« AnteriorContinuar »
another place: "On the wisdom for a man's | bank. Cicero and Demosthenes were laborious in
Barrow. I must repeat one noble sentence; for I fear, if you begin to read it, I may interrupt you, not being master of my mind when his comes over it. "Divide with reason between self-love and society; and be so true to thyself as thou be not false to others, especially to thy king and country. It is a poor centre of a man's actions, himself: it is right earth; for that only stands fast upon his own centre; whereas all things that have affinity with the heavens, move upon the centre of another, which they benefit."
What an imagination is Bacon's! what splendid and ardent language! In what prose-writer of our country, or of Rome, or of Greece, is there anything equal or similar to it!
Newton. On Innovations I find the sentence which I have heard oftener quoted than any in the volume: "Time is the greatest innovator."
We take the axiom up without examination; it is doubtful and inconsiderate. Does it mean much time or little time? By a great innovator we must either signify an innovator in great matters, or in many at once, or nearly at once. Now Time is slow in innovation of any kind; and all great innovations are violences, as it were, done to Time, crowding into a small space what would in ordinary cases occupy a larger. Time, without other agents, would innovate little for the portions of Time are all the same, and being so, their forces must be the same likewise.
Barrow. That satisfies me. Newton. Truth and falsehood are the two great innovators, always at work, and sometimes the one uppermost and sometimes the other.
Barrow. Let us engage ourselves in the service of Truth, where the service is not perilous; and let us win Time to help us, for without him few can not stand against many.
Newton. On Friendship there are some things which sit loose upon the subject. The utility of it seems to be principally in the view of Bacon. Some positions are questionable.
"Certain it is that whosoever hath his mind fraught with many thoughts, his wits and understanding do clarify and break up in the communicating and discoursing with another; he tosseth his thoughts more easily; he marshalleth them more orderly; he seeth how they look when they are turned into words; finally, he waxeth wiser than himself, and that more by an hour's discourse than by a day's meditation."
This I conceive is applicable to one frame of mind, but not to another of equal capacity and elasticity. I admire the ingenuity of the thought, and the wording of it, nevertheless I doubt whether it suits not better the mind of an acute lawyer than of a contemplative philosopher. Never have I met with anyone whose thoughts are marshalled more orderly in conversation than in composition: nor am I acquainted in the University with any gentleman of fluent speech, whose ideas are not frequently left dry upon the
composition, and their replies were, I doubt not, as much studied as their addresses. For it was a part of the orator to foresee the points of attack to which his oration was exposed, and to prepare the materials, and the arrangement of them, for defending it.
"It was well said by Themistocles to the king of Persia, that speech was like cloth of Arras," &c. Themistocles might as well have spoken of velvet of Genoa and satin of Lyons.
On Expense there is much said quite worthy of Bacon's experience and prudence: but he lays down one rule which I think I can demonstrate to be injurious in its tendency.
"If a man will keep but of even hand, his ordinary expenses ought to be but to the half of his receipts; and if he think to wax rich, but to the third part."
Should all private gentlemen, and others who are not gentlemen, but whose income is of the same value, spend only the third part of it, the nation would be more nearly ruined within the century, than it would be if every one of them mortgaged his property to half its amount.
A wiser saying comes soon afterward, where he speaks On the true greatness of kingdoms and estates.
"No people overcharged with tribute is fit for empire."
How happy, my dear sir, is our condition, in having been ever both generous and thrifty, ready at all times to succour the oppressed, and condescending on this holy occasion to ask the countenance of none! how happy, to have marched straight forward in the line of duty with no policy to thwart, no penury to enfeeble, and no debt to burthen us! Although our nobility is less magnificent than in the reign of the Tudors, I do verily believe it is as free and independent; and its hospitality so conducive (as Bacon says) to martial greatness, is the same as ever, although the quality of the guests be somewhat changed.
Barrow. Isaac ! are you serious?
Newton. Dear sir, the subject animates me.
Barrow. What sparkles is hardly more transparent than what is turbid. Your animation, my friend, perplexed me. I perceive you are vehemently moved by the glory of our country.
Newton. As we derive a great advantage from the nature of our nobility, so do we derive an equal one from the dispositions and occupations of the people. How unfortunate would it be for us, if we had artisans cooped up like tame pigeons in unwholesome lofts, bending over the loom by tallow-light, and refreshing their exhausted bodies at daybreak with ardent liquors! Indeed, in comparison with this, the use of slaves itself, which Bacon calls a great advantage, was almost a blessing.
Barrow. Let us not speculate on either of these curses, which may not be felt as such when they come upon us, for we shall be stunned and torpefied by the greatness of our fall. What have you next?
Newton. On Suspicion I find an Italian proverb, which the learned author has misconstrued. "Sospetto licenzia fede" he translates, "Suspicion gives a passport to faith." The meaning is (my visitor tells me), "Suspicion dismisses fidelity." "Licenziare un servitore," is, to dismiss a servant. That the person suspected is no longer bound to fidelity, is the axiom of a nation, in which fidelity is readier to quit a man than suspicion is.
It cost me many hours of inquiry, to search into the propriety of his thoughts Upon Ambition. He says, "It is counted by some a weakness in princes to have favourites; but it is of all others the best remedy against ambitious great ones: for when the way of pleasuring and displeasuring lieth by the favourite, it is impossible any other should be overgreat."
Newton. He is inconsequent in his reasoning, "There is no excellent beauty that when he says, hath not some strangeness in the proportion. A man can not tell whether Apelles or Albert Durer were the more trifler, whereof the one would make a personage by geometrical proportions; the other, by taking the best parts out of divers faces to make one excellent."
Barrow. Whereof is of which, not of whom. Newton. If "there is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion,” then Apelles was no trifler in taking the best parts of dicers faces, which would produce some strangeness ¦ in the proportion, unless he corrected it.
Barrow. True: Bacon's first remark, however, is perfectly just and novel. What strikes us in¦ beauty is that which we did not expect to find, from anything we had seen before: a new arrangeI hope, and am willing to believe, that my Lord ment of excellent parts. The same thing may be Chancellor Bacon was a true and loyal subject; said of genius; the other great gift of the Diviyet one would almost be tempted to think in read- nity, not always so acceptable to his creatures; ing him, that there must be a curse in hereditary but which however has this advantage, if you will princes, and that he had set his private mark allow it to be one, that, whereas beauty has most upon it when he praises their use of favourites, admirers at its first appearance, genius has most ! and supposes them surrounded by mean persons at its last, and begins to be commemorated in the and ambitious ones, by poisons and counter-period when the other is forgotten. poisons. Sejanus and Tigellinus, our Gavestons and Mortimers, our Empsons and Dudleys, our us chiefly in being unexpected from anything Wolseys and Buckinghams, are like certain fumi- we had seen before, is applicable no less to gations to drive away rats, which indeed do drive ugliness. Barrow. I am not giving a definition, but them out, but also make the house undesirable to inhabit. He recommends "the continual inter-recording an observation, which would be inexact change of favours and disgraces, whereby they without the remaining words “a new arrangement may not know what to expect, and be, as it were, of excellent parts." in a wood."
Barrow. By the effect of this policy, we find the countenances of the statesmen and courtiers who lived in his age, almost without exception, mean and suspicious. The greatest men look, in their portraits, as if they were waiting for a box on the ear, lowering their heads, raising their shoulders, and half-closing their eyes, for the reception of it.
Newton. What he says of nature in men, seems spoken by some one who saw through it from above the same On Custom and Education. Here he speaks with more verity than consolation, when he says, "There be not two more fortunate properties, than to have a little of the fool and not too much of the honest: therefore extreme lovers of their country were never fortunate; neither can they be; for when a man placeth his thoughts without himself, he goeth not his own way."
In the Essay On Youth and Age, what can be truer, what can be more novel or more eloquent, than this sentence?
"Men of age object too much, consult too long, adventure too little, repent too soon, and seldom drive business home to the full period, but content themselves with a mediocrity of success.'
What he says Of Beauty is less considerate. Barrow. I do not wonder at it: Beauty is not stript in a Court of Chancery, as Fortune is.
Newton. What you said of beauty, as striking
Newton. Our author errs more widely than before; not, as before, in drawing a false conclusion. "Such personages," he continues to remark, "I think would please nobody but the painter who made them: not but I think a painter may make a better face than ever was; but he must do it by a kind of felicity (as a musician that maketh an excellent air in music), and not by rule." Nothing of excellent is to be done by felicity.
Barrow. Felicity and Excellence rarely meet, and hardly know one another.
Newton. Certainly no musician ever composed an excellent air otherwise than by rule: Felicity is without it.
Barrow. Beauty does not seem to dazzle but to He reasons that the principal part deaden him. of beauty lies in decent motion, and asserts that "No youthy person can be comely but by pardon, and by considering the youth as to make up the Much of this reflection may have comeliness." been fashioned and cast by the age of the observer; much by the hour of the day: I think it must have been a rainy morning, when he had eaten unripe fruit for breakfast!
Newton. Perhaps sour grapes.
On Deformity I have transcribed a long sentence: here he seems more at home.
"Because there is in man an election touching the frame of his mind, and a necessity in the
frame of his body, the stars of natural inclination | breedeth regard, as commonly with inferiors; or
Nothing can be truer in all its parts, or more magnificent in the whole.
Barrow. This short essay is worth many libraries of good books. Several hundreds of esteemed authors have not in them the substance and spirit of the sentence you recited.
in tender cases, where a man's eye upon the countenance of him with whom he speaketh, may give him a direction how far to go; and generally where a man will reserve to himself liberty, either to disavow or to expound."
Barrow. Bad enough: but surely he must appear to you anything rather than knave, when he recommends the employment of froward and absurd men, be the business what it may.
Newton. He recommends them for business which doth not well bear out itself; and in which,
Newton. On Building he says, "Houses are one would think, the wariest are the most wanted. built to live in, and not to look on."
Half of this is untrue. Sheds and hovels, the first habitations (at least the first artificial ones) of men, were built to live in, and not to look on: but houses are built for both: otherwise why give directions for the proportions of porticoes, of columns, of intercolumniations, and of whatever else delights the beholder in architecture, and flatters the possessor? Is the beauty of cities no honour to the inhabitants, no excitement to the defence? External order in visible objects hath relation and intercourse with internal propriety and decorousness. I doubt not but the beauty of Athens had much effect on the patriotism, and some on the genius, of the Athenians. Part of the interest and animation men receive from Homer, lies in their conception of the magnificence of Troy. Even the little rock of Ithaca rears up its palaces sustained by pillars; and pillars are that portion of an edifice on which the attention rests longest and most complacently. For we have no other means of calculating so well the grandeur of edifices, as by the magnitude of the support they need; and it is the only thing about them which we measure in any way by our own. "Neither do I reckon it an ill seat only where the air is unwholesome, but likewise where the air is unequal as you shall see many fine seats set upon a knap of ground, environed with higher hills round about it, whereby the heat of the sun is pent in, and the wind gathereth as in troughs," &c.
Now surely this very knap of ground is the very spot to be chosen for the commodiousness of its situation, its salubrity, and its beauty. There is as little danger of the wind gathering in these troughs as in goat-skins. He must have taken his idea from some Italian work: the remark is suitable only to a southern climate.
Barrow. In one so rainy as ours is, it would have been more judicious, I think, to have warned against building the house upon clay or marl, which are retentive of moisture, slippery nine months in the twelve, cracked the other three, of a colour offensive to the sight, of a soil little accommodating to garden-plants, the water usually unwholesome, and the roads impassable.
Newton. On Negotiating I am sorry to find again our lord chancellor a dissembler and a tutor to lies.
"To deal in person is good when a man's face
Barrow. But, like men who have just tripped, he walks the firmer and stouter instantly. The remainder of the Essay is worthy of his perspicacity.
Newton. In the next, On Followers and Friends, I find the word espial used by him a second time, for a minister the French call espion. It appears to me that it should denote, not the person but the action, as the same termination is used in trial.
Barrow. Right. We want some words in composition as we want some side-dishes at table, less for necessity than for decoration. On this principle, I should not quarrel with a writer who had used the verb originate; on condition however that he used it as a neuter: none but a sugarslave would employ it actively. It may stand opposite to terminate.
Bacon in the preceding sentence used glorious for vain-glorious; a latinism among the many of the age, and among the few of the author. Our language bears gallicisms better than latinisms: but whoever is resolved to write soberly must be contented with the number of each that was found among us in the time of the Reformation. Little is to be rejected of what was then in use, and less of anything new is henceforward to be admitted. By which prudence and caution we may in time have writers as elegant as the Italian and the French, whom already we exceed, as this little volume proves, in vigour and invention.
Newton. He says further on, "It is true that in government it is good to use men of one rank equally; for to countenance some extraordinarily is to make them insolent, and the rest discontent; because they may claim a due : but contrariwise in favour, to use men with much difference and election is good; for it maketh the persons preferred more thankful, and the rest more officious; because all is of favour."
Here again I am sorry so great an authority should, to use the words of my visitor, let his conscience run before his judgment, and his tongue slip in between. In saying that all is of favour' (thus carps my visitor) he gives a preference to another form of government over the monarchal; another form indeed where all is not of favour; where something may be attributed to virtue, something to industry, something to genius; where something may accrue to us from the gratitude of our fellow-citizens; and not every
thing drop and drivel from the frothy pulings of one swathed up in bandages never changed nor loosened; of one held always in the same arms, and with its face turned always in the same direction.'
Barrow. Hold! hold! this is as bad as Bacon or Milton nay, Cicero and Demosthenes, in the blindness of their hearts, could scarcely have spoken, to the nations they guided, with more contemptuous asperity of royal power.
Newton. I venerate it, as coming of God. Barrow. Hold again! all things come from him the hangman and the hanged are in the same predicament with the anointer and the anointed.
Newton. Sir, you remind me of an observation made in my father's house by the son of a republican, and who indeed was little better than one himself. My father had upbraided him on his irreverence to the Lord's anointed: he asked my father why he allowed his mind to be lime-twigged and ruffled and discomposed by words; and whether he would feel the same awe in repeating the syllables, God's greased, as in repeating the syllables, God's anointed. If the Esquimaux heard them, said he, they would think the man no better reared than themselves, and worse dressed, as dressed by one less in practice.
Barrow. No men are so facetious as those whose minds are somewhat perverted. Truth enjoys good air and clear light, but no playground. Keep your eyes upon Bacon: we may more safely look on him than on thrones. How wise is all the remainder of the Essay!
Newton. In the first sentence On Ceremonies and Respects, are the words, "He that is only real had need have exceeding great parts of virtue." This weighty and sorrowful truth does not prevent me from questioning the expression, had need have.
Barrow. The true words, which all authors write amiss, are, ha' need of. Ha' need sounds like had need, and have sounds like of, in speaking quickly. Hence the wisest men have written the words improperly, by writing at once from the ear, without an appeal or reference to grammar.
Newton. On Praise he says ingeniously, but i not altogether truly, "Fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and swollen, and drowns things weighty and solid."
Barrow. This is true only of literary fame: and the drowned things are brought to light again, sometimes by the warmer season and sometimes by the stormier.
He uses suspect for suspicion: we retain aspect, respect, retrospect, prospect: I know not whether the chancellor's award in favour of suspect will be repealed or acquiesced in.
Newton. In the next Essay, On Vain-glory, he says, "In fame of learning the flight will be slow without some feathers of ostentation." That is hard, if true.
Barrow. There must be a good deal of movement and shuffling before there is any rising from the ground: and those who have the longest wings have the most difficulty in the first mounting. In literature, as at foot-ball, strength and agility are insufficient of themselves: you must Newton. He says On Suitors, and truly, that have your side, or you may run till you are out "Private suits do putrefy the public good." Soon of breath, and kick till you are out of shoes, and afterward, "Some embrace suits which never never win the game. There must be some to mean to deal effectually in them." This seems keep others off you, and some to prolong for you ordinary and flat; but the words are requisite to a the ball's rebound. But your figures, dear Isaac, sentence founded (I fear) on a close observation will serve as tenterhooks to catch the fingers of of human nature, as courts render it. I noted those who would meddle with your letters. Do them as presenting an incorrectness and indeci- not however be ambitious of an early fame: such sion of language. Who is proper; not which; is apt to shrivel and to drop under the tree. although which was used indiscriminately, as we Newton. The author continues the same subfind in the beginning of the Lord's Prayer:'ject in the next Essay, though under a different but in that place there could be no confusion. title. Of Honour and Reputation he says, “DisBarrow. Among the few crudities and barbar- creet followers and servants help much to repuisms that yet oppressed our language in his tation." Then he who has no servant, or an learned age, Bacon has this, "A man were better indiscreet one, must be content to be helped to rise in his suit." Indeed he uses were better more little of it. than once; with the simple verb after it, and without to.
Newton. On Studies he can not lose his road, having trodden it so frequently, and having left his mark upon so many objects all the way. Therefore it is no wonder that his genius points with a finger of fire to this subject.
He says On Faction, that " Many a man's strength is in opposition, and when that faileth he groweth out of use." He must have written from inspiration; for in his age I find no person to whom he can have alluded.
Barrow. Perhaps not; yet the preceding may have furnished him with examples.
Barrow. Seeing that reputation is casual, that the wise may long want it, that the unwise may soon acquire it, that a servant may further it, that a spiteful man may obstruct it, that a passionate man may maim it, and that whole gangs are ready to waylay it as it mounts the hill, I would not wish greatly to carry it about me, but rather to place it in some safe spot, where few could find, and not many will look after it. But those who discover it, will try in their hands its weight and quality, and take especial care lest they injure it, saying, "It is his, and his only; leave it to him and wish him increase in it."
Newton. Where Bacon is occupied "in the
true marshalling of sovran honour," he gives the third place to liberatores or salvatores. He wishes to speak in Latin; one of these words belongs not to the language.
Barrow. His Latin is always void of elegance and grace; but he had the generosity to write in it, that he might be useful the more extensively. We English are far below the Italians, French, Germans, and Dutch, in our latinity: yet we have Latin volumes written by our countrymen, each of which, in its matter, is fairly worth half theirs. They, like certain fine gentlemen, seem to found their ideas of elegance on slenderness, and in twenty or thirty of them we hardly find a thought or remark at all worthy of preservation. I remember but one sentence; which however, if Cicero had written it, would be recorded among the best he ever wrote. Valuit nimirum maledicentiâ, gratâ cunctis, etiam iis qui neque sibi maledici neque maledicere ipsi aliis velint."
Newton. Permit me to inquire, sir, by whom was this strong and shrewd and truly Sallustian sentence written ?
Barrow. By Vavassor, a Jesuit.
It may be remarked, and perhaps you have done it, that the title itself of this Essay, The True Marshalling of Sovran Honour, is incorrect. By marshalling he means the giving of rates or degrees now what is sovran has no rates or degrees he should have said "of titles assumed by sovran princes."
Newton. In the first sentence On Judicature, he uses the singular and plural in designating the same body either is admissible, but not both.
"Else will it be like the authority claimed by the Church of Rome, which, under pretext of exposition of Scripture, doth not stick to add and alter, and to pronounce that which they do not find, and, by show of antiquity, to introduce novelty."
What gravity and wisdom is there in the remark that, "One foul sentence doth more hurt than many foul examples: for these do but corrupt the stream, the other corrupteth the fountain."
The worst, and almost the only bad sentence in the volume, is the childish antithesis, "There be, saith the Scripture, that turn judgment into wormwood.. and surely there be also that turn it into vinegar: for injustice maketh it bitter, and delays make it sour."
religion we mean the Church of Rome, we come nearer the fact for that religion, with patchings and repairings, with materials purloined from others, with piles driven under the foundation, and buttresses without that darken everything within, surmounted by pinnacles raised above the upper story, hath lasted long, and will remain while men are persuaded that wax and stockfish can atone for their vices. The obstacle to our acceptance of the meaning is, that it hath been convicted of many impostures in its claims and miracles, that it continues to insist on them, and that it uses violence (which is forbidden by Christ) against those who stumble or doubt.'
Barrow. Deafness is not to be healed by breaking the head, nor blindness by pulling the eyes out: it is time the doctors should try new experiments: if they will not, it is time that the patients should try new doctors.
Newton. A bad religion may be kept afoot by the same means as other kinds of bad government; by corruption and terror, by spies and torturers. No doubt it will please God to see all things set to rights: but we must acknowledge that the best religion, like the best men, has fared the worst.
Bacon says he "reckons martyrdoms among miracles, because they seem to exceed the strength of human nature." If they did seem to exceed the strength of human nature, this is no sufficient reason why they should be ranked with miracles: for martyrdoms have appertained to many religions, if we may call voluntary death to prove a misbeliever's sincerity a martyrdom, while we know that miracles belong exclusively to the Christian and even in this faith there are degrees of latitude and longitude which they were never known to pass, although, humanly speaking, they were much wanted. The Lithuanians, and other north-eastern nations, were long before they were reclaimed from paganism, for want of miracles. God's good time had not come; and he fell upon different expedients for their conversion.
On the Vicissitudes of Things we find mention of Plato's great year. I think you once told me, Plato took more from others than he knew what to do with.
Barrow. Instead of simplifying, he involves and confounds.
On the Vicissitudes of Things he observes that Newton. I hope hereafter to study the heavenly "The true religion is built upon the rock, the bodies, with greater accuracy and on other prinrest are tossed upon the waves of Time." My ciples than philosophers have done hitherto. The visitor said hereupon, I doubt whether this reasons of Bacon why "the northern tract of the magnificent figure has truth for its basis. If by world is the more martial region," are unworthy true religion is meant the religion of our Saviour, of his perspicacity. First he assigns the stars of as practised by his apostles, they outlived it. the hemisphere; then the greatness of the contiThey complain that it never took firm possession nent; "whereas the south part is almost all even of their own auditors. Saint Peter himself sea;" then, the cold of the northern parts, was reproved by his master for using his sword"which is that which, without aid of discipline, too vigorously, after all he had said against any doth make the bodies hardest and the courage use of it whatever: yet, so little good did the warmest." The stars can have no effect whatever reproof, he fell immediately to betraying the on the courage or virtues of men, unless we call very man he had thus defended. But if by true the sun one of them, as the poets do. The heat