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N° 17. THURSDAY, MAY 19, 1709.
Quicquid agunt homines
JUV. Sat. i. 85, 86.
Will's Coffee-house, May 18. The discourse has happened to turn this evening upon the true panegyric, the perfection of which was asserted to consist in a certain artful way of conveying the applause in an indirect manner. There was a gentleman gave us several instances of it. Among others, he quoted (from Sir Francis Bacon, in his Advancement of Learning,) a very great compliment made to Tiberius, as follows. In a full debate upon public affairs in the senate, one of the assembly rose up, and with a very grave air said, he thought it for the honour and dignity of the commonwealth, that Tiberius should be declared a god, and have divine worship paid him. The emperor was surprised at the proposal, and demanded of him to declare, whether he had made any application to incline him to that overture? The senator answered, with a bold and haughty tone, Sir, in matters that concern the commonwealth, I will be governed by no man.' Another gentleman mentioned something of the same kind, spoken by the late duke of Buckingham to the late earl of Orrery; ‘My lord,' says the duke, after his libertine way, you will certainly be damned.' • How, my lord !' says the earl, with some warmth, Nay,' said the duke, there is no help for it; for it is positively said, Cursed is he of whom all men speak well! This is taking a man by surprise, and being welcome when you have so surprised him. The person flattered receives you into his closet at once ; and the sudden change of his heart, from the expectation of an ill-wisher, to find you his friend, makes you in his full favour in a moment. The spirits that were raised so suddenly against you, are as suddenly for you. There was another instance given of this kind at the table: a gentleman, who had a very great favour done him, and an employment bestowed upon him, without so much as being personally known to his benefactor, waited upon the great man who was so generous, and was beginning to say, he was infinitely obliged. Not at all,' says the patron; turning from him to another, had I known a more deserving man in England, he should not have had it.'
We should certainly have had more examples had not a gentleman produced a book which he thought an instance of this kind : it was a pamphlet, called The Naked Truth. The idea any one would have of that work from the title was, that there would be much plain dealing with people in power, and that we should see things in their proper light, stripped of the ornaments which are usually given to the actions of the great: but the skill of this author is such, that he has, under that rugged appearance, approved himself the finest gentleman and courtier that ever writ. The language is extremely sublime, and not at all to be understood by the vulgar: the sentiments are such as would make no figure in ordinary words: but such is the art of the expression, and the thoughts
* An impious application and perversion of a passage of sacred scripture, Luke vi, 26.
are elevated to so high a degree, that I question whether the discourse will sell much. There was an illnatured fellow present”, who hates all panegyric mortally; 'P- take him,' said he, what the devil means his Naked Truth, in speaking nothing but to the advantage of all whom he mentions ? This is just such a great action as that of the champion's on a coronation-day, who challenges all mankind to dispute with him the right of the sovereign, surrounded with his guards. The gentleman who produced the treatise desired him to be cautious, and said, it was writ by an excellent soldier, which made the company observe it more narrowly; and (as critics are the greatest conjurers at finding out a known truth) one said, he was sure it was writ by the hand of his swordarm. I could not perceive much wit in that expression; but it raised a laugh, and, I suppose, was meant as a sneer upon valiant men. The same man pretended to see in the style, that it was an horse-officer; but sure that is being too nice; for though you may know officers of the cavalry by the turn of their feet, I cannot imagine how you should discern their hands from those of other men. But it is always thus with pedants; they will ever be carping, if a gentleman, or a man of honour, puts pen to paper. I do not doubt but this author will find this assertion too true, and that obloquy is not repulsed by the force of arms. I will therefore set this excellent piece in a light too glaring for weak eyes, and, in imitation of the critic Longinus, shall, as well as I can, make my observations in a style like the authors of whom I treat, which perhaps I am as capable of as another, having 'an
2 A stroke at John Dennis; whose judgment as a critic, however, was at least equal to his ill-nature, notwithstanding all the attacks and insinuations made against him by contemporary writers.
unbounded force of thinking, as well as a most exquisite address, extensively and wisely indulged to me by the supreme powers.' My author, I will dare to assert, shews the most universal knowledge of any writer who has appeared this century: he is a poet and merchant, which is seen in two masterwords, Credit blossoms:' he is a grammarian and a politician ; for he says, “The uniting of the two kingdoms is the emphasis of the security of the protestant succession. Some would be apt to say, he is a conjurer; for he has found, that a republic is not made up of every body of animals, but is composed of men only, and not of horses. Liberty and property have chosen their retreat within the emulating circle of an human commonwealth. He is a physician ; for he says, 'I observe a constant equality in its pulse, and a just quickness of its vigorous circulation. And again, 'I view the strength of our constitution plainly appear in the sanguine and ruddy complexion of a well-contented city. He is a divine: for he says, “I cannot but bless myself.' And indeed this excellent treatise has had that good effect upon me, who am far from being superstitious, that I also 'cannot but bless myself.'
*** This day is published, a treatise called The Difference between Scandal and Admonition, by Isaac Bickerstaff, esq. And on the 1st of July next, you may expect A Prophecy of Things past ; wherein the art of fortune-telling is laid open to the meanest capacity. And the Monday following, Choice Sentences for the company of masons and bricklayers, to be put upon new houses, with a translation of all the Latin sentences that have been built of late years ; together with a comment upon stone-walls. By the same hand.
N° 18. SATURDAY, MAY 21, 1709.
Quicquid agunt homines
nostri est farrago libelli.
JUV. Sat. i. 85, 86.
Whatever good is done, whatever ill-
From my own Apartment, May 20. It is observed too often that men of wit do so much employ their thoughts upon fine speculations, that things useful to mankind are wholly neglected; and they are busy in making emendations upon some enclitics' in a Greek author, while obvious things, that every man may have use for, are wholly overlooked. It would be an happy thing, if such as have real capacities for public service were employed in works of general use; but because a thing is every body's business, it is nobody's business; this is for want of public spirit. As for my part, who am only a student, and a man of no great interest, I can only remark things, and recommend the correction of them to higher powers. There is an offence I have a thousand times lamented, but fear I shall never see remedied; which is, that in a nation where learning is so frequent as in Great-Britain, there should be so many gross errors as there are in the very directions of things, wherein accuracy is necessary for the conduct of life. This is notoriously observed by all men of letters when
• Particles in the Greek language, which throw back the accent on the foregoing syllable.