Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

as me.

not let me receive yours, who do receive them. I have not had a line from you these five weeks. Of your honours and glories Fame has told me; and for ought I know, you may be a veldt-marshal by this time, and despise such a poor cottager

Take notice, I shall disclaim you in my turn, if you are sent on a command against Dantzick, or to usurp a new district in Poland. I have seen no armies, kings or empresses, and cannot send you such august gazettes; nor are they what I want to hear of. I like to hear you are well and diverted. For my part, I wish you was returned to your plough. Your Sabine farm is in high beauty. I have lain there twice within this week, going to and from a visit to G. Selwyn near Gloucester: a tour as much to my taste as yours to you. For fortified towns I have seen ruined castles. What can I tell you more? Nothing. Every body's head but mine is full of elections. I had the satisfaction at Gloucester, where G. Selwyn is canvassing, of reflecting on my own wisdom: Suave mari magno turbantibus æquora ventis etc. I am certainly the greatest philosopher in the world, without ever having thought of being so: always employed, and never busy; eager about trifles, and indifferent to every thing serious. Well, if it is not philosophy, at least it is content. I am as pleased here with my own nutshell, as any monarch you have seen these two months astride his eaglenot but I was dissatisfied when I missed you at Park-place, and was peevish at your being in an Aulic chamber. Adieu ! They tell us from Vienna that the peace is made between Tisiphone and the Turk: Is it true?

Men have entered into a desire of learning and knowledge sometimes upon a natural curiosity and inquisitive appetite; sometimes to entertain their minds with variety and delight; sometimes for ornament and reputation; and sometimes to enable them to victory of wit and contradiction; and most times for lucre and profession; and seldom sincerely to give a true account of their gift of reason to the benefit and use of man. As if there were sought in knowledge a couch whereupon to rest a searching and restless spirit; or a terrace for a wandering and variable mind to walk up and down with a fair prospect ; or a tower of state for a proud mind to raise itself upon; or a fort or commanding ground for strife and contention : or a shop for profit or sale; and not a rich storehouse for the glory of the Creator and the relief of man's estate.

DESIRE OF LEARNING.

107.

.

LORD BACON

108. SIR HUMPHREY GILBERT, HIS SPEECH AGAINST BELL IN DEFENCE OF THE REGAL PREROGATIVE, A. D. 1571. He endeavoured to prove the motion made by Bell to be a vain device, and perilous to be treated of; since it tended to the derogation of the prerogative imperial, which whoever should attempt so much as in fancy, could not, he said, be otherwise accounted than an open enemy. For what difference is there between saying that the queen is not to use the privilege of the crown, and saying that she is not queen? And though experience has shown so much clemency in her majesty, as might, perhaps, make subjects forget their duty; it is not good to sport or venture too much with princes. He reminded them of the fable of the hare, who, upon the proclamation that all horned beasts should depart the court, immediately fled, lest his ears should be construed to be horns; and by this apologue he seems to insinuate, that even those who heard or permitted such dangerous speeches, would not themselves be entirely free from danger. He desired them to beware, lest, if they meddled farther with these matters, the queen might look to her own power ; and finding herself able to suppress their challenged liberty, and to exert an arbitrary authority, might imitate the example of Lewis XI. of France, who, as he termed it, delivered the crown from wardship.

D. HUME

109. SUBJUGATION OF BRITAIN. The Roman arms were successful, and the independence of Britain was no more. But the sentiments, which must have animated these last defenders of their country, still breathe in the immortal pages of the historian; and the virtues of the Caledonians are now for ever united to the taste and feelings of mankind. Another melancholy scene followed: the Romans retired from the island, and the Britons, deprived of their protection, were insulted and overpowered by every invader, the Romans had long inured them to a sense of inferiority. The country had been partly civilized and improved; but the mind of the country had been destroyed. The Britons had lost the rude virtues of Barbarians, without having acquired those feelings of national respect and dignity, which do more than supply their place, in the character of each civilized community, a form of government, in which the conquered were excluded from any share, could exercise no influence over their conduct. They were unable to make head against their enemies, and they exhibited to the world that lesson, which has been so often repeated; that a country can never be defended by a population, that has been, on whatever account, degraded. They, who are to resist an invading foe and to resist successfully, must first be moulded by equal laws and the benefits of a free government into a due sense of national pride and individual importance. Men can never be converted into heroes upon the principles of suspicion and injustice.

W. SMYTH

IIO. SIMULTANEOUS GROWTH OF THE EVIL AND THE REMEDY. It often happens in human affairs, that the evil and the remedy grow up at the same time. The latter is scarcely visible perhaps above the earth, and remains unnoticed; whilst the evil shoots rapidly into strength, and catches the eye of the observer, by the immensity of its shadow and the fulness of its luxuriance. The eternal law, however, which imposes change upon all things, insensibly produces its effect: and a subsequent age may be enabled to mark, how the one declined and the other advanced; how the life and the vigour were gradually transferred; and how returning Spring seemed no longer to renew the honors of the one, while it summoned into progress and maturity the promise and the perfection of the other.

[ocr errors]

W. SMYTH

III.

THE LETTERS OF PHALARIS. Well, what says our severe examiner to this? Why truly with a pretended jest, but at the bottom in sober earnest, he lets Phalaris shift for himself, and is resolved not to answer this argument. I will not say how ungenerous a design this is, to leave his Sicilian prince in the lurch; but I fear it is too late now to shake him off with honour: his Phalaris will stick close to him longer than he will wish him. However, instead of an answer to me, he desires me to answer him whether it was prudent in me to accuse Phalaris of a theft, by a pair of quotations pillaged from his poor Notes on this Epistle? Poor Notes! he may be free with them, because he claims them as his own; and yet, as poor as he calls them, if common fame may be believed, somebody run in debt for them.

R. BENTLEY

II2.

ON August 30th, 1572, eight days after the massacre of St Bartholomew, I supped at the Louvre at Mademoiselle de Fisque's; the heat had been intense all the day; we went and sat down in a small harbour by the river side, to enjoy the fresh air. On a sudden we heard in the air a horrible sound of tumultuous voices, and of groans mixed with cries of rage and fury: we remained motionless, in the utmost consternation, looking on each other from time to time, without being able to speak. This continued, I believe, almost half an hour; it is certain the king heard it, that he was terrified by it, and that he could not sleep the remainder of the night; that, nevertheless, he did not mention it the next morning, but he was observed to look gloomy, pensive and wild; and Henry IV. afterward asserted, that eight days after the massacre of St Bartholomew, he saw a vast number of ravens perch and croak on the pavilion of the Louvre; that the same night Charles IX, after he had been two hours in bed, started up, roused his grooms of the chamber and sent them out to listen to a great noise of groans in the air and among others some furious and threatening voices, the whole resembling what was heard on the night of the massacre; that all these various cries were so striking, so remarkable and so articulate, that Charles IX, believing that the enemies of the Montmorencies and of their partizans had surprised and attacked them, sent a detachment of his guards to prevent this new massacre.

113. DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THUCYDIDES AND XENOPHON IN SPEAKING OF THE RELIGION OF THEIR AGE. Between two writers so near together in all other points as Thucydides and Xenophon, the difference appears extraordinary which we find in their manner of speaking of the religion of their age, and particularly of the reputed science of divination, which was so intimately connected with the religion. Thucydides, a man evidently of very serious and generally just thought on religious and moral subjects, has shown no faith in pretensions to prophecy nor attributed any consequence to a sacrifice.

On the contrary, Xenophon is continually holding out the importance of various ceremonies, especially sacrifice, and avowing implicit credit in that science which pretended, from the symptoms of victims, from dreams and from various occurrences in nature, to learn

the will of the gods and to foretell future events. It is hazardous to undertake to say for another what he thought, which he has not said, on a subject on which he has said much; but some passages in the writings of Xenophon seem to afford ground for supposing that a strong feeling of the want of some check upon the passions of men, which the religion and morality of his age did not offer, led him to value a superstition which might be employed for the most salutary purposes, and to carry the profession of his belief beyond the reality. On more than one occasion we find cause to suspect his influence amongst the prophets and augurs of the Cyrean army; and indeed if ever deceit for preventing evil might be allowed, it would do credit to the scholar of Socrates in the business of the Tibarenes; for apparently nothing but the advantage made of a salutary superstition could have preserved the property of that unoffending people from plunder, their persons from slavery, and probably many lives from slaughter.

W. MITFORD

REVEALS

HIMSELF

114. LORD DIGBY

TO SIR JOHN HOTHAM. After he had entertained the company with such discourse, he applied himself to the governor; and told him, “that if he might be admitted to privacy with him, he would discover somewhat to him which he would not repent to have known.” The governor, who was a man apt enough to fear his own safety but more apprehensive of the jealousies which would attend him, would not venture himself in another room; but drew him to a great window at a convenient distance from the company, and wished him “to say what he thought fit.” The lord Digby, finding he could not obtain more privacy, asked him in English, “Whether he knew him:" the other, appalled, told him, “No.” “Then,” said he, “I shall try whether I know sir John Hotham ; and whether he be, in truth, the same man of honour I have always taken him to be:" and thereupon told him who he was, and “that he hoped he was too much a gentleman to deliver him up a sacrifice to their rage and fury, who, he well knew, were his implacable enemies." The other, being astonished and fearing that the by-standers would discover him too (for, being now told who he was, he wondered he found it not out himself) he desired him “to say no more for the present; that he should not be sorry for the trust he reposed

« AnteriorContinuar »