addresses is, a peculiar respect to the person addressed to; for whosoever petitions his superior in such a manner does, by his very so doing, confess him better able to understand, than he himself can be to express, his own case.

He owns him as a patron of a preventing judgment and goodness, and, upon that account, able not only to answer but also to anticipate his requests. For, according to the most natural interpretation of things, this is to ascribe to him a sagacity so quick and piercing that it were presumption to inform, and a benignity so great that it were needless to importune, him. And can there be a greater and more winning deference to a superior than to treat him under such a character ? Or can anything be imagined so naturally fit and efficacious, both to enforce the petition and to endear the petitioner? A short petition to a great man is not only a suit to him for his favour, but also a panegyric upon his parts.

Here we have, if not much subtlety, depth, or largeness of view, what is better fitted to win acceptance with the common taste, and especially to prove effective in spoken eloquence, pith and point, and a vein of reasoning or remark certainly not common-place, yet at the same time approving itself, so far as it goes, to every man's experience or consciousness, and alarming no prejudices by any tincture either of extravagance or novelty. It is a striking without being in any respect a startling style, whether we regard the thought or the expression ; a manner of disquisition which never goes mining far underground for hidden treasure, yet stirs the surface of the soil so as effectually to bring out whatever fertility may be there resident. There is no passion or poetry in South's eloquence; its chief seasoning rather partakes of the nature of wit. Many smart sayings, having that peculiar species of truth in them which belongs to a witticism, might be gathered from his writings ; and some current bons mots may probably be traced to hiin. The sarcastic definition, for instance, which has been given of gratitude, that it is a sense of obligation for favours expected, seems to be originally his. We are told by the author of the Memoirs of his Life prefixed to his Sermons, that, when Dr. Owen, the puritanical vice-chancellor, in the time of the Commonwealth, threatened to expel South, then an under-graduate, from Cambridge, on his being caught performing worship according to the Book of Common Prayer, remarking that “he could do no less, in gratitude to his highness the Protector, and his other great friends, who had thought him worthy of the dignities he then stood possessed of,” the future champion of the restored Church of England replied, Gratitude among friends is like credit amongst tradesmen ; it keeps business up, and maintains the correspondence: and we pay, not so much out of a principle that we ought to discharge our debts, as to secure ourselves a place to be trusted another time.” The buffoonery, or something like it, occasionally to be found in his sermons is principally directed against the sectaries; for South, although not given to take up with any creed or system on th mere ground of authority, was, as we have just said, a strict and strenuous adherent of the Establishment, and had convinced himself that there was no good to be found either to the right or the left of the Thirtynine Articles, either in Romanism on the one hand or Protestant dissent on the other. It is true that when at college, in 1655, he had gone so far as to contribute a copy of Latin verses to the volume published by the university in congratulation of Cromwell on the peace conquered by him that year from the Dutch ; and this circumstance considerably annoys his orthodox and loyal biographer. Upon the said poem,

it is remarked,

some people have made invidious reflections, as if contrary to the sentiments he afterwards espoused; but these are to be told that such exercises are usually imposed by the governors of colleges upon bachelors of arts and under-graduates : I shall forbear to be particular in his, as being a forced compliment to the usurper. Not but even those discover a certain unwillingness to act in favour of that monster, whom even the inimitable Earl of Clarendon, in his History of the Grand Rebellion, distinguishes by the name and title of a Glorious Villain.” As a further sample of the principles and temper of this biographer, we may just notice that a little lower down, in mentioning the

way of

learned Dr. John Owen, he designates him, “this man (if he deserves the name of one),” and all his party as creatures divested of all qualities that point towards the least symptoms of humanity.” In South himself the feeling of aversion to the sectarianism and republicanism that had for the present been shuffled out of sight, or out of the way, never took this bitter tone. His viewing the matter may be exemplified by a famous passage from a sermon which he preached, as one of the chaplains in ordinary, before Charles II. in 1681:“Who that had looked upon Agathocles, first handling the clay, and making pots under his father, and afterwards turning robber, could have thought that, from such a condition, he should come to be king of Sicily? Who that had seen Masaniello, a poor fisherman, with his red cap and his angle, would have reckoned it possible to see such a pitiful thing, within a week after, shining in his cloth of gold, and with a word or a nod absolutely commanding the whole city of Naples? And who that had beheld such a bankrupt, beggarly fellow as Cromwell, first entering the Parliament House, with a thread bare, torn cloak, greasy hat (perhaps neither of them paid for), could have suspected that, in the space

of so few years, he should, by the murder of one king and the banishment of another, ascend the throne ?” There is contempt and abuse here, but not any malignity. At this sally, we are told, Charles fell into a violent fit of laughter, and, turning round to Lord Rochester, said, “ Ods fish, Lory, your chaplain must be a bishop : put me in mind of him at the next death.” But, however much South may have enjoyed thus setting the Chapel Royal in a roar,

he was not fishing for a bishoprie with his comic pulpit oratory. He had it several times in his power, after this, to take his seat upon the right reverend bench, but he always declined that distinction ; and, although he was perhaps the most influential English ecclesiastic of his day, he continued to the end of his life nothing more than prebendary of Westminster and canon of Christ Church, Oxford. In all other worldly matters, indeed, he showed the same disinterestedness, so worthy of him both as a Christian and as a wit.


The only considerable literary name that belongs exclusively, or almost exclusively, to the first reign after the Revolution is that of Locke. John Locke, born in 1632, although his . Adversariorum Methodus, or New Method of a Common-Place-Book,' had appeared in French in Leclerc's Bibliothèque' for 1686, and an abridgment of his celebrated Essay, and his first Letter on Toleration, both also in French, in the same publication for 1687 and 1688, had published nothing in English, or with his name, till he produced in 1690 the work which has ever since made him one of the best known of English writers, both in his own and in other countries, his · Essay concerning Human Understanding.' This was followed by his Second Letter on Toleration, and his two Treatises on Government, in the same year; his Considerations on Lowering the Interest of Money, in 1691 ; his Third Letter on Toleration, in 1692; his Thoughts concerning Education, in 1693; his Reasonableness of Christianity, in 1695; and various controversial tracts in reply to his assailants, Dr. Edwards and Bishop Stillingfleet, between that date and his death in 1704. After his death appeared his

« PreviousContinue »