Front Page Titles (by Subject) MISCELLANY V - Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, vol. 3
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MISCELLANY V - 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
Ceremonial adjusted, betweenAuthorandReader.—Affectation of Precedency in the former.—Various Claim to Inspiration.—Bards; Prophets: Sibylline Scripture.—Written Oracles; in Verse and Prose.—Common Interest of antient Letters, and Christianity.—State of Wit, Elegance, and Correctness.—Poetick Truth.—Preparation for Criticism on our Author, in his concluding Treatise.
OF all the artificial Relations, form’d between Mankind, the most capricious and variable is that of Author and Reader. Our Author, for his part, has declar’d his Opinion of this, where * he gives his Advice to modern Authors. And tho he supposes that every Author in Form, is, in respect of the particular matter he explains, superior in Understanding to his Reader; yet he allows not that any Author shou’d assume the upper hand, or pretend to withdraw himself from that necessary Subjection to foreign Judgment and Criticism, which must determine the Place of Honour on the Reader’s side.
’Tis evident that an Author’s Art and Labour are for his Reader’s sake alone. ’Tis to his Reader he makes his application, if not openly and avowedly, yet, at least, with implicit Courtship. Poets indeed, and especially those of a modern kind, have a peculiar manner of treating this Affair with a high hand. They pretend to set themselves above Mankind. “Their Pens are sacred: Their Style and Utterance divine.” They write, often, as in a Language foreign to human Kind; and wou’d disdain to be reminded of those poor Elements of Speech, their Alphabet and Grammar.
But here inferior Mortals presume often to intercept their Flight, and remind them of their fallible and human part. Had those first Poets who began this Pretence to Inspiration, been taught a manner of communicating their rapturous Thoughts and high Ideas by some other Medium than that of Style and Language; the Case might have stood otherwise. But the inspiringDivinity or Muse having, in the Explanation of her-self, submitted her Wit and Sense to the mechanick Rules of human arbitrary Composition; she must, in consequence, and by necessity, submit her-self to human Arbitration, and the Judgment of the literate World. And thus the Reader is still superior, and keeps the upper hand.
’Tis indeed no small Absurdity, to assert a Work or Treatise, written in human Language, to be above human Criticism, or Censure. For if the Art of Writing be from the grammatical Rules of human Invention and Determination; if even these Rules are form’d on casual Practice and various Use: there can be no Scripture but what must of necessity be subject to the Reader’s narrow Scrutiny and strict Judgment; unless a Language and Grammar, different from any of human Structure, were deliver’d down from Heaven, and miraculously accommodated to human Service and Capacity.
’Tis no otherwise in the grammatical Art of Characters, and painted Speech, than in the Art of Painting it-self. I have seen, in certain Christian Churches, an antient Piece or two, affirm’d, on the solemn Faith of Priestly Tradition, “to have been Angelically and Divinely wrought, by a supernatural Hand, and sacred Pencil.” Had the Piece happen’d to be of a Hand like Raphael’s, I cou’d have found nothing certain to oppose to this Tradition. But having observ’d the whole Style and Manner of the pretended heavenly Workmanship to be so indifferent as to vary in many Particulars from the Truth of Art, I presum’d within my-self to beg pardon of the Tradition, and assert confidently, “That if the Pencil had been Heaven-guided, it cou’d never have been so lame in its performance”: It being a mere contradiction to all Divine and Moral Truth, that a Celestial Hand, submitting it-self to the Rudiments of a human Art, shou’d sin against theArtit-self, and express Falshood and Error, instead of Justness and Proportion.
It may be alledg’d perhaps, “That there are, however, certain Authors in the World, who tho, of themselves, they neither boldly claim the Privilege of Divine Inspiration, nor carry indeed the least resemblance of Perfection in their Style or Composition; yet they subdue theReader, gain the ascendent over his Thought and Judgment, and force from him a certain implicit Veneration and Esteem.” To this I can only answer, “That if there be neither Spell nor Inchantment in the Case; this can plainly be no other than mere Enthusiasm”; except, perhaps, where the supreme Powers have given their Sanction to any religious Record, or pious Writ: And in this Case, indeed, it becomes immoral and profane in any one, to deny absolutely, or dispute the sacred Authority of the least Line or Syllable contain’d in it. But shou’d the Record, instead of being single, short and uniform, appear to be multifarious, voluminous, and of the most difficult Interpretation; it wou’d be somewhat hard, if not wholly impracticable in the Magistrate, to suffer this Record to be universally current, and at the same time prevent its being variously apprehended and descanted on, by the several differing Genius’s and contrary Judgments of Mankind.
’Tis remarkable, that in the politest of all Nations, the Writings look’d upon as most sacred, were those of their great Poets; whose Works indeed were truly divine, in respect of Art, and the Perfection of their Frame and Composition. But there was yet more *Divinity ascrib’d to them, than what is comprehended in this latter Sense. The Notions of vulgar Religion were built on their miraculous Narrations. The wiser and better sort themselves paid a regard to them in this respect; tho they interpreted them indeed more allegorically. Even the Philosophers who criticiz’d ’em with most Severity, were not their least Admirers; when they * ascrib’d to ’em that divine Inspiration, or sublimeEnthusiasm, of which our Author has largely treated † elsewhere.
It wou’d, indeed, ill become any Pretender to Divine Writing, to publish his Work under a Character of Divinity; if, after all his Endeavours, he came short of a consummate and just Performance. In this respect the CumeanSibyl was not so indiscreet or frantick, as she might appear, perhaps, by writing her Prophetick Warnings and pretended Inspirations upon Joint-Leaves; which, immediately after their elaborate Superscription, were torn in pieces, and scatter’d by the Wind.
‡ You will see an inspired prophetess, who chants destiny at the foot of her rock and entrusts her marks and words to leaves. Whatever lines the maid has written on the leaves, she sorts into order and shuts them within her cave. There they remain unmoved nor shift from their order. Yet when the hinge turns and a breath of wind has stirred them, and the door has disordered the light leaves, never thereafter does she trouble to capture them as they flutter in her cavern or to restore their order or join the leaves. Away men go without advice and hate the Sibyl’s home.
’Twas impossible to disprove the Divinity of such Writings, whilst they cou’d be perus’d only in Fragments. Had the Sister-Priestess of Delphos, who deliver’d her-self in audible plain Metre, been found at any time to have transgress’d the Rule of Verse, it wou’d have been difficult in those days to father the lame Poetry upon Apollo himself. But where the Invention of the Leaves prevented the reading of a single Line intire; whatever Interpretations might have been made of this fragil and volatil Scripture, no Imperfection cou’d be charg’d on the OriginalText it-self.
What those * Volumes may have been, which the disdainful Sibyl or Prophetess committed to the Flames; or what the remainder was, which the Roman Prince receiv’d and consecrated; I will not pretend to judg: Tho it has been admitted for Truth by the antient Christian Fathers, That these Writings were so far sacred and divine, as to have prophesy’d of the Birth of our religious Founder, and bore testimony to that holy Writ which has preserv’d his Memory, and is justly held, in the highest degree, sacred among Christians.
The Policy however of OldRome was such, as not absolutely to rest the Authority of their Religion on any Composition of Literature. The SibyllineVolumes were kept safely lock’d, and inspected only by such as were ordain’d, or deputed for that purpose. And in this Policy the NewRome has follow’d their Example; in scrupling to annex the supreme Authority and sacred Character of Infallibility toScriptureit-self; and in refusing to submit that Scripture to publick Judgment, or to any Eye or Ear but what they qualify for the Inspection of such sacred Mysterys.
The Mahometan Clergy seem to have a different Policy. They boldly rest the Foundation of their Religion on a Book: Such a one as (according to their Pretension) is not only perfect, but inimitable. Were a real Man of Letters, and a just Critick permitted to examine this Scripture by the known Rules of Art; he wou’d soon perhaps refute this Plea. But so barbarous is the accompanying Policy and Temper of these Eastern Religionists, that they discourage, and in effect extinguish all true Learning, Science, and the politer Arts, in company with the antient Authors and Languages, which they set aside; and by this infallible Method, leave their Sacred Writthe sole Standard of literate Performance. For being compar’d to nothing besides it-self, or what is of an inferior kind, it must undoubtedly be thought incomparable.
’Twill be yielded, surely, to the Honour of the Christian World, that theirFaith (especially that of the Protestant Churches) stands on a more generous Foundation. They not only allow Comparison of Authors, but are content to derive their Proofs of the Validity of their sacred Record and Revelation, even from those Authors call’d Profane; as being well appriz’d, according to the Maxim of * our Divine Master, “That in what we bear witness only to our-selves, our Witness cannot be establish’d as a Truth.” So that there being at present no immediate Testimony of Miracle or Sign in behalf of holy Writ; and there being in its own particular Composition or Style nothing miraculous, or self-convincing; if the collateral Testimony of other antient Records, Historians, and foreign Authors, were destroy’d, or wholly lost; there wou’d be less Argument or Plea remaining against that natural Suspicion of those who are call’d Sceptical, “That the holy Records them-selves were no other than the pure Invention or artificial Compilement of an interested Party, in behalf of the richest Corporation and most profitable Monopoly which cou’d be erected in the World.”
Thus, in reality, the Interest of our pious Clergy is necessarily join’d with that of antient Letters, and polite Learning. By this they perpetually refute the crafty Arguments of those Objectors. When they abandon this; they resign their Cause. When they strike at it; they strike even at the Root and Foundation of our holy Faith, and weaken that Pillar on which the whole Fabrick of our Religion depends.
It belongs to mere Enthusiasts and Fanaticks to plead the Sufficiency of a reiterate translated Text, deriv’d to ’em thro’ so many Channels, and subjected to so many Variations, of which they are wholly ignorant. Yet wou’d they persuade us, it seems, that from hence alone they can recognize the Divine Spirit, and receive it in themselves, un-subject (as they imagine) to any Rule, and superior to what they themselves often call the dead Letter, and unprofitable Science.—This, any one may see, is building Castles in the Air, and demolishing them again at pleasure; as the exercise of an aerial Fancy, or heated Imagination.
But the judicious Divines of the establish’d Christian Churches, have sufficiently condemn’d this Manner. They are far from resting their Religion on the common Aspect, or obvious Form of their vulgarBible, as it presents it-self in the printed Copy, or modern Version. Neither do they in the Original it-self represent it to us as a very Master-piece of Writing, or as absolutely perfect in the Purity and Justness either of Style, or Composition. They allow the Holy Authors to have written according to their best Facultys, and the Strength of their natural Genius: “A Shepherd like a Shepherd; and a Prince like a Prince: A Man of reading, and advanc’d in Letters, like a Proficient in the kind; and a Man of meaner Capacity and Reading, like one of the ordinary sort, in his own common Idiom, and imperfect manner of Narration.”
’Tis the Substance only of the Narrative, and the principal Facts confirming the Authority of the Revelation, which our Divines think themselves concern’d to prove, according to the best Evidence of which the Matter it-self is capable. And whilst the Sacred Authors themselves allude not only to the Annals and Historys of the HeathenWorld, but even to the philosophical Works, the regular *Poems, the very Plays and †Comedys of the learned and polite Antients; it must be own’d, that as those antient Writings are impair’d, or lost, not only the Light and Clearness of holy Writ, but even the Evidence it-self of its main Facts, must in proportion be diminish’d and brought in question. So ill advis’d were * those devout Churchmen heretofore, who in the height of Zeal did their utmost to destroy all Footsteps of Heathen Literature, and consequently all further use of Learning or Antiquity.
But happily the Zeal of this kind is now left as proper only to those despis’d and ignorant modern Enthusiasts we have describ’d. The RomanChurch it-self is so recover’d from this primitive Fanaticism, that their Great Men, and even their *Pontiffs, are found ready to give their helping Hand, and confer their Bounty liberally towards the advancement of all antient and polite Learning. They justly observe, that their very Traditions stand in need of some collateral Proof. The Conservation of these other antient and disinterested Authors, they wisely judg essential to the Credibility of those principal Facts, on which the whole religious History and Tradition depend.
’Twou’d indeed be in vain for us, to bring a Pontius Pilate into our Creed, and recite what happen’d under him, in Judea, if we knew not, “Under whom he himself govern’d, whose Authority he had, or what Character he bore, in that remote Country, and amidst a foreign People.” In the same manner, ’twou’d be in vain for a RomanPontiff to derive his Title to spiritual Sovereignty from the Seat, Influence, Power, and Donation of the RomanCaesars, and their Successors; if it appear’d not by any History, or collateral Testimony, “Who the first Caesars were; and how they came possess’d of that universal Power, and long Residence of Dominion.”
MY READER doubtless, by this time, must begin to wonder thro’ what Labyrinth of Speculation, and odd Texture of capricious Reflections, I am offering to conduct him. But he will not, I presume, be altogether displeas’d with me, when I give him to understand, that being now come into my last Miscellany, and being sensible of the little Courtship I have paid him, comparatively with what is practis’d in that kind by other modern Authors; I am willing, by way of Compensation, to express my Loyalty or Homage towards him, and shew, by my natural Sentiments, and Principles, “What particular Deference and high Respect I think to be his Due.”
The Issue therefore of this long Deduction is, in the first place, with due Compliments, in my Capacity of Author, and in the name of all modest Work-men willingly joining with me in this Representation, to congratulate our EnglishReader on the Establishment of what is so advantageous to himself; I mean, that mutual Relation between him and our-selves, which naturally turns so much to his Advantage, and makes us to be in reality the subservient Party. And in this respect ’tis to be hop’d he will long enjoy his just Superiority and Privilege over his humble Servants, who compose and labour for his sake. The Relation in all likelihood must still continue, and be improv’d. Our common Religion and Christianity, founded on Letters and Scripture, promises thus much. Nor is this Hope likely to fail us, whilst Readers are really allow’d the Liberty to read; that is to say, to examine, construe, and remark with Understanding.Learning and Science must of necessity flourish, whilst the Language of the wisest and most learned of Nations is acknowledg’d to contain the principal and essential part of our holy Revelation. And Criticism,Examinations, Judgments, literate Labours and Inquirys must still be in Repute and Practice; whilst Antient Authors, so necessary to the Support of the Sacred Volumes, are in request, and afford Imployment of such infinite Extent to us Moderns of whatever degree, who are desirous to signalize our-selves by any Atchievement in Letters, and be consider’d as the Investigators of Knowledg and Politeness.
I may undoubtedly, by virtue of my preceding Argument in behalf of Criticism, be allow’d, without suspicion of Flattery or mere Courtship, to assert the Reader’s Privilege above the Author; and assign to him, as I have done, the upper Hand, and Place of Honour. As to Fact, we know for certain, that the greatest of Philosophers, the very Founder of Philosophy it-self, was no Author. Nor did the Divine Author, and Founder of our Religion, condescend to be an Author in this other respect. He who cou’d best have given us the History of his own Life, with the intire Sermons and divine Discourses which he made in publick, was pleas’d to leave itto others,* “To take in hand”: As there were many, it seems, long afterwards, who did; and undertook accordingly “to write in order, and as seem’d good to them, for the better Information of particular Persons, what was then believ’d among the Initiated or Catechiz’d, from Tradition, and early Instruction in their Youth; or what had been transmitted, by Report, from such as were the presum’d Auditors, and Eye-witnesses of those things in former time.”
Whether those sacred Books ascrib’d to the Divine Legislator of the Jews, and which treat of his * Death, Burial, and Succession, as well as of his Life and Actions, are strictly to be understood as coming from the immediate Pen of that holy Founder, or rather from some other inspir’d Hand, guided by the same influencing Spirit; I will not presume so much as to examine or enquire. But in general we find, That both as to publick Concerns, in Religion, and in Philosophy, the great and eminent Actors were of a Rank superior to the Writing-Worthys. The great Athenian Legislator, tho noted as a poetical Genius, cannot be esteem’d an Author, for the sake of some few Verses he may occasionally have made. Nor was the great SpartanFounder, a Poet himself, tho Author or Redeemer (if I may so express it) to the greatest and best of Poets; who ow’d in a manner his Form and Being to the accurate Searches and Collections of that greatPatron. The Politicians and civilSages, who were fitted in all respects for the great Scene of Business, cou’d not, it seems, be well taken out of it, to attend the slender and minute Affairs of Letters, and Scholastick Science.
’Tis true, indeed, that without a Capacity for Action, and a Knowledg of the World and Mankind, there can be no Author naturally qualify’d to write with Dignity, or execute any noble or great Design. But there are many, who with the highest Capacity for Business, are by their Fortune deny’d the Privilege of that higher Sphere. As there are others, who having once mov’d in it, have been afterwards, by many Impediments and Obstructions, necessitated to retire, and exert their Genius in this lower degree.
’Tis to some Catastrophe of this kind that we owe the noblest Historians (even the two Princes and Fathers of History) as well as the greatest Philosophical Writers, the Founder of the Academy, and others, who were also noble in respect of their Birth, and fitted for the highest Stations in the Publick; but discourag’d from engaging in it, on account of some Misfortunes, experienc’d either in their own Persons, or that of their near Friends.
’Tis to the early Banishment and long Retirement of a heroick Youth out of his native Country, that we owe an original System of Works, the politest, wisest, usefullest, and (to those who can understand the Divineness of a just Simplicity) the most *amiable, and even the most elevating and exalting of all un-inspir’d and merely human Authors.
To this Fortune we owe some of the greatest of the antient Poets. ’Twas this Chance which produc’d the Muse of an exalted Grecian†Lyrick, and of his Follower ‡Horace; whose Character, tho easy to be gather’d from History, and his own Works, is little observ’d by any of his Commentators: The general Idea, conceiv’d of him, being drawn chiefly from his precarious and low Circumstances at Court, after the forfeiture of his Estate, under the Usurpation and Conquest of an Octavius, and the Ministry of a Maecenas; not from his better Condition, and nobler Employments in earlier days, under the Favour and Friendship of greater and better Men, whilst the Roman State and Liberty subsisted. For of this Change he himself, as great a Courtier as he seem’d afterwards, gives sufficient ** Intimation.
Let Authors therefore know them-selves; and tho conscious of Worth, Virtue, and a Genius, such as may justly place them above Flattery or mean Courtship to their Reader; yet let them reflect, that as Authors merely, they are but of the second Rank of Men. And let theReader withal consider, “That when he unworthily resigns the place of Honour, and surrenders his Taste, or Judgment, to an Author of ever so great a Name, or venerable Antiquity, and not to Reason, and Truth, at whatever hazard; he not only betrays himself, but withal the common Cause of Author and Reader, the Interest of Letters and Knowledg, and the chief Liberty, Privilege, and Prerogative of the rational part of Mankind.”
’Tis related in History of the Cappadocians, That being offer’d their Liberty by the Romans, and permitted to govern themselves by their own Laws and Constitutions, they were much terrify’d at the Proposal; and as if some sore harm had been intended ’em, humbly made it their Request, “That they might be govern’d by arbitrary Power, and that an absolute Governour might without delay be appointed over ’em at the discretion of the Romans.” For such was their Disposition towards mere Slavery and Subjection; that they dar’d not pretend so much as to chuse their own Master. So essential they thought Slavery, and so divine a thing the Right ofMastership, that they dar’d not be so free even as to presume to give themselves that Blessing, which they chose to leave rather to Providence, Fortune, or a Conqueror, to bestow upon them. They dar’d not make a King; but wou’d rather take one from their powerful Neighbours. Had they been necessitated to come to an Election, the Horror of such a Use of Liberty in Government, wou’d perhaps have determin’d ’em to chuse blindfold, or leave it to the Decision of the commonest Lot, Cast of Dye, Cross or Pile, or whatever it were which might best enable them to clear themselves of the heinous Charge of using the least Foresight, Choice, or Prudence in such an Affair.
I shou’d think it a great Misfortune, were my Reader of the number of those, who in a kind of Cappadocian Spirit, cou’d easily be terrify’d with the Proposal of giving him his Liberty, and making him his own Judg. My Endeavour, I must confess, has been to shew him his just Prerogative in this respect, and to give him the sharpest Eye over his Author, invite him to criticize honestly, without favour or affection, and with the utmost Bent of his Parts and Judgment. On this account it may be objected to me, perhaps, “That I am not a little vain and presumptuous, in my own as well as in my Author’s behalf, who can thus, as it were, challenge my Reader to a Trial of his keenest Wit.”
But to this I answer, That shou’d I have the good fortune to raise the masterly Spirit of justCriticism in my Readers, and exalt them ever so little above the lazy, timorous, over-modest, or resign’d State, in which the generality of them remain; tho by this very Spirit, I my-self might possibly meet my Doom: I shou’d however abundantly congratulate with my-self on these my low Flights, be proud of having plum’d the Arrows of better Wits, and furnish’d Artillery, or Ammunition of any kind, to those Powers, to which I my-self had fall’n a Victim.
* I will play the part of a whetstone.
I cou’d reconcile my Ambition in this respect to what I call my Loyalty to theReader; and say of his Elevation in Criticism and Judgment, what a Roman Princess said of her Son’s Advancement to Empire, * “Let him kill me, so long as he comes to the throne.”
Had I been a SpanishCervantes, and with success equal to that comick Author, had destroy’d the reigning Taste of Gothick or MoorishChivalry, I cou’d afterwards contentedly have seen my Burlesque-Work it-self despis’d, and set aside; when it had wrought its intended effect, and destroy’d those Giants and Monsters of the Brain, against which it was originally design’d. Without regard, therefore, to the prevailing Relish or Taste which, in my own Person, I may unhappily experience, when these my Miscellaneous Works are leisurely examin’d; I shall proceed still in my Endeavour to refine my Reader’sPalate;whetting and sharpening it, the best I can, for Use, and Practice, in the lower Subjects: that by this Exercise it may acquire the greater Keenness, and be of so much the better effect in Subjects of a higher kind, which relate to his chief Happiness, his Liberty and Manhood.
SUPPOSING me therefore a mere comick Humourist, in respect of those inferior Subjects, which after the manner of my familiar Prose-Satir I presume to criticize; May not I be allow’d to ask, “Whether there remains not still among us noble Britons, something of that original Barbarous and Gothick Relish, not wholly purg’d away; when, even at this hour, Romances and Gallantrys of like sort, together with Works as monstrous of other kinds, are current, and in vogue, even with the People who constitute our reputed polite World?” Need I on this account refer again to our † Author, where he treats in general of the Style and Manner of our modern Authors, from the Divine to the Comedian? What Person is there of the least Judgment or Understanding, who cannot easily, and without the help of a Divine, or rigid Moralist, observe the lame Condition of our EnglishStage; which nevertheless is found the Rendevouz and chief Entertainment of our best Company, and from whence in all probability our Youth will continue to draw their Notion of Manners, and their Taste of Life, more directly and naturally, than from the Rehearsals and Declamations of a graverTheater?
Let those whose business it is, advance, as they best can, the Benefit of that sacred Oratory, which we have lately seen and are still like to see employ’d to various purposes, and further designs than that of instructing us in Religion or Manners. Let ’em in that high Scene endeavour to refine our Taste and Judgment in sacred Matters. ’Tis the good Critick’s Task to amend our commonStage; nor ought this Dramatick Performance to be decry’d or sentenc’d by those Criticks of a higher Sphere. The Practice and Art is honest, in it-self. Our Foundations are well laid. And in the main, our EnglishStage (as * has been remark’d) is capable of the highest Improvement; as well from the present Genius of our Nation, as from the rich Oar of our early Poets in this kind. But Faults are easier imitated than Beautys.
We find, indeed, our Theater become of late the Subject of a growing Criticism. We hear it openly complain’d, “That in our newer Plays as well as in our older, in Comedy as well as Tragedy, the Stage presents a proper Scene of Uproar;—Duels fought; Swords drawn, many of a side; Wounds given, and sometimes dress’d too; the Surgeon call’d, and the Patient prob’d and tented upon the Spot. That in our Tragedy, nothing is so common as Wheels, Racks, and Gibbets properly adorn’d; Executions decently perform’d; Headless Bodys and Bodiless Heads, expos’d to view: Battels fought: Murders committed: and the Dead carry’d off in great Numbers.”—Such is our Politeness!
Nor are these Plays, on this account, the less frequented by either of the Sexes: Which inclines me to favour the Conceit our † Author has suggested concerning the mutual Correspondence and Relation between our RoyalTheater, and PopularCircus or Bear-Garden. For in the former of these Assemblys, ’tis undeniable that at least the two upper Regions or Gallerys contain such Spectators, as indifferently frequent each Place of Sport. So that ’tis no wonder we hear such Applause resounded on the Victorys of an Almanzor; when the same Partys had possibly, no later than the Day before, bestow’d their Applause as freely on the victorious Butcher, the Hero of another Stage: where amidst various Frays, bestial and human Blood, promiscuous Wounds and Slaughter; one Sex are observ’d as frequent and as pleas’d Spectators as the other, and sometimes not Spectators only, but Actors in the Gladiatorian Parts.—These Congregations, which we may be apt to call Heathenish,* (tho in reality never known among the politer Heathens) are, in our Christian Nation, unconcernedly allow’d and tolerated, as no way injurious to religious Interests; whatever effect they may be found to have on national Manners, Humanity, and Civil Life. Of such Indulgencys as these, we hear no Complaints. Nor are any Assemblys, tho of the most barbarous and enormous kind, so offensive, it seems, to Men of Zeal, as religious Assemblys of a different Fashion or Habit from their own.
I am sorry to say, that, tho in the many parts of Poetry our Attempts have been high and noble, yet in general theTaste of Wit and Letters lies much upon a level with what relates to our Stage.
I can readily allow to our BritishGenius what was allow’d to the Roman heretofore:
† By nature full of elevation and passion; for he has tragic inspiration enough and happy boldness.
But then I must add too, that the excessive Indulgence and Favour shown to our Authors on account of what their mere Genius and flowing Vein afford, has render’d them intolerably supine, conceited, and Admirers of themselves. The Publick having once suffer’d ’em to take the ascendent, they become, like flatter’d Princes, impatient of Contradiction or Advice. They think it a disgrace to be criticiz’d, even by a Friend; or to reform, at his desire, what they them-selves are fully convinc’d is negligent, and uncorrect.
The †Limae Labor is the great Grievance, with our Country-men. An EnglishAuthor wou’d be allGenius. He wou’d reap the Fruits of Art; but without Study, Pains, or Application. He thinks it necessary, indeed, (lest his Learning shou’d be call’d in question) to show the World that he errs knowingly against the Rules of Art. And for this reason, whatever Piece he publishes at any time, he seldom fails, in some prefix’d Apology, to speak in such a manner of Criticism and Art, as may confound the ordinary Reader, and prevent him from taking up a Part, which, shou’d he once assume, wou’d prove fatal to the impotent and mean Performance.
’Twere to be wish’d, that when once our Authors had consider’d of a Model or Plan, and attain’d the Knowledg of a ‡Whole and Parts; when from this beginning they had proceeded to Morals, and the Knowledg of what is call’d *Poetick Manners, and Truth; when they had learnt to reject false Thought, embarassing and mix’d Metaphors, the ridiculous Paint in Comedy, and the false Sublime, and Bombast in Heroick; they wou’d at last have some regard to Numbers, Harmony, and an*Ear; and correct, as far as possible, the harsh Sounds of our Language, in Poetry at least, if not in Prose.
But so much are our British Poets taken up, in seeking out that monstrous Ornament which we call †Rhyme, that ’tis no wonder if other Ornaments, and real Graces are unthought of, and left un-attempted. However, since in some Parts of Poetry, especially in the Dramatick, we have been so happy as to triumph over this barbarous Taste; ’tis unaccountable that our Poets, who from this Privilege ought to undertake some further Refinements, shou’d remain still upon the same level as before. ’Tis a shame to our Authors, that in their elegant Style and metred Prose there shou’d not be found a peculiar Grace and Harmony, resulting from a more natural and easy Disengagement of their Periods, and from a careful avoiding the Encounter of the shocking Consonants and jarring Sounds to which our Language is so unfortunately subject.
They have of late, ’tis true, reform’d in some measure the gouty Joints and Darning-work of Whereunto’s, Whereby’s, Thereof’s, Therewith’s, and the rest of this kind; by which, complicated Periods are so curiously strung, or hook’d on, one to another, after the long-spun manner of the Bar, or Pulpit. But to take into consideration no real Accent, or Cadency of Words, no Sound or Measure of Syllables; to put together, at one time, a Set of Compounds, of the longest Greek or Latin Termination; and at another, to let whole Verses, and those too of our heroick and longest sort, pass currently in Monosyllables; is, methinks, no slender Negligence. If single Verses at the head, or in the most emphatical places, of the most considerable Works, can admit of such a Structure, and pass for truly harmonious and poetical in this negligent form; I see no reason why more Verses than one or two, of the same formation, shou’d not be as well admitted; or why an un-interrupted Succession of these well-strung Monosyllables might not be allow’d to clatter after one another, like the Hammers of a Paper-Mill, without any breach of Musick, or prejudice to the Harmony of our Language. But if Persons who have gone no farther than a Smith’s Anvil to gain an Ear, are yet likely, on fair trial, to find a plain defect in these Ten-Monosyllable Heroicks; it wou’d follow, methinks, that even a Prose-Author, who attempts to write politely, shou’d endeavour to confine himself within those Bounds, which can never, without breach of Harmony, be exceeded in any just Metre, or agreeable Pronunciation.
THUS HAVE I ventur’d to arraign the Authority of those self-privileg’d Writers, who wou’d exempt themselves from Criticism, and save their ill-acquir’d Reputation, by the Decrial of an Art, on which the Cause and Interest of Wit and Letters absolutely depend. Be it they themselves, or their great Patrons in their behalf, who wou’d thus arbitrarily support the Credit of ill Writings; the Attempt, I hope, will prove unsuccessful. Be they Moderns or Antients, Foreigners or Natives, ponderous and austere Writers, or airy and of the humorous kind: Whoever takes refuge here, or seeks Protection hence; whoever joins his Party or Interest to this Cause; it appears from the very Fact and Endeavour alone, that there is just ground to suspect some Insufficiency or Imposture at the bottom. And on this account the Reader, if he be wise, will the rather redouble his Application and Industry, to examine the Merit of his assuming Author. If, as Reader, and Judg, he dares once assert that Liberty to which we have shewn him justly intitled; he will not easily be threaten’d or ridicul’d out of the use of his examining Capacity, and native Privilege of Criticism.
’Twas to this Art, so well understood and practis’d heretofore, that the wise Antients ow’d whatever was consummate and perfect in their Productions. ’Tis to the same Art we owe the Recovery of Letters in these latter Ages. To this alone we must ascribe the Recognition of antient Manuscripts, the Discovery of what is spurious, and the Discernment of whatever is genuine of those venerable Remains which have pass’d thro’ such dark Periods of Ignorance, and rais’d us to the Improvements we now make in every Science. ’Tis to this Art, that even the Sacred Authors themselves owe their highest Purity and Correctness. So sacred ought the Art it-self to be esteem’d; when from its Supplies alone is form’d that judicious and learned Strength, by which the Defenders of our Holy Religion are able so successfully to refute the Heathens, Jews, Sectarians, Hereticks, and other Enemys or Opposers of our primitive and antient Faith.
But having thus, after our Author’s example, asserted the Use of Criticism, in all literate Works, from the main Frame, or Plan of every Writing, down to the minutest Particle; we may now proceed to exercise this Art upon our Author himself, and by his own Rules examine him in this his last Treatise; reserving still to our-selves the same Privilege of Variation, and Excursion into other Subjects, the same Episodick Liberty, and Right of wandering, which we have maintain’d in the preceding Chapters.
Chap. 2.CHAPTER II
Generation and Succession of our national and modern Wit.—Manners of the Proprietors.—Corporation and Joint-Stock—Statute against Criticism. A Coffee-House Committee.—Mr.Bays.—OtherBays’s in Divinity.—Censure of our Author’s Dialogue-Piece; and of the Manner of Dialogue-Writing, us’d by Reverend Wits.
ACCORDING to the common Course of Practice in our Age, we seldom see the Character of Writer and that of Critick united in the same Person. There is, I know, a certain Species of Authors, who subsist wholly by the criticizing or commenting Practice upon others, and can appear in no other Form besides what this Employment authorizes them to assume. They have no original Character, or first Part; but wait for something which may be call’d a Work, in order to graft upon it, and come in, for Sharers, at second hand.
The Pen-men of this Capacity and Degree are, from their Function and Employment, distinguish’d by the Title of Answerers. For it happens in the World, that there are Readers of a Genius and Size just fitted to these answering Authors. These, if they teach ’em nothing else, will teach ’em, they think, to criticize. And tho the new practising Criticks are of a sort unlikely ever to understand any original Book or Writing; they can understand, or at least remember, and quote the subsequent Reflections, Flouts, and Jeers, which may accidentally be made on such a Piece. Where-ever a Gentleman of this sort happens, at any time, to be in company, you shall no sooner hear a new Book spoken of, than ’twill be ask’d, “Who has answer’d it?” or “When is there an Answer to come out?”—Now the Answer, as our Gentleman knows, must needs be newer than the Book. And the newer a thing is, the more fashionable still, and the genteeler the Subject of Discourse. For this the Bookseller knows how to fit our Gentleman to a nicety: For he has commonly an Answer ready bespoke, and perhaps finish’d, by the time his new Book comes abroad. And ’tis odds but our fashionable Gentleman, who takes both together, may read the latter first, and drop the other for good and all.
But of these answeringWits, and the manner of Rejoinders, and reiterate Replies, we have said what is sufficient * in a former Miscellany. We need only remark in general, “That ’tis necessary a writingCritick shou’d understand how to write. And tho every Writer is not bound to shew himself in the capacity of Critick, every writing Critick is bound to shew himself capable of being a Writer. For if he be apparently impotent in this latter kind, he is to be deny’d all Title or Character in the other.”
To censure merely what another Person writes; to twitch, snap, snub up, or banter; to torture Sentences and Phrases, turn a few Expressions into Ridicule, or write what is now-a-days call’d an Answer to any Piece, is not sufficient to constitute what is properly esteem’d a Writer, or Author, in due form. For this reason, tho there are many Answerers seen abroad, there are few or no Criticks or Satirists. But whatever may be the State of Controversy in our Religion, or politick Concerns; ’tis certain that in the mere literate World, Affairs are manag’d with a better Understanding between the principal Partys concern’d. The Writers or Authorsin possession have an easier time than any Ministry, or religious Party, which is uppermost. They have found a way, by decrying allCriticismin general, to get rid of their Dissenters, and prevent all Pretences to further Reformation in their State. TheCritick is made to appear distinct, and of another Species; wholly different from the Writer. None who have a Genius for Writing, and can perform with any Success, are presum’d so ill-natur’d or illiberal as to endeavour to signalize themselves in Criticism.
’Tis not difficult, however, to imagine why this practical Difference between Writer and Critick has been so generally establish’d amongst us, as to make the Provinces seem wholly distinct, and irreconcilable. The forwardWits, who without waiting their due time, or performing their requisite Studys, start up in the World as Authors, having with little Pains or Judgment, and by the strength of Fancy merely, acquir’d a Name with Mankind, can on no account afterwards submit to a Decrial or Disparagement of those raw Works, to which they ow’d their early Character and Distinction. Ill wou’d it fare with ’em, indeed, if on these tenacious Terms they shou’d venture upon Criticism, or offer to move that Spirit which wou’d infallibly give such Disturbance to their establish’d Title.
Now we may consider, That in our Nation, and especially in our present Age, whilst Wars, Debates, and publick Convulsions turn our Minds so wholly upon Business and Affairs; the better Genius’s being in a manner necessarily involv’d in the active Sphere, on which the general Eye of Mankind is so strongly fixt; there must remain in the Theatre of Wit a sufficient Vacancy of Place: and the quality of Actor upon that Stage must of consequence be very easily attainable, and at a low Price of Ingenuity or Understanding.
The Persons therefore who are in possession of the prime Parts in this deserted Theatre, being suffer’d to maintain their Ranks and Stations in full Ease, have naturally a good Agreement and Understanding with their Fellow-Wits. Being indebted to the Times for this Happiness, that with so little Industry or Capacity they have been able to serve the Nation with Wit, and supply the Place of real Dispensers and Ministers of the MusesTreasures; they must, necessarily, as they have any Love for themselves, or fatherly Affection for their Works, conspire with one another to preserve their common Interest of Indolence, and justify their Remisness, Uncorrectness, Insipidness, and downright Ignorance of all literate Art, or just poetick Beauty.
* Great is the unity of the effeminate.
For this reason you see ’em mutually courteous, and benevolent; gracious and obliging, beyond measure; complimenting one another interchangeably, at the head of their Works, in recommendatory Verses, or in separate Panegyricks, Essays, and Fragments of Poetry; such as in the Miscellaneous Collections (our yearly Retail of Wit) we see curiously compacted, and accommodated to the Relish of the World. Here the Tyrocinium of Genius’s is annually display’d. Here, if you think fit, you may make acquaintance with the young Offspring of Wits, as they come up gradually under the old; with due Courtship, and Homage, paid to those high Predecessors of Fame, in hope of being one day admitted, by turn, into the noble Order, and made Wits by Patent and Authority.
This is the young Fry which you may see busily surrounding the grown Poet, or chief Play-house-Author, at a Coffee-House. They are his Guards; ready to take up Arms for him; if by some presumptuous Critick he is at any time attack’d. They are indeed the very Shadows of their immediate Predecessor, and represent the same Features, with some small Alteration perhaps for the worse. They are sure to aim at nothing above or beyond their Master; and wou’d on no account give him the least Jealousy of their aspiring to any Degree or Order of writing above him. From hence that Harmony and reciprocal Esteem, which, on such a bottom as this, cannot fail of being perfectly well establish’d among our Poets: The Age, mean while, being after this manner hopefully provided, and secure of a constant and like Succession of meritorious Wits, in every kind!
If by chance a Man of Sense, un-appriz’d of the Authority of these high Powers, shou’d venture to accost the Gentlemen of this Fraternity, at some Coffee-house Committee, whilst they were taken up, in mutual Admiration, and the usual Praise of their national and co-temporary Wits; ’tis possible he might be treated with some Civility, whilst he inquir’d, for Satisfaction sake, into the Beautys of those particular Works so unanimously extoll’d. But shou’d he presume to ask, in general, “Why is our Epick or Dramatick, our Essay, or common Prose no better executed?” Or, “Why in particular does such or such a reputed Wit write so incorrectly, and with so little regard to Justness of Thought or Language?” The Answer wou’d presently be given, “That we Englishmen are not ty’d up to such rigid Rules as those of the antient Grecian, or modern French Criticks.”
“Be it so (Gentlemen!) ’Tis your good Pleasure. Nor ought any one to dispute it with you. You are Masters, no doubt, in your own Country. But (Gentlemen!) the Question here, is not What your Authority may be over your own Writers. You may have them of what Fashion or Size of Wit you please; and allow them to entertain you at the rate you think sufficient, and satisfactory. But can you, by your good Pleasure, or the Approbation of your highest Patrons, make that to be either Wit, or Sense, which wou’d otherwise have been Bombast and Contradiction? If your Poets are still * Mr. Bays’s, and your Prose-Authors Sir Rogers, without offering at a better Manner; must it follow that the Manner it-self is good, or the Wit genuine?—What say you (Gentlemen!) to this new Piece?—Let us examine these Lines which you call shining! This String of Sentences which you call clever! This Pile of Metaphors which you call sublime!—Are you unwilling (Gentlemen!) to stand the Test? Do you despise the Examination?
“Sir!—Since you are pleas’d to take this Liberty with us; May we presume to ask you a Question?” “O Gentlemen! as many as you please: I shall be highly honour’d.” “Why then (pray Sir!) inform us, Whether you have ever writ?” “Very often (Gentlemen!) especially on a Post-night.” “But have you writ (for instance, Sir!) a Play, a Song, an Essay, or a Paper, as, by way of Eminence, the current Pieces of our Weekly Wits are generally styl’d?” “Something of this kind I may perhaps (Gentlemen!) have attempted, tho without publishing my Work. But pray (Gentlemen!) what is my writing, or not writing to the question in hand?” “Only this, (Sir!) and you may fairly take our words for it: That, whenever you publish, you will find the Town against you. Your Piece will infallibly be condemn’d.” “So let it. But for what reason, Gentlemen? I am sure, you never saw the Piece.” “No, Sir. But you are a Critick. And we know by certain Experience, that, when a Critick writes according to Rule and Method, he is sure never to hit the English Taste. Did not Mr. R——, who criticiz’d our English Tragedy, write a sorry one of his own?” “If he did (Gentlemen!) ’twas his own fault, not to know his Genius better. But is his Criticism the less just on this account? If a Musician performs his Part well in the hardest Symphonys, he must necessarily know the Notes, and understand the Rules of Harmony and Musick. But must a Man, therefore, who has an Ear, and has study’d the Rules of Musick, of necessity have a Voice or Hand? Can no one possibly judg a Fiddle, but who is himself a Fiddler? Can no one judg a Picture, but who is himself a Layer of Colours?”—
Thus far our rational Gentleman perhaps might venture, before his Coffee-house Audience. Had I been at his Elbow to prompt him as a Friend, I shou’d hardly have thought fit to remind him of any thing further. On the contrary, I shou’d have rather taken him aside, to inform him of this Cabal, and establish’d Corporation of Wit; of their declar’d Aversion to Criticism, and of their known Laws and Statutes in that Case made and provided. I shou’d have told him, in short, that learned Arguments wou’d be mispent on such as these: And that he wou’d find little Success, tho he shou’d ever so plainly demonstrate to the Gentlemen of this Size of Wit and Understanding, “That the greatest Masters of Art, in every kind of Writing, were eminent in the critical Practice.” But that they really were so, witness, among the Antients, their greatest *Philosophers, whose critical Pieces lie intermixt with their profound philosophical Works, and other politer Tracts ornamentally writ, † for publick use. Witness in History and Rhetorick,Isocrates, Dionysius Halicarnasseus, Plutarch, and the corrupt Lucian himself; the only one perhaps of these Authors, whom our Gentlemen may, in some modern Translation, have look’d into, with any Curiosity or Delight. To these among the Romans we may add Cicero, Varro, Horace, Quintilian, Pliny, and many more.
Among the Moderns, a Boileau and a Corneille are sufficient Precedents in the Case before us. They apply’d their Criticism with just Severity, even to their own Works. This indeed is a Manner hardly practicable with the Poets of our own Nation. It wou’d be unreasonable to expect of ’em that they shou’d bring such Measures in use, as being apply’d to their Works, wou’d discover ’em to be wholly deform’d and disproportionable. ’Tis no wonder therefore if we have so little of this critical Genius extant, to guide us in our Taste. ’Tis no wonder if what is generally current in this kind, lies in a manner bury’d, and in disguise under Burlesque, as particularly in the ‡ witty Comedy of a noble Author of this last Age. To the Shame, however, of our profess’d Wits and Enterprizers in the higher Spheres of Poetry, it may be observ’d, that they have not wanted good Advice and Instruction of the graver kind, from as high a Hand in respect of Quality and Character: Since one of the justest of our modern Poems, and so confess’d even by our Poets themselves, is a short Criticism, An ArtofPoetry; by which, if they themselves were to be judg’d, they must in general appear no better than mere Bunglers, and void of all true Sense and Knowledg in their Art. But if in reality both Critick and Poet, confessing the Justice of these Rules of Art, can afterwards, in Practice, condemn and approve, perform and judg, in a quite different manner from what they acknowledg just and true: it plainly shews, That, tho perhaps we are not indigent in Wit; we want what is of more consequence, and can alone raise Wit to any Dignity or Worth; even plainHonesty, Manners, and a Sense of that Moral Truth, on which (as has been often express’d in these * Volumes) poetickTruth and Beauty must naturally depend.
† The man who has learned what are his duties to his fatherland or to his friends; what affection is due to a father, a brother, or a guest; what is the duty of a senator, what of a juryman, . . . he to be sure knows how to find suitable language for each character.
As for this Species of Morality which distinguishes the Civil Offices of Life, and describes each becoming Personage or Character in this Scene; so necessary it is for the Poet and polite Author to be appriz’d of it, that even the Divine himself may with juster pretence be exempted from the knowledg of this sort. The Composer of religious Discourses has the advantage of that higher Scene of Mystery, which is above the level of human Commerce. ’Tis not so much his Concern, or Business, to beagreeable. And often when he wou’d endeavour it, he becomes more than ordinarily displeasing. His Theater, and that of the polite World, are very different: Insomuch that in a ReverendAuthor, or Declaimer of this sort, we naturally excuse the Ignorance of ordinary Decorum, in what relates to the Affairs of our inferior temporal World. But for thePoet or genteelWriter, who is of this World merely, ’tis a different Case. He must be perfect in this moral Science. We can easily bear the loss of indifferentPoetry or Essay. A good Bargain it were, cou’d we get rid of every moderate Performance in this kind. But were we oblig’d to hear only excellentSermons, and to read nothing, in the way of Devotion, which was not well writ; it might possibly go hard with many Christian People, who are at present such attentive Auditors and Readers. Establish’d Pastors have a right to be indifferent. But voluntary Discourses and Attempters in Wit or Poetry, are as intolerable, when they are indifferent, as either Fiddlers or Painters:
* Because a dinner could be carried on without them.
Other Bays’s and Poetasters may be lawfully baited; tho we patiently submit to our Bays’s in Divinity.
Had the Author of our †Subject-Treatises consider’d thorowly of these literate Affairs, and found how the Interest of Wit stood at present in our Nation, he wou’d have had so much regard surely to his own Interest, as never to have writ unless either in the single Capacity of mere Critick, or that of Authorin form. If he had resolv’d never to produce a regular or legitimate Piece, he might pretty safely have writ on still after the rate of his first Volume, and mixt manner. He might have been as critical, as satirical, or as full of Raillery as he had pleas’d. But to come afterwards as a grave Actor upon the Stage, and expose himself to Criticism in his turn, by giving us a Work or two in form, after the regular manner of Composition, as we see in his second Volume; this, I think, was no extraordinary Proof of his Judgment or Ability, in what related to his own Credit and Advantage.
One of these formal Pieces (the Inquiry already examin’d) we have found to be wholly after the Manner, which in one of his critical Pieces he calls the Methodick. But his next Piece (the Moralists, which we have now before us) must, according to his own * Rules, be reckon’d as an Undertaking of greater weight. ’Tis not only at the bottom, as systematical, didactick and preceptive, as that other Piece of formal Structure; but it assumes withal another Garb, and more fashionable Turn of Wit. It conceals what is scholastical, under the appearance of a polite Work. It aspires to Dialogue, and carrys with it not only those poetick Features of the Pieces antiently call’d Mimes; but it attempts to unite the several Personages and Characters in OneAction, or Story, within a determinate Compass of Time, regularly divided, and drawn into different and proportion’d Scenes: And this, too, with variety of Style; the simple, comick, rhetorical, and even the poetick or sublime; such as is the aptest to run into Enthusiasm and Extravagance. So much is our Author, by virtue of this Piece,†aPoetin due form, and by a more apparent claim, than if he had writ a Play, or dramatick Piece, in as regular a manner, at least, as any known at present on our Stage.
It appears, indeed, that as high as our Author, in his critical Capacity, wou’d pretend to carry the refin’d Manner and accurate Simplicity of the Antients; he dares not, in his own Model and principal Performance, attempt to unite his Philosophy in one solid and uniform Body, nor carry on his Argument in one continu’d Chain or Thred. Here our Author’s Timorousness is visible. In the very Plan or Model of his Work, he is apparently put to a hard shift, to contrive how or with what probability he might introduce Men of any Note or Fashion, * reasoning expresly and purposely, without play or trifling, for two or three hours together, on mere Philosophy and Morals. He finds these Subjects (as he confesses) so wide of common Conversation, and, by long Custom, so appropriated to the School, the University-Chair, or Pulpit, that he thinks it hardly safe or practicable to treat of them elsewhere, or in a different Tone. He is forc’d therefore to raise particular Machines, and constrain his principal Characters, in order to carry a better Face, and bear himself out, against the appearance of Pedantry. Thus his Gentleman-Philosopher Theocles, before he enters into his real Character, becomes a feign’d Preacher. And even when his real Character comes on, he hardly dares stand it out; but to deal the better with his Sceptick-Friend, he falls again to personating, and takes up the Humour of the Poet and Enthusiast.Palemon the Man of Quality, and who is first introduc’d as Speaker in the Piece, must, for fashion-sake, appear in Love, and under a kind of Melancholy, produc’d by some Mis-adventures in the World. How else shou’d he be suppos’d so serious? Philocles his Friend (an airy Gentleman of the World, and a thorow Raillier) must have a home Charge upon him, and feel the Anger of his grave Friend, before he can be suppos’d grave enough to enter into a philosophical Discourse. A quarter of an hour’s reading must serve to represent an hour or two’s Debate. And a new Scene presenting it self, ever and anon, must give Refreshment, it seems, to the faint Reader, and remind him of the Characters and Business going on.
’Tis in the same view that we Miscellanarian Authors, being fearful of the natural Lassitude and Satiety of our indolent Reader, have prudently betaken ourselves to the way of Chapters and Contents; that as the Reader proceeds, by frequent Intervals of Repose, contriv’d on purpose for him, he may from time to time be advertis’d of what is yet to come, and be tempted thus to renew his Application.
Thus in our modern Plays we see, almost in every other Leaf, Descriptions or Illustrations of the Action, not in the Poem it-self, or in the mouth of the Actors; but by the Poet, in his own Person; in order, as appears, to help out a Defect of the Text, by a kind of marginal Note, or Comment: which renders these Pieces of a mix’d kind between the narrative and dramatick. ’Tis in this fashionable Style, or manner of dumb Shew, that the Reader finds the Action of the Piece more amazingly express’d, than he possibly cou’d by the Lines of the Drama it-self; where the Partys alone are suffer’d to be Speakers.
’Tis out of the same regard to Ease, both in respect of Writer and Reader, that we see long Characters and Descriptions at the head of most dramatick Pieces, to inform us of the Relations, Kindred, Interests, and Designs of the Dramatis Personae: This being of the highest importance to the Reader, that he may the better understand the Plot, and find out the principal Characters and Incidents of the Piece; which otherways cou’d not possibly discover themselves, as they are read in their due order. And to do justice to our Play-Readers, they seldom fail to humour our Poets in this respect, and read over the Characters with strict application, as a sort of Grammar, or Key, before they enter on the Piece it-self. I know not whether they wou’d do so much for any philosophical Piece in the world. Our Author seems very much to question it; and has therefore made that part easy enough, which relates to the distinction of his Characters, by making use of the narrative Manner. Tho he had done, as well, perhaps, not to have gone out of the natural plain way, on this account. For with those to whom such philosophical Subjects are agreeable, it cou’d be thought no laborious Task to give the same attention to Characters in Dialogue, as is given at the first entrance by every Reader to the easiest Play, compos’d of fewest and plainest Personages. But for those who read these Subjects with mere Supineness, and Indifference; they will as much begrudg the pains of attending to the Characters thus particularly pointed out, as if they had only been discernible by Inference and Deduction from the mouth of the speaking Partys themselves.
MORE REASONS are given by our * Author himself, for his avoiding the direct way of Dialogue; which at present lies so low, and is us’d only now and then, in our Party-Pamphlets, or new-fashion’d theological Essays. For of late, it seems, the Manner has been introduc’d into Church-Controversy, with an Attempt of Raillery and Humour, as a more successful Method of dealing with Heresy and Infidelity. The Burlesque-Divinity grows mightily in vogue. And the cry’d-up Answers to heterodox Discourses are generally such as are written in Drollery, or with resemblance of the facetious and humorous Language of Conversation.
Joy to the reverend Authors, who can afford to be thus gay, and condescend to correct us, in this Lay-Wit. The Advances they make in behalf of Piety and Manners, by such a popular Style, are doubtless found, upon experience, to be very considerable. As these Reformers are nicely qualify’d to hit the Air of Breeding and Gentility, they will in time, no doubt, refine their Manner, and improve this jocular Method, to the Edification of the polite World; who have been so long seduc’d by the way of Raillery and Wit. They may do wonders by their comickMuse, and may thus, perhaps, find means to laugh Gentlemen into their Religion, who have unfortunately been laugh’d out of it. For what reason is there to suppose that Orthodoxy shou’d not be able to laugh as agreeably, and with as much Refinedness, as Heresy or Infidelity?
At present, it must be own’d, the Characters, or Personages, employ’d by our new orthodox Dialogists, carry with ’em little Proportion or Coherence; and in this respect may be said to sute perfectly with that figurative metaphorical Style and rhetorical Manner, in which their Logick and Arguments are generally couch’d. Nothing can be more complex or multiform than their moral Draughts or Sketches of Humanity. These, indeed, are so far from representing any particularMan, or Order ofMen, that they scarce resemble any thing of the Kind. ’Tis by their Names only that these Characters are figur’d. Tho they bear different Titles, and are set up to maintain contrary Points; they are found, at the bottom, to be all of the same side; and, notwithstanding their seeming Variance, to co-operate in the most officious manner with the Author, towards the display of his own proper Wit, and the establishment of his private Opinion and Maxims. They are indeed his very legitimate and obsequious Puppets; as like real Men in Voice, Action, and Manners, as those wooden or wire Engines of the lower Stage. Philotheus and Philatheus, Philautus and Philalethes are of one and the same Order: Just Tallys to one another: Questioning and Answering in concert, and with such a sort of Alternative as is known in a vulgar Play, where one Person lies down blindfold, and presents himself, as fair as may be, to another, who by favour of the Company, or the assistance of his Good-fortune, deals his Companion many a sound Blow, without being once challeng’d, or brought into his Turn of lying down.
There is the same curious Mixture of Chance, and elegant Vicissitude, in the Style of these Mock-Personages of our new Theological Drama: with this difference only, “That after the poor Phantom or Shadow of an Adversary has said as little for his Cause as can be imagin’d, and given as many Opens and Advantages as cou’d be desir’d, he lies down for good and all, and passively submits to the killing Strokes of his unmerciful Conqueror.”
Hardly, as I conceive, will it be objected to our Moralist, (the Author of the philosophick Dialogue above) “That the Personages who sustain the sceptical or objecting Parts, are over-tame and tractable in their Disposition.” Did I perceive any such foul dealing in his Piece; I shou’d scarce think it worthy of the Criticism here bestow’d. For in this sort of Writing, where Personages are exhibited, and natural Conversation set in view; if Characters are neither tolerably preserv’d, nor Manners with any just Similitude describ’d; there remains nothing but what is too gross and monstrous for Criticism or Examination.
’Twill be alledg’d, perhaps, in answer to what is here advanc’d, “That shou’d a Dialogue be wrought up to the Exactness of these Rules; it ought to be condemn’d, as the worse Piece, for affording the Infidel or Sceptick such good quarter, and giving him the full advantage of his Argument and Wit.”
But to this I reply, That either Dialogue shou’d never be attempted; or, if it be, the Partys shou’d appear natural, and such as they really are. If we paint at all; we shou’d endeavour to paint like Life, and draw Creatures as they are knowable, in their proper Shapes and better Features; not in Metamorphosis, not mangled, lame, distorted, aukard Forms, and impotent Chimeras. Atheists have their Sense and Wits, as other Men; or why is Atheism so often challeng’d in those of the better Rank? Why charg’d so often to the account of Wit and subtle Reasoning?
Were I to advise these Authors, towards whom I am extremely well-affected on account of their good-humour’d Zeal, and the seeming Sociableness of their Religion; I shou’d say to ’em, “Gentlemen! Be not so cautious of furnishing your representativeSceptick with too good Arguments, or too shreud a Turn of Wit or Humour. Be no so fearful of giving quarter. Allow your Adversary his full Reason, his Ingenuity, Sense, and Art. Trust to the chief Character or Heroof your Piece. Make him as dazling bright, as you are able. He will undoubtedly overcome the utmost Force of his Opponent, and dispel the Darkness or Cloud, which the Adversary may unluckily have rais’d. But if when you have fairly wrought up your Antagonist to his due Strength and cognizable Proportion, your chief Character cannot afterwards prove a match for him, or shine with a superior Brightness; Whose Fault is it?—The Subject’s?—This, I hope, you will never allow.—Whose, therefore, beside your own?—Beware then; and consider well your Strength and Mastership in this manner of Writing, and in the qualifying Practice of the polite World, ere you attempt these accurate and refin’d Limnings or Portraitures of Mankind, or offer to bring Gentlemen on the Stage. For if real Gentlemen, seduc’d, as you pretend, and made erroneous in their Religion or Philosophy, discover not the least Feature of their real Faces in your Looking-glass, nor know themselves, in the least, by your Description; they will hardly be apt to think they are refuted. How wittily soever your Comedy may be wrought up, they will scarce apprehend any of that Wit to fall upon themselves. They may laugh indeed at the Diversion you are pleas’d to give ’em: But the Laugh perhaps may be different from what you intend. They may smile secretly to see themselves thus encounter’d; when they find, at last, your Authority laid by, and your scholastick Weapons quitted, in favour of this weak Attempt, To master them by their own Arms, and proper Ability.”
THUS WE have perform’d our critical Task, and try’d our Strength, both on our Author, and those of his Order, who attempt to write in Dialogue, after the active dramatick, *mimical, or personating Way; according to which a Writer is properly poetical.
What remains, we shall examine in our succeeding and last Chapter.
Chap. 3.CHAPTER III
Of Extent or Latitude of Thought.—Free-Thinkers.—Their Cause, and Character.—Dishonesty, a Half-Thought.—Short-Thinking, Cause of Vice and Bigotry.—Agreement of Slavery and Superstition.—Liberty,civil, moral, spiritual.—Free-thinking Divines.—Representatives incognito.—Embassadors from the Moon.—Effectual Determination of Christian Controversy and Religious Belief.
BEING now come to the Conclusion of my Work; after having defended the Cause of Criticks in general, and employ’d what Strength I had in that Science upon our adventurous Author in particular; I may, according to Equity, and with the better grace, attempt a line or two, in defense of that Freedom of Thought which our Author has us’d, particularly in one of the Personages of his last Dialogue-Treatise.
There is good reason to suppose, that however equally fram’d, or near alike, the Race of Mankind may appear in other respects, they are not always equal Thinkers, or of a like Ability in the management of this natural Talent which we call Thought. The Race, on this account, may therefore justly be distinguish’d, as they often are, by the Appellation of the Thinking, and the Unthinking sort. The mere Unthinking are such as have not yet arriv’d to that happy Thought, by which they shou’d observe, “How necessary Thinking is, and how fatal the want of it must prove to ’em.” The Thinking part of Mankind, on the other side, having discover’d the Assiduity and Industry requisite to right-Thinking, and being already commenc’dThinkers upon this Foundation; are, in the progress of the Affair, convinc’d of the necessity of thinking to good purpose, and carrying the Work to a thorow Issue. They know that if they refrain or stop once, upon this Road, they had done as well never to have set out. They are not so supine as to be with-held by mere Laziness; when nothing lies in the way to interrupt the free Course and Progress of their Thought.
Some Obstacles, ’tis true, may, on this occasion, be pretended. Specters may come a-cross; and Shadows of Reason rise up against Reasonit-self. But if Men have once heartily espous’d the reasoning or thinking Habit; they will not easily be induc’d to lay the Practice down; they will not at an instant be arrested, or made to stand, and yield themselves, when they come to such a certain Boundary, Land-Mark, Post, or Pillar, erected here or there (for what reason may probably be guess’d) with the Inscription of a Ne plus ultrà.
’Tis not, indeed, any Authority on Earth, as we are well assur’d, can stop us on this Road, unless we please to make the Arrest, or Restriction, of our own accord. ’Tis our own Thought which must restrain our Thinking. And whether the restraining Thought be just, how shall we ever judge, without examining it freely, and out of all constraint? How shall we be sure that we have justly quitted Reason, as too high and dangerous, too aspiring or presumptive; if thro’ Fear of any kind, or submitting to mere Command, we quit our very examining Thought, and in the moment stop short, so as to put an end to further Thinking on the matter? Is there much difference between this Case, and that of the obedient Beasts of Burden, who stop precisely at their appointed Inn, or at whatever Point the Charioteer, orGovernour of the Reins, thinks fit to give the signal for a Halt?
I cannot but from hence conclude, That of all Species of Creatures said commonly to have Brains; the most insipid, wretched and preposterous are those, whom in just Propriety of Speech, we call Half-thinkers.
I have often known Pretenders toWit break out into admiration, on the sight of some raw, heedless, unthinking Gentleman; declaring on this occasion, That they esteem’d it the happiest Case in the World, “Never to think, or trouble one’s Head with Study or Consideration.” This I have always look’d upon as one of the highest Airs of Distinction, which the self-admiring Wits are us’d to give them-selves, in publick Company. Now the Echo or Antiphony which these elegant Exclaimers hope, by this Reflection, to draw necessarily from their Audience, is, “That they themselves are over-fraighted with this Merchandize of Thought; and have not only enough for Ballast, but such a Cargo over and above, as is enough to sink ’em by its Weight.” I am apt however to imagine of these Gentlemen, That it was never their over-thinking which oppress’d them; and that if their Thought had ever really become oppressive to ’em, they might thank themselves, for having under-thought, or reason’d short, so as to rest satisfy’d with a very superficial Search into Matters of the first and highest Importance.
If, for example, they over-look’d the chief Enjoyments of Life, which are founded in Honesty and a good Mind; if they presum’d mere Life to be fully worth what its tenacious Lovers are pleas’d to rate it at; if they thought publick Distinction, Fame, Power, an Estate, or Title, to be of the same value as is vulgarly conceiv’d, or as they concluded, on a first Thought, without further Scepticism or After-deliberation; ’tis no wonder, if being in time become such mature Dogmatists, and well-practis’d Dealers in the Affairs of what they call a Settlement or Fortune, they are so hardly put to it, to find ease or rest within themselves.
These are the deeply-loaded and over-pensive Gentlemen, who esteeming it the truest Wit to pursue what they call their Interest, wonder to find they are still as little at ease when they have succeeded, as when they first attempted to advance.
There can never be less Self-enjoyment than in these suppos’d wise Characters, these selfish Computers of Happiness and private Good; whose Pursuits of Interest, whether for this World or another, are attended with the same steddy Vein of cunning and low Thought, sordid Deliberations, perverse and crooked Fancys, ill Dispositions, and false Relishes of Life and Manners. The most negligent undesigning thoughtless Rake has not only more of Sociableness, Ease, Tranquillity, and Freedom from worldly Cares, but in reality more of Worth, Virtue, and Merit, than such grave Plodders, and thoughtful Gentlemen as these.
If it happens, therefore, that these graver, more circumspect, and deeply interested Gentlemen, have, for their Soul’s sake, and thro’ a careful Provision for Hereafter, engag’d in certain Speculations of Religion; their Taste of Virtue, and Relish of Life is not the more improv’d, on this account. The Thoughts they have on these new Subjects of Divinity are so biass’d, and perplex’d, by those Half-Thoughts and raw Imaginations of Interest, and worldly Affairs; that they are still disabled in the rational Pursuit of Happiness and Good: And being necessitated thus to remain Short-Thinkers, they have the Power to go no further than they are led by those to whom, under such Disturbances and Perplexitys, they apply themselves for Cure and Comfort.
IT HAS been the main Scope and principal End of these Volumes, “To assert the Reality of a Beauty and Charm in moral as well as natural Subjects; and to demonstrate the Reasonableness of a proportionateTaste, and determinateChoice, in Life and Manners.” The Standard of this kind, and the noted Character of MoralTruth appear so firmly establish’d in Nature it-self, and so widely display’d thro’ the intelligent World, that there is no Genius, Mind, or thinking Principle, which (if I may say so) is not really conscious in the case. Even the most refractory and obstinate Understandings are by certain Reprises or Returns of Thought, on every occasion, convinc’d of this Existence, and necessitated, in common with others, to acknowledg the actual Right and Wrong.
’Tis evident that whensoever the Mind, influenc’d by Passion or Humour, consents to any Action, Measure, or Rule of Life, contrary to this governingStandard and primaryMeasure of Intelligence, it can only be thro’ a weak Thought, a Scantiness of Judgment, and a Defect in the application of that unavoidable Impression and first natural Rule of Honesty and Worth; against which, whatever is advanc’d, will be of no other moment than to render a Life distracted, incoherent, full of Irresolution, Repentance, and Self-disapprobation.
Thus every Immorality and Enormity of Life can only happen from a partial and narrow View of Happiness and Good. Whatever takes from the Largeness or Freedom of Thought, must of necessity detract from that first Relish, or Taste, on which Virtue and Worth depend.
For instance, when the Eye or Appetite is eagerly fix’d on Treasure, and the money’d Bliss of Bags and Coffers; ’tis plain there is a kind of Fascination in the case. The Sight is instantly diverted from all other Views of Excellence or Worth. And here, even the Vulgar, as well as the more liberal part of Mankind, discover the contracted Genius, and acknowledg the Narrowness of such a Mind.
In Luxury and Intemperance we easily apprehend how far Thought is oppress’d, and the Mind debar’d from just Reflection, and from the free Examination and Censure of its own Opinions or Maxims, on which the Conduct of a Life is form’d.
Even in that complicated Good of vulgar kind, which we commonly call Interest, in which we comprehend both Pleasure, Riches, Power, and other exterior Advantages; we may discern how a fascinated Sight contracts a Genius, and by shortning the View even of that very Interest which it seeks, betrays the Knave, and necessitates the ablest and wittiest Proselyte of the kind, to expose himself on every Emergency and sudden Turn.
But above all other enslaving Vices, and Restrainers of Reason and just Thought, the most evidently ruinous and fatal to the Understanding is that of Superstition, Bigotry, and vulgarEnthusiasm. This Passion, not contented like other Vices to deceive, and tacitly supplant our Reason, professes open War, holds up the intended Chains and Fetters, and declares its Resolution to enslave.
The artificial Managers of this human Frailty declaim against Free-Thought, and Latitude of Understanding. To go beyond those Bounds of thinking which they have prescrib’d, is by them declar’d a Sacrilege. To them, Freedomof Mind, aMasteryof Sense, and aLiberty in Thought and Action, imply Debauch, Corruption, and Depravity.
In consequence of their moral Maxims, and political Establishments, they can indeed advance no better Notion of human Happiness and Enjoyment, than that which is in every respect the most opposite to Liberty. ’Tis to them doubtless that we owe the Opprobriousness and Abuse of those naturally honest Appellations of Free-Livers, Free-Thinkers, Latitudinarians, or whatever other Character implies a Largeness of Mind, and generous Use of Understanding. Fain wou’d they confound Licentiousness in Morals, with Liberty in Thought and Action; and make the Libertine, who has the least Mastery of himself, resemble his direct Opposite. For such indeed is the Man of resolute Purpose and immovable Adherence to Reason, against every thing which Passion, Prepossession, Craft, or Fashion can advance in favour of ought else. But here, it seems, the Grievance lies. ’Tis thought dangerous for us to be over-rational, or too much Masters of our-selves, in what we draw, by just Conclusions, from Reason only. Seldom therefore do these Expositors fail of bringing the Thought of Liberty into disgrace. Even at the expence of Virtue, and of that very Idea of Goodness on which they build the Mysterys of their profitable Science, they derogate from Morals, and reverse all true Philosophy; they refine on Selfishness, and explode Generosity; promote a slavish Obedience in the room of voluntary Duty, and free Service; exalt blind Ignorance for Devotion, recommend low Thought, decry Reason, extol *Voluptuousness, Wilfulness, Vindicativeness, Arbitrariness, Vain-Glory; and even † deify those weak Passions which are the Disgrace rather than Ornament of human Nature.
But so far is it from the Nature of ‡Liberty to indulge such Passions as these, that whoever acts at any time under the power of any single-one, may be said to have already provided for himself an absolute Master. And he who lives under the power of a whole Race, (since ’tis scarce possible to obey one without the other) must of necessity undergo the worst of Servitudes, under the most capricious and domineering Lords.
That this is no Paradox, even the Writers for Entertainment can inform us; however others may moralize, who discourse or write, as they pretend, for Profit and Instruction. The Poets even of the wanton sort, give ample Testimony of this Slavery and Wretchedness of Vice. They may extol Voluptuousness to the Skies, and point their Wit as sharply as they are able against a virtuous State. But when they come afterwards to pay the necessary Tribute to their commanding Pleasures; we hear their pathetick Moans, and find the inward Discord and Calamity of their Lives. Their Example is the best of Precepts; since they conceal nothing, are sincere, and speak their Passion out aloud. And ’tis in this that the very worst of Poets may justly be prefer’d to the generality of modern Philosophers, or other formal Writers of a yet more specious name. The MusesPupils never fail to express their Passions, and write just as they feel. ’Tis not, indeed, in their nature to do otherwise; whilst they indulge their Vein, and are under the power of that natural Enthusiasm which leads ’em to what is highest in their Performance. They follow Nature. They move chiefly as she moves in ’em; without thought of disguising her free Motions, and genuine Operations, for the sake of any Scheme or Hypothesis, which they have form’d at leisure, and in particular narrow Views. On this account, tho at one time they quarrel perhaps with Virtue, for restraining ’em in their forbidden Loves, they can at another time make her sufficient amends; when with indignation they complain, “That Merit is neglected, and their * worthless Rival prefer’d before them.”
† To think that the honest heart of a poor man should have no weight against gold!
And thus even in common Elegiack, in Song, Ode, or Epigram, consecrated to Pleasure it-self, we may often read the dolorous Confession in behalf of Virtue, and see, at the bottom, how the Case stands:
For then and then only are the words of truth drawn from the bottom of a man’s heart.3
The airy Poets, in these Fits, can, as freely as the Tragedian, condole with Virtue, and bemoan the case of sufferingMerit;
The Poetick Chiefs may give what reason they think fit for their Humour of representing our mad Appetites (especially that of Love) under the shape of Urchins and wanton Boys, scarce out of their State of Infancy. The original Design, and Moral of this Fiction, I am persuaded, was to shew us, how little there was of great and heroick in the Government of these Pretenders, how truly weak and childish they were in themselves, and how much lower than mere Children we then became, when we submitted our-selves to their blind Tutorage. There was no fear left in this Fiction the boyish Nature shou’d be misconstru’d as innocent and gentle. The Storms of Passion, so well known in every kind, kept the tyrannick Quality of this wanton Race sufficiently in view. Nor cou’d the poetical Description fail to bring to mind their mischievous and malignant Play. But when the Image of imperious Threatning, and absolute Command, was join’d to that of Ignorance, Puerility, and Folly; the Notion was compleated, of that wretched slavish State, which modern Libertines, in conjunction with some of a graver Character, admire, and represent, as the most eligible of any.—“Happy Condition! (says one) “Happy Life, that of the indulg’dPassions; might we pursue it!—Miserable Condition! Miserable Life, that of Reason and Virtue, which we are * bid pursue!”
’Tis the same, it seems, with Men, in Morals, as in Politicks. When they have been unhappily born and bred to Slavery, they are so far from being sensible of their slavish Course of Life, or of that ill Usage, Indignity and Misery they sustain; that they even admire their own Condition: and being us’d to think short, and carry their Views no further than those Bounds which were early prescrib’d to ’em; they look upon Tyranny as a natural Case, and think Mankind in a sort of dangerous and degenerate State, when under the power of Laws, and in the possession of a free Government.
We may by these Reflections come easily to apprehend What Men they were who first brought Reason and Free-Thought under disgrace, and made the noblest of Characters, that of a Free-Thinker, to become invidious. ’Tis no wonder if the same Interpreters wou’d have those also to be esteem’d free in their Lives, and Masters of good Living, who are the least Masters of themselves, and the most impotent in Passion and Humour, of all their Fellow-Creatures. But far be it, and far surely will it ever be, from any worthy Genius, to be consenting to such a treacherous Language, and Abuse of Words. For my own part, I thorowly confide in the good Powers of Reason, “That Liberty and Freedom shall never, by any Artifice or Delusion, be made to pass with me as frightful Sounds, or as reproachful, or invidious, in any sense.”
I can no more allow that to be Free-living, where unlimited Passion, and unexamin’d Fancy govern, than I can allow that to be a Free Government, where the mere People govern, and not the Laws. For no People in a Civil State can possibly be free, when they are otherwise govern’d than by such Laws as they themselves have constituted, or to which they have freely given consent. Now to be releas’d from these, so as to govern themselves by each Day’s Will or Fancy, and to vary on every Turn the Rule and Measure of Government, without respect to any antient Constitutions or Establishments, or to the stated and fix’d Rules of Equity and Justice; is as certain Slavery, as it is Violence, Distraction, and Misery; such as in the Issue must prove the Establishment of an irretrievable State of Tyranny, and absolute Dominion.
In the Determinations of Life, and in the Choice and Government of Actions, he alone is free who has within himself no Hindrance, or Controul, in acting what he himself, by his best Judgment, and most deliberate Choice, approves. Cou’d Vice agree possibly with it-self; or cou’d the vicious any way reconcile the various Judgments of their inward Counsellors; they might with Justice perhaps assert their Liberty and Independency. But whilst they are necessitated to follow least, what, in their sedate hours, they most approve; whilst they are passively assign’d, and made over from one Possessor to * another, in contrary Extremes, and to different Ends and Purposes, of which they are them-selves wholly ignorant; ’tis evident, That the more they turn † their Eyes (as many times they are oblig’d) towards Virtue and a free Life, the more they must confess their Misery and Subjection. They discern their own Captivity, but not with Force and Resolution sufficient to redeem themselves, and become their own. Such is the real Tragick State, as the old ‡Tragedian represents it:
4 I see and I esteem the better course, I follow the worse.
And thus the highest Spirits, and most refractory Wills, contribute to the lowest Servitude and most submissive State. Reason and Virtue alone can bestow Liberty.Vice is unworthy, and unhappy, on this account only, “That it is slavish and debasing.”
THUS HAVE we pleaded the Cause of Liberty in general; and vindicated, withal, our Author’s particular Freedom, in taking the Person of a Sceptick, as he has done in this * last Treatise, on which we have so largely paraphras’d. We may now perhaps, in compliance with general Cusstom, justly presume to add something in defense of the same kind of Freedom we our-selves have assum’d in these latter Miscellaneous Comments; since it wou’d doubtless be very unreasonable and unjust, for those who had so freely play’d the Critick, to expect any thing less than the same free Treatment, and thorow Criticism in return.
As for the Style or Language us’d in these Comments; ’tis very different, we find; and varys in proportion with the Author commented, and with the different Characters and Persons frequently introduc’d in the original Treatises. So that there will undoubtedly be Scope sufficient for Censure and Correction.
As for the Observations on Antiquity; we have in most Passages, except the very common and obvious, produc’d our Vouchers and Authoritys in our own behalf. What may be thought of our Judgment or Sense in the Application of these Authoritys, and in the Deductions and Reasonings we have form’d from such learned Topicks, must be submitted to the Opinion of the Wise and Learned.
In Morals, of which the very Force lies in a love of Discipline, and in a willingness to redress and rectify false Thought, and erring Views; we cannot but patiently wait Redress and amicable Censure from the sole competent Judges, the Wise and Good; whose Interest it has been our whole Endeavour to advance.
The only Subject on which we are perfectly secure, and without fear of any just Censure or Reproach, is that of Faith, and OrthodoxBelief. For in the first place, it will appear, that thro’ a profound Respect, and religious Veneration, we have forborn so much as to name any of the sacred and solemn Mysterys of *Revelation. And, in the next place, as we can with confidence declare, that we have never in any Writing, publick or private, attempted such high Researches, nor have ever in Practice acquitted our-selves otherwise than as just Conformists to the lawful Church; so we may, in a proper Sense, be said faithfully and dutifully to embrace those holy Mysterys, even in their minutest Particulars, and without the least Exception on account of their amazing Depth. And tho we are sensible that it wou’d be no small hardship to deprive others of a liberty of examining and searching, with due Modesty and Submission, into the nature of those Subjects; yet as for our-selves, who have not the least scruple whatsoever, we pray not any such Grace or Favour in our behalf: being fully assur’d of our own steddy Orthodoxy, Resignation, and intire Submission to the truly Christian and Catholick Doctrines of our Holy Church, as by Law establish’d.
’Tis true, indeed, that as to †CriticalLearning, and the Examination of Originals, Texts, Glosses, various Readings, Styles, Compositions, Manuscripts, Compilements, Editions, Publications, and other Circumstances, such as are common to the Sacred Books with all other Writings and Literature; this we have confidently asserted to be a just and lawful Study. We have even represented this Species of Criticism as necessary to the Preservation and Purity of Scripture; that Sacred Scripture, which has been so miraculously preserv’d in its successive Copys and Transcriptions, under the Eye (as we must needs suppose) of holy and learned Criticks, thro’ so many dark Ages of Christianity, to these latter Times; in which Learning has been happily reviv’d.
But if this critical Liberty raises any jealousy against us, we shall beg leave of our offended Reader to lay before him our Case, at the very worst: That if on such a naked Exposition, it be found criminal, we may be absolutely condemn’d; if otherwise, acquitted, and with the same favour indulg’d, as others in the same Circumstances have been before us.
On this occasion therefore, we may be allow’d to borrow something from the Form or Manner of our Dialogue Author, and represent a Conversation of the same free nature as that recited by him in his *Night-Scene; where the suppos’d Sceptick, or Free-Thinker, delivers his Thoughts, and reigns in the Discourse.
’TWAS IN a more considerable Company, and before a more numerous Audience, that not long since, a Gentleman of some Rank, (one who was generally esteem’d to carry a sufficient Caution and Reserve in religious Subjects of Discourse, as well as an apparent Deference to Religion, and in particular to the national and establish’d Church) having been provok’d by an impertinent Attack of a certain violent bigotted Party, was drawn into an open and free Vindication not only of Free-Thinking, but Free-Professing, and Discoursing, in Matters relating to Religion and Faith.
Some of the Company, it seems, after having made bold with him, as to what they fansy’d to be his Principle, began to urge “The Necessity of reducing Men to one Profession and Belief.” And several Gentlemen, even of those who pass’d for moderate in their way, seem’d so far to give into this Zealot-Opinion as to agree, “That notwithstanding the right Method was not yet found, ’twas highly requisite that some way shou’d be thought on, to reconcile Differences in Opinion; since so long as this Variety shou’d last, Religion, they thought, cou’d never be successfully advanc’d.”
To this our Gentleman, at first, answer’d coldly, That “What was impossible to be done, cou’d not, he thought, be properly pursu’d, as necessary to be done.” But the Raillery being ill taken, he was forc’d at last to defend himself the best he cou’d, upon this Point; “That Variety of Opinions was not to be cur’d.” And “That ’twas impossible All shou’d be of one Mind.”
I well know, said he, “That many pious Men, seeing the Inconveniences which the Dis-union of Persuasions and Opinions accidentally produces, have thought themselves oblig’d to stop this Inundation of Mischiefs, and have made Attempts accordingly. Some have endeavour’d to unite these Fractions, by propounding such a Guide, as they were all bound to follow; hoping that the Unity of a Guide wou’d have produc’d Unity of Minds. But who this Guide shou’d be, after all, became such a Question, that ’twas made part of that Fire it-self which was to be extinguish’d. Others thought of a Rule.—This was to be the effectual Means of Union! This was to do the Work, or nothing cou’d!—But supposing all the World had been agreed on this Rule, yet the Interpretation of it was so full of Variety, that this also became part of the Disease.”
The Company, upon this Preamble of our Gentleman, press’d harder upon him than before; objecting the Authority of Holy Scripture against him, and affirming this to be of it-self a sufficient Guide and Rule. They urg’d again and again that known Saying of a fam’d Controversial Divine of our Church against the Divines of another, “That the Scripture, the Scripture was the Religion of Protestants.”
To this our Gentleman, at first, reply’d only, by desiring them to explain their word Scripture, and by inquiring into the Original of this Collection of antienter and later Tracts, which in general they comprehended under that Title: Whether it were the apocryphalScripture, or the more canonical? The full or the half-authoriz’d? The doubtful, or the certain? The controverted, or uncontroverted? The singly-read, or that of various Reading? The Text of these Manuscripts, or of those? The Transcripts, Copys, Titles, Catalogues of this Church and Nation, or of that other? of this Sect and Party, or of another? of those in one Age call’d Orthodox, and in possession of Power, or of those who in another overthrew their Predecessors Authority, and in their turn also assum’d the Guardianship and Power of holy Things? For how these sacred Records were guarded in those Ages, might easily, he said, be imagin’d by any one who had the least Insight into the History of those Times which we call’d primitive, and the Characters of those Men, whom we styl’d Fathers of the Church.
“It must be confess’d, continu’d he, ’twas a strange Industry and unlucky Diligence which was us’d, in this respect, by these Ecclesiastical Fore-Fathers. Of all those Heresys which gave them Imployment, we have absolutely no Record, or Monument, but what them-selves who were Adversarys have transmitted to us; and we know that Adversarys, especially such who observe all Opportunitys to discredit both the Persons and Doctrines of their Enemys, are not always the best Recorders or Witnesses of such Transactions.” We see it (continu’d he, in a very emphatical, but somewhat embarass’d Style) “We see it now in this very Age, in the present Dis-temperatures, that Partys are no good Registers of the Actions of the adverse Side: And if we cannot be confident of the Truth of a Story now, (now, I say, that it is possible for any Man, especially for the interested Adversary, to discover the Imposture) it is far more unlikely, that After-Ages shou’d know any other Truth than such as serves the ends of the Representers.”
Our Gentleman by these Expressions had already given considerable Offense to his Zealot-Auditors. They ply’d him faster with passionate Reproaches, than with Arguments or rational Answers. This, however, serv’d only to animate him the more, and made him proceed the more boldly, with the same assum’d Formality, and air of Declamation, in his general Criticism of Holy Literature.
“There are, said he, innumerable Places that contain (no doubt) great Mysterys, but so wrap’d in Clouds, or hid in Umbrages, so heighten’d with Expressions, or so cover’d with Allegorys and Garments of Rhetorick; so profound in the matter, or so alter’d and made intricate in the manner; that they may seem to have been left as Trials of our Industry, and as Occasions and Opportunitys for the exercise of mutual Charity and Toleration, rather than as the Repositorys of Faith, and Furniture of Creeds. For when there are found in the Explications of these Writings, so many Commentarys; so many Senses and Interpretations; so many Volumes in all Ages, and all like Mens Faces, no one exactly like another: either this Difference is absolutely no fault at all; or if it be, it is excusable. There are, besides, so many thousands of Copys that were writ by Persons of several Interests and Persuasions, such different Understandings and Tempers, such distinct Abilitys and Weaknesses, that ’tis no wonder there is so great variety of Readings:—whole Verses in one, that are not in another:—whole Books admitted by one Church or Communion, which are rejected by another: and whole Storys and Relations admitted by some Fathers, and rejected by others.—I consider withal, that there have been many Designs and Views in expounding these Writings; many Senses in which they are expounded: and when the Grammatical Sense is found out, we are many times never the nearer. Now there being such variety of Senses in Scripture, and but few Places so mark’d out, as not to be capable of more than one; if Men will write Commentarys by Fancy, what infallible Criterion will be left to judg of the certain Sense of such Places as have been the matter of Question? I consider again, that there are indeed divers Places in these sacred Volumes containing in them Mysterys and Questions of great Concernment; yet such is the Fabrick and Constitution of the Whole, that there is no certain Mark to determine whether the Sense of these Passages shou’d be taken as literal or figurative. There is nothing in the nature of the thing to determine the Sense or Meaning: but it must be gotten out as it can. And therefore ’tis unreasonably requir’d, That what is of it-self ambiguous, shou’d be understood in its own prime Sense and Intention, under the pain of either a Sin, or an Anathema. Very wise Men, even the antient Fathers, have expounded things allegorically, when they shou’d have expounded them literally. Others expound things literally, when they shou’d understand them in Allegory. If such great Spirits cou’d be deceiv’d in finding out what kind of Senses were to be given to Scriptures, it may well be endur’d that we, who sit at their Feet, shou’d be subject at least to equal Failure. If we follow any OneTranslation, or any One Man’s Commentary, what Rule or Direction shall we have, by which to chuse that One aright? Or is there any one Man, that hath translated perfectly, or expounded infallibly? If we resolve to follow any one as far only as we like, or fansy; we shall then only do wrong or right by Chance. If we resolve absolutely to follow any-one, whither-soever he leads, we shall probably come at last, where, if we have any Eyes left, we shall see our-selves become sufficiently ridiculous.”
The Reader may here perhaps, by his natural Sagacity, remark a certain air of study’d Discourse and Declamation, not so very proper or natural in the mouth of a mere Gentleman, nor sutable to a Company where alternate Discourse is carry’d on, in un-concerted Measure, and un-premeditated Language. Something there was so very emphatical, withal, in the delivery of these words, by the sceptical Gentleman; that some of the Company who were still more incens’d against him for these Expressions, began to charge him as a Preacher of pernicious Doctrines, one who attack’d Religion in form, and carry’d his Lessons or Lectures about with him, to repeat by rote, at any time, to the Ignorant and Vulgar, in order to seduce them.
’Tis true indeed, said he, Gentlemen! that what I have here ventur’d to repeat, is address’d chiefly to those you call Ignorant; such, I mean, as being otherwise engag’d in the World, have had little time perhaps to bestow upon Inquirys into Divinity-Matters. As for you, Gentlemen! in particular, who are so much displeas’d with my Freedom; I am well assur’d, you are in effect so able and knowing, that the Truth of every Assertion I have advanc’d is sufficiently understood and acknowledg’d by you; however it may happen, that, in your great Wisdom, you think it proper to conceal these Matters from such Persons as you are pleas’d to style the Vulgar.
’Tis true, withal, Gentlemen! continu’d he, I will confess to you, That the words you have heard repeated, are not my own. They are no other than what have been publickly and solemnly deliver’d, even by * one of the Episcopal Order, a celebrated Churchman, and one of the highest sort; as appears by his many devotional Works, which carry the Rites, Ceremonys and Pomp of Worship, with the Honour and Dignity of the Priestly and Episcopal Order, to the highest Degree. In effect, we see the Reverend Doctor’s Treatises standing, as it were, in the Front of this Order of Authors, and as the foremost of those Good-Books us’d by the politest and most refin’d Devotees of either Sex. They maintain the principal Place in the Study of almost every elegant and high Divine. They stand in Folio’s and other Volumes, adorn’d with variety of Pictures, Gildings, and other Decorations, on the advanc’d Shelves or Glass-Cupboards of the Ladys Closets. They are in use at all Seasons, and for all Places, as well for Church-Service as Closet-Preparation; and, in short, may vie with any devotional Books in British Christendom. And for the Life and Character of the Man himself; I leave it to you, Gentlemen, (you, I mean, of the Zealot-kind) to except against it, if you think proper. ’Tis your Manner, I know, and what you never fail to have recourse to, when any Authority is produc’d against you. Personal Reflection is always seasonable, and at hand, on such an occasion. No matter what Virtue, Honesty, or Sanctity may lie in the Character of the Person cited. No matter tho he be ever so much, in other respects, of your own Party, and devoted to your Interest. If he has indiscreetly spoken some Home-Truth, or discover’d some Secret which strikes at the temporal Interests of certain spiritual Societys; he is quickly doom’d to Calumny and Defamation.
I shall try this Experiment, however, once more, (continu’d our Gentleman) and as a Conclusion to this Discourse, will venture to produce to you a further Authority of the same kind. You shall have it before you, in the exact Phrase and Words of the great Author, in his theological Capacity; since I have now no further occasion to conceal my Citations, and accommodate them to the more familiar Style and Language of Conversation.
Our excellent * Archbishop, and late Father of our Church, when expresly treating that very Subject of a Rulein matters of Belief, in opposition to Mr. S . . . and Mr. R . . . . . his Romish Antagonists, shews plainly how great a shame it is, for us Protestants at least, (whatever the Case may be with Romanists) to disallow Difference of Opinions, and forbid private Examination, and Search into matters of antientRecord, and scripturalTradition; when, at the same time, we have no pretence to oral or verbal; no Claim to any absolute superior Judg, or decisive Judgment in the Case; no Polity, Church, or Community; no particular Man, or number of Men, who are not, even by our own Confession, plainly fallible, and subject to Error and Mistake.
“The Protestants” (says his Grace, speaking in the Person of Mr. S . . . and the Romanists) “cannot know how many the Books of Scripture ought to be; and Which of the many controverted ones may be securely put in that Catalogue; Which not.—But I shall tell him, replies his Grace, That we know that just so many ought to be receiv’d as un-controverted Books, concerning which it cannot be shewn there was ever any Controversy.” It was not incumbent perhaps on my Lord Archbishop to help Mr. S . . . . . so far in his Objection, as to add, That in reality the burning, suppressing, and interpolating Method, so early in fashion, and so tightly practis’d on the Epistles, Comments, Historys, and Writings of the Orthodox and Hereticks of old, made it impossible to say with any kind of Assurance, “What Books, Copys, or Transcripts those were, concerning which there was never any Controversy at all.” This indeed wou’d be a Point not so easily to be demonstrated. But his Grace proceeds, in shewing the Weakness of the Romish Pillar, Tradition. “For it must either,” says he, “acknowledg some Books to have been controverted, or not. Ifnot, why doth he make a Supposition of controverted Books? If Oral Tradition acknowledges some Books to have been controverted; then it cannot assure us that they have not been controverted; nor consequently that they ought to be receiv’d as never having been controverted; but only as such, concerning which those Churches who did once raise a Controversy about them, have been since satisfy’d that they are*Canonical.—Where is then the Infallibility of Oral Tradition? How does the living Voice of the present Church assure us, that what Books are now receiv’d by Her, were ever receiv’d by Her? And if it cannot do this, but the matter must come to be try’d by the best Records of former Ages, (which the Protestants are willing to have the Catalogue try’d by) then it seems the Protestants have a better way to know what Books are Canonical, than is the infallible way of Oral Tradition. And so long as ’tis better, no matter tho it be not call’d Infallible.”—
Thus the free and generous Archbishop. For, indeed, what greater Generosity is there, than in owning Truth frankly and openly, even where the greatest Advantages may be taken by an Adversary? Accordingly, our worthy Archbishop, speaking again immediately in the Person of his Adversary, “The Protestants,” says † he, “cannot know that the very Original, or a perfectly true Copy of these Books, hath been preserv’d.” “Nor is it necessary,” replies the Archbishop, “that they shou’d know either of these. It is sufficient that they know that those Copys which they have, are not materially corrupted.—But how do the Church of Rome know that they have perfectly true Copys of the Scriptures in the original Languages? They do not pretend to know this. The learned Men of that Church acknowledg the various Readings as well as we, and do not pretend to know, otherwise than by probable Conjecture, (as we also may do) Which of those Readings is the true-one.”* —
And thus, continu’d our Lay-Gentleman, I have finish’d my Quotations, which I have been necessitated to bring in my own Defense; to prove to you That I have asserted nothing on this Head of Religion, Faith, or the Sacred Mysterys, which has not been justify’d and confirm’d by the most celebrated Church-Men and respected Divines. You may now proceed in your Invectives; bestowing as free Language of that kind, as your Charity and Breeding will permit. And You, ReverendSirs! who have assum’d a Character which sets you above that of the mere Gentleman, and releases you from those Decorums, and constraining Measures of Behaviour to which we of an inferior sort are bound; You may liberally deal your religious Compliments and Salutations in what Dialect you think fit; since for my own part, neither the Names of Heterodox, Schismatick, Heretick, Sceptick, nor even Infidel, or Atheist it-self, will in the least scandalize me, whilst the Sentence comes only from your mouths. On the contrary, I rather strive with my-self to suppress whatever Vanity might naturally arise in me, from such Favour bestow’d. For whatever may, in the bottom, be intended me, by such a Treatment; ’tis impossible for me to term it other than Favour; since there are certain Enmitys, which it will be ever esteem’d a real Honour to have merited.
If, contrary to the Rule and Measure of Conversation, I have drawn the Company’s Attention towards me thus long, without affording them an Intermission, during my Recital; they will, I hope, excuse me, the rather, because they heard the other Recitals, and were Witnesses to the heavy Charge and personal Reflection, which without any real Provocation was made upon me in publick, by these Zealot-Gentlemen, to whom I have thus reply’d. And notwithstanding they may, after such Breaches of Charity as are usual with them, presume me equally out of Charity, on my own side; I will take upon me however to give them this good Advice, at parting: “That since they have of late been so elated by some seeming Advantages, and a Prosperity, which they are ill fitted to bear; they wou’d at least beware of accumulating too hastily those high Characters, Appellations, Titles, and Ensigns of Power, which may be Tokens, perhaps, of what they expect hereafter, but which, as yet, do not answer the real Power and Authority bestow’d on them.” The Garb and Countenance will be more graceful, when the Thing it-self is secur’d to ’em, and in their actual possession. Mean while, the Anticipation of high Titles, Honours, and nominal Dignitys, beyond the common Style and antient Usage; tho it may be highly fashionable at present, may not prove beneficial or advantageous in the end.
I wou’d, in particular, advise my elegant Antagonists of this Zealot-kind; That among the many Titles they assume to themselves, they wou’d be rather more sparing in that high-one of Embassador, till such time as they have just Means and Foundation to join that of Plenipotentiary together with it. For as matters stand hitherto in our British World, neither their Commission from the Sovereign, nor that which they pretend from Heaven, amounts to any absolute or determining Power.
The first holy Messengers (for That I take to be the highest apostolick Name) brought with them their proper Testimonials, in their Lives, their Manners and Behaviour; as well as in powerful Works,Miracles, and Signs from Heaven. And tho indeed it might well be esteem’d a Miracle in the kind, shou’d our presentMessengers go about to represent their Predecessors in any part of their Demeanour or Conversation; yet there are further Miracles remaining for ’em to perform, ere they can in modesty plead the Apostolick or Messenger-Authority. For tho, in the torrent of a sublime and figurative Style, a holy Apostle may have made use, perhaps, of such a Phrase as that of Embassy or Embassador, to express the Dignity of his Errand; ’twere to be wish’d that some who were never sent of any Errand or Message at all from Godhimself, wou’d use a modester Title to express their voluntary Negotiation between Us and Heaven.
I must confess, for my own part, that I think the Notion of an Embassy from thence to be at best somewhat high-strain’d, in the metaphorical way of Speech. But certain I am, that if there be any such Residentship or Agentship now establish’d; ’tis not immediately from Godhimself, but thro’ the Magistrate, and by the Prince or Sovereign Power here on Earth, that these Gentlemen-Agents are appointed, distinguish’d, and set over us. They have undoubtedly a * legal Charter, and Character, legal Titles, and Precedencys, legal Habits, Coats of Arms, Colours, Badges. But they may do well to consider, That a thousand Badges or Liverys bestow’d by Men merely, can never be sufficient to entitle ’em to the same Authority as Theirs, who bore the immediate Testimony and Miraculous Signs of Power, from Above. For in this case, there was need only of Eyes, and ordinary Senses, to distinguish the Commission, and acknowledg the Embassy or Message as divine.
But allowing it ever so certain a Truth, “That there has been a thousand or near two thousand Years Succession in this Commission of Embassy”: Where shall we find this Commission to have lain?—How has it been supply’d still, or renew’d?—How often dormant?—How often divided, even in one and the same Species of Claimants?—What Party are they, among Moderns, who by virtue of any immediate Testimonial from Heaven are thus intitled?—Where are the Letters-Patent?TheCredentials? For these shou’d, in the nature of the thing, be open, visible, and apparent.
A certain Indian of the Train of the Embassador-Princes sent to us lately from some of those Pagan Nations, being engag’d, one Sunday, in visiting our Churches, and happening to ask his Interpreter, “Who the eminent Persons were whom he observ’d haranguing so long, with such Authority from a high Place?” was answer’d, “They were Embassadors from the Almighty, or (according to the Indian Language) from the Sun.” Whether the Indian took this seriously or in raillery, did not appear. But having afterwards call’d in, as he went along, at the Chapels of some of his Brother-Embassadors, of the Romish Religion, and at some other Christian Dissenting Congregations, where Matters, as he perceiv’d, were transacted with greater Privacy, and inferior State; he ask’d, “Whether These also were Embassadors from the same Place.” He was answer’d, “That they had indeed been heretofore of the Embassy, and had Possession of the same chief Places he had seen: But they were now succeeded there, by Others.” “If those therefore,” reply’d the Indian, “were Embassadors from theSun;these, I take for granted, are from theMoon.”
Supposing, indeed, one had been no Pagan, but a good Christian; conversant in the original Holy Scriptures, but unacquainted with the Rites, Titles, Habits and Ceremonials, of which there is no mention in those Writings: Might one not have inquir’d, with humble Submission, into this Affair? Might one not have softly, and at a distance, apply’d for information concerning this highEmbassy; and addressing perhaps to some inferior Officer or Livery-Man of the Train, ask’d modestly, “How and Whence they came? Whose Equipage they appear’d in? At Whose Charges they were entertain’d? and by Whose Suffrage or Command appointed and authoriz’d?—Is it true, pray Sirs! that their Excellencys of the present Establishment, are the sole-commission’d? Or are there as many real Commissioners as there are Pretenders? If so; there can be no great danger for us, which-ever way we apply our-selves. We have ample Choice, and may adhere to whichCommissionwe like best. If there be only One single True-one; we have then, it seems, good reason to look about us, search narrowly into the Affair, be scrupulous in our Choice, and (as the current Physick-Bills admonish us) beware of Counterfeits; since there are so many of these abroad, with earthly Powers, and temporalCommissions, to back their spiritual Pretenses.”—
’Tis to be fear’d, in good earnest, that the Discernment of this kind will prove pretty difficult; especially amidst this universal Contention, Embroil, and Fury of religious Challengers, these high Defiances of contrary Believers, this zealous Opposition of Commission to Commission; and this Din of Hell, Anathema’s, and Damnations, rais’d every where by one religious Party against another.
So far are the pretendedly commission’d Partys from producing their Commission openly, or proving it from the original Record, or Court-Rolls of Heaven, that they deny us inspection into these very Records they plead, and refuse to submit their Title to human Judgment or Examination.
A Poet of our Nation insinuates indeed in their behalf, That they are fair enough in this respect. For when the murmuring People, speaking by their chosen Orator, or Spokes-man, to the Priests, says to ’em,
The Apologist afterwards excusing this Boldness of the People, and soothing the incens’d Priests with fairer Words, says to ’em, on a foot of Moderation, which he presumes to be their Character:
The Poet, it seems, never dreamt of a time when the very Countenance of Moderation shou’d be out of fashion with the Gentlemen of this Order, and the Word it-self exploded as unworthy of their Profession. And, indeed, so far are they at present from bearing with any Sceptick, or Inquirer, ever so modest or discreet, that to hear an Argument on a contrary side to theirs, or read whatever may be writ in answer to their particular Assertions, is made the highest Crime. Whilst they have among themselves such Differences, and sharp Debates, about their heavenlyCommission, and are even in one and the same Community or Establishment, divided into different Sects and Headships; they will allow no particular Survey or Inspection into the Foundations of their controverted Title. They wou’d have us inferior passive Mortals, amaz’d as we are, and beholding with astonishment from afar these tremendous Subjects of Dispute, wait blindfold the Event and final Decision of the Controversy. Nor is it enough that we are merely passive. ’Tis requir’d of us, That in the midst of this irreconcilable Debate concerning heavenly Authoritys and Powers, we shou’d be as confident of the Veracity of some one, as of the Imposture and Cheat of all the other Pretenders: and that believing firmly there is still A realCommission at the bottom, we shou’d endure the Misery of these Conflicts, and engage on one side or the other, as we happen to have our Birth or Education; till by Fire and Sword, Execution, Massacre, and a kind of Depopulation of this Earth, it be * determin’d at last amongst us, “Which is the trueCommission,exclusive of all others, and superior to the rest.”
HERE our secularGentleman, who in the latter end of his Discourse had already made several Motions and Gestures which betoken’d a Retreat, made his final Bow in form, and quitted the Place and Company for that time; till (as he told his Auditors) he had another Opportunity, and fresh Leisure to hear, in his turn, whatever his Antagonists might anew object to him, in a Manner more favourable and moderate; or, if they so approv’d, in the same Temper, and with the same Zeal as they had done before.
A Notion of the
Historical Draught or Tablature
of the Judgment of Hercules,
According to Prodicus,Lib. II. Xen. de Mem. Soc.
With a Letter concerning
Find more important Herculean tasks, hard labors,
than all the loves, the banquets, and the featherly
comforts of Sardanapolus.* Juv. Sat. 10.
Printed first in the Year M.DCC.XIII.
THE Judgment of Hercules
[* ]Viz. Treatise III. VOL. I.
[* ] Supra, pag. 153, 154. in the Notes.
[* ] VOL. I. pag. 53, 54.
[† ]Viz. Letter of Enthusiasm, VOL. I. And above, MISC. II. chap. 1, 2.
[* ]Libri tres in Sacrarium conditi, Sibyllini appellati. Ad eos quasi ad Oraculum Quindecimviri adeunt, cum Dii immortales publicè consulendi sunt. Aul. Gell. lib. i. c. 19. & Plin. lib. xiii. c. 13. [The three books were placed in a shrine and called the Sibyl’s books. The College of Fifteen consults them, like an oracle, whenever the Gods have to be consulted by the state.] But of this first Sibylline Scripture, and of other canoniz’d Books and additional Sacred Writ among the Romans; see what Dionysius Halicarnasseus cites (from Varro’s Roman Theologicks) in his History, lib. iv. c. 62.
[* ] John, chap. v. ver. 31.
[* ]Aratus, Acts ch. xvii. ver. 28. And Epimenides, Titus ch. i. ver. 12. Even one of their own PROPHETS. For so the holy Apostle deign’d to speak of a Heathen Poet, a Physiologist, and Divine: who prophesy’d of Events, wrought Miracles, and was receiv’d as an inspir’d Writer, and Author of Revelations, in the chief Citys and States of Greece.
[† ]Menander, 1 Cor. ch. xv. ver. 33.
[* ] Even in the sixth Century, the fam’d Gregorius Bishop of Rome, who is so highly celebrated for having planted the Christian Religion, by his Missionary Monks, in our English Nation of Heathen Saxons, was so far from being a Cultivater or Supporter of Arts or Letters, that he carry’d on a kind of general Massacre upon every Product of human Wit. His own Words in a Letter to one of the French Bishops, a Man of the highest Consideration and Merit, (as a noted modern Critick, and satirical Genius of that Nation acknowledges) are as follow. Pervenit ad nos quod sine verecundiâ memorare non possumus, fraternitatem tuam GRAMMATICAM quibusdam exponere. Quam rem ita molestè suscepimus, ac sumus vehementiùs aspernati, ut ea quae prius dicta fuerunt, in gemitum & tristitiam verteremus, quia in uno se ore cumJovislaudibusChristilaudes non capiunt. * * * * * Unde si post hoc evidenter ea quae ad nos perlata sunt, falsa esse claruerint, nec vos NUGIS & SECULARIBUS LITERIS studere contigerit, Deo nostro gratias agimus, qui cor vestrum maculari blasphemis nefandorum laudibus non permisit. [A story has reached me which I am ashamed to mention, that your brotherhood teaches certain pupils grammar! This news I received with such grief and rejected with such scorn that I turned what was said before into groans and lamentations; for one mouth cannot hold the praise of Jupiter and of Christ too. . . . So if hereafter the news proves false, and you have not spent your time upon trifles and worldly literature, I return thanks to God, who would not have your hearts stained with the blasphemous praise of the wicked.] Gregorii Opera, Epist. 48. lib. ix. Paris. Ann. 1533. And in his Dedication, or first Preface to his Morals, after some very insipid Rhetorick, and figurative Dialect imploy’d against the Study and Art of Speech, he has another Fling at the Classick Authors and Discipline; betraying his inveterate Hatred to antient Learning, as well as the natural Effect of this Zealot-Passion, in his own Barbarity both of Style and Manners. His words are, Unde & ipsam artem loquendi, quam Magisteria Disciplinae exterioris insinuant, servare despexi. Nam sicut hujus quoque Epistolae tenor enunciat, non Metacismi collisionem fugio: non Barbarismi confusionem devito, situs motusque praepositionum casusque servare contemno: quia indignum vehementer existimo, ut verba coelestis oraculi restringam sub regulisDonati. [So I think scorn of observing even the art of speech, which the wider education is bringing in upon us. For, as the course of this letter shows, I do not avoid the frequent use of M; I do not shun barbarisms; I despise rules about the position or the changing or the cases of prepositions: for I strongly hold it to be unfitting to bind the words of heaven by the rules of Donatus.] That he carry’d this savage Zeal of his so far as to destroy (what in him lay) the whole Body of Learning, with all the Classick Authors then in being, was generally believ’d. And (what was yet more notorious and unnatural in a RomanPontiff) the Destruction of the Statues, Sculptures, and finest Pieces of Antiquity in Rome, was charg’d on him by his Successor in the SEE; as, besides Platina, another Writer of his Life, without the least Apology, confesses. See in the above-cited Edition of St. Gregory’s Works, at the beginning, viz. Vita D. Gregorii ex Joan. Laxiardo Coelestino. ’Tis no wonder, therefore, if other Writers have given account of that Sally of the Prelate’s Zeal against the Books and Learning of the Antients, for which the Reason alledg’d was very extraordinary; “That the holy Scriptures wou’d be the better relish’d, and receive a considerable Advantage by the Destruction of these Rivals.” It seems they had no very high Idea of the holy Scriptures, when they suppos’d them such Losers by a Comparison. However, ’twas thought advisable by other Fathers (who had a like view) to frame new Pieces of Literature, after the Model of these condemn’d Antients. Hence those ridiculous Attempts of new heroick Poems, new Epicks and Dramaticks, new Homers, Euripides’s, Menanders, which were with so much Pains and so little Effect industriously set afoot by the zealous Priesthood; when Ignorance prevail’d, and the Hierarchal Dominion was so universal. But tho their Power had well nigh compass’d the Destruction of those great Originals, they were far from being able to procure any Reception for their puny Imitations. The Mock-Works have lain in their deserv’d Obscurity; as will all other Attempts of that kind, concerning which our Author has already given his Opinion, VOL. I. pag. 356, 357, &c. But as to the ill Policy as well as Barbarity of this Zealot-Enmity against the Works of the Antients, a foreign Protestant Divine, and most learned Defender of Religion, making the best Excuse he can for the Greek-Fathers, and endeavouring to clear them from this general Charge of Havock and Massacre committed upon Science and Erudition, has these words: “Si cela est, voilà encore un nouveau Sujet de mépriser les Patriarches deConstantinoplequi n’étoient d’ailleurs rien moins que gens de bien; mais j’ai de la poine à le croire, parce qu’il nous est resté de Poetes infiniment plus sales que ceux qui se sont perdus. Personne ne doute qu’Aristophanene soit beaucoup plus sale, que n’etoitMenander. Plutarqueen est un bon témoin, dans la Comparaison qu’il a faite de ces deux Poetes. Il peuvoit être neanmoins arrivé, que quelquesEcclesiastiquesennemis des Belles Lettres, en eussent usé comme ditChalcondyle,sans penser qu’en conservant toute l’Antiquité Grecque, ils conserveroient la Langue de leurs Prédecesseurs, & une infinité de Faits qui servoient beaucoup à l’intelligence & à la confirmation de l’Histoire Sacrée, & même de la Religion Chretienne. Ces gens-là devoient au moins nous conserver les Histoires Anciennes des Orientaux, comme des Chaldéens, des Tyriens, & des Egyptiens; mais ils agissoient plus par ignorance & par negligence, que par raison.” [If that is (true), behold yet again a new reason to disdain the Patriarchs of Constantinople, who moreover were nothing less than good men; but I have difficulty believing it, because there has survived to us Poets infinitely more bawdy than those who were lost. No one doubts that Aristophanes was not much more dirty than Menander. Plutarch testifies well to this in the comparison he made of the two Poets. It could have happened nonetheless that certain Clerics, foes to Belles-Lettres, could have used them as Chalcondyle says, without thinking that by conserving all of Greek Antiquity they would conserve the language of their Predecessors, and an infinity of facts that would aid greatly in the understanding and confirmation of Sacred History and even of the Christian Religion. Those men at least ought to conserve for us the Ancient Histories of the Orientals, such as the Chaldeans, the Tyrians, and the Egyptians, but they acted more from ignorance and negligence than by reason.] BIBL. CHOIS. Tom. XIV. pag. 131, 132, 133.
[* ] Such a one is the present Prince, Clement XI. an Incourager of all Arts and Sciences.
[* ] So Luke, chap. i. ver. 1, 2, 3, 4. “(1) For as much as MANY have taken in hand to set forth, in order, a Declaration (Exposition or Narrative, διήγησιν) of those things which are most surely believ’d among (or were fulfill’d in, or among) us; (2) Even as they deliver’d them unto us, which from the beginning were Eyewitnesses and Ministers of the Word: (3) It seem’d good to ME also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, (or having look’d back, and search’d accurately into all Matters from the beginning, or highest time, παρηκοκονθηκότι ἄνωθεν πα̑σιν ἀκριβω̑ς) to write unto Thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, (4) That Thou mightest know the Certainty (or Validity, sound Discussion, ἀσφάλειαν) of those things wherein THOU hast been instructed (or catechiz’d) περὶ ὠ̑ν κατηχήθης.” Whether the words πεπληρφορημένων ἐν ἡμι̑ν, in the first Verse, shou’d be render’d believ’d among, or fulfill’d in, or among us, may depend on the different reading of the Original. For in some Copys, the ἐν next following is left out. However, the exact Interpreters or verbal Translators render it fulfill’d, Vid. Ar. Montan. Edit. Plantin. 1584. In Ver. 4. the word CERTAINTY, ἀσφάλειαν, is interpreted ἀκρίβειαν, Validity, Soundness, good Foundation, from the Sense of the preceding Verse. See the late Edition of our learned Dr. Mill,ex recensioneKusteri, Rot. 1710. For the word Catechiz’d, κατηχήθης, (the last of the fourth Verse) Rob. Constantine has this Explanation of it: “Priscis Theologis apudAEgyptiosmos crat, ut Mysteria voce tantùm, veluti per manus, posteris relinquerent. Apud Christianos, qui Baptismatis erant candidati, iis, vivâ voce, tradebantur fidei Christianae Mysieria, sine scriptis: quod Paulus & Lucas κατηχει̑ν vocant. Unde qui docebantur, Catechumeni vocabantur; qui docebant, Catechistae.” [Among the Egyptians it was the custom of ancient worship that mysteries were left to future generations with the voice alone, just as if written by hands. Among the Christians who were candidates for baptism, to these with the living voice, the mysteries were being handed down to the Christian believers without written instructions, a practice which Paul and Luke called to instruct. Thus those who were being taught were called the catechumen; those who were teaching, the catechists.]
[* ] Deut. ch. xxxiv. ver. 5, 6, 7, &c.
[* ] τὸν ἥδιστον καὶ χαριέστατον Ξενοφω̑ντα, [loosely translated by Shaftesbury in the text] as Athenaeus calls him, lib. xi. See VOL. I. pag. 255.
[† ] [And thou, Alcaeus, who tellest in a fuller tone on a lyre of gold the hardships of the sea, of exile, and of war.]
[‡ ] [Come, my lyre, utter for me a Latin song, though thou wert first tuned by a citizen of Lesbos, etc.]
[** ] [But the cruel times tore me away from that pleasant spot, and civil strife hurried me, with all my ignorance of war, to take up those arms which were to be no match for the might of Augustus Caesar. As soon as Philippi set me free from arms, humbled, my wings clipped, my father’s house and estate lost, the fearlessness of a poor man drove me to write verses.]
[A legion of Roman soldiers obeyed me as its officer.]
Viz. under Brutus. Whence again that natural Boast:
[I pleased the first men of the city in war and peace.]
[Envy shall confess against her will that I have ever lived with the great.]
Where the vixisse shews plainly whom he principally meant by his MAGNI, his early Patrons and Great Men in the State: His Apology and Defense here (as well as in his fourth and sixth Satirs of his first Book, and his 2d Epistle of his second, and elsewhere) being supported still by the open and bold Assertion of his good Education, (equal to the highest Senators, and under the best Masters) his Employments at home and abroad, and his early Commerce and Familiarity with former Great Men, before these his new Friendships, and this latter Court-Acquaintance, which was now envy’d him by his Adversarys.
[Now they envy me because I live familiarly with thee, Maecenas, but formerly because a legion of Roman soldiers obeyed me as officer.]
The Reproach now was with respect to a Maecenas or Augustus. ’Twas the same formerly with respect to a Brutus, and those who were then the principal and leading Men. The Complaint or Murmur against him on account of his being an Upstart or Favourite under a Maecenas and Augustus, cou’d not be answer’d, by a Vixisse relating to the same Persons; any more than his Placuisse, join’d with his BELLI Domique, cou’d relate to those under whom he never went to War, nor wou’d ever consent to bear any Honours. For so he himself distinguishes (Sat. vi. to Maecenas)
[The two reasons are unlike because, though perhaps a man might fairly grudge me my commission, yet he cannot fairly grudge me your friendship too.]
He was formerly an Actor, and in the Ministry of Affairs: Now only a FRIEND to a Minister: Himself still a private and retir’d Man. That he refus’d Augustus’s Offer of the Secretary-ship, is well known. But in these Circumstances, the Politeness as well as Artifice of Horace is admirable; in making Futurity or Posterity to be the speaking Party in both those places, where he suggests his Intimacy and Favour with the Great, that there might, in some measure, be room left (tho in strictness there was scarce any) for an Octavius and a Maecenas to be included. See VOL. I. pag. 269, 270. in the Notes.
[* ] ——Fungar vice Cotis.—— Horat. de Arte Poet. ver. 304.
[* ] “Occidat, dum imperet.” Tacit. Annal. lib. xiv. cap. 9.
[† ]Viz. In his Advice to Authors, Treatise III. VOL. I.
[* ] VOL. I. pag. 217, &c. 223, 259, 275, 276.
[† ] VOL. I. pag. 270, &c.
[* ] VOL. I. pag. 269, &c.
[† ] Ars Poet.
[‡ ] ὅλον δ’ ἐστι τὸ ἔχον ἀρχὴν καὶ μέσον καὶ τελευτήν. ἀρχὴ δέ ἐστιν ὃ αὐτὸ μὲν μὴ ἐξ ἀνάγκης μετ’ ἄλλο ἐστί, μετ’ ἐκει̑νο δ’ ἕτερον πέφυκεν εἰ̑ναι ἢ γίνεσθαι. τίλευτὴ δὲ τοὐναντίον ὃ αὐτὸ μετ’ ἄλλο πέφυκεν εἰ̑ναι ἢ ἑξ ἀνάγκης ἢ ὡς ἐπὶ τὸ πολύ, μετὰ δὲ του̑το ἄλλο οὐδέν. μέσον δὲ ὃ καὶ αὐτὸ μετ’ ἄλλο καὶ μετ’ ἐκει̑νο ἕτερον. Arist. de Poet. cap. 7. [A whole is that which has beginning, middle, and end. A beginning is that which does not itself follow on anything by necessity, but after which something else naturally is or arises. On the contrary, an end is that which naturally follows on something else, either of necessity or as a rule, while it is followed by nothing. A middle is that which itself follows on something else, and has something following on it.] And in the following Chapter, μυ̑θος δ’ ἐστὶν εἱ̑ς οὐχ ὥσπερ τινὲς οἴονται ἐὰν περὶ ἕνα ᾐ̑, &c. [Unity of plot is not, as some people think, secured by having unity of hero.]
[Let it be what you will, provided only it be consistent and uniform.] See VOL. I. p. 145, 146.
’Tis an infallible proof of the want of just Integrity in every Writing, from the Epopee or Heroick-Poem, down to the familiar Epistle, or slightest Essay either in Verse or Prose, if each several Part or Portion fits not its proper place so exactly, that the least Transposition wou’d be impracticable. Whatever is Episodick, tho perhaps it be a Whole, and in itself intire, yet being inserted, as a Part, in a Work of greater length, it must appear only in its due Place. And that Place alone can be call’d its due-one, which alone befits it. If there be any Passage in the Middle or End, which might have stood in the Beginning; or any in the Beginning, which might have stood as well in the Middle or End; there is properly in such a Piece neither Beginning, Middle, nor End. ’Tis a mere Rhapsody; not a Work. And the more it assumes the Air or Appearance of a real Work, the more ridiculous it becomes. See above, pag. 25. And VOL. I. pag. 145, 146.
[* ] [I shall bid the well-trained imitator to look to the pattern which life presents, and there learn the language of reality.]
The Chief of antient Criticks, we know, extols Homer, above all things, for understanding how “To LYE in perfection”: as the Passage shews which we have cited above, VOL. I. pag. 346. His LYES, according to that Master’s Opinion, and the Judgment of many of the gravest and most venerable Writers, were, in themselves, the justest Moral Truths, and exhibitive of the best Doctrine and Instruction in Life and Manners. It may be ask’d perhaps, “How comes the Poet, then, to draw no single Pattern of the kind, no perfect Character, in either of his Heroick Pieces?” I answer, that shou’d he attempt to do it, he wou’d, as a Poet, be preposterous and false. ’Tis not the Possible, but the Probable and Likely, which must be the Poet’s Guide in Manners. By this he wins Attention, and moves the conscious Reader or Spectator; who judges best from within, by what he naturally feels and experiences in his own Heart. The Perfection of Virtue is from long Art and Management, Self-controul, and, as it were, Force on Nature. But the common Auditor or Spectator, who seeks Pleasure only, and loves to engage his Passion, by view of other Passion and Emotion, comprehends little of the Restraints, Allays and Corrections, which form this new and artificial Creature. For such indeed is the truly virtuous Man; whose ART, tho ever so natural in it-self, or justly founded in Reason and Nature, is an Improvement far beyond the common Stamp, or known Character of Human Kind. And thus the compleatly virtuous and perfect Character is unpoetical and false. Effects must not appear, where Causes must necessarily remain unknown and incomprehensible. A HERO without Passion, is, in Poetry, as absurd as a HERO without Life or Action. Now if Passion be allow’d, passionate Action must ensue. The same Heroick Genius and seeming Magnanimity which transport us when beheld, are naturally transporting in the Lives and Manners of the Great, who are describ’d to us. And thus the able Designer, who feigns in behalf of Truth, and draws his Characters after the Moral Rule, fails not to discover Nature’s Propensity; and assigns to these high Spirits their proper Exorbitancy, and Inclination to exceed in that Tone or Species of Passion, which constitutes the eminent or shining part of each poetical Character. The Passion of an Achilles is towards that Glory which is acquir’d by Arms and personal Valour. In favour of this Character, we forgive the generous Youth his Excess of Ardor in the Field, and his Resentment when injur’d and provok’d in Council, and by his Allies. The Passion of an Ulysses is towards that Glory which is acquir’d by Prudence, Wisdom, and Ability in Affairs. ’Tis in favour of this Character that we forgive him his subtle, crafty, and deceitful Air: since the intriguing Spirit, the over-reaching Manner, and Over-refinement of Art and Policy, are as naturally incident to the experienc’d and thorow Politician, as sudden Resentment, indiscreet and rash Behaviour, to the open undesigning Character of a warlike Youth. The gigantick Force and military Toil of an Ajax wou’d not be so easily credible, or engaging, but for the honest Simplicity of his Nature, and the Heaviness of his Parts and Genius. For Strength of Body being so often noted by us, as un-attended with equal Parts and Strength of Mind; when we see this natural Effect express’d, and find our secret and malicious kind of Reasoning confirm’d, on this hand; we yield to any Hyperbole of our Poet, on the other. He has afterwards his full Scope, and Liberty of enlarging, and exceeding, in the peculiar Virtue and Excellence of his Hero. He may lye splendidly, raise wonder, and be as astonishing as he pleases. Every thing will be allow’d him in return for this frank Allowance. Thus the Tongue of a Nestor may work Prodigys, whilst the accompanying Allays of a rhetorical Fluency, and aged Experience, are kept in view. An Agamemnon may be admir’d as a noble and wise Chief, whilst a certain princely Haughtiness, a Stiffness, and stately Carriage natural to the Character, are represented in his Person, and noted in their ill Effects. For thus the Excesses of every Character are by the Poet redress’d. And the Misfortunes naturally attending such Excesses, being justly apply’d; our Passions, whilst in the strongest manner engag’d and mov’d, are in the wholesomest and most effectual manner corrected and purg’d. Were a Man to form himself by one single Pattern or Original, however perfect; he wou’d himself be a mere Copy. But whilst he draws from various Models, he is original, natural, and unaffected. We see in outward Carriage and Behaviour, how ridiculous any one becomes who imitates another, be he ever so graceful. They are mean Spirits who love to copy merely. Nothing is agreeable or natural, but what is original. Our Manners, like our Faces, tho ever so beautiful, must differ in their Beauty. An Over-regularity is next to a Deformity. And in a Poem, whether Epick or Dramatick, a compleat and perfect Character is the greatest Monster; and of all poetick Fictions not only the least engaging, but the least moral and improving.—Thus much by way of Remark upon poetical TRUTH, and the just Fiction, or artful Lying of the able Poet; according to the Judgment of the Master-Critick. What Horace expresses of the same Lying Virtue, is of an easier sense, and needs no explanation.
[Such is his use of fiction, such his combination of true and false, that the middle does not clash with the beginning or the end with the middle.]
The same may be observ’d not only in Heroick Draughts, but in the inferior Characters of Comedy.
[How like himself each man acts!]
See VOL. I. pag. 4, 142, 143, 337, & 351. in the Notes, at the end.
[* ] VOL. I. pag. 217.
[† ] The Reader, if curious in these matters, may see Is. Vossiusde viribus Rhythmi; and what he says, withal, of antient Musick, and the degrees by which they surpass us Moderns, (as has been demonstrated by late Mathematicians of our Nation) contrary to a ridiculous Notion some have had, that because in this, as in all other Arts, the Antients study’d Simplicity, and affected it as the highest Perfection in their Performances, they were therefore ignorant of Parts and Symphony. Against this, Is. Vossius, amongst other Authors, cites the antient Peripatetick περὶ κόσμον [On the Cosmos] at the beginning of his fifth Chapter. To which he might have added another Passage in Chap. 6. The Sutableness of this antient Author’s Thought to what has been often advanc’d in the philosophical Parts of these Volumes, concerning the universal Symmetry, or Union of the Whole, may make it excusable if we add here the two Passages together, in their inimitable Original. ἴσως δὲ καὶ τω̑ν ἐναντίων ἡ φύσις γλίχεται, καὶ ἐκ τούτων ἀποτελει̑ν τὸ σύμφωνον, οὐκ ἐκ τω̑ν ὁμοίων, ὤσπερ ἀμέλει τὸ ἄρρεν συνήγαγε πρὸς τὸ θη̑λν, καὶ οὐχ ἑκάτεπον πρὸς τὸ ὁμόφυλον, καὶ τὴν πρώτην ὁμόνοιαν διὰ τω̑ν ἐναντίων συνη̑ψεν, οὐ διὰ τω̑ν ὁμοίων. ἔοικε δὲ καὶ ἡ τέχνη τὴν φύσιν μιμουμένη του̑το ποιει̑ν. ζωγραφία μὲν γάρ, λευκω̑ν τε καὶ μελάνων, ὠχρω̑ν τε καὶ ἐρυθρω̑ν χρωμάτων ἐγκερασαμένη φύσεις, τὰς εἰκόνας τοι̑ς προηγουμένοις ἀπετέλεσε συμφώνους. μουσικὴ δέ, ὀξει̑ς ἅμα καὶ βαρει̑ς, μακρούς τε καὶ βραχει̑ς φθόγγους μίξασα, ἐν διαφόροις φωναι̑ς, μίαν ἀπετέλεσεν ἁρμονίαν. γραμματικὴ δέ, ἐκ φωνηέντων καὶ ἀφώνων γραμμάτων κράσιν ποιησαμένη, τὴν ὅλην τέχνην ἀτ’ αὐτω̑ν συνεστήσατο. ταὐτὸ δὲ του̑το ἠ̑ν καὶ τὸ παρὰ τῳ̑ σκοτεινῳ̑ λεγόμενον ‘Ηρακλείτῳ. συνάψειας οὐ̑λα καὶ οὐχὶ οὐ̑λα, συμφερόμενον καὶ διαφερόμενον, συνᾳ̑δον καὶ διᾳ̑δον, καὶ ἐκ πάντων ἕν, καὶ ἐξ ἑνὸς πάντα. And in the following Passage, μία δὲ ἐκ πάντων ἁρμονία συνᾳδόντων καὶ χορευόντων κατὰ τὸν οὐρανόν, ἐξ ἑνός τε γίνεται, καὶ εἰς ἕν ἀπολήγει. κόσμον δ’ ἐτύμως τὸ σύμπαν, ἀλλ’ οὐχ ἀκοσμίαν ὀνομάσαις ἄν. καθάπερ δὲ ἐν χορῳ̑ κορυ-φαίου κατάρξαντος, συνεπηχει̑ πα̑ς ὁ χορὸς ἀνδρω̑ν, ἔσθ’ ὅτε καὶ γυναικω̑ν, ἐν διαφόροις φωναι̑ς ὀξυτέραις καὶ βαρυτέραις, μίαν ἀρμονίαν ἐμμελη̑ κεραννύντων, οὕτως ἔχει καὶ ἐπὶ του̑ τὸ σύμπαν διέποντος Θεου̑. [And perhaps Nature wants opposites too, and wants to make harmony out of them, not out of similars; as, for instance, she brings the male to the female and not each of these to one of his or her own sex; and she made the first concord by means of opposites, not similars. Art too seems to do this in imitation of nature. For painting, by combining the natures of black and white, yellow and red, makes its representations correspond with their types. Music, uniting sharp and grave notes, and long and short syllables, makes one harmony among different sounds. Grammar too, bringing together vowels and consonants, builds her whole art upon them. This is the very point which was given forth by Heraclitus the Obscure, who said, “combine wholes and parts, that which is dispersed and that which is united, that which makes discord and that which is in unison, and out of all comes one and out of one comes all.” . . . There is one harmony arising from all the bodies which sound together and circle in the sky, and it springs from one thing and ends in one. We might with correct etymology call the universe an order, but not a disorder. And, just as in a chorus, when the leader has led off, all the band of men (and sometimes women) joins in, making by combination of different voices, higher and lower, one harmony in unison, so it is also in the case of the Deity who controls the universe.] See VOL. II. pag. 214. And above, pag. 182, 3, 4, 5. in the Notes.
[* ]Viz. Supra, MISC. I. chap. 2.
[* ]Magna inter molles Concordia. Juven. Sat. ii. ver. 47.
[* ] To see the Incorrigibleness of our Poets in their pedantick Manner, their Vanity, Defiance of Criticism, their Rhodomontade, and poetical Bravado; we need only turn to our famous Poet-Laureat (the very Mr. Bays himself) in one of his latest and most valu’d Pieces, writ many years after the ingenious Author of the Rehearsal had drawn his Picture. “I have been listening” (says our Poet, in his Preface to Don Sebastian) “what Objections had been made against the Conduct of the Play, but found them all so trivial, that if I shou’d name them, a true Critick wou’d imagine that I plaid booty—Some are pleas’d to say the Writing is dull. But aetatem habet, de se loquatur. [But he is mature, let him speak for himself.] Others, that the double Poison is unnatural. Let the common receiv’d Opinion, and Ausonius’s famous Epigram answer that. Lastly, a more ignorant sort of Creatures than either of the former, maintain that the Character of Dorax is not only unnatural, but inconsistent with it-self. Let them read the Play, and think again.—A longer Reply is what those Cavillers deserve not. But I will give them and their Fellows to understand, that the Earl of * * * was pleas’d to read the Tragedy twice over before it was acted, and did me the favour to send me word, that I had written beyond any of my former Plays, and that he was displeas’d any thing shou’d be cut away. If I have not reason to prefer his single Judgment to a whole Faction, let the World be judge: For the Opposition is the same with that of Lucan’s Hero against an Army, concurrere Bellum atque Virum [they run together the war and the man.] I think I may modestly conclude, &c.”
Thus he goes on, to the very end, in the self-same Strain. Who, after this, can ever say of the Rehearsal-Author, that his Picture of our Poet was over-charg’d, or the national Humour wrong describ’d?”
[* ]Viz.Plato, Aristotle. See, in particular, the Phaedrus of the former; where an entire Piece of the Orator Lysias is criticiz’d in form.
[† ] The distinction of Treatises was into the ἀκροαματικοί and ἐξωτερικοί [esoteric . . . [versus] . . . exoteric].
[‡ ] The Rehearsal. See VOL. I. pag. 259. and just above, pag. 277. in the Notes.
[* ]Viz. VOL. I. pag. 207, 208. and 277, 278. and 336, &c. So above, pag. 260. and in the Notes.
[* ] ——Poterat duci quia Coena sine istis. Hor. Ars Poet. ver. 376.
[† ]Supra, p. 135, 189.
[* ] VOL. I. pag. 193, &c. and pag. 257.
[† ] That he is conscious of this, we may gather from that Line or two of Advertisement, which stands at the beginning of his first Edition. “As for the Characters, and Incidents, they are neither wholly feign’d (says he) nor wholly true: but according to the Liberty allow’d in the way of DIALOGUE, the principal Matters are founded upon Truth; and the rest as near resembling as may be. ’Tis a Sceptick recites: and the Hero of the Piece passes for an Enthusiast. If a perfect Character be wanting; ’tis the same Case here, as with the Poets in some of their best Pieces. And this surely is a sufficient Warrant for the Author of a PHILOSOPHICAL ROMANCE.”—Thus our Author himself; who to conceal, however, his strict Imitation of the antient poetick DIALOGUE, has prefix’d an auxiliary Title to his Work, and given it the Sirname of RHAPSODY: As if it were merely of that Essay or mix’d kind of Works, which come abroad with an affected Air of Negligence and Irregularity. But whatever our Author may have affected in his Title-Page, ’twas so little his Intention to write after that Model of incoherent Workmanship, that it appears to be sorely against his Will, if this Dialogue-Piece of his has not the just Character, and correct Form of those antient Poems describ’d. He wou’d gladly have constituted ONE single Action and Time, sutable to the just Simplicity of those Dramatick Works. And this, one wou’d think, was easy enough for him to have done. He needed only to have brought his first Speakers immediately into Action, and sav’d the narrative or recitative Part of PhiloclestoPalemon, by producing them as speaking Personages upon his Stage. The Scene all along might have been the Park. From the early Evening to the late Hour of Night, that the two Galants withdrew to their Town-Apartments, there was sufficient time for the Narrator Philocles, to have recited the whole Transaction of the second and third Part; which wou’d have stood thro’out as it now does: only at the Conclusion, when the narrative or recitative Part had ceas’d, the simple and direct DIALOGUE wou’d have again return’d, to grace the Exit. By this means the temporal as well as local Unity of the Piece had been preserv’d. Nor had our Author been necessitated to commit that Anachronism, of making his first Part, in order, to be last in time.
[* ] VOL. I. pag. 202, &c.
[* ] VOL. II. pag. 187, 188.
[* ]See VOL. I. pag. 193, &c.
[* ] VOL. II. pag. 256. And below, pag. 310.
[† ] VOL. I. pag. 38.
[‡ ] VOL. II. pag. 252, 432.
[* ] VOL. I. pag. 141.
[3 ]Nam verae Voces tum demum pectore ab imo Eliciuntur.
[* ] VOL. II. pag. 256.
[* ] [Are you for following this hook or that? You must submit to each master in turn, with wavering allegiance.]
See VOL. I. pag. 285, 309, 323, &c.
[† ] [Great father of the Gods, condescend to punish the cruelty of tyrants in no other way, when fierce passion dipped in fiery poison has stirred their souls. Let them look upon virtue and pine to think that they have abandoned her.]
[‡ ] καὶ μανθάνω μὲν οἱ̑α τολμήσω κακά· θυμὸς δὲ κρείσσων τω̑ν ἐμω̑ν βουλευ-μάτων. Eurip. Med. Act. iv. 1078. [And well I know the crime I shall commit, yet rage is stronger than all counsel.]
[4 ] ——Video meliora proboque, Deteriora sequor.
[* ]Viz. The Moralists, or Philosophick Dialogue, recited in the Person of a Sceptick, under the name of Philocles. See Treatise V. VOL. II. pag. 206, 207, &c.
[* ]Supra, pag. 70, 71.
[† ] VOL. I. pag. 146, 147.
[* ] VOL. II. pag. 321, 2, 3, 4, &c.
[* ] The pious and learned BishopTaylor, in his Treatise on the Liberty of Prophesying, printed in his Collection of Polemical and Moral Discourses, Anno 1657. The Pages answering to the Places above-cited are 401, 402, (and in the Epistle-Dedicatory, three or four Leaves before) 438, 439–444, 451, 452. After which, in the succeeding Page, he sums up his Sense on this Subject of sacred Literature, and the Liberty of Criticism, and of private Judgment and Opinion in these Matters, in the following words: “Since there are so many Copys, with infinite Varietys of Reading; since a various Interpunction, a Parenthesis, a Letter, an Accent may much alter the Sense; since some Places have divers literal Senses, many have spiritual, mystical, and allegorical Meanings; since there are so many Tropes, Metonymys, Ironys, Hyperboles, Proprietys and Improprietys of Language, whose understanding depends upon such Circumstances, that it is almost impossible to know the proper Interpretation, now that the knowledg of such Circumstances and particular Storys is irrecoverably lost: since there are some Mysterys, which at the best Advantage of Expression, are not easy to be apprehended, and whose Explication, by reason of our Imperfections, must needs be dark, sometimes weak, sometimes unintelligible: And lastly, since those ordinary means of expounding Scripture, as searching the Originals, Conference of Places, Parity of Reason, and Analogy of Faith, are all dubious, uncertain, and very fallible; he that is the wisest, and by consequence the likeliest to expound truest, in all probability of Reason, will be very far from Confidence; because every one of these, and many more, are like so many degrees of Improbability and Incertainty, all depressing our Certainty of finding out Truth, in such Mysterys, and amidst so many Difficultys. And therefore a wise Man that considers this, wou’d not willingly be prescrib’d to by others; for it is best every Man shou’d be left in that liberty, from which no Man can justly take him, unless he cou’d secure him from Error.” The Reverend Prelate had but a few Pages before (viz. pag. 427.) acknowledg’d, indeed, “That we had an Apostolical Warrant to contend earnestly for the Faith.” But then, (says the good Bishop, very candidly and ingenuously) “As these Things recede farther from the Foundation, our Certainty is the less.—And therefore it were very fit that our Confidence shou’d be according to our Evidence, and our Zeal according to our Confidence.” He adds, pag. 507. “All these Disputes concerning Tradition, Councils, Fathers, &c. are not Arguments against or besides Reason, but Contestations and Pretenses of the best Arguments, and the most certain Satisfaction of our Reason. But then all these coming into question, submit themselves to Reason, that is, to be judg’d by human Understanding, upon the best Grounds and Information it can receive. So that Scripture, Tradition, Councils, and Fathers, are the Evidence in a Question, but Reason is the Judg: That is, we being the Persons that are to be persuaded, we must see that we be persuaded reasonably; and it is unreasonable to assent to a lesser Evidence, when a greater and clearer is propounded: but of that every Man for himself is to take cognizance, if he be able to judg; if he be not, he is not bound under the tie of necessity to know any thing of it.”
[* ]Viz. Archbishop Tillotson in his Rule of Faith, pag. 677.
[* ] His Grace subjoins immediately: “The Traditionary Church now, receives the Epistle to the Hebrews as Canonical. I ask, Do they receive it as ever deliver’d for such? That they must, if they receive it from Oral Tradition, which conveys things to them under this Notion as ever deliver’d; and yet St. Hierom (speaking not as a Speculator, but a Testifier) says expressly of it, That the Custom of the Latin Church doth not receive it among the Canonical Scriptures. What saith Mr. S . . . . to this? It is clear from this Testimony, that the Roman Church in St. Hierom’s time did not acknowledg this Epistle for Canonical; and ’tis as plain, that the present Roman Church doth receive it for Canonical.”
[† ] Pag. 678.
[* ] The Reader perhaps may find it worth while to read after this, what the Archbishop represents (pag. 716, &c.) of the plausible Introduction of the grossest Article of Belief, in the times when the Habit of making Creeds came in fashion. And accordingly it may be understood, of what effect the dogmatizing Practice in Divinity has ever been. “We will suppose then, that about the time, when universal Ignorance, and the genuine Daughter of it, (call her Devotion or Superstition) had over-spread the World, and the generality of People were strongly inclin’d to believe strange things; and even the greatest Contradictions were recommended to them under the notion of MYSTERYS, being told by their Priests and Guides, That the more contradictious any thing is to Reason, the greater merit there is in believing it: I say, let us suppose, that in this state of things, one or more of the most Eminent then in the Church, either out of Design, or out of superstitious Ignorance and Mistake of the Sense of our Saviour’s Words used in the Consecration of the Sacrament, shou’d advance this new Doctrine, that the words of Consecration, &c. * * * Such a Doctrine as this was very likely to be advanc’d by the ambitious Clergy of that time, as a probable means to draw in the People to a greater Veneration of them. * * * Nor was such a Doctrine less likely to take and prevail among the People, in an Age prodigiously ignorant and strongly inclin’d to Superstition, and thereby well-prepar’d to receive the grossest Absurdities under the notion of Mysterys. * * * Now supposing such a Doctrine as this, so fitted to the Humour and Temper of the Age, to be once asserted either by chance or out of design, it wou’d take like Wild-fire; especially if by some one or more who bore sway in the Church, it were but recommended with convenient Gravity and Solemnity. * * * * And for the Contradictions contain’d in this Doctrine, it was but telling the People then, (as they do in effect now) That Contradictions ought to be no Scruple in the way of Faith; That the more impossible any thing is, ’tis the fitter to be believ’d; That it is not praise-worthy to believe plain Possibilitys, but this is the Gallantry and heroical Power of Faith, this is the way to oblige God Almighty for ever to us, to believe flat and downright Contradictions. * * * The more absurd and unreasonable any thing is, it is for that very reason the more proper matter for an Article of Faith. And if any of these Innovations be objected against, as contrary to former Belief and Practice, it is but putting forth a lusty Act of Faith, and believing another Contradiction, That tho they be contrary, yet they are the same.” Above, pag. 80, 1, 2.
[* ] VOL. I. pag. 362.
[* ]Gondibert, Book ii. Canto 1.
[* ]Supra, pag. 89.