Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION II: Progress of Taste and of the fine Arts. - Sketches of the History of Man, vol. 1
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SECTION II: Progress of Taste and of the fine Arts. - Henry Home, Lord Kames, Sketches of the History of Man, vol. 1 
Sketches of the History of Man Considerably enlarged by the last additions and corrections of the author, edited and with an Introduction by James A. Harris (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007). 3 Vols. Vol. 1.
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Progress of Taste and of the fine Arts.
The sense by which we perceive right and wrong in actions, is termed the moral sense: the sense by which we perceive beauty and deformity in objects, is termed taste. Perfection in the moral sense consists in perceiving the minutest differences between right and wrong: perfection in taste consists in perceiving the minutest differences between beauty and deformity; and such perfection is termed delicacy of taste(a) .
The moral sense is born with us; and so is taste: yet both of them require much cultivation. Among savages, the moral sense is faint and obscure; and taste still more so.* Even in the most enlightened ages, it requires in a judge both education and experience to perceive accurately the various modifications of right and wrong: and to acquire delicacy of taste, a man must grow old in examining beauties and deformities. In Rome, abounding with productions of the fine arts, an illiterate shopkeeper is a more correct judge of statues, of pictures, and of buildings, than the best educated citizen of London (b) . Thus taste goes hand in hand with the moral sense in their progress toward maturity; and they ripen equally by the same sort of culture. Want, a barren soil, cramps the growth of both: sensuality, a soil too fat, corrupts both: the middle state, equally distant from dispiriting poverty and luxurious sensuality, is the soil in which both of them flourish.
As the fine arts are intimately connected with taste, it is impracticable, in tracing their progress, to separate them by accurate limits. I join therefore the progress of the fine arts to that of taste, where the former depends entirely on the latter; and I handle separately the progress of the fine arts, where that progress is influenced by other circumstances beside taste.
During the infancy of taste, imagination is suffered to roam, as in sleep, without control. Wonder is the passion of savages and of rustics; to raise which, nothing is necessary but to invent giants and magicians, fairy-land and inchantment. The earliest exploits recorded of warlike nations, are giants mowing down whole armies, and little men overcoming giants; witness Joannes Magnus, Torfeus, and other Scandinavian writers. Hence the absurd romances that delighted the world for ages, which are now sunk into contempt every where. The more supernatural the facts related are, the more is wonder raised; and in proportion to the degree of wonder, is the tendency to belief among the vulgar (a) . Madame de la Fayette led the way to novels in the present mode. She was the first who introduced sentiments instead of wonderful adventures, and amiable men instead of bloody heroes. In substituting distresses to prodigies, she made a discovery, that persons of taste and feeling are more attached by compassion than by wonder.
By the improvement of our rational faculties, truth and nature came to bear sway: incredible fictions were banished: a remaining bias, however, for wonder paved the way to bombast language, turgid similes, and forced metaphors. The Song of Solomon, and many other Asiatic compositions, afford examples without end of such figures. These are commonly attributed to force of imagination in a warm climate; but a more extensive view will show this to be a mistake. In every climate, hot and cold, the figurative style is carried to extravagance, during a certain period in the progress of writing; a style that is relished by all at first, and continues to delight many, till it yield to a taste polished by long experience (b) . Even in the bitter-cold country of Iceland, we are at no loss for examples. A rainbow is termed Bridge of the gods: gold, Tears of Frya: the earth is termed Daughter of Night, the vessel that floats upon Ages; and herbs and plants are her hair, or her fleece. Ice is termed the great bridge: a ship, horse of the floods. Many authors foolishly conjecture, that the Hurons and some other neighbouring nations, are of Asiatic extraction; because, like the Asiatics, their discourse is highly figurative.
The national progress of morality is slow: the national progress of taste is slower. In proportion as a nation polishes and improves in the arts of peace, taste ripens. The Chinese had long enjoyed a regular system of government, while the Europeans were comparatively in a chaos; and accordingly literary compositions in China were brought to perfection more early than in Europe. In their poetry they indulge no incredible fables, like those of Ariosto or the Arabian Tales; but commonly select such as afford a good moral. Their novels, like those of the most approved kind among us, treat of misfortunes unforeseen, unexpected good luck, and persons finding out their real parents. The Orphan of China, composed in the fourteenth century, surpasses far any European play of that early period. But good writing has made a more rapid progress with us; not from superiority of talents, but from the great labour the Chinese must undergo, in learning to read and write their own language. The Chinese tragedy is indeed languid, and not sufficiently interesting, which M. Voltaire ascribes to want of genius. With better reason he might have ascribed it to the nature of their government, so well contrived for preserving peace and order, as to afford few examples of surprising events, and little opportunity for exerting manly talents.
A nation cannot acquire a taste for ridicule till it emerges out of the savage state. Ridicule, however, is too rough for refined manners: Cicero discovers in Plautus a happy talent for ridicule, and peculiar delicacy of wit; but Horace, who figured in the court of Augustus, eminent for delicacy of taste, declares against the low roughness of that author’s raillery (a) . The same Cicero, in a letter to Papirius Poetus, complains that by the influx of foreigners the true Roman humour was lost. It was not the influx of foreigners, but the gradual progress of manners from the rough to the polished.11 The high burlesque style prevails commonly in the period between barbarity and politeness, in which a taste somewhat improved discovers the ridicule of former manners. Rabelais in France, and Butler in England, are illustrious examples. Dr. Swift is our latest burlesque writer, and probably is the last.
Emulation among a multitude of small states in Greece, was enflamed by their public games: by that means taste ripened, and the fine arts were promoted. Taste refines gradually, and is advanced toward perfection by a diligent study of beautiful productions. Rome was indebted to Greece for that delicacy of taste which figured during the reign of Augustus, especially in literary compositions. But taste could not long flourish in a despotic government: so low had the Roman taste fallen in the reign of the Emperor Hadrian, that nothing would please him but to suppress Homer, and in his place to install a silly Greek poet, named Antimachus.
The northern barbarians who desolated the Roman empire, and revived in some measure the savage state, occasioned a woful decay of taste. Pope Gregory the Great, struck with the beauty of some Saxon youths exposed to sale in Rome, asked to what country they belonged. Being told they were Angles, he said that they ought more properly to be denominated angels; and that it was a pity so beautiful a countenance should cover a mind devoid of grace. Hearing that the name of their province was Deïri, a division of Northumberland, “Deïri!” replied he, “excellent: they are called to the mercy of God from his anger [de ira ].” Being also told, that Alla was the king of that province, “Alleluia,” cried he, “we must endeavour that the praises of God be sung in their country.” Puns and conundrums passed in ignorant times for sterling wit.12 Pope Gregory VII. anno 1080, presented to the Emperor Rodolph a crown of gold, with the following inscription, Petra dedit Petro, Petrus diadema Rodolpho.13 Miserably low must taste have been in that period, when a childish play of words was relished as a proper decoration for a serious solemnity.
Pope Innocent III. anno 1207, made a present of jewels to John King of England, accompanied with the following letter, praised by Pere Orleans as full of spirit and beauty.
Consider this present with respect to form, number, matter, and colour. The circular figure of the ring denotes eternity, which has neither beginning nor end. And by that figure your mind will be elevated from things terrestrial to things celestial. The number of four, making a square, denotes the firmness of a heart, proof against both adversity and prosperity, especially when supported by the four cardinal virtues, justice, strength, prudence, and temperance. By the gold, which is the metal of the ring, is denoted wisdom, which excels among the gifts of Heaven, as gold does among metals. Thus it is said of the Messiah, that the spirit of wisdom shall rest upon him: nor is there any thing more necessary to a king, which made Solomon request it from God preferably to all other goods. As to the colour of the stones, the green of the emerald denotes faith; the purity of the saphire, hope; the red of the granite, charity; the clearness of the topaz, good works. You have therefore in the emerald what will increase your faith; in the saphire, what will encourage you to hope; in the granite, what will prompt you to love; in the topaz, what will excite you to act; till, having mounted by degrees to the perfection of all the virtues, you come at last to see the God of gods in the celestial Sion.14
The famous golden bull of Germany, digested anno 1356 by Bartolus, a celebrated lawyer, and intended for a master-piece of composition, is replete with wild conceptions, without the least regard to truth, propriety, or connection. It begins with an apostrophe to Pride, to Satan, to Choler, and to Luxury: it asserts, that there must be seven electors for opposing the seven mortal sins: the fall of the angels, terrestrial paradise, Pompey, and Caesar, are introduced; and it is said, that Germany is founded on the Trinity, and on the three theological virtues. What can be more puerile! A sermon preached by the Bishop of Bitonto, at the opening of the council of Trent, excels in that mode of composition. He proves that a council is necessary; because several councils have extirpated heresy, and deposed kings and emperors; because the poets assemble councils of the gods; because Moses writes, that at the creation of man, and at confounding the language of the giants, God acted in the manner of a council; because religion has three heads, doctrine, sacraments, and charity, and that these three are termed a council. He exhorts the members of the council to strict unity, like the heroes in the Trojan horse. He asserts, that the gates of paradise and of the council are the same; that the holy fathers should sprinkle their dry hearts with the living water that flowed from it; and that otherwise the Holy Ghost would open their mouths like those of Balaam and Caiaphas (a) . James I. of Britain dedicates his Declaration against Vorstius to our Saviour, in the following words: “To the honour of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the eternal Father, the only Theanthropos, mediator, and reconciler of mankind; in sign of thankfulness, his most humble and obliged servant, James, by the grace of God, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, doth dedicate and consecrate this his Declaration.” Funeral orations were some time ago in fashion. Regnard, who was in Stockholm about the year 1680, heard a funeral oration at the burial of a servant-maid. The priest, after mentioning her parents and the place of her birth, praised her as an excellent cook, and enlarged upon every ragout that she made in perfection. She had but one fault, he said, which was the salting her dishes too much; but that she showed thereby her prudence, of which salt is the symbol; a stroke of wit that probably was admired by the audience. Funeral orations are out of fashion: the futility of a trite panegyric purchased with money, and indecent flattery in circumstances that require sincerity and truth, could not long stand against improved taste. The yearly feast of the ass that carried the mother of God into Egypt, was a most ridiculous farce, highly relished in the dark ages of Christianity. See the description of that feast in Voltaire’s General History (b) .
The public amusements of our forefathers, show the grossness of their taste after they were reduced to barbarism by the Goths and Vandals. The plays termed Mysteries, because they were borrowed from the scriptures, indicate gross man-ners, as well as infantine taste; and yet in France, not farther back than three or four centuries, these Mysteries were such favourites as constantly to make a part at every public festival. In a Spanish play or mystery, Jesus Christ and the devil, ridiculously dressed, enter into a dispute about some point of controversy, are enflamed, proceed to blows, and finish the entertainment with a saraband. The reformation of religion, which roused a spirit of inquiry, banished that amusement, not only as low but as indecent. A sort of plays succeeded, termed Moralities, less indecent indeed, but little preferable in point of composition. These Moralities have also been long banished, except in Spain, where they still continue in vogue. The devil is commonly the hero: nor do the Spaniards make any difficulty, even in their more regular plays, to introduce supernatural and allegorical beings upon the same stage with men and women. The Cardinal Colonna carried into Spain a beautiful bust of the Emperor Caligula. In the war about the succession of Spain, after the death of its king Charles II., Lord Gallway, upon a painful search, found that bust serving as a weight to a church-clock.
In the days of our unpolished forefathers, who were governed by pride as well as by hatred, princes and men of rank entertained a changeling, distinguished by the name of fool; who being the butt of their silly jokes, flattered their self-conceit. Such amusement, no less gross than inhuman, could not show its face even in the dawn of taste: it was rendered less insipid and less inhuman, by entertaining one of real wit, who, under disguise of a fool, was indulged in the most satirical truths. Upon a further purification of taste, it was discovered, that to draw amusement from folly, real or pretended, is below the dignity of human nature. More refined amusements were invented, such as balls, public spectacles, gaming, and society with women. Parasites, described by Plautus and Terence, were of such a rank as to be permitted to dine with gentlemen; and yet were so despicable as to be the butt of every man’s joke. They were placed at the lower end of the table; and the guests diverted themselves with daubing their faces, and even kicking and cuffing them; all which was patiently borne for the sake of a plentiful meal. They resembled the fools and clowns of later times, being equally intended to be laughed at: but the parasite profession shows grosser manners; it being shockingly indelicate in a company of gentlemen to abuse one of their own number, however contemptible in point of character.
Pride, which introduced fools, brought dwarfs also into fashion. In Italy, that taste was carried to extravagance. “Being at Rome in the year 1566,” says a French writer, “I was invited by Cardinal Vitelli to a feast, where we were served by no fewer than thirty-four dwarfs, most of them horribly distorted.” Was not the taste of that Cardinal horribly distorted? The same author adds, that Francis I. and Henry II. Kings of France, had many dwarfs: one named Great John, was the least ever had been seen, except a dwarf at Milan, who was carried about in a cage.
In the eighth and ninth centuries, no sort of commerce was carried on in Europe but in markets and fairs. Artificers and manufacturers were dispersed through the country, and so were monasteries; the towns being inhabited by none but clergymen, and those who immediately depended on them. The nobility lived on their estates, unless when they followed the court. The low people were not at liberty to desert the place of their birth: the villain was annexed to the estate, and the slave to the person of his lord. Slavery fostered rough manners; and there could be no improvement in manners, nor in taste, where there was no society. Of all the polite nations in Europe, the English were the latest of taking to a town-life; and their progress in taste and manners has been proportionally slow.15
Our celebrated poet Ben Johnson lived at a time, when turgid conceptions and bombast language were highly relished; and his compositions are in the perfection of that taste, witness the quotations from him in Elements of Criticism (a) . He was but too faithfully imitated by Beaumont and Fletcher, and other writers of that age. We owe to Dryden the dawn of a better taste. For though the mode of writing in his time led him to the bombast, yet a just imitation of nature frequently breaks forth, especially in his later compositions. And, as nature will always at last prevail, the copies of nature given by that eminent writer were highly relished, produced many happy imitations, and in time brought about a total revolution of taste, which kept pace with that of government, both equally happy for this nation. Here is a fair deduction of the progress of taste in Britain. But, according to that progress, what shall be said of the immortal Shakespeare, in whose works is displayed the perfection of taste? Was not his appearance at least a century too early? Such events happen sometimes contrary to the ordinary progress. This was the case of Roger Bacon, as well as of Shakespeare: they were blazing stars that gave but a temporary lustre, and left the world as void of light as before.16 Ben Johnson, accordingly, and even Beaumont and Fletcher, were greater national favourites than Shakespeare; and, in the same manner, the age before, Lucan was ranked above Virgil by every critic. By the same bad taste, the true sublime of Milton was little relished for more than half a century after Paradise Lost was published. Ill-fated Shakespeare! who appeared in an age unworthy of him. That divine writer, who, merely by force of genius, so far surpassed his cotemporaries, how far would he have surpassed even himself, had he been animated with the praises so justly bestowed on him in later times?17 We have Dryden’s authority, that taste in his time was considerably refined:
The high opinion Dryden had of himself and of his age, breaks out in every line. Johnson probably had the same opinion of himself and of his age: the present age is not exempted from that bias; nor will the next age be, though probably maturity in taste will be still later. We humble ourselves before the ancients, who are far removed from us; but not to soar above our immediate predecessors, would be a sad mortification. Many scenes in Dryden’s plays, if not lower than Cobb’s Tankard or Otter’s Horse, are more out of place. In the Wild Gallant, the hero is a wretch constantly employed, not only in cheating his creditors, but in cheating his mistress, a lady of high rank and fortune. And how absurd is the scene, where he convinces the father of his mistress, that the devil had got him with child! The character of Sir Martin Marall is below contempt. The scenes in the same play, of a bawd instructing one of her novices how to behave to her gallants, and of the novice practising her lessons, are perhaps not lower than Cobb’s Tankard or Otter’s Horse, but surely they are less innocent.
It is common to see people fond of a new fashion, vainly imagining that taste is greatly improved. Disguised dishes are a sort of bastard wit, like turrets jutting out at the top of a building. Such dishes were lately in high fashion, without having even the slender merit of being a new fashion. They prevailed in the days of Charles II. as we learn from one of Dryden’s plays. “Ay, it look’d like variety, till we came to taste it; there were twenty several dishes to the eye, but in the palate nothing but spices. I had a mind to eat of a pheasant; and, so soon as I got it into my mouth, I found I was chewing a limb of cinnamon; then I went to cut a piece of kid, and no sooner it had touched my lips, but it turn’d to red pepper: at last I began to think myself another kind of Midas, that every thing I had touched should be turned to spice.”19
Portugal was rising in power and splendor when Camoens wrote the Lusiad; and, with respect to the music of verse, it has merit. The author, however, is far from shining in point of taste. He makes a strange jumble of Heathen and Christian Deities. “Gama,” observes Voltaire, “in a storm addresses his prayers to Christ, but it is Venus who comes to his relief.”20 Voltaire’s observation is but too well founded. In the first book, Jove summons a council of the gods, which is described at great length, for no earthly purpose but to show that he favoured the Portuguese. Bacchus, on the other hand, declares against them upon the following account, that he himself had gained immortal glory, as conqueror of the Indies; which would be eclipsed if the Portuguese should also conquer them. A Moorish commander having received Gama with smiles, but with hatred in his heart, the poet brings down Bacchus from heaven to confirm the Moor in his wicked purposes; which would have been perpetrated, had not Venus interposed in Gama’s behalf. In the second canto, Bacchus feigns himself to be a Christian, in order to deceive the Portuguese; but Venus implores her father Jupiter to protect them. And yet, after all, I am loth to condemn an early writer for introducing Heathen Deities as actors in a real history, when, in the age of Lewis XIV. celebrated for refinement of taste, we find French writers, Boileau in particular, guilty sometimes of the same absurdity (a) .
At the meeting ann. 1520 near Calais between Francis I. of France and Henry VIII. of England, it is observed by several French writers, that the French nobility displayed more magnificence, the English more taste. If so, the alteration is great since that time: France at present gives the law to the rest of Europe in every matter of taste, gardening alone excepted.21 At the same time, though taste in France is more correct than in any other country, it will bear still some purification. The scene of a clyster-pipe in Moliere is too low even for a farce; and yet to this day it is acted, with a few softenings, before the most polite audience in Europe.*
In Elements of Criticism (a) several cau-ses are mentioned that may retard taste in its progress toward maturity, and that may give it a retrograde motion when it is in maturity. There are many biasses, both natural and acquired, that tend to mislead persons even of the best taste. Of the latter, instances are without number. I select one or two, to show what influence even the slightest circumstances have on taste. The only tree beautiful at all seasons is the holly: in winter, its deep and shining green entitles it to be the queen of the grove: in summer, this colour completes the harmonious mixture of shades, so pleasing in that season! Mrs. D—— is lively and sociable. She is eminent above most of her sex for a correct taste, displayed not only within doors but in the garden and in the field. Having become mistress of a great house by matrimony, the most honourable of all titles, a group of tall hollies, which had long obscured one of the capital rooms, soon attracted her eye. She took an aversion to a holly, and was not at ease till the group was extirpated. Such a bias is perfectly harmless. What follows is not so. The Oxonians disliked the great Newton, because he was educated at Cambridge; and they favoured every book writ against him. That bias, I hope, has not come down to the present time.
Refinement of taste in a nation, is always accompanied with refinement of manners: people accustomed to behold order and elegance in public buildings and public gardens, acquire urbanity in private. But it is irksome to trudge long in a beaten track, familiar to all the world; and therefore, leaving what is said above, like a statue curtailed of legs and arms, I hasten to the history of the fine arts.
Useful arts paved the way to fine arts. Men upon whom the former had bestowed every convenience, turned their thoughts to the latter. Beauty was studied in objects of sight; and men of taste attached themselves to the fine arts, which multiplied their enjoyments and improved their benevolence. Sculpture and painting made an early figure in Greece; which afforded plenty of beautiful originals to be copied in these imitative arts. Statuary, a more simple imitation than painting, was sooner brought to perfection: the statue of Jupiter by Phidias, and of Juno by Polycletes, though the admiration of all the world, were executed long before the art of light and shade was known. Appollodorus, and Zeuxis his disciple, who flourished in the fifteenth Olympiad, were the first who figured in that art. Another cause concurred to advance statuary before painting in Greece, namely, a great demand for statues of their gods. Architecture, as a fine art, made a slower progress. Proportions, upon which its elegance chiefly depends, cannot be accurately ascertained but by an infinity of trials in great buildings: a model cannot be relied on; for a large and a small building, even of the same form, require different proportions. Gardening made a still slower progress than architecture: the palace of Alcinoous, in the seventh book of the Odyssey, is grand, and highly ornamented; but his garden is no better than what we term a kitchen-garden. Gardening has made a great progress in England. In France, na-ture is sacrificed to conceit. The gardens of Versailles deviate from nature no less than the hanging gardens at Babylon. In Scotland, a taste is happily commenced for neat houses and ornamented fields; and the circumstances of the people make it probable, that taste there will improve gradually till it arrive at perfection. Few gentlemen in Scotland can afford the expence of London; and supposing them to pass the winter in a provincial town, they return to the occupations of the country with redoubled ardor. As they are safe from the corruption of opulence, nature will be their guide in every plan; and the very face of their country will oblige them to follow nature; being diversified with hills and plains, rocks and rivers, that require nothing but polishing. It is no unpleasing prospect, that Scotland may in a century, or sooner, compare with England; not, indeed, in magnificence of country-seats, but in sweetness and variety of concordant parts.22
The ancient churches in this island cannot be our own invention, being unfit for a cold climate. The vast space they occupy, quantity of stone, and gloominess by excluding the sun, afford a refreshing coolness, and fit them for a hot climate. It is highly probable that they have been copied from the mosques in the south of Spain, erected there by the Saracens. Spain, when possessed by that people, was the centre of arts and sciences, and led the fashion in every thing beautiful and magnificent.
From the fine arts mentioned, we proceed to literature. It is agreed among all antiquaries, that the first writings were in verse, and that prose was of a much later date. The first Greek who wrote in prose, was Pherecides Syrus: the first Roman, was Appius Caecus, who composed a declamation against Pyrrhus. The four books of Chatah Bhade, the sacred book of Hindostan, are composed in verse stanzas; and the Arabian compositions in prose followed long after those in verse. To account for that singular fact, many learned pens have been employed; but without success. By some it has been urged, that as memory is the only record of events where writing is unknown, history originally was composed in verse for the sake of memory. This is not satisfactory. To undertake the painful task of composing in verse for the sake of memory, would require more foresight than ever was exerted by a barbarian; not to mention that other means were used for preserving the memory of remarkable events, a heap of stones, a pillar, or other object that catches the eye. The account given by Longinus is more ingenious. In a fragment of his treatise on verse, the only part that remains, he observes, “that measure or verse belongs to poetry, because poetry represents the various passions with their language; for which reason the ancients, in their ordinary discourse, delivered their thoughts in verse rather than in prose.” Longinus thought, that anciently men were more exposed to accidents and dangers, than when they were protected by good government and by fortified cities. But he seems not to have considered, that fear and grief, inspired by dangers and misfortunes, are better suited to humble prose than to elevated verse. I add, that however natural poetical diction may be when one is animated with any vivid passion, it is not supposable that the ancients never wrote nor spoke but when excited by passion. Their history, their laws, their covenants, were certainly not composed in that tone of mind.
An important article in the progress of the fine arts, which writers have not sufficiently attended to, will, if I mistake not, explain this mystery. The article is the profession of a bard, which sprung up in early times before writing was known, and died away gradually as writing turned more and more common. The curiosity of men is great with respect to the transactions of their forefathers; and when such transactions are described in verse, accompanied with music, the performance is enchanting. An ear, a voice, skill in instrumental music, and above all a poetical genius, are requisite to excel in that complicated art. As such talents are rare, the few that possessed them were highly esteemed; and hence the profession of a bard, which, beside natural talents, required more culture and exercise than any other known art. Bards were capital persons at every festival and at every solemnity. Their songs, which, by recording the atchievements of kings and heroes, a-nimated every hearer, must have been the entertainment of every warlike nation. We have Hesiod’s authority, that in his time bards were as common as potters or joiners, and as liable to envy. Demodocus is mentioned by Homer as a celebrated bard (a) ; and Phemius, another bard, is introduced by him deprecating the wrath of Ulysses, in the following words:
Cicero reports, that at Roman festivals anciently, the virtues and exploits of their great men were sung (b) . The same custom prevailed in Peru and Mexico, as we learn from Garcilasso and other authors. Strabo (c) gives a very particular account of the Gallic bards. The following quotation is from Ammianus Marcellinus (d) “Bardi quidem fortia virorum illustrium facta, heroicis composita versibus, cum dulcibus lyrae modulis, cantitarunt.”23 We have for our authority Father Gobien, that even the inhabitants of the Marian islands have bards, who are greatly admired, because in their songs are celebrated the feats of their ancestors. There are traces of the same kind among the Apalachites in North America.* And we shall see afterward (a) , that in no other part of the world were bards more honoured than in Britain and Scandinavia.
Bards were the only historians before writing was introduced. Tacitus (b) says, that the songs of the German bards were their only annals. And Joannes Magnus, Archbishop of Upsal, acknowledges, that in compiling his history of the ancient Goths, he had no other records but the songs of the bards. As these songs made an illustrious figure at every festival, they were conveyed in every family by parents to their children; and in that manner were kept alive before writing was known.
The invention of writing made a change in the bard-profession. It is now an agreed point, that no poetry is fit to be accompanied with music, but what is simple: a complicated thought or description requires the utmost attention, and leaves none for the music; or if it divide the attention, it makes but a faint impression (c) . The simple operas of Quinault bear away the palm from every thing of the kind composed by Boileau or Racine. But when a language, in its progress to maturity, is enriched with variety of phrases fit to express the most elevated thoughts, men of genius aspire to the higher strains of poetry, leaving music and song to the bards: which distinguishes the profession of a poet from that of a bard. Homer, in a lax sense, may be termed a bard; for in that character he strolled from feast to feast. But he was not a bard in the original sense: he indeed recited his poems to crowded audiences; but his poems are too complex for music, and he probably did not sing them, nor accompany them with the lyre. The Trovadores of Provence were bards in the original sense; and made a capital figure in days of ignorance, when few could read, and fewer write. In later times the songs of the bards were taken down in writing, which gave every one access to them without a bard; and the profession sunk by degrees into oblivion. Among the highlanders of Scotland, reading and writing in their own tongue is not common even at present; and that circumstance supported long the bard-profession among them, after being forgot among neighbouring nations. Ossian was the most celebrated bard in Caledonia, as Homer was in Greece.*
From the foregoing historical deduction, the reader will discover without my assistance why the first writings were in verse. The songs of the bards, being universal favourites, were certainly the first compositions that writing was employed upon: they would be carefully collected by the most skilful writers, in order to preserve them in perpetual remembrance. The following part of the progress is equally obvious. People acquainted with no written compositions but what were in verse, composed in verse their laws, their religious ceremonies, and every memorable transaction. But when subjects of writing multiplied, and became more and more involved, when people began to reason, to teach, and to harangue, they were obliged to descend to humble prose: for to confine a writer or speaker to verse in handling subjects of that nature, would be a burden unsupportable.
The prose compositions of early historians are all of them dramatic. A writer destitute of art is naturally prompted to relate facts as he saw them performed: he introduces his personages as speaking and conferring; and relates only what was acted and not spoken.* The historical books of the Old Testament are composed in that mode; and so addicted to the dra-matic are the authors of these books, that they frequently introduce God himself into the dialogue. At the same time, the simplicity of that mode is happily suited to the poverty of every language in its early periods. The dramatic mode has a delicious effect in expressing sentiments, and every thing that is simple and tender (a) . Take the following instance of a low incident becoming by that means not a little interesting. Naomi having lost her husband and her two sons in foreign parts, and purposing to return to the land of her forefathers, said to her two daughters-in-law,
Go, return each to her mother’s house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. The Lord grant you that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them: and they lift up their voice and wept. And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people. And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more husbands in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn again, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have an husband: if I should say, I have hope, if I should have a husband also to night, and should also bear sons; would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes, that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me. And they lift up their voice and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clave unto her. And she said, Behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister-in-law. And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.
So they two went until they came to Beth-lehem. And it came to pass when they were come to Beth-lehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi? And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Beth-lehem in the beginning of barley-harvest.
And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband’s, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech.
And behold, Boaz came from Beth-lehem, and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you: and they answered him, The Lord bless thee. Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this? And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi, out of the country of Moab: and she said, I pray you, let me glean, and gather after the reapers, amongst the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house. Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens. Let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them: have I not charged the young men, that they shall not touch thee? and when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn. Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldst take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger? And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me all that thou hast done unto thy mother-in-law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust. Then she said, Let me find favour in thy sight, my lord, for that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken friendly unto thine handmaid, though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens. And Boaz said unto her, At meal-time come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat beside the reapers: and he reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was sufficed, and left. And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not. And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not. So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley.
And she took it up, and went into the city: and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned: and she brought forth, and gave to her that she had reserved, after she was sufficed. And her mother-in-law said unto her, Where hast thou gleaned to day? and where wroughtest thou? blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee. And she shewed her mother-in-law with whom she had wrought, and said, The man’s name with whom I wrought to day, is Boaz. And Naomi said unto her daughter-in-law, Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen. And Ruth the Moabitess said, He said unto me al-so, Thou shalt keep fast by my young men, until they have ended all my harvest. And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter-in-law, It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, that they meet thee not in any other field. So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean, unto the end of barley-harvest, and of wheat-harvest; and dwelt with her mother-in-law.
Then Naomi her mother-in-law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee? And now is not Boaz of our kindred, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to night in the threshing-floor. Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor: but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking. And it shall be when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down, and he will tell thee what thou shalt do. And she said unto her, All that thou sayest unto me, I will do.
And she went down unto the floor, and did according to all that her mother-in-law bade her. And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn: and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and laid her down.
And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid, and turned himself: and behold, a woman lay at his feet. And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid, for thou art a near kinsman. And he said, Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter: for thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end, than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, fear not, I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know, that thou art a virtuous woman. And now it is true, that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I. Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well, let him do the kinsman’s part; but if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the Lord liveth: lie down until the morning.
And she lay at his feet until the morning: and she rose up before one could know another. And he said, Let it not be known that a woman came into the floor. Also he said, Bring the vail that thou hast upon thee, and hold it. And when she held it, he measured six measures of barley, and laid it on her: and she went into the city. And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, Who art thou, my daughter? And she told her all that the man had done to her. And she said, These six measures of barley gave he me; for he said to me, Go not empty unto thy mother-in-law. Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.
Then went Boaz up to the gate, and sat him down there: and behold, the kinsman of whom Boaz spake, came by; unto whom he said, Ho, such a one, turn aside, sit down here. And he turned aside, and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, Sit ye down here. And they sat down. And he said unto the kinsman, Naomi that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth a parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech’s. And I thought to advertise thee, saying, Buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it; but if thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know: for there is none to redeem it beside thee, and I am after thee. And he said, I will redeem it. Then said Boaz, What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance. And the kinsman said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance: redeem thou my right to thy self, for I cannot redeem it. Now this was the manner in former time in Israel, concerning redeeming, and concerning changing, for to confirm all things: A man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour: and this was a testimony in Israel. Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee: so he drew off his shoe. And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s, and Mahlon’s, of the hand of Naomi. Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day. And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders said, We are witnesses: The Lord make the woman that is come into thine house, like Rachel, and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Beth-lehem. And let thy house be like the house of Pharez (whom Tamar bare unto Judah) of the seed which the Lord shall give thee of this young woman.
So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bare a son. And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter-in-law which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him. And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it (a) .
The dramatic mode is far from being so agreeable in relating bare historical facts. Take the following example.
Wherefore Nathan spake unto Bath-sheba the mother of Solomon, saying, Hast thou not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith doth reign, and David our lord knoweth it not? Now therefore come, let me, I pray thee, give thee counsel, that thou mayst save thine own life, and the life of thy son Solomon. Go, and get thee in unto king David, and say unto him, Didst not thou, my lord O king, swear unto thine handmaid, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne? Why then doth Adonijah reign? Behold, while thou yet talkest there with the king, I will also come in after thee, and confirm thy words.
And Bath-sheba went in unto the king, into the chamber: and the king was very old; and Abishag the Shunammite ministered unto the king. And Bath-sheba bowed, and did obeisance unto the king: and the king said, What wouldst thou? And she said unto him, My lord, thou swarest by the Lord thy God unto thine handmaid, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne: and now behold, Adonijah reigneth; and now my lord the king, thou know-est it not. And he hath slain oxen, and fat cattle, and sheep in abundance, and hath called all the sons of the king, and Abiathar the priest, and Joab the captain of the host: but Solomon thy servant hath he not called. And thou, my lord O king, the eyes of all Israel are upon thee, that thou shouldst tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. Otherwise it shall come to pass, when my lord the king shall sleep with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon shall be counted offenders.
And lo, while she yet talked with the king, Nathan the prophet also came in. And they told the king, saying, Behold, Nathan the prophet. And when he was come in before the king, he bowed himself before the king with his face to the ground. And Nathan said, my lord O king, hast thou said, Adonijah shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne? For he is gone down this day, and hath slain oxen, and fat cattle, and sheep in abundance, and hath called all the king’s sons, and the captains of the host, and Abiathar the priest; and behold, they eat and drink before him, and say, God save king Adonijah. But me, even me thy servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and thy servant Solomon hath he not called. Is this thing done by my lord the king, and thou hast not shewed it unto thy servant who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?
Then king David answered and said, Call me Bath-sheba: and she came into the king’s presence, and stood before the king. And the king sware, and said, As the Lord liveth, that hath redeemed my soul out of all distress, even as I sware unto thee by the Lord God of Israel, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne in my stead; even so will I certainly do this day. Then Bath-sheba bowed with her face to the earth, and did reverence to the king, and said, Let my lord king David live for ever.
And king David said, Call me Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada. And they came before the king. The king also said unto them, Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon my son to ride upon mine own mule, and bring him down to Gihon. And let Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, anoint him there king over Israel: and blow ye with the trumpet, and say, God save king Solomon. Then ye shall come up after him, that he may come and sit upon my throne; for he shall be king in my stead: and I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel, and over Judah. And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king, and said, Amen: the Lord God of my lord the king say so too. As the Lord hath been with my lord the king, even so be he with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord king David. So Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, went down and caused Solomon to ride upon king David’s mule, and brought him to Gihon. And Zadok the priest took an horn of oyl out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon: and they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, God save king Solomon. And all the people came up after him, and the people piped with pipes, and rejoyced with great joy, so that the earth rent with the sound of them.
And Adonijah, and all the guests that were with him, heard it, as they had made an end of eating: and when Joab heard the sound of the trumpet, he said, Wherefore is this noise of the city, being in an uprore? And while he yet spake, behold, Jonathan the son of Abiathar the priest came, and Adonijah said unto him, Come in, for thou art a valiant man, and bringest good tidings. And Jonathan answered and said to Adonijah, Verily our lord king David hath made Solomon King. And the king has sent with him Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, and they have caused him to ride upon the king’s mule. And Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king in Gihon: and they are come up from thence rejoycing, so that the city rang again: this is the noise that ye have heard. And also Solomon sitteth on the throne of the kingdom. And moreover the king’s servants came to bless our lord king David, saying, God make the name of Solomon better than thy name, and make his throne greater than thy throne: and the king bowed himself upon the bed. And also thus said the king, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which hath given one to sit on my throne this day, mine eyes even seeing it. And all the guests that were with Adonijah were afraid, and rose up, and went every man his way (a) .
In the example here given are found frequent repetitions; not however by the same person, but by different persons who have occasion in the course of the incidents to say the same things; which is natural in the dramatic mode, where things are represented precisely as they were transacted. In that view, Homer’s repetitions are a beauty, not a blemish; for they are confined to the dramatic part, and never occur in the narrative. In the 24th chapter of Genesis, there is a repetition precisely in the manner of Homer.
But the dramatic mode of composition, however pleasing, is tedious and intolerable in a long history. In the progress of society, new appetites and new passions arise; men come to be involved with each other in various connections; incidents and events multiply, and history becomes intricate by an endless variety of circumstances. Dialogue, accordingly, is more sparingly used, and in history plain narration is mixed with it. Narration is as it were the ground-work, and dialogue is raised upon it, like flowers in embroidery. Homer is admitted by all to be the great master in that mode of composition. Nothing can be more perfect in that respect than the Iliad. The Odyssey is far inferior; and to guard myself against the censure of the undistinguishing admirers of Homer, a tribe extremely formidable, I call to my aid a celebrated critic, whose superior taste and judgment never was disputed. “The Odyssey,” says Longinus, “shows how natural it is for a writer of a great genius, in his declining age, to sink down to fabulous narration; for that Homer composed the Odyssey after the Iliad, is evident from many circumstances. As the Iliad was composed while his genius was in its greatest vigour, the structure of that work is dramatic and full of action; the Odyssey, on the contrary, is mostly employed in narration, proceeding from the coldness of old age. In that later composition, Homer may be compared to the setting sun, which has still the same greatness, but not the same ardor or force. We see not in the Odyssey that sublime of the Iliad, which constantly proceeds in the same animated tone, that strong tide of motions and passions flowing successively like waves in a storm. But Homer, like the ocean, is great, even when he ebbs, and loses himself in narration and incredible fictions; witness his description of tempests, the adventures of Ulysses with Polyphemus the Cyclops, and many others.”*
The narrative mode came in time so to prevail, that in a long chain of history, the writer commonly leaves off dialogue altogether. Early writers of that kind appear to have had very little judgment in distinguishing capital facts from minute circumstances, such as can be supplied by the reader without being mentioned. The history of the Trojan war by Dares Phrygius is a curious instance of that cold and creeping manner of composition. Take the following passage. Hercules having made a descent upon Troy, slew King Laomedon, and made a present of Hesione, the king’s daughter, to Telamon his companion. Priamus, who succeeded to the kingdom of Troy upon the death of his father Laomedon, sent Antenor to demand his sister Hesione. Our author proceeds in the following manner:
Antenor, as commanded by Priamus, took shipping, and sailed to Magnesia, where Peleus resided. Peleus entertained him hospitably three days, and the fourth day de-manded whence he came. Antenor said, that he was ordered by Priamus to demand from the Greeks, that they should restore Hesione. When Peleus heard this he was angry, because it concerned his family, Telamon being his brother; and ordered the ambassador to depart. Antenor, without delay, retired to his ship, and sailed to Salamis, where Telamon resided, and demanded of him, that he should restore Hesione to her brother Priamus, as it was unjust to detain so long in servitude a young woman of royal birth. Telamon answered, that he had done nothing to Priamus; and that he would not restore what he had received as a reward for his valour; and ordered Antenor to leave the island. Antenor went to Achaia; and sailing from thence to Castor and Pollux, demanded of them to satisfy Priamus, by restoring to him his sister Hesione. Castor and Pollux denied that they had done any injury to Priamus, but that Laomedon had first injured them; ordering Antenor to depart. From thence he sailed to Nestor in Pylus, telling him the cause of his coming; which when Nestor heard, he begun to exclaim, how Antenor durst set his foot in Greece, seeing the Greeks were first injured by the Phrygians. When Antenor found that he had obtained nothing, and that Priamus was contumeliously treated, he went on shipboard, and returned home.
The Roman histories before the time of Cicero are chronicles merely. Cato, Fabius Pictor, and Piso, confined themselves to naked facts (a) In the Augustae Historiae scriptores we find nothing but a jejune narrative of facts, commonly very little interesting, concerning a degenerate people, without a single incident that can rouse the imagination, or exercise the judgment. The monkish histories are all of them composed in the same manner.*
The dry narrative manner being very little interesting or agreeable, a taste for embellishment prompted some writers to be copious and verbose. Saxo Grammaticus, who in the 12th century composed in Latin a history of Denmark, surprisingly pure for that early period, is extremely verbose, and full of tautologies. Such a style, at any rate unpleasant, is intolerable in a modern tongue, before it is enriched with a stock of phrases for expressing aptly the great variety of incidents that enter into history. Take the following example out of an endless number. Henry VII. of England, having the young Queen of Naples in view for a wife, deputed three men, in character of ambassadors, to visit her, and to answer certain questions contained in curious and exquisite instructions for taking a survey of her person, complexion, &c. as expressed by Bacon in his life of that prince. One of the instructions was, to procure a picture of the Queen, which one would think could not require many words, yet behold the instruction itself.
The King’s said servants shall also, at their comyng to the parties of Spayne, diligently enquere for some conynge paynter having good experience in making and paynting of visages and portretures, and suche oon they shall take with them to the place where the said Quuins make their abode, to the intent that the said paynter maye draw a picture of the visage and semblance of the said young Quine, as like unto her as it can or may be conveniently doon, which picture and image they shall substantially note, and marke in every pounte and circumstance, soo that it agree in similitude and likenesse as near as it may possible to the veray visage, countenance, and semblance of the said Quine; and in case they may perceyve that the paynter, at the furst or second making thereof, hath not made the same perfaite to her similytude and likenesse, or that he hath omitted any feiture or circumstance, either in colours, or other proporcions of the said visage, then they shall cause the same paynter, or some other the most conyng paynter that they can gete soo oftentimes to renewe and reforme the same picture, till it be made perfaite, and agreeable in every behalfe, with the very image and visage of the said Quine.*
After this specimen so much approved by his Lordship, one will not be surprised at the flatness of the historical style during that period. By that flatness of style Lord Bacon’s history of Henry VII. sinks below the gravity and dignity of history; particularly in his similes, metaphors, and allusions, no less distant than flat. Of Perkin Warbeck and his followers, he says, “that they were now like sand without lime, ill bound together.” Again, “But Perkin, advised to keep his fire, which hitherto burned as it were upon green wood, alive with continual blowing, sailed again into Ireland.” Again, “As in the tides of people once up, there want not commonly stirring winds to make them more rough, so this people did light upon two ringleaders or captains.” Again, speaking of the Cornish insurgents, and of the causes that inflamed them, “But now these bubbles by much stirring began to meet, as they used to do on the top of water.” Again, speaking of Perkin, “And as it fareth with smoak, that never loseth itself till it be at the highest, he did now before his end raise his stile, intytling himself no more Richard Duke of York, but Richard the Fourth, King of England.” He descends sometimes so low as to play upon words; witness the following speech made for Perkin to the King of Scotland. “High and mighty King! your Grace may be pleased benignly to bow your ears to hear the tragedy of a young man that by right ought to hold in his hand the ball of a kingdom, but by fortune is made himself a ball, tossed from misery to misery, and from place to place.” The following is a strangely forced allusion. Talking of Margaret Duchess of Burgundy, who had patronized Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck, he says, “It is the strangest thing in the world, that the Lady Margaret should now, when other women give over child-bearing, bring forth two such monsters, being, at birth, not of nine or ten months, but of many years. And whereas other natural mothers bring furth children weak, and not able to help themselves, she bringeth furth tall striplings, able, soon after their coming into the world, to bid battle to mighty kings.” I should not have given so many instances of puerilities in composition, were they not the performance of a great philosopher. Low indeed must have been the taste of that age, when it infected its greatest genius.
The perfection of historical composition, which writers at last attain to after wandering through various imperfect modes, is a relation of interesting facts connected with their motives and consequences. A history of that kind is truly a chain of causes and effects. The history of Thucydides, and still more that of Tacitus, are shining instances of that mode. There was not a book written in France correct in its style before the year 1654, when the Lettres Provinciales appeared; nor a book in a good historical style before the history of the conspiracy against Venice by the Abbé St. Real.24
A language in its original poverty, being deficient in strength and variety, has nothing at command for enforcing a thought but to redouble the expression. Instances are without number in the Old Testament. “And they say, How doth God know, and is there knowledge in the Most High?” Again, “Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell to the children of Israel.” Again, “I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries.” Again, “To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom.” “She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.” “Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eye-lids look straight before thee.”
Eloquence was of a later date than the art of literary composition; for till the latter was improved, there were no models for studying the former. Cicero’s oration for Roscius is composed in a style diffuse and highly ornamented; which, says Plutarch, was universally approved, because at that time the style of Asia, introduced into Rome with its luxury, was in high vogue. But Cicero, in a journey to Greece, where he leisurely studied Greek authors, was taught to prune off superfluities, and to purify his style, which he did to a high degree of refinement. He introduced into his native tongue a sweetness, a grace, a Majesty, that surprised the world, and even the Romans themselves. Cicero observes with great regret, that if ambition for power had not drawn Julius Caesar from the bar to command legions, he would have become the most complete orator in the world. So partial are men to the profession in which they excel. Eloquence triumphs in a popular assembly, makes some figure in a court of law composed of many judges; very little where there is but a single judge, and none at all in a despotic government. Eloquence flourished in the republics of Athens and of Rome; and makes some figure at present in a British House of Commons.
In Athens eloquence could not but flourish. In an assembly of the people, consisting of 5000 and upward, where every individual was entitled to give his opinion, the certainty of employing the talent of eloquence, was a strong motive with every young man of ambition to study that art. In Britain, very few are certain of obtaining a seat in the house of Commons; and that man must have great perseverance who can bestow years in acquiring an art that he may never have occasion to exercise. The eldest sons of peers have indeed a nearer prospect of a seat in the upper house: but young men of quality are commonly too much addicted to pleasure; and many of them come not to be peers till the fire of youth is spent. I am sorry to add another reason. Eloquence can never make a capital figure, but where patriotism is the ruling passion; for what can it avail among men who are deaf to every motive but what contributes to the interest or ambition of their party? When Demosthenes commenced his career of eloquence, patriotism made a figure in Athens, though it was on the decline. Had that great orator appeared more early, his authority in Athens would have been supreme.*25
The Greek stage has been justly admired among all polite nations. The tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides in particular are by all critics held to be perfect in their kind, excellent models for imitation, but far above rivalship. If the Greek stage was so early brought to maturity, it is a phenomenon not a little singular in the progress of arts. The Greek tragedy made a rapid progress from Thespes to Sophocles and Euripides, whose compositions are indeed the most complete that ever were exhibited in Greece: but whether they be really such masterpieces as is generally thought, will admit some doubt. The subject is curious: and the candid reader will give attention.
No human voice could fill the Greek theatre, which was so spacious as to contain several thousands without crowding. A brass pipe was invented to strengthen the voice; but that invention destroyed the melody of pronunciation, by confining the voice to a harsh monotony. The pipe was not the only unpleasant circumstance: every actor wore a mask; for what end or purpose is not explained. It may be true, that the expressions of the countenance could not be distinctly seen by those who occupied the back rows; and a mask possibly was thought necessary in order to put all the citizens upon a level. But without prying into the cause, let us only figure an actor with a mask and a pipe. He may represent tolerably a simple incident or plain thought, such as are the materials of an Italian opera; but the voice, countenance, and gestures, are indispensable in expressing refined sentiments, and the more delicate tones of passion.
Where then lies the charm in ancient tragedies that captivated all ranks of men? Greek tragedies are more active than sentimental: they contain many judicious reflections on morals, manners, and upon life in general; but no sentiments except what are plain and obvious. The subjects are of the simplest kind, such as give rise to the passions of hope, fear, love, hatred, envy, and revenge, in their most ordinary exertions: no intricate nor delicate situation to occasion any singular emotion; no gradual swelling and subsiding of passion; and seldom any conflict between different passions. I would not however be understood as meaning to depreciate Greek tragedies. They are indeed wonderful productions of genius, considering that the Greeks at that period were but beginning to emerge from roughness and barbarity into a taste for literature. The compositions of Eschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, must have been highly relished among a people who had no idea of any thing more perfect: we judge by comparison, and every work is held to be perfect that has no rival. It ought at the same time to be kept in view, that it was not the dialogue which chiefly enchanted the Athenians, nor variety in the passions represented, nor perfection in the actors, but machinery and pompous decoration, accompanied with exquisite music. That these particulars were carried to the greatest height, we may with certainty conclude from the extravagant sums bestowed on them: the exhibiting a single tragedy was more expensive to the Athenians than their fleet or their army in any single campaign.
One would imagine, however, that these compositions are too simple to enchant for ever; as without variety in action, sentiment, and passion, the stage will not continue long a favourite entertainment: and yet we find not a single improvement attempted after the days of Sophocles and Euripides. This may appear a matter of wonder at first view. But the wonder vanishes upon considering, that the manner of performance prevented absolutely any improvement. A fluctuation of passion and refined sentiments would have made no figure on the Greek stage. Imagine the discording scene between Brutus and Cassius, in Julius Caesar, to be there exhibited, or the handkerchief in the Moor of Venice: how slight would be their effect, when pronounced in a mask, and through a pipe? The workings of nature upon the countenance and the flections of voice expressive of various feelings, so deeply affecting in modern representation, would have been entirely lost. If a great genius had arisen with talents for composing a pathetic tragedy in perfection, he would have made no figure in Greece. An edifice must have been erected of a moderate size: new players must have been trained to act without a mask, and to pronounce in their own voice. And, after all, there remained a greater miracle still to be wrought, namely, a total reformation of taste in the people of Athens. In one word, the simplicity of the Greek tragedy was suited to the manner of acting, and that manner excluded all improvements.
In composing a tragedy, the Grecian writers seem to have had no aim but to exhibit on the stage some known event as it was supposed to have happened. To give a distinct notion of the event beforehand, a person introduced on the stage related every incident to the audience; and that person sometimes gave a particular account of all that was to happen during the action, which seems to me a very idle thing. This speech was termed the prologue. There was no notion of an in-vented fable, by which the audience might be kept in suspense during the action. In a word, a Greek tragedy resembles in every respect a history-picture, in which is represented some event known to all the world. Thus we see the same subject handled by different tragic writers, each showing his genius in the manner of representing it. Shakespeare’s historical plays are all of the same kind. But the entertainment afforded by such a composition is far inferior to what arises from an unknown story, where every incident is new, where the hopes and fears of the audience are kept in constant agitation, and where all is suspended till the final conclusion.26
From these premises an inference may with certainty be drawn, that delicacy of taste and feeling were but faintly known among the Greeks, even when they made the greatest figure. Music, indeed, may be successfully employed in a sentimental tragedy; but pomp and splendour avail nothing. A spectator deeply affected is regardless of decoration. I appeal to the reproving scene between Hamlet and the Queen his mother: does any man of taste give the slightest attention to the beauty of the scenery? It would, however, be rash to involve in the same censure every Athenian. Do not pantomime-show, rope-dancing, and other such fashionable spectacles, draw multitudes from the deepest tragedies? And yet among us there are persons of taste, not a few, who despise such spectacles as fit only for the mob, persons who never bowed the knee to Baal. And, if there were such persons in Athens, of which we have no reason to doubt, it evinces the superiority of their taste: they had no example of more refined compositions than were exhibited on their stage; we have many.
With respect to comedy, it does not appear that the Greek comedy surpassed the tragedy, in its progress toward perfection. Horace mentions three stages of Greek comedy. The first was well suited to the rough and coarse manners of the Greeks when Eupolis, Cratinus, and Aristophanes wrote. These authors were not ashamed to represent on the stage real persons, not even disguising their names; of which we have a striking instance in a comedy of Aristophanes, called The Clouds, where So-crates is introduced, and most contemptuously treated. This sort of comedy, sparing neither gods nor men, was restrained by the magistrates of Athens forbidding persons to be named on the stage. This led writers to do what is imitated by us: the characters and manners of known persons were painted so much to the life, that there could be no mistake. The satire was indeed heightened by this regulation, as every one contributed to the satire by detecting the persons who were meant in the representation. This was termed the middle comedy. But, as there still remained too great scope for obloquy and licentiousness, a law was made, prohibiting real events or incidents to be introduced upon the stage. This law happily banished satire against individuals, and confined it to manners and customs in general. Obedient to this law are the comedies of Menander, Philemon, and Diphilus, who flourished about 300 years before the Christian aera. And this is termed the third stage of Greek comedy. The comedies of Aristophanes, which still remain, err no less against taste than against decency. But we have good ground to believe, that the Greek comedy was considerably refined by Menander and his cotemporaries; tho’ we must rely upon collateral evidence, having very few remains of them. Their works, however, were far from perfection, if we can draw any conjecture from their imitator Plautus, who wrote about a century later. Plautus was a writer of genius; and it may reasonably be supposed that his copies did not fall greatly short of the originals, in matters at least that can be faithfully copied. At that rate, they must have been extremely defective in their subjects, as well as in the conduct of their pieces; for he shows very little art in either. With respect to the former, his plots are wondrous simple, very little varied, and very little interesting. The subject of almost every piece is a young man in love with a music-girl, desiring to purchase her from the procurer, and employing a favourite slave to cheat his father out of the price; and the different ways of accomplishing the cheat, is all the variety we find. In some few of his comedies, the story rises to a higher tone, the music-girl being discovered to be the daughter of a free man, which removes every obstruc-tion to a marriage between her and her lover. With respect to the conduct of his pieces, there is a miserable defect of art. Instead of unfolding the subject in the progress of the action, as is done by Terence and by every modern writer, Plautus introduces an actor, for no better purpose than to explain the story to the audience. In one of his comedies, a household-god is so obliging as not only to unfold the subject, but to relate beforehand every particular that is to be represented, not excepting the catastrophe. Did not Plautus know, that it is pleasant to have our curiosity raised about what will happen next? In the course of the action, persons are frequently introduced who are heard talking to themselves on the open street. One would imagine the Greeks to have been great babblers, when they could not refrain soliloquies even in public. Could Plautus have been so artless in the conduct of his pieces, had a more perfect model been exhibited to him by Menander or the other authors mentioned?
It is observed in Elements of Criticism (a) , that when a language has received some polish, and the meaning of words is tolerably ascertained, then it is that a play of words comes to be relished. At that period of the Roman language, Plautus wrote. His wit consists almost entirely in a play of words, an eternal jingle, words brought together that have nearly the same sound, with different meanings, and words of different sounds that have the same meaning. As the Greek language had arrived to its perfection many years before, such false wit may be justly ascribed to Plautus himself, not to the Greeks from whom he copied. What was the period of that bastard wit in Greece, I know not; but it appears not to have been antiquated in Homer’s days, witness the joke in the Odyssey, where Ulysses imposed upon Polyphemus, by calling him Houtis or No-man. Nor seems it to have been antiquated in the days of Euripides, who in his Cyclops repeats the same silly joke. The Roman genius soon purged their compositions of such infantine beauties; for in Terence, who wrote about fifty years later than Plautus, there is scarce a vestige of them. The dialogue beside of Terence is more natural and correct, not a word but to the purpose: Plautus is full of tautologies, and digressions very little to the purpose. In a word, considering the slow progress of arts, the Roman theatre, from the time of Plautus to that of Terence, made as rapid a progress as perhaps ever happened in any country. Aristotle defines comedy to be an imitation of light and trivial subjects provoking laughter. The comedies of Plautus correspond accurately to that definition: those of Terence rise to a higher tone.
Beside the disadvantages of the mask and pipe mentioned above, there are two causes that tended to keep back the Greek and Roman comedy from the perfection of its kind. The first is the slow progress of society among these nations, occasioned by separating from the female sex. Where women are excluded from society, it never can arrive at any degree of refinement, not to talk of perfection. In a society of men and women, every one endeavours to shine: every latent talent, and every variety of character, are brought to light. To judge from ancient writers, man was a very plain being. Tacitus wrote when society between the sexes was abundantly free; and in no author before him is to be found any thing beyond the outlines of character. In ancient comedies there are misers, lovers, parasites, procurers; but the individuals of each class are cast in the same mould. In the Rudens of Plautus, it is true, a miser is painted with much anxiety about his hidden treasure, every trifling incident being converted by him into a cause of suspicion; but he is still the same miser that is painted by others, without any shade or singularity in the character. Homer is the only ancient that deserves to be excepted: his heroes have all courage; but courage in each is clearly of a distinct kind. Knowledge of an endless variety of character in the human species, acquired from unrestrained society, has enabled the moderns to enrich the theatre with new characters without end. What else is it but defect of knowledge in the dispositions of men, that has confined the comedies of Plautus and Terence, like those of Italy, to a very few characters?
Nothing is more evident, than the superiority of Terence above Plautus in the art of writing; and, considering that Terence is a later writer, nothing would ap-pear more natural, if they did not copy the same originals. It may be owing to genius that Terence excels in purity of language, and propriety of dialogue; but how account for his superiority over Plautus in the construction and conduct of a play? It will not certainly be thought, that Plautus would copy the worst models, leaving the best to future writers. This difficulty has not occurred to any of the commentators, as far as I can recollect.27 If it be fair to judge of Menander and of his cotemporaries from Plautus their imitator, the talents of Terence must have been great, to excel all of them so much both in the construction and conduct of his plays.
Homer, for more than two thousand years, has been held the prince of poets. Such perfection in an author who flourished when arts were far short of maturity, would be surprising, would be miraculous. An author of genius (a) has endeavoured to account for this extraordinary phaenomenon; and I willingly acknowledge, that he has exerted much industry, as well as invention; but, in my apprehension, with-out giving satisfaction. The new light that is thrown above upon the Greek theatre, has emboldened me to attempt a criticism on the Iliad, in order to judge whether Homer has so far anticipated the ordinary progress of nature, as in a very early period to have arrived at the perfection of his art.
To form a good writer, genius and judgment must concur. Nature supplies the former; but, to the latter, instruction and imitation are essential. Shakespeare lived in an age that afforded him little opportunity to cultivate or improve his judgment; and, though inimitable in every article that depends on genius, there are found many defects in the conduct of his plays, and in other particulars, that require judgment ripened by experience. Homer lived in a rude age, little advanced in useful arts, and still less in civilization and enlarged benevolence. The nations engaged in the Trojan war, are described by him as in a progress from the shepherd-state to that of agriculture. In the Iliad, many eminent men are said to be shepherds. Andromaché, in particular (a) , mentions seven of her brethren, who were slain by Achilles as they tended their father’s flocks and herds. In that state, garments of woollen cloth were used; but the skins of beasts, the original clothing, were still worn as an upper garment: every chief in the Iliad appears in that dress. Such, indeed, was the simplicity of this early period, that a black ewe was promised by each chief to the man who would undertake to be a spy. In such times, literature could not be far advanced; and it is a great doubt, whether there was at that time a single poem of the epic kind, for Homer to imitate or improve upon. Homer is undoubtedly a wonderful genius, perhaps the greatest that ever existed: his fire, and the boldness of his conceptions, are inimitable. But, in that early age, it would fall little short of a real miracle, to find such ripeness of judgment and correctness of execution, as in modern writers are the fruits of long experience and progressive improvements, during the course of many centuries. Homer is far from being so ripe, or so correct. I shall mention but two or three particulars; for, to dwell upon the imperfections of so il-lustrious an author, is not pleasant. The first is, that he reduces his heroes to be little better than puppets. Not one of them performs an action of eclat, but with the assistance of some deity: even Achilles himself is every where aided by superior powers. It is Jupiter who inspires Hector with boldness to perform the heroic actions so finely described in the 15th book; and it is Jupiter who, changing sides, fills his heart with dismay. Glaucus, desperately wounded, supplicates Apollo, is miraculously healed, and returns to the battle perfectly sound. Hector, struck to the ground with a stone, and at the point of giving up the ghost, is cured by Apollo, and sent back to the battle with redoubled vigour. Homer resembles a sect of Christians, who hold, that a man can do nothing of himself, and that he is merely an instrument which God employs, as we do a spade or a hatchet. Can Homer’s admirers be so blind as not to perceive, that this sort of machinery detracts from the dignity of his heroes, renders them less interesting, and less worthy of admiration? Homer, however, is deservedly such a favourite, that we are prone to admit any excuse. In days of ignorance, people are much addicted to the marvellous. Homer himself, it may be justly supposed, was infected with that weakness; and he certainly knew, that his hearers would be enchanted with every thing wonderful, and out of the common course of nature. Another particular is his digressions without end, which draw our attention from the principal subject. I wish some apology could be made for them. Diomedes (a) , for instance, meeting with Glaucus in the field of battle, and doubting, from his majestic air, whether he might not be an immortal, inquires who he was, declaring that he would not fight with a god. Glaucus lays hold of this very slight opportunity, in the heat of action, to give a long history of his family. In the mean time, the reader’s patience is put to a trial, and his ardor cools. Agamemnon (b) desiring advice how to resist the Trojans, Diomedes springs forward; but, before he offers advice, gives the history of all his progenitors, and of their characters, in a long train. And, after all, what was the sage advice that required such a preface? It was, that Agamemnon should exhort the Greeks to fight bravely. At any rate, was Diomedes so little known, as to make it proper to suspend the action at so critical a juncture for a genealogical history! A third particular, is an endless number of minute circumstances, especially in the description of battles, where they are the least tolerable. One capital beauty of an epic poem, is the selection of such incidents and circumstances as make a deep impression, keeping out of view every thing low or familiar (a) . An account of a single battle employs the whole fifth book of the Iliad, and a great part of the sixth: yet in the whole there is no general action; but warriors, whom we never heard of before, killed at a distance with an arrow or a javelin; and every wound described with anatomical accuracy. The whole seventeenth book is employed in the contest about the dead body of Patroclus, stuffed with minute circumstances below the dignity of an epic poem: the reader fatigued, has nothing to relieve him but the melody of Homer’s versification. Gratitude would prompt an apology for an author who affords so much entertainment: Homer had no good models to copy after; and, without good models, we cannot expect maturity of judgment. In a word, Homer was a blazing star, and the more to be admired, because he blazed in an obscure age. But that he should, in no degree, be tainted with the imperfections of such an age, is a wild thought: it is scarce possible, but by supposing him to be more than man.
Particular causes that advance the progress of fine arts, as well as of useful arts, are mentioned in the first part of this Sketch, and to these I refer.
Having traced the progress of the fine arts toward maturity in a summary way, the decline of these arts comes next in order. A useful art seldom turns retrograde, because every one has an interest to preserve it in perfection. Fine arts depend on more slender principles than those of utility; and therefore the judgment formed of them is more fluctuating. The variety of form that is admitted into the fine arts by such fluctuation of judgment, excites artists to indulge their love of no-velty.28 Restless man knows no golden mean, but will be attempting innovations without end. Such innovations do well in an art distant from perfection: but they are commonly the cause of degeneracy in arts that are in perfection; for an artist ambitious to excel, aims always to be an original, and cannot submit to be an imitator. This is the plain meaning of a florid passage of Velleius Paterculus (Roman history, lib. 1). “Naturaque, quod summo studio petitum est, ascendit in summum; difficilisque in perfecto mora est; naturaliterque, quod procedere non potest, recedit.”29 Which may pass in a learned language, but will never do in our own tongue. “The idea,” says Winckelmann, “of beauty could not be made more perfect; and those arts that cannot advance farther, become retrograde, by a fatality attending all human things, that if they cannot mount, they must fall down, because stability is not a quality of any created thing.” I shall endeavour to illustrate the cause assigned by me above for decline of the fine arts, beginning with architecture. The Ionic was the favourite order when archi-tecture was in its height of glory. The Corinthian order came next; which, in attempting greater perfection, has deviated from the true simplicity of nature: and the deviation is still greater in the Composite order (a) .
With respect to literary productions, the first essays of the Romans were very imperfect. We may judge of this from Plautus, whose compositions are abundantly rude, though much admired by his cotemporaries, being the best that existed at that time in Rome. The exalted spirit of the Romans hurried them on to the grand and beautiful; and literary productions of all kinds were in perfection when Augustus reigned. In attempting still greater perfection, the Roman compositions became a strange jumble of inconsistent parts: they were tumid and pompous, and at the same time full of antitheses, conceit, and tinsel wit. Every thing new in a fine art pleases; and, for that reason, such compositions were relished. We see not by what gradual steps writers after the time of Augustus devia-ted from the patterns that were before them; for no book of any moment, from the death of that Emperor, is preserved till we come down to Seneca, in whose works nature and simplicity give place to quaint thought, and bastard wit. He was a great corrupter of the Roman taste; and after him nothing was relished but brilliant strokes of fancy, with very little regard to sentiment: even Virgil and Cicero made no figure in comparison. Lucan has a strained elevation of thought and style, very difficult to be supported: he sinks often into puerile reflections; witness his encomium on the river Po, which, says he, would equal the Danube, had it the same number of tributary streams. Quintilian, a writer of true and classical taste, who was protected and encouraged by Vespasian, attempted to stem the tide of false writing. His rhetoric is composed in an elegant style; and his observations contain every delicacy of the critical art. At the same time flourished Tacitus, possessing a more extensive knowledge of human nature than any other author ancient or modern, if Shakespeare be not excepted. His style is original, concise, com-pact, and comprehensive; and, in what is properly called his history, perfectly correct and beautiful. He has been imitated by several, but never equalled by any. Brutus is said to be the last of the Romans for love of liberty: Quintilian and Tacitus may be said to be the last of the Romans for literary genius. Pliny the younger is no exception: his style is affected, turgid, and full of childish brilliancy. Seneca and Pliny are proper examples of writers who study show more than substance, and who make sense yield to sound.30
Whether music be or be not on the decline, seems a doubtful point, as the virtuosi are divided about it. In Greece, celebrated for taste, music was a theatrical entertainment, and had a dignified office, that of enlivening or enforcing the impressions made on the audience by the action. In that office, harmony being of little use, was little cultivated: nor did the musical instruments at that time known, afford great scope for harmony. Among us, harmony is brought to perfection; and, in modern compositions, it commonly is the chief part. To have melody and harmony both in perfection, they can never be united in the same piece. The heart, swoln by a melancholy strain, is regardless of harmony; and, when subdued by a delightful strain of whatever kind, it has no leisure for complicated harmony. Rich harmony, on the other hand, engrossing the whole attention, leaves the heart in a measure vacant.* The Greeks excelled in melody: the moderns excel in harmony. A just comparison between these, with respect to their effects on the hearer, will give instruction, and perhaps may enable us to determine whether music be or be not on the decline.
Nature, kindly to its favourite man, has furnished him with five external senses, not only for supporting animal life, but for procuring to him variety of enjoyments. A towering hill as an object of sight, a blushing rose as an object of smell, a pine-apple as an object of taste, a fine fur as an object of touch, do every one of them produce a pleasant feeling. With respect to the sense of hearing in particular, certain sounds heard at the same instant raise a pleasant feeling; and certain sounds heard in succession raise another pleasant feeling; the former termed harmony, the latter melody. Harmony, like the pleasure of tasting or of smelling, affects us at the organ of sense only, and ceases when its object is removed. But melody is not confined to the organ of sense: it pierces to the heart, and produces different emotions, according to the nature of the modulation. An emotion so raised, such as that of gaiety, of melancholy, of pity, of courage, of benevolence, subsists after the music ceases, and even swells into a passion where it meets with a proper object. An air, sweet and melting, raises an emotion in the tone of love, and readily is elevated to the passion of love on the sight of a beautiful object. An air, slow and plaintive, produces an emotion in the tone of pity or grief, which, on the appearance of a person in distress, becomes a passion. A lively and animating strain produces an emotion of courage: the hearer exalted to a hero, longs for an opportunity to exert his prowess.
Can harmony produce an effect in any degree similar? The greatest admirer of harmony will not affirm that it can. The emotion raised by harmony has no affinity to passion or sentiment, more than the smell of a tuberose, or the taste of an ortolan; and it vanishes instantaneously with the concordant sounds that produced it.
Hence it may fairly be concluded, that, as far as melody is superior to harmony, as far was Greek music superior to the generality of what is now in practice. Exceptions there are undoubtedly that rival whatever could be performed by the ancients: but they are not many in number; the talent of composing music in the tone of a passion, seems in a great measure to lie dormant. The Italian opera resembles in form the Greek tragedy, from which evidently it is copied, but very little in substance. In the latter, the dialogue maintains its superior station; and music, confined to its proper place, has the strong-est effect that music can produce. In the former, music usurping the superior station, commands attention by a storm of sound, leaving the dialogue languid and uninteresting. This unnatural disjunction of sound from sense, has introduced a sort of bastard music, termed recitative. Suffering the words to pass, though abundantly flat and languid,* I object to the execution, an unnatural movement between pro nouncing and singing, that cannot be agreeable but to those who have been long accustomed to it. Of one thing I am certain, that graceful pronunciation, whether in the calm narrative tone, or in the warm tone of passion, is far more pleasant. What puts the preference of the Greek model far beyond a doubt, is, that the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides were for a long course of time the delight of the most refined nation that ever existed: an Italian opera, on the contrary, never runs above a season; and, after being once laid aside, is never revived. But this slight and superficial taste for harmony above melody, can-not be lasting: nature may be wrested, but soon or late resumes its empire. Sentimental music will be seriously cultivated, and restored to the place in the theatre it anciently possessed with dignity and propriety. Then it is that we may hope to rival the Greeks in music as in other arts. Upon the whole, music undoubtedly is much improved with respect to its theory; but, with respect to the practical part, there appears as little doubt of a woeful degeneracy.32
I lay hold of this opportunity to add a short article concerning the history of music, which regard to my native country will not suffer me to omit. We have in Scotland a multitude of songs tender and pathetic, expressive of love in its varieties, of hope, fear, success, despondence, and despair. The style of the music is wild and irregular, extremely pleasing to the natives, but little relished by the bulk of those who are accustomed to the regularity of the Italian style. None but men of genius, who follow nature and break loose from the thraldom of custom, esteem that music. It was a favourite of the late Geminiani, whose compositions show deli-cacy of taste equal to the superiority of his genius; and it is warmly praised by Alessandro Tassoni, the celebrated author of Secchia Rapita. Discoursing of ancient and modern music, and quoting from various authors the wonderful effects produced by some modern compositions, he subjoins the following passage. “Noi ancora possiamo connumerar trà nostri, Iacopo Rè de Scozia, che non pur cose sacre compose in tanto, ma trovò da sestesso una nuovo musica lamentevole e mesta, differente da tutte l’atre. Nel che poi è stato imitato da Carlo Gesualdo Principe di Venosa, che in questa nostra età ha illustrata anch’ egli la musica con nuova mirabili invenzioni” (a) .* The king mentioned must be James I. of Scotland, the only one of our kings who seems to have had any remarkable taste in the fine arts; and the music can be no other than the songs mentioned above. These are commonly attributed to David Rizzio, because he was an Italian and a musician; but erroneously, as we now discover from Tassoni. Our James I. was eminent for poetry no less than for music. He is praised for the former by Bishop Leslie, one of our historians, in the following words: “Patrii carminis gloria nulli secundus.”33 We have many poems ascribed by tradition to that king; one in particular, Christ’s kirk on the green, is a ludicrous poem, describing low manners with no less propriety than sprightliness.
Another cause that precipitates the downfal of every fine art, is despotism. The reason is obvious; and there was a dismal example of it in Rome, particularly with regard to eloquence. We learn from a dialogue accounting for the corruption of the Roman eloquence, that, in the decline of the art, it became fashionable to stuff harangues with impertinent poetical quotations, without any view but ornament merely; and this also was long fashionable in France. It happened unluckily for the Romans, and for the world, that the fine arts were at their height in Rome, and not much upon the decline in Greece, when despotism put an end to the republic. Augustus, it is true, retarded their fall, particularly that of literature; it being the policy of his reign to hide despotism, and to give his government an air of freedom. His court was a school of urbanity, where people of genius acquired that delicacy of taste, that elevation of sentiment, and that purity of expression, which characterize the writers of his time. He honoured men of learning, admitted them to his table, and was bountiful to them. It would be painful to follow the decline of the fine arts in Rome to their total extirpation. The tyranny of Tiberius and of subsequent emperors, broke at last the elevated and independent spirit of the brave Romans, reduced them to abject slavery, and left not a spark of genius.* The science of law is the only exception, as it flourished even in the worst of times: the Roman lawyers were a respectable body, and less the object of jealousy than men of power and extensive land property. Among the Greeks also, a conquered people, the fine arts decayed, but not so rapidly as at Rome: the Greeks, farther removed from the seat of government, were less within the reach of a Roman tyrant. During their depression, they were guilty of the most puerile conceits; witness verses composed in the form of an axe, an egg, wings, and such like. The style of Greek writers in the reign of the Emperor Hadrian, is unequal, obscure, stiff, and affected. Lucian is the only exception I am acquainted with.
We need scarce look for any other cause but despotism, to account for the decline of statuary and painting in Greece. These arts had arrived at their utmost perfection about the time of Alexander the Great: from that time they declined gradually along with the vigour of a free people; for Greece was now enslaved by the Macedonian power. It may in general be observed, that when a nation becomes stationary in that degree of power and eminence which it acquires from its constitution and situation, the national spirit subsides, and men of talents become rare. It is still worse with a nation that is sunk below its former power and eminence; and worst of all when it is reduced to slavery. Other causes concurred to accelerate the downfal of the arts mentioned. Greece, in the days of Alexander, was filled with statues of excellent workmanship; and there being little demand for more, the later statuaries were reduced to heads and busts. At last the Romans put a total end both to statuary and painting in Greece, by plundering it of its finest pieces; and the Greeks, exposed to the avarice of the conquerors, bestowed no longer any money on the fine arts.34
The decline of the fine arts in Rome, is by a writer of taste and elegance ascribed to a cause different from any above mentioned, a cause equally destructive to manhood and to the fine arts; and that is opulence, joined with its constant attendants avarice and luxury. It would be doing injustice to that author to quote him in any words but his own.
Priscis temporibus, quum adhuc nuda virtus placeret, vigebant artes ingenuae; summumque certamen inter homines erat, ne quid profuturum seculis diu lateret. Itaque, Hercules! omnium herbarum succos Democritus expressit: et ne lapidum virgultorumque vis lateret, aetatem inter experimenta consumpsit. Eudoxus quidem in cacumine excelsissimi montis consenuit, ut astrorum coelique motus deprehenderet: et Chrysippus, ut ad inventionem sufficiret, ter helleboro animum detersit. Verum ut ad plastas convertar, Lysippum statuae unius lineamentis inhaerentem inopia extinxit: et Myron, qui penè hominum animas ferarumque aere comprehenderat, non invenit heredem. At nos, vino scortisque demersi, ne paratas quidem artes audemus cognoscere; sed accusatores antiquitatis, vitia tantum docemus, et discimus. Ubi est dialectica? ubi astronomia? ubi sapientiae consultissima via? Quis unquam venit in templum, et votum fecit si ad eloquentiam pervenisset? quis, si philosophiae fontem invenisset? Ac ne bonam quidem mentem, aut bonam valetudinem, petunt: sed statim, antequam limen capitolli tangunt, alius donum promittit si propinquum divitem extulerit; alius, si thesaurum effoderit; alius, si ad trecenties H——S. salvus pervenerit. Ipse senatus, recti bonique praeceptor, mille pondo auri capitolio promittere solet: et ne quis dubitet pecuniam concupiscere, Jovem quoque peculio exorat. Nolito ergo mirari, si pictura defecit, quum omnibus diis hominibusque formosior videatur massa auri, quam quidquid Apelles Phidiasve fecerunt (a) .*
In England, the fine arts are far from such perfection as to suffer by opulence. They are in a progress, it is true, toward ma-turity; but, gardening alone excepted, they proceed in a very slow pace.
There is a particular cause that never fails to undermine a fine art in a country where it is brought to perfection, abstracting from every one of the causes above mentioned. In the first part of the present sketch it is remarked, that nothing is more fatal to an art or to a science, than a performance so much superior to all of the kind, as to extinguish emulation. This remark is exemplified in the great Newton, who, having surpassed all the ancients, has not left to his countrymen even the faintest hope of rivalling him; and to that cause is attributed the visible decline of mathematical knowledge in Great Britain. The same cause would have been fatal to the arts of statuary and painting among the Greeks, even though they had continued a free people. The decay of painting in modern Italy, is probably owing to the same cause: Michael Angelo, Raphael, Titian, &c. are lofty oaks that keep down young plants in their neighbourhood, and intercept from them the sunshine of emulation. Had the art of painting made a slower progress in Italy, it might have there continued in vigour to this day. Velleius Paterculus says judiciously, “Ut primo ad consequendos quos priores ducimus accendimur; ita, ubi aut praeteriri aut aequari eos posse desperavimus, studium cum spe senescit; et quod adsequi non potest, sequi desinit: praeteritoque eo in quo eminere non possimus, aliquid in quo nitamur conquirimus.”*
The decline of an art or science proceeding from the foregoing cause, is the most rapid where a strict comparison can be instituted between the works of different masters. The superiority of Newton above every other mathematician, can be ascertained with precision; and hence the sudden decline of that science in Great Britain. In Italy, a talent for painting continued many years in vigour; because no painter appeared with such superiority of genius, as to carry perfection into every branch of the art. As one surpassed in design, one in colours, one in graceful attitudes, there was still scope for emulation. But when, in the progress of the art, there was not a single perfection but had been seized by one or other master, from that period the art began to languish. Architecture continued longer in vigour than painting, because the principles of comparison in the former are less precise than in the latter. The artist who could not rival his predecessors in an established mode, sought out a new mode for himself, which, though perhaps less elegant or perfect, was for a time supported by novelty.
Corruption of the Latin tongue makes a proper appendix to the decline of the fine arts in Rome. That the Latin tongue did not long continue in purity after the Emperor Augustus, is certain; and all writers agree, that the cause of its early corruption was a continual influx into Rome of men, to whom the Latin was a foreign language. The reason is plausible, but whether solid, may be doubted. In all countries, there are provincial dialects, which, however, tend not to corrupt the language of the capital, because they are carefully avoided by all who pretend to speak properly; and, accordingly, the multitude of provincials who flock to Paris and to London, have no influence to corrupt the language. The same probably was the case in old Rome, especially with respect to strangers whose native tongue was totally different from that of Rome: their imperfect manner of speaking Latin might be excused, but certainly was not imitated. Slaves in Rome had little conversation with their masters, except in receiving orders or reproof; which had no tendency to vitiate the Latin tongue. The corruption of that tongue, and at last its death and burial as a living language, were the result of two combined causes; of which the early prevalence of the Greek language in Rome is the first. Latin was native to the Romans only, and to the inhabitants of Latium. The languages of the rest of Italy were numerous: the Messapian was the mother-tongue in Apulia, the Hetruscan in Tuscany and Umbria, the Greek in Magna Graecia, the Celtic in Lombardy and Liguria, &c. &c. Latin had arrived at its purity not many years before the reign of Augustus, and had not taken deep root in those parts of Italy where it was not the mother-tongue, when Greek became the fashionable language among people of rank, as French is in Europe at present. Greek, the storehouse of learning, prevailed in Rome even in Cicero’s time; of which he himself bears testimony in his oration for the poet Archias: “Graeca leguntur in omnibus fere gentibus: Latina suis finibus, exiguis sane, continentur.”35 And, for that reason, Atticus is warmly solicited by him to write the history of his consulate in Greek. Thus Latin, justled by Greek out of its place, was left to inferiors, and probably would have sunk to utter oblivion, even though the republic had continued in vigour. But the chief cause was the despotism of the Roman government, which proved the destruction of the fine arts, and of literature in particular. In a country of so many different languages, the Latin tongue could not be preserved in purity, but by constant perusal of Roman classics: but these were left to rot in libraries, a dark cloud of ignorance having overspread the whole empire. Every person carelessly spoke the language acquired in the nursery; and people of different tongues being mixed under one government, without a common standard, fell gradually into a sort of mixed language, which every one made a shift to understand. The irruption of many barbarous nations into Italy, several of whom settled there, added to the jargon. And that jargon, composed of many heterogeneous parts, was in process of time purified to the tongue that is now native to all the inhabitants of Italy.
In a history of the Latin tongue, it ought not to be overlooked, that it continued long in purity among the Roman lawyers. The science of law was in Rome more cultivated than in any other country. The books written upon that science in Latin were numerous; and, being highly regarded, were the constant study of every man who aspired to be an eminent lawyer. Neither could such men have any bias to the Greek tongue, as law was little cultivated in Greece. Thus it happened, that the Latin tongue, as far as concerns law, was preserved in purity, even to the time of the Emperor Justinian.
Greek was preserved in purity much longer than Latin. The same language was spoken through all Greece, with some slight varieties in dialect. It was brought to great perfection and firmly rooted during the prosperous days of Greece. Its classics were numerous, and were studied by every person who pretended to literature.* Now, tho’ the free and manly spirit of the Greeks yielded to Roman despotism, yet while any appetite for literature remained, their invaluable classics were a standard, which preserved the language in purity. But ignorance at length became universal; and the Greek classics ceased to be a standard, being buried in libraries, as the Roman classics had been for centuries. In that state, the Greek tongue could not fail to degenerate among an ignorant and servile people, who had no longer any ambition to act well, write well, or speak well. And yet, after all, that beautiful tongue, far beyond a rival, has suffered less alteration than any other ever did in similiar circumstances; one cause of which is, that to this day the Greeks live separate from their masters the Turks, and have little commerce with them.
From the fate of the Latin tongue, an observation is drawn by many writers, that all languages are in a continual flux, changing from age to age without end. And such as are fond of fame, deplore it as a heavy misfortune, that the language in which they write will soon become obsolete and unintelligible. But it is a common error in reasoning, to found a general conclusion upon a single fact. In its progress toward perfection, a language is continually improving, and therefore continually changing. But supposing a language to have acquired its utmost perfec-tion, I see nothing that should necessarily occasion any change: on the contrary, the classical books in that language become a standard for writing and speaking, to which every man of taste and figure conforms himself. Such was the case of the Greek tongue, till the Greeks were brutified by despotism. The Italian has continued in perfection more than three centuries, and the French more than one. The Arabic has continued without change more than a thousand years: there is no book in that language held to be in a style more pure or perfect than the Koran.* The English language has not yet acquired all the purity it is susceptible of; but, when there is no place for further improvements, there seems little doubt of its becoming stationary, like the languages mentioned. I bar always such a revolution as eradi-cates knowledge, and reduces a people to a state of barbarity. In an event so dismal, the destruction of classical books and of a pure language, is not the greatest calamity: they will be little regretted in the universal wreck. In the mean time, to a writer of genius in a polished nation, it cannot but be a charming prospect, that his works will stand and fall with his country. To make such a writer exert his talents for purifying his mother-tongue, and for adding to the number and reputation of its classics, what nobler excitement, than the certainty of being transmitted to posterity, and admired by every person of taste through all ages!
As before the invention of printing, writers could have nothing in view but reputation and praise, they endeavoured to give the utmost perfection to their compositions. They at the same time studied brevity, in order that their works might pass through many hands; for the expence of transcribing great volumes, could not be afforded by every reader. The art of printing has made a great revolution: the opportunity it furnishes to mul-tiply copies, has degraded writing to be a lucrative employment. Authors now study to swell their works, in order to raise the price; and being in a hurry for money, they reject the precept of Horace, Nonum prematur in annum.36 Take for example the natural history of Aldrovandus, in many folio volumes. After filling his common-place book with passages from every author ancient and modern, to the purpose and not to the purpose; he sits down to compose, bent to transfuse into his book every article thus painfully collected. For example, when he introduces the ox, the cock, or any other animal; far from confining himself to its natural history, he omits nothing that has been said of it in books where it has been occasionally introduced, not even excepting tales for amusing children: he mentions all the superstitious notions concerning it, every poetical comparison drawn from it, the use it has served in hieroglyphics and in coats-armorial; in a word, all the histories and all the fables in which it has been named. Take another instance from a German or Dutch chronologer, whose name has escaped me, and which I give in a translation from the Latin, to prevent the bias that one has for a learned language.
Samson was the same with the Theban Hercules; which appears from the actions attributed to each of them, especially from the following, That Hercules, unarmed, is said to have suffocated the Nemean lion with a squeeze of his arms: Samson, unarmed, did the same, by tearing a lion to pieces: and Josephus says, that he did not tear the lion, but put out his breath with a squeeze; which could be done, and was done by Scutilius the wrestler, as reported by Suidas. David also, unarmed, tore to pieces a lion, 1 Samuel, chap. 17.; and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada also slew a lion, 2 Sam. chap. 23. ver. 20. Moreover we read, that Samson having caught three hundred foxes, tied lighted firebrands to their tails, and drove them into the standing corn of the Philistines, by which both the shocks and standing corn, with the vineyards and olives, were burnt up. Many think it incredible, that three hundred foxes should be caught by one man; as the fox, being the most cunning of all animals, would not suffer itself to be easily taken. Accordingly Oppian, a Greek poet who writes upon hunting, asserts, that no fox will suffer itself to be taken in a gin or a net; though we are taught the contrary by Martial, lib. 10. epig. 37.
In India, eagles, hawks, and ravens, are taught to hunt foxes, as we are informed by Olianus, Var. hist. lib. 9. cap. 26. They are also caught by traps and snares, and in covered pits, as wolves are, and other large animals. Nor is it wonderful that such a multitude of foxes were caught by Samson, considering that Palestine abounded with foxes. He had hunters without number at command; and he was not confined in time. The fame of that exploit was spread far and near. Even among the Romans there were vestiges of it, as appears from Ovid, Fast. lib. 9. ver. 681. In one Roman festival, armed foxes were let loose in the circus; which Ovid, in the place quoted, says was done in memory of the Carsiolan fox, which, having destroyed many hens belonging to a country-woman, was caught by her, and punished as follows. She wrapped up the fox in hay, which she set fire to; and the fox being let go, fled through the standing corn and set it on fire. There can be no doubt but that this festival was a vestige of Samson’s foxes, not only from congruity of circumstances, but from the time of celebration, which was the month of April, the time of harvest in Palestine. See more about foxes in Burman’s works.
Not to mention the ridiculous arguments of this writer to prove Samson to be the same with the Theban Hercules, nor the childish wanderings from that subject; he has totally overlooked the chief difficulties. However well fixed the fire-brands might be, it is not easily conceivable, that the foxes, who would naturally fly to their lurking-holes, could much injure the corn, or the olive-trees. And it is as little conceivable, what should have moved Samson to employ foxes, when, by our author’s supposition, he had men at command, much better qualified than foxes for committing waste. This author would have saved himself much idle labour, had he embraced a very probable opinion, that, if the translation be not erroneous, the original text must be corrupted. But enough, and more than enough, of these writers. Maturity of taste has banished such absurdities; and at present, happily, books are less bulky, and more to the purpose, than formerly.
It is observed above (a) , that in a country thinly peopled, where the same person must for bread undertake different employments, the people are knowing and conversable; but stupid and ignorant in a populous country where industry and manufactures abound. That observation holds not with respect to the fine arts. It requires so much genius to copy even a single figure, whether in painting or in sculpture, as to prevent the operator from degenerating into a brute. The great exertion of genius, as well as of invention, required in grouping figures, and in imitating human actions, tends to envigorate these faculties with respect to every subject, and of course to form a man of parts.
Some persons have a peculiar air, a peculiar manner of speaking or of acting, which, in opposition to the manners of the generality, are termed their manners. Such peculiarities in a whole nation, by which it differs from other nations or from itself at different periods, are termed the manners of that nation. Manners therefore signify a mode of behaviour peculiar to a certain person, or to a certain nation. The term is not applied to mankind in general; except perhaps in contradistinction to other beings.
Manners are distinguished from morals; but in what respect has not been clearly stated. Do not the same actions come under both? Certainly; but in different respects: an action considered as right or wrong, belongs to morals; considered as peculiar to a person or to a people, it belongs to manners.
The intention of the present sketch is, to trace out such manners only as appear to proceed immediately from the nature and character of a people, whether influenced by the form of government, or depending on the degree of civilization. I am far from regretting, that manners produced by climate, by soil, and by other permanent causes, fall not under my plan: I should indeed make a sorry figure upon a subject that has been acutely discussed by the greatest genius of the present age (a) .
I begin with external appearance, being the first thing that draws attention. The human countenance and gestures have a greater variety of expressions than those of any other animal: and some persons differ widely from the generality in these expressions, so as to be known by their manner of walking, or even by so slight an action as that of putting on or taking off a hat: some men are known even by the sound of their feet in walking. Whole nations are distinguishable by such peculiarities. And yet there is less variety in looks and gestures, than the different tones of mind would produce, were men left to the impulses of pure nature: man, an imitative animal, is prone to copy others; and by imitation, external behaviour is nearly uniform among those who study to be agreeable; witness people of fashion in France.2 I rest upon these outlines: to enter fully into the subject would be an endless work; disproportioned at any rate to the narrowness of my plan.
Dress must not be omitted, because it enters also into external appearance. Providence hath clothed all animals that are unable to clothe themselves. Man can clothe himself; and he is endowed beside with an appetite for dress, no less natural than an appetite for food. That appetite is proportioned in degree to its use: in cold climates it is vigorous; in hot climates, faint. Savages must go naked till they learn to cover themselves; and they soon learn where covering is necessary. The Patagonians, who go naked in a bitter-cold climate, must be woefully stupid. And the Picts, a Scotch tribe, who, it is said, continued naked down to the time of Severus, did not probably much surpass the Patagonians in the talent of invention.
Modesty is another cause for clothing: few savages expose the whole of the body. It gives no high idea of Grecian modesty, that at the Olympic games people wrestled and run races stark naked.
There is a third cause for clothing, which is, the pleasure it affords. A fine woman, seen naked once in her life, is made a desirable object by novelty. But let her go naked for a month, how much more charming will she appear, when dressed with propriety and elegance! Clothing is so essential to health, that to be less agreeable than nakedness would argue an incongruity in our nature. Savages probably at first thought of clothing as a protection only against the weather; but they soon discovered a beauty in dress: men led the way, and women followed. Such savages as go naked paint their bodies, excited by the same fondness for ornament that our women shew in their party-coloured garments. Among the Jews, the men wore ear-rings as well as the women (a) . When Media was governed by its own kings, the men were sumptuous in dress: they wore loose robes, floating in the air; had long hair covered with a rich bonnet, bracelets, chains of gold, and precious stones: they painted their faces, and mixed artificial hair with that of nature. As authors are silent about the women, they probably made no figure in that kingdom, being shut up, as at present, in seraglios. In the days of Socrates, married women in Greece were confined to be household drudges merely. Xenophon in his Memorabilia Socratis, introduces Ischomachus, an Athenian of great riches and reputation, discoursing to Socrates of his family affairs, “that he told his wife that his main object in marrying her was to have a person in whose discretion he could confide, who would take proper care of his servants, and lay out his money with oeconomy”; that one day he observed her face painted, and with high heeled shoes; that he chid her severely for such follies, “could she imagine to pass such silly tricks on a husband? If she wanted to have a better complection, why not weave at her loom standing upright, why not employ herself in baking and other family exercises, which would give her such a bloom as no paint could imitate?” But when the Athenian manners came to be more polished, greater indulgence was given to the ladies in dress and ornament.3 They consumed the whole morning at the toilette; employing paint, and every drug for cleaning and whitening the skin: they laid red even upon their lips, and took great care of their teeth: their hair, made up in buckles with a hot iron, was perfumed and spread upon the shoulders: their dress was elegant, and artfully contrived to set off a fine shape. Such is the influence of appetite for dress: vanity could not be the sole motive, as married ladies were never seen in public.* We learn from St. Gregory, that women in his time dressed the head extremely high, environing it with many tresses of false hair, disposed in knots and buckles, so as to resemble a regular fortification. Josephus reports, that the Jewish ladies powdered their hair with gold dust; a fashion that was carried from Asia to Rome. The first writer who mentions white powder for the hair, the same we use at present, is L’Etoile, in his journal for the year 1593. He relates, that nuns walked the streets of Paris curled and powdered. That fashion spread by degrees through Europe. For many years after the civil wars in France, it was a fashion in Paris to wear boots and spurs with a long sword: a gentleman was not in full dress without these accouttrements. The sword continues an article of dress, though it distinguishes not a gentleman from his valet. To show that a taste for dress and ornament is deeply rooted in human nature, savages display that taste upon the body, having no covering to display it upon. Seldom is a child of a savage left to nature: it is deprived of a testicle, a finger, a tooth; or its skin is engraved with figures.
Clothing hath no slight influence, even with respect to morals. I venture to affirm, at the hazard of being thought paradoxical, that nakedness is more friendly to chastity than covering. Adultery is unknown among savages, even in hot climates where they have scarce any covering.4 Dress gives play to the imagination, which pictures to itself many secret beauties which vanish when rendered familiar by sight: if a lady accidentally discover half a leg, imagination is instantly inflamed; tho’ an actress appearing in breeches is beheld with indifference: a naked Venus makes not such an impression as when a garter only is discovered.
Cleanness is an article in external appearance. Whether cleanliness be inherent in the nature of man, or only a refinement of polished nations, may at first appear doubtful. What pleads for the former is, that cleanness is remarkable in several nations which have made little progress in the arts of life. The savages of the Caribbee islands, once a numerous tribe, were remarked by writers as neat and cleanly. In the island Otaheite, or King George’s island, both sexes are cleanly: they bathe frequently, never eat nor drink without washing before and after, and their garments, as well as their persons, are kept free of spot or blemish. Ammianus Marcellinus, describing the Gauls, says, that they were cleanly; and that even the poorest women were never seen with dirty garments. The negroes, parti-cularly those of Ardrah in the slave-coast, have a scrupulous regard to cleanness. They wash morning and evening, and perfume themselves with aromatic herbs. In the city of Benin, women are employed to keep the streets clean; and in that respect they are not outdone by the Dutch. In Corea, people mourn three years for the death of their parents; during which time they never wash. Dirtiness must appear dismal to that people, as to us.* But instances are no less numerous that favour the other side of the question. Ammianus Marcellinus reports of the Huns, that they wore a coat till it fell to pieces with dirt and rottenness. Plan Carpin, who visited the Tartars anno 1246, says, “That they never wash face nor hands; that they never clean a dish, a pot, nor a garment; that, like swine, they make food of every thing, not excepting the vermin that crawl on them.” The present people of Kamskatka answer to that description in every article. The nasti-ness of North-American savages, in their food, in their cabins, and in their garments, passes all conception. As they never change their garments till they fall to rags, nor ever think of washing them, they are eat up with vermin. The Esquimaux, and many other tribes, are equally nasty.
As cleanness requires attention and industry, the cleanness of some savages must be the work of nature, and the dirtiness of others must proceed from indolence counteracting nature. In fact, cleanness is agreeable to all, and nastiness disagreeable: no person prefers dirt; and even those who are the most accustomed to it are pleased with a cleanly appearance in others. It is true, that a taste for cleanness, like that for order, for symmetry, for congruity, is extremely faint during its infancy among savages. Its strongest antagonist is indolence, which savages indulge to excess: the great fatigue they undergo in hunting, makes them fond of ease at home; and dirtiness, when once habitual, is not easily conquered. But cleanness improves gradually with manners, and makes a figure in every industrious nation. Nor is a taste for clean-ness bestowed on man in vain: its final cause is conspicuous, cleanness being extremely wholesome, and nastiness no less unwholesome.*
Thus it appears, that a taste for cleanness is inherent in our nature. I say more: cleanness is evidently a branch of propriety, and consequently a self-duty. The performance is rewarded with approbation; and the neglect is punished with contempt (a) .
A taste for cleanness is not equally distributed among all men; nor indeed is any branch of the moral sense equally distributed: and if, by nature, one person be more cleanly than another, a whole nation may be so. I judge that to be the case of the Japanese, so finically clean as to find fault even with the Dutch for dirtiness. Their inns are not an exception; nor their little-houses, in which water is always at hand for washing after the operation. I judged it to be also the case of the English, who, high and low, rich and poor, are remarkable for cleanness all the world over; and I have often amused myself with so singular a resemblance between islanders, removed at the greatest distance from each other. But I was forced to abandon the resemblance, upon a discovery that the English have not always been so clean as at present. Many centuries ago, as recorded in Monkish history, one cause of the aversion the English had to the Danes was their cleanness: they combed their hair, and put on a clean shirt once a-week. It was reputed an extraordinary effort in Thomas a Becket, that he had his parlor strewed every day with clean straw. The celebrated Erasmus, who visited England in the reign of Henry VIII. complains of the nastiness and slovenly habits of its people; ascribing to that cause the frequent plagues which infested them. “Their floors,” says he, “are commonly of clay strewed with rushes, under which lies unmolested a collection of beer, grease, fragments, bones, spittle, excrements of dogs and cats, and of every thing that is nauseous” (a) . And the strewing a floor with straw or rushes was common in Queen Elisabeth’s time, not excepting even her presence-chamber. A change so extraordinary in the taste and manners of the English, rouses our curiosity; and I flatter myself that the following cause will be satisfactory. A savage, remarkably indolent at home, though not insensible of his dirtiness, cannot rouse up activity sufficient to attempt a serious purgation; and would be at a loss where to begin. The industrious, on the contrary, are improved in neatness and propriety, by the art or manufacture that constantly employs them: they are never reduced to purge the stable of Augeas; for being prone to action, they suffer not dirt to rest unmolested. Industrious nations, accordingly, all the world over, are the most cleanly. Arts and industry had long flourished in Holland, where Erasmus was born and educated: the people were clean above all their neighbours, because they were industrious above all their neighbours; and, upon that account, the dirtiness of England could not fail to strike a Hollander. At the period mentioned, industry was as great a stranger to England as cleanness: from which consideration, may it not fairly be inferred, that the English are indebted for their cleanliness to the great progress of industry among them in later times? If this inference hold, it places industry in an amiable light. The Spaniards, who are indolent to a degree, are to this day as dirty as the English were three centuries ago. Madrid, their capital, is nauseously nasty: heaps of unmolested dirt in every street, raise in that warm climate a pestiferous steam, which threatens to knock down every stranger. A purgation was lately set on foot by royal authority. But people habituated to dirt are not easily reclaimed: to promote industry is the only effectual remedy.* The nastiness of the streets of Lisbon before the late earthquake, was intolerable; and so is at present the nastiness of the streets of Cadiz.
Though industry be the chief promoter of cleanness, yet it is seldom left to operate alone: other causes mix, some to accelerate the progress, some to retard it. The moisture of the Dutch climate has a considerable influence in promoting cleanliness; and, joined with industry, produces a surprising neatness and cleanness among people of business: men of figure and fashion, who generally resort to the Hague, the seat of government, are not so cleanly. On the other hand, the French are less cleanly than the English, though not less industrious. But the lower classes of people being in England more at their ease than in France, have a greater taste for living well, and in particular for keeping themselves clean.†
A beard gives to the countenance a rough and fierce air, suited to the manners of a rough and fierce people. The same face without a beard appears milder; for which reason, a beard becomes unfashionable in a polished nation. Demosthenes, the orator, lived in the same period with Alexander the Great, at which time the Greeks began to leave off beards. A bust, however, of that orator, found in Herculaneum, has a beard, which must either have been done for him when he was young, or from reluctance in an old man to a new fashion. Barbers were brought to Rome from Sicily the 454th year after the building of Rome. And it must relate to a time after that period what Aulus Gellius says (a) , that people accused of any crime, were prohibited to shave their beards till they were absolved. From Hadrian downward, the Roman Emperors wore beards. Julius Capitolinus reproaches the Emperor Verus for cutting his beard at the instigation of a concubine. All the Roman generals wore beards in Justinian’s time (b) . The Pope shaved his beard, which was held a manifest apostasy by the Greek church, because Moses, Jesus Christ, and even God the Father, were always drawn with beards by the Greek and Latin painters. Upon the dawn of smooth manners in France, the beaus cut the beard into shapes, and curled the whiskers. That fashion produced a whimsical effect: men of gravity left off beards altogether. A beard, in its natural shape, was too fierce even for them; and they could not for shame copy after the beaus. This accounts for a regulation, anno 1534, of the University of Paris, forbidding the professors to wear a beard.5
Language, when brought to any perfection among a polished people, may justly be considered as one of the fine arts; and, in that view, is handled above. But, considered as a branch of external behaviour, it belongs to the present sketch. Every part of external behaviour is influenced by temper and disposition, and speech more than any other part. In Elements of Criticism (c) it is observed, that an emotion in many instances bears a resemblance to its cause. The like holds universally in all the natural sounds prompted by passion. Let a passion be bold, rough, cheerful, tender, or humble, still it holds, that the natural sounds prompted by it, are in the same tone: and hence the reason why these sounds are the same in all languages. Some slight resemblance of the same kind is discoverable in many artificial sounds. The language of a savage is harsh; of polite people, smooth; and of women, soft and musical. The tongues of savage nations abound in gutturals, or in nasals: yet one would imagine that such words, being pronounced with difficulty, should be avoided by savages, as they are by children. But temper prevails, and suggests to savages harsh sounds, conformable to their roughness. The Esquimaux have a language composed of the harshest gutturals; and the languages of the northern European nations are not remarkably smoother. The Scotch peasants are a frank and plain people; and their dialect is in the tone of their character. The Huron tongue hath stateliness and energy above most known languages, which is more conformable to the elevation of their sentiments, than to their present low condition. Thus the manners of a people may, in some measure, be gathered from their language. Nay, manners may frequently be gathered from single words. The Hebrew word lechom signifies both food and fighting; and tereph signifies both food and plunder.Karab signifies to draw near to one, and signifies also to fight. The Greek word leia, which signified originally spoil procured by war or piracy, came to signify wealth. And the great variety of Greek words signifying good and better, signified originally strong and violent.
Government, according to its different kinds, hath considerable influence in forming the tone of a language. Language in a democracy is commonly rough and coarse; in an aristocracy, manly and plain; in a monarchy, courteous and insinuating; in despotism, imperious with respect to inferiors, and humble with respect to superiors. The government of the Greek empire is well represented in Justinian’s edicts, termed Novellae Constitutiones; the style of which is stiff, formal, and affectedly stately, but destitute of order, of force, and of ligament. About three centuries ago, Tuscany was filled with small republics, whose dialect was manly and plain. Its rough tones were purged off by their union under the Great Duke of Tuscany; and the Tuscan dialect has arrived nearer to perfection than any other in Italy. The tone of the French language is well suited to the nature of its government: every man is politely submissive to those above him; and this tone forms the character of the language in general, so as even to regulate the tone of the few who have occasion to speak with authority. The freedom of the English government forms the manners of the people: the English language is accordingly more manly and nervous than the French, and abounds more with rough sounds. The Lacedemonians of old, a proud and austere people, affected to talk with brevity, in the tone of command more than of advice; and hence the Laconic style, dry but masculine. The Attic style is more difficult to be accounted for: it is sweet and copious, and had a remarkable delicacy above the style of any other nation. And yet the democracy of Athens produced rough manners; witness the comedies of Aristophanes, and the orations of Eschines and Demosthenes. We are not so intimately acquainted with the Athenians, as to account for the difference between their language and their manners. We are equally at a loss about the Russian tongue, which, notwithstanding the barbarity of the people, is smooth and sonorous: and, though the Malayans are the fiercest people in the universe, their language is the softest of all that are spoken in Asia. All that can be said is, that the operation of a general cause may be disturbed by particular circumstances. Languages resemble tides: the influence of the moon, which is the general cause of tides, is in several instances overbalanced by particular causes acting in opposition.
There may be observed in some savage tribes a certain refinement of language that might do honour to a polished people. The Canadians never give a man his proper name, in speaking to him. If he be a relation, he is addressed to in that quality: if a stranger, the speaker gives him some appellation that marks affection; such as brother, cousin, friend.
In early times, people lived in a very simple manner, ignorant of such habitual wants as are commonly termed luxury. Rebecca, Rachel, and the daughters of Jethro, tended their father’s flocks: they were really shepherdesses. Young women of fashion drew water from the well with their own hands. The joiner who made the bridal bed of Ulysses, was Ulysses himself (a) . The Princess Nausicaa washes the family-clothes; and the Princes her brothers, upon her return, unyoke the car, and carry in the clothes (b) . Queens, and even female deities, are employed in spinning (c) . Is it from this fashion that young women in England are denominated spinsters? Telemachus goes to council with no attendants but two dogs:
Priam’s car is yoked by his own sons, when he goes to redeem from Achilles the body of his son Hector. Telemachus yokes his own car (a) . Homer’s heroes kill and dress their own victuals (b) . Achilles entertaining Priam, slew a snow-white sheep; and his two friends flea’d and dressed it. Achilles himself divided the roasted meat among his guests.* The story of Ruth is a pleasing instance of simplicity in ancient times; and her laying herself down to sleep at the feet of Boaz, a no less pleasing instance of innocence in these times.6 No people lived more innocently than the ancient Germans, though men and women lived together without reserve. They slept promiscuously round the walls of their houses; and yet we never read of adultery among them. The Scotch Highlanders to this day live in the same manner. In Sparta, men and women lived familiarly together: public baths were common to both; and in certain games, they danced and combated together naked as when born. In a later period, the Spartan dames were much corrupted; occasioned, as authors say, by a shameful freedom of intercourse between the sexes. But remark, that corruption was not confined to the female sex, men having degenerated as much from their original manhood as women from their original chastity; and I have no difficulty to maintain, that gold and silver, admitted contrary to the laws of Lycurgus, were what corrupted both sexes. Opulence could not fail to have the same effect there that it has every where; which is to excite luxury and every species of sensuality. The Spartans accordingly, renouncing austerity of manners, abandoned themselves to pleasure: the most expensive furniture, the softest beds, superb tapestry, precious vases, exquisite wines, delicious viands, were not now too delicate for an effeminate Spartan, once illustrious for every manly virtue. Lycurgus understood human nature better than the writers do who carp at him. It was his intention, to make his countrymen soldiers, not whining lovers: and he justly thought, that familiar intercourse between the sexes, would confine their appetites within the bounds of nature; an useful lesson to women of fashion in our days, who expose their nakedness in order to attract and enflame lovers. What justifies this reasoning is, the ascendant that Spartan dames had over their husbands while the laws of Lycurgus were in vigour: they in effect ruled the state as well as their own families. Such ascendant cannot be obtained nor preserved but by strict virtue: a woman of loose manners may be the object of loose desire; but seldom will she gain an ascendant over any man, and never over her husband.
Not to talk of gold, silver was scarce in England during the reign of the third Edward. Rents were paid in kind; and what money they had, was locked up in the coffers of the great barons. Pieces of plate were bequeathed even by kings of England, so trifling in our estimation, that a gentleman of a moderate fortune would be ashamed to mention such in his will.
Next of action. Man is naturally prone to motion; witness children, who are never at rest but when asleep. Where reason governs, a man restrains that restless disposition, and never acts without a motive. Savages have few motives to action when the belly is full; their huts require little work, and their covering of skins still less. Hunting and fishing employ all their activity. After much fatigue in hunting, rest is sweet; which the savage prolongs, having no motive to action till the time of hunting returns. Savages accordingly, like dogs, are extremely active in the field, and extremely indolent at home.* Sava-ges in the torrid zone are indolent above all others: they go naked; their huts cost them no trouble; and vegetables, that grow spontaneously, are their only food. The Spaniards who first landed in Hispaniola, were surprised at the manners of the inhabitants. They are described as lazy, and without ambition; passing part of their time in eating and dancing, and the rest in sleep; having no great share of memory, and still less of understanding. The character given of these savages belongs to all, especially to savages in hot climates. The imperfection of their memory and judgement is occasioned by want of exercise. The same imperfection was remarkable in the people of Paraguay, when under Jesuit government; of which afterward (a) .
We now take under consideration, the progress of such manners as are more peculiarly influenced by internal disposition; preparing the reader by a general view, before entering into particulars. Man is by nature a timid animal, having little ability to secure himself against harm: but he becomes bold in society, and gives vent to passion against his enemies. In the hunter-state, the daily practice of slaughtering innocent animals for food, hardens men in cruelty: more savage than bears or wolves, they are cruel even to their own kind.* The calm and sedentary life of a shepherd, tends to soften the harsh manners of hunters; and agriculture, requiring the union of many hands in one operation, improves benevolence. But here the hoarding appetite starts up to disturb that auspicious commencement of civilization. Skilful husbandry, producing the necessaries of life in plenty, paves the way to arts and manufactures. Fine houses, splendid gardens, and rich apparel, are desirable objects: the appetite for property becomes headstrong, and to obtain gratification tramples down every obstacle of justice or honour (a) . Differences arise, fomenting discord and resentment: war springs up, even among those of the same tribe; and while it was lawful for a man to take revenge at his own hand (b) , that fierce passion swallowed up all others. Inequality of rank and fortune fostered dissocial passions; witness pride in particular, which produced a custom, once universal among barbarians, of killing men, women, dogs, and horses, for the use of a chieftain in the other world. Such complication of hateful and violent passions, rendering society uncomfortable, cannot be stemmed by any human means, other than wholesome laws: a momentary obstacle inflames desire; but perpetual restraint deadens even the most fervid passion. The authority of good government gave vigour to kindly affections; and appetite for society, which acts incessantly, though not violently, gave a currency to mutual good offices. A circumstance concurred to blunt the edge of dissocial passions: the first societies were small; and small states in close neighbourhood engender discord and resentment without end: the junction of many such states into a great kingdom, removes people farther from their enemies, and renders them more gentle (c) . In that situation, men have leisure and sedateness to relish the comforts of social life: they find that selfish and turbulent passions are subversive of society; and through fondness for social intercourse, they patiently undergo the severe discipline, of restraining passion and smoothing manners. Violent passions that disturb the peace of society have subsided, and are now seldom heard of: humanity is in fashion, and social affections prevail. Men improve in urbanity by conversing with women; and, however selfish at heart, they conciliate favour by assuming an air of disinterestedness. Selfishness, thus refined, becomes an effectual cause of civilization. But what follows? Turbulent and violent passions are buried, never again to revive; leaving the mind totally ingrossed by self-interest. In the original state of hunters, there being little connection among individuals, every man minds his own concerns, and selfishness governs. The discovery that hunting is best carried on in company, promotes some degree of society in that state: it gains ground in the shepherd state, and makes a capital figure where husbandry and commerce flourish. Private concord is promoted by social affection; and a nation is prosperous in proportion as the amor patriae prevails. But wealth, acquired whether by conquest or commerce, is productive of luxury, and every species of sensuality. As these increase, social affections decline, and at last vanish. This is visible in every opulent city that has long flourished in extensive commerce. Selfishness becomes the ruling passion: friendship is no more; and even blood-relation is little regarded. Every man studies his own interest: opulence and sensual pleasure are idols worshipped by all. And thus, in the progress of manners, men end as they began: selfishness is no less eminent in the last and most polished state of society, than in the first and most rude state.
From a general view of the progress of manners we descend to particulars. And the first scene that presents itself is, cruelty to strangers, extended, in process of time, against members of the same tribe. Anger and resentment are predominant in savages, who never think of restraining passion. But this character is not universal: some tribes are remarkable for humanity, as mentioned in the first sketch. Anger and resentment formed the character of our European ancestors, and rendered them fierce and cruel. The Goths were so prone to blood, that, in their first inroads into the Roman territories, they massacred man, woman, and child. Procopius reports, that in one of these inroads they left Italy thin of inhabitants. They were however an honest people; and by the polish they received in the civilized parts of Europe, they became no less remarkable for humanity, than formerly for cruelty. Totila, their king, having mastered Rome after a long and bloody siege, permitted not a single person to be killed in cold blood, nor the chastity of any woman to be attempted. One cannot without horror think of the wanton cruelties exercised by the Tartars against the nations invaded by them under Gengizcan and Timor Bec.
A Scythian, says Herodotus, presents the king with the heads of the enemies he has killed in battle; and the man who brings not a head, gets no share of the plunder. He adds, that many Scythians clothe themselves with the skins of men, and make use of the skulls of their enemies to drink out of. Diodorus Siculus reports of the Gauls, that they carry home the heads of their enemies slain in battle; and after embalming them, deposit them in chests as their chief trophy; bragging of the sums offered for these heads by the friends of the deceased, and refused. In similar circumstances, men are the same all the world over. The scalping of enemies, in daily use among the North-American savages, is equally cruel and barbarous.
No savages are more cruel than the Greeks and Trojans were, as described by Homer; men butchered in cold blood, towns reduced to ashes, sovereigns exposed to the most humbling indignities, no respect paid to age nor to sex. The young Adrastus (a) , thrown from his car, and lying in the dust, obtained quarter from Menelaus. Agamemnon upbraided his brother for lenity: “Let none from destruction escape, not even the lisping infant in the mother’s arms: all her sons must with Ilium fall, and on her ruins unburied remain.” He pierced the supplicant with his spear; and setting his foot on the body, pulled it out. Hector, having stripped Patroclus of his arms, drags the slain along, vowing to lop the head from the trunk, and to give the mangled corse a prey to the dogs of Troy. And the seventeenth book of the Iliad is wholly employed in describing the contest about the body between the Greeks and Trojans. Beside the brutality of preventing the last duties from being performed to a deceased friend, it is a low scene, unworthy of heroes. It was equally brutal in Achilles to drag the corse of Hector to the ships tied to his car. In a scene be-tween Hector and Andromache (b) , the treatment of vanquished enemies is pathetically described; sovereigns massacred, and their bodies left a prey to dogs and vultures; sucking infants dashed against the pavement; ladies of the first rank forced to perform the lowest acts of slavery. Hector doth not dissemble, that if Troy should be conquered, his poor wife would be condemned to draw water like the vilest slave. Hecuba, in Euripides, laments that she was chained like a dog at Agamemnon’s gate; and the same savage manners are described in many other Greek tragedies. Prometheus makes free with the heavenly fire, in order to give life to man. As a punishment for bringing rational creatures into existence, the gods decree, that he be chained to a rock, and abandoned to birds of prey. Vulcan is introduced by Eschylus rattling the chain, nailing one end to a rock, and the other to the breast-bone of the criminal. Who but an American savage can at present behold such a spectacle and not be shocked? A scene representing a woman murdered by her children would be hissed by every modern audience; and yet that horrid scene was represented with applause in the Electra of Sophocles. Stoboeus reports a saying of Menander, that even the gods cannot inspire a soldier with civility: no wonder that the Greek soldiers were brutes and barbarians, when war was waged, not only against the state, but against every individual. At present, humanity prevails among soldiers as among others; because we make war only against a state, not against individuals. The Greeks are the less excusable for their cruelty, as they appear to have been sensible that humanity is a cardinal virtue. Barbarians are always painted by Homer as cruel; polished nations as tender and compassionate:
Cruelty is inconsistent with true heroism; and, accordingly, very little of the latter is discoverable in any of Homer’s warriors. So much did they retain of the savage character, as, even without blushing, to fly from an enemy superior in bo-dily strength. Diomedes, who makes an illustrious figure in the fifth book of the Iliad, retires when Hector appears: “Diomedes beheld the chief, and shuddered to his inmost soul.” Antilochus, son of Nestor, having slain Melanippus (a) , rushed forward, eager to seize his bright arms. But seeing Hector, he fled like a beast of prey who shuns the gathering hinds. And the great Hector himself shamefully turns his back upon the near approach of Achilles: “Periphetes, endowed with every virtue, renowned in the race, great in war, in prudence excelling his fellows, gave glory to Hector, covering the chief with renown.” One would expect a fierce combat between these two bold warriors. Not so, Periphetes stumbling, fell to the ground; and Hector was not ashamed to transfix with his spear the unresisting hero.
In the same tone of character, nothing is more common among Homer’s warriors than to insult a vanquished foe. Patroclus, having beat Cebriones to the ground with a huge stone, derides his fall in the following words:
The Greeks are represented (a) one after another stabbing the dead body of Hector: “Nor stood an Argive near the chief who inflicted not a wound. Surely now, said they, more easy of access is Hector, than when he launched on the ships brands of devouring fire.”
When such were the manners of warriors at the siege of Troy, it is no surprise to find the heroes on both sides no less intent on stripping the slain than on victory. They are every where represented as greedy of spoil.
The Jews did not yield to the Greeks in cruelty. It is unnecessary to give instances, as the historical books of the Old Testament are in the hands of every one. I shall select one instance for a specimen, dreadfully cruel without any just provocation: “And David gathered all the people together, and went to Rabbah, and fought against it, and took it. And he brought forth the people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brick-kiln: and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon” (b) .
That cruelty was predominant among the Romans, is evident from every one of their historians. If a Roman citizen was found murdered in his own house, his whole household slaves, perhaps two or three hundred, were put to death without mercy, unless they could detect the murderer. Such a law, cruel and unjust, could never have been enacted among a people of any humanity. Brutality to their offspring was glaring. Children were held, like cattle, to be the father’s property: and so tenacious was the patria potestas, that if a son or daughter sold to be a slave was set free, he or she fell again under the father’s power, to be sold a second time, and even a third time. The power of life and death over children was much less unnatural, while no public tribunal existed for punishing crimes. A son, being a slave, could have no property of his own. Julius Caesar was the first who privileged a son to retain for his own use spoils acquired in war. When law became a lucrative profession, what a son gained in that way was declared to be his property. In Athens, a man had power of life and death over his children; but, as they were not slaves, what they acquired belonged to themselves. So late as the days of Dioclesian, a son’s marriage did not dissolve the Roman patria potestas(a) . But the power of selling children wore out of use (b) . When powers so unnatural were given to men over their children, and exercised so tyranically, can there be any doubt of their cruelty to others?* During the second triumvirate, horrid cruelties were every day perpetrated without pity or remorse. Antony, having ordered Cicero to be beheaded, and the head to be brought to him, viewed it with savage pleasure. His wife Fulvia laid hold of it, struck it on the face, uttered many bitter execrations, and, having placed it between her knees, drew out the tongue, and pierced it with a bodkin. The delight it gave the Romans to see wild beasts set loose against one another in their circus, is a proof not at all ambiguous of their taste for blood, even at the time of their highest civilization. The Edile Scaurus sent at one time to Rome 150 panthers, Pompey 410, and Augustus 420, for the public spectacles. Their gladiato-rian combats are a less evident proof of their ferocity: the courage and address exerted in these combats gave a manly pleasure, that balanced in some measure the pain of seeing these poor fellows cut and slash one another. And, that the Romans were never cured of their thirst for blood, appears from Caligula, Nero, and many other monsters, who tormented the Romans after Augustus. There is no example in modern times of such monsters in France, though an absolute monarchy, nor even in Turkey.
Ferocity was, in the Roman empire, considerably mollified by literature and other fine arts; but it acquired new force upon the irruption of the barbarous nations who crushed that empire. In the year 559, Clotaire, King of the Franks, burnt alive his son, with all his friends, because they had rebelled against him. Queen Brunehaud, being by Clotaire II. condemned to die, was dragged through the camp at a horse’s tail, till she gave up the ghost. The ferocity of European nations became boundless during the anarchy of the feudal system. Many peasants in the northern provinces of France being sorely oppressed in civil wars carried on by the nobles against each other, turned desperate, gathered together in bodies, resolving to extirpate all the nobles. A party of them, anno 1358, forced open the castle of a knight, hung him upon a gallows, violated in his presence his wife and daughters, roasted him upon a spit, compelled his wife and children to eat of his flesh, and terminated that horrid scene with massacring the whole family, and burning the castle. When they were asked, says Froissard, why they committed such abominable actions, their answer was, “That they did as they saw others do; and that all the nobles in the world ought to be destroyed.” The nobles, when they got the upper hand, were equally cruel. They put all to fire and sword, and massacred every peasant who came in the way, without troubling themselves to separate the innocent from the guilty. The Count de Ligny encouraged his nephew, a boy of fifteen, to kill with his own hand some prisoners who were his countrymen; in which, says Monstrelet, the young man took great delight. How much worse than brutal must have been the manners of that age! for even a beast of prey kills not but when instigated by hunger. The third act of stealing from the lead-mines in Derby was, by a law of Edward I. punished in the following manner. A hand of the criminal was nailed to a table; and, in that condition, he was left without meat or drink, having no means for freedom but to employ the one hand to cut off the other. The barbarity of the English at that period made severe punishments necessary: but the punishment mentioned goes beyond severity; it is brutal cruelty. The barbarous treatment of the Jews during the dark ages of Christianity, gives pregnant evidence, that Christians were not short of Pagans in cruelty. Poisoning and assassination were most licentiously perpetrated no farther back than the last century. Some pious men made vigorous efforts in more than one general council to have assassination condemned, as repugnant to the law of God; but in vain.*
I wish to soften the foregoing scene: it may be softened a little. Among barbarians, punishments must be sanguinary, as their bodies only are sensible of pain, not their minds.†
The restoration of arts and sciences in Europe, and a reformation in religion, had a wonderful effect in sweetening manners, and promoting the interests of society. Of all crimes high treason is the most involved in circumstances, and the most difficult to be defined or circumscribed. And yet, for that crime are reserved the most exquisite torments. In England, the punishment is, to cut up the criminal a-live, to tear out his heart, to dash it about his ears, and to throw it into the flames. The same punishment continues in form, not in reality: the heart indeed is torn out, but not till the criminal is strangled. Even the virulence of religious zeal is considerably abated. Savonarola was condemned to the flames as an impious impostor; but he was first privately strangled. The fine arts, which humanize manners, were in Italy at that time accelerating toward perfection. The famous Latimer was in England condemned to be burnt for heresy: but bags of gunpowder were put under his arms, that he might be burnt with the least pain. Even Knox, a violent Scotch reformer, acknowledges, that Wishart was strangled before he was thrown into the flames for heresy. So bitter was the late persecution against the Jesuits, that not only were their persons proscribed, but in many places their books, not even excepting books upon mathematics, and other abstract subjects. That persecution resembled in many particulars the persecution against the knights-templars: fifty-nine of the latter were burnt alive: the former were really less inno-cent; and yet such humanity prevails at present, that not a drop of Jesuit-blood has been shed. A bankrupt in Scotland, if he have not suffered by unavoidable misfortune, is by law condemned to wear a party-coloured garment. That law is not now put in execution, unless where a bankrupt deserves to be stigmatized for his culpable misconduct.
Whether the following late instance of barbarity do not equal any of those above mentioned, I leave to the reader. No traveller who visited Petersburgh during the reign of the Empress Elizabeth can be ignorant of Madam Lapouchin, the great ornament of that court. Her intimacy with a foreign ambassador having brought her under suspicion of plotting with him against the government, she was condemned to undergo the punishment of the knout. At the place of execution, she appeared in a genteel undress, which heightened her beauty. Of whatever indiscretion she might have been guilty, the sweetness of her countenance and her composure, left not in the spectators the slightest suspicion of guilt. Her youth also, her beauty, her life and spirit pleaded for her. But all in vain: she was deserted by all, and abandoned to surly executioners; whom she beheld with astonishment, seeming to doubt whether such preparations were intended for her. The cloak that covered her bosom being pulled off, modesty took the alarm, and made her start back: she turned pale, and burst into tears. One of the executioners stripped her naked to the waste, seized her with both hands, and threw her on his back, raising her some inches from the ground. The other executioner laying hold of her delicate limbs with his rough fists, put her in a posture for receiving the punishment. Then laying hold of the knout, a sort of whip made of a leathern strap, he with a single stroke tore off a slip of skin from the neck downward, repeating his strokes till all the skin of her back was cut off in small slips. The executioner finished his task with cutting out her tongue; after which she was banished to Siberia.*
The native inhabitants of the island Amboyna are Malayans. Those on the sea-coast are subject to the Dutch: those in the inland parts are their declared enemies, and never give quarter. A Dutch captive, after being confined five days without food, is ripped up, his heart cut out, and the head severed from the body, is preserved in spice for a trophy. Those who can show the greatest number of Dutch heads are the most honourable.
In early times, when revenge and cruelty trampled on law, people formed associations for securing their lives and their possessions. These were common in Scandinavia and in Scotland. They were also common in England during the Anglo-Saxon government, and for some ages after the Conquest. But, instead of support-ing justice, they contributed more than any other cause to confusion and anarchy, the members protecting each other, even in robbery and murder. They were suppressed in England by a statute of Richard II.; and in Scotland by reiterated statutes.
Roughness and harshness of manners are generally connected with cruelty; and the manners of the Greeks and Trojans are accordingly represented in the Iliad as remarkably rough and harsh. When the armies were ready to engage (a) , Menestheus King of Athens, and Ulysses of Ithaca, are bitterly reproached by Agamemnon for lingering, while others were more forward. “Son of Peleus,” he said, “and thou versed in artful deceit, in mischief only wise, why trembling shrink ye back from the field; why wait till others engage in fight? You it became, as first in rank, the first to meet the flame of war. Ye first to the banquet are called, when we spread the feast. Your delight is to eat, to regale, to quaff unstinted the generous wine.” In the fifth book, Sarpedon upbraids Hector for cowardice. And Tle polemus, ready to engage with Sarpedon, attacks him first with reviling and scurrilous words. Because Hector was not able to rescue the dead body of Sarpedon from the Greeks, he is upbraided by Glaucus, Sarpedon’s friend, in the following words: “Hector, though specious in form, distant art thou from valour in arms. Undeserved hast thou fame acquired, when thus thou shrinkest from the field. Thou sustainest not the dreadful arm, not even the sight of godlike Ajax. Thou hast shunned his face in the fight: thou darest not approach his spear.”
Rough and harsh manners produced slavery; and slavery fostered rough and harsh manners, by giving them constant exercise. The brutality of the Spartans to the Helots, their slaves, is a reproach to the human species. Beside suffering the harshest usage, they were prevented from multiplying by downright murder and massacre. Why did not such barbarity render the Spartans detestable, instead of being respected by their neighbours as the most virtuous people in Greece? There can be but one reason, that the Greeks were all of them cruel, the Spartans a little more perhaps than the rest. In Rome, a slave, chained at the gate of every great house, gave admittance to the guests invited to a feast: could any but barbarians behold such a spectacle without pain?
Whence the rough and harsh manners of our West-Indian planters, but from the unrestrained licence of venting ill humour upon their negro slaves?* Why art car-ters a rugged set of men? Plainly because horses, their slaves, submit without resistance. An ingenious writer, describing Guiana in the southern continent of America, observes, that the negroes, who are more numerous than the whites, must be kept in awe by severity of discipline.8 And he endeavours to justify the practice; ur-ging, that beside contributing to the safety of the white inhabitants, it makes the slaves themselves less unhappy. “Impossibility of attainment,” says he, “never fails to annihilate desire of enjoyment; and rigid treatment, suppressing every hope of liberty, makes them peaceably submit to slavery.” Sad indeed must be the condition of slaves, if harsh treatment contribute to make them less unhappy. Such reasoning may be relished by rough European planters, intent upon gain: I am inclined, however, to believe, that the harsh treatment of these poor people is more owing to the avarice of their masters than to their own perverseness.* That slaves in all ages have been harshly treated, is a melancholy truth. One exception I know, and but one, which I gladly mention in honour of the Mandingo negroes. Their slaves, who are numerous, receive very gentle treatment; the women especially, who are generally so well dressed as not to be distinguishable from those who are free.
Many political writers are of opinion, that for crimes instigated by avarice only, slavery for life, and hard work, would be a more adequate punishment than death. I would subscribe to that opinion but for the following consideration, that the having such criminals perpetually in view, would harden our hearts, and eradicate pity, a capital moral passion. Behold the behaviour of the Dutch in the island of Amboyna. A native who is found guilty of theft, is deprived of his ears and nose, and made a slave for life. William Funnel, who was there anno 1705, reports, that 500 of these wretches were secured in prison, and never suffered to go abroad but in order to saw timber, to cut stone, or to carry heavy burdens. Their food is a pittance of coarse rice boiled in water, and their bed the hard ground. What is still worse, poor people who happen to run in debt are turned over to the servants of the East India company, who send them to work among their slaves, with a daily al-lowance of two-pence, which goes to the creditor. A nation must be devoid of bowels who can establish such inhumanity by law. But time has rendered that practice so familiar to the Dutch, that they behold with absolute indifference the multiplied miseries of their fellow creatures. It appears, indeed, that such a punishment would be more effectual than death to repress theft; but can any one doubt, that society would suffer more by eradicating pity and humanity, than it would gain by punishing capitally every one who is guilty of theft? At the same time, the Dutch, however cruel to the natives, are extremely complaisant to one another: seldom is any of them punished but for murder: a small sum will procure pardon for any other crime.
Upon the brutality and harsh manners of savages, was founded an opinion universally prevalent, that man is an obdurate being who must be governed by fear, not by love. It was the politic of princes to keep their subjects in awe; and every subject became a creeping slave. Hence the universal practice of never appearing before a sovereign or a prince but with a splendid present, in order to deprecate his wrath or soften his temper. Philosophy has in time banished these crude notions of human nature, and taught us that man is a social being, upon whom benevolence has a more powerful influence than fear. Benevolence, accordingly, has become the ruling principle in society; and it is now the glory of princes to bestow favours and to receive none. This change of manners governs equally the worship paid to the Deity. Among rude nations, the Deity is represented as an angry God, visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children; and hence oblations, offerings, sacrifices, not even excepting human victims. Happy it is for us to have received more refined notions of the Deity. The opinion, justly founded, that benevolence is his prime attribute, has banished oblations, sacrifices, and such trumpery; and we depend on the goodness of the Deity, without any retribution but that of a grateful heart.
A degree of coarseness and indelicacy is connected with rough manners. The manners of the Greeks, as copied by Plautus and Terence from Menander and other Greek writers, were extremely coarse; such as may be expected from a people living among their slaves, without any society with virtuous women. The behaviour of Demosthenes and Eschines to each other in their public harangues is wofully coarse. But Athens was a democracy; and a democracy, above all other governments, is rough and licentious. In the Athenian comedy, neither gods nor men are spared. The most respectable persons of the republic are ridiculed by name in the comedies of Aristophanes, which wallow in looseness and detraction. In the third act of Andromaché, a tragedy of Euripides, Peleus and Menelaus, Kings of Thessaly and Sparta, fall into downright ribaldry; Menelaus swearing that he will not give up his victim, and Peleus threatening to knock him down with his staff. The manners of Jason, in the tragedy of Medea by Euripides, are wofully indelicate. With unparallelled ingratitude to his wife Medea, he, even in her presence, makes love to the King of Corinth’s daughter, and obtains her in marriage. Instead of blushing to see a person he had so deeply injured, he coolly endeavours to excuse himself, “that he was an exile like herself, without support; and that his marriage would acquire powerful friends to them and to their children.” Could he imagine that such frigid reasons would touch a woman of any spirit? A most striking picture of indelicate manners is exhibited in the tragedy of Alcestes. Admetus prevails upon Alcestes, his loving and beloved wife, to die in his stead. What a barbarian must the man be who grasps at life upon such a condition? How ridiculous is the bombast flourish of Admetus, that, if he were Orpheus, he would pierce to hell, brave the three-headed Cerberus, and bring his wife to earth again! and how indecently does he scold his father for refusing to die for him! What pretext could the monster have to complain of his father, when he himself was so disgracefully fond of life, as even to solicit his beloved spouse to die in his stead! What stronger instance, after all, would one require of indelicacy in the manners of the Greeks, than that they held all the world except themselves to be barbarians? In that particular, however, they are not altogether singular. Though the Tartars, as mentioned above, were foul feeders, and hoggishly nasty, yet they were extremely proud, despising, like the Greeks, every other nation. The people of Congo think the world to be the work of angels, except their own country, which they hold to be the handiwork of the supreme architect. The Greenlanders have a high conceit of themselves; and in private make a mock of the Europeans, or Kablunets, as they call them. Despising arts and sciences, they value themselves on their skill in catching seals, conceiving it to be the only useful art. They hold themselves to be the only civilized and well-bred people; and when they see a modest stranger, they say, “he begins to be a man”; that is, to be like one of themselves. Sometimes, however, sparks of light are perceived breaking through the deepest gloom. When the Athenians were at war with Philip King of Macedon, they intercepted some letters addressed by him to his ministers. These they opened for intelligence: but one to his Queen Olympias they left with the messenger untouched. This was done not by a single person, but by authority of the whole people.9
So coarse and indelicate were Roman manners, that whipping was a punishment inflicted on the officers of the army, not even excepting centurions (a) . Doth it not show extreme grossness of manners to express in plain words the parts that modesty bids us conceal? and yet this is common in Greek and Roman writers. In the Cyclops of Euripides, there is represented a scene of the vice against nature, grossly obscene, without the least disguise. How wofully indelicate must the man have been, who could sit down gravely to compose such a piece! and how dissolute must the spectators have been who could behold such a scene without hissing! Next to the indecency of exposing one’s nudities in good company, is the talking of them without reserve. Horace is extremely obscene, and Martial no less. But I censure neither of them, and as little the Queen of Navarre for her tales; for they wrote according to the manners of the times: it is the manners I censure, not the writers. In Rome, a woman taken in adultery was prostituted on the public street to all comers, a bell ringing the whole time. This abominable practice was abolished by the Emperor Theodosius (a) .
The manners of Europe, before the revival of letters, were no less coarse than cruel. In the Cartularies of Charlemagne, judges are forbidden to hold courts but in the morning, with an empty stomach. It would appear, that men in those days were not ashamed to be seen drunk, even in a court of justice. It was customary, both in France and Italy, to collect for sport all the strumpets in the neighbourhood, and to make then run races. Several feudal tenures give evidence of manners both low and coarse. Struvius mentions a tenure, binding the vassal, on the birth-day of his lord, to dance and fart before him. The cod-piece, which, a few centuries ago, made part of a man’s dress, and which swelled by degrees to a monstrous size, testifies shamefully-coarse manners; and yet it was a modest ornament, compared with one used in France during the reign of Lewis XI. which was the figure of a man’s privy parts fixed to the coat of breeches. In the same period, the judgment of Paris was a favourite theatrical entertainment: three women stark-naked represented the three goddesses, Juno, Venus, and Minerva. Nick-names, so com-mon not long ago, are an instance of the same coarseness of manners; for to fix a nick-name on a man, is to use him with contemptuous familiarity. In the thirteenth century, many clergymen refused to administer the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, unless they were paid for it.* In the tenth century, Edmond King of England, at a festival in the county of Gloucester, observed Leolf, a notorious robber under sentence of banishment, sitting at table with the King’s attendants. Enraged at this insolence, he ordered Leolf to leave the room. On his refusing to obey, the King leaped on him, and seized him by the hair. The ruffian drew his dagger, and gave the King a wound, of which he immediately expired. How lamentable would be our condition, were we as much persecuted as our forefathers were with omens, dreams, prophesies, astrologers, witches, and apparitions? Our forefathers were robust both in mind and body, and could bear without much pain what would totally overwhelm us.
Even after the revival of letters, the European manners were a long time coarse and indelicate. In the year 1480, the Cardinal Bibiena exhibited the Calendra, a comedy of intrigue upon a good model, but extremely licentious, as all compositions of that age were. The Mandragora of Machiavel is equally licentious; and, considering the author, the Queen of Navarre’s tales, worst of all.10
Swearing as an expletive of speech, is a violent symptom of rough and coarse manners. It prevails among all barbarous nations. Even women in Plautus use it fluently. It prevailed in Spain and in France, till it was banished by polite manners. Our Queen Elisabeth was a bold swearer;* and the English populace, who are rough beyond their neighbours, are noted by strangers for that vice. John King of England swore commonly “by the teeth of God.” Charles VIII. of France “by God’s day.” Francis I. “upon the faith of a gentleman.” And the oath of Lewis XII. was “may the devil take me.”11 Though swearing, in order to enforce an expression, is not in itself immoral; it is, however, hurtful in its consequences, rendering sacred names too familiar. God’s beard, the common oath of William Rufus, suggests an image of our Maker as an old man with a long beard. In vain have acts of parliament been made against swearing: it is easy to evade the penalty, by coining new oaths; and, as that vice proceeds from an overflow of spirits, people in that condition brave penalties. Polished manners are the only effectual cure for that malady.
When a people begin to emerge out of barbarity, loud mirth and rough jokes come in place of rancour and resentment. About a century ago, it was usual for the servants and retainers of the Court of Session in Scotland, to break out into riotous mirth and uproar the last day of every term, throwing bags, dust, sand, or stones, all around. We have undoubted evidence of that disorderly practice from an act of the Court, prohibiting it under a severe penalty, as dishonourable to the Court, and unbecoming the civility requisite in such a place (a) .
And this leads to the lowness of ancient manners; plainly distinguishable from simplicity of manners: the latter is agreeable, not the former. Among the ancient Egyptians, to cram a man was an act of high respect. Joseph, the King’s first minister, in order to honour Benjamin above his brethren, gave him a five-fold mess (b) . The Greeks, in their feasts, distinguished their heroes by a double portion (c) . Ulysses cut a fat piece out of the chine of a wild boar for Demodocus the bard (d) . The same respectful politeness is practised at present among the American savages; so much are all men alike in similar circumstances. Telemachus (e) complains bitterly of Penelope’s suitors, that they were gluttons, and consumed his beef and mutton. The whole 14th book of the Odyssey, containing the reception of Ulysses by Eumaeus the swine-herd, is miserably low. Manners must be both gross and low, where common beggars are admitted to the feasts of princes, and receive scraps from their hands (f) . In Rome every guest brought his own napkin to a feast. A slave carried it home, filled with what was left from the entertainment. Sophocles, in his tragedy of Iphigenia in Aulis, represents Clytemnestra, stepping down from her car, and exhorting her servants to look after her baggage, with the anxiety and minuteness of a lady’s waiting-woman. In the tragedy of Ion, this man, a servant in the temple of Delphos, is represented cleaning the temple, and calling out to a flock of birds, each by name, threatening to pierce them with his arrows if they dunged upon the offerings. Homer paints in lively colours the riches of the Phoeacians, their skill in navigation, the magnificence of the King’s court, of his palace, and of the public buildings. But, with the same breath, he describes Nausicaa, the King’s daughter, travelling to the river on a waggon of greasy clothes, to be washed by her and her maids. Possibly it may be urged, that such circumstances, however low in our opinion, did not appear low in Greece, as they were introduced by their chief poet, and the greatest that ever existed. I acknowledge the force of this argument: but what does it prove, more than that the Greeks were not sensible of the lowness of their manners? Is any nation sensible of the lowness of their own manners? The manners of the Greeks did not correspond to the delicacy of their taste in the fine arts: nor can it be expected, when they were strangers to that polite society with women, which refines behaviour, and elevates manners. The first kings in Greece, as Thucydides observes, were elective, having no power but to command their armies in time of war; which resembles the government that obtains at present in the isthmus of Darien. The Greeks had no written laws, being governed by custom merely. To live by plunder was held honourable; for it was their opinion, that the rules of justice are not intended for restraining the powerful. All strangers were accounted enemies, as among the Romans; and inns were unknown, because people lived at home, having very little intercourse even with those of their own nation. Inns were unknown in Germany, and to this day are unknown in the remote parts of the highlands of Scotland; but for an opposite reason, that hospitality prevailed greatly among the ancient Germans, and continues to prevail so much among our highlanders, that a gentleman takes it for an affront if a stranger pass his door. At a congress between Francis I. of France and Henry VIII. of England, among other spectacles for public entertainment, the two Kings had a wrestling-match. Had they forgot that they were sovereign princes?
One would imagine war to be a soil too rough for the growth of civilization; and yet it is not always an unkindly soil. War between two small tribes is fierce and cruel: but a large state mitigates resentment, by directing it not against individuals, but against the state. We know no enemies but those who are in arms: we have no resentment against others, but rather find a pleasure in treating them with humanity.* Cruelty, having thus in war few individuals for its object, naturally subsides; and magnanimity in its stead transforms soldiers from brutes to heroes. Some time ago, it was usual in France to demand battle; and it was held dishonourable to decline it, however unequal the match. Before the battle of Pavia, Francis I. wrote to the Marquis Pescara, the Imperial General, “You will find me before Pavia, and you ought to be here in six days: I give you twenty. Let not the superiority of my forces serve for an excuse; I will fight you with equal numbers.” Here was heroism without prudence; but, in all reformations, it is natural to go from one extreme to the other. While the King of England held any possessions in France, war was perpetual between the two nations, which was commonly carried on with more magnanimity than is usual between inveterate enemies. It became customary to give prisoners their freedom, upon a simple parole to return with their ransom at a day named. The same was the custom in the border-wars between the English and Scots, before their union under one monarch. But parties found their account equally in such honourable behaviour. Edward Prince of Wales, in a pitched battle against the French, took the illustrious Bertrand du Gueselin prisoner. He long declined to accept a ransom; but, finding it whispered that he was afraid of that hero, he instantly set him at liberty without a ransom. This may be deemed impolitic or whimsical: but is love of glory less praise-worthy than love of conquest? The Duke of Guise, victor in the battle of Dreux, rested all night in the field of battle; and gave the Prince of Condé, his prisoner, a share of his bed, where they lay like brothers. The Chevalier Bayard, commander of a French army anno 1524, being mortally wounded in retreating from the Imperialists, placed himself under a tree, his face, however, to the enemy. The Marquis de Pescara, ge-neral of the Imperialists, finding him dead in that posture, behaved with the generosity of a gallant adversary: he directed his body to be embalmed, and to be sent to his relations in the most honourable manner. Magnanimity and heroism, in which benevolence is an essential ingredient, are inconsistent with cruelty, perfidy, or any grovelling passion. Never was gallantry in war carried to a greater height, than between the English and Scotch borderers before the crowns were united. The night after the battle of Otterburn, the victors and vanquished lay promiscuously in the same camp, without apprehending the least danger one from the other. The manners of ancient warriors were very different. Homer’s hero, though superior to all in bodily strength, takes every advantage of his enemy, and never feels either compassion or remorse. The policy of the Greeks and Romans in war, was to weaken a state by plundering its territory, and destroying its people. Humanity with us prevails even in war. Individuals not in arms are secure, which saves much innocent blood. Prisoners were set at liberty upon paying a ransom; and, by later im-provements in manners, even that practice is left off as too mercantile, a more honourable practice being substituted, namely, a cartel for exchange of prisoners. Humanity was carried to a still greater height, in our late war with France, by an agreement between the Duke de Noailes and the Earl of Stair, That the hospitals for the sick and wounded soldiers should be secure from all hostilities. The humanity of the Duke de Randan in the same war, makes an illustrious figure even in the present age, remarkable for humanity to enemies. When the French troops were compelled to abandon their conquests in the electorate of Hanover, their Generals every where burnt their magazines, and plundered the people. The Duke de Randan, who commanded in the city of Hanover, put the magistrates in possession of his magazines, requesting them to distribute the contents among the poor; and he was, beside, extremely vigilant to prevent his soldiers from committing acts of violence.* I relish not the brutality exercised in the present war between the Turks and Russians. The latter, to secure their winter quarters on the left hand of the Danube, laid waste a large territory on the right. To reduce so many people to misery merely to prevent a surprise, which can be more effectually done by strict discipline, is a barbarous remedy. But the peace concluded between these great powers, has given an opening to manners very different from what were to be expected from the fact now mentioned. This peace has been attended with signal marks not only of candour, but of courtesy. The Grand Signior, of his own accord, has dismissed from chains every Christian taken prisoner during the war; and the Empress of Russia has set at liberty 3000 Turks, with an order to set at liberty every Turk within her dominions.12 The necessity of fortifying towns to guard from destruction the innocent and defenceless, affords convincing evidence of the savage cruelty that prevailed in former times. By the growth of humanity, such fortifications have become less frequent: and they serve no purpose at present, but to defend against invasion; in which view a small fortification, if but sufficient for the garrison, is greatly preferable, being constructed at a much less expence, and having the garrison only to provide for.
In the progress of society, there is commonly a remarkable period, when social and dissocial passions seem to bear equal sway, prevailing alternately. In the history of Alexander’s successors, there are frequent instances of cruelty, equalling that of American savages; and instances no less frequent of gratitude, of generosity, and even of clemency, that betoken manners highly polished. Ptolemy of Egypt, having gained a complete victory over Demetrius, son of Antigonus, restored to him his equipage, his friends, and his domestics, saying, that “they ought not to make war for plunder, but for glory.” Demetrius having defeated one of Ptolemy’s generals, was less delighted with the victory, than with the opportunity of rivalling his antagonist in humanity. The same Demetrius having restored liberty to the Athenians, was treated by them as a demi-god; and yet afterward, in his adversity, found their gates shut against him. Upon a change of fortune, he laid siege to Athens, resolving to chastise that rebellious and ungrateful people. He assembled the inhabitants in the theatre, surrounding them with his army, as preparing for a total massacre. Their terror was extreme, but short: he pronounced their pardon, and bestowed on them 100,000 measures of wheat. Ptolemy, the same who is mentioned above, having, at the siege of Tyre, summoned Andronicus the governour to surrender, received a provoking and contemptuous answer. The town being taken, Andronicus gave himself up to despair: but the King, thinking it below his dignity to resent an injury done to him by an inferior, now his prisoner, not only o-verlooked the injury, but courted Andronicus to be his friend. Edward, the Black Prince, is an instance of refined manners, breaking, like a spark of fire, through the gloom of barbarity. The Emperor Charles V. after losing 30,000 men at the siege of Metz, made an ignominious retreat, leaving his camp filled with sick and wounded, dead and dying. Though the war between him and the King of France was carried on with unusual rancour, yet the Duke of Guise, governour of the town, exerted, in those barbarous times, a degree of humanity that would make a splendid figure even at present. He ordered plenty of food for those who were dying of hunger, appointed surgeons to attend the sick and wounded, removed to the adjacent villages those who could bear motion, and admitted the remainder into the hospitals that he had fitted up for his own soldiers: those who recovered their health were sent home, with money to defray the expence of the journey.
In the period that intervenes between barbarity and humanity, there are not wanting instances of opposite passions in the same person, governing alternately; as if a man could this moment be mild and gentle, and next moment harsh and brutal. To vouch the truth of this observation, I beg leave to introduce two rival monarchs, who for many years distressed their own people, and disturbed Europe, the Emperor Charles, and the French King Francis. The Emperor, driven by contrary winds on the coast of France, was invited by Francis, who happened to be in the neighbourhood, to take shelter in his dominions, proposing an interview at Aigues-Mortes, a sea-port town. The Emperor instantly repaired there in his galley; and Francis, relying on the Emperor’s honour, visited him on shipboard, and was received with every expression of affection. Next day the Emperor repaid the confidence reposed in him: he landed at Aigues-Mortes with as little precaution, and found a reception equally cordial. After twenty years of open hostilities or of secret enmity, after having formally given the lie and challenged each other to single combat, after the Emperor had publicly inveighed against Francis as void of honour, and Francis had accused the Emperor as murderer of his own son; a behaviour so open and frank will scarce be thought consistent with human nature. But these monarchs lived in a period verging from cruelty to humanity; and such periods abound with surprising changes of temper and behaviour. In the present times, changes so violent are unknown.
Conquest has not always the same effect upon the manners of the conquered. The Tartars who subdued China in the thirteenth century, adopted immediately the Chinese manners: the government, laws, customs, continued without variation. And the same happened upon their second conquest of China in the seventeenth century. The barbarous nations also who crushed the Roman empire, adopted the laws, customs, and manners, of the conquered. Very different was the fate of the Greek empire when conquered by the Turks. That warlike nation introduced every where their own laws and manners: even at this day they continue a distinct people as much as ever. The Tartars, as well as the barbarians who overthrew the Roman empire, were all of them rude and illiterate, destitute of laws, and igno-rant of government. Such nations readily adopt the laws and manners of a civilized people, whom they admire. The Turks had laws, and a regular government; and the Greeks, when subdued by them, were reduced by sensuality to be objects of contempt, not of imitation.
Manners are deeply affected by persecution. The forms of procedure in the Inquisition enable the inquisitors to ruin whom they please. A person accused is not confronted with the accuser: every sort of accusation is welcome, and from every person: a child, a common prostitute, one branded with infamy, are reputable witnesses: a man is compelled to give evidence against his father, and a woman against her husband. Nay, the persons accused are compelled to inform against themselves, by guessing what sin they may have been guilty of. Such odious, cruel, and tyrannical proceedings, made all Spain tremble: every man distrusted his neighbour, and even his own family: a total end was put to friendship, and to social freedom. Hence the gravity and reserve of a people, who have naturally all the vivacity arising from a tem-perate clime and bountiful soil.* Hence the profound ignorance of that people, while other European nations are daily improving in every art and in every science. Human nature is reduced to its lowest state, when governed by superstition clothed with power.
We proceed to another capital article in the history of manners, namely, the selfish and social branches of our nature, by which manners are greatly influenced. Selfishness prevails among savages; because corporeal pleasures are its chief objects, and of these every savage is perfectly sensible. Benevolence and kindly affection are too refined for a savage, unless of the simplest kind, such as the ties of blood. While artificial wants were unknown, selfishness, tho’ prevalent, made no capital figure: the means of gratifying the calls of nature were in plenty; and men who are not afraid of ever being in want, never think of providing against it; and far less do they think of co-veting what belongs to another. The Caribbeans, who know no wants but what nature inspires, are amazed at the industry of the Europeans in amassing wealth. Listen to one of them expostulating with a Frenchman in the following terms: “How miserable art thou, to expose thy person to tedious and dangerous voyages, and to suffer thyself to be oppressed with anxiety about futurity! An inordinate appetite for wealth is thy bane; and yet thou art no less tormented in preserving the goods thou hast acquired, than in acquiring more: fear of robbery or shipwreck suffers thee not to enjoy a quiet moment. Thus thou growest old in thy youth, thy hair turns gray, thy forehead is wrinkled, a thousand ailments afflict thy body, a thousand distresses surround thy heart, and thou movest with painful hurry to the grave. Why art thou not content with what thy own country produceth? Why not contemn superfluities, as we do?”13 But men are not long contented with simple necessaries: an unwearied appetite to be more and more comfortably provided, leads them from necessaries to conveniencies, and from these to every sort of luxury. Avarice turns headstrong; and locks and bars, formerly unknown, become necessary to protect people from the rapacity of their neighbours. When the goods of fortune, money in particular, come to be prized, selfishness soon displays itself. In Madagascar, a man who makes a present of an ox or a calf, expects the value in return; and scruples not to say, “You my friend, I your friend; you no my friend, I no your friend; I salamanca you, you salamanca me” (a) . Admiral Watson being introduced to the King of Baba, in Madagascar, was asked by his Majesty, What presents he had brought? Hence the custom, universal among barbarians, of always accosting a king, or any man of high rank, with presents. Sir John Chardin says, that this custom goes through all Asia. It is reckoned an honour to receive presents: they are received in public; and a time is chosen when the croud is greatest. It is a maxim too refined for the potentates of Asia, that there is more honour in bestowing than in receiving.14
The peculiar excellence of man above all other animals, is the capacity he has of improving by education and example. In proportion as his faculties refine, he acquires a relish for society, and finds a pleasure in benevolence, generosity, and in every other kindly affection, far above what selfishness can afford. How agreeable is this scene! Alas, too agreeable to be lasting. Opulence and luxury inflame the hording appetite; and selfishness at last prevails as it did originally. The selfishness, however, of savages differs from that of pampered people. Luxury confining a man’s whole views to himself, admits not of friendship, and scarce of any other social passion. But where a savage takes a liking to a particular person, the whole force of his social affection being directed to a single object, becomes extremely fervid. Hence the unexampled friendship between Achilles and Patroclus in the Iliad; and hence many such friendships among savages.
But there is much more to be said of the influence of opulence on manners. Rude and illiterate nations are tenacious of their laws and manners; for they are governed by custom, which is more and more rivetted by length of time. A people, on the contrary, who are polished by having passed through various scenes, are full of invention, and constantly thinking of new modes. Manners, in particular, can never be stationary in a nation refined by prosperity and the arts of peace. Good government will advance men to a high degree of civilization; but the very best government will not preserve them from corruption, after becoming rich by prosperity. Opulence begets luxury, and envigorates the appetite for sensual pleasure. The appetite, when inflamed, is never confined within moderate bounds, but clings to every object of gratification, without regard to propriety or decency. When Septimius Severus was elected Emperor, he found on the roll of causes depending before the judges in Rome no fewer than three thousand accusations of adultery. From that moment he abandoned all thoughts of a reformation. Love of pleasure is similar to love of money: the more it is indulged the more it is inflamed. Polygamy is an incentive to the vice against nature; one act of incontinence leading to others without end. When the Sultan Achmet was deposed at Constantinople, the people, breaking into the house of one of his favourites, found not a single woman. It is reported of the Algerines, that in many of their seraglios there are no women. For the same reason polygamy is far from preventing adultery, a truth finely illustrated in Nathan’s parable to David. What judgement then are we to form of the opulent cities London and Paris, where pleasure is the ruling passion, and where riches are coveted as instruments of sensuality? What is to be expected but a pestiferous corruption of manners? Selfishness, ingrossing the whole soul, eradicates patriotism, and leaves not a cranny for social virtue. If in that condition men abstain from robbery or from murder, it is not love of justice that restrains them, but dread of punishment. Babylon is arraigned by Greek writers for luxury, sensuality, and profligacy. But Babylon represents the capital of every opulent kingdom, ancient and modern: the manners of all are the same; for power and riches never fail to produce luxury, sensuality, and profligacy.* Canghi, Emperor of China, who died in the year 1722, deserves to be recorded in the annals of fame, for resisting the softness and effeminacy of an Asiatic court. Far from abandoning himself to sensual pleasure, he passed several months yearly in the mountains of Tartary, mostly on horseback, and declining no fatigue. Nor in that situation were affairs of state neglected: many hours he borrowed from sleep, to hear his ministers, and to issue orders. How few monarchs, bred up like Canghi in the downy indolence of a seraglio, have resolution to withstand the temptations of sensual pleasure!
In no other history is the influence of prosperity and opulence on manners so conspicuous as in that of old Rome. During the second Punic war, when the Romans were reduced by Hannibal to fight pro aris et focis, Hiero, King of Syracuse, sent to Rome a large quantity of corn, with a golden statue of victory weighing three hundred and twenty pounds, which the senate accepted. But, though their finances were at the lowest ebb, they accepted but the lightest of forty golden vases presented to them by the city of Naples; and politely returned, with many thanks, some golden vases sent by the city of Paestum, in Lucania: a rare instance of magnanimity. But no degree of virtue is proof against the corruption of conquest and opulence. Upon the influx of Asiatic riches and luxury, the Romans abandoned themselves to every vice: they became, in particular, wonderfully avaricious, breaking through every restraint of justice and humanity.* Spain in parti-cular, which abounded with gold and silver, was for many years a scene, not only of oppression and cruelty, but of the basest treachery, practised against the natives by successive Roman generals, in order to accumulate wealth. Lucullus, who afterward made a capital figure in the Mithridatic war, attacked Cauca, a Celtiberian city, without the slightest provocation. Some of the principal citizens repaired to his camp with olive branches, desiring to be informed upon what conditions they could purchase his friendship. It was agreed that they should give hostages, with a hundred talents of silver. They also consented to admit a garrison of 2000 men, in order, said Lucullus, to protect them against their enemies. But how were they protected? The gates were opened by the garrison to the whole army; and the inhabitants were butchered, without distinction of sex or age. What other remedy had they, but to invoke the gods presiding over oaths and covenants, and to pour out execrations against the Ro-mans for their perfidy? Lucullus, enriched with the spoils of the town, felt no remorse for leaving 20,000 persons dead upon the spot. Shortly after, having laid siege to Intercatia, he solicited a treaty of peace. The citizens reproaching him with the slaughter of the Cauceans, asked, Whether, in making peace, he was not to employ the same right hand, and the same faith, he had already pledged to their countrymen? Seroclius Galba, another Roman general, persuaded the Lusitanians to lay down their arms, promising them a fruitful territory instead of their own mountains; and having thus got them into his power, he ordered all of them to be murdered. Of the few that escaped, Viriatus was one, who, in a long and bloody war against the Romans, amply avenged the massacre of his countrymen. Our author Appian reports, that Galba, surpassing even Lucullus in covetousness, distributed but a small share of the plunder among the soldiers, converting the bulk of it to his own use. He adds, that though Galba was one of the richest men in Rome, yet he never scrupled at lies nor perjury to procure money. But the corruption was general: Galba being accused of many misdemeanors, was acquitted by the senate through the force of bribes. A tribe of the Celtiberians, who had long served the Romans against the Lusitanians, had an offer made them by Titus Didius of a territory in their neighbourhood, lately conquered by him. He appointed them a day to receive possession; and having inclosed them in his camp, under shew of friendship, he put them all to the sword; for which mighty deed he obtained the honour of a triumph. The double-dealing and treachery of the Romans, in their last war against Carthage, is beyond example. The Carthaginians, suspecting that a storm was gathering against them, sent deputies to Rome for securing peace at any rate. The senate, in appearance, were disposed to amicable measures, demanding only hostages; and yet, though three hundred hostages were delivered without loss of time, the Roman army landed at Utica. The Carthaginian deputies attended the Consuls there, desiring to know what more was to be done on their part. They were required to deliver up their arms; which they chearfully did, imagining that they were now certain of peace. Instead of which, they received peremptory orders to evacuate the city, with their wives and children, and to make no settlement within eighty furlongs of the sea. In perusing Appian’s history of that memorable event, compassion for the distressed Carthaginians is stifled by indignation at their treacherous oppressors. Could the monsters, after such treachery, have the impudence to talk of Punica fides? The profligacy of the Roman people, during the triumvirate of Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus, is painted in lively colours by the same author. “For a long time, disorder and confusion overspread the commonwealth: no office was obtained but by faction, bribery, or criminal service: no man was ashamed to buy votes, which were sold in open market. One man there was, who, to obtain a lucrative office, expended eight hundred talents (a) : ill men enriched themselves with public money, or with bribes: no honest man would stand candidate for an office; and, into a situa- tion so miserable was the commonwealth reduced, that once for eight months it had not a single magistrate.” Cicero, writing to Atticus, that Clodius was acquitted by the influence of Crassus, expresses himself in the following words: “Biduo, per unum servum, et eum ex gladiatorio ludo, confecit totum negotium. Accersivit ad se, promisit, intercessit, dedit. I am vero, O dii boni, rem perditam! etiam noctes certarum mulierum, atque adolescentulorum nobilium, introductiones nonnullis judicibus pro mercedis cumulo fuerunt” (a) .* Ptolomy King of Egypt was dethroned by his subjects for tyranny. Having repaired to Rome for protection, he found means to poison the greater part of a hundred Egyptians, his accusers, and to assassinate Dion, their chief. And yet these crimes, perpetrated in the heart of Rome, were suffered to pass with impunity. But he had secured the leading men by money, and was protected by Pompey. The following instance is, if possible, still more gross. Ptolomy, King of Cyprus, had always been a faithful ally to the Romans. But his gold, jewels, and precious moveables, were a tempting bait: and all was confiscated by a decree of the people, without even a pretext. Money procured by profligacy is not commonly hoarded up; and the Romans were no less voluptuous than avaricious. Alexander ab Alexandro mentions the Fanian, Orchian, Didian, Oppian, Cornelian, Ancian, and Julian laws, for repressing luxury of dress and of eating, all of which proved ineffectual. He adds, that Tiberius had it long at heart to contrive some effectual law against luxury, which now had surpassed all bounds, but that he found it impracticable to stem the tide. He concludes, that by tacit agreement among a corrupted people, all sumptuary laws were in effect abrogated; and that the Roman people, abandoning themselves to vice, broke through every restraint of morality and religion (b) . Tremble, O Britain, on the brink of a precipice! how little distant in rapacity from Roman senators are the leaders of thy people!*
The free states of Italy, which had become rich by commerce, employed mer-cenary troops to save their own people, who were more profitably employed at home. But, as mercenaries gained nothing by victory or bloodshed, they did very little execution against one another. They exhausted the states which employed them, without doing any real service. Our condition is in some degree similar. We employ generals and admirals, who, by great appointments, soon lose relish for glory, intent only to prolong a war for their own benefit. According to our present manners, where luxury and selfishness prevail, it appears an egregious blunder, to enrich a general or admiral during his command: have we any reason to expect, that he will fight like one whose fortune depends on his good behaviour? This single error against good policy has reduced Britain more than once to a low condition, and will prove its ruin at last.15
Riches produce another lamentable effect: they enervate the possessor, and degrade him into a coward. He who commands the labour of others, who eats without hunger, and rests without fatigue, becomes feeble in mind as well as in body, has no confidence in his own abilities, and is reduced to flatter his enemies, because he hath not courage to brave them.
Selfishness among the rude and illiterate is rough, blunt, and undisguised. Selfishness, which in an opulent kingdom usurps the place of patriotism, is smooth, refined, and covered with a veil. Pecuniary interest, a low object, must be covered with the thickest veil: ambition, less dishonourable, is less covered: but delicacy as to character and love of fame, are so honourable, that even the thinnest veil is held unnecessary. History justifies these observations. During the prosperity of Greece and Rome, when patriotism was the ruling passion, no man ever thought of employing a hostile weapon but against the enemies of his country: swords were not worn during peace, nor was there an instance of a private duel. The frequency of duels in modern times, is no slight symptom of degeneracy: regardless of our country, selfishness is exerted without disguise when reputation or character is in question; and a nice sense of honour prompts revenge for every imagined af-front, without regard to justice. How much more manly and patriotic was the behaviour of Themistocles, when insulted by the Lacedemonian general in deliberating about the concerns of Greece! “Strike,” says he, “but first hear me.”*
When a nation, formerly in prosperity, is depressed by luxury and selfishness, what follows next? Let the Egyptians an-swer the question. That unhappy people, having for many ages been a prey to every barbarous invader, are now become effe-minate, treacherous, cruel, and corrupted with every vice that debases humanity. A nation in its infancy, however savage, is susceptible of every improvement; but a nation worn out with age and disease is susceptible of no improvement. There is no remedy, but to let the natives die out, and to repeople the country with better men. Egypt has for many ages been in the same languid and servile state. An Arabian author, who wrote the history of the great Saladin, observes, that the Egyptians never thought of supporting the monarch in possession, but tamely submitted to every conqueror. “It was,” says he, “the custom in Egypt at that time to deliver to the victor the ensigns of royalty, without ever thinking of inquiring into his title.” What better than a flock of sheep, obedient to the call of the present shepherd!
I fly from a scene so dismal to one that will give no pain. Light is intended by our Maker for action, and darkness for rest. In the fourteenth century, the shops in Paris were opened at four in the morning: at present, a shopkeeper is scarce awake at seven. The King of France dined at eight in the morning, and retired to his bed-chamber at the same hour in the evening; an early hour at present for public amusements.* The Spaniards ad-here to ancient customs.† Their King to this day dines precisely at noon, and sups no less precisely at nine in the evening. During the reign of Henry VIII. fashionable people in England breakfasted at seven in the morning, and dined at ten in the forenoon. In Elizabeth’s time, the nobility, gentry, and students, dined at eleven forenoon, and supped between five and six afternoon. In the reign of Charles II. four in the afternoon was the appointed hour for acting plays. At present, even dinner is at a later hour. The King of Yeman, the greatest prince in Arabia Felix, dines at nine in the morning, sups at five afternoon, and goes to rest at eleven. From this short specimen it appears, that the occupations of day-light commence gradually later and later; as if there were a tendency in polite nations, of converting night into day, and day into night. No-thing happens without a cause. Light disposes to action, darkness to rest: the diversions of day are tournaments, tennis, hunting, racing, and other active exercises: the diversions of night are sedentary; plays, cards, conversation. Balls are of a mixed nature, partly active in dancing, partly sedentary in conversing. Formerly, active exercises prevailed among a robust and plain people:* the milder pleasures of society prevail as manners refine. Hence it is, that candle-light amusements are now fashionable in France, and in other polished countries; and when such amusements are much relished, they banish the robust exercises of the field. Balls, I conjecture, were formerly more frequent in day-light: at present, candle-light is their favourite time: the active part is at that time equally agreeable; and the sedentary part, more so.
Gaming is the vice of idle people. Savages are addicted to gaming; and those of North America in particular are fond to distraction of a game termed the platter. A losing gamester will strip himself to the skin; and some have been known to stake their liberty, though by them valued above all other blessings. Negroes in the slave-coast of Guinea, will stake their wives, their children, and even themselves. Tacitus (a) , talking of gaming among the Germans, says, “Extremo ac novissimo jactu, de libertate et de corpore contendant.”† The Greeks were an active and sprightly people, constantly engaged in war, or in cultivating the fine arts. They had no leisure for gaming, nor any knowledge of it. Happy for them was their ignorance; for no other vice tends more to render men selfish, dishonest, and, in the modish style, dishonourable. A gamester, a friend to no man, is a bitter enemy to himself. The luxurious of the present age, pass every hour in gaming that can be spared from sensual pleasure. Idleness is their excuse, as it is among savages; and they would in some degree be excusable, were they never actuated by a more disgraceful motive.
Writers do not carefully distinguish particular customs from general manners. Formerly, women were not admitted upon the stage in France, Italy, or England: at that very time, none but women were admitted in Spain. From that fashion it would be rash to infer, that women have more liberty in Spain than in the other countries mentioned; for the contrary is true. In Hindostan, established custom prompts women to burn themselves alive with the bodies of their deceased husbands; but from that singular custom, it would be a false inference, that the Hindow women are either more bold, or more affectionate to their husbands, than in other countries. The Polanders, even after they became Christians in the thirteenth century, adhered to the customs of their forefathers, the Sarmatians, in killing infants born deformed, and men debilitated by age; which would betoken horrid barbarity, if it were not a singular custom. Roman Catholics imagine, that there is no religion in England nor in Holland; because, from a spirit of civil liber-ty, all sects are there tolerated. The encouragement given to assassination in Italy, where every church is a sanctuary, makes strangers rashly infer, that the Italians are all assassins. Writers sometimes fall into an opposite mistake, attributing to a particular nation, certain manners and customs common to all nations in one or other period of their progress. It is remarked by Heraclides Ponticus as peculiar to the Athamanes, that the men fed the flocks, and the women cultivated the ground. This has been the practice of all nations, in their progress from the shepherd-state to that of husbandry; and is at present the practice among American savages. The same author observes, as peculiar to the Celtae and Aphitaei, that they leave their doors open without hazard of theft. But that practice is common among all savages in the first stage of society, before the use of money is known.
Hitherto there appears as great uniformity in the progress of manners, as can reasonably be expected among so many different nations. There is one exception, extraordinary indeed if true, which is, the manners of the Caledonians described by Ossian, manners so pure and refined as scarce to be parallelled in the most cultivated nations. Such manners among a people in the first stage of society, acquainted with no arts but hunting and making war, I acknowledge, miraculous. And yet to suppose these manners to be the invention of an illiterate savage, is really no less miraculous: I should as soon expect from a savage a performance equal to the elements of Euclid, or even to the Principia of Newton. One, at first view, will boldly declare the whole a modern fiction; for how is it credible, that a people, rude at present and illiterate, were, in the infancy of their society, highly refined in sentiment and manners? And yet, upon a more accurate inspection, many weighty considerations occur to balance that opinion.
From a thousand circumstances it appears, that the works of Ossian are not a late production. They are composed in an old dialect of the Celtic tongue; and as, till lately, they were known only in the highlands of Scotland, the author must have been a Caledonian. The translator (a) saw, in the Isle of Sky, the first four books of the poem Fingal, written in a fair hand on vellum and bearing date in the year 1403. The natives believe that poem to be very ancient: every person has passages of it by heart, transmitted by memory from their forefathers. Their dogs bear commonly the name of Luath, Bran, &c. mentioned in these poems, as our dogs do of Pompey and Caesar.* Many other particulars might be mentioned; but these are sufficient to prove, that the work must have existed at least three or four centuries. Taking that for granted, I proceed to certain considerations tending to evince, that the manners described in Ossian were Caledonian manners, and not a pure fiction. And, after perusing with attention these considerations, I am not afraid that even the most incredulous will continue altogether unshaken.
It is a noted and well-founded observation, That manners are never painted to the life by any one to whom they are not familiar. It is not difficult to draw the outlines of imaginary manners; but to fill up the picture with all the variety of tints that manners assume in different circumstances, uniting all concordantly in one whole—hic labor, hoc opus est. Yet the manners here supposed to be invented, are delineated in a variety of incidents, of sentiments, of images, and of allusions, making one entire picture, without once deviating into the slightest incongruity. Every scene in Ossian relates to hunting, to fighting, or to love, the sole occupations of men in the original state of society; there is not a single image, simile, or allusion, but what is borrowed from that state, without a jarring circumstance.—Supposing all to be mere invention, is it not amazing to find no mention of highland clans, or of any name now in use? Is it not still more amazing, that there is not the slightest hint of the Christian religion, not even in a metaphor or allusion? Is it not equally amazing, that, in a work where deer’s flesh is frequently mentioned, and a curious method of roasting it, there should not be a word of fish as food, so common in later times? Very few highlanders know that their forefathers did not eat fish; and, supposing it to be known, it would require singular attention, never to let a hint of it enter the poem. Can it be supposed, that a modern writer could be so constantly on his guard, as never to mention corn nor cattle? In a story so scanty of poetical images, the sedentary life of a shepherd, and the industry of a husbandman, would make a capital figure: the cloven foot would somewhere peep out. And yet, in all the works of Ossian, there is no mention of agriculture; and but a slight hint of a herd of cattle in one or two allusions. I willingly give all advantages to the unbeliever: Supposing the author of Ossian to be a late writer, adorned with every refinement of modern education; yet, even upon that supposition, he is a miracle, far from being equalled by any other author ancient or modern.
But difficulties multiply when it is taken into the account, that the poems of Ossian have existed three or four centuries at least. Our highlanders at present are rude and illiterate; and were in fact little better than savages at the period mentioned. Now, to hold the manners described in that work to be imaginary, is in effect to hold, that they were invented by a highland savage, acquainted with the rude manners of his country, but utterly unacquainted with every other system of manners. The manners of different countries are now so well known as to make it an easy task to invent manners by blending the manners of one country with those of another; but to invent manners of which the author has no example, and yet neither whimsical nor absurd, but congruous to human nature in its most polished state, I pronounce to be far above the powers of man. Is it so much as supposable, that such a work could be the production of a Tartar, or of a Hottentot? From what source then did Ossian draw the refined manners so deliciously painted by him? Supposing him to have been a traveller, of which we have not the slightest hint, the manners of France at that period, of Italy, and of other neighbouring nations, were little less barbarous than those of his own country. I can discover no source but inspiration. In a word, whoever seriously believes the manners of Ossian to be fictitious, may well say, with the religious enthusiast, “Credo quia impossible est: I believe it because it is impossible.”
But further: The uncommon talents of the author of this work will cheerfully be acknowledged by every reader of taste: he certainly was a great master in his way. Now, whether the work be late, or composed four centuries ago, a man of such talents inventing a historical fable, and laying the scene of action among savages in the hunter-state, would naturally frame a system of manners the best suited in his opinion to that state. What then could tempt him to adopt a system of manners, so opposite to any notion he could form of savage manners? The absurdity is so gross, that we are forced, however reluctantly, to believe, that these manners are not fictitious, but in reality the manners of his country, coloured perhaps, or a little heightened, according to the privilege of an epic poet. And once admitting that fact, there can be no hesitation in ascribing the work to Ossian, son of Fingal, whose name it bears: we have no better evidence for the authors of several Greek and Roman books. Upon the same evidence, we must believe, that Ossian lived in the reign of the Emperor Caracalla, of whom frequent mention is made under the designation of Caracul the Great King; at which period, the shepherd-state was scarce known in Caledonia, and husbandry not at all. Had he lived so late as the twelfth century, when there were flocks and herds in that country, and some sort of agriculture, a poet of genius, such as Ossian undoubtedly was, would have drawn from these his finest images.
The foregoing considerations, I am persuaded, would not fail to convert the most incredulous; were it not for a consequence extremely improbable, that a people, little better at present than savages, were in their primitive hunter-state highly refined; for such Ossian describes them. And yet it is no less improbable, that such manners should be invented by an illiterate highland bard. Let a man chuse either side, the difficulty cannot be solved but by a sort of miracle. What shall we conclude upon the whole? for the mind cannot for ever remain in suspense. As dry reasoning has left us in a dilemma, taste perhaps and feeling may extricate us. May not the case be here as in real painting? A portrait drawn from fancy, may resemble the human visage; but such peculiarity of countenance and expression as serves to distinguish a certain person from every other, is always wanting. Present a portrait to a man of taste, and he will be at no loss to say, whether it be copied from life, or be the product of fancy. If Ossian paint from fancy, the cloven foot will appear: but if his portraits be complete, so as to express every peculiarity of character, why should we doubt of their being copied from life? In that view, the reader, I am hopeful, will not think his time thrown away in examining some of Ossian’s striking pictures. I perceive not another resource.
Love of fame is painted by Ossian as the ruling passion of his countrymen the Caledonians. Warriors are every where described, as esteeming it their chief happiness to be recorded in the songs of the bards: that feature is never wanting in any of Ossian’s heroes. Take the following instances.
“King of the roaring Strumon,” said the rising joy of Fingal, “do I behold thee in arms after thy strength has failed? Often hath Morni shone in battles, like the beam of the rising sun, when he disperses the storms of the hill, and brings peace to the glittering fields. But why didst thou not rest in thine age? Thy renown is in the song: the people behold thee, and bless the departure of mighty Morni” (a) . “Son of Fingal,” he said, “why burns the soul of Gaul? My heart beats high: my steps are disordered; and my hand trembles on my sword. When I look toward the foe, my soul lightens before me, and I see their sleeping host. Tremble thus the souls of the valiant, in battles of the spear? How would the soul of Morni rise, if we should rush on the foe! Our renown would grow in the song, and our steps be stately in the eye of the brave” (b) .*
That a warrior has acquired his fame is a consolation in every distress:
“Carril,” said the King in secret, “the strength of Cuchullin fails. My days are with the years that are past; and no morning of mine shall arise. They shall seek me at Temora, but I shall not be found. Cormac will weep in his hall, and say, Where is Tura’s chief? But my name is renowned, my fame in the song of bards. The youth will say, O let me die as Cuchillin died: renown clothed him like a robe; and the light of his fame is great. Draw the arrow from my side; and lay Cuchullin below that oak. Place the shield of Caithbat near, that they may behold me amid the arms of my fathers” (a) .
Ullin, my aged bard, take the ship of the King. Carry Oscar to Selma, and let the daughters of Morven weep. We shall fight in Erin for the race of fallen Cormac. The days of my years begin to fail: I feel the weakness of my arm. My fathers bend from their clouds to receive their gray-hair’d son. But, Trenmore! before I go hence, one beam of my fame shall rise: in fame shall my days end, as my years begun: my life shall be one stream of light to other times (b) .
Did thy beauty last, O Ryno! stood the strength of car-borne Oscar!* Fingal himself passed away, and the halls of his fathers forgot his steps. And shalt thou remain, aged bard, when the mighty have failed? But my fame shall remain; and grow like the oak of Morven, which lifts its broad head to the storm, and rejoiceth in the course of the wind (c) .
The chief cause of affliction when a young man is cut off in battle, is his not having received his fame:
“And fell the swiftest in the race,” said the King, “the first to bend the bow? Thou scarce hast been known to me; why did young Ryno fall? But sleep thou softly on Lena, Fingal shall soon behold thee. Soon shall my voice be heard no more, and my footsteps cease to be seen. The bards will tell of Fingal’s name; the stones will talk of me. But, Ryno! thou art low indeed, thou hast not received thy fame. Ullin, strike the harp for Ryno; tell what the chief would have been. Farewell thou first in every field. No more shall I direct thy dart. Thou that hast been so fair; I behold thee not.—Farewell” (a) . “Cal-thon rushed into the stream: I bounded forward on my spear: Teutha’s race fell before us: night came rolling down. Dunthalmo rested on a rock, amidst an aged wood: the rage of his bosom burned against the car-borne Calthon. But Calthon stood in his grief; he mourned the fallen Colmar; Colmar slain in youth, before his fame arose” (b) .
Lamentation for loss of fame. Cuchullin speaks:
But, O ye ghosts of the lonely Cromla! ye souls of chiefs that are no more! be ye the companions of Cuchullin, and talk to him in the cave of his sorrow. For never more shall I be renowned among the mighty in the land. I am like a beam that has shone; like a mist that fled away when the blast of the morning came, and brightened the shaggy side of the hill. Connal, talk of arms no more; departed is my fame. My sighs shall be on Cromla’s wind, till my footsteps cease to be seen. And thou white bosom’d Bragéla, mourn over the fall of my fame; for, vanquished, never will I return to thee, thou sun-beam of Dunscaich (c) .
Love of fame begets heroic actions, which go hand in hand with elevated sentiments: of the former there are examples in every page; of the latter take the following examples:
“And let him come,” replied the King. “I love a foe like Cathmor: his soul is great; his arm strong; and his battles full of fame. But the little soul is like a vapour that hovers round the marshy lake, which never rises on the green hill, lest the winds meet it there” (d) .
“But let us fly, son of Morni, Lathmon descends the hill.” “Then let our steps be slow,” replied the fair-hair’d Gaul, “lest the foe say with a smile, Behold the warriors of night: they are like ghosts, terrible in darkness; but they melt away before the beam of the East” (a) . “Son of the feeble hand,” said Lathmon, “shall my host descend! They are but two, and shall a thousand lift their steel! Nuah would mourn in his hall for the departure of Lathmon’s fame: his eyes would turn from Lathmon, when the tread of his feet approached. Go thou to the heroes, son of Dutha, for I behold the stately steps of Ossian. His fame is worthy of my steel: let him fight with Lathmon” (b) . “Fingal does not delight in battle, though his arm is strong. My renown grows on the fall of the haughty: the lightning of my steel pours on the proud in arms. The battle comes; and the tombs of the valiant rise; the tombs of my people rise, O my fathers! and I at last must remain alone. But I will remain renowned, and the departure of my soul shall be one stream of light” (c) . “I raised my voice for Fovar-gormo, when they laid the chief in earth. The aged Crothar was there, but his sigh was not heard. He searched for the wound of his son, and found it in his breast: joy arose in the face of the aged: he came and spoke to Ossian: ‘King of spears, my son hath not fallen without his fame: the young warrior did not fly, but met death as he went forward in his strength. Happy are they who die in youth, when their renown is heard: their memory shall be honoured in the song; the young tear of the virgin falls’ ” (d) . “Cuchullin kindled at the sight, and darkness gathered on his brow. His hand was on the sword of his fathers: his red-rolling eye on the foe. He thrice attempted to rush to battle, and thrice did Connal stop him. ‘Chief of the isle of mist,’ he said, ‘Fingal subdues the foe: seek not a part of the fame of the King’ ” (e) .
The pictures that Ossian draws of his countrymen, are no less remarkable for tender sentiments, than for elevation. Parental affection is finely couched in the following passage:
“Son of Comhal,” replied the chief, “the strength of Morni’s arm has failed. I attempt to draw the sword of my youth, but it remains in its place: I throw the spear, but it falls short of the mark; and I feel the weight of my shield. We decay like the grass of the mountain, and our strength returns no more. I have a son, O Fingal! his soul has delighted in the actions of Morni’s youth; but his sword has not been lifted against the foe, neither has his fame begun. I come with him to battle, to direct his arm. His renown will be a sun to my soul, in the dark hour of my departure. O that the name of Morni were forgot among the people, that the heroes would only say, Behold the father of Gaul!” (a)
And no less finely touched is grief for the loss of children:
We saw Oscar leaning on his shield: we saw his blood around. Silence darkened on the face of every hero: each turned his back and wept. The King strove to hide his tears. He bends his head over his son; and his words are mixed with sighs. “And art thou fallen, Oscar, in the midst of thy course! The heart of the aged beats over thee. I see thy coming battles: I behold the battles that ought to come, but they are cut off from thy fame. When shall joy dwell at Selma? when shall the song of grief cease on Morven? My son falls by degrees, Fingal will be the last of his race. The fame I have received shall pass away: my age shall be without friends. I shall sit like a grey cloud in my hall: nor shall I expect the return of a son with his sounding arms. Weep, ye heroes of Morven; never more will Oscar rise” (b) .
Son of Fingal! dost thou not behold the darkness of Crothar’s hall of shells? My soul was not dark at the feast, when my people lived. I rejoiced in the presence of strangers, when my son shone in the hall. But, Ossian, he is a beam that is departed, and left no streak of light behind. He is fallen, son of Fingal, in the battles of his father.—Rothmar, the chief of grassy Tromlo, heard that my eyes had failed; he heard that my arms were fixed in the hall, and the pride of his soul arose. He came toward Croma; my people fell before him. I took my arms in the hall; but what could sightless Crothar do? My steps were unequal; my grief was great. I wished for the days that were past, days wherein I fought and won in the field of blood. My son returned from the chace, the fair-hair’d Fovar-gormo. He had not lifted his sword in battle, for his arm was young. But the soul of the youth was great; the fire of valour burnt in his eyes. He saw the disordered steps of his father, and his sigh arose. “King of Croma,” he said, “is it because thou hast no son; is it for the weakness of Fovar-gormo’s arm that thy sighs arise? I begin, my father, to feel the strength of my arm; I have drawn the sword of my youth; and I have bent the bow. Let me meet this Rothmar with the youths of Croma: let me meet him, O my father; for I feel my burning soul.” “And thou shalt meet him,” I said, “son of the sightless Crothar! But let others advance before thee, that I may hear the tread of thy feet at thy return; for my eyes behold thee not, fair-hair’d Fovar-gormo!”—He went, he met the foe; he fell. The foe advances toward Croma. He who slew my son is near, with all his pointed spears (a) .
The following sentiments about the shortness of human life are pathetic.
“Desolate is the dwelling of Moinna, silence in the house of her fathers. Raise the song of mourning over the strangers. One day we must fall; and they have only fallen before us.—Why dost thou build the hall, son of the winged days! Thou lookest from thy towers to day: soon will the blast of the desert come. It howls in thy empty court, and whistles over thy half-worn shield” (b) . “How long shall we weep on Lena, or pour tears in Ullin! The mighty will not return; nor Oscar rise in his strength: the valiant must fall one day, and be no more known. Where are our fathers, O warriors, the chiefs of the times of old! They are set, like stars that have shone: we only hear the sound of their praise. But they were renowned in their day, and the terror of other times. Thus shall we pass, O warriors, in the day of our fall. Then let us be renowned while we may; and leave our fame behind us, like the last beams of the sun, when he hides his red head in the west” (c) .
In Homer’s time, heroes were greedy of plunder; and, like robbers, were much disposed to insult a vanquished foe. According to Ossian, the ancient Caledonians had no idea of plunder: and as they fought for fame only, their humanity overflowed to the vanquished. American savages, it is true, are not addicted to plunder, and are ready to bestow on the first comer what trifles they force from the enemy. But they have no notion of a pitched battle, nor of single combat: on the contrary, they value themselves upon slaughtering their enemies by surprise, without risking their own sweet persons. Agreeable to the magnanimous character given by Ossian of his countrymen, we find humanity blended with courage in all their actions.
Fingal pitied the white-armed maid: he stayed the uplifted sword. The tear was in the eye of the King, as bending forward he spoke: “King of streamy Sora, fear not the sword of Fingal: it was never stained with the blood of the vanquished; it never pierced a fallen foe. Let thy people rejoice along the blue waters of Tora: let the maids of thy love be glad. Why should’st thou fall in thy youth, King of streamy Sora!” (a)
“Son of my strength,” he said, “take the spear of Fingal: go to Teutha’s mighty stream, and save the car-borne Colmar. Let thy fame return before thee like a pleasant gale; that my soul may rejoice over my son, who renews the renown of our fathers. Ossian! be thou a storm in battle, but mild where the foes are low. It was thus my fame arose, O my son; and be thou like Selma’s chief. When the haughty come to my hall, my eyes behold them not; but my arm is stretched forth to the unhappy, my sword defends the weak” (b) . “O Oscar! bend the strong in arm, but spare the feeble hand. Be thou a stream of many tides against the foes of thy people, but like the gale that moves the grass to those who ask thy aid. Never search for the battle, nor shun it when it comes. So Trenmor lived; such Trathal was; and such has Fingal been. My arm was the support of the injured; and the weak rested behind the lightning of my steel” (c) .
Humanity to the vanquished is displayed in the following passages. After defeating in battle Swaran King of Lochlin, Fingal says,
“Raise, Ullin, raise the song of peace, and soothe my soul after battle, that my ear may forget the noise of arms. And let a hundred harps be near to gladden the King of Lochlin: he must depart from us with joy: none ever went sad from Fingal. Oscar, the lightening of my sword is against the strong; but peaceful it hangs by my side when warriors yield in battle” (a) . “Uthal fell beneath my sword, and the sons of Berrathon fled. It was then I saw him in his beauty, and the tear hung in my eye. Thou art fallen, young tree, I said, with all thy budding beauties round thee. The winds come from the desert, and there is no sound in thy leaves. Lovely art thou in death, son of car-borne Lathmor” (b) .
After perusing these quotations, it will not be thought that Ossian deviates from the manners represented by him, in describing the hospitality of his chieftains:
“We heard the voice of joy on the coast, and we thought that the mighty Cathmor came; Cathmor, the friend of strangers, the brother of red-hair’d Cairbar. But their souls were not the same; for the light of heaven was in the bosom of Cathmor. His towers rose on the banks of Atha: seven paths led to his hall: seven chiefs stood on these paths, and called the stranger to the feast. But Cathmor dwelt in the wood, to avoid the voice of praise (c) .” “Rathmor was a chief of Clutha. The feeble dwelt in his hall. The gates of Rathmor were never closed: his feast was always spread. The sons of the stranger came, and blessed the generous chief of Clutha. Bards raised the song, and touched the harp: joy brightened on the face of the mournful. Dunthalmo came in his pride, and rushed into combat with Rathmor. The chief of Clutha overcame. The rage of Dunthalmo rose: he came by night with his warriors; and the mighty Rathmor fell: he fell in his hall, where his feast had been often spread for strangers” (d) .
It seems not to exceed the magnanimity of his chieftains, intent upon glory only, to feast even an enemy before a battle. Cuchullin, after the first day’s engagement with Swaran, King of Lochlin or Scandinavia, says to Carril, one of his bards,
Is this feast spread for me alone, and the King of Lochlin on Ullin’s shore; far from the deer of his hills, and sounding halls of his feasts? Rise, Carril of other times, and carry my words to Swaran; tell him from the roaring of waters, that Cuchullin gives his feast. Here let him listen to the sound of my groves amid the clouds of night: for cold and bleak the blustering winds rush over the foam of his seas. Here let him praise the trembling harp, and hear the songs of heroes (a) .
The Scandinavian King, less polished, refused the invitation. Cairbar speaks:
“Spread the feast on Lena, and let my hundred bards attend. And thou, red-hair’d Olla, take the harp of the King. Go to Oscar, King of swords, and bid him to our feast. To-day we feast and hear the song; to-morrow break the spears” (b) . “Olla came with his songs. Oscar went to Cairbar’s feast. Three hundred heroes attend the chief, and the clang of their arms is terrible. The gray dogs bound on the heath, and their howling is frequent. Fingal saw the departure of the hero: the soul of the King was sad. He dreads the gloomy Cairbar: but who of the race of Trenmor fears the foe?” (c)
Cruelty is every where condemned as an infamous vice. Speaking of the bards,
“Cairbar feared to stretch his sword to the bards, tho’ his soul was dark; but he closed us in the midst of darkness. Three days we pined alone: on the fourth the noble Cathmor came. He heard our voice from the cave, and turned the eye of his wrath on Cairbar. Chief of Atha, he said, how long wilt thou pain my soul? Thy heart is like the rock of the desert, and thy thoughts are dark. But thou art the brother of Cathmor, and he will fight thy battles. Cathmor’s soul is not like thine, thou feeble hand of war. The light of my bosom is stained with thy deeds. The bards will not sing of my renown: they may say, Cathmor was brave, but he fought for gloomy Cairbar: they will pass over my tomb in silence, and my fame shall not be heard. Cairbar, loose the bards; they are the sons of other times: their voice shall be heard in other ages when the Kings of Temora have failed” (a) . “Ullin raised his white sails: the wind of the south came forth. He bounded on the waves toward Selma’s walls. The feast is spread on Lena: an hundred heroes reared the tomb of Cairbar; but no song is raised over the chief, for his soul had been dark and bloody. We remembered the fall of Cormac; and what could we say in Cairbar’s praise?” (b)
Genuine manners never were represented more to the life by a Tacitus nor a Shakespeare. Such painting is above the reach of pure invention: it must be the work of knowledge and feeling.
One may discover the manners of a nation from the figure their women make. Among savages, women are treated like slaves; and they acquire not the dignity that belongs to the sex, till manners be considerably refined (c) . According to the manners above described, women ought to have made a considerable figure among the ancient Caledonians. Let us examine Ossian upon that subject, in order to judge whether he carries on the same tone of manners through every particular. That women were highly regarded, appears from the following passages.
“Daughter of the hand of snow! I was not so mournful and blind, I was not so dark and forlorn, when Everallin loved me, Everallin with the dark-brown hair, the white-bosomed love of Cormac. A thousand heroes sought the maid, she denied her love to a thousand: the sons of the sword were despised; for graceful in her eyes was Ossian. I went in suit of the maid to Lego’s sable surge; twelve of my people were there, sons of the streamy Morven. We came to Branno friend of strangers, Branno of the sounding mail.—From whence, he said, are the arms of steel? Not easy to win is the maid that had denied the blue-eyed sons of Erin. But blest be thou, O son of Fingal, happy is the maid that waits thee. Though twelve daughters of beauty were mine, thine were the choice, thou son of fame! Then he opened the hall of the maid, the dark-haired Everallin. Joy kindled in our breasts of steel, and blest the maid of Branno” (a) . “Now Connal, on Cromla’s windy side, spoke to the chief of the noble car. Why that gloom, son of Semo? Our friends are the mighty in battle. And renowned art thou, O warrior! many were the deaths of thy steel. Often has Bragela met thee with blue-rolling eyes of joy; often has she met her hero returning in the midst of the valiant, when his sword was red with slaughter, and his foes silent in the field of the tomb. Pleasant to her ears were thy bards, when thine actions rose in the song” (b) . “But, King of Morven, if I shall fall, as one time the warrior must fall, raise my tomb in the midst, and let it be the greatest on Lena. And send over the dark-blue wave the sword of Orla, to the spouse of his love; that she may show it to her son, with tears, to kindle his soul to war” (c) . “I lifted my eyes to Cromla, and I saw the son of generous Semo.—Sad and slow he retired from his hill toward the lonely cave of Tura. He saw Fingal victorious, and mixed his joy with grief. The sun is bright on his armour, and Connal slowly followed. They sunk behind the hill, like two pillars of the fire of night, when winds pursue them over the mountain, and the flaming heath resounds. Beside a stream of roaring foam, his cave is in a rock. One tree bends above it; and the rushing winds echo against its sides. There rests the chief of Dunscaich, the son of generous Semo. His thoughts are on the battles he lost; and the tear is on his cheek. He mourned the departure of his fame, that fled like the mist of Cona. O Bragela, thou art too far remote to cheer the soul of the hero. But let him see thy bright form in his soul; that his thoughts may return to the lonely sun-beam of Dunscaich” (d) . “Ossian King of swords,” replied the bard, “thou best raisest the song. Long hast thou been known to Carril, thou ruler of battles. Often have I touched the harp to lovely Everallin. Thou, too, hast often accompanied my voice in Branno’s hall of shells. And often amidst our voices was heard the mildest Everallin. One day she sung of Cormac’s fall, the youth that died for her love. I saw the tears on her cheek, and on thine, thou chief of men. Her soul was touched for the unhappy, though she loved him not. How fair among a thousand maids, was the daughter of the generous Branno” (a) . “It was in the days of peace,” replied the great Clessammor, “I came in my bounding ship to Balclutha’s walls of towers. The winds had roared behind my sails, and Clutha’s streams received my dark-bosomed vessel. Three days I remained in Reuthamir’s halls, and saw that beam of light, his daughter. The joy of the shell went round, and the aged hero gave the fair. Her breasts were like foam on the wave, and her eyes like stars of light: her hair was dark as the raven’s wing: her soul was generous and mild. My love for Moina was great: and my heart poured forth in joy” (b) . “The fame of Ossian shall rise: his deeds shall be like his father’s. Let us rush in our arms, son of Morni, let us rush to battle. Gaul, if thou shalt return, go to Selma’s lofty hall. Tell Everallin that I fell with fame: carry the sword to Branno’s daughter: let her give it to Oscar when the years of his youth shall arise” (c) .
Next to war, love makes the principal figure: and well it may; for in Ossian’s poems it breathes every thing sweet, tender, and elevated.
“On Lubar’s grassy banks they fought; and Grudar fell. Fierce Cairbar came to the vale of the echoing Tura, where Brassolis, fairest of his sisters, all alone raised the song of grief. She sung the actions of Grudar, the youth of her se-cret soul: she mourned him in the field of blood; but still she hoped his return. Her white bosom is seen from her robe, as the moon from the clouds of night: her voice was softer than the harp, to raise the song of grief: her soul was fixed on Grudar, the secret look of her eye was his;—when wilt thou come in thine arms, thou mighty in the war? Take, Brassolis, Cairbar said, take this shield of blood: fix it on high within my hall, the armour of my foe. Her soft heart beat against her side: distracted, pale, she flew, and found her youth in his blood.—She died on Cromla’s heath. Here rests their dust, Cuchullin; and these two lonely yews, sprung from their tombs, wish to meet on high. Fair was Brassolis on the plain, and Grudar on the hill. The bard shall preserve their names, and repeat them to future times” (d) . “Pleasant is thy voice, O Carril, said the blue-eyed chief of Erin; and lovely are the words of other times: they are like the calm shower of spring, when the sun looks on the field, and the light cloud flies over the hill. O strike the harp in praise of my love, the lonely sun-beam of Dunscaich: strike the harp in praise of Bragela, whom I left in the isle of mist, the spouse of Semo’s son.—Dost thou raise thy fair face from the rock to find the sails of Cuchullin? the sea is rolling far distant, and its white foam will deceive thee for my sails. Retire, my love, for it is night, and the dark winds sigh in thy hair: retire to the hall of my feasts, and think of times that are past; for I will not return till the storm of war cease. O Connal, speak of war and arms, and send her from my mind; for lovely with her raven hair is the white-bosomed daughter of Sorglan” (a) .
“But thou dwellest in the soul of Malvina, son of mighty Ossian. My sighs arise with the beam of the east, my tears descend with the drops of the night. I was a lovely tree in thy presence, Oscar, with all my branches round me: but thy death came like a blast from the desert, and laid my green head low: the spring returned with its showers, but of me not a leaf sprung. The virgins saw me silent in the hall, and they touched the harp of joy. The tear was on the cheek of Malvina, and the virgins beheld my grief. Why art thou sad, they said, thou first of the maids of Lutha? Was he lovely as the beam of the morning, and stately in thy sight?” (b) “Fingal came in his mildness, rejoicing in secret over the actions of his son. Morni’s face brightened with gladness, and his aged eyes looked faintly through tears of joy. We came to the halls of Selma, and sat round the feast of shells. The maids of the song came into our presence, and the mildly-blushing Everallin. Her dark hair spreads on her neck of snow, her eye rolls in secret on Ossian. She touches the harp of music, and we bless the daughter of Branno” (c) .
Had the Caledonians made slaves of their women, and thought as meanly of them as savages commonly do, Ossian could never have thought, even in a dream, of bestowing on them those numberless graces that exalt the female sex, and render many of them objects of pure and elevated affection. I say more: Supposing a savage to have been divinely inspired, manners so inconsistent with their own would not have been relished, nor even comprehended, by his countrymen. And yet that they were highly relished is certain, having been diffused among all ranks, and preserved for many ages by memory alone, without writing. Here the argument mentioned above strikes with double force, to evince, that the manners of the Caledonians must have been really such as Ossian describes.
Catharina Alexowna, Empress of Russia, promoted assemblies of men and women, as a means to polish the manners of her subjects. And in order to preserve decency in such assemblies, she published a body of regulations, of which the following are a specimen. “Ladies who play at forfeitures, questions and commands, &c. shall not be noisy nor riotous. No gentleman must attempt to force a kiss, nor strike a woman in the assembly, under pain of exclusion. Ladies are not to get drunk upon any pretence whatever; nor gentlemen before nine.” Compare the manners that required such regulations with those described above. Can we suppose, that the ladies and gentlemen of Ossian’s poems ever amused themselves, after the age of twelve, with hide and seek, questions and commands, or such childish play. Can it enter into our thoughts, that Bragela or Malvina were so often drunk, as to require the reprimand of a public regulation? or that any hero of Ossian ever struck a woman of fashion in ire?
The immortality of the soul was a capital article in the Celtic creed, inculcated by the Druids (a) . And in Valerius Maximus we find the following passage:—“Gallos, memoriae proditum est, pecunias mutuas, quae sibi apud inferos redderentur, dare: quia persuasum habuerint, animas hominum immortales esse. Dicerem stultos, nisi idem braccati sensissent quod palliatus Pythagoras sensit” (b) .* All savages have an impression of immortality; but few, even of the most enlightened before Christianity prevailed, had the least notion of any occupations in another life, but what they were accustomed to in this. Even Virgil, in his poetical fervency, finds no amusements for his departed heroes, but what they were fond of when alive; the same love for war, the same taste for hunting, and the same affection to their friends. As we have no reason to expect more invention in Ossian, the observation may serve as a key to the ghosts introduced by him, and to his whole machinery, as termed by critics. His description of these ghosts is copied plainly from the creed of his country.
In a historical account of the progress of manners, it would argue gross insensibility to overlook those above mentioned. The subject, it is true, has swelled upon my hands beyond expectation; but it is not a little interesting. If these manners be genuine, they are a singular phenomenon in the History of Man: if they be the invention of an illiterate bard, among savages utterly ignorant of such manners, the phenomenon is no less singular. Let either side be taken, and a sort of miracle must be admitted. In the instances above given, such a beautiful mixture there is of simplicity and dignity, and so much life given to the manners described, that real manners were never represented with a more striking appearance of truth. If these manners be fictitious, I say again, that the author must have been inspired: they plainly exceed the invention of a savage; nay, they exceed the invention of any known writer. Every man will judge for himself: it is perhaps fondness for such refined manners, that makes me incline to reality against fiction.
I am aware at the same time, that manners so pure and elevated, in the first stage of society, are difficult to be accounted for. The Caledonians were not an original tribe, who may be supposed to have had manners peculiar to themselves: they were a branch of the Celtae, and had a language common to them with the inhabitants of Gaul, and of England. The manners probably of all were the same, or nearly so; and if we expect any light for explaining Caledonian manners, it must be from that quarter: we have indeed no other resource. Diodorus Siculus (a) reports of the Celtae, that, though warlike, they were upright in their dealings, and far removed from deceit and duplicity. Caesar (b) , “Galli homines aperti minimeque insidiosi, qui per virtutem, non per dolum, dimicare consueverunt.”* And though cruel to their enemies, yet Pomponius Mela (a) observes, that they were kind and compassionate to the supplicant and unfortunate. Strabo (b) describes the Gauls as studious of war, and of great alacrity in fighting; otherwise an innocent people, altogether void of malignity. He says, that they had three orders of men, bards, priests, and druids; that the province of the bards was to study poetry, and to compose songs in praise of their deceased heroes; that the priests presided over divine worship; and that the druids, beside studying moral and natural philosophy, determined all controversies, and had some direction even in war. Caesar, less attentive to civil matters, comprehends these three orders under the name of druids; and observes, that the druids teach their disciples a vast number of verses, which they must get by heart. Diodorus Siculus says, that the Gauls had poets termed bards, who sung airs accompanied with the harp, in praise of some, and dispraise of others. Lucan, speaking of the three orders, says,
With respect to the Celtic women in particular, it is agreed by all writers, that they were extremely beautiful (c) ; and no less remarkable for spirit than for beauty. If we can rely on Diodorus Siculus, the women in Gaul equalled the men in courage. Tacitus, in his life of Agricola, says, that the British women frequently joined with the men, when attacked by an enemy. And so much were they regarded, as to be thought capable of the highest command. “Neque enim sexum in imperiis discernunt,”* says the same author (a) . And accordingly, during the war carried on by Caractacus, a gallant British King, against the Romans, Cartismandua was Queen of the Brigantes. Boadicea is recorded in Roman annals as a Queen of a warlike spirit. She led on a great army against the Romans; and in exhorting her people to behave with courage, she observed, that it was not unusual to see a British army led on to battle by a woman; to which Tacitus adds his testimony: “Solitum quidem Britannis foeminarum ductu bellare” (b) .† No wonder that Celtic women, so amply provided with spirit, as well as beauty, made a capital figure in every public entertainment (c) .
The Gallic Celtae undoubtedly carried with them their manners and customs to Britain, and spread them gradually from south to north. And as the Caledonians, inhabiting a mountainous country in the northern parts of the island, had little commerce with other nations, they preserved long in purity many Celtic customs, particularly that of retaining bards. Arthur the last Celtic King of England, who was a hero in the defence of his country against the Saxons, protected the bards, and was immortalized by them. All the chieftains had bards in their pay, whose province it was to compose songs in praise of their ancestors, and to accom-pany these songs with the harp. This entertainment enflamed their love for war, and at the same time softened their manners, which, as Strabo reports, were naturally innocent and void of malignity. It had beside a wonderful influence in forming virtuous manners: the bards, in praising deceased heroes, would naturally select virtuous actions, which are peculiarly adapted to heroic poetry, and tend the most to illustrate the hero of their song: vice may be flattered; but praise is never willingly nor successfully bestowed upon any atchievement but what is virtuous and heroic. It is accordingly observed by Ammianus Marcellinus (a) , that the bards inculcated in their songs virtue and actions worthy of praise. The bards, who were in high estimation, became great proficients in poetry; of which we have a conspicuous instance in the works of Ossian. Their capital compositions were diligently studied by those of their own order, and admired by all. The songs of the bards, accompanied with the harp, made a deep impression on the young war-rior, elevated some into heroes, and promoted virtue in every hearer.* Another circumstance, common to the Caledonians with every other nation in the first stage of society, concurred to form their manners; which is, that avarice was unknown among them. People in that stage, ignorant of habitual wants, and having a ready supply of all that nature requires, have little notion of property, and not the slightest desire of accumulating the goods of fortune; and for that reason are always found honest and disinterested. With respect to the female sex, who make an illustrious figure in Ossian’s poems, if they were so eminent both for courage and beauty as they are represented by the best authors, it is no wonder to find them painted by Ossian as objects of love the most pure and refined. Nor ought it to be overlooked, that the soft and delicate notes of the harp have a tendency to purify manners, and to refine love.
Whether the causes here assigned of Celtic manners be fully adequate, may well admit of a doubt; but if authentic history be relied on, we can entertain no doubt, that the manners of the Gallic and British Celtae, including the Caledonians, were such as are above described. And as the manners ascribed by Ossian to his countrymen the Caledonians, are in every particular conformable to those now mentioned, it clearly follows, that Ossian was no inventor, but drew his pictures of manners from real life. This is made highly probable from intrinsic evidence, the same that is so copiously urged above: and now by authentic history, that probability is so much heightened, as scarce to leave room for a doubt.
Our present highlanders are but a small part of the inhabitants of Britain; and they have been sinking in their importance, from the time that arts and sciences made a figure, and peaceable manners prevailed. And yet in that people are dis-cernible many remaining features of their forefathers the Caledonians. They have to this day a disposition to war, and when disciplined make excellent soldiers, sober, active, and obedient. They are eminently hospitable; and the character given by Strabo of the Gallic Celtae, that they were innocent and devoid of malignity, is to them perfectly applicable. That they have not the magnanimity and heroism of the Caledonians, is easily accounted for. The Caledonians were a free and independent people, unawed by any superior power, and living under the mild government of their own chieftains; compared with their forefathers, the present highlanders make a very inconsiderable figure: their country is barren, and at any rate is but a small part of a potent kingdom; and their language deprives them of intercourse with their polished neighbours.
There certainly never happened in literature, a discovery more extraordinary than the works of Ossian. To lay the scene of action among hunters in the first stage of society, and to bestow upon such a people a system of manners that would do honour to the most polished state, seem-ed at first an ill-contrived forgery. But if a forgery, why so bold and improbable? why not invent manners more congruous to the savage state? And as at any rate the work has great merit, why did the author conceal himself? These considerations roused my attention, and produced the foregoing disquisition; which I finished, without imagining that any more light could be obtained. But, after a long interval, a thought struck me, that as the Caledonians formerly were much connected with the Scandinavians, the manners of the latter might probably give light in the present inquiry. I cheerfully spread my sails in a wide ocean, not without hopes of importing precious merchandise. Many volumes did I turn over of Scandinavian history; attentive to those passages where the manners of the inhabitants in the first stage of society are delineated. And now I proceed to present my reader with the goods imported.
The Danes, says Adam of Bremen, are remarkable for elevation of mind: the punishment of death is less dreaded by them than that of whipping. “The philosophy of the Cimbri,” says Valerius Ma-ximus, “is gay and resolute: they leap for joy in a battle, hoping for a glorious end; in sickness they lament, for fear of the contrary.” What fortified their courage, was a persuasion, that those who die in battle fighting bravely are instantly translated to the hall of Odin, to drink beer out of the skull of an enemy. “Happy in their mistake,” says Lucan, “are the people who live near the pole: persuaded that death is only a passage to long life, they are undisturbed by the most grievous of all fears, that of dying: they eagerly run to arms, and esteem it cowardice to spare a life they shall soon recover in another world.” Such was their magnanimity, that they scorned to snatch a victory by surprise. Even in their piratical expeditions, instances are recorded of setting aside all the ships that exceeded those of the enemy, lest the victory should be attributed to superiority of numbers. It was held unmanly to decline a combat, however unequal; for courage, it was thought, rendered all men equal. The shedding tears was unmanly, even for the death of friends.
The Scandinavians were sensible in a high degree to praise and reproach; for love of fame was their darling passion. Olave, King of Norway, placing three of his scalds or bards around him in a battle, “You shall not relate,” said he, “what you have only heard, but what you are eye-witnesses of.” Upon every occasion we find them insisting upon glory, honour, and contempt of death, as leading principles. The bare suspicion of cowardice was attended with universal contempt: a man who lost his buckler, or received a wound behind, durst never again appear in public. Frotho King of Denmark, made captive in a battle, obstinately refused either liberty or life. “To what end,” says he, “should I survive the disgrace of being made a captive? Should you even restore to me my sister, my treasure, and my kingdom, would these benefits restore me to my honour? Future ages will always have to say, that Frotho was taken by his enemy” (a) .
Much efficacy is above ascribed to the songs of Caledonian bards; and with satisfaction I find my observations justified in every Scandinavian history. The Kings of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, are represented in ancient chronicles as constantly attended with scalds or bards, who were treated with great respect, especially by princes distinguished in war. Harold Harfager at his feasts placed them above all his other officers; and employed them in negociations of the greatest importance. The poetic art, held in great estimation, was cultivated by men of the first rank. Rogvald, Earl of Orkney, passed for an able poet. King Regnar was distinguished in poetry, no less than in war. It was the proper province of bards in Scandinavia, as in other countries, to celebrate in odes the atchievements of deceased heroes. They were frequently employed in animating the troops before a battle. Hacon, Earl of Norway, in his famous engagement against the warriors of Iomsburg, had five celebrated poets, each of whom sung an ode to the soldiers ready to engage. Saxo Grammaticus, describing a battle between Waldemar and Sueno, mentions a scald belonging to the former, who, advancing to the front of the army, reproached the latter in a pathetic ode as the murderer of his own father.
The odes of the Scandinavian bards have a peculiar energy; which is not difficult to be accounted for. The propensity of the Scandinavians to war, their love of glory, their undaunted courage, and their warlike exploits, naturally produced elevated sentiments, and an elevated tone of language; both of which were displayed in celebrating heroic deeds. Take the following instances. The first is from the Edda, which contains the birth and genealogy of their Gods.
The giant Rymer arrives from the east, carried in a chariot: the great serpent, rolling himself furiously in the waters, lifteth up the sea. The eagle screams, and with his horrid beak tears the dead. The vessel of the gods is set afloat. The black prince of fire issues from the south, surrounded with flames: the swords of the gods beam like the sun: shaken are the rocks, and fall to pieces. The female giants wander about weeping: men in crouds tread the paths of death. Heaven is split asunder, the sun darkened, and the earth sunk in the ocean. The shining stars vanish: the fire rages: the world draws to an end; and the flame ascending licks the vault of heaven. From the bosom of the waves an earth emerges, clothed with lovely green: the floods retire: the fields produce without culture: misfortunes are banished from the world. Balder and his brother, gods of war, return to inhabit the ruin’d palace of Odin. A palace more resplendent than the sun, rises now to view; adorned with a roof of gold: there good men shall inhabit; and live in joy and pleasure through all ages.
In a collection of ancient historical monuments of the north, published by Bioner, a learned Swede, there is the following passage. “Grunder, perceiving Grymer rushing furiously through opposing battalians, cries aloud, Thou alone remainest to engage with me in single combat. It is now thy turn to feel the keenness of my sword. Their sabres, like dark and threatening clouds, hang dreadful in the air. Grymer’s weapon darts down like a thunderbolt: their swords furiously strike: they are bathed in gore. Grymer cleaves the casque of his enemy, hews his armour in pieces, and pours the light into his bosom. Grunder sinks to the ground; and Grymer gives a dreadful shout of triumph.” This picture is done with a masterly hand. The capital circumstances are judiciously selected; and the narration is compact and rapid. Indulge me with a moment’s pause to compare this picture with one or two in Ossian’s manner. “As Autumn’s dark storms pour from two echoing hills; so to each other approach the heroes. As from high rocks two dark streams meet, and mix and roar on the plain; so meet Lochlin and Innis-fail, loud, rough, and dark in battle. Chief mixes his strokes with chief, and man with man; steel sounds on steel, helmets are cleft on high. Blood bursts, and smoaks around. Strings murmur on the polished yew. Darts rush along the sky. Spears fall like sparks of flame that gild the stormy face of night. As the noise of the troubled ocean when roll the waves on high, as the last peal of thundering heaven, such is the noise of battle. Tho’ Cormac’s hundred bards were there, feeble were the voice of an hundred bards to send the deaths to future times; for many were the heroes who fell, and wide poured the blood of the valiant.” Again, “As roll a thousand waves to the rocks, so came on Swaran’s host: as meets a rock a thousand waves, so Innis-fail met Swaran. The voice of death is heard all around, and mixes with the sound of shields. Each hero is a pillar of darkness, and the sword a beam of fire in his hand. From wing to wing echoes the field, like a hundred hammers that rise by turns on the red sun of the furnace. Who are those on Lena’s heath, so gloomy and dark? they are like two clouds, and their swords lighten above. Who is it but Ossian’s son and the car-borne chief of Erin?” These two descriptions make a deeper impression, and swell the heart more than the former: they are more poetical by short similes finely interwoven; and the images are far more lofty. And yet Ossian’s chief talent is sentiment, in which Scandinavian bards are far inferior: in the generosity, tenderness, and humanity of his sentiments, he has not a rival.
The ancient Scandinavians were undoubtedly a barbarous people, compared with the southern nations of Europe; but that they were far from being gross savages, may be gathered from a poem still extant, named Havamaal; or, The sublime discourse of Odin. Tho’ that poem is of great antiquity, it is replete with good lessons and judicious reflections; of which the following are a specimen.
Happy he who gains the applause and good will of men.
Love your friends, and love also their friends.
Be not the first to break with your friend: sorrow gnaws the heart of him who has not a single friend to advise with.
Where is the virtuous man that hath not a failing? Where is the wicked man that hath not some good quality?
Riches take wing; relations die: you yourself shall die. One thing only is out of the reach of fate; which is, the judgement that passes on the dead.
There is no malady more severe than the being discontented with one’s lot.
Let not a man be overwise nor overcurious: if he would sleep in quiet, let him not seek to know his destiny.
While we live, let us live well: a man lights his fire, but before it be burnt out death may enter.
A coward dreams that he may live for ever: if he should escape every other weapon, he cannot escape old age.
The flocks know when to retire from pasture: the glutton knows not when to retire from the feast.
The lewd and dissolute make a mock of every thing, not considering how much they deserve to be mocked.
The best provision for a journey, is strength of understanding: more useful than treasure, it welcomes one to the table of the stranger.
Hitherto the manners of the Scandinavians resemble in many capital circumstances those delineated in the works of Ossian. I lay not, however, great stress upon that resemblance, because such manners are found among several other warlike nations in the first stage of society. The circumstance that has occasioned the greatest doubt about Ossian’s system of manners, is the figure his women make. Among other savage nations, they are held to be beings of an inferior rank; and as such are treated with very little respect: in Ossian they make an illustrious figure, and are highly regarded by the men. I have not words to express my satisfaction, when I discovered, that anciently among the barbarous Scandinavians, the female sex made a figure no less illustrious. A resemblance so complete with respect to a matter extremely singular among barbarians, cannot fail to convert the most obstinate infidel, leaving no doubt of Ossian’s veracity.—But I ought not to anticipate. One cannot pass a verdict till the evidence be summed up; and to that task I now proceed with sanguine hopes of success.
It is a fact ascertained by many writers, That women in the north of Europe were eminent for resolution and courage. Caesar, in the first book of his commentaries, describing a battle he fought with the Helvetii, says, that the women with a warlike spirit exhorted their husbands to persist, and placed the waggons in a line to prevent their flight. Florus and Taci-tus mention, that several battles of those barbarous nations were renewed by their women, presenting their naked bosoms, and declaring their abhorrence of captivity. Flavius Vopiscus, writing of Proculus Caesar, says, that a hundred Sarmatian virgins were taken in battle. The Longobard women, when many of their husbands were cut off in a battle, took up arms, and obtained the victory (a) . The females of the Galactophagi, a Scythian tribe, were as warlike as the males, and went often with them to war (b) . In former times, many women in Denmark applied themselves to arms (c) . Jornandes describes the women of the Goths as full of courage, and trained to arms like the men. Joannes Magnus, Archbishop of Upsal, says the same; and mentions in particular an expedition of the Goths to invade a neighbouring country, in which more women went along with the men than were left at home (d) . Several Scandinavian women exercised piracy (a) . The Cimbri were always attended with their wives even in their distant expeditions, and were more afraid of their reproaches than of the blows of the enemy. The Goths, compelled by famine to surrender to Belisarius the city of Ravenna, were bitterly reproached by their wives for cowardice (b) . In a battle between Regner King of Denmark and Fro King of Sweden, many women took part with the former, Langertha in particular, who fought with her hair flowing about her shoulders. Regner, being victorious, demanded who that woman was who had behaved so gallantly; and finding her to be a virgin of noble birth, he took her to wife. He afterward divorced her, in order to make way for a daughter of the King of Sweden. Regner being unhappily engaged in a civil war with Harald, who aspired to the throne of Denmark; Langertha, overlooking her wrongs, brought from Norway a body of men to assist her husband; and behaved so gallantly, that, in the opinion of all, Regner was indebted to her for the victory.
To find women, in no considerable portion of the globe, rivalling men in their capital property of courage, is a singular phenomenon. That this phenomenon must have had an adequate cause, is certain; but of that cause, it is better to acknowledge our utter ignorance, however mortifying, than to squeeze out conjectures that will not bear examination.
In rude nations, prophets and soothsayers are held to be a superior class of men: what a figure then must the Vandal women have made, when in that nation, as Procopius says, all the prophets and soothsayers were of the female sex? In Scandinavia, women are said to have been skilful in magic arts, as well as men. Tacitus informs us, that the Germans had no other physicians but their women. They followed the armies, to staunch the blood, and suck the wounds of their husbands.* He mentions a fact that sets the German women in a conspicuous light, That female hostages bound the Germans more strictly to their engagements than male hostages. He adds, “Inesse quinetiam sanctum aliquid et providum putant: nec aut consilia earum aspernantur, aut responsa negliguntur.”* The histories and romances of the north represent women, and even princesses, acting as physicians in war.
Polygamy sprung up in countries where women are treated as inferior beings: it can never take place where the two sexes are held to be of equal rank. For that reason, polygamy never was known among the northern nations of Europe. Saxo Grammaticus, who wrote the history of Denmark in the twelfth century, gives not the slightest hint of polygamy, even among kings and princes. Crantz, in his history of the Saxons (a) , affirms, that polygamy was never known among the nor-thern nations of Europe; which is confirmed by every other writer who gives the history of any of these nations. Scheffer in particular, who writes the history of Lapland, observes, that neither polygamy nor divorce were ever heard of in that country, not even during Paganism.
We have the authority of Procopius (b) , that the women in those countries were remarkable for beauty, and that those of the Goths and Vandals were the finest that ever had been seen in Italy; and we have the authority of Crantz, that chastity was in high estimation among the Danes, Swedes, and other Scandinavians. When these facts are added to those above mentioned, it will not be thought strange, that love between the sexes, even among that rude people, was a pure and elevated passion. That it was in fact such, is certain, if history can be credited, or the sentiments of a people expressed in their poetical compositions. I begin with the latter, as evidence the most to be relied on. The ancient Poems of Scandinavia contain the warmest expressions of love and regard for the female sex. In an ode of King Regner Lodbrog, a very ancient poem, we find the following sentiments. “We fought with swords upon a promontory of England, when I saw ten thousand of my foes rolling in the dust. A dew of blood distilled from our swords: the arrows, that flew in search of the helmets, hissed through the air. The pleasure of that day was like the clasping a fair virgin in my arms.” Again, “A young man should march early to the conflict of arms; in which consists the glory of the warrior. He who aspires to the love of a mistress, ought to be dauntless in the clash of swords.” These Hyperboreans, it would appear, had early learned to combine the ideas of love and of military prowess; which is still more conspicuous in an ode of Harald the Valiant, of a later date. That prince, who figured in the middle of the eleventh century, traversed all the seas of the north, and made piratical incursions even upon the coasts of the Mediterranean. In this ode he complains, that the glory he had acquired made no impression on Elissir, daughter to Jarislas, King of Russia. “I have made the tour of Sicily. My brown vessel, full of mariners, made a swift progress. My course I thought would never slacken—and yet a Russian maiden scorns me. The troops of Drontheim, which I attacked in my youth, exceeded ours in number. Terrible was the conflict: I left their young king dead on the field—and yet a Russian maiden scorns me. Six exercises I can perform: I fight valiantly: firm is my seat on horseback: inured I am to swimming: swift is my motion on scates: I dart the lance: I am skilful at the oar—and yet a Russian maiden scorns me. Can she deny, this young and lovely maiden, that near a city in the south I joined battle, and left behind me lasting monuments of my exploits?—and yet a Russian maiden scorns me. My birth was in the high country of Norway, famous for archers: but ships were my delight; and, far from the habitations of men, I have traversed the seas from north to south—and yet a Russian maiden scorns me.” In the very ancient poem of Havamaal, mentioned above, there are many expressions of love to the fair sex. “He who would gain the love of a maiden, must address her with smooth speeches, and showy gifts. It requires good sense to be a skilful lover.” Again, “If I aspire to the love of the chastest virgin, I can bend her mind, and make her yield to my desires.” The ancient Scandinavian chronicles present often to our view young warriors endeavouring to acquire the favour of their mistresses, by boasting of their accomplishments, such as their dexterity in swimming and scating, their talent in poetry, their skill in chess, and their knowing all the stars by name. Mallet, in the introduction to his history of Denmark, mentions many ancient Scandinavian novels that turn upon love and heroism. These may be justly held as authentic evidence of the manners of the people: it is common to invent facts; but it is not common to attempt the inventing manners.
It is an additional proof of the great regard paid to women in Scandinavia, that in Edda, the Scandinavian Bible, female deities make as great a figure as male deities.
Agreable to the manners described, we find it universally admitted among the ancient Scandinavians, that beauty ought to be the reward of courage and military skill. A warrior was thought entitled to demand in marriage any young woman, even of the highest rank, if he overcame his rivals in single combat: nor was it thought any hardship on the young lady, to be yielded to the victor. The ladies were not always of that opinion; for the stoutest fighter is not always the handsomest man, nor the most engaging. And in the histories of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, many instances are related, of men generously interposing to rescue young beauties from brutes, destitute of every accomplishment but strength and boldness. Such stories have a fabulous air; and many of them probably are mere fables. Some of them, however, have a strong appearance of truth: men are introduced who make a figure in the real history of the country; and many circumstances are related that make links in the chain of that history, Take the following specimen. The ambassadors of Frotho, King of Denmark, commissioned to demand in marriage the daughter of a King of the Huns, were feasted for three days, as the custom was in ancient times; and being admitted to the young Princess, she rejected the offer; “Because,” says she, “your King has acquired no reputation in war, but passes his time effeminately at home.” In Biorner’s collection of ancient historical monuments, mentioned above, there is the following history. Charles King of Sweden kept on foot an army of chosen men. He had a daughter named Inguegerda, whose lively and graceful accomplishments were admired still more than her birth and fortune. The breast of the King overflowed with felicity. Grymer, a youth of noble birth, knew to dye his sword in the blood of his enemies, to run over craggy mountains, to wrestle, to play at chess, and to trace the motions of the stars. He studied to show his skill in the apartment of the damsels, before the lovely Inguegerda. At length he ventured to open his mind. “Wilt thou, O fair Princess! accept of me for a husband, if I obtain the King’s consent?” “Go,” says she, “and supplicate my father.” The courtly youth respectfully addressing the King, said, “O King! give me in marriage thy beautiful daughter.” He answered sternly, “Thou hast learned to handle thy arms: thou hast acquired some honourable distinctions: but hast thou ever gained a victory, or given a banquet to savage beasts that rejoice in blood?” “Where shall I go, O King! that I may dye my sword in crimson, and render myself worthy of being thy son-in-law?”—“Hialmar, son of Harec,” said the King, “who governs Biarmland, has become terrible by a keen sword: the firmest shields he hews in pieces, and loads his followers with booty. Go, and prove thy valour by attacking that hero: cause him to bite the dust, and Inguegerda shall be thy reward.” Grymer, returning to his fair mistress, saluted her with ardent looks of love. “What answer hast thou received from the King?” “To obtain thee I must deprive the fierce Hialmar of life.” Inguegerda exclaimed with grief, “Alas! my father hath devoted thee to death.” Grymer selected a troop of brave warriors, eager to follow him. They launch their vessels into the wide ocean: they unfurl the sails, which catch the springing gale: the shrouds rattle: the waves foam, and dash against the prows: they steer their numerous vessels to the shore of Gothland; bent to glut the hungry raven, and to gorge the wolf with prey. Thus landed Grymer on Gothland! and thus did a beauteous maiden occasion the death of many heroes. Hialmar demanded who the strangers were. Grymer told his name; adding, that he had spent the summer in quest of him. “May your arrival,” replied Hialmar, “be fortunate; and may health and honour attend you. You shall partake of my gold, with the unmixed juice of the grape.” “Thy offers,” said Grymer, “I dare not accept. Prepare for battle; and let us hasten to give a banquet to beasts of prey.” Hialmar laid hold of his white cuirass, his sword, and his buckler. Grymer, with a violent blow of his sabre, transfixes Hialmar’s shield, and cuts off his left hand. Hialmar enraged, brandishes his sword, and striking off Grymer’s helmet and cuirass, pierces his breast and sides: an effusion of blood follows. Grymer raising his sabre with both hands, lays Hialmar prostrate on the ground; and he himself sinks down upon the dead body of his adversary. He was put on shipboard, and when landed seemed to be at the last period of life. The distressed Princess undertook his cure; and restored him to health. They were married with great solemnity; and the beauteous bride of Grymer filled the heart of her hero with unfading joy.
According to the rude manners of those times, a lover did not always wait for the consent of his mistress. Joannes Magnus, Archbishop of Upsal, observes in his history of the Goths, that ravishing of women was of old no less frequent among the Scandinavians than among the Greeks. He relates, that Gram, son to the King of Denmark, carried off the King of Sweden’s daughter, whose beauty was celebrated in verses remembered even in his time. Another instance he gives, of Nicolaus King of Denmark (a) , who courted Uluilda, a noble and beautiful Norvegian lady, and obtained her consent. Nothing remained but the celebration of the nuptials, when she was carried off by Suercher, King of Sweden. We have the authority of Saxo Grammaticus, that Skiold, one of the first Kings of Denmark, fought a duel for a beautiful young woman, and obtained her for a wife. That author relates many duels of the same kind. It was indeed common among the Scandinavians, before they became Christians, to fight for a wife, and to carry off the desired object by force of arms. No cause of war between neighbouring kings was more frequent. Fridlevus King of Denmark sent a solemn embassy to Hasmundus King of Norway, to demand in marriage his daughter. Hasmundus had a rooted aversion to the Danes, who had done much mischief in his country. “Go,” says he to the ambassadors, “and demand a wife where you are less hated than in Norway.” The young lady, who had no aversion to the match, intreated leave to speak. “You seem,” said she, “not to consult the good of your kingdom in rejecting so potent a son-in-law, who can carry by force what he is now applying for by intreaties.” The father continuing obstinate, dismissed the ambassadors. Fridlevus sent other ambassadors, redoubling his intreaties for a favourable answer. Hasmundus said, that one refusal might be thought sufficient; and in a fit of passion put the ambassadors to death. Fridlevus invaded Norway with a potent army; and, after a desperate battle, carried off the lady in triumph.
The figure that women made in the north of Europe by their courage, their beauty, and their chastity, could not fail to produce mutual esteem and love between the sexes: nor could that love fail to be purified into the most tender affection, when their rough manners were smoothed in the progress of society. If love between the sexes prevail in Lapland as much as any where, which is vouched by Scheffer in his history of that country, it must be for a reason very different from that now mentioned. The males in Lapland, who are great cowards, have no reason to despise the females for their timidity; and in every country where the women equal the men, mutual esteem and affection naturally take place. Two Lapland odes communicated to us by the author mentioned, leave no doubt of this fact, being full of the tenderest sentiments that love can inspire. The following is a literal translation.
In the Scandinavian manners here described, is discovered a striking resem-blance to those described by Ossian. And as such were the manners of the Scandinavians in the first stage of society, it no longer remains a wonder, that the manners of Caledonia should be equally pure in the same early period. And now every argument above urged for Ossian as a genuine historian has its full weight, without the least counterpoise. It is true, that Caledonian manners appear from Ossian to have been still more polished and refined than those of Scandinavia; but that difference may have proceeded from accidents which time has buried in oblivion.
I make no apology for insisting so largely on Scandinavian manners; for they tend remarkably to support the credit of Ossian; and consequently to ascertain a fact not a little interesting, that our forefathers were not such barbarians as they are commonly held to be. All the inhabitants of Britain were of Celtic extraction; and there is reason to believe, that the manners of Caledonia were the manners of every part of the island, before the inhabitants of the plains were inslaved by the Romans. The only circumstance peculiar to the Caledonians, is their moun-tainous situation: being less exposed to the oppression of foreigners, and farther removed from commerce, they did longer than their southern neighbours preserve their manners pure and untainted.
I have all along considered the poems of Ossian in a historical view merely. In the view of criticism they have been examined by a writer of distinguished taste (a) ; and however bold to enter a field where he hath reaped laurels, I imagine that there still remain some trifles for me to glean. Two of these poems, Fingal and Temora, are regular epic poems; and perhaps the single instances of epic poetry moulded into the form of an opera. We have in these two poems both the Recitativo and Aria of an Italian opera; dropped indeed in the translation, from difficulty of imitation. Ossian’s poems were all of them composed with a view of music; though in the long poems mentioned, it is probable that the airs only were accompanied with the harp, the recitative being left to the voice. The poems of Ossian are singular in another respect, being probably the only regular work now remaining that was composed in the hunter-state. Some songs of that early period may possibly have escaped oblivion; but no other poem of the epic kind. One may advance a step farther, and pronounce, with a high degree of probability, that Fingal and Temora are the only epic poems that ever were composed in that state. How great must have been the talents of the author, beset with every obstruction to genius, the manners of his country alone excepted; a cold unhospitable climate; the face of the country so deformed as scarce to afford a pleasing object; and he himself absolutely illiterate! One may venture boldly to affirm, that such a poem as Fingal or Temora never was composed in any other part of the world, under such disadvantageous circumstances.
Tho’ permanent manners enter not regularly into the present sketch, I am however tempted to add a few words concerning the influence of soil upon the manners of men. The stupidity of the inhabitants of New Holland, mentioned above, is occasioned by the barrenness of their soil, yielding nothing that can be food for man or beast. Day and night they watch the ebb of the tide, in order to dig small fish out of the sand; and sleep in the intervals, without an hour to spare for any other occupation. People in that condition, must for ever remain ignorant and brutish. Were all the earth barren like New Holland, all men would be ignorant and brutish, like the inhabitants of New Holland. On the other hand, were every portion of this earth so fertile as spontaneously to feed all its inhabitants, which is the golden age figured by poets, what would follow? Upon the former supposition, man would be a meagre, patient, and timid animal: upon the latter supposition, he would be pampered, lazy, and effeminate. In both cases, he would be stupidly ignorant, and incapable of any manly exertion, whether of mind or body. But the soil of our earth is in general more wisely accommodated to man, its chief inhabitant. It is neither so fertile as to supersede labour, nor so barren as to require the utmost labour. The laborious occupation of hunting for food, produced originally some degree of industry: and though all the industry of man was at first necessary for procuring food, cloathing, and habitation; yet the soil, by skill in agriculture, came to produce plenty with less labour; which to some afforded time for thinking of conveniencies. A habit of industry thus acquired, excited many to bestow their leisure hours upon the arts, proceeding from useful arts to fine arts, and from these to sciences. Wealth, accumulated by industry, has a wonderful influence upon manners: feuds and war, the offspring of wealth, call forth into action friendship, courage, heroism, and every social virtue, as well as many selfish vices. How like brutes do we pass our time, without once reflecting on the wisdom of Providence visible even in the soil we tread upon!
Diversity of manners, at the same time, enters into the plan of Providence, as well as diversity of talents, of feelings, and of opinions. Our Maker hath given us a taste for variety; and he hath provided objects in plenty for its gratification. Some soils, naturally fertile, require little labour: some soils, naturally barren, require much labour. But the advantages of the latter are more than sufficient to counterbalance its barrenness: the inha-bitants are sober, industrious, vigorous; and consequently courageous, as far as courage depends on bodily strength.* The disadvantages of a fertile soil, on the contrary, are more than sufficient to counterbalance its advantages: the inhabitants are rendered indolent, weak, and cowardly. Hindostan may seem to be an exception; for though it be extremely fertile, the people are industrious, and export manufactures in great abundance at a very low price. But Hindostan properly is not an exception. The Hindows, who are prohibited by their religion to kill any living creature, must abandon to animals for food a large proportion of land; which obliges them to cultivate what remains with double industry, in order to procure food for themselves. The populousness of their country contributes also to make them industrious. Aragon was once the most limited monarchy in Europe, England not excepted: the barrenness of the soil was the cause, which rendered the people hardy and courageous. In a preamble to one of their laws, the states declare, that, were they not more free than other nations, the barrenness of their country would tempt them to abandon it. Opposed to Aragon stands Egypt, the fertility of which renders the inhabitants soft and effeminate, and consequently an easy prey to every invader.* The fruitfulness of the province of Quito in Peru, and the low price of every necessary, occasioned by its distance from the sea, have plunged the inhabitants into supine indolence, and excessive luxury. The people of the town of Quito in particular, have abandoned themselves to every sort of debauchery: the time they have to spare from wine and women, is employed in excessive gaming. In other respects also the manners of a people are influenced by the country they inhabit. A great part of Calabria, formerly populous and fertile, is at present covered with trees and shrubs, like the wilds of America; and the ferocity of its inhabitants corresponds to the rudeness of the fields. The same is visible in the inhabitants of Mount Etna in Sicily: the country and its inhabitants are equally rugged.
END of the First Volume
HISTORY OF MAN.
by the last additions
of the author.
in four volumes.
printed for a. strahan and t. cadell, london;
and for william creech, edinburgh.
m, dcc, lxxxviii.
Progress of the Female Sex
The progress of the female sex, a capital branch of the history of man, comprehends great variety of matter, curious, and interesting. But sketches are my province, not complete histories; and I propose in the present sketch to trace the gradual progress of wo-men, from their low state in savage tribes, to their elevated state in civilized nations.
With regard to the outlines, whether of internal disposition or of external figure, men and women are the same. Nature, however, intending them for mates, has given them dispositions different but concordant, so as to produce together delicious harmony. The man, more robust, is fitted for severe labour and for field-exercises: the woman, more delicate, is fitted for sedentary occupations; and particularly for nursing children. That difference is remarkable in the mind, no less than in the body. A boy is always running about; delights in a top or a ball, and rides upon a stick as a horse. A girl has less inclination to move: her first amusement is a baby; which she delights to dress and undress. I have seen oftener than once a female child under six getting an infant in its arms, caressing it, singing, and walking about staggering under the weight. A boy never thinks of such a pastime. The man, bold and vigorous, is qualified for being a protector: the woman, delicate and timid, requires pro-tection.* The man, as a protector, is directed by nature to govern: the woman, conscious of inferiority, is disposed to obey. Their intellectual powers correspond to the destination of nature: men have penetration and solid judgement to fit them for governing: women have sufficient understanding to make a decent figure under good government; a greater proportion would excite dangerous rivalship. Women have more imagination and more sensibility than men; and yet none of them have made an eminent figure in any of the fine arts. We hear of no sculptor nor statuary among them; and none of them have risen above a mediocrity in poetry or painting. Nature has avoided rivalship between the sexes, by giving them different talents. Add another capital difference of disposition: the gentle and insinuating manners of the female sex, tend to soften the roughness of the other sex; and where-ever women are indulged with any freedom, they polish sooner than men.†
These are not the only particulars that distinguish the sexes. With respect to matrimony, it is the privilege of the male, as superior and protector, to make a choice; the female preferred has no privilege but barely to consent or to refuse. Nature fits them for these different parts: the male is bold, the female bashful. Hence among all nations it is the practice for men to court, and for women to be courted: which holds also among many other animals, probably among all that pair.
Another distinction is equally visible: The master of a family is immediately connected with his country; his wife, his children, his servants, are immediately connected with him, and with their country through him only. Women accordingly have less patriotism than men; and less bitterness against the enemies of their country.
The peculiar modesty of the female sex, is also a distinguishing circumstance. Nature hath provided them with it as a defence against the artful solicitations of the other sex before marriage, and also as a support of conjugal fidelity.1
A fundamental article in the present sketch is matrimony; and it has been much controverted, whether it be an appointment of nature, or only of municipal law. Many writers have exercised their talents in that controversy, but without giving satisfaction to a judicious inquirer. If I mistake not, it may be determined upon solid principles; and as it is of importance in the history of man, the reader, I am hopeful, will not be disgusted at the length of the argument.
Many writers hold that women were originally common; that animal love was gratified as among horses and horned cattle; and that matrimony was not known, till nations grew in some degree to be orderly and refined. I select Cicero as an author of authority: “Nam fuit quoddam tempus, cum in agris homines passim, bestiarum more, vagabantur, et sibi victu ferino vitam propagabant: nec ratione animi quicquam sed pleraque viribus corporis administrabant. Nondum divinae religionis non humani officii ratio colebatur. Nemo legitimas viderat nuptias, non certos quisquam inspexerat liberos (a) .”* —Pliny, in support of that doctrine, informs us, that the Garamantes, an African nation, male and female lived promiscuously together, without any notion of matrimony. Among the Auses, a people of Libya, as Herodotus says, matrimony was not known, and men cohabited with women indifferently, like other animals. A boy educated by his mother was at a certain age admitted to an assembly of men, and the man he clung to was reputed his father. Justin and other authors report, that before Cecrops, who reigned in Attica about 1600 years before Christ, marriage was not known in Greece; and that the burden of children lay upon the mother.
Before entering directly into the matter, it is proper to remove, if possible, the bias of these great names. The practice of the Garamantes and of the Auses is mentioned by Pliny and Herodotus as singular; and, were it even well vouched, it would avail very little against the practice of all other nations. Little weight can be laid upon Pliny’s evidence in particular, considering what he reports in the same chapter of the Blemmyans, that they had no head, and that the mouth and eyes were in the breast. Pliny at the same time, as well as Herodotus, being very deficient in natural knowledge, were grossly credulous; and cannot be relied on with respect to any thing strange or uncommon. As to what is reported of ancient Greece, Cecrops possibly prohibited polygamy, or introdu-ced some other matrimonial regulation, which by writers might be mistaken for a law appointing matrimony. However that be, one part of the report is undoubtedly erroneous; for it will be made evident afterward, that in the hunter-state, or even in that of shepherds, it is impracticable for any woman, by her own industry alone, to rear a numerous issue. If this be at all possible, it can only be in the torrid zone, where people live on fruits and roots, which are produced in plenty with very little labour. Upon that account, Diodorus Siculus is less blameable for listening to a report, that the inhabitants of Taprobana, supposed to be the island of Ceylon, never marry, but that women are used promiscuously. At the same time, as there is no such custom at present in the East Indies, there is no good ground to believe, that it ever was customary; and the East Indies were so little known to the ancient Greeks, that their authors cannot be much relied on, in the accounts they give of that distant region. The authority of Cicero, however respectable in other matters, will not be much regarded upon the present question, when the passage above quoted is dissected. How crude must his notions be of the primitive state of man, when he denies to savages any sense of religion or of moral duty! Ought we to rely more on him, when he denies that they have any notion of matrimony? Caesar’s account of the ancient Britons approaches the nearest to a loose commerce with women, tho’ in the main it is good evidence against Cicero. It was common, he says, for a number of brothers, or other near relations, to use their wives promiscuously. The offspring however were not common; for each man maintained the children that were produced by his own wife. Herodotus reports the same of the Massagetae.
Laying thus aside the great names of Cicero, Herodotus, and Pliny, the field lies open to a fair and impartial investigation. And as the means provided by nature for continuing the race of other animals, may probably throw light upon the oeconomy of nature with respect to man; I begin with that article, which has not engaged the attention of naturalists so much as it ought to have done. With respect to animals whose nourishment is grass, pairing would be of no use: the female feeds herself and her young at the same instant; and nothing is left for the male to do. On the other hand, all brute animals whose young require the nursing care of both parents, are directed by nature to pair; nor is that connection dissolved till the young can provide for themselves. Pairing is indispensable to wild birds that build on trees; because the male must provide food for his mate while she is hatching the eggs. And as they have commonly a numerous issue, it requires the labour of both to pick up food for themselves and for their young. Upon that account it is so ordered, that the young are sufficiently vigorous to provide for themselves, before a new brood is produced.
What I have now opened suggests the following question, Whether, according to the oeconomy above displayed, are we to presume, or not, that man is directed by nature to matrimony? If analogy can be relied on, the affirmative must be held, as there is no other creature in the known world to which pairing is so necessary. Man is an animal of long life, and is pro-portionally slow in growing to maturity: he is a helpless being before the age of fifteen or sixteen; and there may be in a family ten or twelve children of different births, before the eldest can shift for itself. Now in the original state of hunting and fishing, which are laborious occupations, and not always successful, a woman, suckling her infant, is not able to provide food even for herself, far less for ten or twelve voracious children. Matrimony, therefore, or pairing, is so necessary to the human race, that it must be natural and instinctive. When such ample means are provided for continuing every other animal race, is it supposable that the chief race is neglected? Providential care descends even to vegetable life: every plant bears a profusion of seed; and in order to cover the earth with vegetables, some seeds have wings, some are scattered by means of a spring, and some are so light as to be carried about by the wind. Brute animals which do not pair, have grass and other food in plenty, enabling the female to feed her young without needing any assistance from the male. But where the young require the nursing care of both parents, pairing is a law of nature. When other races are so amply provided for, can it be seriously thought, that Providence is less attentive to the human race? If men and women were not impelled by nature to matrimony, they would be less fitted for continuing the species, than even the humblest plant. Have we not then reason fairly to conclude, that matrimony in the human race is an appointment of nature? Can that conclusion be resisted by any one who believes in Providence, and in final causes.*
To confirm this doctrine, let the consequences of a loose commerce between the sexes be examined. The carnal appetite, when confined to one object, seldom transgresses the bounds of temperance. But were it encouraged to roam, like a bee sucking honey from every flower, every new object would inflame the imagina-tion; and satiety with respect to one, would give new vigour with respect to others: a generic habit would be formed of intemperance in fruition (a) ; and animal love would become the ruling passion. Men, like the hart in rutting-time, would all the year round fly with impetuosity from object to object, giving no quarter even to women suckling their infants: and women, abandoning themselves to the same appetite, would become altogether regardless of their offspring. In that state, the continuance of the human race would be a miracle. In the savage state, as mentioned above, it is beyond the power of any woman to provide food for a family of children; and now it appears, that intemperance in animal love would render a woman careless of her family, however easy it might be to provide for it.*
I say more. The promiscuous use of women would unqualify them in a great measure to procreate. The carnal appetite in man resembles his appetite for food: each of them demands gratification, after short intervals. Where the carnal appetite is felt but a short space annually, as among animals who feed on grass, the promiscuous use of females is according to the order of nature: but such a law in man, where the carnal appetite is always awake, would be an effectual bar to procreation; it being an undoubted truth, that women who indulge that appetite to excess, seldom have children; and if all women were common, all women would in effect be common prostitutes.
If undisguised nature show itself any where, it is in children. So truly is matrimony an appointment of nature, as to be understood even by children. They often hear, it is true, people talking of matrimony; but they also hear of logical, metaphysical, and commercial matters, without understanding a syllable. Whence then their notion of marriage but from nature? Marriage is a compound idea, which no instruction could bring within the comprehension of a child, did not nature co-operate.
That the arguments urged above against a promiscuous use of women, do not necessarily conclude against polygamy, or the union of one man with a plurality of women, will not escape an attentive reader. St. Augustin and other fathers admit, that polygamy is not prohibited by the law of nature; and the learned Grotius professes the same opinion (a) . But great names terrify me not; and I venture to maintain, that pairing in the strictest sense is a law of nature among men as among wild birds; and that polygamy is a gross infringement of that law. My reasons follow.
I urge, in the first place, the equal number of males and females, as a clear indication that Providence intends every man to be confined to one wife, and every woman to one husband. That equality, which has subsisted in all countries and at all times, is a signal instance of over-ruling Providence; for the chances against it are infinite. All men are by nature equal in rank: no man is privileged above another to have a wife; and therefore polygamy is contradictory to the plan of Providence. Were ten women born for one man, as is erroneously reported to be the case in Bantam, polygamy might be the intention of Providence; but from the equality of males and females, it is clearly the voice of nature, as well as of the sacred scripture, “That a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they shall be one flesh.”
Consider, in the next place, that however plausible polygamy may appear in the present state of things, where inequality of rank and of fortune have produced luxury and sensuality; yet that the laws of nature were not contrived by our Maker for a forced state, where numberless individuals are degraded below their natural rank, for the benefit of a few who are elevated above it. To form a just notion of polygamy, we must look back to the original state of man, where all are equal. In that state, every man cannot have two wives; and consequently no man is entitled to more than one, till every other be upon an equal footing with him. At the same time, the union of one man with one woman is much better calculated for continuing the race, than the union of one man with many women. Think of a savage who may have fifty or sixty children by different wives, all depending for food upon his industry: chance must turn out much in his favour, if the half of them perish not by hunger. How much a better chance for life have infants who are distributed more equally in different families?
Polygamy has an effect still more pernicious, with respect to children even of the most opulent families. Unless affection be reciprocal and equal, there can be no proper society in the matrimonial state, no cordiality, nor due care of offspring. But such affection is inconsistent with polygamy: a woman in that state, far from being a companion to her husband, is degraded to the rank of a servant, a mere instrument of pleasure and propagation. Among many wives there will always be a favourite: the rest turn peevish; and if they resent not the injury against their husband, and against their children as belonging to him, they will at least be disheartened, and turn negligent of them. At the same time, fondness for the favourite wife and her children, makes the husband indifferent about the rest; and woful is the condition of children who are neglected by both parents (a) . To produce such an effect, is certainly not the purpose of nature.
It merits peculiar attention, that Providence has provided for an agreeable union, among all creatures who are taught by nature to pair. Animal love among creatures who pair not, is confined within a narrow space of time: while the dam is occupied about her young, animal love lies dormant, that she may not be abstracted from her duty. In pairing animals, on the contrary, animal love is always awake: frequent enjoyment endears a pair to each other, and makes constancy a pleasure. Such is the case of the human race; and such is the case of wild birds (b) . Among the wild birds that build on trees, the male, after feeding his mate in the nest, plants himself upon the next spray, and cheers her with a song.* There is still greater enjoyment provided for the human race in the matrimonial state, and stronger incitements to constancy. Sweet is the society of a pair fitted for each other, in whom are collected the affections of husband, wife, lover, friend, the tenderest affections of human nature. Public government is in perfection, when the sovereign commands with humanity, and the subjects are cordial in their obedience. Private government in conjugal society arrives at still greater perfection, where husband and wife govern and are governed reciprocally, with entire satisfaction to both. The man bears rule over his wife’s person and conduct; she bears rule over his inclinations: he governs by law: she by persuasion. Nor can her authority ever fail, where it is supported by sweetness of temper, and zeal to make him happy.*
The God of nature has enforced conjugal society, not only by making it agreeable, but by the principle of chastity inherent in our nature. To animals that have no instinct for pairing, chastity is utterly unknown; and to them it would be useless. The mare, the cow, the ewe, the she-goat, receive the male without ceremony, and admit the first that comes in the way without distinction. Neither have tame fowl any notion of chastity: they pair not; and the female gets no food from the male, even during incubation. But chastity and mutual fidelity are essen-tial to all pairing animals; for wandering inclinations would render them negligent in nursing their young. While birds pair; and they are by instinct faithful to each other, while their young require nurture. Chastity is essential to the human race; enforced by the principle of chastity, a branch of the moral sense. Chastity is essential even to the continuation of the human race. As the carnal appetite is always alive, the sexes would wallow in pleasure, and be soon rendered unfit for procreation, were it not for the restraint of chastity.2
Nor is chastity confined to the matrimonial state. Matrimony is instituted by nature for continuing the species; and it is the duty of man to abstain from animal enjoyment, except in that state. The ceremonies of marriage and the causes of separation and divorce, are subjected to municipal law: but, if a man beget children, it is his duty to unite with the mother in taking care of them; and such union is matrimony according to the law of nature. Hence it is, that the first acts of incontinence, where enjoyment only is in view, are always attended with shame, and with a degree of remorse.* At the same time, as chastity in persons who are single is only a self-duty, it is not so strongly enforced by the moral sense as chastity is in married persons, who owe fidelity to each other. Deviations accordingly from the former make a less figure than from the latter: we scarce ever hear of adultery among savages; though among them incontinence before marriage is not uncommon. In Wales, even at present, and in the highlands of Scotland, it is scarce a disgrace for a young woman to have a bastard. In the country last mentioned, the first instance known of a bastard-child being destroyed by its mother through shame, is a late one. The virtue of chastity appears to be there gaining ground; as the only temptation a woman can have to destroy her child, is to conceal her frailty. The principle of chastity, like that of propriety or of decency, is faint among savages; and has little of that influence which prevails among polished nations before they are corrupted by luxury. We shall have occasion to see afterward, that even the great duty of justice is faint among barbarians; and that it yields readily to every irregular impulse, before the moral sense has arrived to maturity.3
Chastity is a restraint upon nature; and, therefore, if shame be removed by making it lawful to obey the appetite, nature will prevail. In the year 1707, a contagious distemper having carried off a large proportion of the inhabitants of Iceland, the King of Denmark fell on a device to repeople the country, which succeeded to a wish. A law was made, authorising young women in that island to have bastards, even to the number of six, without wounding their reputation.* The young women were so zealous to repeople their country, that after a few years it was found proper to abrogate the law.
Modesty is by nature intended to guard chastity, as chastity is to guard matrimony. And modesty, like chastity, is one of those delicate principles that make no great figure among savages. In the land of Jesso, young women sometimes go naked in summer: if however they meet a stranger, they hang the head, and turn away through shame. Nature here is their only instructor.† Some savage tribes have so little notion of modesty, as to go naked, without even covering their privy parts. Regnard reports, upon his own knowledge, that in Lapland, man, woman, and child, take the hot bath promiscuously, and are not ashamed to be seen in that condition, even by a stranger. As this appeared singular, I took an opportunity to mention it to Dr. Solander, who had made more than one visit to that country. He said, that Regnard’s report might be true; but without any imputation on the modesty of the Laplanders, for that their place of bathing is always so dark that nothing can be seen. He added, that the females in Lapland, both married and unmarried, are extremely chaste. The inhabitants of Otaheite, if Bougainville can be trusted, seem to have as little notion of modesty as of chastity. But many of that author’s facts stand contradicted by later voyagers. The women of New Zealand are both chaste and modest. Captain Cook, in his voyage round the world, stumbled upon some of them naked, diving for lobsters; and they were in great confusion for being seen in that condition by strangers.
But now, if pairing in the strictest sense be a law of nature among men, as among some other animals, how is polygamy to be accounted for, which formerly was universal, and to this day obtains among many nations? Polygamy, I answer, is derived from two sources; first, from savage manners, once universal; and next, from voluptuousness in warm climates, which instigates men of wealth to transgress every rule of temperance. These two sources I propose to handle with care, because they make a large branch in the history of the female sex.
With respect to the first, sweetness of temper, a capital article in the female character, displays itself externally by mild looks and gentle manners. But such graces are scarce discernible in a female savage; and even in the most polished women, would not be perceived by a male savage. Among savages, strength and boldness are the only valued qualities: in these females are miserably deficient; and for that reason, are contemned by the males, as beings of an inferior order. The North-American tribes glory in idleness: the drudgery of labour degrades a man in their opinion, and is proper for women only. To join young persons in marriage is accordingly the business of parents; and it would be unpardonable meanness in the bridegroom, to shew any fondness for the bride. Young men among the Hottentots, are admitted into society with their seniors at the age of eighteen; after which it is disgraceful to keep company with women. In Guiana, a woman never eats with her husband; but after every meal attends him with water for washing. In the Carribbee islands, she is not permitted to eat even in presence of her husband; and yet we are assured (a) , that women there obey with such sweetness and respect, as never to give their husbands occasion to remind them of their duty; “an example,” adds our sage author, “worthy the imitation of Christian wives, who are daily instructed from the pulpit in the duties of obedience and conjugal fidelity, but to very little purpose.” Dampier observes in general, that, among all the wild nations he was acquainted with, the women carry the burdens, while the men walk before, and carry nothing but their arms. Women even of the highest rank are not better treated. The sovereign of Giaga, in Africa, has many wives, who are literally his slaves: one carries his bow, one his arrows, and one gives him drink; and while he is drinking, they all fall on their knees, clap their hands, and sing. Not many centuries ago, a law was made in England, prohibiting the New Testament in English to be read by women, ’prentices, journeymen, or serving men (a) . What a pitiful figure must the poor females have made in that age! In Siberia, and even in Russia, the capital excepted, men treat their wives in every respect as slaves. The regulations of Peter I. put marriage upon a more respectable footing among people of rank; and yet such are the brutal manners of the Russians, that tyrannical treatment of wives is far from being eradicated.
The low condition of the female sex among savages and barbarians, paved the way to polygamy. Savages, excited by a taste for variety, and still more by pride, which is gratified by many servants, delight in a multiplicity of wives. The pairing principle, though rooted in human nature, makes little figure among savages, yielding to every irregular appetite; and this fairly accounts why polygamy was once universal. It might indeed be thought, that animal love, were there nothing else, should have raised women to some degree of estimation among the men. But male savages, utter strangers to decency or refinement, gratify animal love with as little ceremony as they do hunger or thirst.
Hence appears the reason of a practice that will surprise those who are unacquainted with ancient customs; which is, that a man purchased a woman to be his wife, as one purchases an ox or a sheep to be food. Women by marriage became slaves; and no man will give his daughter to be a slave, but for a valuable consideration. The practice was universal. I begin with the Jews. Abraham bought Rebekah, and gave her to his son Isaac for a wife (b) . Jacob, having nothing else to give, served Laban fourteen years for two wives (a) . Sechem demanding in marriage Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, said, “Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife” (b) . To David demanding Saul’s daughter in marriage, Saul said, “The king desireth not any dowry, but an hundred foreskins of the Philistines” (c) . In the Iliad, Agamemnon offers his daugh-ter to Achilles for a wife; and says, that he would not demand for her any price. Pausanias reports of Danaus, that no suitors appearing to demand any of his daughters, he published, that he would give them without dowry. In Homer, there is frequent mention of nuptial gifts from a bridegroom to his bride’s father. From terming them gifts, it is probable that the former method of purchase was beginning to wear out. It wore out before the time of Aristotle; who infers, that their forefathers must have been a very rude people. The ancient Spaniards purchased their wives. We have the authority of Herodotus and of Heraclides Ponticus, that the Thracians followed the same practice. The latter adds, that if a wife was ill treated, her relations could demand her back, upon repaying the price they got for her. In the Roman law mention is made of matrimony per aes et libram, which was solemnized by laying down a quantity of brass with a balance for weighing it, understood to be the price paid for the bride. This must have been once a reality; though it sunk down to be a mere ceremony, after it became custo-mary for a Roman bride to bring a dowry with her. The Babylonians and the Assyrians, at stated times, collected all the marriageable young women, and disposed of them by auction. Rubruguis, in his voyage to Tartary anno 1253, reports, that there every man bought his wife. “They believe,” he adds, “that their wives serve them in another world as they do in this; for which reason, a widow has no chance for a second husband, whom she cannot serve in the other world.” Olaus Magnus, remarking that among the ancient Goths no dower was provided on the bride’s part, gives a reason, better suited perhaps to the time he lived in, than to what he describes. “Apud Gothos, non mulier viro sed vir mulieri dotem assignat; ne conjux, ob magnitudinem dotis insolescens, aliquando ex placida consorte proterva evadet, atque in maritum dominari contendat”;* as if the hazard of petulance in a wife would hinder a man to accept a dower with her:—a sad doctrine for an heiress. There is preserved in the abbey of St. Peter a charter, judged to be 700 years old, in which the Countess of Amiens gifts to the said abbey land she received from her husband at their marriage, “according to the Salic law,” says she, “obliging the husband to give a dowry to his wife.” By the laws of King Ethelbert, sect. 32. a man who committed adultery with his neighbour’s wife, was obliged to pay him a fine, and to buy him another wife. Giraldus Cambrensis, in his description of Wales, says, that formerly they hardly ever married without a prior cohabitation; it having been customary for parents to let out their daughters to young men upon trial, for a sum of money told down, and under a penalty if the girls were returned. This I believe to be a mistake. It is more probable, that in Wales men purchased their wives, as was done all the world over, with liberty to return them if they proved not agreeable. The bride’s parents retained the dowry, and her chance for a husband was as good as ever.
The same custom continues among barbarous nations. It continues among the Tartars, among the Mingrelians, among the Samoides, among the Ostiacs, among the people of Pegu, and of the Molucca islands. In the island of Sumatra a man purchases his wives. He may return a wife to her relations; but they keep the purchase-money. If a woman dislike her husband, she or her relations must pay to him double the purchase-money. In Timor, an East-Indian island, men sell even their children to purchase more wives. The Prince of Circassia demanded from the Prince of Mingrelia, who was in suit of his daughter, a hundred slaves loaded with tapestry and other household furniture, a hundred cows, as many oxen, and as many horses. We have evidence of the same custom in Africa, particularly in Biledulgerid, among the negroes on the sea-coast, and in Monomotapa. Among the Caribbees there is one instance where a man gets a wife without paying for her. After a successful war, the victors are entertained at a feast, where the General harangues on the valour of the young men who made the best figure. Every man who has marriageable daughters, is fond to offer them to such young men without any price. The purchasing of wives is universal among the wild Arabs. When the bargain is concluded, the bridegroom is permitted to visit the bride: if she answer not his expectations, he may turn her off; but has no claim for the price he paid. In Arabia, says Niebuhr, a young married woman suspected of not being a virgin, is sent back to her father, who must restore the price that was paid for her.4 The inland negroes are more polished than those on the coast; and there is scarce any remains among them of purchasing wives: the bridegroom makes presents to his bride, and her father makes presents to him. There are remaining traces in Russia of purchasing wives. Even so late as the time of Peter I. Russians married without seeing each other; and before solemnization, the bride received from the bridegroom a present of sweetmeats, soap, and other little things.
The purchasing of wives made it a lawful practice, to lend a wife as one does a slave. The Spartans lent their wives to their friends; and Cato the elder is said to have done the same. The Indians of Calicut frequently exchange wives.
If brutish manners alone be sufficient to degrade the female sex, they may reckon upon harsh treatment when purchased to be slaves. The Giagas, a fierce and wandering nation in the central parts of Africa, being supinely idle at home, subject their wives and their slaves to every sort of drudgery, such as digging, sowing, reaping, cutting wood, grinding corn, fetching water, &c. These poor creatures are suffered to toil in the fields and woods, ready to faint with excessive labour; while the monsters of men will not give themselves the trouble even of training animals for work, though they have the example of the Portuguese before their eyes. It is the business of the women among the wandering Arabs of Africa, to card, spin, and weave, and to manage other household affairs. They milk the cattle, grind, bake, brew, dress the victuals, and bring home wood and water. They even take care of their husband’s horses, feed, curry, comb, bridle, and saddle them. They would also be obliged, like Moorish wives, to dig, sow, and reap their corn; but luckily for them the Arabs live entirely upon plunder. Father Joseph Gumilla, in his ac-count of a country in South America, bordering upon the great river Oroonoko, describes pathetically the miserable slavery of married women there; and mentions a practice, that would appear incredible to one unacquainted with that country, which is, that married women frequently destroy their female infants. A married woman, of a virtuous character and good understanding, having been guilty of that crime, was reproached by our author in bitter terms. She heard him patiently with eyes fixed on the ground; and answered as follows:
I wish to God, Father, I wish to God, that my mother had by my death prevented the manifold distresses I have endured, and have yet to endure as long as I live. Had she kindly stifled me at birth, I had not felt the pain of death, nor numberless other pains that life hath subjected me to. Consider, Father, our deplorable condition. Our husbands go to hunt with their bows and arrows, and trouble themselves no farther. We are dragged along, with one infant at the breast, and another in a basket. They return in the evening without any burden: we return with the burden of our children; and, tho’ tired with a long march, are not permitted to sleep, but must labour the whole night, in grinding maize to make chica for them. They get drunk, and in their drunkenness beat us, draw us by the hair of the head, and tread us under foot. And what have we to comfort us for slavery that has no end? A young wife is brought in upon us, who is permitted to abuse us and our children, because we are no longer regarded. Can human nature endure such tyranny! What kindness can we show to our female children equal to that of relieving them from such oppression, more bitter a thousand times than death? I say again, would to God that my mother had put me under ground the moment I was born.
One would readily imagine, that the women of that country should have the greatest abhorrence at matrimony: but all-prevailing nature determines the contrary; and the appetite for matrimony overbalances every rational consideration.
Nations polish by degrees; and, from the lowest state to which a human crea-ture can be reduced, women were restored to their native dignity. Attention to dress is the first symptom of the progress. Male savages, even of the grossest kind, are fond of dress. Charlevoix mentions a young American hired as a rower, who adjusted his dress with care before he entered the boat; and at intervals inspected his looking-glass, to see whether violence of motion had not discomposed the red upon his cheeks. We read not of passion for dress in females of such savage nations: they are too much dispirited to think of being agreeable. Among nations in any degree humanized, a different scene opens. In the isthmus of Darien government has made some progress, and a chieftain is elected for life: a glimmering of civility appears among the inhabitants; and as some regard is paid to women, they rival the men in dress. Both sexes wear rings in their ears and noses; and are adorned with many rows of shells hanging from the neck. A female in a sultry climate submits to fry all day long, under a load of twenty or thirty pounds of shells; and a male under double that load. Well may they exclaim with Alexander, “Oh Athe-nians! what do I not endure to gain your approbation!” The female Caribbeans and Brasilians, are no less fond of ornament than the males. Hottentot ladies strive to outdo each other in adorning their crosses, and the bag that holds their pipe and tobacco: European ladies are not more vain of their silks and embroideries. Women in Lapland are much addicted to finery. They wear broad girdles, upon which hang chains and rings without end, commonly made of tin, sometimes of silver, weighing perhaps twenty pounds. The Greenlanders are nasty and slovenly, eat with their dogs, make food of the vermin that make food of them, seldom or never wash themselves; and yet the women, who make some figure among the men, are gaudy in their dress. Their chief ornaments are pendants at their ears, with glass beads of various colours; and they draw lines with a needle and black thread between their eyes, cross the forehead, upon the chin, hands, and legs. The negroes of the kingdom of Ardrah in Guinea have made a considerable progress in police, and in the art of living. Their women carry dress and finery to an extrava-gance. They are cloathed with loads of the finest satins and chintzes, and are adorned with a profusion of gold. In a sultry climate, they gratify vanity at the expence of ease. Among the inland negroes, who are more polished than those on the sea-coast, the women, beside domestic concerns, sow, plant, and reap. A man however suffers in the esteem of his neighbours, if he permit his wives to toil like slaves, while he is indulging in ease.
From that auspicious commencement, the female sex have risen, in a slow but steady progress, to higher and higher degrees of estimation. Conversation is their talent, and a display of delicate sentiments: the gentleness of their manners and winning behaviour, captivate every sensible heart. Of such refinements, savages have little conception: but, when the more delicate senses are unfolded, the peculiar beauties of the female sex, internal as well as external, are brought into full light; and women, formerly considered as objects of animal love merely, are now valued as faithful friends and agreeable companions. Matrimony assumes a more decent form, being the union, not of a master and slave, but of two persons equal in rank uniting to form a family. And it contributed greatly to this delicious refinement, that in temperate climes animal love is moderate, and women long retain good looks, and power of procreation. Thus marriage became honourable among polished nations: which banished the barbarous custom of purchasing wives; for a man who wishes to have his daughter advantageously matched, will gladly give a dowry with her.5
Polygamy is intimately connected with the custom of purchasing wives. There is no limitation in purchasing slaves: nor has a woman purchased as a wife or a slave, any just cause for complaining that others are purchased as she was: on the contrary, addition of hands for performing the servile offices of the family, is some relief to her. Polygamy accordingly has always been permitted, where men pay for their wives. The Jews purchased their wives, and were indulged in polygamy (a) . Diodorus Siculus says, that polygamy was permitted in Egypt, except to priests (b) . This probably was the case originally; but when the Egyptian manners came to be polished, a man gave a dowry with his daughter, instead of receiving a price for her; witness Solomon, who got the city of Gazer in dowry with the King of Egypt’s daughter. When that custom became universal, we may be certain that it put an end to polygamy. And accordingly Herodotus affirms, that polygamy was prohibited in Egypt (c) . Polygamy undoubtedly prevailed in Greece and Rome, while it was customary to purchase wives; but improved manners put an end to the latter, and consequently to the former. Polygamy to this day obtains in the cold country of Kamskatka; and in the still colder country round Hudson’s bay. In the land of Jesso, near Japan, a man may have two wives, who perform every sort of domestic drudgery. The negroes in general purchase their wives, and indulge in polygamy: and this is also law in Monomotapa. Polygamy and the purchasing wives were customary among the original inhabitants of the Canary islands, and among the people of Chili.
The low condition of women among barbarians introduced the purchasing them for wives, and consequently polygamy. The just respect paid to them among civilized nations, restored the law of nature, and confined a man to one wife. Their equality as to rank and dignity, bars the man from taking another wife, as it bars the woman from taking another husband. We find traces in ancient history of polygamy wearing out gradually. It wore out in Greece, as manners refined; but such was the influence of long habit, that though a man was confined to one wife, he was indulged in concubines without limitation. In Germany, when Tacitus wrote, very few traces remained of polygamy. “Severa illic matrimonia, nec ullam morum partem magis laudaveris: nam prope soli barbarorum singulis uxoribus contenti sunt, exceptis admodum paucis, qui non libidine, sed ob nobilitatem, plurimis nuptiis ambiuntur.”* As polygamy was in that country little practised, we may be certain the purchasing wives did not remain in vigour. And Tacitus accordingly, mentioning the general rule, “dotem non uxor marito, sed uxori maritus offert,”† explains it away by observing, that the only dos given by the bridegroom were marriage-presents, and that he at the same time received marriage-presents on the bride’s part (a) . The equality of the matrimonial engagement for the mutual benefit of husband and wife, was well understood among the Gauls. Caesar (a) says, “Viri quantas pecunias ab uxoribus dotis nomine acceperunt, tantas ex suis bonis, aestimatione facta, cum dotibus communicant. Hujus omnis pecuniae conjunctim ratio habetur, fructusque servantur. Uter eorum vita superarit, ad eum pars utriusque cum fructibus superiorum temporum pervenit.”* In Japan, and in Nicara-gua, a man can have but one wife; but he may have many concubines. In Siam, polygamy is still permitted, though the bride brings a dowry with her: but that absurdity is corrected by refined manners; it being held improper, and even disgraceful, to have more than one wife. The purchasing wives wore out of fashion among the ancient Tuscans; for it was held infamous, that marriage should be the result of any motive but mutual love. This at the same time put an end to polygamy. Polygamy was probably early eradicated among the ancient Persians; for the bride’s dowry was settled in marriage-articles, as among us. And there is the same reason for presuming, that it was not long permitted in Mexico; marriage there being solemnized by the priest, and the bride’s dower specified, which was restored in case of separation. In the countries where the Christian religion was first propagated, women were fast advancing to an equa-lity with the men, and polygamy was wearing out of fashion. The pure spirit of the gospel hastened its extinction; and though not prohibited expressly, it was however held, that Christianity is a religion too pure for polygamy.
But, as hinted above, it was by slow degrees that the female sex emerged out of slavery, to possess the elevated station they are entitled to by nature. The practice of exposing infants among the Greeks and many other nations, is an invincible proof of their depression, even after the custom ceased of purchasing them. It is wisely ordered by Providence, that the affection of a woman to her children commences with their birth; because during infancy all depends on her care. As during that period, the father is of little use to his child, his affection is but slight, till the child begin to prattle and shew some fondness for him. The exposing an infant therefore shows, that the mother was little regarded: if she had been allowed a vote, the practice never would have obtained in any country. In the first book of the Iliad, Achilles says to Agamemnon, who threatened to force from him his mistress Briseis, “Another thing I will tell thee: record it in thy soul. For a woman these hands shall never fight, with thee nor with thy foes. Come, seize Briseis: ye Argives, take the prize ye gave. But beware of other spoil, which lies stowed in my ships on the shore. I will not be plundered farther. If other be thy thoughts, Atrides, come in arms, a trial make: these very slaves of thine shall behold thy blood pouring around my spear.”* The comedies of Menander, Philemon, and Diphilus, are lost; but manners must have been little polished in their time, as far as can be conjectured from their translators or imitators, Plautus and Terence. Married women in their comedies are sometimes introduced and treated with very little respect. A man commonly vents his wrath on his wife, and scolds her as the cause of the misconduct of their children. A lady, perhaps too inquisitive about her husband’s amours, is addressed by him in the following words.
So little formerly were women regarded in England, that the benefit of clergy was not extended to them, till the days of William and Mary, when an act of parliament was made, bestowing that privilege on them.
One will not be surprised that women in Greece were treated with no great respect by their husbands. A woman cannot have much attraction who passes all her time in solitude: to be admired, she must receive the polish of society. At the same time, men of fashion were so much improved in manners, as to relish society with agreeable women, where such could be found. And hence the figure that courtezans made at that period, especially in Athens. They studied the temper and taste of the men, and endeavoured to gain their affection, by every winning art. The daily conversations they listened to, on philosophy, politics, poetry, enlightened their understanding, and improved their taste. Their houses became agreeable schools, where every one might be instructed in his own art. Socrates and Pericles met frequently at the house of Aspasia: from her they acquired delicacy of taste, and, in return, procured to her public respect and reputation. Greece at that time was governed by orators, over whom some celebrated courtezans had great influence; and by that means entered deep into the government. It was said of the famous Demosthenes, “The mea-sure he hath meditated on for a year, will be overturned in a day by a woman.” It appears accordingly from Plautus and Terence, that Athenian courtezans lived in great splendor. See in particular Heautontimoroumenos, Act 3. Scene 2.
I proceed to the other cause of polygamy, viz. opulence in a hot climate. Men there have a burning appetite for animal enjoyment; and women become old, and lose the prolific quality, at an age which carries them little beyond the prime of life in a temperate climate. These circumstances dispose men of opulence to purchase their wives, that they may not be confined to one; and purchase they must; for no man, without a valuable consideration, will surrender his daughter, to be one of many who are destined to gratify the carnal appetite of a single man. The numerous wives and concubines in Asiatic harems, are all of them purchased with money. In the hot climate of Hindostan polygamy is universal, and men buy their wives. The same obtains in China: After the price is adjusted and paid, the bride is conducted to the bridegroom’s house, locked in a sedan, and the key delivered to him: If he be not satisfied with his bargain, he sends her back, at the expence of losing the sum he paid for her: If satisfied, he feasts his male friends in one room, and she her female friends in another. A man who has little substance takes a wife for his son from an hospital, which saves him a dowry.
It has been pleaded for polygamy in warm climates, that women are fit for being married at or before the age of ten; that they are past child-bearing at twenty-five, while men are yet in the prime of life; and therefore that a second wife ought to be permitted who can bear children. Are women then created for no other purpose but procreation merely, to be laid aside as useless animals when they cease to bear children? In the hottest climates, a woman may be the mother of ten or twelve children; and are not both parents usefully employed, in rearing such a number, and fitting them to do for themselves? After this important task is performed, is not the woman well entitled, for the remainder of life, to enjoy the conjugal society of a man, to whom she dedicated the flower of her youth? But, even attending to the male sex only, without paying any regard to the other sex, it ought to be considered, that a man, by taking a second wife, prevents some other man from having any. The argument for polygamy would indeed be conclusive, were ten females born for one male, as is erroneously said to be the case in Bantam: But, as an equality of males and females is the invariable rule of Nature, the argument has no force. All men are born equal by Nature; and to permit polygamy in any degree, is to authorise some to usurp the privilege of others.
Thus, in hot climates, women remain in the same humble and dependent state, in which all women were originally, when all men were savages. As polygamy is a forced state, contradictory to nature, locks and bars are the only sure means for restraining a number of women confined to one husband. When the King of Persia, with his wives, removes from Ispachan to any of his villas, the hour of his departure, and the street through which he is to pass, are proclaimed three days before, in order that every man may keep out of the way.6 Women, by the law of Hindostan, are not admitted to be witnesses, even in a civil cause; and I blush to acknowledge that, in Scotland, the same law has not been long in disuse.
In contradiction to the climate, Christianity has banished polygamy from Ethiopia, though the judges are far from being severe upon that crime. The heat of the climate makes them wish to indulge in a plurality of wives, even at the expense of purchasing each of them. Among the Christians of Congo polygamy is in use, as formerly when they were Pagans. To be confined to one wife during life, is held by the most zealous Christians there, to be altogether irrational: Rather than be so confined, they would renounce Christianity.
Beside polygamy, many other customs depend on the nature of the matrimonial engagement, and vary according to its different kinds. Marriage-ceremonies, for that reason, vary in different countries, and at different times. Where the practice is to purchase a wife, whether among savages or among pampered people in hot climates, payment of the price completes the marriage without any other ceremony. Other ceremonies, however, are sometimes practised. In old Rome, the bride was attended to the bridegroom’s house with a female slave carrying a distaff and a spindle, importing that she ought to spin for the family. Among the savages of Canada, and of the neighbouring countries, a strap, a kettle, and a faggot, are put in the bride’s cabin, as symbols of her duty, viz. to carry burdens, to dress victuals, and to provide wood. On the other hand, the bride, in token of her slavery, takes her axe, cuts wood, bundles it up, and lays it before the door of the bridegroom’s hut. All the salutation she receives is, “It is time to go to rest.” The inhabitants of Sierra Leona, a negro country, have in all their towns a boarding-school, where young ladies are educated for a year, under the care of a venerable old gentleman. When their education is completed, they are carried in their best attire to a public assembly; which may be termed a matrimonial market, because there young men convene to make a choice. Those who fit themselves to their fancy, pay the dowry; and, over and above, gratify the old superintendant for his extraordinary care in educating the bride. In the island of Java, the bride, in token of subjection, washes the bridegroom’s feet; and this is a capital ceremony. In Russia, the bride presents to the bridegroom a bundle of rods, to be used against her when she deserves to be chastised; and at the same time she pulls off his boots. The present Empress, intent upon reforming the rude manners of her subjects, has discountenanced that ceremony among people of fashion. Very different were the manners of Peru, before the Spanish conquest. The bridegroom carried shoes to the bride, and put them on with his own hands. But there, purchasing of wives was unknown. Marriage-ceremonies in Lapland are directed by the same principle. It is the custom there for a man to make presents to his children of rain-deer; and young women, such as have a large stock of these animals, have lovers in plenty. A young man looks for such a wife, at a fair, or at a meeting for paying taxes. He carries to the house of the young woman’s parents, some of his relations; being solicitous in particular to have an eloquent speaker. They are all admitted except the lover, who must wait till he be called in. After drinking some spirits, brought along for the purpose, the spokesman addresses the father in humble terms, bowing the knee, as if he were introduced to a prince. He styles him, the worshipful father, the high and mighty father, the best and most illustrious father, &c. &c.
In viewing the chain of causes and effects, instances sometimes occur of bizarre facts, starting from the chain without any cause that can be discovered. The marriage-ceremonies among the Hottentots are of that nature. After all matters are adjusted among the old people, the young couple are shut up by themselves; and pass the night in struggling for superiority, which proves a very serious work where the bride is reluctant. If she persevere to the last without yielding, the young man is discarded; but, if he prevail, which commonly happens, the marriage is completed by another ceremony, no less singular. The men and women squat on the ground in different circles, the bridegroom in the centre of one, and the bride in the centre of another. The Suri, or master of religious ceremonies, pisses on the bridegroom; who receives the stream with eagerness, and rubs it into the furrows of the fat with which he is covered. He performs the same ceremony on the bride, who is equally respectful. The ceremonies of marriage among the present Greeks are no less bizarre. Among other particulars, the bridegroom and bride walk three rounds; during which they are kicked and cuffed heartily. Our author Tournefort adds, that he only and his companions forbore to join in the ceremony; which was ascribed to their rusticity and ignorance of polite manners.7 Marriage-ceremonies among the Kamskatkans are extremely whimsical. A young man, after making his proposals, enters into the service of his intended father-in-law. If he prove agreeable, he is admitted to the trial of the touch. The young woman is swaddled up in leathern thongs; and in that condition is put under the guard of some old women. Watching every opportunity of a slack guard, he endeavours to uncase her, in order to touch what is always the most concealed. The bride must resist, in appearance at least; and therefore cries out for her guards; who fall with fury on the bridegroom, tear his hair, scratch his face, and act in violent opposition. The attempts of the lover prove sometimes unsuccessful for months; but the moment the touch is atchieved, the bride testifies her satisfaction, by pronouncing the words Ni, Ni, with a soft and loving voice. The next night they bed together without any opposition. One marriage-ceremony among the inland negroes, is singular. As soon as preliminaries are adjusted, the bridegroom, with a number of his companions, set out at night, and surround the house of the bride, as if intending to carry her off by force. She and her female attendants, pretending to make all possible resistance, cry aloud for help, but no person appears. This resembles strongly a marriage-ceremony that is or was customary in Wales. On the morning of the wedding-day, the bridegroom, accompanied with his friends on horseback, demands the bride. Her friends, who are likewise on horseback, give a positive refusal, upon which a mock scuffle ensues. The bride, mounted behind her nearest kinsman, is carried off, and is pursued by the bridegroom and his friends, with loud shouts. It is not uncommon on such an occasion to see two or three hundred sturdy Cambro-Britons riding at full speed, cross-ing and jostling, to the no small amusement of the spectators. When they have fatigued themselves and their horses, the bridegroom is suffered to overtake his bride. He leads her away in triumph, and the scene is concluded with feasting and festivity. The same marriage-ceremony was usual in Muscovy, Lithuania, and Livonia, as reported by Olaus Magnus (a) .
Divorce also depends on the nature of the matrimonial engagement. Where the law is, that a man must purchase his wife as one does a slave, it follows naturally, that he may purchase as many as he can pay for, and that he may turn them off at his pleasure. This law is universal, without a single exception. The Jews, who purchased their wives, were privileged to divorce them, without being obliged to assign a cause (b) . The negroes purchase their wives, and turn them off when they think proper. The same law obtains in China, in Monomotapa, in the isthmus of Darien, in Caribeana, and even in the cold country round Hudson’s bay. All the savages of South America who live near the Oroonoko, purchase as many wives as they can maintain; and divorce them without ceremony.
Very different is a matrimonial engagement between equals, where a dowry is contracted with the bride. The nature of the engagement implies, that neither of them should dismiss the other, without a just cause. In Mexico, where the bride brought a dowry, there could be no divorce but by mutual consent. In Lapland, the women who have a stock of rain-deer, as above mentioned, make a considerable figure. This lays a foundation for a matrimonial covenant as among us, which bars polygamy, and consequently divorce, without a just cause. And, when these are barred in several instances, the prohibition in time becomes general.
I proceed to adultery, the criminality of which depends also in some measure on the nature of the matrimonial engagement. Where wives are purchased, and polygamy is indulged, adultery can scarce be reckoned a crime in the husband; and, where there are a plurality of wives, sound sense makes it but a venial crime in any of them. But, as men are the lawgivers, the punishment of female adultery, where polygamy takes place, is generally too severe. It is, however, more or less severe in different countries, in proportion as the men are more or less prone to revenge. The Chinese are a mild people, and depend more on locks and bars for preventing adultery, than on severity; the punishment being only to sell an adulteress for a slave. The same law obtains in the kingdom of Laos, bordering upon China. An adulteress among the ancient Egyptians was punished with the loss of her nose. In ancient Greece, a pecuniary penalty was inflicted on an adulterer (a) . An adulteress was probably punished more severely. Among the negroes, who have very little delicacy, adultery is but slightly punished; except in the kingdom of Benin. There, an adulteress, after a severe whipping, is banished; and the adulterer forfeits his goods, which are bestowed on the injured husband. Among the ancient Germans, a grave and virtuous people, adultery was rare. An adulteress was deprived of her hair, expelled from her husband’s house, and whipped through the village (b) . In Japan, where the people are remarkably fierce, female adultery is always punished with death. In Tonquin, a woman guilty of adultery is thrown to an elephant to be destroyed. By the law of Moses, an adulteress is punished with death, as also the adulterer (c) . Margaret of Burgundy, Queen to Lewis Hutin King of France, was hanged for adultery; and her lovers were fleaed alive. Such were the savage manners of those times. There is an old law in Wales, that, for defiling the Prince’s bed, the offender must pay a rod of pure gold, of the thickness of the finger of a ploughman who has ploughed nine years, and in length from the ground to the Prince’s mouth when sitting.
Matrimony between a single pair, for mutual comfort, and for procreating children, implies the strictest mutual fidelity. Adultery, however, is a deeper crime in the wife than in the husband: in him it may happen occasionally, with little or no alienation of affection; but the superior modesty of the female sex is such, that a wife does not yield, till unlawful love prevails, not only over modesty, but over duty to her husband. Adultery, therefore, in the wife, is a breach of the matrimonial engagement in a double respect: it is an alienation of affection from the husband, which unqualifies her to be his friend and companion; and it tends to bring a spurious issue into the family, betraying the husband to maintain and educate children who are not his own.
The gradual advance of the female sex to an equality with the male sex, is visible in the laws of female succession that have been established at different times, and in different countries. It is not probable that, in any country, women were early admitted to inherit land: they are too much despised among savages, for so valuable a privilege. The fierceness and brutality of the ancient Romans in particular unqualified the women to be their companions: it never entered their thoughts that women should inherit land, which they cannot defend by the sword. But women came to be regarded in proportion as the national manners refined. The law prohibiting female succession in land, esta-blished in days of rusticity, was held to be rigorous and unjust when the Romans were more polished. Proprietors of land, such of them as had no sons, were disposed to evade the law, by ample provisions to their daughters, which rendered the land of little value to the collateral heir-male. To reform that abuse, as termed by those who adhered to ancient customs, the lex Voconia was made, confining such provisions within moderate bounds: and this regulation continued in force, till regard for the female sex broke through every legal restraint, and established female succession in land, as formerly in moveables.* The barbarous nations who crush-ed the Roman power, were not late in adopting the mild manners of the conquered: they admitted women to inherit land, and they exacted a double composition for injuries done to them. By the Salic law among the Franks, women were expressly prohibited to inherit land: but we learn from the forms of Marculfus, that this prohibition was in time eluded by the following solemnity. The man who wanted to put his daughter upon a footing with his sons, carried her before the commissary, saying, “My dear child, an ancient and impious custom bars a young woman from succeeding to her father: but, as all my children are equally given me by God, I ought to love them equally; therefore, my dear child, my will is, that my effects shall divide equally between you and your brethren.” In polished states, women are not excluded from succeeding even to the crown. Russia and Britain afford examples of wo-men capable to govern, in an absolute as well as in a limited monarchy.*
What I have said regards those nations only where polygamy is prohibited. I take it for granted, that women are not admitted to inherit land where polygamy is lawful: they are not in such estimation as to be entitled to a privilege so illustrious.
Among the Hurons in North America, where the regal dignity is hereditary, and great regard paid to the royal family, the succession is continued through females, in order to preserve the royal blood untainted. When the chief dies, his son succeeds not, but his sister’s son; who certainly is of the royal blood, whoever be the father: and, when the royal family is at an end, a chief is elected by the noblest matron of the tribe. The same rule of succession obtains among the Natches, a people bordering on the Mississippi; it being an article in their creed, That their royal family are children of the sun. On the same belief was founded a law in Peru, appointing the heir of the crown to marry his sister; which, equally with the law mentioned, preserved the blood of the sun in the royal family, and did not incroach so much upon the natural order of succession.
Female succession depends in some degree on the nature of the government. In Holland, all the children, male and female, succeed equally. The Hollanders live by commerce, which women are capable of as well as men. Land at the same time is so scanty in that country, as to render it impracticable to raise a family by engrossing a great estate in land; and there is nothing but the ambition of raising a family, that can move a man to prefer one of his children before the rest. The same law obtains in Hamburgh, for the same reasons. Extensive estates in land support great families in Britain, a circumstance unfavourable to younger children. But probably in London, and in other great trading towns, mercantile men provide against the law, by making a more equal distribution of their effects among their children.
After transversing a great part of the globe with painful industry, would not one be apt to conclude, that originally females were every where despised, as they are at present among the savages of America; that wives, like slaves, were procured by barter; that polygamy was universal; and that divorce depended on the whim of the husband? But no sort of reasoning is more fallible, than the drawing general conclusions from particular facts. The northern nations of Europe, as appears from the foregoing sketch, must be excepted from these conclusions. Among them, women were from the beginning courted and honoured, nor was polygamy ever known among them.8
We proceed now to a capital article in the progress of the female sex; which is, to trace the different degrees of restraint imposed upon married women in different countries, and at different times in the same country; and to assign the causes of these differences. Where luxury is unknown, and where people have no wants but what are suggested by uncorrupted nature; men and women live together with great freedom, and with great innocence. In Greece anciently, even young women of rank ministered to men in bathing.
Men and women among the Spartans bathed promiscuously, and wrestled together stark naked. Tacitus reports, that the Germans had not even separate beds, but lay promiscuously upon reeds or heath a-long the walls of the house. The same custom prevails even at present among the temperate Highlanders of Scotland; and is not quite worn out in New England. A married woman is under no confinement, because no man thinks of an act so irregular as to attempt her chastity. In the Caribbee islands, adultery was unknown, till European Christians made settlements there. At the same time, there scarce can be any fewel for jealousy, where men purchase their wives, put them away at pleasure, and even lend them to a friend. But when, by ripening sensibility, a man feels pleasure in his wife’s attachment to him, jealousy commences; jealousy of a rival in her affections. Jealousy accordingly is a symptom of increasing esteem for the female sex; and that passion is visibly creeping in among the natives of Virginia. It begins to have a real foundation, when inequality of rank and of riches takes place. Men of opulence study pleasure: married women become objects of a corrupted taste; and often fall a sacrifice, where morals are imperfect, and the climate an incentive to animal love. Greece is a delicious country, the people handsome; and when the ancient Greeks made the greatest figure, they were miserably defective in morals. They became jealous of rivals; which prompted them, according to the rough manners of those times, to exclude women from society with men. Their women accordingly were never seen in public; and, if my memory serve me, an accidental interview of a man and a woman on the public street brings on the catastrophe in a Greek tragedy. In Hecuba, a tragedy of Euripides, the Queen excuses herself for declining to visit Polymestor, saying, “that it is indecent for a woman to look a man in the face.” In the Electra of Sophocles, Antigoné is permitted by her mother Jocasta to take a view of the Argian army from a high tower: an old man who accompanies her, being alarmed at seeing some females pass that way, and afraid of censure, prays Antigoné to retire; “for,” says he, “women are prone to detraction; and to them the merest trifle is a fruitful subject of conversation.”* Spain is a country that scarce yields to Greece in fineness of climate; and the morals of its people in the dark ages of Christianity, were not more pure than those of Greece. By a law of the Visigoths in Spain, a surgeon was prohibited to take blood from a free woman, except in presence of her husband, or nearest relations. By the Salic law (a) , he who squeezes the hand of a free woman shall pay a fine of fifteen golden shillings. In the fourteenth century, it was a rule in France, that no married woman ought to admit a man to visit her in absence of her husband. Female chastity must at that time have been extremely feeble, when so little trust was reposed in the fair sex.
To treat women in that manner, may possibly be necessary, where they are in request for no end but to gratify animal love. But, where they are intended for the more elevated purposes of being friends and companions, as well as affec-tionate mothers, a very different treatment is proper. Locks and spies will never answer; for these tend to debase their minds, to corrupt their morals, and to render them contemptible. By gradual openings in the more delicate senses, particularly in all the branches of the moral sense, chastity, one of these branches, acquires a commanding influence over females; and becomes their ruling principle. In that refined state, women are trusted with their own conduct, and may safely be trusted: they make delicious companions, and uncorruptible friends; and that such at present is generally their case in Britain, I am bold to affirm. Anne of Britanny, wife to Charles VIII. and to Lewis XII. Kings of France, introduced the fashion of ladies appearing publicly at court. This fashion was introduced much later in England: even down to the Revolution, women of rank never appeared in the streets without a mask. In Scotland, the veil, or plaid, continued long in fashion, with which every woman of rank was covered when she went abroad. That fashion has not been laid aside above forty years. In I-taly, women were much longer confined than in France; and in Spain the indulging them with some liberty is but creeping into fashion. In Abyssinia, polygamy is prohibited; and married women of fashion have by custom obtained the privilege of visiting their friends, though not much with the good-will of many husbands.
It were to be wished, that a veil could be drawn over the following part of their history. The growth of luxury and sensuality, undermining every moral principle, renders both sexes equally dissolute: wives in that case deserve to be again locked up; but the time of such severity is past. In that case, indeed, it becomes indecent for the two sexes to bathe promiscuously. Men in Rome, copying the Greeks, plunged together in the same bath; and in time men and women did the same (a) . Hadrian prohibited that indecent custom. Marcus Antoninus renewed the prohibition; and Alexander Severus, a second time: but to so little purpose, that even the primitive Christians made no difficulty to follow the custom: such appetite there is for being nudus cum nuda, when justified by fashion. This custom withstood even the thunder of general councils; and was not dropt till people became more decent.
In days of innocence, when chastity is the ruling passion of the female sex, we find great frankness in external behaviour; for women above suspicion are little solicitous about appearances. At the same period, and for the same reason, we find great looseness in writing; witness the Queen of Navarre’s tales. In the capital of France, at present, chastity, far from being practised, is scarce admitted to be a female virtue. But people who take much freedom in private, are extremely circumspect in public: no indecent expression nor insinuation is admitted, even into their plays or other writings. In England, the women are less corrupted than in France; and for that reason are not so scrupulous with respect to decency in writing.
Hitherto of the female sex in temperate climes, where polygamy is prohibited. Very different is their condition in hot climes, which inflame animal love in both sexes equally. In the hot regions of Asia, where polygamy is indulged, and wives are purchased for gratifying the carnal appetite merely, it is vain to think of restraining them otherwise than by locks and bars, after having once tasted enjoyment. Where polygamy is indulged, the body is the only object of jealousy, not the mind, as there can be no mutual affection between a man and his instruments of sensual pleasure. And, if women be so little virtuous as not to be safely trusted with their own conduct, they ought to be locked up; for there is no just medium between absolute confinement and absolute freedom. The Chinese are so jealous of their wives, as even to lock them up from their relations; and, so great is their diffidence of the female sex in general, that brothers and sisters are not permitted to converse together. When women go abroad, they are shut up in a close sedan, into which no eye can penetrate. The intrigues carried on by the wives of the Chinese Emperor, and the jealousy that reigns among them, render them unhappy. But luckily, as women are little regarded where polygamy is indulged, their ambition and intrigues give less disturbance to the government, than in the courts of European princes. The ladies of Hindostan cover their heads with a gauze veil, even at home, which they lay not aside except in company of their nearest relations. A Hindoo buys his wife; and the first time he is permitted to see her without a veil is after marriage, in his own house. In several hot countries, women are put under the guard of eunuchs, as an additional security; and black eunuchs are commonly preferred for their ugliness. But, as a woman, deprived of the society of men, is apt to be inflamed even with the appearance of a man, some jealous nations, refining upon that circumstance, employ old maids, termed duennas, for guarding their women. In the city of Moka, in Arabia Felix, women of fashion never appear on the streets in day-light; but it is a proof of manners refined above those in neighbouring countries, that they are permitted to visit one another in the evening. If they find men in their way, they draw aside to let them pass. A French surgeon being called by one of the King of Ye-man’s chief officers, to cure a rheumatism which had seized two of his wives, was permitted to handle the parts affected; but he could not get a sight of their faces.
I proceed to examine more minutely the manners of women, as resulting from the degree of restraint they are under in different countries. In the warm regions of Asia, where polygamy is indulged, the education of young women is extremely loose, being intended solely for animal pleasure. They are accomplished in such graces and allurements as tend to inflame the sensual appetite: they are taught vocal and instrumental music, with various dances that cannot stand the test of decency: but no culture is bestowed on the mind, no moral instruction, no improvement of the rational faculties; because such education, which qualifies them for being virtuous companions to men of sense, would inspire them with abhorrence at the being made prostitutes. In a word, so corrupted are they by vicious education, as to be unfit objects of any desire but what is merely sensual. Asiatic wives are not trusted even with the management of household affairs, which would afford opportunities for infidelity. In Persia, says Chardin, the ladies are not permitted, more than children, to choose a gown for themselves: no lady knows in the morning what she is to wear that day. The education of young women in Hindostan is less indecent. They are not taught music nor dancing, which are reckoned fit only for ladies of pleasure: they are taught all the graces of external behaviour, particularly to converse with spirit and elegance: they are taught also to sew, to embroider, and to dress with taste. Writing is neglected; but they are taught to read, that they may have the consolation of studying the Alcoran; which they never open, nor could understand if they did. Notwithstanding such care in educating Hindostan females, their confinement in a seraglio renders their manners extremely loose: the most refined luxury of sense, with idleness, or with reading love-tales still worse than idleness, cannot fail to vitiate the minds of persons deprived of liberty, and to prepare them for every sort of intemperance. The wives and concubines of grandees in Constantinople are permitted sometimes to walk abroad for air and exercise. A foreigner stumbling accidentally on a knot of them, about forty in number, attended with black eunuchs, was in the twinkling of an eye seized by a brisk girl, with the rest at her heels: she accosted him with loose amorous expressions, attempting at the same time to expose his nakedness. Neither threats nor intreaties availed him against such vigorous assailants; nor could the vehemence of their curiosity be moderated, by representing the shame of a behaviour so grossly immodest. An old Janizary, standing at a little distance, was amazed: his Mahometan bashfulness would not suffer him to lay hands upon women; but, with a Stentorian voice, he roared to the black eunuchs, that they were guardians of prostitutes, not of modest women; urging them to free the man from such harpies:—All in vain (a) .
Very different are female manners in temperate climes, where polygamy is prohibited, and women are treated as rational beings. These manners, however, depend in some measure on the nature of the government. As many hands are at once employed in the different branches of republican government, and a still greater number by rotation; the males, who have little time to spare from public business, feel nothing of that languor and weariness which to the idle make the most frivolous amusements welcome. Married women live retired at home, managing family-affairs, as their husbands do those of the state: whence it is, that simplicity of manners is more the tone of a republic, than of any other government. Such were the manners of the female sex during the flourishing periods of the Greek and Roman commonwealths; and such are their manners in Switzerland and in Holland.
There will be occasion afterward, to display an important revolution in manners, resulting from chivalry (b) . One branch of it must be handled at present, that which concerns the intercourse between the sexes. The Crusades were what first gave a turn to the fierce manners of our ancestors. The combatants, fighting more for glory than for revenge or interest, be-came eminent for magnanimity and heroism. After so active a life abroad, they could not bear idleness at home, especially when there was such a demand for their prowess. Europe had never been worse governed than at that period: dissension and discord were universal; and every chieftain bore deadly feud against his neighbours. Revenge was the ruling passion, which was licentiously indulged, without the least regard to justice. The heroes who had signalized themselves abroad, endeavoured to acquire fame at home: they entered into bonds of chivalry, for redressing wrongs, and protecting widows and orphans. An object so noble and humane, tempered courage with mildness, and magnanimity with courtesy. The protection given to widows and orphans improved benevolence; and female beauty, which makes the deepest impression on the benevolent, came to be the capital object of protection. Each knight took under his peculiar care the beauty that inflamed him the most; and each knight was disposed to elevate the goddess of his heart above all rival beauties. In his heated imagination, she was perfection without frailty, a paragon of nature. Emulation for the fame of a beloved object has no bounds, because there is nothing selfish in it: she is exalted into a sort of divinity: the lover descends to be a humble votary. And mark, that devotion to a visible deity always flames the highest. This connection, which reverses the order of nature, by elevating women far above men, produced an artificial sort of gallantry, that was carried to extravagance: the language of devotion became that of love, and all was bombast and unnatural. Chastity, however, was a gainer by this mode of love: it became necessarily the ruling principle, to be preserved in purity without spot or blemish; possession dissolves the charm; for, after surrendering all to a lover, a female cannot hope to maintain her angelic character a moment.9 Duke John de Bourbonnois, anno 1414, caused it to be proclaimed, that he intended an expedition to England with sixteen knights, in order to combat the like number of English knights, for glorifying the beautiful angel he worshipped. Instances of this kind, without number, stand upon record. René, styled King of Sicily and Jerusalem, observes, in writing upon tournaments, that they are highly useful in furnishing opportunities to young knights and esquires to display their prowess before their mistresses. He adds, “that every ceremony regarding tournaments is contrived to honour the ladies. It belongs to them to inspect the arms of the combatants, and to distribute the rewards. A knight or esquire who defames any one of them, is beat and bruised till the injured lady condescend to intercede for him.” Remove a female out of her proper sphere, and it is easy to convert her into a male. James IV. of Scotland, in all tournaments, professed himself knight to Anne Queen of France. She summoned him to prove himself her true and valorous champion, by taking the field in her defence against Henry VIII. of England. And, according to the romantic gallantry of that age, the Queen’s summons was thought to have been James’s chief motive for declaring war against his brother-in-law. The famous Gaston de Foix, general of the French at the battle of Ravenna, rode from rank to rank, calling by name several officers, and even private men, recommending to them their country and their honour; adding, “that he would see what they would perform for love of their mistresses.” During the civil wars in France, when love and gallantry were carried to a high pitch, Monsieur de Chatillon, ready to engage in a battle, tied round his arm a garter of Mademoiselle de Guerchi his mistress. De Liques and d’Etrees were both suitors to Mademoiselle de Fouquerolles for marriage. De Liques prevailed, and the marriage-day was fixed. But that very day, he was taken prisoner by his rival in a battle anno 1525. The lady wrote a letter to d’Etrees, demanding her husband; and d’Etrees instantly sent him to her without even demanding a ransom.*10
In peaceable times, the sovereign power having acquired more authority, the ne-cessity of private protection ceased. But the accustomed spirit of gallantry did not cease. It could not, however, subsist forever against nature and common sense: it subsided by degrees into mutual affability and politeness, such as ought always to obtain between the sexes. But observe, that, after a most intimate connection, matters could not fall back to the former decency and reserve. The intimate connection remained; and a more substantial gallantry took place, not always innocent. This change of manners was first visible in monarchy. Monarchy employs but a few hands; and those who are not occupied in public affairs, find leisure for gallantry and for desires that are easily gratified. Women of rank, on the other hand, laid open to corruption by opulence and superficial education, are more ambitious to captivate the eye than the judgment; and are fonder of lovers than of friends. Where a man and a woman thus prepared meet together, they soon grow particular: the man is idle, the woman frank; and both equally addicted to pleasure.11 Unlawful commerce between the sexes becoming thus common, high gallantry vanishes of course: the bombast style appears ridiculous, and the sensual appetite is gratified with very little ceremony. Nothing of love remains but the name; and, as animal enjoyment without love is a very low pleasure, it soon sinks into disgust when confined to one object. What is not found in one, is fondly expected in another; and the imagination, roving from object to object, finds no gratification but in variety. An attachment to a woman of virtue or of talents, appears absurd: true love is laughed out of countenance; and men degenerate into brutes. Women, on the other hand, regarding nothing but sensual enjoyment, become so careless of their infants, as even, without blushing, to employ mercenary nurses.* In Persia, it is a common practice among women of fashion to use drugs that cause abortion; because after pregnancy is advanced, the husband attaches himself to other women, it being held indecent to touch a woman who is pregnant.12 Such a course of life cannot fail to sink them into contempt: marriages are dissolved as soon as contracted; and the state is frustrated of that improvement in morals and manners, which is the never-failing product of virtuous love. A state enriched by conquest or commerce, declines gradually into luxury and sensual pleasure: manners are corrupted, decency banished, and chastity becomes a mere name. What a scene of rank and dissolute pleasure is exhibited in the courts of Alexander’s successors, and in those of the Roman emperors!
Gratitude to my female readers, if I shall be honoured with any, prompts me to conclude this sketch with a scene, that may afford them instruction, and cannot fail of being agreeable; which is, the figure a woman is fitted for making in the matrimonial state, where polygamy is excluded. Matrimony among savages, having no object but propagation and slavery, is a very humbling state for the female sex: but delicate organization, great sensibility, lively imagination, with sweetness of temper above all, qualify women for a more dignified society with men; which is, to be their companions and bosom-friends. In the common course of European education, young women are trained to make an agreeable figure, and to behave with decency and propriety: very little culture is bestowed on the head; and still less on the heart, if it be not the art of hiding passion. Such education is far from seconding the purpose of nature, that of making women fit companions for men of sense. Due cultivation of the female mind would add greatly to the happiness of the males, and still more to that of the females. Time runs on; and when youth and beauty vanish, a fine lady, who never entertained a thought into which an admirer did not enter, surrenders herself now to discontent and peevishness. A woman, on the contrary, who has merit, improved by virtuous and refined education, retains in her decline an influence over the men, more flattering than even that of beauty: she is the delight of her friends, as formerly of her admirers.
Admirable would be the effects of such refined education, contributing no less to public good than to private happiness. A man, who at present must degrade himself into a fop or a coxcomb in order to please the women, would soon discover, that their favour is not to be gained but by exerting every manly talent in public and in private life; and the two sexes, instead of corrupting each other, would be rivals in the race of virtue. Mutual esteem would be to each a school of urbanity; and mutual desire of pleasing, would give smoothness to their behaviour, delicacy to their sentiments, and tenderness to their passions.
Married women in particular, destined by nature to take the lead in educating children, would no longer be the greatest obstruction to good education, by their ignorance, frivolity, and disorderly manners. Even upon the breast, infants are susceptible of impressions;* and the mother hath opportunities without end of instilling into them good principles, before they are fit for a male tutor. Coriolanus, who made a capital figure in the Roman republic, never returned from war without meriting marks of distinction. Others behaved valiantly, in order to acquire glory: he behaved valiantly, in order to give pleasure to his mother. The delight she took in hearing him praised, and her weeping for joy in his embraces, made him in his own opinion the happiest person in the universe. Epaminondas accounted it his greatest felicity, that his father and mother were still alive to behold his conduct, and enjoy his victory at Leuctra. In a Latin dialogue about the causes that corrupted the Roman eloquence, injudiciously ascribed to Tacitus, because obviously it is not his style, the method of education in Rome, while it flourished as a commonwealth, is described in a lively manner. I shall endeavour to give the sense in English, because it chiefly concerns the fair sex. “In that age, children were suckled, not in the hut of a mercenary nurse, but by the chaste mother who bore them. Their education during nonage was in her hands; and it was her chief care to instil into them every virtuous principle. In her presence, a loose word or an improper action, were strictly prohibited. She superintended, not only their serious studies, but even their amusements; which were conducted with decency and moderation. In that manner the Gracchi, educated by Cornelia their mother, and Augustus, by Attia his mother, appeared in public with untainted minds; fond of glory, and prepared to make a figure in the world.” In the expedition of the illustrious Bertrand du Guesclin against Peter the Cruel, King of Castile, the governor of a town, summoned to give it up, made the following answer, “That they might be conquered, but would never tamely yield; that their fathers had taught them to prefer a glorious death before a dishonourable life; and that their mothers had not only educated them in these sentiments, but were ready to put in practice the lessons they had inculcated.” During the civil wars in France between the Catholics and Protestants, Bari, governor of Leucate, having fallen by surprise into the hands of the Catholics, wrote from prison to his spouse Constance Cezelli not to surrender even though they should threaten to put him to death. The besiegers brought him within her sight; and threatened to massacre him if she did not instantly open the gates. She offered for his ransom her children and all she had in the world—but that the town belonged to the King, and was not at her disposal. Would one think it possible, that any man ever did exist so brutal as to put her husband to death? Yet this was done in cold blood.13 Let the most profound politician say, what more efficacious incentive there can be to virtue and manhood, than the behaviour of the Spartan matrons, flocking to the temples, and thanking the gods that their husbands and sons had died gloriously, fighting for their country. In the war between Lacedemon and Thebes, the Lacedemonians having behaved ill, the married men, as Plutarch reports, were so ashamed of themselves, that they durst not look their wives in the face. What a glorious prize is here exhibited, to be contended for by the female sex!
By such refined education, love would take on a new form, that which nature inspires, for making us happy, and for softening the distresses of chance: it would fill deliciously the whole soul with tender amity, and mutual confidence. The union of a worthy man with a frivolous woman, can never, with all the advantages of fortune, be made comfortable: how different the union of a virtuous pair, who have no aim but to make each other happy! Between such a pair emulation is reversed, by an ardent desire in each to be surpassed by the other.
Rousseau, in his treatise of Education, affirms, that convents are no better than schools of coquettery; and that among Protestants, women make better wives and more tender mothers than among Roman Catholics; for which, says he, no reason can be given but convent-education, which is universal among the latter. He then goes on in the following words: “Pour aimer la vie paisible et domestique il faut la connoître; il faut en avoir senti les douceurs des l’enfance. Ce n’est que dans la maison paternelle qu’on prend du goût pour sa propre maison, et toute femme que sa mere n’a point elevée n’aimera point elever ses enfans. Malheureusement il n’y a plus d’education privée dans les grandes villes. La societé y est si generale et si melée qu’il ne reste plus d’asile pour la retraite, et qu’on est en public jusques chez soi. A force de vivre avec tout le monde en n’a plus de famille, à peine connoît-on ses parens; on les voit en etrangers, et la simplicité des moeurs domestiques s’eteint avec la douce familiarité qui en faisoit le charme. C’est ainsi qu’on suce avec le lait le gout des plaisirs du siècle et des maximes qu’on y voit regner.” Rousseau, Emile.14
Cultivation of the female mind, is not of great importance in a republic, where men pass little of their time with women. Such cultivation, where polygamy is indulged, would to them be a deep misfortune, by opening their eyes to their miserable condition. But in an opulent monarchy, where polygamy is prohibited, female education is of high importance; not singly with respect to private happiness, but with respect to the society in general.
[(a) ]Elements of Criticism, vol. 1. p. 112. edit. 5.
[* ]Some Iroquois, after seeing all the beauties of Paris, admired nothing but the street De la Houchette, where they found a constant supply of eatables.
[(b) ]Elements of Criticism, chap. 25.
[(a) ]Elements of Criticism, vol. 1. p. 163. edit. 5.
[(b) ]Elements of Criticism, vol. 2. pp. 184. 284. edit. 5.
[(a) ]Elements of Criticism, chap. 2. part 2.
[11. ]“The same Cicero . . . to the polished”: added in 2nd edition.
[12. ]“Pope Gregory the . . . for sterling wit”: added in 2nd edition.
[13. ]“The rock (i.e., Christ) gave the crown to Peter, and Peter gives it to Rudolf.”
[14. ]Paragraph added in 2nd edition.
[(a) ]Father Paul’s history of Trent, lib. 1. [[Fra Paolo Sarpi’s Istoria del Concilio Tridentino.]]
[(b) ][[Essai sur l’histoire générale, Chap. 78.]]
[15. ]The 1st edition adds: “By no audience in the neighbouring kingdoms, would the following passage in one of Dryden’s plays have been endured. ‘Jack Sauce! if I say it is a tragedy, it shall be a tragedy in spite of you: teach your grandam how to piss.’ These plays are full of such coarse stuff, and yet continued favourites down to the Revolution. For a long time after the revival of the arts and sciences, Lucan was ranked above Virgil by every critic.”
[(a) ]Vol. 1. p. 244. edit. 5.
[16. ]“Our celebrated poet . . . light as before”: added in 2nd edition.
[17. ]“Ill-fated Shakespeare! . . . in later times”: added in 2nd edition.
[18. ]Epilogue to Part II of The Conquest of Granada by the Spaniards, ll. 1–18.
[19. ]Paragraph added in 2nd edition.
[20. ]Voltaire criticizes Camoens in the Essai sur la poèsie épique.
[(a) ]Elements of Criticism, chap. 22.
[21. ]“At the meeting . . . gardening alone excepted”: added in 2nd edition.
[* ]No nation equals the French in dress, household furniture, watches, snuff-boxes, and in toys of every kind. The Italians have always excelled in architecture and painting, the English in gardening. How are such national differences to be explained? A nation, like an individual, may be disposed to grand objects, which swell the mind. A nation, like an individual, may relish things neat, pretty, and elegant. And if a taste of any kind happen once to prevail among men of figure, it soon turns general. The verdure of the fields in England invites a polishing hand.
[(a) ]Chap. 25.
[22. ]“Gardening has made . . . of concordant parts”: added in 2nd edition.
[(a) ]Odyssey, b. 8.
[(b) ]Tusculan Questions, lib. 4. N° 3. & 4.
[(c) ]Lib. 4.
[(d) ]Lib. 15. cap. 9.
[23. ]“The Bards sang to the sweet strains of the lyre the valorous deeds of famous men composed in heroic verse.”
[* ]The first seal that a young Greenlander catches is made a feast for the family and neighbours. The young champion, during the repast, descants upon his address in catching the animal: the guests admire his dexterity, and extol the flavour of the meat. Their only music is a sort of drum, which accompanies a song in praise of seal-catching, in praise of their ancestors, or in welcoming the sun’s return to them. Here are the rudiments of the bard-profession. The song is made for a chorus, as many of our ancient songs are. Take the following example:
The bard sings the first and third lines, accompanying it with his drum, and with a sort of dance. The other lines, termed the burden of the song, are sung by the guests.
[(a) ]Sketch 6. Progress of Manners.
[(b) ]De Moribus Germanorum, cap. 2.
[(c) ]See Elements of Criticism, vol. 2. Appendix, article 33.
[* ]The multitude are struck with what is new and splendid, but seldom continue long in a wrong taste. Voltaire holds it to be a strong testimony for the Gierusaleme Liberata, that even the gondoliers in Venice have it mostly by heart; and that one no sooner pronounces a stanza than another carries it on. Ossian has the same testimony in his favour: there are not many highlanders, even of the lowest rank, but can repeat long passages out of his works.
[* ]Low people to this day tell their story in dialogue, as ancient writers did, and for the same reason. They relate things as they saw and heard them. [[Note added in 2nd edition.]]
[(a) ]See Elements of Criticism, chap. 22.
[(a) ]Ruth i. 8.–iv. 16.
[(a) ]1 Kings, i. 11.–49.
[* ]The Pilgrim’s Progress, and Robinson Crusoe, great favourites of the vulgar, are composed in a style, enlivened like that of Homer, by a proper mixture of the dramatic and narrative; and upon that account, chiefly, have been translated into several European languages.
[(a) ]Cicero de Oratore, lib. 2. N° 5.
[* ]Euripides, in his Phoenicians, introduces Oedipus, under sentence of banishment, and blind, calling for his staff, his daughter Antigone putting it in his hand, and directing every step, to keep him from stumbling. Such minute circumstances, like what are frequent in Richardson’s novels, tend indeed to make the reader conceive himself to be a spectator (b) : but whether that advantage be not more than overbalanced by the languor of a creeping narrative, may be justly doubted.
[* ]The following passage, copied from an Edinburgh news-paper, may almost rival this eloquent piece. After observing that the frost was intense, which, says the writer, renders travelling very dangerous either in town or country, he proceeds thus: “We would therefore recommend it to shopkeepers, and those whose houses are close upon the streets or lanes, to scatter ashes opposite to their doors, as it may be a means of preventing passengers from falling, which they are in great danger of doing at present, from the slippiness of the streets, where that practice is not followed.”
[24. ]“There was not . . . Abbé St. Real”: added in 2nd edition.
[* ]Eloquence is necessary to those only who request, not to those who command. The Spartans, a bold and firm people, were decisive in their resolutions, and of few words; whence the laconic style. Take a modern instance of that style. In the year 1487, causes of discontent arising between O’Neal and Tirconnel, two Irish chieftains, the former wrote to the latter, “Send me tribute, or else.” The latter answered, “I owe you none, and if.”
[25. ]Paragraph added in 2nd edition.
[26. ]Paragraph added in 2nd edition.
[(a) ]Chap. 13.
[27. ]In the 1st edition the paragraph ends: “Had the works of Menander and of his cotemporaries been preserved, they probably would have explained the mystery; which for want of that light will probably remain a mystery for ever.”
[(a) ][[Thomas Parnell, Essay on the life and writings of Homer.]]
[(a) ]Book 6.
[(a) ]Book 6.
[(b) ]Book 14.
[(a) ]Elements of Criticism, vol. 1. p. 232. edit. 5.
[28. ]“A useful art . . . love of novelty”: added in 2nd edition. In 1st edition: “An art, in its progress towards maturity, is greatly promoted by emulation; and after arriving at maturity, its downfal is not less promoted by it. It is difficult to judge of perfection but by comparison; and an artist, ambitious to outstrip his predecessors, cannot submit to be an imitator, but must strike out something new, which in an art advanced to ripeness, seldom fails to be a degeneracy. This cause of the decline of the fine arts, I shall endeavour to illustrate by various instances.”
[29. ]“And in the nature of things, that which is cultivated with the highest zeal advances to the highest perfection; but it is difficult to continue to the point of perfection, and naturally that which cannot advance must recede.”
[(a) ]Elements of Criticism, vol. 1. p. 206. edit. 5.
[30. ]In the 1st edition the paragraph continues: “Music among the Greeks limited itself to the employment to which it is destin’d by nature, viz. to be the handmaid of sense, to enforce, enliven, or sweeten, a sentiment. In the Italian opera the mistress is degraded to be the handmaid; and harmony triumphs, with very little regard to sentiment” [1:53].
[* ]Corelli excels in combining harmony with melody. His melody could not be richer without impoverishing his harmony; nor his harmony richer without impoverishing his melody.
[31. ]“And prays that amid the timorous herds a foaming boar may be granted to his vows or a tawny lion come down from the mountains”: Virgil, Aeneid, bk. IV, ll. 158–59.
[* ]No person will suspect that under this censure is comprehended the celebrated Metastasio.
[32. ]This and the preceding two paragraphs added in 2nd edition.
[(a) ]Pensieri diversi, lib. 10. cap. 23.
[* ]“We may reckon among the composers of the moderns James King of Scotland, who not only composed sacred songs, but was himself the inventor of a new style of music, plaintive and pathetic, different from all others. In this manner of composition, he has been imitated in our times by Carlo Gesualdo Prince of Venosa, who has illustrated that style of music with new and wonderful invention.”
[33. ]“Second to none in the glory of the songs of the Father.”
[* ]A singular persecution was carried on by Pope Gregory, most improperly surnamed the Great, against the works of Cicero, Titus Livius, and Cornelius Tacitus, which in every corner of Christendom were publicly burnt; and from that time, there has not been seen a complete copy of any of these authors. This happened in the sixth century: so soon had the Romans fallen from the perfection of taste and knowledge to the most humbling barbarity. Nor was that the only persecution of books on the score of religion. Many centuries before, a similar instance happened in China, directed by a foolish emperor. The Alexandrian library was twice consumed by fire, once in the time of Julius Caesar, and once in the time of the Calif Omar. What a profusion of knowledge was lost past redemption! And yet, upon the whole, it seems doubtful, whether the moderns have suffered by these events. At what corner of a library shall a man begin where he sees an infinity of books, choice ones too? He will turn his back to the library, and begin at no corner.
[34. ]In the 1st edition the paragraph continues: “Winckelmann, overlooking the causes mentioned, borrows from Velleius Paterculus a reason for the decline of the fine arts in Greece, not a little ridiculous” [1:55].
[(a) ]Petronius Arbiter.
[* ]“In ancient times, when naked virtue had her admirers, the liberal arts were in their highest vigour; and there was a generous contest among men, that nothing of real and permanent advantage should long remain undiscovered. Democritus extracted the juice of every herb and plant; and, lest the virtue of a single stone or twig should escape him, he consumed a lifetime in experiments. Eudoxus, immersed in the study of astronomy, spent his age upon the top of a mountain. Chrysippus, to stimulate his inventive faculty, thrice purified his genius with hellebore. To turn to the imitative arts: Lysippus, while labouring on the forms of a single statue, perished from want. Myron, whose powerful hand gave to the brass almost the soul of man, and animals,—at his death found not an heir! Of us of modern times what shall we say? Immersed in drunkenness and debauchery, we want the spirit to cultivate those arts which we possess. We inveigh against the manners of antiquity; we study vice alone; and vice is all we teach. Where now is the art of reasoning? where astronomy? where is the right path of wisdom? What man now a-days is heard in our temples to make a vow for the attainment of eloquence, or for the discovery of the fountain of true philosophy? Nor do we even pray for health of body, or a sound understanding. One, while he has scarce entered the porch of the temple, devotes a gift in the event of the death of a rich relation; another prays for the discovery of a treasure; a third for a ministerial fortune. The senate itself, the exemplary preceptor of what is good and laudable, has promised a thousand pounds of gold to the capitol; and, to remove all reproach from the crime of avarice, has offered a bribe to Jupiter himself. How should we wonder that the art of painting has declined, when, in the eyes both of the gods and men, there is more beauty in a mass of gold, than in all the works of Phidias and Apelles?”
[* ]“As at first we are excited to emulate those superior models, so, when once we have lost the hope of excelling, or even of equalling them, our ambition fails us with our hopes: we cease to pursue what we cannot attain; and, neglecting that study in which we are debarred from arriving at excellence, we search for a different field of emulation.”
[35. ]“Greek literature is read in nearly every nation under heaven, while the vogue of Latin is confined to its own boundaries, and they are, we must grant, narrow.”
[* ]There still remain about three thousand Greek books; of Latin books not above sixty.
[* ]I am far from thinking, that the language of the Arabians, an illiterate people in the days of their prophet Mahomet, was at that time carried to such purity and perfection as not to be susceptible of improvement. The fixing that language was undoubtedly owing to the Koran, which was held the word of God delivered to Mahomet by the angel Gabriel, and consequently was piously judged to be the standard of perfection. [[Note added in 2nd edition.]]
[36. ]“Let it not be published until the ninth year”: Ars Poetica, l. 388.
[37. ]“Here you will clamorously drive a malodorous vixen into your toils.”
[(a) ]First section of the present Sketch.
[1. ]In the 1st edition, the order of this and Sketch VI is reversed: first comes “Progress of the Female Sex,” then “Progress of Manners.”
[(a) ]Montesquieu [[De l’esprit des lois, pt. III.]]
[2. ]The 1st edition adds: “I am acquainted with a blind man, who, without moving his feet, is constantly balancing from side to side, excited probably by some internal impulse. Had he been endowed with eyesight, he would have imitated the manners of others” [1:227].
[(a) ]Exod. xxxii. 2.
[3. ]“In the days . . . dress and ornament”: added in 3rd edition. In 1st and 2nd editions: “Very different was the case of Athenian ladies, after polygamy was banished from Greece” [1:228–29].
[* ]Young women in Athens appeared frequently in public, but always by themselves. In festivals, sacrifices, &c. they made part of the show, crowned with flowers, chanting hymns, and dancing in knots. [[Note added in 2nd edition.]]
[4. ]The 1st edition adds: “A woman dressed with taste is a more desirable object than one who always goes naked” [1:230].
[* ]Many animals are remarkable for cleanness. Beavers are so, and so are cats. This must be natural. Though a taste for cleanness is not remarkable in dogs, yet, like men, they learn to be cleanly.
[* ]The plague, pestilential fevers, and other putrid diseases, were more frequent in Europe formerly than at present, especially in great cities, where multitudes were crowded together in small houses, separated by narrow streets. Paris, in the days of Henry IV. occupied not the third part of its present space, and yet contained nearly the same number of inhabitants; and in London the houses are much larger, and the streets wider, than before the great fire of 1666. There is also a remarkable alteration in point of diet. Formerly, people of rank lived on salt meat the greater part of the year: at present, fresh meat is common all the year round. Pot-herbs and roots are now a considerable article of food: about London, in particular, the consumption at the Revolution was not the sixth part of what it is now. Add the great consumption of tea and sugar, which I am told by physicians to be no inconsiderable antiseptics. But the chief cause of all is cleanness, which is growing more and more general, especially in the city of London. In Constantinople, putrid diseases reign as much as ever; not from unhealthiness in the climate, but from the narrowness and nastiness of the streets. How it comes that Turkish camps differ so much from the metropolis, I cannot say. Busbequius visited a Turkish camp in the days of Solyman the Magnificent. The ordure was carefully buried under ground; not any noisome smell; in every corner it was clean and neat. The excrements, which appear every where in our camps when stationary, create a sort of plague among the men. Captain Cook lately made a voyage round the world, and lost but a single man by disease, who at the same time was sickly when he entered the ship. One main article that preserved the health of the crew was cleanness. The Captain regularly one morning every week reviewed his ship’s company, to see that every one of them had clean linen; and he bestowed the same care with respect to their clothes and bedding.
[(a) ]Elements of Criticism, chap. 10.
[(a) ]Epist. 432.
[* ]Till the year 1760 there was not a privy in Madrid, though it is plentifully supplied with water. The ordure, during night, was thrown from the windows into the street, where it was gathered into heaps. By a royal proclamation, privies were ordered to be built. The inhabitants, though long accustomed to an arbitrary government, resented this proclamation as an infringement of the common rights of mankind, and struggled vigorously against it. The physicians were the most violent opposers: they remonstrated, that, if the filth was not thrown into the streets, a fatal sickness would ensue; because the putrescent particles of air, which the filth attracted, would be imbibed by the human body.
[† ]In a country thinly peopled, cleanness seldom prevails. The incitement is wanting of appearing agreeable to others, and the natural inclination for cleanness yields to indolence. In the high country between Derby and Matlock, thinly peopled, the inhabitants are as dirty as in the wildest parts of Scotland. [[Note added in 3rd edition.]]
[(a) ]Lib. 3. cap. 4.
[(b) ]Procopii Historia Vandalica, lib. 2.
[5. ]“This accounts for . . . wear a beard”: added in 2nd edition.
[(c) ]Chap. 2. part 6.
[(a) ]Odyssey, book 23.
[(b) ]Book 6. & 7.
[(c) ]Book 10.
[(a) ]Odyssey, book 15.
[(b) ]Odyssey, book 19. & 20.
[* ]Pope, judging it below the dignity of Achilles to act the butcher, suppresses that article, imposing the task upon his two friends. Pope did not consider, that from a lively picture of ancient manners, proceeds one of the capital pleasures we have in perusing Homer.
[6. ]“The story of . . . in these times”: added in 2nd edition.
[* ]Quotiens bella non ineunt, non multum venatibus, plus per otium, transigunt, dediti somno, ciboque. Fortissimus quisque ac bellicosissimus nihil agens, delegata domus et penatium et agrorum cura feminis senibusque, et infirmissimo cuique ex familia, ipsi hebent; mira diversitate naturae, cum iidem homines sic ament inertiam, et oderint quietem. Tacitus, De moribus Germanorum, cap. 15.—[In English thus: “While not engaged in war, they do not often spend their time in hunting, but chiefly in indolence, minding nothing but their sleep and food. The bravest and most warlike among them, having nothing to do, pass the time in a sluggish stupidity, committing the care of the house, the family, and the culture of the lands, to women, old men, and to the most weakly. Such is the wonderful diversity of their nature, that they are at once the most indolent of beings, and the most impatient of rest.”]
[(a) ]Book 2. sketch 1.
[* ]Though it is beyond the reach of conception, that blood, flesh, fibres, or bones, can be a substratum for thought, for will, for passion, or for any mental quality; yet certain philosophers boldly undertake to derive even the noblest principles from external circumstances relative to the body only. Thus courage and cowardice are held to depend on the climate by the celebrated Montesquieu and several others. Sir William Temple ascribes these qualities to food, maintaining, that no animal which lives on vegetables is endowed with courage, the horse and cock alone excepted. I relish not doctrines that tend to degrade the most refined mental principles into bodily properties. With respect to the point under consideration, a very acute philosopher, taking a hint from Sir William Temple, derives from the difference of food the mental qualities of cruelty and humanity. (a) “Certain it is, (says that author), that the people who subsist mostly on animal food are cruel and fierce above others. The barbarity of the English is well known: the Gaures, who live wholly on vegetables, are the sweetest-tempered of all men. Wicked men harden themselves to murder by drinking blood.” Even the most acute thinkers are not always on their guard against trivial analogies. Blood and slaughter are the limits of cruelty; and hence it is rashly inferred, that the drinking blood and eating flesh tend to inspire cruelty. The Carribees, in the same way of thinking, abstain from swines flesh; “which (say they), would make our eyes small like those of swine.” Before venturing on a general rule, one ought to be prepared by an extensive induction of particulars. What will M. Rousseau say as to the Macassars, who never taste animal food, and yet are acknowledged to be the fiercest of mortals? And what will he say as to the negroes of New Guinea, remarkably brutal and cruel? A favourite dog, companion to his master, lives commonly on the refuse of his table, and yet is remarkably gentle. The English are noted for love of liberty: they cannot bear oppression; and they know no bounds to resentment against oppressors. He may call this cruelty if he be so disposed: others more candid will esteem it a laudable property. But to charge a nation in general with cruelty and ferocity, can admit no excuse but stubborn truth. Ignorance cannot be admitted; and yet he shows gross ignorance, as no people are more noted for humanity: in no other nation do sympathetic affections prevail more: none are more ready in cases of distress to stretch out a relieving hand. Did not the English, in abolishing the horrid barbarity of torture, give an illustrious example of humanity to all other nations? Nay his instance that butchers are prohibited from being put upon a jury, the only particular instance he gives of their cruelty, is on the contrary a proof of their humanity. For why are butchers excluded from being judges in criminal trials? for no other reason than that being inured to the blood of animals, they may have too little regard to the lives of their fellow subjects.
[(a) ]See sketch 3.
[(b) ]See Historical Law-tracts, tract 1.
[(c) ]See this more fully handled, book 2. sketch 1.
[(a) ]Book 6. of the Iliad.
[(b) ]Iliad, book 6.
[(a) ]Book 15.
[7. ]Iliad, bk. XVI, ll. 903–6 (trans. Pope).
[(a) ]Book 22.
[(b) ]2 Samuel, xii. 29.
[(a) ]l. 1. Cod. cap. De patria potestate. [[Codex, bk. I, title IX, “Concerning Paternal Authority,” sec. 1.]]
[(b) ]l. 10. cod. [[Ibid., sec. 10.]]
[* ]The effect of such unnatural powers was to eradicate natural affection between a man and his children. And, indeed, so little of nature was left in this connection, that a law was found necessary prohibiting a man to disinherit his children, except for certain causes specified, importing gross ingratitude in the latter; which was done by Justinian the Emperor in one of his Novels. But behold what follows. A prohibition to exheredate children renders them independent; and such independence produces an effect still more pernicious than despotic power in a father. Awe and reverence to parents make the only effectual check against the headstrong passions of youth: remove that check, and young men of fortune will give the rein to every vice. It deserves to be seriously pondered, whether the same encouragement be not given to vice, by a practice general in England among men of fortune in their marriage-articles; which is, to vest the estate in trustees, for behoof of the heir of the marriage.
[* ]It required the ferocity and cruelty of a barbarous age to give currency to a Mahometan doctrine, That the sword is the most effectual means of converting men to a dominant religion. The establishment of the Inquisition will not permit me to say, that Christians never put in practice a doctrine so detestable: on the contrary, they surpassed the Mahometans, giving no quarter to heretics either in this life, or in that to come. The eternity of hell-torments is a doctrine no less inconsistent with the justice of the Deity, than with his benevolence.
[† ]The Russians are far from refinement either in manners or feelings. The Baron de Manstein, talking of the severity of Count Munich’s military discipline, observes, that it is indispensible in Russia, where mildness makes no impression; and that the Russians are governed by fear, not by love. [[Note added in 2nd edititon.]]
[* ]The present Empress has laid an excellent foundation for civilizing her people; which is a Code of laws, founded on principles of civil liberty, banishing slavery and torture, and expressing the utmost regard for the life, property, and liberty, of all her subjects, high and low. Peter I. reformed many bad customs: but being rough in his own manners, he left the manners of his people as he found them. If this Empress happen to enjoy a long and prosperous reign, she may possibly accomplish the most difficult of all undertakings, that of polishing a barbarous people. No task is too arduous for a woman of such spirit.
[(a) ]Book 4.
[* ]C’est de cet esclavage des negres, que les Crèoles tirent peut-être en partie un certain caractere, qui les fait paroître bizzarres, fantasques, et d’une société peu goûtée en Europe. A peine peuvent ils marcher dans l’enfance, qu’ils voient autour d’eux des hommes grands et robustes, destinés à deviner, à prevenir leur volonté. Ce premier coup d’oeil doit leur donner d’eux mêmes l’opinion la plus extravagante. Rarement exposés à trouver de la résistance dans leurs fantaisies même injustes, ils prennent un esprit de présomption, de tyrannie, et de mépris extrême, pour une grande portion du genre humain. Rien n’est plus insolent que l’homme qui vit presque toujours avec ses inferieurs; mais quand ceux-ci sont des esclaves, accoutumés à servir des enfans, à craindre jusqu’ à des cris qui doivent leur attirer des châtiments que peuvent devenir des maitres qui n’ont jamais obéi, des méchans qui n’ont jamais été punis, des foux qui mettent des hommes à la chaîne? [[Abbé Raynal, Histoire Philosophique et Politique des etablissements des Européens dans les Deux Indes, l. 4. p. 201.—[In English thus: “It is from the slavery of the negroes that the Creoles derive in a great measure that character which makes them appear capricious and fantastical, and of a style of manners which is not relished in Europe. Scarcely have the children learned to walk, when they see around them tall and robust men, whose province it is to guess their inclinations, and to prevent their wishes. This first observation must give them the most extravagant opinion of themselves. From being seldom accustomed to meet with any opposition, even in their most unreasonable whims, they acquire a presumptuous and tyrannical disposition, and entertain an extreme contempt for a great part of the human race. None is so insolent as the man who lives almost always with his inferiors; but when these inferiors are slaves accustomed to serve infants, and to fear even their crying, for which they must suffer punishment, what can be expected of those masters who have never obeyed, profligates who have never met with chastisement, and madmen who load their fellow-creatures with chains?”]]]
[8. ]Presumably Kames means Edward Bancroft.
[* ]In England, slavery subsisted so late as the sixteenth century. A commission was issued by Queen Elisabeth, anno 1574, for inquiring into the lands and goods of all her bondmen and bondwomen in the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, and Glocester, in order to compound with them for their manumission or freedom, that they might enjoy their own lands and goods as free men.
[9. ]“Sometimes, however, sparks . . . the whole people”: added in 2nd edition.
[(a) ]Julius Capitolinus, in the life of Albinus.
[(a) ]Socrates, Hist. Eccl. liv. 5. cap. 18.
[* ]Corpus Christi tenentes in manibus, (says the canon), ac si dicerent, Quid mihi vultus dare, et ego eum vobis tradam?—[In English thus: “Holding the body of Christ in their hands, as if they said, What will you give me for this?”]
[10. ]“In the tenth . . . worst of all”: added in 2nd edition.
[* ]Writing to her sister the Queen, begging that she might not be imprisoned in the Tower, she concludes her letter thus: “As for that traitor Wyat, he might peradventure write me a letter: but on my faith I never received any from him. And, as for the copy of my letter sent to the French King, I pray God confound me eternally if ever I sent him word, message, token, or letter.”
[11. ]“John King of . . . devil take me”: added in 2nd edition.
[(a) ]Act of Sederunt, 21st February 1663. [[An Act of Sederunt is an ordinance for regulating the forms of procedure before the Court of Session.]]
[(b) ]Gen. xliii. 34.
[(c) ]Odyssey, b. 8. v. 513. b. 15. v. 156.
[(d) ]Odyssey, b. 8. v. 519.
[(e) ]Odyssey, b. 2.
[(f) ]See 17th & 18th books of the Odyssey.
[* ]The constable du Gueselin, the greatest warrior of his time, being on deathbed, anno 1380, and bidding adieu to his veteran officers who had served under him forty years, entreated them not to forget what he had said to them a thousand times, “that in whatever country they made war, churchmen, women, infants, and the poor people, were not their enemies.” [[Note added in 2nd edition.]]
[* ]Such kindness in an enemy from whom nothing is expected but mischief, is an illustrious instance of humanity. And a similar instance will not make the less figure that it was done by a man of inferior rank. When Mons. Thurot, during our late war with France, appeared on the coast of Scotland with three armed vessels; the terror he at first spread, soon yielded to admiration of his humanity. He paid a full price for every thing; and, in general, behaved with so much affability, that a countryman ventured to complain to him of an officer who had robbed him of fifty or sixty guineas. The officer acknowledged the fact, but said, that he had divided the money among his men. Thurot ordered the officer to give his bill for the money, which, he said, should be stopped out of his pay, if they were so fortunate as to return to France. Compare this incident with that of the great Scipio, celebrated in Roman story, who restored a beautiful young woman to her bridegroom, and it will not suffer by the comparison. Another instance is no less remarkable. One of his officers gave a bill upon a merchant in France, for the price of provisions purchased by him. Thurot having accidentally seen the bill, informed the countryman that it was of no value, reprimanded the officer bitterly for the cheat, and compelled him to give a bill upon a merchant who he knew would pay the money. At that very time, Thurot’s men were in bad humour, and disposed to mutiny. In such circumstances, would not Thurot have been excused for winking at a fraud to which he was not accessory? But he acted all along with the strictest honour, even at the hazard of his life. Common honesty to an enemy is not a common practice in war. Thurot was strictly honest in circumstances that made the exertion of common honesty an act of the highest magnanimity. These incidents ought to be held up to princes as examples of true heroism. War carried on in that manner, would, from desolation and horror, be converted into a fair field for acquiring true military glory, and for exercising every manly virtue. I feel the greatest satisfaction, in paying this tribute of praise to the memory of that great man. He will be kept in remembrance by every true-hearted Briton, though he died fighting against us. But he died in the field of honour, fighting for his country.
[12. ]“I relish not . . . within her dominions”: added in 2nd edition.
[* ]The populace of Spain, too low game for the Inquisition, are abundantly chearful, perhaps more so than those of France. And I am credibly informed, that the Spanish women are perpetually dancing, singing, laughing, or talking.
[13. ]“The Caribbeans . . . as we do”: added in 2nd edition.
[(a) ]Salamanca means, the making a present.
[14. ]“Sir John Chardin . . . than in receiving”: added in 2nd edition.
[* ]In Paris and London, people of fashion are incessantly running after pleasure, without ever attaining it. Dissatisfied with the present, they fondly imagine that a new pursuit will relieve them. Life thus passes like a dream, with no enjoyment but what arises from expectation. [[Note added in 2nd edition.]]
[* ]Postquam divitiae honori esse coeperunt, et eas gloria, imperium, potentia sequebatur; hebescere virtus, paupertas probro haberi, innocentia pro malevolentia duci, coepit. Igitur ex divitiis juventutem luxuria, atque avaritia, cum superbia invasere. Sallust. Bell. Cat. c. 12.—[In English thus: “After it had become an honour to be rich, and glory, empire, and power, became the attendants of riches, virtue declined apace, poverty was reckoned disgraceful, and innocence was held secret malice. Thus to the introduction of riches our youth owe their luxury, their avarice, and pride.”]
[(a) ]About L. 150,000 Sterling.
[(a) ]Lib. 1. epist. 13.
[* ]“In two days he completed the affair, by the means of one slave, a gladiator. He sent for him, and by promises, wheedling, and large gifts, he gained his point. Good God, to what an infamous height has corruption at length arrived! Some judges were rewarded with a night’s lodging of certain ladies; and others, for an illustrious bribe, had some young boys of Noble family introduced to them.”
[(b) ]Lib. 3. cap. 11.
[* ]Down on your knees, my countrymen, down on your knees, and render God thanks from the bottom of your hearts, for a minister very different from his immediate predecessors. Untainted with luxury or avarice, his talents are dedicated to his King and his country. Nor was there ever a period in Britain, when prudence and discernment in a minister were more necessary than in the present year 1775. Our colonies, pampered with prosperity, aim at no less than independence, and have broken out into every extravagance. The case is extremely delicate, it appearing equally dangerous to pardon or to punish. Hitherto the most salutary measures have been prosecuted; and we have great reason to hope a happy issue, equally satisfactory to both parties. But tremble still, O Britain, on the brink of a precipice! Our hold of that eminent minister is sadly precarious; and, in a nation as deeply sunk in selfishness as formerly it was exalted by patriotism, how small is our chance of a successor equal to him! [[Note added in 2nd edition. Presumably Kames refers to the ministry of Lord North, which had begun in 1770 and was to end in 1782.]]
[15. ]Paragraph added in 3rd edition.
[* ]Is duelling a crime by the law of nature? A distinction is necessary. If two men, bent to destroy each of them the other, meet armed, and one or both be slain, the act is highly criminal: it is murder in the strictest sense of the word. If they appoint time and place to execute their murderous purpose, such agreement will not be more innocent than an agreement among a band of robbers to attack every passenger: they will be abhorred as unfit for civil society. A duel which an affront forces a man upon for vindicating his honour, when no satisfaction is offered, or no proper satisfaction, is very different. I cannot see that the person affronted is guilty of any crime; and, if the person who gave the affront have offered what he thinks full satisfaction, I see no crime on either side. The parties have agreed to decide their quarrel in the honourable way, and no other person is hurt. If it be urged, that duelling is a crime against the state, which is interested in the lives of its subjects, I answer, that individuals are entitled to be protected by the state; but that if two men, waving that protection, agree to end the dispute by single combat, the state has no concern. There is nothing inconsistent with the laws of society, that men, in an affair of honour, should reserve the privilege of a duel; and, for that reason, the privilege may be justly understood as reserved by every man when he enters into society. I admit, that the using the privilege on every slight occasion, cannot be too much discouraged; but such discouragement, if duelling be not criminal, belongs to a court of police, not to a court of law. What then shall be said of our statutes, which punish with death and confiscation of moveables those who fight a single combat without the King’s licence; and which punish even the giving or accepting a challenge with banishment and confiscation of moveables? Where a man thinks his honour at stake, fear of death will not deter him from seeking redress: nor is an alternative left him, as the bearing a gross affront is highly dishonourable in the opinion of all the world. Have we not instances without number, of men adhering to the supposed orthodoxy of their religious tenets, unawed by flames and gibbets? How absurd, then, is it in our legislature to punish a man for doing what is indispensable, if he wish to avoid contempt? Laws that contradict honest principles, or even honest prejudices, never are effectual: nature revolts against them. And, it is believed, that these statutes have never been effectual in any one instance, unless perhaps to furnish an excuse for declining a single combat.
[* ]Louis XII. of France after taking for his second wife Mary sister to Henry VIII. of England, much under him in years, totally changed his manner of living. Instead of dining at eight in the morning, he now dined at mid-day: instead of going to bed at six in the evening, he now frequently sat up till midnight.
[† ]Manners and fashions seldom change where women are locked up.
[* ]The exercises that our forefathers delighted in were so violent as that in the days of Henry II. of England cock-fighting and horse-racing were despised as unmanly and childish amusements. [[Note added in 2nd edition.]]
[(a) ]De moribus Germanorum, c. 24.
[† ]“For their last throw they stake their liberty and life.”
[(a) ]Mr. Macpherson. [[James Macpherson’s editions of Ossian were first published between 1760 and 1763. A collected Works of Ossian appeared in 1765. A committee set up by the Highland Society of Scotland after Macpherson’s death in 1796 decided that the poems were not translations of Gaelic originals—as some had suspected all along.]]
[* ]In the Isle of Sky, the ruins of the castle of Dunscaich, upon an abrupt rock hanging over the sea, are still visible. That castle, as vouched by tradition, belonged to Cuchullin Lord of that Isle, whose history is recorded in the Poem of Fingal. Upon the green before the castle there is a great stone, to which, according to the same tradition, his dog Luath was chained.
[* ]Love of fame is a laudable passion, which every man values himself upon. Fame in war is acquired by courage and candour, which are esteemed by all. It is not acquired by fighting for spoil, because avarice is despised by all. The spoils of an enemy were displayed at a Roman triumph, not for their own sake, but as a mark of victory. When nations at war degenerate from love of fame to love of gain, stratagem, deceit, breach of faith, and every sort of immorality, are never failing consequences.
[(a) ]The death of Cuchillin.
[* ]Several of Ossian’s heroes are described as fighting in cars. The Britons, in general, fought in that manner. Britanni demicant non equitatu modo, aut pedite, verum et bigis et curribus; Pomponius Mela, l. 3.—[In English thus: “The Britons fight, not only with cavalry, or foot, but also with cars and chariots.”]
[(b) ]Calthon and Colmar.
[(b) ]Calthon and Comal.
[(c) ]Fingal, book 3.
[(a) ]Fingal, book 6.
[(d) ]Calthon and Colmal.
[(a) ]Fingal, book 1.
[(c) ]See the Sketch immediately following.
[(a) ]Fingal, book 4.
[(b) ]Fingal, book 5.
[(c) ]Fingal, book 5.
[(d) ]Fingal, book 5.
[(a) ]Fingal, book 5.
[(d) ]Fingal, book 1.
[(a) ]Fingal, book 1.
[(a) ]Pomponius Mela. Ammianus Marcellinus.
[(b) ]Lib. 2.
[* ]“It is reported, that the Gauls frequently lent money to be paid back in the infernal regions, from a firm persuasion that the souls of men were immortal. I would have called them fools, if those wearers of breeches had not thought the same as Pythagoras who wore a cloak.”
[(a) ]Lib. 5.
[(b) ]De bello Africo.
[* ]“The Gauls are of an open temper, not at all insidious; and in fight they rely on valour, not on stratagem.”
[(a) ]Lib. 3.
[(b) ]Lib. 4.
[[Pharsalia, bk. I, ll. 784–89. The Latin original is quoted by Macpherson on the title page of the Works of Ossian.]]
[(c) ]Diodorus Siculus, lib. 5. Athenaeus, lib. 13.
[* ]“They made no distinction of sex in conferring authority.”
[(a) ]Vita Agricolae, cap. 16.
[(b) ]Annalium, lib. 14.
[† ]“The Britons even followed women as leaders in the field.”
[(c) ]Athenaeus, lib. 10.
[(a) ]Lib. 15.
[* ]Polydore Virgil says, Hiberni sunt musicae peritissimi.—[In English thus: “The Irish are most skilful in music.”]—Ireland was peopled from Britain; and the music of that country must have been derived from British bards. The Welsh bards were the great champions of independence; and in particular promoted an obstinate resistance to Edward I. when he carried his arms into Wales. And hence the tradition, that the Welsh bards were all slaughtered by that King.
[(a) ]Saxo Grammaticus.
[(a) ]Paulus Diaconus.
[(b) ]Nicolaus Damascenus.
[(c) ]Saxo Grammaticus.
[(d) ]Book 1.
[(a) ]Olaus Magnus.
[(b) ]Procopius, Historia Gothica, lib. 2.
[* ]The expression of Tacitus is beautiful: “Ad matres, ad conjuges, vulnera ferunt: nec illae numerare aut exfugere plagas pavent: cibosque et hortamina pugnantibus gestant.”—[In English thus: When wounded, they find physicians in their mothers and wives, who are not afraid to count and suck their wounds. They carry provisions for their sons and husbands, and animate them in battle by their exhortations.”]
[* ]“They believe that there is something sacred in their character, and that they have a foresight of futurity: for this reason their counsels are always respected; nor are their opinions ever disregarded.”
[(a) ]Lib. I. cap. 3.
[(b) ]Historia Gothica, lib. 3.
[(a) ]Book 18.
[(a) ]Doctor Blair, Professor of Rhetoric in the college of Edinburgh. [[See A Critical Dissertation on the Poems of Ossian.]]
[* ]That a barren country is a great spur to industry, appears from Venice and Genoa in Italy, Nuremberg in Germany, and Limoges in France. The sterility of Holland required all the industry of its inhabitants for procuring the necessaries of life; and by that means chiefly they became remarkably industrious. Camden ascribes the success of the town of Halifax in the cloth-manufacture, to its barren soil. A sect of pampered Englishmen, it is to be hoped not many in number, who centre all their devotion in a luxurious board, despise Scotland for its plain fare; and in bitter contumely, characterize it as a poor country.
[* ]Fear impressed by strange and unforeseen accidents, is the most potent cause of superstition. No other country is less liable to strange and unforeseen accidents than Egypt: no thunder, scarce any rain, perfect regularity in the seasons, and in the rise and fall of the river. So little notion had the Egyptians of variable weather, as to be surprised that the rivers in Greece did not overflow like the Nile. They could not comprehend how their fields were watered: rain, they said, was very irregular; and what if Jupiter should take a conceit to send them no rain? What then made the antient Egyptians so superstitious? The fertility of the soil, and the inaction of the inhabitants during the inundation of the river, enervated both mind and body, and rendered them timid and pusillanimous. Superstition was the offspring of this character in Egypt, as it is of strange and unforeseen accidents in other countries.
[* ]From which it appears to proceed, that women naturally are more careful of their reputation than men, and more hurt by obloquy. [[Note added in 2nd edition.]]
[† ]The chief quality of women, says Rousseau, is sweetness of temper. Made by nature for submission in the married state, they ought to learn to suffer wrong, even without complaining. Sourness and stubborness serve but to increase the husband’s unkindness and their own distresses. It was not to indulge bad humour, that Heaven bestowed on them manners insinuating and persuasive: they were not made weak in order to be imperious: a sweet voice suits ill with scolding; delicate features ought not to be disfigured with passion. They frequently may have reason for complaints; but never, to utter them publicly. [[Note added in 2nd edition.]]
[1. ]The 1st edition adds: “It is held to be their capital virtue; and a woman who surrenders her chastity is universally despised; tho’ in a man chastity is scarce held to be a virtue, except in the married state. But of that more fully afterwards” [1:169].
[(a) ]De Inventione, lib. 1.
[* ]“For there was a time, when men, like the brutes, roamed abroad over the earth, and fed like wild beasts upon other animals. Then reason bore no sway, but all was ruled by superior strength. The ties of religion, and the obligations of morality, were then unfelt. Lawful marriage was unknown, and no father was certain of his offspring.”
[* ]It appears a wise appointment of Providence, that women give over child-bearing at fifty, while they are still in vigour of mind and body to take care of their offspring. Did the power of procreation continue in women to old age as in men, children would often be left in the wide world, without a mortal to look after them.
[(a) ]Elements of Criticism, chap. 14.
[* ]I have often been tempted to blame Providence for bringing to perfection in early youth the carnal appetite, long before people have acquired any prudence or self-command. It rages the most when young men should be employed in acquiring knowledge, and in fitting themselves for living comfortably in the world. I have set this thought in various lights; but I now perceive that the censure is without foundation. The early ripeness of this appetite, proves it to be the intention of Providence that people should early settle in matrimony. In that state the appetite is abundantly moderate, and gives no obstruction to education. It never becomes unruly, till a man, forgetting the matrimonial tie, wanders from object to object. Pride and luxury are what dictate late marriages: industry never fails to afford the means of living comfortably, provided men confine themselves to the demands of nature. A young man, at the same time, who has the care of a family upon him, is impelled to be active in order to provide food for them. And supposing him to have a sufficiency without labour, attention to his wife and children produces a habit of doing good, which is regularly extended to all around. And married men become thus good citizens; and some of them eminent patriots. [[“A young man . . . them eminent patriots”: added in 3rd edition.]]
[(a) ]De jure belli ac pacis, lib. 2. cap. 5. § 9.
[(a) ][[Montesquieu, L’esprit des loix, liv. 16. chap. 6.]]
[(b) ]Buffon, liv. 5. p. 359. octavo edition.
[* ]A male canary bird, singing to his mate on her nest in a breeding cage, fell down dead. The female alarmed left her nest and pecked at him: finding him immoveable, she refused nourishment and died at his side. [[Note added in 2nd edition.]]
[* ]L’empire de la femme est un empire de douceur, d’addresse, et de complaisance; ses ordres sont des caresses, ses menaces sont des pleurs. Elle doit regner dans la maison comme un ministre dans l’etat, en se faisant commander ce qu’elle veut faire. En ce sens il est constant que les meilleurs ménages sont ceux où la femme a le plus d’autorité. Mais quand elle meconnoit la voix du chef, qu’elle veut usurper ses droits et commander elle-même; il ne resulte jamais de ce desordre, que misere, scandale, et dishonneur; Rousseau, Emile, liv. 5. p. 96.—[In English thus: “The empire of the woman is an empire of softness, of address, of complacency; her commands are caresses, her menaces are tears. She ought to reign in the family like a minister in the state, by making that which is her inclination be enjoined to her as her duty: Thus it is evident, that the best domestic oeconomy is that where the wife has most authority. But when she is insensible to the voice of her chief, when she tries to usurp his prerogative, and to command alone, what can result from such disorder, but misery, scandal, and dishonour?”]—The Empress Livia being questioned by a married lady, how she had obtained such ascendent over her husband Augustus, answered, “By being obedient to his commands, by not wishing to know his secrets, and by hiding my knowledge of his amours.” The late Queen of Spain was a woman of singular prudence, and of solid judgement. A character of her, published after her death, contains the following passage: “She had a great ascendency over the King, founded on his persuasion of her superior sense, which she showed in a perfect submission to his commands; the more easily obeyed, as they were commonly, though to him imperceptibly, dictated by herself. She cured him of many foibles, and, in a word, was his Minerva, under the appearance of Mentor.”
[2. ]“Chastity is essential . . . restraint of chastity”: added in 2nd edition.
[* ]Quand enfin cette aimable jeunesse vient à se marier, les deux époux se donnant mutuellement les premices de leur personne, en sont plus chers l’un à l’autre; des multitudes d’enfans sains et robustes deviennent le gage d’une union que rien n’altere; Rousseau, Emile. [[“When at last those delightful young people marry, they bestow on each other the first fruits of their person, and are all the dearer therefore. Swarms of strong and healthy children are the pledges of a union which nothing can change” (bk. IV, p. 212). Note added in 2nd edition.]]
[3. ]The 1st edition adds: “Bougainville reports, that in the island of Otaheite, or King George’s island, a young woman is free to follow her inclinations; and that her having had many lovers gives her not the less chance for a husband” [1:180].
[* ]Don Juan de Ulloa, in his voyage to Peru, mentions a very singular taste prevalent in that country, that a man never takes a virgin to wife; and thinks himself dishonoured if his wife have not, before marriage, enjoyed many lovers. If we can trust Paulus Venetus, a young woman of Thibet, in Asia, is not reckoned fit to be married till she be defloured.
[† ]Doth not modesty prevail among many animals? Elephants are never seen in copulation, nor cats, nor beasts of prey.
[(a) ]Labat’s voyages to the American islands.
[(a) ]34th and 35th Henry VIII. cap. 1.
[(b) ]Genesis, xxiv. 53.
[(a) ]Genesis, chap. xxix.
[(b) ]Genesis, xxxiv. 12.
[(c) ]1 Samuel, xviii. 25.
[* ]“Among the Goths, a man gave a dowry for his bride, instead of receiving one with her; to prevent pride and insolence, that commonly accompany riches on the woman’s part.”
[4. ]“In Arabia, says . . . paid for her”: added in 2nd edition.
[5. ]The 1st edition adds: “instead of selling her as a slave” [1:190].
[(a) ]Leviticus, xviii. 18.
[(b) ]Lib. 1.
[(c) ]Lib. 2 § 92.
[* ]“Marriage is there rigidly respected; nor is there any part of their morality more laudable: for they are almost the only race of barbarians who are contented with a single wife; a very few excepted, who, not from incontinency, but from an ambition of nobility, take more wives than one.”
[† ]“The husband gives a dowry to the wife, but the wife brings none to the husband.”
[(a) ]De moribus Germanorum, cap. 18.
[(a) ]Lib. 6. cap. 19. De bello Gallico.
[* ]“Whatever sum the husband has received as his wife’s portion, he joins as much of his own effects. An account is kept of this joint stock, and the fruits of it are preserved. Upon the death of either, the surviving spouse has the property of both the shares, with the fruits or profits.”
[* ]Pope disguises that sentiment as follows:
Such contempt of the female sex as expressed by Achilles was perhaps thought too gross for a modern ear. But did not Pope discover, that one capital beauty in Homer, is the delineation of ancient manners? At that rate, had it fallen to his share to describe Julius Caesar, he would have dressed him like a modern beau. And why not? for in a genteel assembly, what a savage would he appear, without breeches, and without linen!
[6. ]“As polygamy is . . . of the way”: added in 3rd edition.
[7. ]“The ceremonies of . . . of polite manners”: added in 2nd edition.
[(a) ]Lib. 14. cap. 9.
[(b) ]Deuteronomy, chap. 24.
[(a) ]Odyssey, b. 8. l. 384.
[(b) ]Tacitus, De moribus Germanorum, Cap. 19.
[(c) ]Leviticus, xx. 10.
[* ]Justinian, or more properly the lawyers employed by him upon that absurd compilation the Pandects, is guilty of a gross error, in teaching that, by the Twelve Tables, males and females of the same degree succeeded equally to land. The lex Voconia (explained in Alexandri ab Alexandro geniales dies, lib. 6. cap. 15.) vouches the contrary. And one cannot see, without pain, Justinian’s error, not only adopted by an illustrious modern, but a cause assigned for it so refined and subtile, as to go quite out of sight, [[Montesquieu L’esprit des loix, liv. 27. chap. 1. I venture to affirm, that subtile reasoning never had any influence upon a rough and illiterate people; and therefore, at the time of the Decemvirs, who composed the Twelve Tables of law, the subtile cause assigned by our author could not have been the motive, had the Decemvirs introduced female succession in land, which they certainly did not.]]
[* ]The kingdom of Gurrah in Hindostan was governed by Queen Dargoutté, eminent for spirit and beauty. Small as that kingdom is, it contained about 70,000 towns and villages, the effect of long peace and prosperity. Being invaded by Asaph Can, not many years ago, the Queen, mounted on an elephant, led her troops to battle. Her son, Rajah Bier Shaw, being wounded in the heat of action, was by her orders carried from the field. That accident having occasioned a general panic, the Queen was left with but 300 horsemen. Adhar, who conducted her elephant, exhorted her to retire while it could be done with safety. The heroine rejected the advice. “It is true,” said she, “we are overcome in battle; but not in honour. Shall I, for a lingering ignominious life, lose a reputation that has been my chief study! Let your gratitude repay now the obligations you owe me: pull out your dagger, and save me from slavery, by putting an end to my life.” The kingdom of Agonna in Guinea was governed by a Queen when Bosman wrote.
[8. ]“But no sort . . . known among them”: added in 2nd edition. In 1st edition: “Such a conclusion however would be rash; for upon a more accurate scrutiny, an extensive country is discovered, where polygamy never was in fashion, and where women were from the beginning courted and honoured as among the most polished nations. But the reader is humbly requested to suspend his curiosity, till he peruse the following sketch, concerning the progress of manners, which appears to be the proper place for that curious and interesting subject” [1:206]. In the 1st edition the order of the present sketch and the sketch concerning the progress of manners is reversed.
[(a) ]Odyssey, book 3. See also book 8. line 491.
[* ]Women are not prone to detraction, unless when denied the comforts of Society. The censure of Sophocles is probably just with respect to his countrywomen, because they were locked up. Old maids have the character with us of being prone to detraction; but that holds not, unless they retire from society.
[(a) ]Tit. 22.
[(a) ]Plutarch, Life of Cato.
[(a) ][[Sir James Porter, Observations on the religion, laws, &c. of the Turks.]]
[(b) ]Book 2. Sketch 6.
[9. ]“There will be . . . character a moment”: added in 2nd edition. In the 1st edition: “In a monarchy, government employs but few hands; and those who are not occupied with public business, give reins to gallantry, and to other desires that are easily gratified. Women of figure, on the other hand, corrupted by opulence and superficial education, are more ambitious to captivate the eye than the judgement; and are fonder of lovers than of friends. Where a man and a woman thus disciplined meet together, they soon grow particular: the man is idle, the woman frank; and both equally addicted to pleasure. Such commerce must in its infancy be disguised under the appearance of virtue and religion: the mistress is exalted into a deity, the lover sinks into a humble votary; and this artificial relation produces a bombast sort of love, with sentiments that soar high above nature” [1:213–14].
[* ]We are indebted to Brantom for what follows. In the time of Francis I. of France, a young woman, having a talkative lover, ordered him to be dumb. His obedience for two long years made all the world believe that he was sunk in melancholy. One day, in a numerous assembly, the young woman, who was not known to be his mistress, undertook to cure him, and did it with a single word, Speak.
[10. ]“De Liques prevailed . . . demanding a ransom”: added in 2nd edition.
[11. ]“In peaceable times . . . addicted to pleasure”: added in 2nd edition.
[* ]Les femmes d’un certain état en France trouvent qu’elles perdent trop à faire des enfans, et à cause de cela même, la plupart vivent celibataires, dans le sein même du marriage. Mais si l’envie de se voir perpetuer dans une branche de descendans, les porte à se conformer aux voeux de l’hymen; la population, dans cette classe, n’en est pas plus avancée, pars que leur delicatesse rend inutile leur propagation; car, parmi les femmes du premier et second rang en France, combien y en a-t-il qui nourissent leurs enfans? Il seroit facile de les compter. Ce devoir indispensable de mere, a cessé chez nous d’en être un. [[Goudar, Les Interests de la France, vol. 1. p. 234.—[In English thus: “The women of a certain rank in France find that they lose too much by child-bearing; and for that reason, even though married, live in a state of celibacy. But population is not advanced, even by those who, from a desire of seeing themselves perpetuated in their descendents, conform to the purpose of marriage; for their delicacy counterbalances their fertility. How few of the first and second rank of women in France suckle their children? It would be easy to count the number. This indispensable duty of a mother has now ceased to be one with us.”]—As such woful neglect of education is the fruit of voluptuousness, we may take it for granted, that the same obtains in every opulent and luxurious capital.]]
[12. ]“In Persia, it . . . who is pregnant”: added in 2nd edition.
[* ]May not a habit of chearfulness be produced in an infant, by being trained up among chearful people? An agreeable temper is held to be a prime qualification in a nurse. Such is the connection between the mind and body, as that the features of the face are commonly moulded into an expression of the internal disposition; and is it not natural to think, that an infant in the womb may be affected by the temper of its mother? Its tender parts make it susceptible of the slightest impressions. When a woman is breeding, she ought to be doubly careful of her temper; and in particular to indulge no ideas but what are chearful, and no sentiments but what are kindly.
[13. ]“During the civil . . . in cold blood”: added in 2nd edition.
[14. ]“The charms of a peaceful family life must be known to be enjoyed; their delights should be tasted in childhood. It is only in our father’s home that we learn to love our own, and a woman whose mother did not educate her herself will not be willing to educate her own children. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as home education in our large towns. Society is so general and so mixed there is no place left for retirement, and even in the home we live in public. We live in company till we have no family, and scarcely know our own relations: we see them as strangers, and the simplicity of home life disappears together with the sweet familiarity which was its charm. In this wise do we draw with our mother’s milk a taste for the pleasures of the age and the maxims by which it is controlled” (bk. V, p. 421). Paragraph added in 2nd edition.
[* ]Euripides, in his Phoenicians, introduces Oedipus, under sentence of banishment, and blind, calling for his staff, his daughter Antigone putting it in his hand, and directing every step, to keep him from stumbling. Such minute circumstances, like what are frequent in Richardson’s novels, tend indeed to make the reader conceive himself to be a spectator (b) : but whether that advantage be not more than overbalanced by the languor of a creeping narrative, may be justly doubted.
[* ]Though it is beyond the reach of conception, that blood, flesh, fibres, or bones, can be a substratum for thought, for will, for passion, or for any mental quality; yet certain philosophers boldly undertake to derive even the noblest principles from external circumstances relative to the body only. Thus courage and cowardice are held to depend on the climate by the celebrated Montesquieu and several others. Sir William Temple ascribes these qualities to food, maintaining, that no animal which lives on vegetables is endowed with courage, the horse and cock alone excepted. I relish not doctrines that tend to degrade the most refined mental principles into bodily properties. With respect to the point under consideration, a very acute philosopher, taking a hint from Sir William Temple, derives from the difference of food the mental qualities of cruelty and humanity. (a) “Certain it is, (says that author), that the people who subsist mostly on animal food are cruel and fierce above others. The barbarity of the English is well known: the Gaures, who live wholly on vegetables, are the sweetest-tempered of all men. Wicked men harden themselves to murder by drinking blood.” Even the most acute thinkers are not always on their guard against trivial analogies. Blood and slaughter are the limits of cruelty; and hence it is rashly inferred, that the drinking blood and eating flesh tend to inspire cruelty. The Carribees, in the same way of thinking, abstain from swines flesh; “which (say they), would make our eyes small like those of swine.” Before venturing on a general rule, one ought to be prepared by an extensive induction of particulars. What will M. Rousseau say as to the Macassars, who never taste animal food, and yet are acknowledged to be the fiercest of mortals? And what will he say as to the negroes of New Guinea, remarkably brutal and cruel? A favourite dog, companion to his master, lives commonly on the refuse of his table, and yet is remarkably gentle. The English are noted for love of liberty: they cannot bear oppression; and they know no bounds to resentment against oppressors. He may call this cruelty if he be so disposed: others more candid will esteem it a laudable property. But to charge a nation in general with cruelty and ferocity, can admit no excuse but stubborn truth. Ignorance cannot be admitted; and yet he shows gross ignorance, as no people are more noted for humanity: in no other nation do sympathetic affections prevail more: none are more ready in cases of distress to stretch out a relieving hand. Did not the English, in abolishing the horrid barbarity of torture, give an illustrious example of humanity to all other nations? Nay his instance that butchers are prohibited from being put upon a jury, the only particular instance he gives of their cruelty, is on the contrary a proof of their humanity. For why are butchers excluded from being judges in criminal trials? for no other reason than that being inured to the blood of animals, they may have too little regard to the lives of their fellow subjects.
[(b) ]See Elements of Criticism, ch. 2. part 1. sect. 7.
[(a) ]Emile, liv. 1.