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appear, but that truth may everywhere be sacred: and as the reader is more concerned at one man's 'Ne quid falsi dicere audeat, ne quid veri non audeat fortune than those of many, so likewise the writer is historicus'-' that a historian should never dare to more capable of making a perfect work if he confine speak falsely, or fear to speak what is true']; that he himself to this narrow compass. The lineaments, neither incline to superstition, in giving too much features, and colourings of a single picture may be hit credit to oracles, prophecies, divinations, and prodi- exactly; but in a history-piece of many figures, the gies, nor to irreligion, in disclaiming the Almighty general design, the ordonnance or disposition of it, Providence; but where general opinion has prevailed the relation of one figure to another, the diversity of of any miraculous accident or portent, he ought to the posture, habits, shadowings, and all the other relate it as such, without imposing his opinion on our graces conspiring to a uniformity, are of so difficult belief. Next to Thucydides in this kind, may be performance, that neither is the resemblance of partiaccounted Polybius, amongst the Grecians; Livy, cular persons often perfect, nor the beauty of the though not free from superstition, nor Tacitus from piece complete; for any considerable error in the ill nature, amongst the Romans; amongst the modern parts renders the whole disagreeable and lame. Thus, Italians, Guicciardini and Davila, if not partial; but then, the perfection of the work, and the benefit above all men, in my opinion, the plain, sincere, un- arising from it, are both more absolute in biography affected, and most instructive Philip de Comines, than in history. All history is only the precepts of amongst the French, though he only gives his history moral philosophy reduced into examples. Moral phithe humble name of Commentaries. I am sorry I losophy is divided into two parts, ethics and politics; cannot find in our own nation, though it has produced the first instructs us in our private offices of virtue, some commendable historians, any proper to be ranked the second in those which relate to the management with these. Buchanan, indeed, for the purity of his of the commonwealth. Both of these teach by arguLatin, and for his learning, and for all other endowmentation and reasoning, which rush as it were into ments belonging to a historian, might be placed the mind, and possess it with violence; but history amongst the greatest, if he had not too much leaned rather allures than forces us to virtue. There is noto prejudice, and too manifestly declared himself a thing of the tyrant in example; but it gently glides party of a cause, rather than a historian of it. Ex- into us, is easy and pleasant in its passage, and, in one cepting only that (which I desire not to urge too far word, reduces into practice our speculative notions; on so great a man, but only to give caution to his therefore the more powerful the examples are, they readers concerning it), our isle may justly boast in are the more useful also, and by being more known, him a writer comparable to any of the moderns, and they are more powerful. Now, unity, which is defined, excelled by few of the ancients. is in its own nature more apt to be understood than multiplicity, which in some measure participates of infinity. The reason is Aristotle's.
Biographia, or the history of particular men's lives, comes next to be considered; which in dignity is inferior to the other two, as being more confined in action, and treating of wars and councils, and all other public affairs of nations, only as they relate to him whose life is written, or as his fortunes have a particular dependence on them, or connexion to them. All things here are circumscribed and driven to a point, so as to terminate in one; consequently, if the action or counsel were managed by colleagues, some part of it must be either lame or wanting, except it be supplied by the excursion of the writer. Herein, likewise, must be less of variety, for the same reason; because the fortunes and actions of one man are re
lated, not those of many. Thus the actions and achievements of Sylla, Lucullus, and Pompey, are all of them but the successive parts of the Mithridatic war; of which we could have no perfect image, if the same hand had not given us the whole, though at several views, in their particular lives.
Yet though we allow, for the reasons above alleged, that this kind of writing is in dignity inferior to history and annals, in pleasure and instruction it equals, or even excels, both of them. It is not only commended by ancient practice to celebrate the memory of great and worthy men, as the best thanks which posterity can pay them, but also the examples of virtue are of more vigour when they are thus contracted into individuals. As the sunbeams, united in a burning-glass to a point, have greater force than when they are darted from a plain superficies, so the virtues and actions of one man, drawn together into a single story, strike upon our minds a stronger and more lively impression than the scattered relations of many men and many actions; and by the same means that they give us pleasure, they afford us profit too. For when the understanding is intent and fixed on a single thing, it carries closer to the mark; every part of the object sinks into it, and the soul receives it unmixed and whole. For this reason Aristotle commends the unity of action in a poem; because the mind is not capable of digesting many things at once, nor of conceiving fully any more than one idea at a time. Whatsoever distracts the pleasure, lessens it;
Biographia, or the histories of particular lives, though circumscribed in the subject, is yet more extensive in the style than the other two; for it not only comprehends them both, but has somewhat superadded, which neither of them have. The style of it is various, according to the occasion. There are proper places in it for the plainness and nakedness of narration, which is ascribed to annals; there is also room reserved for the loftiness and gravity of general history, when the actions related shall require that manner of expres sion. But there is, withal, a descent into minute circumstances and trivial passages of life, which are natural to this way of writing, and which the dignity of the other two will not admit. There you are conducted only into the rooms of state, here you are led into the private lodgings of the hero; you see him in his undress, and are made familiar with his most private actions and conversations. You may behold a Scipio and a Lælius gathering cockle-shells on the shore, Augustus playing at bounding-stones with boys, and Agesilaus riding on a hobby-horse among his children. The pageantry of life is taken away; you see the poor reasonable animal as naked as ever nature made him; are made acquainted with his passions and his follies, and find the demi-god a man. Plutarch himself has more than once defended this kind of relating little passages; for, in the Life of Alexander, he says thus: In writing the lives of illustrious men, I am not tied to the laws of history; nor does it follow, that, because an action is great, it therefore manifests the greatness and virtue of him who did it; but, on the other side, sometimes a word or a casual jest betrays a man more to our knowledge of him, than a battle fought wherein ten thousand men were slain, or sacking of cities, or a course of victories.' In another place, he quotes Xenophon on the like occasion: 'The sayings of great men in their familiar discourses, and amidst their wine, have somewhat in them which is worthy to be transmitted to posterity.' Our author therefore needs no excuse, but rather deserves a commendation, when he relates, as pleasant, some sayings of his heroes, which appear (I'must confess it) very
cold and insipid mirth to us. For it is not his meaning to commend the jest, but to paint the man; besides, we may have lost somewhat of the idiotism of that language in which it was spoken; and where the conceit is couched in a single word, if all the significations of it are not critically understood, the grace and the pleasantry are lost.
But in all parts of biography, whether familiar or stately, whether sublime or low, whether serious or merry, Plutarch equally excelled. If we compare him to others, Dion Cassius is not so sincere; Herodian, a lover of truth, is oftentimes deceived himself with what he had falsely heard reported; then, the time of his emperors exceeds not in all above sixty years, so that his whole history will scarce amount to three lives of Plutarch. Suetonius and Tacitus may be called alike either authors of histories or writers of lives; but the first of them runs too willingly into obscene descriptions, which he teaches, while he relates; the other, besides what has already been noted of him, often falls into obscurity; and both of them have made so unlucky a choice of times, that they are forced to describe rather monsters than men; and their emperors are either extravagant fools or tyrants, and most usually both. Our author, on the contrary, as he was more inclined to commend than to dispraise, has generally chosen such great men as were famous for their several virtues; at least such whose frailties or vices were overpoised by their excellences; such from whose examples we may have more to follow than to shun. Yet, as he was impartial, he disguised not the faults of any man, an example of which is in the life of Lucullus, where, after he has told us that the double benefit which his countrymen, the Chæroneans, received from him, was the chiefest motive which he had to write his life, he afterwards rips up his luxury, and shows how he lost, through his mismanagement, his authority and his soldiers' love. Then he was more happy in his digressions than any we have named. I have always been pleased to see him, and his imitator Montaigne, when they strike a little out of the common road; for we are sure to be the better for their wandering. The best quarry lies not always in the open field: and who would not be content to follow a good huntsman over hedges and ditches, when he knows the game will reward his pains? But if we mark him more narrowly, we may observe that the great reason of his frequent starts is the variety of his learning; he knew so much of nature, was so vastly furnished with all the treasures of the mind, that he was uneasy to himself, and was forced, as I may say, to lay down some at every passage, and to scatter his riches as he went: like another Alexander or Adrian, he built a city, or planted a colony, in every part of his progress, and left behind him some memorial of his greatness. Sparta, and Thebes, and Athens, and Rome, the mistress of the world, he has discovered in their foundations, their institutions, their growth, their height; the decay of the three first, and the alteration of the last. You see those several people in their different laws, and policies, and forms of government, in their warriors, and senators, and demagogues. Nor are the ornaments of poetry, and the illustrations of similitudes, forgotten by him; in both which he instructs, as well as pleases; or rather pleases, that he may instruct.
"To conclude this act with the most rumbling piece of nonsense spoken yet—
"To flattering lightning our feigned smiles conform, Which, backed with thunder, do but gild a storm." Conform a smile to lightning, make a smile imitate lightning, and flattering lightning; lightning, sure, is a threatening thing. And this lightning must gild a storm. Now, if I must conform my smiles to lightning, then my smiles must gild a storm too: to gild with smiles is a new invention of gilding. And gild a storm by being backed with thunder. Thunder is part of the storm; so one part of the storm must help to yild another part, and help by backing; as if a man would gild a thing the better for being backed, or having a load upon his back. So that here is gilding by conforming, smiling, lightning, backing, and thundering. The whole is as if I should say thus: I will make my counterfeit smiles look like a flattering horse, which, being backed with a trooper, does but gild the battle. I am mistaken if nonsense is not here pretty thick sown. Sure the poet writ these two lines aboard some smack in a storm, and, being sea-sick, spewed up a good lump of clotted nonsense at once.'
The controversies in which Dryden was frequently engaged, were not in general restrained within the bounds of legitimate discussion. The authors of those days descended to gross personalities. There was,' says Sir Walter Scott, during the reign of Charles II., a semi-barbarous virulence of controversy, even upon abstract points of literature, which would be now thought injudicious and unfair, even by the A newspaper advocates of contending factions. critic of that time never deemed he had so effectually refuted the reasoning of his adversary, as when he had said something disrespectful of his talents, person, or moral character. Thus, literary contest was embittered by personal hatred, and truth was so far from being the object of the combatants, that even victory was tasteless unless obtained by the disgrace and degradation of the antagonist.'*
SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE.
SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE, a well-known statesman and miscellaneous writer, possesses a high reputation as one of the chief polishers of the English language. He was the son of Sir John Temple, master of the Rolls in Ireland in the reigns of Charles I. and II., and was born in London in 1628. He studied at Cambridge under Cudworth as tutor; but being intended for public life, devoted his attention chiefly to the French and Spanish languages. After travelling for six years on the continent, he went to reside with his father in Ireland, where he represented the county of Carlow in the parliament at Dublin in 1661. Removing, two years afterwards, to England, the introductions which he carried to the leading statesman of the day speedily procured him employment in the diplomatic service. He was sent, in 1665, on a secret mission to the bishop of Munster, and performed his duty so well, that on his return a baronetcy was bestowed on him, and he was appointed English resident at the court of Brussels. The peace of western Europe was at this time in danger from the ambitious designs of Louis XIV., who aimed at the subjugation of the Spanish Netherlands. Temple paid a visit to the Dutch governor, De Witt, at the Hague, and with great skill brought about, in 1668, the celebrated Sweden, by which the career of Louis was for a 'triple alliance' between England, Holland, and
Dryden was exceedingly sensitive to the criticisms of the paltry versifiers of his day. Among those who annoyed him was Elkanah Settle, a now forgotten rhymer, with whom he carried on a violent war of ridicule and abuse. The following is an amusing specimen of a criticism by Dryden on Settle's tragedy, called 'The Empress of Morocco,' which seems to have roused the jealousy and indig-time effectually checked. In the same year he re
nation of the critic :-
*Scott's Life of Dryden, Sect. iii.
remark, however, has certainly greater latitude than Johnson would have given it if published by himself. It is true that some of Temple's productions are eminently distinguished by harmony and cadence; but that he was the first who introduced the latter, will not be admitted by any one who is familiar with the prose of Drummond, Cowley, Dryden, and Sprat.
[Against Excessive Grief.*]
The honour which I received by a letter from your ladyship was too great not to be acknowledged; yet I doubted whether that occasion could bear me out in the confidence of giving your ladyship any further trouble. But I can no longer forbear, on account of the sensible wounds that have so often of late been given your friends here, by the desperate expressions in several of your letters, respecting your temper of mind, your health, and your life; in all which you must allow them to be extremely concerned. Perhaps none can be, at heart, more partial than I am to whatever regards your ladyship, nor more inclined to defend you on this very occasion, how unjust and unkind soever you are to yourself. But when you throw away your health, or your life, so great a remainder of your own family, and so great hopes of that into which you are entered, and all by a desperate melancholy, upon an event past remedy, and to which all the mortal race is perpetually subject, give me leave to tell you, madam, that what you do is not at all consistent either with so good a Christian, or so reasonable and great a person, as your ladyship appears to the world in all other lights.
is, in comparison with those that have been drawn in the circle of your knowledge; if you think how few are born with honour, how many die without name or children, how little beauty we see, how few friends we hear of, how much poverty, and how many diseases there are in the world, you will fall down upon your knees, and, instead of repining at one affliction, will admire so many blessings as you have received at the hand of God.
* Addressed to the Countess of Essex in 1674, after the death of her only daughter.
To put your ladyship in mind of what you are, and of the advantages which you have, would look like a design to flatter you. But this I may say, that we will pity you as much as you please, if you will tell us who they are whom you think, upon all circumstances, you have reason to envy. Now, if I had a master who gave me all I could ask, but thought fit to take one thing from me again, either because I used it ill, or gave myself so much over to it as to neglect what I owed to him, or to the world; or, perhaps, because he would show his power, and put me in mind from whom I held all the rest, would you think I had much reason to complain of hard usage, and never to remember any more what was left me, never to forget what was taken away?
It is true you have lost a child, and all that could be lost in a child of that age; but you have kept one child, and you are likely to do so long; you have the assurance of another, and the hopes of many more. You have kept a husband, great in employment, in fortune, and in the esteem of good men. You have kept your beauty and your health, unless you have destroyed them yourself, or discouraged them to stay with you by using them ill. You have friends who are as kind to you as you can wish, or as you can give them leave to be. You have honour and esteem from all who know you; or if ever it fails in any degree, it is only upon that point of your seeming to be fallen out with God and the whole world, and neither to care for yourself, nor anything else, after what you have lost.
I know no duty in religion more generally agreed on, nor more justly required by God Almighty, than a perfect submission to his will in all things; nor do I think any disposition of mind can either please him more, or becomes us better, than that of being satisfied with all he gives, and contented with all he takes away. None, I am sure, can be of more honour to God, nor of more ease to ourselves. For, if we consider him as our Maker, we cannot contend with him; if as our Father, we ought not to distrust him; so that we may be confident, whatever he does is intended for good; and whatever happens that we interpret otherwise, yet we can get nothing by repining, nor save anything by resisting.
You will say, perhaps, that one thing was all to you, and your fondness of it made you indifferent to everything else. But this, I doubt, will be so far from justifying you, that it will prove to be your fault as well as your misfortune. God Almighty gave you all the blessings of life, and you set your heart wholly upon one, and despise or undervalue all the rest: is this his fault or yours? Nay, is it not to be very unBut if it were fit for us to reason with God Almighty, thankful to Heaven, as well as very scornful to the and your ladyship's loss were acknowledged as great rest of the world is it not to say, because you have as it could have been to any one, yet, I doubt, you lost one thing God has given, you thank him for nowould have but ill grace to complain at the rate you thing he has left, and care not what he takes away! have done, or rather as you do; for the first emotions is it not to say, since that one thing is gone out of the or passions may be pardoned; it is only the continu- world, there is nothing left in it which you think can ance of them which makes them inexcusable. In this deserve your kindness or esteem? A friend makes me world, madam, there is nothing perfectly good; and a feast, and places before me all that his care or kindwhatever is called so, is but either comparatively withness could provide: but I set my heart upon one dish other things of its kind, or else with the evil that is alone, and, if that happens to be thrown down, I scorn mingled in its composition; so he is a good man who all the rest; and though he sends for another of the is better than men commonly are, or in whom the same kind, yet I rise from the table in a rage, and good qualities are more than the bad; so, in the say, 'My friend is become my enemy, and he has done course of life, his condition is esteemed good, which is me the greatest wrong in the world.' Have I reason, better than that of most other men, or in which the madam, or good grace in what I do? or would it be good circumstances are more than the evil. By this come me better to eat of the rest that is before me, measure, I doubt, madam, your complaints ought to and think no more of what had happened, and could be turned into acknowledgments, and your friends not be remedied? would have cause to rejoice rather than to condole with you. When your ladyship has fairly considered how God Almighty has dealt with you in what he has given, you may be left to judge yourself how you have dealt with him in your complaints for what he has taken away. If you look about you, and consider other lives as well as your own, and what your lot
Christianity teaches and commands us to moderate our passions; to temper our affections towards all things below; to be thankful for the possession, and patient under the loss, whenever HE who gave shall see fit to take away. Your extreme fondness was perhaps as displeasing to God before as now your extreme afflic tion is; and your loss may have been a punishment for your faults in the manner of enjoying what you had. It is at least pious to ascribe all the ill that befalls us to our own demerits, rather than to injus
tice in God. And it becomes us better to adore the issues of his providence in the effects, than to inquire into the causes; for submission is the only way of reasoning between a creature and its Maker; and contentment in his will is the greatest duty we can pretend to, and the best remedy we can apply to all our misfortunes.
But, madam, though religion were no party in your case, and for so violent and injurious a grief you had nothing to answer to God, but only to the world and yourself, yet I very much doubt how you would be acquitted. We bring into the world with us a poor, needy, uncertain life; short at the longest, and unquiet at the best. All the imaginations of the witty and the wise have been perpetually busied to find out the ways to revive it with pleasures, or to relieve it with diversions; to compose it with ease, and settle it with safety. To these ends have been employed the institutions of lawgivers, the reasonings of philosophers, the inventions of poets, the pains of labouring, and the extravagances of voluptuous men. All the world is perpetually at work that our poor mortal lives may pass the easier and happier for that little time we possess them, or else end the better when we lose them. On this account riches and honours are coveted, friendship and love pursued, and the virtues themselves admired in the world. Now, madam, is it not to bid defiance to all mankind, to condemn their universal opinions and designs, if, instead of passing your life as well and easily, you resolve to pass it as ill and as miserably as you can? You grow insensible to the conveniences of riches, the delights of honour and praise, the charms of kindness or friendship; nay, to the observance or applause of virtues theinselves; for who can you expect, in these excesses of passions, will allow that you show either temperance or fortitude, either prudence or justice? And as for your friends, I suppose you reckon upon losing their kindness, when you have sufficiently convinced them they can never hope for any of yours, since you have left none for yourself, or anything else.
Passions are perhaps the stings without which, it is said, no honey is made. Yet I think all sorts of men have ever agreed, they ought to be our servants and not our masters; to give us some agitation for entertainment or exercise, but never to throw our reason out of its seat. It is better to have no passions at all, than to have them too violent; or such alone as, instead of heightening our pleasures, afford us nothing but vexation and pain.
might, by the course of years and accidents, become the most miserable herself; and a greater trouble to her friends by living long, than she could have been by dying young.
Yet after all, madam, I think your loss so great, and some measure of your grief so deserved, that, would all your passionate complaints, all the anguish of your heart, do anything to retrieve it; could tears water the lovely plant, so as to make it grow again after once it is cut down; could sighs furnish new breath, or could it draw life and spirits from the wasting of yours, I am sure your friends would be so far from accusing your passion, that they would encourage it as much, and share it as deeply, as they could. But alas! the eternal laws of the creation extinguish all such hopes, forbid all such designs; nature gives us many children and friends to take them away, but takes none away to give them to us again. And this makes the excesses of grief to be universally condemned as unnatural, because so much in vain; whereas nature does nothing in vain: as unreasonable, because so contrary to our own designs; for we all design to be well and at ease, and by grief we make ourselves troubles most properly out of the dust, whilst our ravings and complaints are but like arrows shot up into the air at no mark, and so to no purpose, but only to fall back upon our own heads and destroy ourselves.
Perhaps, madam, you will say this is your design, or, if not, your desire; but I hope you are not yet so far gone or so desperately bent. Your ladyship knows very well your life is not your own, but His who lent it you to manage and preserve in the best way you can, and not to throw it away, as if it came from some common hand. Our life belongs, in a great measure, to our country and our family: therefore, by all human laws, as well as divine, self-murder has ever been agreed upon as the greatest crime; and it is punished here with the utmost shame, which is all that can be inflicted upon the dead. But is the crime much less to kill ourselves by a slow poison than by a sudden wound? Now, if we do it, and know we do it, by a long and continual grief, can we think ourselves innocent? What great difference is there, if we break our hearts or consume them, if we pierce them or bruise them; since all terminates in the same death, as all arises from the same despair? But what if it does not go so far; it is not, indeed, so bad as it might be, but that does not excuse it. Though I do not kill my neighbour, is it no hurt to wound him, or to spoil him of the conveniences of life? The greatest crime is for a man to kill himself: is it a small one to wound himself by anguish of heart, by grief, or despair; to ruin his health, to shorten his age, to deprive himself of all the pleasure, ease, and enjoyment of life?
In all such losses as your ladyship's has been, there is something that common nature cannot be denied; there is a great deal that good nature may be allowed. But all excessive and outrageous grief or lamentation for the dead was accounted, among the ancient Christians, to have something heathenish; and, among the civil nations of old, to have something Next to the mischiefs which we do ourselves, are barbarous and therefore it has been the care of the those which we do our children and our friends, who first to moderate it by their precepts, and of the lat- deserve best of us, or at least deserve no ill. The ter to restrain it by their laws. When young chil- child you carry about you, what has it done that you dren are taken away, we are sure they are well, and should endeavour to deprive it of life almost as soon escape much ill, which would, in all appearance, have as you bestow it?-or, if you suffer it to be born, that befallen them if they had stayed longer with us. Our you should, by your ill-usage of yourself, so much kindness to them is deemed to proceed from com- impair the strength of its body, and perhaps the very mon opinions or fond imaginations, not friendship or temper of its mind, by giving it such an infusion of esteem; and to be grounded upon entertainment rather melancholy as may serve to discolour the objects and than use in the many offices of life. Nor would it disrelish the accidents it may meet with in the compass from any person besides your ladyship, to say mon train of life? Would it be a small injury to my you lost a companion and a friend of nine years old; lord Capell to deprive him of a mother, from whose though you lost one, indeed, who gave the fairest prudence and kindness he may justly expect the care hopes that could be of being both in time and every-of his health and education, the forming of his body, thing else that is estimable and good. But yet that and the cultivating of his mind; the seeds of honour itself is very uncertain, considering the chances of and virtue, and the true principles of a happy life? time, the infection of company, the snares of the How has Lord Essex deserved that you should deworld, and the passions of youth: so that the most prive him of a wife whom he loves with so much pasexcellent and agreeable creature of that tender age sion, and, which is more, with so much reason; who