Front Page Titles (by Subject) MISCELLANY I - Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, vol. 3
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MISCELLANY I - Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, vol. 3 
Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, ed. Douglas den Uyl (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001). 3 vols. Vol. 3.
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Chap. 1.CHAPTER I
Of the Nature, Rise, and Establishment ofMiscellanys.——The Subject of these which follow.——Intention of the Writer.
PEACE be with the Soul of that charitable and courteous Author, who for the common Benefit of his Fellow-Authors, introduc’d the ingenious way of MiscellaneousWriting!—It must be own’d that since this happy Method was establish’d, the Harvest of Wit has been more plentiful, and the Labourers more in number than heretofore. ’Tis well known to the able Practitioners in the writing Art; “That as easy as it is to conceive Wit, ’tis the hardest thing imaginable to be deliver’d of It, upon certain Terms.” Nothing cou’d be more severe or rigid than the Conditions formerly prescrib’d to Writers; when Criticism took place, and Regularity and Order were thought essential in a Treatise. The Notion of a genuine Work, a legitimate and just Piece, has certainly been the Occasion of great Timidity and Backwardness among the Adventurers in Wit: And the Imposition of such strict Laws and Rules of Composition, has set heavy on the free Spirits and forward Genius’s of Mankind. ’Twas a Yoke, it seems, which our Forefathers bore; but which, for our parts, we have generously thrown off. In effect, the invidious Distinctions of Bastardy and Legitimacy being at length remov’d; the natural and lawful Issue of the Brain comes with like advantage into the World: And Wit (mereWit) is well receiv’d; without examination of the Kind, or censure of the Form.
This the MiscellaneousManner of Writing, it must be own’d, has happily effected. It has render’d almost every Soil productive. It has disclos’d those various Seeds of Wit, which lay suppress’d in many a Bosom; and has rear’d numberless Conceits and curious Fancys, which the natural Rudeness and Asperity of their native Soil wou’d have with-held, or at least not have permitted to rise above the ground. From every Field, from every Hedge or Hillock, we now gather as delicious Fruits and fragrant Flowers, as of old from the richest and best-cultivated Gardens. Miserable were those antient Planters, who understanding not how to conform themselves to the rude Taste of unpolish’d Mankind, made it so difficult a Task to serve the World with intellectual Entertainments, and furnish out the Repasts of Literature and Science.
There was certainly a time when the Name of Author stood for something considerable in the World. To succeed happily in such a Labour as that of writing a Treatise or a Poem, was taken as a sure mark of Understanding and Good Sense. The Task was painful: But, it seems, ’twas honourable. How the Case happen’d, in process of time, to be so much revers’d, is hard to say. The primitive Authors perhaps being few in number, and highly respected for their Art, fell under the weight of Envy. Being sensible of their Misfortune in this respect, and being excited, as ’tis probable, by the Example of some popular Genius; they quitted their regular Schemes and accurate Forms of Workmanship, in favour of those Wits who could not possibly be receiv’d as Authors upon such difficult Terms. ’Twas necessary, it seems, that the Bottom of Wit shou’d be enlarg’d. ’Twas advisable that more Hands shou’d be taken into the Work. And nothing cou’d better serve this popular purpose, than the way of Miscellany, or commonEssay; in which the most confus’d Head, if fraught with a little Invention, and provided with Common-place-Book Learning, might exert itself to as much advantage, as the most orderly and well-settled Judgment.
To explain the better how this Revolution in Letters has been effected, it may not perhaps be indecent, shou’d we offer to compare our Writing-Artists, to the Manufacturers in Stuff or Silk. For among These ’tis esteem’d a principal piece of Skill, to frame a Pattern, or Plan of Workmanship, in which the several Colours are agreeably dispos’d; with such proportionable Adjustment of the various Figures and Devices, as may, in the whole, create a kind of Harmony to the Eye. According to this Method, each Piece must be, in reality, an Original. For to copy what has gone before, can be of no use. The Fraud wou’d easily be perceiv’d. On the other side, to work originally, and in a manner create each time anew, must be a matter of pressing weight, and fitted to the Strength and Capacity of none besides the choicest Workmen.
A Manner therefore is invented to confound this Simplicity and Conformity of Design. Patch-work is substituted. Cuttings and Shreds of Learning, with various Fragments, and Points of Wit, are drawn together, and tack’d in any fantastick form. If they chance to cast a Luster, and spread a sort of sprightly Glare; the Miscellany is approv’d, and the complex Form and Texture of the Work admir’d. The Eye, which before was to be won by Regularity, and had kept true to Measure and strict Proportion, is by this means pleasingly drawn aside, to commit a kind of Debauch, and amuse it-self in gaudy Colours, and disfigur’d Shapes of things. Custom, in the mean while, has not only tolerated this Licentiousness, but render’d it even commendable, and brought it into the highest repute. The Wild and Whimsical, under the name of the Odd and Pretty, succeed in the room of the Graceful and the Beautiful. Justness and Accuracy of Thought are set aside, as too constraining, and of too painful an aspect, to be endur’d in the agreeable and more easy Commerce of Gallantry, and modern Wit.
Now since it has been thought convenient, in these latter Ages, to distinguish the Provinces of Wit and Wisdom, and set apart the agreeable from the useful; ’tis evident there cou’d be nothing devis’d more sutable to the distinct and separate Interest of the former of these Provinces, than this complex manner of Performance which we call Miscellany. For whatever is capricious and odd, is sure to create Diversion, to those who look no further. And where there is nothing like Nature, there is no room for the troublesom part of Thought or Contemplation. ’Tis the Perfection of certain Grotesque-Painters, to keep as far from Nature as possible. To find a Likeness in their Works, is to find the greatest Fault imaginable. A natural Connexion is a Slur. A Coherence, a Design, a Meaning, is against their purpose, and destroys the very Spirit and Genius of their Workmanship.
I remember formerly when I was a Spectator in the French Theater, I found it the Custom, at the end of every grave and solemn Tragedy, to introduce a comick Farce, or Miscellany, which they call’d the little Piece. We have indeed a Method still more extraordinary upon our own Stage. For we think it agreeable and just, to mix the Little Piece or Farce with the main Plot or Fable, thro’ every Act. This perhaps may be the rather chosen, because our Tragedy is so much deeper and bloodier than that of the French, and therefore needs more immediate Refreshment from the elegant way of Drollery, and Burlesque-wit; which being thus closely interwoven with its opposite, makes that most accomplish’d kind of theatricalMiscellany, call’d by our Poets a Tragi-comedy.
I cou’d go further perhaps, and demonstrate from the Writings of many of our grave Divines, the Speeches of our Senators, and other principal Models of our national Erudition, “That the MiscellaneousManner is at present in the highest esteem.” But since my chief Intention in the following Sheets is to descant cursorily upon some late Pieces of a British Author; I will presume, That what I have said already on this Head is sufficient; and That it will not be judg’d improper or absurd in me, as I proceed, to take advantage of this miscellaneous Taste which now evidently prevails. According to this Method, whilst I serve as Critick or Interpreter to this new Writer, I may the better correct his Flegm, and give him more of the fashionable Air and Manner of the World; especially in what relates to the Subject and Manner of his two last Pieces, which are contain’d in his second Volume. For these being of the more regular and formal kind, may easily be oppressive to the airy Reader; and may therefore with the same assurance as Tragedy claim the necessary Relief of the little Piece or Farce above-mention’d.
Nor ought the Title of a MiscellaneousWriter to be deny’d me, on the account that I have grounded my Miscellanys upon a certain Set of Treatises already publish’d. Grounds and Foundations are of no moment in a kind of Work, which, according to modern Establishment, has properly neither Top nor Bottom, Beginning nor End. Besides, that I shall no-way confine myself to the precise Contents of these Treatises; but, like my Fellow-Miscellanarians, shall take occasion to vary often from my propos’d Subject, and make what Deviations or Excursions I shall think fit, as I proceed in my randomEssays.
Chap. 2.CHAPTER II
Of Controversial Writings: Answers: Replies.—Polemick Divinity; or the Writing Church-Militant.—Philosophers, and Bear-Garden.—Authors pair’d and match’d.—The Match-makers.—Foot-Ball.—A Dialogue between our Author and his Bookseller.
AMONG the many Improvements daily made in the Art of Writing, there is none perhaps which can be said to have attain’d a greater Height than that of Controversy, or the Method of Answer and Refutation. ’Tis true indeed, that antiently the Wits of Men were for the most part taken up in other Employment. If Authors writ ill, they were despis’d: If well, they were by some Party or other espous’d. For Partys there wou’d necessarily be, and Sects of every kind, in Learning and Philosophy. Every one sided with whom he lik’d; and having the liberty of hearing each side speak for it-self, stood in no need of express Warning-Pieces against pretended Sophistry, or dangerous Reasoning. Particular Answers to single Treatises, were thought to be of little use. And it was esteem’d no Compliment to a Reader, to help him so carefully in the Judgment of every Piece which came abroad. Whatever Sects there were in those days, the Zeal of Party-causes ran not so high as to give the Reader a Taste of those personal Reproaches, which might pass in a Debate between the different Partymen.
Thus Matters stood of old; when as yet the Method of writing Controversy was not rais’d into an Art, nor the Feuds of contending Authors become the chief Amusement of the learned World. But we have at present so high a Relish of this kind, that the Writings of the Learned are never truly gustful till they are come to what we may properly enough call their due Ripeness, and have begot a Fray. When the Answer and Reply is once form’d, our Curiosity is excited: We begin then, for the first time, to whet our Attention, and apply our Ear.
For example: Let a zealous Divine and flaming Champion of our Faith, when inclin’d to shew himself in Print, make choice of some tremendous Mystery of Religion, oppos’d heretofore by some damnable Heresiarch; whom having vehemently refuted, he turns himself towards the orthodox Opinion, and supports the true Belief, with the highest Eloquence and profoundest Erudition; he shall, notwithstanding this, remain perhaps in deep Obscurity, to the great affliction of his Bookseller, and the regret of all who bear a just Veneration for Church-history, and the antient Purity of the Christian Faith. But let it so happen that in this Prosecution of his deceas’d Adversary, our Doctor raises up some living Antagonist; who, on the same foot of Orthodoxy with himself, pretends to arraign his Expositions, and refute the Refuter upon every Article he has advanc’d; from this moment the Writing gathers Life, the Publick listens, the Bookseller takes heart; and when Issue is well join’d, the Repartees grown smart, and the Contention vigorous between the learned Partys, a Ring is made, and Readers gather in abundance. Every one takes party, and encourages his own Side. “This shall be my Champion!—This Man for my Money!—Well hit, on our side!—Again, a good Stroke!—There he was even with him!—Have at him the next Bout!”—Excellent Sport! And when the Combatants are for a-while drawn off, and each retir’d with his own Companions; What Praises, and Congratulations! What Applauses of the suppos’d Victor! And how honourably is he saluted by his Favourers, and complimented even to the disturbance of his Modesty! “Nay, but Gentlemen!—Good Gentlemen! Do you really think thus?—Are you sincere with me?—Have I treated my Adversary as he deserves?” “Never was Man so maul’d. Why you have kill’d him downright.” “O, Sirs! you flatter me.” “He can never rise more.” “Think ye so indeed?” “Or if he shou’d; ’twou’d be a Pleasure to see how you wou’d handle him.”
These are the Triumphs. This what sets sharp: This gives the Author his Edge, and excites the Reader’s Attention; when the Trumpets are thus sounded to the Croud, and a kind of Amphitheatrical Entertainment exhibited to the Multitude, by these Gladiatorian Pen-men.
The Author of the preceding Treatises being by profession a nice Inspector into the Ridicule of Things, must in all probability have rais’d to himself some such Views as these, which hinder’d him from engaging in the way of Controversy. For when, by accident, the * First of these Treatises (a private Letter, and in the Writer’s Esteem, little worthy of the Publick’s notice) came to be read abroad in Copys, and afterwards in Print; the smartest Answers which came out against it, cou’d not, it seems, move our Author to form any Reply. All he was heard to say in return, was, “That he thought whoever had taken upon him to publish a Book in answer to that casual Piece, had certainly made either a very high Compliment to the Author, or a very ill one to the Publick.”
It must be own’d, that when a Writer of any kind is so considerable as to deserve the Labour and Pains of some shreud Heads to refute him in publick, he may, in the quality of an Author, be justly congratulated on that occasion. ’Tis suppos’d necessarily that he must have writ with some kind of Ability or Wit. But if his original Performance be in truth no better than ordinary; his Answerer’s Task must certainly be very mean. He must be very indifferently imploy’d, who wou’d take upon him to answer Nonsense in form, ridicule what is of it-self a Jest, and put it upon the World to read a second Book for the sake of the Impertinencys of a former.
Taking it, however, for granted, “That a sorry Treatise may be the foundation of a considerable Answer;” aReply still must certainly be ridiculous, which-ever way we take it. For either the Author, in his original Piece, has been truly refuted, or not. If refuted; why does he defend? If not refuted; why trouble himself? What has the Publick to do with his private Quarrels, or his Adversary’s Impertinence? Or supposing the World out of curiosity may delight to see a Pedant expos’d by a Man of better Wit, and a Controversy thus unequally carry’d on between two such opposite Partys; How long is this Diversion likely to hold good? And what will become of these polemick Writings a few Years hence? What is already become of those mighty Controversys, with which some of the most eminent Authors amus’d the World within the memory of the youngest Scholar? An original Work or two may perhaps remain: But for the subsequent Defenses, the Answers, Rejoinders, and Replications; they have been long since paying their attendance to the Pastry-cooks. Mankind perhaps were heated at that time, when first those Matters were debated: But they are now cool again. They laugh’d: They carry’d on the Humour: They blew the Coals: They teaz’d, and set on, maliciously, and to create themselves diversion. But the Jest is now over. No-one so much as inquires Where the Wit was; or Where possibly the Sting shou’d lie of those notable Reflections and satirical Hints, which were once found so pungent, and gave the Readers such high Delight.—Notable Philosophers and Divines, who can be contented to make sport, and write in learned Billingsgate, to divert the Coffee-house, and entertain the Assemblys at Booksellers Shops, or the more airy Stalls of inferior Book-retailers!
It must be allow’d, That in this respect, controversial Writing is not so wholly unprofitable; and that for Book-Merchants, of whatever Kind or Degree, they undoubtedly receive no small Advantage from a right Improvement of a learned Scuffle. Nothing revives ’em more, or makes a quicker Trade, than a Pair of substantial Divines or grave Philosophers, well match’d, and soundly back’d; till by long worrying one another, they are grown out of breath, and have almost lost their Force of Biting.—“So have I known a crafty Glazier, in time of Frost, procure a Football, to draw into the Street the emulous Chiefs of the robust Youth. The tumid Bladder bounds at every Kick, bursts the withstanding Casements, the Chassys, Lanterns, and all the brittle vitrious Ware. The Noise of Blows and Out-cries fills the whole Neighbourhood; and Ruins of Glass cover the stony Pavements; till the bloated battering Engine, subdu’d by force of Foot and Fist, and yielding up its Breath at many a fatal Cranny, becomes lank and harmless, sinks in its Flight, and can no longer uphold the Spirit of the contending Partys.”
This our Author supposes to have been the occasion of his being so often and zealously complimented by his Amanuensis (for so he calls * his Bookseller or Printer) on the Fame of his first Piece. The obliging Crafts-man has at times presented him with many a handsom Book, set off with Titles of Remarks, Reflections, and the like, which, as he assur’d him, were Answers to his small Treatise. “Here Sir! (says he) you have a considerable Hand has undertaken you!——This Sir, is a Reverend—This a Right Reverend——This a noted Author——Will you not reply, Sir?——O’ my word, Sir, the World is in expectation.” “Pity they shou’d be disappointed!” “A dozen Sheets, Sir, wou’d be sufficient.—You might dispatch it presently.” “Think you so?” “I have my Paper ready—And a good Letter.—Take my word for it—You shall see, Sir!” “Enough. But hark ye (Mr. A, a, a, a) my worthy Engineer, and Manager of the War of Letters! Ere you prepare your Artillery, or engage me in Acts of Hostility, let me hear, I intreat you, Whether or no my Adversary be taken notice of.—Wait for his Second Edition. And if by next Year, or Year or two after, it be known in good Company that there is such a Book in being, I shall then perhaps think it time to consider of a Reply.”
Chap. 3.CHAPTER III
Of the Letter concerning Enthusiasm.—Foreign Criticks.—Of Letters in general; and of the Epistolary Style.—Addresses to great Men.—Authors and Horsemanship.—The modern Amble.—Further Explanation of theMiscellaneous Manner.
AS resolute as our Author may have shewn himself in refusing to take notice of the smart Writings publish’d against him by certain Zealots of his own Country, he cou’d not, it seems, but out of curiosity observe what the foreign and more impartial Criticks might object to his small Treatise, which he was surpriz’d to hear had been translated into foreign Languages, soon after it had been publish’d here at home. The first Censure of this kind which came to our Author’s sight, was that of the Paris*Journal des Savans. Considering how little favourable the Author of the Letter had shewn himself towards the Romish Church, and Policy of France, it must be own’d those Journalists have treated him with sufficient Candor: tho they fail’d not to take what Advantages they well cou’d against the Writing, and particularly arraign’d it for the want † of Order and Method.
The Protestant Writers, such as live in a free Country, and can deliver their Sentiments without Constraint, have certainly ‡ done our Author more Honour than he ever presum’d to think he cou’d deserve. His Translator indeed, who had done him the previous Honour of introducing him to the Acquaintance of the foreign World, represents particularly, by the Turn given to the latter end of the Letter, that the Writer of it was, as to his Condition and Rank, little better than an inferior Dependent on the noble Lord to whom he had address’d himself. And in reality the Original has so much of that air; that I wonder not, if what the Author left ambiguous, the Translator has determin’d to the side of Clientship and Dependency.
But whatever may have been the Circumstance or Character of our Author himself; that of his great Friend ought in justice to have been consider’d by those former Criticks above-mention’d. So much, at least, shou’d have been taken notice of, that there was a realgreat Man characteriz’d, and sutable Measures of Address and Style preserv’d. But they who wou’d neither observe this, nor apprehend the Letter it-self to be real, were insufficient Criticks, and unqualify’d to judg of the Turn or Humour of a Piece, which they had never consider’d in a proper light.
’Tis become indeed so common a Practice among Authors, to feign a Correspondency, and give the Title of a private Letter to a Piece address’d solely to thePublick, that it wou’d not be strange to see other Journalists and Criticks, as well as the Gentlemen of Paris, pass over such Particularitys, as things of Form. This Prejudice however cou’d not misguide a chief Critick of the Protestant side; when * mentioning this Letter concerning Enthusiasm, he speaks of it as a real Letter, (such as in truth it was) not a precise and formal †Treatise, design’d for publick View.
It will be own’d surely, by those who have learnt to judg of Elegancy and Wit by the help merely of modern Languages, That we cou’d have little Relish of the best Letters of a Balsac or Voiture, were we wholly ignorant of the Characters of the principal Persons to whom those Letters were actually written. But much less cou’d we find pleasure in this reading, shou’d we take it into our heads, that both the Personages and Correspondency it-self were merely fictitious. Let the best of Tully’s Epistles be read in such a narrow View as this, and they will certainly prove very insipid. If a real Brutus, a real Atticus be not suppos’d, there will be no real Cicero. The elegant Writer will disappear: as will the vast Labour and Art with which this eloquent Roman writ those Letters to his illustrious Friends. There was no kind of Composition in which this great Author prided or pleas’d himself more than in this; where he endeavour’d to throw off the Mein of the Philosopher and Orator, whilst in effect he employ’d both his Rhetorick and Philosophy with the greatest Force. They who can read an Epistle or Satir of Horace in somewhat better than a mere scholastick Relish, will comprehend that the Concealment of Order and Method, in this manner of Writing, makes the chief Beauty of the Work. They will own, that unless a Reader be in some measure appriz’d of the Characters of an Augustus, a Maecenas, a Florus, or a Trebatius, there will be little Relish in those Satirs or Epistles address’d in particular to the Courtiers, Ministers, and Great Men of the Times. Even the Satirick, or MiscellaneousManner of the polite Antients, requir’d as much Order as the most regular Pieces. But the Art was to destroy every such Token or Appearance, give an extemporary Air to what was writ, and make the Effect of Art be felt, without discovering the Artifice. There needs no further Explanation on this Head. Our Author himself has said enough in his *Advice to an Author, particularly where he treats of the simple Style, in contra-distinction to the learned, the formal, or methodick.
’Tis a different Case indeed, when the Title of Epistle is improperly given to such Works as were never writ in any other view than that of being made publick, or to serve as Exercises or Specimens of the Wit of their Composer. Such were those infinite Numbers of Greek and Latin Epistles, writ by the antient Sophists, Grammarians, or Rhetoricians; where we find the real Character of the Epistle, the genuine Style and Manners of the corresponding Partys sometimes imitated; but at other times not so much as aim’d at, nor any Measures of historical Truth preserv’d. Such perhaps we may esteem even the Letters of a †Seneca to his Friend Lucilius. Or supposing that philosophical Courtier had really such a Correspondency; and, at several times, had sent so many fair Epistles, honestly sign’d and seal’d, to his Country-friend at a distance; it appears however by the Epistles themselves, in their proper Order, (if they may be said to have any) that after a few Attempts at the beginning, the Author by degrees loses sight of his Correspondent, and takes the World in general for his Reader or Disciple. He falls into the random way of Miscellaneous Writing; says every-where great and noble Things, in and out of the way, accidentally as Words led him (for with these he plays perpetually); with infinite Wit, but with little or no Coherence; without a Shape or Body to his Work; without a real *Beginning, a Middle, or an End. Of a hundred and twenty four Epistles, you may, if you please, make five Hundred, or half a Score. A great-one, for instance, you may divide into five or six. A little-one you may tack to another; and that to another; and so on. The Unity of the Writing will be the same: The Life and Spirit full as well preserv’d. ’Tis not only whole Letters or Pages you may change and manage thus at pleasure: Every Period, every Sentence almost, is independent; and may be taken asunder, transpos’d, postpon’d, anticipated, or set in any new Order, as you fansy.
This is the Manner of Writing so much admir’d and imitated in our Age, that we have scarce the Idea of any other Model. We know little, indeed, of the Difference between one Model or Character of writing and another. All runs to the same Tune, and beats exactly one and the same Measure. Nothing, one wou’d think, cou’d be more tedious than this uniform Pace. The common Amble or Canterbury is not, I am persuaded, more tiresom to a good Rider, than this see-saw of Essay-Writers is to an able Reader. The just Composer of a legitimate Piece is like an able Traveller, who exactly measures his Journey, considers his Ground, premeditates his Stages, and Intervals of Relaxation and Intention, to the very Conclusion of his Undertaking, that he happily arrives where he first propos’d when he set out. He is not presently upon the Spur, or in his full Career; but walks his Steed leisurely out of his Stable, settles himself in his Stirrups, and when fair Road and Season offer, puts on perhaps to a round Trot; thence into a Gallop, and after a while takes up. As Down, or Meadow, or shady Lane present themselves, he accordingly sutes his Pace, favours his Palfry; and is sure not to bring him puffing, and in a heat, into his last Inn. But the Post-way is become highly fashionable with modern Authors. The very same stroke sets you out, and brings you in. Nothing stays, or interrupts. Hill or Valley; rough or smooth; thick or thin: No Difference; no Variation. When an Author sits down to write, he knows no other Business he has, than to be witty, and take care that his Periods be well turn’d, or (as they commonly say) run smooth. In this manner, he doubts not to gain the Character of bright. When he has writ as many Pages as he likes, or as his Run of Fancy wou’d permit; he then perhaps considers what Name he had best give to his new Writing: whether he shou’d call it Letter, Essay, Miscellany, or aught else. The Bookseller perhaps is to determine this at last, when all, besides the Preface, Epistle Dedicatory, and Title-page, is dispatch’d.
[Hesitating whether he should make a bench or a Priapus. . . . So I am a God!] Horat. Sat. 8. Lib. i. ver. 2.
[* ]Viz. The Letter concerning ENTHUSIASM.
[* ] VOL. I. pag. 305.
[* ]Du 25 Mars, 1709.
[† ]Ses pensées ne semblent occuper dans son Ouvrage, que la place que le hazard leur a donnée. Ibid. pag. 181.
[‡ ] (1.) Bibliotheque Choisie, année 1709. Tome XIX. pag. 427.
(2.) Histoire des Ouvrages des Savans, Mois d’ Octobre, Novembre & Decembre, 1708. pag. 514.
(3.) Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres, Mois de Mars, 1710.
[* ]Ceux qui l’ont luë ont pû voir en général, que l’Auteur ne s’y est pas proposé un certain plan, pour traiter sa matiere methodiquement; parceque c’est une Lettre, & non un Traité. [Those who have read it have been able to see in general that the Author has not proposed there any particular plan, for the purpose of treating his material methodically; because it is a Letter and not a Treatise.] Bibliotheque Choisie. Ibid. pag. 428.
[† ] If in this joint Edition, with other Works, the Letter be made to pass under that general Name of Treatise; ’tis the Bookseller must account for it. For the Author’s part, he considers it as no other than what it originally was.
[* ] VOL. I. pag. 233, 257, 258.
[† ] †’Tis not the Person, Character, or Genius, but the Style and Manner of this great Man, which we presume to censure. We acknowledg his noble Sentiments and worthy Actions. We own the Patriot, and good Minister: But we reject the Writer. He was the first of any Note or Worth who gave credit to that false Style and Manner here spoken of. He might, on this account, be call’d in reality The Corrupter ofRomanEloquence. This indeed cou’d not but naturally, and of it-self, become relax and dissolute, after such a Relaxation and Dissolution of Manners, consequent to the Change of Government, and to the horrid Luxury and Effeminacy of the Roman Court, even before the time of a Claudius, or a Nero. There was no more possibility of making a Stand for Language, than for Liberty. As the World now stood, the highest Glory which cou’d be attain’d by mortal Man, was to be Mitigator or Moderator of that universal Tyranny already establish’d. To this I must add, That in every City, Principality, or smaller Nation, where single WILL prevails, and Court-power, instead of Laws or Constitutions, guides the State; ’tis of the highest difficulty for the best Minister to procure a just, or even a tolerable Administration. Where such a Minister is found, who can but moderately influence the petty Tyranny, he deserves considerable Applause and Honour. But in the Case we have mention’d, where a universal Monarchy was actually establish’d, and the Interest of a whole World concern’d; He surely must have been esteem’d a Guardian-Angel, who, as a prime Minister, cou’d, for several Years, turn the very worst of Courts, and worst-condition’d of all Princes, to the fatherly Care and just Government of Mankind. Such a Minister was Seneca under an Agrippina and a Nero. And such he was acknowledg’d by the antient and never-sparing Satirists, who cou’d not forbear to celebrate, withal, his Generosity and Friendship in a private Life:
[No one asks for what used to be sent to his clients by Seneca, or what good-natured Piso or Cotta used to give; for the glory of liberality was once reckoned greater than inscriptions recording your high office.] Juvenal. Sat. v. ver. 108.
[Who is so abandoned as to hesitate to set Seneca above Nero?] Id. Sat. viii. ver. 211.
This Remark is what I have been tempted to make by the way, on the Character of this Roman Author, more mistaken (if I am not very much so my-self) than any other so generally study’d. As for the philosophick Character or Function imputed to him, ’twas foreign, and no-way proper or peculiar to one who never assum’d so much as that of Sophist, or Pensionary Teacher of Philosophy. He was far wide of any such Order, or Profession. There is great difference between a Courtier who takes a Fancy for Philosophy, and a Philosopher who shou’d take a Fancy for a Court. Now Seneca was born a Courtier; being Son of a Court-Rhetor: himself bred in the same manner, and taken into favour for his Wit and Genius, his admir’d Style and Eloquence; not for his Learning in the Books of Philosophy and the Antients. For this indeed was not very profound in him. In short, he was a Man of wonderful Wit, Fluency of Thought and Language, an able Minister, and honest Courtier. And what has been deliver’d down to his prejudice, is by the common Enemy of all the free and generous Romans, that apish shallow Historian, and Court-Flatterer, Dion Cassius, of a low Age, when Barbarism (as may be easily seen in his own Work) came on apace, and the very Traces and Features of Virtue, Science and Knowledg, were wearing out of the World.
[* ]Infra, p. 259, 260 in the Notes. And VOL. I. p. 146.