Page images
PDF
EPUB

LETTER LXVII.

[ocr errors]

nature.

TO EUPHRONIUS.

MAY 5, 1743. F you received the first account If it were justice, indeed, to his other mine, you must impute it to the dejec- as shining with fuperior luitre to the rest, tion of mind into which that accident I should point to his probity as the threw me. The blow, indeed, fell with brightest part of his character. But the too much fev v, to leave me capable truth is, the whole tenor of his conduct of recollecting my.elf enough to write to was one uniform exercise of every moral you immediately; as there cannot, pero quality that can adorn and exalt human haps, be a greater shock to a brealt of

To defend the injured, to reany fenfibility, than to see it's earliest lieve the indigent, to protect the distrelland most valuable connections irrepara. ed, was the chief end and aim of all his. bly broken; than to find itself for ever endeavours, and his principal motive foro from the firft and most endeared both for engaging and persevering in object of it's highest veneration. At his profession was, to enable himself least, the affection and esteein I bore to more abundantly to gratify lo glorious that excellent parent were founded upon an ambition. so many and luch uncommon motives, No man had a higher relish of the that his death has given me occasion to pleasures of retired and contemplative lament not only a moft tender father, life; as none was more qualified to enter but a mok valuable friend.

into those calm scenes with greater ease That I can no longer enjoy the bene.. and dignity. He had nothing to make fit of his animating example, is one him desirous of Aying from the reflecamong the many aggravating circum- tions of his own mind, nor any pafsions ftances of my affliction; and I often ap- which his moderate patrimony would ply to myself, what an excellent antient not have been inore than fufficient to has said upon a similar occasion, Vereor have gratified. But to live for himself a nunc negligentius vivam. There is only, was not consistent with his genenothing, in truth, puts us fo much upon rous and enlarged fentiments. It was a our guard, as to a&t under the conttant fpirit of benevolence that led him into inspection of one, whose virtues, as the active scenes of the world; which well as years, have rendered venerable. upon any other principle he would either Never, indeed, did the dignity of good- never have entered, or toon have reBess appear more irresistible in any man: nounced. And it was that godlike Yet there was something at the same fpirit which conducted and supported time fo gentle in his manners, such an him through his useful progress, to the innocency and chearfulness in his con. honour and interest of his

family and versation, that he was as sure to gain friends, and to the benefit of every crea. affection as to inspire reverence.

cure that could possibly he comprehendIt has been observed (and I think, ed within the extensive circle of his beby Cowley). That a man in' much neficence. business muit either make himself a I well know, my dear Euphronius, kaave, or the world will make him a "the high regard you pay to every chafool. If there is any truth in this racter of merit in general, and the esteein obfervation, it is not, however, without in which you held this most valuable an exception. My father was early en. man in particular. I am sure, theregaged in the great scenes of business, fore, you would not forgive me, were I where he continued almost to his very to make an apology for leaving with you laft hour; yet he preserved his integrity this private monument of my venerarion. frm and unbroken, through all those for a parent, whose least and lowest claim powerful assaults he muft necessarily to my gratitude and esteem is, that I am have encountered in so long a coutte of indebted to him for my birth. Adien. aftion.

y am, &c.

LET

LETTER LXVIII.

TO PHILOTES.

I

Am particularly pleased with a paf- man should endeavour to cultivate in fire

sage in Homer, wherein Jupiter is breast. reprelented as taking off his tyes, with Ill surely, therefore, have those wits

fort of fatiety, from the horror of the employed their talents, who have made field of battle, and relieving himself our species the object of their faire, with a view of the Hippomolgi; a people and affected to fubdue the vanity, by famous, it seems, for their innocence derogating from the virtues, of ihe huand finplicity of manners. It is in cr• man heart. But it will be found, I beder to practise the same kind of experi- lieve, upon an impartial examination, ment, and give myself a short remiffion that there is more fo!ly than malice in from that scene of turbulence and con- our natures, and that mankind oftener tention in which I am engaged, that I act wrong through ignorance than denow turn my thoughts on you, Philotes, fign. Perhaps the true measure of huwhose temperance and moderation may man merit is neither to be taken from well justify me in calling you a modern the histories of former times, nor from Hippomolgian.

what passes in the more ftriking scenes I forget which of the antients it is, of the present generation. The groteit that recommends this method of think- virtues have, probably, been ever the ing over the virtues of one's acquaint- most obscure; and, I am persuaded, in ance; but I am sure it is sometimes ne. all ages of the world, more genuine hecessary to do so, in order to keep one's roism has been overlooked and unknown, self in humour with our species, and than either recorded or observed. That preserve the spirit of philanthropy from aliquid divinuin, as Tully calls it, thao being entirely extinguished. Thole who celestial spark which every man, tibo frequent the ambitious walks of life, are coolly contemplates his own mind, may apt to take their estimate of mankind discover within him, operates where we from the small part of it that lies before least look for it, and often raises the them, and consider the rest of the world noble ft productions of virtue in the Made as practising, in different and under- and obscurity of life. parts, the same treachery and dissimula- But it is time to quit speculation for tion which marks out the characters of action, and return to the comnion affairs their superiors. It is difficult indeed tọ of the world. I shall certainly do so with preserve the mind from falling into a more advantage, by keeping Philotes still general contempt of our race, whilst one in my view; as I shall enter into the in. is conversant with the worst part of it. terests of mankind with more alacrity, I labour, however, as much as possible, by thus considering the vinges of his to guard against that ungenerous disn honest heart as leis singular than I ain position; as nothing is to apt to kill sometimes inclined to suppose. Adieu. those seeds of benevolence which every I am, &c.

LETTER LXIX.

TO THE SAME.

AUGUST 33 1735. ET it not be any discouragement to o is the offspring of unbroken medita

itions, and of thoughts often revised to received but little fatisfaction from and corrected.' It requires indeed those noble speculations wherein you are. great patience and resolution to dislipate einployed. • Truth,' to use the ex. that cloud of darkness which surrounds pression of the excellent Mr. Wollaston," her; or (if you will allow me to go to

an

an old philosopher for my allution) to fame names to certain visible appear. draw her up from that profound well in ances, as whitenels, for instance, to which she lies concealed.

snow; yet it is by no means demonstra. .There is, however, such a generalcon- tion, that the particular body which , nection in the operations of nature, that affects us with that sensation, raises the the discovery even of a fingle truth opens fame precise idea in any two persons who the way to numberless others; and when Mall happen to contemplate it together, once the mind has hit upon a right scent, Thus 1 hay often heard you mention the cannot wholly pursue her enquiries your youngest daughter as being the in vain :

exact counter-part of her mother : now

Me does rot appear to me to resemble Comes at wortivage perfæpe ferai Naribus in veniunt intclas frond quietes,

her in any single feature. To what can

this disagreement in our judgments be Cumz femel inftiterunt veftigia certa viai:

owing, but to a difference in the strucSie alud ex alio per te ture ipfe videre -in rebus pateris, cara que latebras

ture of our organs of light? Yet as jultlafixuare omnes, et verum protrabere inde.

ly, Philotes, might you disclaim me for LUCRET. your friend, and look upon me with

contempt for not discovering a fimilitude : It must be owned, nevertheless, that, which appears fo evident to your eyes ; after having exerted all our sagacity and as any man can abuse or despise another industry, we shall scarce arrive at cer- for not apprehending the force of that tainty in many speculative truths, Pro- argument which carries conviction to bis vidence does not seem to have intended own underitanding. that we should ever be in poffeffion of Happy had it been for the peace of demonftrative knowledge, beyond a very the world, if our maintainers of syitems, limited compaís; though at the same eisher in religion or politics, had contime it cannot be supposed, without the ducted their leveral debates with the full highest injustice to the benevolent Au- impression of this truth upon their minds. thor of our natures, that he has left any Genuine philosophy is ever, indeed, the necessary truths wi hout evident notes of least dogmatical; and I am always indiftinction. But while the powers of clined to fulpect the force of that arguthe mind are thus lunited in their ex. ment which is obtruded with arrogance tent, and greatly fallible likewise in their and sufficiency, operations, is it not amazing, Philotes, I am wonderfully pleased with a pasthat mankind should insult each other fage I met with the other day in the for difference in opinion, and treat every preface to Mr. Boyle's Philosophical notion that opposes their own with ob- Elays; and would recommend that cau. loquy and contempt? Is it not amazing trous spirit, by which he profefles -to that a creature with talents fo precarious have conducted himself in his physical and circumscribed, shouid vfurp that researches, as worthy the imitation of confidence which can only belong to enquirers after truth of every kind. much fuperior beings and claim a defe. • Perhaps you will wonder,' says he, rence which is due to perfection alone? " that in almost every one of the follow, Surely the greatest arrogance that ever ing essays, I should use so often, perentered into the human heart, is that baps, it seems, 'tis not improbable, as which not only pretends to be positive argue a diffidence of the truth of the itself in points wherein the belt and opinions I incline to; and that I should wifeft have disagreed, but looks down • be so shy of laying down principles, with all the infolent fuperiority of con. " and sometimes of so much as venturing temptuous pity on those whose impartial at explications. But I must freely seasonings have led them into opposite ' confess, that having met with many conclusions.

things of which I could give myself There is nothing, perhaps, more evi. no one probable cause, and some dent, than that our intellectual facul:ies things of which several causes are not formed by one general standard ; ! alligned so differing, as not to agree and consequently that diversity of opi- ' in any thing, unless in their being all nion is of the very effence of our natures. of theni probable enough; I have ofIt feems probable that this disparity ex. ten found such difficulties in searching sends even to our sensitive powers; and into the causes and manner of things, though we agree indeed in giving the ! and I am so sensible of my own disabi.

lity

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

may be

lity to surmount those difficulties, that have afterwards been confuted by some I dare fpxeak confidently and politively new phænomenon in nature, which of very few things, except natter of was either unknown to such writers, fact. And when I venture to deliver ' or not sufficiently considered by them. any thing by way of opinion, I should, If positiveness could become any man if it were not for mere shame, speak in any point of mere speculation, it muft yet more diffidently than I have been have been this truly noble philosopher wont to do. Nor have my thoughts when he was delivering the result of his heen altogether idlemin forming no- ftudies in a science, wherein, by the

tions and attempting to devise hypo- united confession of the whole world, • theses. But I have hitherto (though he fo eminently excelled. But he had

not always, yet not unfrequently) too much generosity to prescribe his own found that what pleased me for a while, notions as a measure to the judgment of was soon after disgraced by some far- others, and too much good-feuse to as

ther or new experiment. And, in.' sert them with heat or confidence. • deed, I have the less envied many (for Whoever, Piilotes, pursues his fpe• I say not all) of those writers, who culations with this humble unarrogat• have taken upon them to deliver the ing temper of mind, and with the best • causes of things, and explicate the exertion of thole faculties which Provimysteries of nature, since I have had dence has afligned him, though he fhould

opportunity to observe how many of not find the conviction, never, surely, • their doctrines, after having been for can he fail of the reward of truth. I • a while applauded and even admired, am, &c.

LETTER LXX,

TO PALAMEDES.

*F malice had never broke loose upon feet how it may be turned to his advantion, I might reasonably condole with Generosity would lose half her dignity, you on falling the first prey to it's un- if malice did not contribute to her ele. restraived rage. But this spectre has vation; and he that has never been in. haunted merit almost from it's earliest jured, has never had it in his power to existence: and when all mankind were exercise the noblest privilege of heroic as yet included within a fingle family, virtue. There is another consolation one of them, we know, rose up in ma- which may be derived from the rancour lignity of soul againit his innocent bro. of the world, as it will inttrud one in ther. Virtue, it thould seem, therefore, a piece of knowledge of the most finguhas now been too long acquainted with lar benefit in our progress through it: this her constant perfecutor, to be either it will teach us to distinguish genuine terrified or dejected at an appearance fo friendship from counterfeit. For he only common. The truth of it is, the must who is warmed with the real flame of either renounce her noblert theatre of amity, will rise up to support his fingle action, and seclude herself in cells and negative, in opposition to the clamorous desarts, or be contented to enter upon vores of an undistinguishing multitude. the ftage of the world with this fiend in He, indeed, who can see a cool and her train. She cannot triumph, if the deliberate injury done to his friend, will not be traduced; and the mould without feeling himself wounded in his consider the clamours of censure, when most sensible part, has never known the joined with her own conscious applause, force of the molt generous of all the huas so many acclamations that confirm man affections. Every man, who has her victory:

not taken the sacred name of friendthip Let those who harbour this worst of in vain, will subscribe to those fentia hunan dispositions, consider the many ments which Homer puts into the mouth wretched and contemptible circumstances of Achilles, and which Mr. Pope has which attend it: tut it is the business of opened and enlarged with such inimi. kim who unjustly fuffers from it, to sea cable strength and spirit,

A gen'rous

Agen'rous friendship no cold medium knows, really mean one harm, will wonderfully Buns with one love, with one resentment leffen after the deductions which may glows;

fairly be made of this fort: and the cup One should our int'rests and our paliions be; of unjust reproach must surely lose much My friend must hate the man that injures me.

of it's bitterness, where one is perfuaded

ix. 6og. that malevolence has the least share in It may greatly also allay the pain which mingling the draught. For nothing, attends the wounds of defamation, and perhaps, ftings a generous mind more which are always most severely felt by (enlibly in wrongs of this sort, than to those who leatt deferve them, to reflect, contider them as evidences of a general that though malice generally flings the malignity in human nature. But from first stone, it is folly and ignorance, it whatever causes these storms may arise, is indolence or is resolution, which are Virtue would not be true to her own naprincipaily concerned in (welling the tive privileges, if she fuffered herself to heap. When the tide of cenfure runs link under them. It is from that strength trongly against any particular charac- and firmness, which upright intentions ter, the generality of mankind are too will ever secure to an honest mind, that careless or too impotent to withstand the Palamedes, I am persuaded, will itand current; and thus, without any parti- superior to those unmerited reproaches colar malice in their own natures, are which assault his character, and preserve often indoluntly carried along with an unbroken repose amidst the little noise others, by tamely falling in with the ge- and strife of ignorant or malicious neral itream. The number of those who tongues. Farewel. I am, &c.

2

LETTER LXXI.

TO PHILOTES,

APRIL 9, 1740 ΤΗ HERE is no advantage which at- an Horace or a Boileau, an Addison or

tends a popular genius that I am a Pope, have crowned the virtues of their so much inclined to envy, as the privi. contemporaries, are as permanent as lege of rendering merit confpicuous. they are illustrious, and will preserve An author who has raised the attention their colours and fragrance to remoteft of the public to his productions, and ages. gained a whole nation for his audience, If I could thus weave the garlands of may be confidered as guardian of the unfalling applause; if I were in the numteniple of Fame, and invested with the ber of those chofen spirits whose approprerogative of giving entrance to whom- bation is fame, your friend should not soever he deems worthy of that glorious want that distinguishing tribute which diftin&ion. But the praise of an ordi- his virtues deterve, and you request. nary writer obitru&ts rather than ad- I would tell the world (and tell it in a vances the honour due to merit, and ful voice that should be heard far and re. lies the lustre it means to celebrate. Im- membered long) that Eusebes, with all potenst panegyric operates like a blight the knowledge and experience of these wherever it tails, and injures all that it later ages, has all the innocence and fimtouches. Accordingly, Henry the IV. of plicity of the earliett

: that he enforces rence was wont humorously to ascribe the doctrines of his facred function, not his early grey hairs to the effé&t of num- with the vain pomp of ostentatious elo. berlels' wreiched compliments, which quence, but with the far more powerwere paid him by a certain ridiculous ful pertunasion of active and exemplary of ator of his times. But though the virtue: that he softens the severity of wreaths of folly should not disgrace the precept with the eafe and familiarity of temple they surround; they wither, at conversation, and by generously mingleast, as soon as received: and if they ling with the meaneit committed to his fhould not be cffentive, most certainly, care, infinuaies the instructor under the however, ihey will be transient. Where. air of the companion: that whilft hethus as those, on the contrary, with wuch fills up the circle of his private station,

N

he

« PreviousContinue »