Front Page Titles (by Subject) 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, spir - Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, vol. 3
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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, spir - 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. 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
BEFORE we enter on the Examination of our Historical Sketch, it may be proper to remark, that by the word Tablature (for which we have yet no name in English, besides the general one of Picture) we denote, according to the original word Tabula, a Work not only distinct from a mere Portraiture, but from all those wilder sorts of Painting which are in a manner absolute, and independent; such as the Paintings in Fresco upon the Walls, the Cielings, the Stair-Cases, the Cupolo’s, and other remarkable Places either of Churches or Palaces.
(2.) Accordingly we are to understand, that it is not merely the Shape or Dimension of a Cloth, or Board, which denominates the Piece or Tablature; since a Work of this kind may be compos’d of any colour’d Substance, as it may of any Form; whether square, oval or round. But ’tis then that in Painting we may give to any particular Work the Name of Tablature, when the Work is in reality “a Single Piece, comprehended in one View, and form’d according to one single Intelligence, Meaning, or Design; which constitutes a realWhole, by a mutual and necessary Relation of its Parts, the same as of the Members in a natural Body.” So that one may say of a Picture compos’d of any number of Figures differently rang’d, and without any regard to this Correspondency or Union describ’d, That it is no more a real Piece or Tablature, than a Picture wou’d be a Man’s Picture, or proper Portraiture, which represented on the same Cloth, in different places, the Legs, Arms, Nose, and Eyes of such a Person, without adjusting them according to the true Proportion, Air, and Character which belong’d to him.
(3.) This Regulation has place even in the inferior degrees of Painting; since the mere Flower-Painter is, we see, oblig’d to study the Form of Festons, and to make use of a peculiar Order, or Architecture of Vases, Jars, Cannisters, Pedestals, and other Inventions, which serve as Machines, to frame a certain proportionate Assemblage, or united Mass; according to the Rules of Perspective; and with regard as well to the different shapes and sizes of his several Flowers, as to the harmony of Colours resulting from the whole: this being the only thing capable of rendering his Work worthy the name of a Composition or real Piece.
(4.) So much the more, therefore, is this Regulation applicable to History-Painting, where not only Men, but Manners, and human Passions are represented. Here the Unity of Design must with more particular exactness be preserv’d, according to the just Rules of poetick Art; that in the Representation of any Event, or remarkable Fact, the Probability, or seeming Truth, which is the real Truth of Art, may with the highest advantage be supported and advanc’d: as we shall better understand in the Argument which follows on the historical Tablature of The Judgment ofHercules; who being young, and retir’d to a solitary place in order to deliberate on the Choice he was to make of the different ways of Life, was accosted (as our Historian relates) by the two Goddesses, Virtue and Pleasure. ’Tis on the issue of the Controversy between these Two, that the Character of Hercules depends. So that we may naturally give to this Piece and History, as well the Title of The Education, as the Choice or Judgment ofHercules.
Chap. 1.CHAPTER I
Of the general Constitution or Ordonnance of the Tablature
THIS Fable or History may be variously represented, according to the Order of Time:
Either in the instant when the two Goddesses, Virtue and Pleasure, accost Hercules;
Or when they are enter’d on their Dispute;
Or when their Dispute is already far advanc’d, and Virtue seems to gain her Cause.
(2.) According to the first Notion, Hercules must of necessity seem surpriz’d on the first appearance of such miraculous Forms. He admires, he contemplates; but is not yet ingag’d or interested. According to the second Notion, he is interested, divided, and in doubt. According to the third, he is wrought, agitated, and torn by contrary Passions. ’Tis the last Effort of the vitious one, striving for possession over him. He agonizes, and with all his Strength of Reason endeavours to overcome himself:
And the spirit is overwhelmed by reason, and it struggles to be conquered.1
(3.) Of these different Periods of Time, the latter has been chosen; as being the only one of the three, which can well serve to express the grand Event, or consequent Resolution of Hercules, and the Choice he actually made of a Life full of Toil and Hardship, under the conduct of Virtue, for the deliverance of Mankind from Tyranny and Oppression. And ’tis to such a Piece, or Tablature, as represents this Issue of the Balance, in our pondering Hero, that we may justly give the Title of the Decision or Judgment ofHercules.
(4.) The same History may be represented yet according to a fourth Date or Period: as at the time when Hercules is intirely won by Virtue. But then the signs of this resolute Determination reigning absolutely in the Attitude, and Air of our young Hero; there wou’d be no room left to represent his Agony, or inward Conflict, which indeed makes the principal Action here; as it wou’d do in a Poem, were this Subject to be treated by a good Poet. Nor wou’d there be any more room left in this case, either for the persuasive Rhetorick of Virtue, who must have already ended her Discourse, or for the insinuating Address of Pleasure, who having lost her Cause, must necessarily appear displeas’d, or out of humour: a Circumstance which wou’d no way sute her Character.
(5.) In the original Story or Fable of this Adventure of our young Hercules, ’tis particularly noted, that Pleasure, advancing hastily before Virtue, began her Plea, and was heard with prevention; as being first in turn. And as this Fable is wholly philosophical and moral, this Circumstance in particular is to be consider’d as essential.
(6.) In this third Period therefore of our History (dividing it, as we have done, into four successive Dates or Points of Time) Hercules being Auditor, and attentive, speaks not. Pleasure has spoken. Virtue is still speaking. She is about the middle, or towards the end of her Discourse; in the place where, according to just Rhetorick, the highest Tone of Voice and strongest Action are employ’d.
(7.) ’Tis evident, that every Master in Painting, when he has made choice of the determinate Date or Point of Time, according to which he wou’d represent his History, is afterwards debar’d the taking advantage from any other Action than what is immediately present, and belonging to that single Instant he describes. For if he passes the present only for a moment, he may as well pass it for many years. And by this reckoning he may with as good right repeat the same Figure several times over, and in one and the same Picture represent Hercules in his Cradle, struggling with the Serpents; and the same Hercules of full Age, fighting with the Hydra, with Anteus, and with Cerberus: which wou’d prove a mere confus’d Heap, or Knot of Pieces, and not a single intire Piece, or Tablature, of the historical kind.
(8.) It may however be allowable, on some occasions, to make use of certain enigmatical or emblematical Devises, to represent a future Time: as when Hercules, yet a mere Boy, is seen holding a small Club, or wearing the Skin of a young Lion. For so we often find him in the best Antiques. And tho History had never related of Hercules, that being yet very young, he kill’d a Lion with his own hand; this Representation of him wou’d nevertheless be intirely conformable to poetick Truth; which not only admits, but necessarily presupposes Prophecy or Prognostication, with regard to the Actions, and Lives of Heroes and Great Men. Besides that as to our Subject, in particular, the natural Genius of Hercules, even in his tenderest Youth, might alone answer for his handling such Arms as these, and bearing, as it were in play, these early tokens of the future Hero.
(9.) To preserve therefore a just Conformity with historical Truth, and with the Unity of Time and Action, there remains no other way by which we can possibly give a hint of any thing future, or call to mind any thing past, than by setting in view such Passages or Events as have actually subsisted, or according to Nature might well subsist, or happen together in one and the same instant. And this is what we may properly call The Rule of Consistency.
(10.) How is it therefore possible, says one, to express a Change of Passion in any Subject, since this Change is made by Succession; and that in this case the Passion which is understood as present, will require a Disposition of Body and Features wholly different from the Passion which is over, and past? To this we answer, That notwithstanding the Ascendency or Reign of the principal and immediate Passion, the Artist has power to leave still in his Subject the Tracts or Footsteps of its Predecessor: so as to let us behold not only a rising Passion together with a declining one; but, what is more, a strong and determinate Passion, with its contrary already discharg’d and banish’d. As for instance, when the plain Tracts of Tears new fallen, with other fresh tokens of Mourning and Dejection, remain still in a Person newly transported with Joy at the sight of a Relation or Friend, who the moment before had been lamented as one deceas’d or lost.
(11.) Again, by the same means which are employ’d to call to mind the Past, we may anticipate the Future: as wou’d be seen in the case of an able Painter, who shou’d undertake to paint this History of Hercules according to the third Date or Period of Time propos’d for our historical Tablature. For in this momentary Turn of Action, Hercules remaining still in a situation expressive of Suspense and Doubt, wou’d discover nevertheless that the Strength of this inward Conflict was over, and that Victory began now to declare her-self in favour of Virtue. This Transition, which seems at first so mysterious a Performance, will be easily comprehended, if one considers, That the Body, which moves much slower than the Mind, is easily out-strip’d by this latter; and that the Mind on a sudden turning it-self some new way, the nearer situated and more sprightly parts of the Body (such as the Eyes, and Muscles about the Mouth and Forehead) taking the alarm, and moving in an instant, may leave the heavier and more distant Parts to adjust them-selves, and change their Attitude some moments after.
(12.) This different Operation may be distinguish’d by the names of Anticipation and Repeal.
(13.) If by any other method an Artist shou’d pretend to introduce into this Piece any portion of Time, future or past, he must either sin directly against the Law of Truth and Credibility, in representing things contrary and incompatible; or against that Law of Unity and Simplicity of Design, which constitutes the very Being of his Work. This particularly shews it-self in a Picture, when one is necessarily left in doubt, and unable to determine readily, Which of the distinct successive parts of the History or Action is that very-one represented in the Design. For even here the case is the same as in the other Circumstances of Poetry and Painting: “That what is principal or chief, shou’d immediately shew it-self, without leaving the Mind in any uncertainty.”
(14.) According to this Rule of the Unity of Time, if one shou’d ask an Artist, who had painted this History of The Judgment ofHercules,* “Which of these four Periods or Dates of Time above propos’d he intended in his Picture to represent”; and it shou’d happen that he cou’d not readily answer, ’Twas this, or that: It wou’d appear plainly he had never form’d a real Notion of his Workmanship, or of the History he intended to represent. So that when he had executed even to a Miracle all those other Beautys requisite in a Piece, and had fail’d in this single one, he wou’d from hence alone be prov’d to be in truth no History-Painter, or Artist in the kind, who understood not so much as how to form the real Design of a historical Piece.
Chap. 2.CHAPTER II
Of the First or Principal Figure
TO apply therefore what has been said above to our immediate Design or Tablature in hand; we may observe, in the first place, with regard to Hercules, (the first or principal Figure of our Piece) that being plac’d in the middle, between the two Goddesses, he shou’d by a skilful Master be so drawn, as even setting aside the Air and Features of the Face, it shou’d appear by the very Turn, or Position of the Body alone, that this young Hero had not wholly quitted the balancing or pondering part. For in the manner of his turn towards the worthier of these Goddesses, he shou’d by no means appear so averse or separate from the other, as not to suffer it to be conceiv’d of him, that he had ever any inclination for her, or had ever hearken’d to her Voice. On the contrary, there ought to be some hopes yet remaining for this latter Goddess Pleasure, and some regret apparent in Hercules. Otherwise we shou’d pass immediately from the third to the fourth Period; or at least confound one with the other.
(2.) Hercules, in this Agony describ’d, may appear either sitting, or standing: tho it be more according to probability for him to appear standing; in regard to the presence of the two Goddesses, and by reason the case is far from being the same here as in The Judgment ofParis; where the interested Goddesses plead their Cause before their Judg. Here the Interest of Hercules himself is at stake. ’Tis his own Cause which is trying. He is in this respect not so much the Judg, as he is in reality the Party judg’d.
(3.) The superior and commanding Passion of Hercules may be express’d either by a strong Admiration, or by an Admiration which holds chiefly of Love.
Excited by an amorous love.2
(4.) If the latter be us’d, then the reluctant Passion, which is not yet wholly overcome, may shew it-self in Pity and Tenderness, mov’d in our Hero by the thought of those Pleasures and Companions of his Youth, which he is going for ever to abandon. And in this sense Hercules may look either on the one or the other of the Goddesses, with this difference; That if he looks on Pleasure, it shou’d be faintly, and as turning his Eyes back with Pity; having still his Action and Gesture turn’d the other way towards Virtue. If, on the contrary, he looks on Virtue; it ought to be earnestly, and with extreme attention, having some part of the Action of his Body, inclining still towards Pleasure, and discovering by certain Features of Concern and Pity, intermix’d with the commanding or conquering Passion, that the Decision he is about to make in favour of Virtue, cost him not a little.
(5.) If it be thought fit rather to make use of Admiration, merely to express the commanding Passion of Hercules: then the reluctant-one may discover it-self in a kind of Horror, at the thought of the Toil and Labour, to be sustain’d in the rough rocky way apparent on the side of Virtue.
(6.) Again, Hercules may be represented as looking neither towards Virtue nor Pleasure, but as turning his Eyes either towards the mountainous rocky Way pointed out to him by Virtue, or towards the flowry Way of the Vale and Meadows, recommended to him by Pleasure. And to these different Attitudes may be apply’d the same Rules for the Expression of the Turn or Balance of Judgment in our pensive Hero.
(7.) Whatever may be the manner chosen for the designing of this Figure of Hercules, according to that part of the History in which we have taken him; ’tis certain he shou’d be so drawn, as neither by the opening of his mouth, or by any other sign, to leave it in the least dubious whether he is speaking or silent. For ’tis absolutely requisite that Silence shou’d be distinctly characteriz’d in Hercules, not only as the natural effect of his strict Attention, and the little leisure he has from what passes at this time within his breast; but in order withal to give that appearance of Majesty and Superiority becoming the Person and Character of pleading Virtue; who by her Eloquence and other Charms has ere this made her-self mistress of the Heart of our enamour’d Hero:
* And again she hangs on the lips of the storyteller.
This Image of the Sublime in the Discourse and Manner of Virtue, wou’d be utterly lost, if in the instant that she employ’d the greatest Force of Action, she shou’d appear to be interrupted by the ill-tim’d Speech, Reply, or Utterance of her Auditor. Such a Design or Representation as this, wou’d prove contrary to Order, contrary to the History, and to the Decorum, or Decency of Manners. Nor can one well avoid taking notice here, of that general Absurdity committed by many of the esteem’d great Masters in Painting; who in one and the same Company, or Assembly of Persons jointly employ’d, and united according to the History, in one single or common Action, represent to us not only two or three, but several, and sometimes all speaking at once. Which must naturally have the same effect on the Eye, as such a Conversation wou’d have upon the Ear, were we in reality to hear it.
Chap. 3.CHAPTER III
Of the Second Figure
AFTER what has been said on the Subject of Hercules, it appears plainly what the Attitude must be of our second Figure, Virtue; who, as we have taken her in this particular Period of our History, must of necessity be speaking with all the Force of Action, such as wou’d appear in an excellent Orator, when at the height, and in the most affecting part of his Discourse.
(2.) She ought therefore to be drawn standing; since ’tis contrary to all probable Appearance, and even to Nature it-self, that in the very Heat and highest Transport of Speech, the Speaker shou’d be seen sitting, or in any Posture which might express Repose.
(3.) She may be habited either as an Amazon, with the Helmet, Lance, and in the Robe or Vest of Pallas; or as any other of the Virtues, Goddesses, or Heroines, with the plain original Crown, without Rays, according to genuine Antiquity. Our History makes no mention of a Helmet, or any other Armour of Virtue. It gives us only to understand, that she was dress’d neither negligently, nor with much study or ornament. If we follow this latter method, we need give her only in her hand the Imperial or * Magisterial Sword; which is her true characteristick Mark, and wou’d sufficiently distinguish her, without the Helmet, Lance, or other military Habit. And in this manner, the opposition between her-self and her Rival wou’d be still more beautiful and regular.—“But this Beauty, says one, wou’d be discoverable only by the Learned.”—Perhaps so. But then again, there wou’d be no loss for others: since no-one wou’d find this Piece the less intelligible on the account of this Regulation. On the contrary, one who chanc’d to know little of Antiquity in general, or of this History in particular, wou’d be still further to seek, if upon seeing an armed Woman in the Piece, he shou’d represent to himself either a Pallas, a Bellona, or any other warlike Form, or Deity of the female kind.
(4.) As for the Shape, Countenance, or Person of Virtue; that which is usually given to Pallas may fitly serve as a Model for this Dame; as on the other side, that which is given to Venus may serve in the same manner for her Rival. The Historian whom we follow, represents Virtue to us as a Lady of a goodly Form, tall and majestick. And by what he relates of her, he gives us sufficiently to understand, that tho she was neither lean, nor of a tann’d Complexion, she must have discover’d however, by the Substance and Colour of her Flesh, that she was sufficiently accustom’d to exercise. Pleasure, on the other hand, by an exact Opposition, is represented in better case, and of a Softness of Complexion; which speaks her Manners, and gives her a middle Character between the Person of a Venus, and that of a BacchinalNymph.
(5.) As for the Position, or Attitude of Virtue; tho in a historical Piece, such as ours is design’d, ’twou’d on no account be proper to have immediate recourse to the way of Emblem; one might, on this occasion, endeavour nevertheless by some artifice to give our Figure, as much as possible, the resemblance of the same Goddess, as she is seen on Medals, and other antient emblematick Pieces of like nature. In this view, she shou’d be so design’d, as to stand firm with her full poise upon one foot, having the other a little advanc’d, and rais’d on a broken piece of ground or rock, instead of the Helmet or little Globe on which we see her usually setting her foot, as triumphant, in those Pieces of the emblematick kind. A particular advantage of this Attitude, so judiciously assign’d to Virtue by antient Masters, is, that it expresses as well her aspiring Effort, or Ascent towards the Stars and Heaven, as her Victory and Superiority over Fortune and the World. For so the Poets have, of old, describ’d her.
And in our Piece particularly, where the arduous and rocky way of Virtue requires to be emphatically represented; the ascending Posture of this Figure, with one Foot advanc’d, in a sort of climbing Action, over the rough and thorny Ground, must of necessity, if well executed, create a due effect, and add to the Sublime of this ‡ antient Poetick Work.
(6.) As for the Hands or Arms, which in real Oratory, and during the strength of Elocution, must of necessity be active; ’tis plain in respect of our Goddess, that the Arm in particular which she has free to her-self, and is neither incumber’d with Lance or Sword, shou’d be employ’d another way, and come in, to second the Discourse, and accompany it, with a just Emphasis and Action. Accordingly, Virtue wou’d then be seen with this Hand, turn’d either upwards to the rocky Way mark’d out by her with approbation; or to the Sky, or Stars, in the same sublime sense; or downwards to the flowery Way and Vale, as in a detesting manner, and with abhorrence of what passes there; or last of all (in a disdainful sense, and with the same appearance of Detestation) against Pleasure herself. Each Manner wou’d have its peculiar advantage. And the best Profit shou’d be made of this Arm and Hand at liberty, to express either the Disapprobation or the Applause propos’d. It might prove, however, a considerable advantage to our Figure of Virtue, if holding the Lance, or Imperial Sword, slightly, with one of her Hands stretch’d downwards, she cou’d, by that very Hand and Action, be made to express the latter meaning; opening for that purpose some of the lower Fingers of this Hand, in a refusing or repelling manner; whilst with the other Arm and Hand at liberty, she shou’d express as well the former meaning, and point out to Hercules the way which leads to Honour, and the just Glory of heroick Actions.
(7.) From all these Circumstances of History, and Action, accompanying this important Figure, the difficulty of the Design will sufficiently appear, to those who carry their Judgment beyond the mere Form, and are able to consider the Character of the Passion to which it is subjected. For where a real Character is mark’d, and the inward Form peculiarly describ’d, ’tis necessary the outward shou’d give place. Whoever shou’d expect to see our Figure of Virtue, in the exact Mein of a fine Talker, curious in her Choice of Action, and forming it according to the usual Decorum, and regular Movement of one of the fair Ladys of our Age, wou’d certainly be far wide of the Thought and Genius of this Piece. Such study’d Action, and artificial Gesture, may be allow’d to the Actors and Actrices of the Stage. But the good Painter must come a little nearer to Truth, and take care that his Action be not theatrical, or at second hand; but original, and drawn from Nature her-self. Now altho in the ordinary Tenour of Discourse, the Action of the Party might be allow’d to appear so far govern’d and compos’d by Art, as to retain that regular Contraste, and nice Balance of Movement, which Painters are apt to admire as the chief Grace of Figures; yet in this particular case, where the natural Eagerness of Debate, supported by a thorow Antipathy and Animosity, is join’d to a sort of enthusiastick Agitation incident to our prophetick Dame, there can be little of that fashionable Mein, or genteel Air admitted. The Painter who, in such a Piece as we describe, is bound to preserve the heroick Style, will doubtless beware of representing his Heroine as a mere Scold. Yet this is certain, That it were better for him to expose himself to the Meanness of such a Fancy, and paint his Lady in a high Rant, according to the common Weakness of the Sex, than to engage in the Embelishment of the mere Form; and, forgetting the Character of Severity and Reprimand belonging to the illustrious Rival, present her to us a fair specious Personage, free of Emotion, and without the least Bent or Movement, which shou’d express the real Pathetick of the kind.
Chap. 4.CHAPTER IV
Of the Third Figure
CONCERNING Pleasure there needs little to be said, after what has been already remark’d in relation to the two preceding Figures. The Truth of Appearance, that of History, and even the Decorum it-self, (according to what has been explain’d above) require evidently that in this Period or Instant describ’d, Pleasure shou’d be found silent. She can have no other Language allow’d her than that merely of the Eyes. And ’twou’d be a happy Management for her in the Design, if in turning her Eyes to meet those of Hercules, she shou’d find his Head and Face already turn’d so much on the contrary side, as to shew it impossible for her as yet to discover the growing Passion of this Hero in favour of her Rival. By this means she might still with good right retain her fond Airs of Dalliance and Courtship; as having yet discover’d no reason she has to be dissatisfy’d.
(2.) She may be drawn either standing, leaning, sitting, or lying; without a Crown, or crown’d either with Roses, or with Myrtle; according to the Painter’s Fancy. And since in this third Figure the Painter has so great a liberty left him, he may make good advantage of it for the other two, to which this latter may be subjected, as the last in order, and of least consequence.
(3.) That which makes the greatest difficulty in the Disposition or Ordonnance of this Figure Pleasure, is, that notwithstanding the supine Air and Character of Ease and Indolence, which shou’d be given her, she must retain still so much Life and Action, as is sufficient to express her persuasive Effort, and Manner of Indication towards her proper Paths; those of the flowery kind, and Vale below, whither she wou’d willingly guide our Hero’s steps. Now shou’d this Effort be over-strongly express’d; not only the supine Character and Air of Indolence wou’d be lost in this Figure of Pleasure; but, what is worse, the Figure wou’d seem to speak, or at least appear so, as to create a double Meaning, or equivocal Sense in Painting: which wou’d destroy what we have establish’d as fundamental, concerning the absolute Reign of Silence thro’out the rest of the Piece, in favour of Virtue, the sole speaking Party at this Instant, or third Period of our History.
(4.) According to a Computation, which in this way of Reasoning might be made, of the whole Motion or Action to be given to our Figure of Pleasure; she shou’d scarce have one fifth reserv’d for that which we may properly call active in her, and have already term’d her persuasive or indicative Effort. All besides shou’d be employ’d to express, if one may say so, her Inaction, her Supineness, Effeminacy, and indulgent Ease. The Head and Body might intirely favour this latter Passion. One Hand might be absolutely resign’d to it; serving only to support, with much ado, the lolling lazy Body. And if the other Hand be requir’d to express some kind of Gesture or Action toward the Road of Pleasures recommended by this Dame; the Gesture ought however to be slight and negligent, in the manner of one who has given over speaking, and appears weary and spent.
(5.) For the Shape, the Person, the Complexion, and what else may be further remark’d as to the Air and Manner of Pleasure; all this is naturally comprehended in the Opposition, as above stated, between Her-self and Virtue.
Chap. 5.CHAPTER V
Of the Ornaments of the Piece; and chiefly of the Drapery, and Perspective
TIS sufficiently known, how great a liberty Painters are us’d to take, in the colouring of their Habits, and of other Draperys belonging to their historical Pieces. If they are to paint a Roman People, they represent ’em in different Dresses; tho it be certain the common People among ’em were habited very near alike, and much after the same colour. In like manner, the Egyptians, Jews, and other antient Nations, as we may well suppose, bore in this particular their respective Likeness or Resemblance one to another; as at present the Spaniards, Italians, and several other People of Europe. But such a Resemblance as this wou’d, in the way of Painting, produce a very untoward effect; as may easily be conceiv’d. For this reason the Painter makes no scruple to introduce Philosophers, and even Apostles, in various Colours, after a very extraordinary manner. ’Tis here that the historical Truth must of necessity indeed give way to that which we call poetical, as being govern’d not so much by Reality, as by Probability, or plausible Appearance, So that a Painter, who uses his Privilege or Prerogative in this respect, ought however to do it cautiously, and with discretion. And when occasion requires that he shou’d present us his Philosophers or Apostles thus variously colour’d, he must take care at least so to mortify his Colours, that these plain poor Men may not appear, in his Piece, adorn’d like so many Lords or Princes of the modern Garb.
(2.) If, on the other hand, the Painter shou’d happen to take for his Subject some solemn Entry or Triumph, where, according to the Truth of Fact, all manner of Magnificence had without doubt been actually display’d, and all sorts of bright and dazling Colours heap’d together and advanc’d, in emulation, one against another; he ought on this occasion, in breach of the historical Truth, or Truth of Fact, to do his utmost to diminish and reduce the excessive Gaiety and Splendor of those Objects, which wou’d otherwise raise such a Confusion, Oppugnancy, and Riot of Colours, as wou’d to any judicious Eye appear absolutely intolerable.
(3.) It becomes therefore an able Painter in this, as well as in the other parts of his Workmanship, to have regard principally, and above all, to the Agreement or Correspondency of things. And to that end ’tis necessary he shou’d form in his Mind a certain Note or Character of Unity, which being happily taken, wou’d, out of the many Colours of his Piece, produce (if one may say so) a particular distinct Species of an original kind: like those Compositions in Musick, where among the different Airs, (such as Sonatas, Entrys, or Sarabands) there are different and distinct Species; of which we may say in particular, as to each, “That it has its own proper Character or Genius, peculiar to it-self.”
(4.) Thus the Harmony of Painting requires, “That in whatever Key the Painter begins his Piece, he shou’d be sure to finish it in the same.”
(5.) This Regulation turns on the principal Figure, or on the two or three which are eminent, in a Tablature compos’d of many. For if the Painter happens to give a certain Height or Richness of colouring to his principal Figure; the rest must in proportion necessarily partake this Genius. But if, on the contrary, the Painter shou’d have chanc’d to give a softer Air, with more Gentleness and Simplicity of colouring, to his principal Figure; the rest must bear a Character proportionable, and appear in an extraordinary Simplicity; that one and the same Spirit may, without contest, reign thro’ the whole of his Design.
(6.) Our Historical Draught of Hercules will afford us a very clear example in the case. For considering that the Hero is to appear on this occasion retir’d and gloomy; being withal in a manner naked, and without any other Covering than a Lion’s Skin, which is it-self of a yellow and dusky colour; it wou’d be really impracticable for a Painter to represent this principal Figure in any extraordinary brightness or lustre. From whence it follows, that in the other inferior Figures or subordinate parts of the Work, the Painter must necessarily make use of such still quiet Colours, as may give to the whole Piece a Character of Solemnity and Simplicity, agreeable with it-self. Now shou’d our Painter honestly go about to follow his Historian, according to the literal Sense of the History, which represents Virtue to us in a resplendent Robe of the purest and most glossy White; ’tis evident he must after this manner destroy his Piece. The good Painter in this, as in all other occasions of like nature, must do as the good Poet; who undertaking to treat some common and known Subject, refuses however to follow strictly, like a mere Copyist or Translator, any preceding Poet or Historian; but so orders it, that his Work in it-self becomes really new and original.
* A public subject will be a private right to you if you will not linger around worthless and common matters nor will endeavor to return word for word as a conscientious interpreter.
(7.) As for what relates to the Perspective or Scene of our historical Piece, it ought so to present it-self, as to make us instantly conceive that ’tis in the Country, and in a place of Retirement, near some Wood or Forest, that this whole Action passes. For ’twou’d be impertinent to bring Architecture or Buildings of whatever kind in view, as tokens of Company, Diversion, or Affairs, in a Place purposely chosen to denote Solitude, Thoughtfulness, and premeditated Retreat. Besides, that according to the Poets (our Guides and Masters in this Art) neither the Goddesses, nor other divine Forms of whatever kind, car’d ever to present themselves to human Sight, elsewhere than in these deep Recesses. And ’tis worth observing here, how particularly our philosophical Historian affects to speak, by way of prevention, of the solitary place where Hercules was retir’d, and of his Thoughtfulness preceding this Apparition: which from these Circumstances may be constru’d hence-forward as a mere Dream; but as such, a truly rational, and divine one.
(8.) As to the Fortress, Temple, or Palace of Virtue, situated on a Mountain, after the emblematical way; as we see represented in some Pieces form’d upon this Subject; there is nothing of this kind express’d by our Historian. And shou’d this, or any thing of a like nature, present it-self in our Design, it wou’d fill the Mind with foreign Fancys, and mysterious Views, no way agreeable to the Taste and Genius of this Piece. Nor is there any thing, at the same time, on Pleasure’s side, to answer, by way of opposition, to this Palace of Virtue; which, if express’d, wou’d on this account destroy the just Simplicity and Correspondency of our Work.
(9.) Another Reason against the Perspective-part, the Architecture, or other study’d Ornaments of the Landskip-kind, in this particular Piece of ours, is, That in reality there being no occasion for these Appearances, they wou’d prove a mere Incumbrance to the Eye, and wou’d of necessity disturb the Sight, by diverting it from that which is principal, the History and Fact. Whatsoever appears in a historical Design, which is not essential to the Action, serves only to confound the Representation, and perplex the Mind: more particularly, if these Episodick parts are so lively wrought, as to vie with the principal Subject, and contend for Precedency with the Figures and human Life. A just Design, or Tablature, shou’d, at first view, discover, What Nature it is design’d to imitate; what Life, whether of the higher or lower kind, it aims chiefly to represent. The Piece must by no means be equivocal or dubious; but must with ease distinguish it-self, either as historical and moral, or as perspective and merely natural. If it be the latter of these Beautys, which we desire to see delineated according to its perfection, then the former must give place. The higher Life must be allay’d, and in a manner discountenanc’d and obscur’d; whilst the lower displays it-self, and is exhibited as principal. Even that, which according to a Term of Art we commonly call Still-Life, and is in reality of the last and lowest degree of Painting, must have its Superiority and just Preference in a Tablature of its own Species. ’Tis the same in Animal-Pieces; where Beasts, or Fowl are represented. In Landskip, Inanimates are principal: ’Tis the Earth, the Water, the Stones and Rocks which live. All other Life becomes subordinate. Humanity, Sense, Manners, must in this place yield, and become inferior. ’Twou’d be a fault even to aim at the Expression of any real Beauty in this kind, or go about to animate or heighten in any considerable degree the accompanying Figures of Men, or Deitys, which are accidentally introduc’d, as Appendices, or Ornaments, in such a Piece. But if, on the contrary, the human Species be that which first presents it-self in a Picture; if it be the intelligent Life, which is set to view; ’tis the other Species, the other Life, which must then surrender and become subservient. The merely natural must pay homage to the historical or moral. Every Beauty, every Grace must be sacrific’d to the realBeautyof this first and highest Order. For nothing can be more deform’d than a Confusion of many Beautys: And the Confusion becomes inevitable, where the Subjection is not compleat.
(10.) By the word Moral are understood, in this place, all Sorts of judicious Representations of the human Passions; as we see even in Battel-Pieces; excepting those of distant Figures, and the diminutive kind; which may rather be consider’d as a sort of Landskip. In all other martial Pieces, we see express’d in lively Action, the several degrees of Valor, Magnanimity, Cowardice, Terror, Anger, according to the several Characters of Nations, and particular Men. ’Tis here that we may see Heroes and Chiefs (such as the Alexanders or Constantines) appear, even in the hottest of the Action, with a Tranquillity and Sedateness of Mind peculiar to themselves: which is, indeed, in a direct and proper sense, profoundly moral.
(11.) But as the Moral part is differently treated in a Poem, from what it is in History, or in a philosophical Work; so must it, of right, in Painting be far differently treated, from what it naturally is, either in the History, or Poem. For want of a right understanding of this Maxim, it often happens that, by endeavouring to render a Piece highly moral and learned, it becomes thorowly ridiculous and impertinent.
(12.) For the ordinary Works of Sculpture, such as the Low-Relieves, and Ornaments of Columns and Edifices, great allowance is made. The very Rules of Perspective are here wholly revers’d, as necessity requires; and are accommodated to the Circumstance and Genius of the Place or Building, according to a certain OEconomy or Order of a particular and distinct kind; as will easily be observ’d by those who have thorowly study’d the Trajan and Antoninus-Pillars, and other Relieve-Works of the Antients. In the same manner, as to Pieces of ingrav’d Work, Medals, or whatever shews it-self in one Substance, (as Brass or Stone) or only by Shade and Light, (as in ordinary Drawings, or Stamps) much also is allow’d, and many things admitted, of the fantastick, miraculous, or hyberbolical kind. ’Tis here, that we have free scope, withal, for whatever is learned, emblematical, or enigmatick. But for the compleatly imitative and illusive Art of Painting, whose Character it is to employ in her Works the united Force of different Colours; and who, surpassing by so many Degrees, and in so many Privileges, all other human Fiction, or imitative Art, aspires in a directer manner towards Deceit, and a Command over our very Sense; she must of necessity abandon whatever is over-learned, humorous, or witty; to maintain her-self in what is natural, credible, and winning of our Assent: that she may thus acquit her-self of what is her chief Province, the specious Appearance of the Object she represents. Otherwise we shall naturally bring against her the just Criticism of Horace, on the scenical Representation so nearly ally’d to her:
Whatsoever you show me, disbelieving it, I despise it.3
(13.) We are therefore to consider this as a sure Maxim or Observation in Painting, “That a historical and moral Piece must of necessity lose much of its natural Simplicity and Grace, if any thing of the emblematical or enigmatick kind be visibly and directly intermix’d.” As if for instance, the Circle of the *Zodiack, with its twelve Signs, were introduc’d. Now this being an Appearance which carrys not any manner of similitude or colourable resemblance to any thing extant in real Nature; it cannot possibly pretend to win the Sense, or gain Belief, by the help of any poetical Enthusiasm, religious History, or Faith. For by means of these, indeed, we are easily induc’d to contemplate as Realitys those divine Personages and miraculous Forms, which the leading Painters, antient and modern, have speciously design’d, according to the particular Doctrine or Theology of their several religious and national Beliefs. But for our Tablature in particular, it carrys nothing with it of the mere emblematical or enigmatick kind: since for what relates to the double Way of the Vale and Mountain, this may naturally and with colourable appearance be represented at the Mountain’s foot. But if on the Summit or highest Point of it, we shou’d place the Fortress, or Palace of Virtue, rising above the Clouds, this wou’d immediately give the enigmatical mysterious Air to our Picture, and of necessity destroy its persuasive Simplicity, and natural Appearance.
(14.) In short, we are to carry this Remembrance still along with us, “That the fewer the Objects are, besides those which are absolutely necessary in a Piece, the easier it is for the Eye, by one simple Act and in one View, to comprehend the Sum or Whole.” The multiplication of Subjects, tho subaltern, renders the Subordination more difficult to execute in the Ordonnance or Composition of a Work. And if the Subordination be not perfect, the Order (which makes the Beauty) remains imperfect. Now the Subordination can never be perfect, except * “When the Ordonnance is such, that the Eye not only runs over with ease the several Parts of the Design, (reducing still its View each moment to the principal Subject on which all turns) but when the same Eye, without the least detainment in any of the particular Parts, and resting, as it were, immovable in the middle, or center of the Tablature, may see at once, in an agreeable and perfect Correspondency, all which is there exhibited to the Sight.”
Chap. 6.CHAPTER VI
Of the Casual or Independent Ornaments
THERE remains for us now to consider only of the separate Ornaments, independent both of Figures and Perspective; such as the †Machine-Work, or Divinitys in the Sky, the Winds, Cupids, Birds, Animals, Dogs, or other loose Pieces, which are introduc’d without any absolute necessity, and in a way of Humour. But as these belong chiefly to the ordinary Life, and to the comick, or mix’d kind; our Tablature, which on the contrary is wholly epick, heroick, and in the tragick Style, wou’d not so easily admit of any thing in this light way.
(2.) We may besides consider, that whereas the Mind is naturally led to fansy Mystery in a Work of such a Genius or Style of Painting as ours, and to confound with each other the two distinct kinds of the emblematick, and merely historical, or poetick; we shou’d take care not to afford it this occasion of Error and Deviation, by introducing into a Piece of so uniform a Design, such Appendices, or supplementary Parts, as, under pretext of giving light to the History, or characterizing the Figures, shou’d serve only to distract or dissipate the Sight, and confound the Judgment of the more intelligent Spectators.
(3.) “Will it then,” says one, “be possible to make out the Story of these two Dames in company with Hercules, without otherwise distinguishing them than as above describ’d?”—We answer, it is possible; and not that only, but certain and infallible, in the case of one who has the least Genius, or has ever heard in general concerning Hercules, without so much as having ever heard this History in particular. But if, notwithstanding this, we wou’d needs add some exterior marks, more declaratory and determinative of these two Personages, Virtue and Pleasure; it may be perform’d, however, without any necessary recourse to what is absolutely of the Emblem-kind. The Manner of this may be explain’d as follows.
(4.) The Energy or natural Force of Virtue, according to the moral Philosophy of highest note among the Antients, was express’d in the double effect of*Forbearance and Indurance, or what we may otherwise call Refrainment and Support. For the former, the Bit or Bridle, plac’d somewhere on the side of Virtue, may serve as Emblem sufficient; and for the second, the Helmet may serve in the same manner; especially since they are each of them Appurtenances essential to Heroes, (who, in the quality of Warriors, were also Subduers or † Managers of Horses) and that at the same time these are really portable Instruments, such as the martial Dame, who represents Virtue, may be well suppos’d to have brought along with her.
(5.) On the side of Pleasure, certain Vases, and other Pieces of imboss’d Plate, wrought in the figures of Satyrs, Fauns, and Bacchanals, may serve to express the Debauches of the Table-kind. And certain Draperys thrown carelesly on the ground, and hung upon a neighbouring Tree, forming a kind of Bower and Couch for this luxurious Dame, may serve sufficiently to suggest the Thought of other Indulgences, and to support the Image of the effeminate, indolent, and amorous Passions. Besides that, for this latter kind, we may rest satisfy’d, ’tis what the Painter will hardly fail of representing to the full. The fear is, lest he shou’d overdo this part, and express the Affection too much to the life. The Appearance will, no doubt, be strongly wrought in all the Features and Proportions of this third Figure; which is of a relish far more popular, and vulgarly ingaging, than that other oppos’d to it, in our historical Design.
WE may conclude this Argument with a general Reflection, which seems to arise naturally from what has been said on this Subject in particular: “That in a real History-Painter, the same Knowledg, the same Study, and Views, are requir’d, as in a real Poet.” Never can the Poet, whilst he justly holds that name, become a Relator, or Historian at large. He is allow’d only to describe a single Action; not the Actions of a single Man, or People. The Painter is a Historian at the same rate, but still more narrowly confin’d, as in fact appears; since it wou’d certainly prove a more ridiculous Attempt to comprehend two or three distinct Actions or Parts of History in one Picture, than to comprehend ten times the number in one and the same Poem.
(2.) Tis well known, that to each Species of Poetry, there are natural Proportions and Limits assign’d. And it wou’d be a gross Absurdity indeed to imagine, that in a Poem there was nothing which we cou’d call Measure or Number, except merely in the Verse. An Elegy, and an Epigram, have each of ’em their Measure, and Proportion, as well as a Tragedy, or Epick Poem. In the same manner, as to Painting, Sculpture, or Statuary, there are particular Measures which form what we call a Piece: as for instance, in mere Portraiture, a Head, or Bust: the former of which must retain always the whole, or at least a certain part of the Neck; as the latter the Shoulders, and a certain part of the Breast. If any thing be added or retrench’d, the Piece is destroy’d. ’Tis then a mangled Trunk, or dismember’d Body, which presents it-self to our Imagination; and this too not thro’ use merely, or on the account of custom, but of necessity, and by the nature of the Appearance: since there are such and such parts of the human Body, which are naturally match’d, and must appear in company: the Section, if unskilfully made, being in reality horrid, and representing rather an Amputation in Surgery, than a seemly Division or Separation according to Art. And thus it is, that in general, thro’ all the plastick Arts, or Works of Imitation, “Whatsoever is drawn from Nature, with the intention of raising in us the Imagination of the natural Species or Object, according to real Beauty and Truth, shou’d be compriz’d in certain compleat Portions or Districts, which represent the Correspondency or Union of each part of Nature, with intireNatureher-self.” And ’tis this natural Apprehension, or anticipating Sense of Unity, which makes us give even to the Works of our inferior Artizans, the name of Pieces by way of Excellence, and as denoting the Justness and Truth of Work.
(3.) In order therefore to succeed rightly in the Formation of any thing truly beautiful in this higher Order of Design; ’twere to be wish’d that the Artist, who had Understanding enough to comprehend what a real Piece or Tablature imported, and who, in order to this, had acquir’d the Knowledg of a Whole and Parts, wou’d afterwards apply himself to the Study of moral and poetick Truth: that by this means the Thoughts, Sentiments, or Manners, which hold the first rank in his historical Work, might appear sutable to the higher and nobler Species of Humanity in which he practis’d, to the Genius of the Age which he describ’d, and to the principal or main Action which he chose to represent. He wou’d then naturally learn to reject those false Ornaments of affected Graces, exaggerated Passions, hyperbolical and prodigious Forms; which, equally with the mere capricious and grotesque, destroy the just Simplicity, and Unity, essential in a Piece. And for his Colouring; he wou’d then soon find how much it became him to be reserv’d, severe, and chaste, in this particular of his Art; where Luxury and Libertinism are, by the power of Fashion and the modern Taste, become so universally establish’d.
(4.) ’Tis evident however from Reason it-self, as well as from * History and Experience, that nothing is more fatal, either to Painting, Architecture, or the other Arts, than this false Relish, which is govern’d rather by what immediately strikes the Sense, than by what consequentially and by reflection pleases the Mind, and satisfies the Thought and Reason. So that whilst we look on Painting with the same Eye, as we view commonly the rich Stuffs, and colour’d Silks worn by our Ladys, and admir’d in Dress, Equipage, or Furniture; we must of necessity be effeminate in our Taste, and utterly set wrong as to all Judgment and Knowledg in the kind. For of this imitative Art we may justly say; “That tho It borrows help indeed from Colours, and uses them, as means, to execute its Designs; It has nothing, however, more wide of its real Aim, or more remote from its Intention, than to make a shew of Colours, or from their mixture, to raise a †separate and flattering Pleasure to the Sense.”
A LETTER CONCERNING THE ART, or SCIENCE of DESIGN,
The Muses before all things.*
Vir. Georg. Lib. ii.
A LETTER CONCERNING DESIGN
THIS Letter comes to your Lordship, accompany’d with a small Writing intitled A Notion: for such alone can that Piece deservedly be call’d, which aspires no higher than to the forming of a Project, and that too in so vulgar a Science as Painting. But whatever the Subject be, if it can prove any way entertaining to you, it will sufficiently answer my Design. And if possibly it may have that good success, I shou’d have no ordinary opinion of my Project; since I know how hard it wou’d be to give your Lordship a real Entertainment by any thing which was not in some respect worthy and useful.
On this account I must, by way of prevention, inform your Lordship, that after I had conceiv’d my Notion such as you see it upon paper, I was not contented with this, but fell directly to work; and by the Hand of a Master-Painter brought it into Practice, and form’d a real Design. This was not enough. I resolv’d afterwards to see what effect it wou’d have, when taken out of mere Black-and-White, into Colours: And thus a Sketch was afterwards drawn. This pleas’d so well, that being incourag’d by the Virtuosi, who are so eminent in this part of the World, I resolv’d at last to engage my Painter in the great Work. Immediately a Cloth was bespoke of a sutable Dimension, and the Figures taken as big or bigger than the common Life; the Subject being of the Heroick kind, and requiring rather such Figures as shou’d appear above ordinary human Stature.
Thus my Notion, as light as it may prove in the Treatise, is become very substantial in the Workmanship. The Piece is still in hand; and like to continue so for some time. Otherwise the first Draught or Design shou’d have accompany’d the Treatise; as the Treatise does this Letter. But the Design having grown thus into a Sketch, and the Sketch afterwards into a Picture; I thought it fit your Lordship shou’d either see the several Pieces together, or be troubled only with that which was the best; as undoubtedly the great one must prove, if the Master I employ sinks not very much below himself, in this Performance.
Far surely shou’d I be, my Lord, from conceiving any Vanity or Pride in Amusements of such an inferior kind as these; especially were they such as they may naturally at first sight appear. I pretend not here to apologize either for them, or for my-self. Your Lordship however knows, I have naturally Ambition enough to make me desirous of employing my-self in Business of a higher Order: since it has been my fortune in publick Affairs to act often in concert with you, and in the same Views, on the Interest of Europe and Mankind. There was a Time, and that a very early one of my Life, when I was not wanting to my Country, in this respect. But after some years of hearty Labour and Pains in this kind of Workmanship, an unhappy Breach in my Health drove me not only from the Seat of Business, but forc’d me to seek these foreign Climates; where, as mild as the Winters generally are, I have with much ado liv’d out this latter-one; and am now, as your Lordship finds, employing my-self in such easy Studys as are most sutable to my state of Health, and to the Genius of the Country where I am confin’d.
This in the mean time I can, with some assurance, say to your Lordship in a kind of spirit of Prophecy, from what I have observ’d of the rising Genius of our Nation, That if we live to see a Peace any way answerable to that generous Spirit with which this War was begun, and carry’d on, for our own Liberty and that of Europe; the Figure we are like to make abroad, and the Increase of Knowledg, Industry and Sense at home, will render unitedBritain the principal Seat of Arts; and by her Politeness and Advantages in this kind, will shew evidently, how much she owes to those Counsels, which taught her to exert herself so resolutely in behalf of the common Cause, and that of her own Liberty, and happy Constitution, necessarily included.
I can my-self remember the Time, when, in respect of Musick, our reigning Taste was in many degrees inferior to the French. The long Reign of Luxury and Pleasure under King Charles the Second, and the foreign Helps and study’d Advantages given to Musick in a following Reign, cou’d not raise our Genius the least in this respect. But when the Spirit of the Nation was grown more free, tho engag’d at that time in the fiercest War, and with the most doubtful Success, we no sooner began to turn our-selves towards Musick, and enquire what Italy in particular produc’d, than in an instant we outstrip’d our Neighbours the French, enter’d into a Genius far beyond theirs, and rais’d our-selves an Ear, and Judgment, not inferior to the best now in the World.
In the same manner, as to Painting. Tho we have as yet nothing of our own native Growth in this kind worthy of being mention’d; yet since the Publick has of late begun to express a Relish for Ingravings, Drawings, Copyings, and for the original Paintings of the chief Italian Schools, (so contrary to the modern French) I doubt not that, in very few years, we shall make an equal progress in this other Science. And when our Humour turns us to cultivate these designing Arts, our Genius, I am persuaded, will naturally carry us over the slighter Amusements, and lead us to that higher, more serious, and noble Part of Imitation, which relates to History, Human Nature, and the chief Degree or Order ofBeauty; I mean that of the rational Life, distinct from the merely vegetable and sensible, as in Animals, or Plants; according to those several Degrees or Orders of Painting, which your Lordship will find suggested in this extemporary Notion I have sent you.
As for Architecture, ’tis no wonder if so many noble Designs of this kind have miscarry’d amongst us; since the Genius of our Nation has hitherto been so little turn’d this way, that thro’ several Reigns we have patiently seen the noblest publick Buildings perish (if I may say so) under the Hand of one single Court-Architect; who, if he had been able to profit by Experience, wou’d long since, at our expence, have prov’d the greatest Master in the World. But I question whether our Patience is like to hold much longer. The Devastation so long committed in this kind, has made us begin to grow rude and clamorous at the hearing of a new Palace spoilt, or a new Design committed to some rash or impotent Pretender.
’Tis the good Fate of our Nation in this particular, that there remain yet two of the noblest Subjects for Architecture; our Prince’s Palace, and our House of Parliament. For I can’t but fansy that when Whitehall is thought of, the neighbouring Lords and Commons will at the same time be plac’d in better Chambers and Apartments, than at present; were it only for Majesty’s sake, and as a Magnificence becoming the Person of the Prince, who here appears in full Solemnity. Nor do I fear that when these new Subjects are attempted, we shou’d miscarry as grosly as we have done in others before. Our State, in this respect, may prove perhaps more fortunate than our Church, in having waited till a national Taste was form’d, before these Edifices were undertaken. But the Zeal of the Nation cou’d not, it seems, admit so long a Delay in their Ecclesiastical Structures, particularly their Metropolitan. And since a Zeal of this sort has been newly kindled amongst us, ’tis like we shall see from afar the many Spires arising in our great City, with such hasty and sudden growth, as may be the occasion perhaps that our immediate Relish shall be hereafter censur’d, as retaining much of what Artists call the Gothick Kind.
Hardly, indeed, as the Publick now stands, shou’d we bear to see a Whitehall treated like a Hampton-Court, or even a new Cathedral like St. Paul’s. Almost every-one now becomes concern’d, and interests himself in such publick Structures. Even those Pieces too are brought under the common Censure, which, tho rais’d by private Men, are of such a Grandure and Magnificence, as to become National Ornaments. The ordinary Man may build his Cottage, or the plain Gentleman his Country-house according as he fansys: but when a great Man builds, he will find little Quarter from the Publick, if instead of a beautiful Pile, he raises, at a vast expence, such a false and counterfeit Piece of Magnificence, as can be justly arraign’d for its Deformity by so many knowing Men in Art, and by the whole People, who, in such a Conjuncture, readily follow their Opinion.
In reality the People are no small Partys in this Cause. Nothing moves successfully without ’em. There can be no Publick, but where they are included. And without a Publick Voice, knowingly guided and directed, there is nothing which can raise a true Ambition in the Artist; nothing which can exalt the Genius of the Workman, or make him emulous of after-Fame, and of the approbation of his Country, and of Posterity. For with these he naturally, as a Freeman, must take part: in these he has a passionate Concern, and Interest, rais’d in him by the same Genius of Liberty, the same Laws and Government, by which his Property, and the Rewards of his Pains and Industry are secur’d to him, and to his Generation after him.
Every thing co-operates, in such a State, towards the Improvement of Art and Science. And for the designing Arts in particular, such as Architecture, Painting, and Statuary, they are in a manner link’d together. The Taste of one kind brings necessarily that of the others along with it. When the free Spirit of a Nation turns it-self this way, Judgments are form’d; Criticks arise; the publick Eye and Ear improve; a right Taste prevails, and in a manner forces its way. Nothing is so improving, nothing so natural, so con-genial to the liberal Arts, as that reigning Liberty and high Spirit of a People, which from the Habit of judging in the highest Matters for themselves, makes ’em freely judg of other Subjects, and enter thorowly into the Characters as well of Men and Manners, as of the Products or Works of Men, in Art and Science. So much, my Lord, do we owe to the Excellence of our National Constitution, and Legal Monarchy; happily fitted for Us, and which alone cou’d hold together so mighty a People; all sharers (tho at so far a distance from each other) in the Government of themselves; and meeting under one Head in one vast Metropolis; whose enormous Growth, however censurable in other respects, is actually a Cause that Workmanship and Arts of so many kinds arise to such perfection.
What Encouragement our higher Powers may think fit to give these growing Arts, I will not pretend to guess. This I know, that ’tis so much for their advantage and Interest to make themselves the chief Partys in the Cause, that I wish no Court or Ministry, besides a truly virtuous and wise one, may ever concern themselves in the Affair. For shou’d they do so, they wou’d in reality do more harm than good; since ’tis not the Nature of a Court (such as Courts generally are) to improve, but rather corrupt a Taste. And what is in the beginning set wrong by their Example, is hardly ever afterwards recoverable in the Genius of a Nation.
Content therefore I am, my Lord, that Britain stands in this respect as she now does. Nor can one, methinks, with just reason regret her having hitherto made no greater advancement in these affairs of Art. As her Constitution has grown, and been establish’d, she has in proportion fitted her-self for other Improvements. There has been no Anticipation in the Case. And in this surely she must be esteem’d wise, as well as happy; that ere she attempted to raise her-self any other Taste or Relish, she secur’d her-self a right one in Government. She has now the advantage of beginning in other Matters, on a new foot. She has her Models yet to seek, her Scale and Standard to form, with deliberation and good choice. Able enough she is at present to shift for her-self; however abandon’d or helpless she has been left by those whom it became to assist her. Hardly, indeed, cou’d she procure a single Academy for the training of her Youth in Exercises. As good Soldiers as we are, and as good Horses as our Climate affords, our Princes, rather than expend their Treasure this way, have suffer’d our Youth to pass into a foreign Nation, to learn to ride. As for other Academys, such as those for Painting, Sculpture, or Architecture, we have not so much as heard of the Proposal; whilst the Prince of our rival Nation raises Academys, breeds Youth, and sends Rewards and Pensions into foreign Countrys, to advance the Interest and Credit of his own. Now if, notwithstanding the Industry and Pains of this foreign Court, and the supine Un-concernedness of our own, the National Taste however rises, and already shews it-self in many respects beyond that of our so highly-assisted Neighbours; what greater Proof can there be of the Superiority of Genius in one of these Nations above the other?
’Tis but this moment that I chance to read in an Article of one of the Gazettes from Paris, that ’tis resolv’d at Court to establish a new Academy for political Affairs. “In it the present Chief-Minister is to preside; having under him six Academists, douëz des Talens nécessaires1 —No Person to be receiv’d under the age of twenty five. A thousand Livres Pension for each Scholar—Able Masters to be appointed for teaching them the necessary Sciences, and instructing them in the Treatys of Peace and Alliances, which have been formerly made—The Members to assemble three times a Week—C’est de ce Seminaire (says the Writer) qu’on tirera les Secretaires d’Ambassade; qui par degrez pourront monter à de plus hauts Emplois.”2
I must confess, my Lord, as great an Admirer as I am of these regular Institutions, I can’t but look upon an Academy for Ministers as a very extraordinary Establishment; especially in such a Monarchy as France, and at such a Conjuncture as the present. It looks as if the Ministers of that Court had discover’d lately some new Methods of Negotiation, such as their Predecessors Richelieu and Mazarine never thought of; or that, on the contrary, they have found themselves so declin’d, and at such a loss in the Management of this present Treaty, as to be forc’d to take their Lesson from some of those Ministers with whom they treat: a Reproach, of which, no doubt, they must be highly sensible.
But ’tis not my design here, to entertain your Lordship with any Reflections upon Politicks, or the Methods which the French may take to raise themselves new Ministers, or new Generals; who may prove a better Match for us than hitherto, whilst we held our old. I will only say to your Lordship on this Subject of Academys; that indeed I have less concern for the Deficiency of such a one as this, than of any other which cou’d be thought of, for England; and that as for a Seminary of Statesmen, I doubt not but, without this extraordinary help, we shall be able, out of our old Stock, and the common course of Business, constantly to furnish a sufficient Number of well-qualify’d Persons to serve upon occasion, either at home, or in our foreign Treatys; as often as such Persons accordingly qualify’d shall duly, honestly, and bonâ fide be requir’d to serve.
I return therefore to my Virtuoso-Science; which being my chief Amusement in this Place and Circumstance, your Lordship has by it a fresh Instance that I can never employ my Thoughts with satisfaction on any Subject, without making you a Party. For even this very Notion had its rise chiefly from the Conversation of a certain Day, which I had the happiness to pass a few years since in the Country with your Lordship. ’Twas there you shew’d me some Ingravings, which had been sent you from Italy. One in particular I well remember; of which the Subject was the very same with that of my written Notion inclos’d. But by what Hand it was done, or after what Master, or how executed, I have quite forgot. ’Twas the Summer-season, when you had Recess from Business. And I have accordingly calculated this Epistle and Project for the same Recess and Leisure. For by the time this can reach England, the Spring will be far advanc’d, and the national Affairs in a manner over, with those who are not in the immediate Administration.
Were that indeed your Lordship’s Lot, at present; I know not whether in regard to my Country I shou’d dare throw such Amusements as these in your way. Yet even in this Case, I wou’d venture to say however, in defense of my Project, and of the Cause of Painting; that cou’d my young Hero come to your Lordship as well represented as he might have been, either by the Hand of a *Marat or a Jordano, (the Masters who were in being, and in repute, when I first travel’d here in Italy) the Picture it-self, whatever the Treatise prov’d, wou’d have been worth notice, and might have become a Present worthy of our Court, and Prince’s Palace; especially were it so bless’d as to lodge within it a royal Issue of her Majesty’s. Such a Piece of Furniture might well fit the Gallery, or Hall of Exercises, where our young Princes shou’d learn their usual Lessons. And to see Virtue in this Garb and Action, might perhaps be no slight Memorandum hereafter to a Royal Youth, who shou’d one day come to undergo this Trial himself; on which his own Happiness, as well as the Fate of Europe and of the World, wou’d in so great a measure depend.
This, my Lord, is making (as you see) the most I can of my Project, and setting off my Amusements with the best Colour I am able; that I may be the more excusable in communicating them to your Lordship, and expressing thus, with what Zeal I am,