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Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, ed. Douglas den Uyl (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001). 3 vols. Vol. 1.
This new Liberty Fund edition of Characteristicks presents the complete 1732 text of this classic work of philosophy and political theory. Also included are faithful reproductions of the stirring engravings that Shaftesbury created to facilitate the reader’s consideration of his meditations on the interrelationships among truth, goodness, beauty, virtue, liberty, responsibility, society, and the state.
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Anthony Ashley Cooper, the Third Earl of Shaftesbury, wrote one of the most important and influential books of the eighteenth century. Other than Locke’s Second Treatise, Shaftesbury’s Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, first published in 1711, was the most reprinted book in English in that century. A three-volume work, the Characteristicks was influential not only in England but throughout Europe. Three centuries later, Shaftesbury is most remembered—when he is remembered at all—as the initiator of the “moral sense” school of British ethical theory usually associated with another eighteenth-century thinker, Francis Hutcheson. Hutcheson, David Hume, Adam Smith, and others of that era are connected to Shaftesbury as part of a way of moral theorizing that emphasized sentiment in moral experience.
The groundwork for that movement is certainly to be found in the pages of Shaftesbury, but one would do well not to approach these texts predisposed to a certain framework or perspective. In doing so, one would miss a richness of style and substance, an exceptional learning, and a subtlety of thought seldom paralleled in the English language. Shaftesbury’s essay “An Inquiry Concerning Virtue and Merit” is the basis of his reputation. But it is a work quite unlike the others in these volumes. The “Inquiry” is deductive and reads like a formal treatise. Most of the other works are discursive and literary in character. It would be difficult even to classify some of the essays, such as the “Miscellaneous Reflections.” Indeed, when one considers the Characteristicks as a whole, one finds here a collection of writings of great diversity. No doubt this diversity was intentional on Shaftesbury’s part. He tells us, for example, that “there is more need . . . to interrupt the long-spun thread of reasoning, and bring into the mind, by many different glances and broken views, what cannot so easily be introduced by one steady bent or continued stretch of sight.”
It is, in fact, one of the intriguing features about Shaftesbury that, although his remarks seem clear enough, efforts to identify his full position on an issue can often be more complicated than expected. For example, in “A Letter Concerning Enthusiasm,” we find, apparently, an argument for vented, but moderated, enthusiasm as part of a recommendation for religious toleration. Enthusiasm—which at the time was usually connected to religion and had a ring of “fanaticism” to it—was said to be natural to human beings. Rather than suppress enthusiasm as some would recommend, Shaftesbury argues for constrained tolerance. However, by the end of the essay, we read that “something there will be of extravagance and fury, when the ideas or images received are too big for the narrow human vessel to contain. So that inspiration may be justly called divine enthusiasm; for the word itself signifies divine presence, and was made use of by the philosopher whom the earliest Christian Fathers called divine, to express whatever was sublime in human passions.”
After reading “A Letter Concerning Enthusiasm” one is left with more questions than answers. Is there a form of enthusiasm that Shaftesbury finds unqualifiedly good? If so, is this enthusiasm like the other enthusiasm that worried so many in Shaftesbury’s day? If not, what is the difference? Is enthusiasm really a feature of human nature? This passage suggests that enthusiasm comes from outside the human person. To what extent is enthusiasm a feature of Christianity? The same passage is ambiguous about that question, but it suggests an ancient, pre-Christian form of enthusiasm. If there are non-Christian forms, is the Christian version a purer form of enthusiasm? With respect to the number and variety of questions it raises, this essay is typical of the others found in the Characteristicks.
Not only do these writings open a number of questions for exploration, but they raise them in diverse formats. The “Letter Concerning Enthusiasm” is called a “letter,” but we have as well (in Shaftesbury’s own words) an “essay,” “advice,” an “inquiry,” a “rhapsody,” and “miscellaneous reflections” on the preceding treatises. Not only are different modes of reflective thinking represented, but in the “Miscellaneous Reflections” Shaftesbury further complicates matters by giving us thoughts about his own thoughts. All this makes for fascinating reading, to be sure, but it also signals some fascinating rereading. One can come back to these texts over and over again and still find fresh insights. And the different nature of these works, not to mention the subtle contours within them, only adds to the enjoyment of rereading them. No wonder the Characteristicks was so popular during the eighteenth century.
Why, then, would the Characteristicks eventually fall into such obscurity? One can only speculate: are the different forms of writing diverse ways of pointing to one message, are they refracted glimpses from a single perspective, or could they be disparate and only loosely connected points of view? Whatever the answer, there is a certain degree of self-conscious subtlety that Shaftesbury has put into this work to elicit these questions. This subtlety is endemic to the sensibilities of the eighteenth century, but perhaps not so to subsequent eras. This difference of temperament may in part explain the Characteristicks’ fall from favor. The work’s messages are perhaps multiple and not driven home with the same transparency of purpose and objective as writings of later times. Indeed, Shaftesbury calls upon the reader to reflect with him, a somewhat more demanding task than asking only that the reader grasp a message. Furthermore, Shaftesbury expects the reader to make some effort, so the author is not compelled to please pre-existing tastes or opinions. In this respect, Shaftesbury stands in contrast to the modern author who “purchases his reader’s favour by all imaginable compliances and condescensions.” Shaftesbury writes less to inform, instruct, or persuade than to move the reader to thought.
Yet despite the demands placed upon the reader for intellectual reflection, there is nevertheless a peculiarly aesthetic quality to Shaftesbury’s array of styles and forms of writing. Indeed, the aesthetic element looms large in Shaftesbury, and he has been credited with pioneering some forms of modern thinking about aesthetics and aesthetic experience. The eighteenth century itself was deeply concerned with the aesthetic, in large measure, I believe, due to Shaftesbury. One thinks of Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757), but Hume, Hutcheson, Smith, and others give aesthetic issues—or at least the imagination—central importance in their theories.
For Shaftesbury, the companion to intellectual reflection is aesthetic experience. These activities are not only mutually reinforcing, but share certain dimensions. One is struck by the beauty of any object of understanding, and the beautiful is itself a sign of an order waiting to be grasped by the mind. Aristotle noted that the most abstract thought is aided by and represented in the imagination, and Shaftesbury is ever mindful of this insight. The Characteristicks appeals to both intellect and imagination. But more than this, Shaftesbury may have been one of the first to understand that the modern world would be moved primarily by imagination, however much he may have preferred the guidance of reason. Indeed, it is here that the link to sentiment mentioned earlier is to be found, for sentiment and imagination are themselves integrally connected.
Believing that the modern world would be moved by imagination and sentiment, Shaftesbury’s task was to fashion a way to lead the reader to intellectual introspection and reflection while engaging the imagination. The aesthetic dimension was, therefore, the link between intellect and imagination, sentiment and judgment. One of the truly remarkable features of the Characteristicks is its use of visual images—one for each essay, each volume, and for the work as a whole. These images were carefully and meticulously designed by Shaftesbury himself to represent, in visual terms, some of the main themes of his writings. In the early editions containing these images, the page numbers for the corresponding passages are often included on the image itself.
The round frontispiece that serves as the image for the entire Characteristicks refers to two passages in the “Miscellaneous Reflections.” Both are given originally in Greek, and, interestingly, both originally appear in a footnote rather than the body of the text itself. The first passage, from Marcus Aurelius, is:
What view you take is everything, and your view is in your power. Remove it then when you choose, and then, as if you had rounded the cape, come calm serenity, a waveless bay.
In the frontispiece are ships in a harbor, which is the representation of the “waveless bay.” The ships have presumably “rounded the cape” as well. The second citation is from Epictetus and reads:
As is the water-dish, so is the soul; as is the ray which falls on the water, so are the appearances. When then the water is moved the ray too seems to be moved, yet is not. And when, accordingly, a man is giddy, it is not the arts and the virtues which are thrown into confusion, but the spirit to which they belong; and when he is recovered so are they.
One sees in the frontispiece a water-dish with a ray striking it. The Greek on the image itself can be rendered as “what light can be given,” pointing further to the passage from Epictetus. The image then, with the interpretative help given to us by Shaftesbury, can not only offer us some insight into the text, but also serve as a way of reminding us of the text in significant themes. And, in a manner reminiscent of the emblem books of the preceding century, in which didactic messages are reinforced with visual imagery, these images encourage the sort of reflection that Shaftesbury more fully elicits from the reader.
For almost the first time in an English edition since the eighteenth century, this Liberty Fund edition produces Shaftesbury’s images as part of his text as they were originally situated. Certainly these images were regarded by Shaftesbury to be as much a part of the Characteristicks as the words themselves. That the words could have appeared without the images for so long offers a possible reason for scholarly inattention to the Characteristicks for the last three centuries. What Shaftesbury sought to have function together—namely, words and images—came to be separated and specialized in later eras. Today, the so-called “mixing of media” represents something of a return to Shaftesbury’s insight into the presentation of ideas.
The images are meant to help the reader sort through a rather complicated text, but they are themselves complicated. For example, in the frontispiece image, one finds a snake with its tail in its mouth, the shield of Athena, a lion biting a column, a bridle and bit, a scroll and book, a sphinx, and more. In this as in the other images, all symbols are placed deliberately and, presumably, have significance for accomplishing the ends Shaftesbury has in mind. Exploration of the images leads to exploration of the text and vice versa. But what exactly the symbols in these images signify may not always be clear to the contemporary reader. Some imagery may be particular to Shaftesbury himself or to his time. There is, at present, little scholarship on this issue, with a notable and helpful exception in Felix Paknadel’s “Shaftesbury’s Illustrations of Characteristics,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtnauld Institutes, vol. 37, 1974. Shaftesbury’s images are more complicated and abstract than most of the emblem images in earlier emblem books, but this fact only adds to our puzzlement over particulars in Shaftesbury’s case. Clearly, however, the aesthetic dimension was of central significance to Shaftesbury. This Liberty Fund edition is essentially the 1732 edition, including the “Letter Concerning Design” and “The Judgment of Hercules.” Together these essays help us to appreciate Shaftesbury’s desire to link imagery with broader philosophical themes.
In the end, however, both with respect to the images and the writings themselves, it is the reader’s path to self-awareness that Shaftesbury seeks to illuminate. His invitation to exploration is an invitation to self-exploration. Significantly, the invitation is not meant to pull one towards a truth outside of oneself. On the contrary, as one rounds each corner of the labyrinth that is the Characteristicks, one takes another step on the path of self-exploration. As the author of this challenging work declares, “’Tis not enough to show us merely faces which may be called men’s; every face must be a certain man’s.”
Douglas J. Den Uyl
This edition of Shaftesbury’s Characteristicks is based upon the 1732 edition. The Characteristicks was first published in 1711, but was revised in 1713 by Shaftesbury before his death. The 1714 edition is therefore the edition most often considered as the reference point for other editions. It includes Shaftesbury’s emblematic images and “A Notion of the Historical Draught or Tablature of the Judgment of Hercules.” Despite its inclusion in the 1714 edition, it seems not to be the case that the “Judgment of Hercules” was meant for the Characteristicks. The emblematic images, however, certainly were, for they were carefully designed in detail by Shaftesbury himself. The “Judgment of Hercules” along with the “Letter Concerning Design” were meant for a separate publication, but the latter gets included for the first time in the 1732 edition and remains through the 1790 edition. The reason we have chosen to include these two pieces in this Liberty Fund edition has to do with our presentation of the emblematic images. The images were designed to be part of the text of the Characteristicks, but have been virtually invisible since the eighteenth century. To include them now would seem to raise some interest in Shaftesbury’s aesthetic views and thus in any direct statements he may have made about that matter. These two pieces offer some insight to the modern reader who is now rather distant from Shaftesbury himself. Moreover, these works (along with the images) were very much a part of the eighteenth century’s familiarity with this work.
A guiding principle of this edition has been to invite the modern reader into it. Shaftesbury’s main audience may have been those who were educated but who may not have been specialists or scholars. We therefore sought to produce an attractive “readable” edition. Apart from modernizing the letters, we have taken some other steps to make the text accessible to modern readers. The text of the Characteristicks contains many Latin and Greek quotations. Today, even scholarly audiences, unless specially trained, are not able to read through these easily. In the Robertson edition—the most familiar English-language edition of the twentieth century—most of these passages have been translated in footnotes. We have done the opposite. We have moved the Robertson translations to the body of the text and the original language quotations to the footnotes. Because Robertson was the most extant edition of the twentieth century, we have kept his translations. However, Dr. Evanthia Speliotis reviewed the translations of the Greek, and Daniel Mahoney and Kathleen Alvis reviewed the translations of the Latin to see if there were any egregious errors. They also did the translations for those passages that Robertson somehow failed to translate. Unless we found a serious error or other fatal flaw, we retained the Robertson translation even if a “better” or more literal rendering could be imagined.
This edition of the Characteristicks is in three volumes, as the original was. Included is Shaftesbury’s original index. This index has sometimes been abandoned in later editions on the grounds that it was an inadequate and outmoded search device. It was, however, an index Shaftesbury did himself. It is often rather unusual in its entries (see for example what he has listed under “philosophy”), and for that reason may be useful as a tool of interpretation. Rather than transfer Shaftesbury’s page numbers listed in the index into our own, we have inserted them in brackets in the margins, with the precise point where the page begins indicated by an inverted caret in the text. Shaftesbury’s footnote cross-references also refer to these pages. Including the original page numbers has an additional advantage when it comes to the images. With each image that began an essay, Shaftesbury offered the page numbers where passages could be found that help to explain the meaning of the image. Retaining the original page numbers allows this referencing to be more easily accomplished.
Finally, we have sought to keep the text as free as possible from scholarly apparatus and commentary. There are recent scholarly editions of the Characteristicks in English, most notably the one by Lawrence Klein for Cambridge University Press and the one by Philip Ayres for Oxford University Press. These editions are well worth consultation. The Liberty Fund publishing mission, however, is one that generally seeks to minimize such insertions whenever possible. In the end, our hope—somewhat like Shaftesbury’s own—is to have an edition that engages any educated reader as well as the scholar.
A Letter concerning Enthusiasm.
Sensus Communis; an Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour.
Soliloquy, or Advice to an Author.
An Inquiry concerning Virtue and Merit.
The Moralists; a Philosophical Rhapsody.
Miscellaneous Reflections on the said Treatises, and other critical Subjects.
A Notion of the Historical Draught, or Tablature of the Judgment of Hercules. With a Letter concerning Design.
A Letter concerning Enthusiasm.
Sensus Communis; an Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour.
Soliloquy, or Advice to an Author.
Printed in the Year M.DCC.XXXII.
IF the Author of these united Tracts had been any Friend toPrefaces,he wou’d probably have made his Entrance after that manner, in one or other of the Five Treatises formerly publish’d apart. But as to all Prefatory or Dedicatory Discourse, he has told us his Mind sufficiently, in that Treatise which he callsSoliloquy.Being satisfy’d however, that there are many[iv]Persons who esteem these Introductory Pieces as very essential in the Constitution of a Work; he has thought fit, in behalf of his honest Printer, to substitute these Lines under the Title ofa Preface;and to declare, “That (according to his best Judgment and Authority) these Presents ought to pass, and be receiv’d, constru’d, and taken, as satisfactory in full, for all Preliminary Composition, Dedication, direct or indirect Application for Favour to the Publick, or to any private Patron, or Party whatsoever: Nothing to the contrary appearing to him, from the side of Truth, or Reason.” Witness his Hand, this Fifth Day of December, 1710.
My Lord Sommers.
What is to prevent one from telling
the truth as he laughs? Hor. Sat. 1.
Printed first in the Year M.DCC.VIII.
NOW, you are return’d to . . . . . and before the Season comes which must engage you in the weightier Matters of State; if you care to be entertain’d a-while with a sort of idle Thoughts, such as pretend only to Amusement, and have no relation to Business or Affairs, you may cast your Eye slightly on what you have before you; and if there be any thing inviting, you may read it over at your leisure.
It has been an establish’d Custom for Poets, at the entrance of their Work, to address themselves to some Muse: and this Practice of the Antients has gain’d so much Repute, that even in our days we find it almost constantly imitated. I cannot but fansy however, that this Imitation, which passes so currently with other Judgments, must at some time or other have stuck a little with your Lordship; who is us’d to examine Things by a better Standard than that of Fashion or the common Taste. You must certainly have observ’d our Poets under a remarkable Constraint, when oblig’d to assume this Character: and you have wonder’d, perhaps, why that Air of Enthusiasm, which fits so gracefully with an Antient, shou’d be so spiritless and aukard in a Modern. But as to this Doubt, your Lordship wou’d have soon resolv’d your-self: and it cou’d only serve to bring a-cross you a Reflection you have often made, on many occasions besides; That Truth is the most powerful thing in the World, since even Fiction it-self must be govern’d by it, and can only please by its resemblance. The Appearance of Reality is necessary to make any Passion agreeably represented: and to be able to move others, we must first be mov’d ourselves, or at least seem to be so, upon some probable Grounds. Now what possibility is there that a Modern, who is known never to have worship’d Apollo, or own’d any such Deity as the Muses, shou’d persuade us to enter into his pretended Devotion, and move us by his feign’d Zeal in a Religion out of date? But as for the Antients, ’tis known they deriv’d both their Religion and Polity from the Muses Art. How natural therefore must it have appear’d in any, but especially a Poet of those times, to address himself in Raptures of Devotion to those acknowledg’d Patronesses of Wit and Science? Here the Poet might with probability feign an Extasy, tho he really felt none: and supposing it to have been mere Affectation, it wou’d look however like something natural, and cou’d not fail of pleasing.
But perhaps, my Lord, there was a further Mystery in the case. Men, your Lordship knows, are wonderfully happy in a Faculty of deceiving themselves, whenever they set heartily about it: and a very small Foundation of any Passion will serve us, not only to act it well, but even to work our-selves into it beyond our own reach. Thus, by a little Affectation in Love-Matters, and with the help of a Romance or Novel, a Boy of Fifteen, or a grave Man of Fifty, may be sure to grow a very natural Coxcomb, and feel the Belle Passion in good earnest. A Man of tolerable Good-Nature, who happens to be a little piqu’d, may, by improving his Resentment, become a very Fury for Revenge. Even a good Christian, who wou’d needs be over-good, and thinks he can never believe enough, may, by a small Inclination well improv’d, extend his Faith so largely, as to comprehend in it not only all Scriptural and Traditional Miracles, but a solid System of Old-Wives Storys. Were it needful, I cou’d put your Lordship in mind of an Eminent, Learned, and truly Christian Prelate you once knew, who cou’d have given you a full account of his Belief in Fairys. And this, methinks, may serve to make appear, how far an antient Poet’s Faith might possibly have been rais’d, together with his Imagination.
But we Christians, who have such ample Faith our-selves, will allow nothing to poor Heathens. They must be Infidels in every sense. We will not allow ’em to believe so much as their own Religion; which we cry is too absurd to have been credited by any besides the mere Vulgar. But if a Reverend Christian Prelate may be so great a Volunteer in Faith, as beyond the ordinary Prescription of the Catholick Church, to believe in Fairys; why may not a Heathen Poet, in the ordinary way of his Religion, be allow’d to believe in Muses? For these, your Lordship knows, were so many Divine Persons in the Heathen Creed, and were essential in their System of Theology. The Goddesses had their Temples and Worship, the same as the other Deitys: And to disbelieve the Holy Nine, or their Apollo, was the same as to deny Jove himself; and must have been esteem’d equally profane and atheistical by the generality of sober Men. Now what a mighty advantage must it have been to an antient Poet to be thus orthodox, and by the help of his Education, and a Good-will into the bargain, to work himself up to the Belief of a Divine Presence and Heavenly Inspiration? It was never surely the business of Poets in those days to call Revelation in question, when it evidently made so well for their Art. On the contrary, they cou’d not fail to animate their Faith as much as possible; when by a single Act of it, well inforc’d, they cou’d raise themselves into such Angelical Company.
How much the Imagination of such a Presence must exalt a Genius, we may observe merely from the Influence which an ordinary Presence has over Men. Our modern Wits are more or less rais’d by the Opinion they have of their Company, and the Idea they form to themselves of the Persons to whom they make their Addresses. A common Actor of the Stage will inform us how much a full Audience of the Better Sort exalts him above the common pitch. And you, my Lord, who are the noblest Actor, and of the noblest Part assign’d to any Mortal on this earthly Stage, when you are acting for Liberty and Mankind; does not the publick Presence, that of your Friends, and the Well-wishers to your Cause, add something to your Thought and Genius? Or is that Sublime of Reason, and that Power of Eloquence, which you discover in publick, no more than what you are equally Master of, in private; and can command at any time, alone, or with indifferent Company, or in any easy or cool hour? This indeed were more Godlike; but ordinary Humanity, I think, reaches not so high.
For my own part, my Lord, I have really so much need of some considerable Presence or Company to raise my Thoughts on any occasion, that when alone, I must endeavour by strength of Fancy to supply this want; and in default of a Muse, must inquire out some Great Man of a more than ordinary Genius, whose imagin’d Presence may inspire me with more than what I feel at ordinary hours. And thus, my Lord, have I chosen to address my-self to your Lordship; tho without subscribing my Name: allowing you as a Stranger, the full liberty of reading no more than what you may have a fansy for; but reserving to my-self the privilege of imagining you read all, with particular notice, as a Friend, and one whom I may justifiably treat with the Intimacy and Freedom which follows.
IF the knowing well how to expose any Infirmity or Vice were a sufficient Security for the Virtue which is contrary, how excellent an Age might we be presum’d to live in! Never was there in our Nation a time known, when Folly and Extravagance of every kind were more sharply inspected, or more wittily ridicul’d. And one might hope at least from this good Symptom, that our Age was in no declining state; since whatever our Distempers are, we stand so well affected to our Remedys. To bear the being told of Faults, is in private Persons the best token of Amendment. ’Tis seldom that a Publick is thus dispos’d. For where Jealousy of State, or the ill Lives of the Great People, or any other Cause is powerful enough to restrain the Freedom of Censure in any part, it in effect destroys the Benefit of it in the whole. There can be no impartial and free Censure of Manners where any peculiar Custom or National Opinion is set apart, and not only exempted from Criticism, but even flatter’d with the highest Art. ’Tis only in a free Nation, such as ours, that Imposture has no Privilege; and that neither the Credit of a Court, the Power of a Nobility, nor the Awefulness of a Church can give her Protection, or hinder her from being arraign’d in every Shape and Appearance. ’Tis true, this Liberty may seem to run too far. We may perhaps be said to make ill use of it.—So every one will say, when he himself is touch’d, and his Opinion freely examin’d. But who shall be Judg of what may be freely examin’d, and what may not? Where Liberty may be us’d; and where it may not? What Remedy shall we prescribe to this in general? Can there be a better than from that Liberty it-self which is complain’d of? If Men are vicious, petulant or abusive; the Magistrate may correct them: But if they reason ill, ’tis Reason still must teach ’em to do better. Justness of Thought and Style, Refinement in Manners, good Breeding, and Politeness of every kind, can come only from the Trial and Experience of what is best. Let but the Search go freely on, and the right Measure of every thing will soon be found. Whatever Humour has got the start, if it be unnatural, it cannot hold; and the Ridicule, if ill plac’d at first, will certainly fall at last where it deserves.
I have often wonder’d to see Men of Sense so mightily alarm’d at the approach of any thing like Ridicule on certain Subjects; as if they mistrusted their own Judgment. For what Ridicule can lie against Reason? Or how can any one of the least Justness of Thought endure a Ridicule wrong plac’d? Nothing is more ridiculous than this it-self. The Vulgar, indeed, may swallow any sordid Jest, any mere Drollery or Buffoonery; but it must be a finer and truer Wit which takes with the Men of Sense and Breeding. How comes it to pass then, that we appear such Cowards in reasoning, and are so afraid to stand the Test of Ridicule?—O! say we, the Subjects are too grave.—Perhaps so: but let us see first whether they are really grave or no: for in the manner we may conceive ’em, they may peradventure be very grave and weighty in our Imagination; but very ridiculous and impertinent in their own nature. Gravity is of the very Essence of Imposture. It does not only make us mistake other things, but is apt perpetually almost to mistake it-self. For even in common Behaviour, how hard is it for the grave Character to keep long out of the limits of the formal one? We can never be too grave, if we can be assur’d we are really what we suppose. And we can never too much honour or revere any thing for grave; if we are assur’d the Thing is grave, as we apprehend it. The main Point is to know always true Gravity from the false: and this can only be, by carrying the Rule constantly with us, and freely applying it not only to the Things about us, but to our-selves. For if unhappily we lose the Measure in our-selves, we shall soon lose it in every thing besides. Now what Rule or Measure is there in the World, except in the considering of the real Temper of Things, to find which are truly serious, and which ridiculous? And how can this be done, unless by applying the Ridicule, to see whether it will bear? But if we fear to apply this Rule in any thing, what Security can we have against the Imposture of Formality in all things? We have allow’d our-selves to be Formalists in one Point; and the same Formality may rule us as it pleases in all other.
’Tis not in every Disposition that we are capacitated to judg of things. We must beforehand judg of our own Temper, and accordingly of other things which fall under our Judgment. But we must never more pretend to judg of things, or of our own Temper in judging them, when we have given up our preliminary Right of Judgment, and under a presumption of Gravity, have allow’d our-selves to be most ridiculous, and to admire profoundly the most ridiculous things in nature, at least for ought we know. For having resolv’d never to try, we can never be sure.
A jest often decides weighty matters better and more forcibly than can asperity.
This, my Lord, I may safely aver, is so true in it-self, and so well known for Truth by the cunning Formalists of the Age, that they can better bear to have their Impostures rail’d at, with all the Bitterness and Vehemence imaginable, than to have them touch’d ever so gently in this other way. They know very well, that as Modes and Fashions, so Opinions, tho ever so ridiculous, are kept up by Solemnity: and that those formal Notions which grew up probably in an ill Mood, and have been conceiv’d in sober Sadness, are never to be remov’d but in a sober kind of Chearfulness, and by a more easy and pleasant way of Thought. There is a Melancholy which accompanys all Enthusiasm. Be it Love or Religion (for there are Enthusiasms in both) nothing can put a stop to the growing mischief of either, till the Melancholy be remov’d, and the Mind at liberty to hear what can be said against the Ridiculousness of an Extreme in either way.
It was heretofore the Wisdom of some wise Nations, to let People be Fools as much as they pleas’d, and never to punish seriously what deserv’d only to be laugh’d at, and was, after all, best cur’d by that innocent Remedy. There are certain Humours in Mankind, which of necessity must have vent. The Human Mind and Body are both of ’em naturally subject to Commotions: and as there are strange Ferments in the Blood, which in many Bodys occasion an extraordinary Discharge; so in Reason too, there are heterogeneous Particles which must be thrown off by Fermentation. Shou’d Physicians endeavour absolutely to allay those Ferments of the Body, and strike in the Humours which discover themselves in such Eruptions, they might, instead of making a Cure, bid fair perhaps to raise a Plague, and turn a Spring-Ague or an Autumn-Surfeit into an epidemical malignant Fever. They are certainly as ill Physicians in the Body-Politick, who wou’d needs be tampering with these mental Eruptions; and under the specious pretence of healing this Itch of Superstition, and saving Souls from the Contagion of Enthusiasm, shou’d set all Nature in an uproar, and turn a few innocent Carbuncles into an Inflammation and mortal Gangrene.
We read in History that Pan, when he accompany’d Bacchus in an Expedition to the Indies, found means to strike a Terror thro’ a Host of Enemys, by the help of a small Company, whose Clamors he manag’d to good advantage among the echoing Rocks and Caverns of a woody Vale. The hoarse bellowing of the Caves, join’d to the hideous aspect of such dark and desart Places, rais’d such a Horror in the Enemy, that in this state their Imagination help’d ’em to hear Voices, and doubtless to see Forms too, which were more than Human: whilst the Uncertainty of what they fear’d made their Fear yet greater, and spread it faster by implicit Looks than any Narration cou’d convey it. And this was what in after-times Men call’d a Panick. The Story indeed gives a good Hint of the nature of this Passion, which can hardly be without some mixture of Enthusiasm, and Horrors of a superstitious kind.
One may with good reason call every Passion Panick which is rais’d in a Multitude, and convey’d by Aspect, or as it were by Contact or Sympathy. Thus popular Fury may be call’d Panick, when the Rage of the People, as we have sometimes known, has put them beyond themselves; especially where Religion has had to do. And in this state their very Looks are infectious. The Fury flies from Face to Face: and the Disease is no sooner seen than caught. They who in a better Situation of Mind have beheld a Multitude under the power of this Passion, have own’d that they saw in the Countenances of Men something more ghastly and terrible than at other times is express’d on the most passionate occasion. Such force has Society in ill, as well as in good Passions: and so much stronger any Affection is for being social and communicative.
Thus, my Lord, there are many Panicks in Mankind, besides merely that of Fear. And thus is Religion also Panick; when Enthusiasm of any kind gets up; as oft, on melancholy occasions, it will. For Vapours naturally rise; and in bad times especially, when the Spirits of Men are low, as either in publick Calamitys, or during the Unwholesomeness of Air or Diet, or when Convulsions happen in Nature, Storms, Earthquakes, or other amazing Prodigys: at this season the Panick must needs run high, and the Magistrate of necessity give way to it. For to apply a serious Remedy, and bring the Sword, or Fasces, as a Cure, must make the Case more melancholy, and increase the very Cause of the Distemper. To forbid Mens natural Fears, and to endeavour the over-powering them by other Fears, must needs be a most unnatural Method. The Magistrate, if he be any Artist, shou’d have a gentler hand; and instead of Causticks, Incisions, and Amputations, shou’d be using the softest Balms; and with a kind Sympathy entering into the Concern of the People, and taking, as it were, their Passion upon him, shou’d, when he has sooth’d and satisfy’d it, endeavour, by chearful ways, to divert and heal it.
This was antient Policy: and hence (as a notable Author of our Nation expresses it) ’tis necessary a People shou’d have a Publick Leading in Religion. For to deny the Magistrate a Worship, or take away a National Church, is as mere Enthusiasm as the Notion which sets up Persecution. For why shou’d there not be publick Walks, as well as private Gardens? Why not publick Librarys, as well as private Education and Home-Tutors? But to prescribe bounds to Fancy and Speculation, to regulate Mens Apprehensions and religious Beliefs or Fears, to suppress by Violence the natural Passion of Enthusiasm, or to endeavour to ascertain it, or reduce it to one Species, or bring it under any one Modification, is in truth no better Sense, nor deserves a better Character, than what the Comedian declares of the like Project in the Affair of Love—
You will manage it no better than if you undertook to be rationally insane.
Not only the Visionarys and Enthusiasts of all kinds were tolerated, your Lordship knows, by the Antients; but on the other side, Philosophy had as free a course, and was permitted as a Ballance against Superstition. And whilst some Sects, such as the Pythagorean and latter Platonick, join’d in with the Superstition and Enthusiasm of the Times; the Epicurean, the Academick, and others, were allow’d to use all the Force of Wit and Raillery against it. And thus matters were happily balanc’d; Reason had fair Play; Learning and Science flourish’d. Wonderful was the Harmony and Temper which arose from all these Contrarietys. Thus Superstition and Enthusiasm were mildly treated; and being let alone, they never rag’d to that degree as to occasion Bloodshed, Wars, Persecutions and Devastations in the World. But a new sort of Policy, which extends it-self to another World, and considers the future Lives and Happiness of Men rather than the present, has made us leap the Bounds of natural Humanity; and out of a supernatural Charity, has taught us the way of plaguing one another most devoutly. It has rais’d an Antipathy which no temporal Interest cou’d ever do; and entail’d upon us a mutual Hatred to all Eternity. And now Uniformity in Opinion (a hopeful Project!) is look’d on as the only Expedient against this Evil. The saving of Souls is now the heroick Passion of exalted Spirits; and is become in a manner the chief Care of the Magistrate, and the very End of Government it-self.
If Magistracy shou’d vouchsafe to interpose thus much in other Sciences, I am afraid we shou’d have as bad Logick, as bad Mathematicks, and in every kind as bad Philosophy, as we often have Divinity, in Countrys where a precise Orthodoxy is settled by Law. ’Tis a hard matter for a Government to settle Wit. If it does but keep us sober and honest, ’tis likely we shall have as much Ability in our spiritual as in our temporal Affairs: and if we can but be trusted, we shall have Wit enough to save our-selves, when no Prejudice lies in the way. But if Honesty and Wit be insufficient for this saving Work, ’tis in vain for the Magistrate to meddle with it: since if he be ever so virtuous or wise, he may be as soon mistaken as another Man. I am sure the only way to save Mens Sense, or preserve Wit at all in the World, is to give Liberty to Wit. Now Wit can never have its Liberty, where the Freedom of Raillery is taken away: For against serious Extravagances and splenetick Humours there is no other Remedy than this.
We have indeed full power over all other Modifications of Spleen. We may treat other Enthusiasms as we please. We may ridicule Love, or Gallantry, or Knight-Errantry to the utmost; and we find, that in these latter days of Wit, the Humour of this kind, which was once so prevalent, is pretty well declin’d. The Crusades, the rescuing of Holy Lands, and such devout Gallantrys are in less request than formerly: But if something of this militant Religion, something of this Soul-rescuing Spirit, and Saint-Errantry prevails still, we need not wonder, when we consider in how solemn a manner we treat this Distemper, and how preposterously we go about to cure Enthusiasm.
I can hardly forbear fansying, that if we had a sort of Inquisition, or formal Court of Judicature, with grave Officers and Judges, erected to restrain Poetical Licence, and in general to suppress that Fancy and Humour of Versification; but in particular that most extravagant Passion of Love, as it is set out by Poets, in its Heathenish Dress of Venus’s and Cupids: if the Poets, as Ringleaders and Teachers of this Heresy, were, under grievous Penaltys, forbid to enchant the People by their vein of Rhyming; and if the People, on the other side, were, under proportionable Penaltys, forbid to hearken to any such Charm, or lend their Attention to any Love-Tale, so much as in a Play, a Novel, or a Ballad; we might perhaps see a new Arcadia arising out of this heavy Persecution: Old People and Young would be seiz’d with a versifying Spirit: We shou’d have Field-Conventicles of Lovers and Poets: Forests wou’d be fill’d with romantick Shepherds and Shepherdesses; and Rocks resound with Echoes of Hymns and Praises offer’d to the Powers of Love. We might indeed have a fair Chance, by this Management, to bring back the whole Train of Heathen Gods, and set our cold Northern Island burning with as many Altars to Venus and Apollo, as were formerly in Cyprus, Delos, or any of those warmer Grecian Climates.
BUT, my Lord, you may perhaps wonder, that having been drawn into such a serious Subject as Religion, I shou’d forget my self so far as to give way to Raillery and Humour. I must own, my Lord, ’tis not merely thro’ Chance that this has happen’d. To say truth, I hardly care so much as to think on this Subject, much less to write on it, without endeavouring to put my self in as good Humour as is possible. People indeed, who can endure no middle Temper, but are all Air and Humour, know little of the Doubts and Scruples of Religion, and are safe from any immediate Influence of devout Melancholy or Enthusiasm; which requires more Deliberation and thoughtful Practice to fix it-self in a Temper, and grow habitual. But be the Habit what it will; to be deliver’d of it at so sad a Cost as Inconsiderateness, or Madness, is what I wou’d never wish to be my Lot. I had rather stand all Adventures with Religion, than endeavour to get rid of the Thoughts of it by Diversion. All I contend for, is to think of it in a right Humour: and that this goes more than half-way towards thinking rightly of it, is what I shall endeavour to demonstrate.
Good Humour is not only the best Security against Enthusiasm, but the best Foundation of Piety and true Religion: For if right Thoughts and worthy Apprehensions of the Supreme Being, are fundamental to all true Worship and Adoration; ’tis more than probable, that we shall never miscarry in this respect, except thro’ ill Humour only. Nothing beside ill Humour, either natural or forc’d, can bring a Man to think seriously that the World is govern’d by any devilish or malicious Power. I very much question whether any thing, besides ill Humour, can be the Cause of Atheism. For there are so many Arguments to persuade a Man in Humour, that, in the main, all things are kindly and well dispos’d, that one wou’d think it impossible for him to be so far out of conceit with Affairs, as to imagine they all ran at adventures; and that the World, as venerable and wise a Face as it carry’d, had neither Sense nor Meaning in it. This however I am persuaded of, that nothing beside ill Humour can give us dreadful or ill Thoughts of a Supreme Manager. Nothing can persuade us of Sullenness or Sourness in such a Being, beside the actual fore-feeling of somewhat of this kind within our-selves: and if we are afraid of bringing good Humour into Religion, or thinking with Freedom and Pleasantness on such a Subject as God; ’tis because we conceive the Subject so like our-selves, and can hardly have a Notion of Majesty and Greatness, without Stateliness and Moroseness accompanying it.
This, however, is the just Reverse of that Character, which we own to be most divinely Good, when we see it, as we sometimes do, in Men of highest Power among us. If they pass for truly Good, we dare treat them freely, and are sure they will not be displeas’d with this Liberty. They are doubly Gainers by this Goodness of theirs. For the more they are search’d into, and familiarly examin’d, the more their Worth appears; and the Discoverer, charm’d with his Success, esteems and loves more than ever, when he has prov’d this additional Bounty in his Superior, and reflects on that Candor and Generosity he has experienc’d. Your Lordship knows more perhaps of this Mystery than anyone. How else shou’d you have been so belov’d in Power, and out of Power so adher’d to, and still more belov’d?
Thank Heaven! there are even in our own Age some such Examples. In former Ages there have been many such. We have known mighty Princes, and even Emperors of the World, who cou’d bear unconcernedly, not only the free Censure of their Actions, but the most spiteful Reproaches and Calumnys, even to their faces. Some perhaps may wish there had never been such Examples found in Heathens; but more especially, that the occasion had never been given by Christians. ’Twas more the Misfortune indeed of Mankind in general, than of Christians in particular, that some of the earlier Roman Emperors were such Monsters of Tyranny, and began a Persecution, not on religious Men merely, but on all who were suspected of Worth or Virtue. What cou’d have been a higher Honour or Advantage to Christianity, than to be persecuted by a Nero? But better Princes, who came after, were persuaded to remit these severe Courses. ’Tis true, the Magistrate might possibly have been surpriz’d with the newness of a Notion, which he might pretend, perhaps, did not only destroy the Sacredness of his Power, but treated him and all Men as profane, impious, and damn’d, who enter’d not into certain particular Modes of Worship; of which there had been formerly so many thousand instituted, all of ’em compatible and sociable till that time. However, such was the Wisdom of some succeeding Ministrys, that the Edge of Persecution was much abated; and even that Prince, who was esteem’d the greatest Enemy of the Christian Sect, and who himself had been educated in it, was a great Restrainer of Persecution, and wou’d allow of nothing further than a Resumption of Church-Lands and publick Schools, without any attempt on the Goods or Persons even of those who branded the State-Religion, and made a Merit of affronting the publick Worship.
’Tis well we have the Authority of a sacred Author in our Religion, to assure us, that the Spirit of Love and Humanity is above that of Martyrs. Otherwise, one might be a little scandaliz’d, perhaps, at the History of many of our primitive Confessors and Martyrs, even according to our own accounts. There is hardly now in the World so good a Christian (if this be indeed the Mark of a good one) who, if he happen’d to live at Constantinople, or elsewhere under the Protection of the Turks, would think it fitting or decent to give any Disturbance to their Mosque-Worship. And as good Protestants, my Lord, as you and I are, we shou’d consider him as little better than a rank Enthusiast, who, out of hatred to the Romish Idolatry, shou’d, in time of high Mass (where Mass perhaps was by Law establish’d) interrupt the Priest with Clamors, or fall foul on his Images and Relicks.
There are some, it seems, of our good Brethren, the French Protestants, lately come among us, who are mightily taken with this Primitive way. They have set a-foot the Spirit of Martyrdom to a wonder in their own Country; and they long to be trying it here, if we will give ’em leave, and afford ’em the Occasion: that is to say, if we will only do ’em the favour to hang or imprison ’em; if we will only be so obliging as to break their Bones for ’em, after their Country-fashion, blow up their Zeal, and stir a-fresh the Coals of Persecution. But no such Grace can they hitherto obtain of us. So hard-hearted we are, that notwithstanding their own Mob are willing to bestow kind Blows upon ’em, and fairly stone ’em now and then in the open Street; tho the Priests of their own Nation wou’d gladly give ’em their desir’d Discipline, and are earnest to light their probationary Fires for ’em; we English Men, who are Masters in our own Country, will not suffer the Enthusiasts to be thus us’d. Nor can we be suppos’d to act thus in envy to their Phenix-Sect, which it seems has risen out of the Flames, and wou’d willingly grow to be a new Church by the same manner of Propagation as the old-one, whose Seed was truly said to be from the Blood of the Martyrs.
But how barbarous still, and more than heathenishly cruel, are we tolerating English Men! For, not contented to deny these prophesying Enthusiasts the Honour of a Persecution, we have deliver’d ’em over to the cruellest Contempt in the World. I am told, for certain, that they are at this very time the Subject of a choice Droll or Puppet-Show at Bart’lemy-Fair. There, doubtless, their strange Voices and involuntary Agitations are admirably well acted, by the Motion of Wires, and Inspiration of Pipes. For the Bodys of the Prophets, in their State of Prophecy, being not in their own power, but (as they say themselves) mere passive Organs, actuated by an exterior Force, have nothing natural, or resembling real Life, in any of their Sounds or Motions: so that how aukardly soever a Puppet-Show may imitate other Actions, it must needs represent this Passion to the Life. And whilst Bart’lemy-Fair is in possession of this Privilege, I dare stand Security to our National Church, that no Sect of Enthusiasts, no new Venders of Prophecy or Miracles, shall ever get the start, or put her to the trouble of trying her Strength with ’em, in any Case.
Happy it was for us, that when Popery had got possession, Smithfield was us’d in a more tragical way. Many of our first Reformers, ’tis fear’d, were little better than Enthusiasts: and God knows whether a Warmth of this kind did not considerably help us in throwing off that spiritual Tyranny. So that had not the Priests, as is usual, prefer’d the love of Blood to all other Passions, they might in a merrier way, perhaps, have evaded the greatest Force of our reforming Spirit. I never heard that the antient Heathens were so well advis’d in their ill Purpose of suppressing the Christian Religion in its first Rise, as to make use, at any time, of this Bart’lemy-Fair Method. But this I am persuaded of, that had the Truth of the Gospel been any way surmountable, they wou’d have bid much fairer for the silencing it, if they had chosen to bring our primitive Founders upon the Stage in a pleasanter way than that of Bear-Skins and Pitch-Barrels.
The Jews were naturally a very cloudy People, and wou’d endure little Raillery in any thing; much less in what belong’d to any religious Doctrines or Opinions. Religion was look’d upon with a sullen Eye; and Hanging was the only Remedy they cou’d prescribe for any thing which look’d like setting up a new Revelation. The sovereign Argument was, Crucify, Crucify. But with all their Malice and Inveteracy to our Saviour, and his Apostles after him, had they but taken the Fancy to act such Puppet-Shows in his Contempt, as at this hour the Papists are acting in his Honour; I am apt to think they might possibly have done our Religion more harm, than by all their other ways of Severity.
I believe our great and learned Apostle found less Advantage from the easy Treatment of his Athenian Antagonists, than from the surly and curst Spirit of the most persecuting Jewish Citys. He made less Improvement of the Candor and Civility of his Roman Judges, than of the Zeal of the Synagogue, and Vehemence of his National Priests. Tho when I consider this Apostle as appearing either before the witty Athenians, or before a Roman Court of Judicature, in the Presence of their great Men and Ladys, and see how handsomly he accommodates himself to the Apprehensions and Temper of those politer People: I do not find that he declines the way of Wit or good Humour; but, without suspicion of his Cause, is willing generously to commit it to this Proof, and try it against the Sharpness of any Ridicule which might be offer’d.
But tho the Jews were never pleas’d to try their Wit or Malice this way against our Saviour or his Apostles; the irreligious part of the Heathens had try’d it long before against the best Doctrines and best Characters of Men which had ever arisen amongst ’em. Nor did this prove in the end an Injury, but on the contrary the highest Advantage to those very Characters and Doctrines, which, having stood the Proof, were found so solid and just. The divinest Man who had ever appear’d in the Heathen World, was in the height of witty Times, and by the wittiest of all Poets, most abominably ridicul’d, in a whole Comedy writ and acted on purpose. But so far was this from sinking his Reputation, or suppressing his Philosophy, that they each increas’d the more for it; and he apparently grew to be more the Envy of other Teachers. He was not only contented to be ridicul’d; but, that he might help the Poet as much as possible, he presented himself openly in the Theater; that his real Figure (which was no advantageous one) might be compar’d with that which the witty Poet had brought as his Representative on the Stage. Such was his good Humour! Nor cou’d there be in the World a greater Testimony of the invincible Goodness of the Man, or a greater Demonstration, that there was no Imposture either in his Character or Opinions. For that Imposture shou’d dare sustain the Encounter of a grave Enemy, is no wonder. A solemn Attack, she knows, is not of such danger to her. There is nothing she abhors or dreads like Pleasantness and good Humour.
IN short, my Lord, the melancholy way of treating Religion is that which, according to my apprehension, renders it so tragical, and is the occasion of its acting in reality such dismal Tragedys in the World. And my Notion is, that provided we treat Religion with good Manners, we can never use too much good Humour, or examine it with too much Freedom and Familiarity. For, if it be genuine and sincere, it will not only stand the Proof, but thrive and gain advantage from hence: if it be spurious, or mix’d with any Imposture, it will be detected and expos’d.
The melancholy way in which we have been taught Religion, makes us unapt to think of it in good Humour. ’Tis in Adversity chiefly, or in ill Health, under Affliction, or Disturbance of Mind, or Discomposure of Temper, that we have recourse to it. Tho in reality we are never so unfit to think of it as at such a heavy and dark hour. We can never be fit to contemplate any thing above us, when we are in no condition to look into ourselves, and calmly examine the Temper of our own Mind and Passions. For then it is we see Wrath, and Fury, and Revenge, and Terrors in theDeity; when we are full of Disturbances and Fears within, and have, by Sufferance and Anxiety, lost so much of the natural Calm and Easiness of our Temper.
We must not only be in ordinary good Humour, but in the best of Humours, and in the sweetest, kindest Disposition of our Lives, to understand well what true Goodness is, and what those Attributes imply, which we ascribe with such Applause and Honour to theDeity. We shall then be able to see best, whether those Forms of Justice, those Degrees of Punishment, that Temper of Resentment, and those Measures of Offence and Indignation, which we vulgarly suppose in God, are sutable to those original Ideas of Goodness, which the same Divine Being, or Nature under him, has implanted in us, and which we must necessarily presuppose, in order to give him Praise or Honour in any kind. This, my Lord, is the Security against all Superstition: To remember, that there is nothing in God but what is God-like; and that He is either not at all, or truly and perfectly Good. But when we are afraid to use our Reason freely, even on that very Question, “Whether He really be, or not”; we then actually presume him bad, and flatly contradict that pretended Character of Goodness and Greatness; whilst we discover this Mistrust of his Temper, and fear his Anger and Resentment, in the case of this Freedom ofInquiry.
We have a notable Instance of this Freedom in one of our sacred Authors. As patient as Job is said to be, it cannot be denied that he makes bold enough with God, and takes his Providence roundly to task. His Friends, indeed, plead hard with him, and use all Arguments, right or wrong, to patch up Objections, and set the Affairs of Providence upon an equal foot. They make a merit of saying all the Good they can of God, at the very stretch of their Reason, and sometimes quite beyond it. But this, in Job’s opinion, is flatteringGod,accepting ofGod’s Person, and even mocking him. And no wonder. For, what merit can there be in believing God, or his Providence, upon frivolous and weak grounds? What Virtue in assuming an Opinion contrary to the appearance of Things, and resolving to hear nothing which may be said against it? Excellent Character of the Godof Truth! that he shou’d be offended at us, for having refus’d to put the lye upon our Understandings, as much as in us lay; and be satisfy’d with us for having believ’d at a venture, and against our Reason, what might have been the greatest Falshood in the world, for any thing we cou’d bring as a Proof or Evidence to the contrary!
It is impossible that any besides an ill-natur’d Man can wish against the Being of a God: for this is wishing against the Publick, and even against one’s private Good too, if rightly understood. But if a Man has not any such Ill-will to stifle his Belief, he must have surely an unhappy Opinion of God, and believe him not so good by far as he knows Himself to be, if he imagines that an impartial Use of his Reason, in any matter of Speculation whatsoever, can make him run any risk Hereafter; and that a mean Denial of his Reason, and an Affectation of Belief in any Point too hard for his Understanding, can intitle him to any Favour in another World. This is being Sycophants in Religion, mere Parasites of Devotion. ’Tis using God as the crafty Beggars use those they address to, when they are ignorant of their Quality. The Novices amongst ’em may innocently come out, perhaps, with a Good Sir, or a Good Forsooth! But with the old Stagers, no matter whom they meet in a Coach, ’tis always Good your Honour! or Good your Lordship! or your Ladyship! For if there shou’d be really a Lord in the case, we shou’d be undone (say they) for want of giving the Title: but if the Party shou’d be no Lord, there wou’d be no Offence; it wou’d not be ill taken.
And thus it is in Religion. We are highly concern’d how to beg right; and think all depends upon hitting the Title, and making a good Guess. ’Tis the most beggarly Refuge imaginable, which is so mightily cry’d up, and stands as a great Maxim with many able Men; “That they shou’d strive to have Faith, and believe to the utmost: because if, after all, there be nothing in the matter, there will be no harm in being thus deceiv’d; but if there be any thing, it will be fatal for them not to have believ’d to the full.” But they are so far mistaken, that whilst they have this Thought, ’tis certain they can never believe either to their Satisfaction and Happiness in this World, or with any advantage of Recommendation to another. For besides that our Reason, which knows the Cheat, will never rest thorowly satisfy’d on such a Bottom, but turn us often a-drift, and toss us in a Sea of Doubt and Perplexity; we cannot but actually grow worse in our Religion, and entertain a worse Opinion still of a SupremeDeity, whilst our Belief is founded on so injurious a Thought of him.
To love the Publick, to study universal Good, and to promote the Interest of the whole World, as far as lies within our power, is surely the Height of Goodness, and makes that Temper which we call Divine. In this Temper, my Lord, (for surely you shou’d know it well) ’tis natural for us to wish that others shou’d partake with us, by being convinc’d of the Sincerity of our Example. ’Tis natural for us to wish our Merit shou’d be known; particularly, if it be our fortune to have serv’d a Nation as a good Minister; or as some Prince, or Father of a Country, to have render’d happy a considerable Part of Mankind under our Care. But if it happen’d, that of this number there shou’d be some so ignorantly bred, and of so remote a Province, as to have lain out of the hearing of our Name and Actions; or hearing of ’em, shou’d be so puzzl’d with odd and contrary Storys told up and down concerning us, that they knew not what to think, whether there were really in the World any such Person as our-self: Shou’d we not, in good truth, be ridiculous to take offence at this? And shou’d we not pass for extravagantly morose and ill-humour’d, if instead of treating the matter in Raillery, we shou’d think in earnest of revenging our-selves on the offending Partys, who, out of their rustick Ignorance, ill Judgment, or Incredulity, had detracted from our Renown?
How shall we say then? Does it really deserve Praise, to be thus concern’d about it? Is the doing Good for Glory’s sake, so divine a thing? or, Is it not diviner, to do Good even where it may be thought inglorious, even to the Ingrateful, and to those who are wholly insensible of the Good they receive? How comes it then, that what is so divine in us, shou’d lose its Character in the Divine Being? And that according as theDeity is represented to us, he shou’d more resemble the weak, womanish, and impotent part of our Nature, than the generous, manly, and divine?
ONE wou’d think, my Lord, it were in reality no hard thing to know our own Weaknesses at first sight, and distinguish the Features of human Frailty, with which we are so well acquainted. One wou’d think it were easy to understand, that Provocation and Offence, Anger, Revenge, Jealousy in point of Honour or Power, Love of Fame, Glory, and the like, belong only to limited Beings, and are necessarily excluded a Being which is perfect and universal. But if we have never settled with our-selves any Notion of what is morally excellent; or if we cannot trust to that Reason which tells us, that nothing beside what is so, can have place in theDeity; we can neither trust to any thing which others relate of him, or which he himself reveals to us. We must be satisfy’d before-hand, that he is good, and cannot deceive us. Without this, there can be no real religious Faith, or Confidence. Now, if there be really something previous to Revelation, some antecedent Demonstration of Reason, to assure us that Godis, and withal, that he is so good as not to deceive us; the same Reason, if we will trust to it, will demonstrate to us, that God is so good as to exceed the very best of us inGoodness. And after this manner we can have no Dread or Suspicion to render us uneasy: for it is Malice only, and not Goodness, which can make us afraid.
There is an odd way of reasoning, but in certain Distempers of Mind very sovereign to those who can apply it; and it is this: “There can be no Malice but where Interests are oppos’d. A universal Being can have no Interest opposite; and therefore can have no Malice.” If there be a general Mind, it can have no particular Interest: But the general Good, or Good of the Whole, and its own private Good, must of necessity be one and the same. It can intend nothing besides, nor aim at any thing beyond, nor be provok’d to any thing contrary. So that we have only to consider, whether there be really such a thing as a Mind which has relation to the Whole, or not. For if unhappily there be no Mind, we may comfort our selves, however, that Nature has no Malice: If there be really aMind, we may rest satisfy’d, that it is the best-natur’d one in the World. The last Case, one wou’d imagine, shou’d be the most comfortable; and the Notion of a common Parent less frightful than that of forlorn Nature, and a fatherless World. Tho, as Religion stands amongst us, there are many good People who wou’d have less Fear in being thus expos’d; and wou’d be easier, perhaps, in their Minds, if they were assur’d they had only mere Chance to trust to. For no body trembles to think there shou’d be no God; but rather that there shou’d be one. This however wou’d be otherwise, if Deity were thought as kindly of as Humanity; and we cou’d be persuaded to believe, that if there really was aGod,the highest Goodness must of necessity belong to him, without any of those Defects of Passion, those Meannesses and Imperfections which we acknowledg such in our-selves, which as good Men we endeavour all we can to be superior to, and which we find we every day conquer as we grow better.
Methinks, my Lord, it wou’d be well for us, if before we ascended into the higher Regions of Divinity, we wou’d vouchsafe to descend a little into our-selves, and bestow some poor Thoughts upon plain honest Morals. When we had once look’d into our-selves, and distinguish’d well the nature of our own Affections, we shou’d probably be fitter Judges of the Divineness of a Character, and discern better what Affections were sutable or unsutable to a perfect Being. We might then understand how to love and praise, when we had acquir’d some consistent Notion of what was laudable or lovely. Otherwise we might chance to do God little Honour, when we intended him the most. For ’tis hard to imagine what Honour can arise to theDeity from the Praises of Creatures, who are unable to discern what is praise-worthy or excellent in their own kind.
If a Musician were cry’d up to the Skies by a certain Set of People who had no Ear in Musick, he wou’d surely be put to the blush; and cou’d hardly, with a good Countenance, accept the Benevolence of his Auditors, till they had acquir’d a more competent Apprehension of him, and cou’d by their own Senses find out something really good in his Performance. Till this were brought about, there wou’d be little Glory in the case; and the Musician, tho ever so vain, wou’d have little reason to be contented.
They who affect Praise the most, had rather not be taken notice of, than be impertinently applauded. I know not how it comes about, that He who is ever said to do Good the most disinterestedly, shou’d be thought desirous of being prais’d so lavishly, and be suppos’d to set so high a Rate upon so cheap and low a Thing, as ignorant Commendation and forc’d Applause.
’Tis not the same with Goodness as with other Qualitys, which we may understand very well, and yet not possess. We may have an excellent Ear in Musick, without being able to perform in any kind. We may judg well of Poetry, without being Poets, or possessing the least of a Poetick Vein: But we can have no tolerable Notion of Goodness, without being tolerably good. So that if the Praise of a Divine Being be so great a part of his Worship, we shou’d, methinks, learn Goodness, were it for nothing else than that we might learn, in some tolerable manner, how to praise. For the praise of Goodness from an unsound hollow Heart, must certainly make the greatest Dissonance in the world.
OTHER Reasons, my Lord, there are, why this plain home-spun Philosophy, of looking into our-selves, may do us wondrous service, in rectifying our Errors in Religion. For there is a sort of Enthusiasm of second hand. And when Men find no original Commotions in themselves, no prepossessing Panick which bewitches ’em; they are apt still, by the Testimony of others, to be impos’d on, and led credulously into the Belief of many false Miracles. And this Habit may make ’em variable, and of a very inconstant Faith, easy to be carry’d away with every Wind of Doctrine, and addicted to every upstart Sect or Superstition. But the knowledg of our Passions in their very Seeds, the measuring well the Growth and Progress of Enthusiasm, and the judging rightly of its natural Force, and what command it has over our very Senses, may teach us to oppose more successfully those Delusions which come arm’d with the specious Pretext of moral Certainty, and Matter of Fact.
The new prophesying Sect, I made mention of above, pretend, it seems, among many other Miracles, to have had a most signal one, acted premeditately, and with warning, before many hundreds of People, who actually give Testimony to the Truth of it. But I wou’d only ask, Whether there were present, among those hundreds, any one Person, who having never been of their Sect, or addicted to their Way, will give the same Testimony with them? I must not be contented to ask, Whether such a one had been wholly free of that particular Enthusiasm? but, Whether, before that time, he was esteem’d of so sound a Judgment, and clear a Head, as to be wholly free of Melancholy, and in all likelihood incapable of all Enthusiasm besides? For otherwise, the Panick may have been caught; the Evidence of the Senses lost, as in a Dream; and the Imagination so inflam’d, as in a moment to have burnt up every Particle of Judgment and Reason. The combustible Matters lie prepar’d within, and ready to take fire at a Spark; but chiefly in a Multitude seiz’d with the same Spirit. No wonder if the Blaze rises so of a sudden; when innumerable Eyes glow with the Passion, and heaving Breasts are labouring with Inspiration: when not the Aspect only, but the very Breath and Exhalations of Men are infectious, and the inspiring Disease imparts it-self by insensible Transpiration. I am not a Divine good enough to resolve what Spirit that was which prov’d so catching among the antient Prophets, that even the profane Saul was taken by it. But I learn from Holy Scripture, that there was the evil, as well as the good Spirit of Prophecy. And I find by present Experience, as well as by all Historys, Sacred and Profane, that the Operation of this Spirit is every where the same, as to the bodily Organs.
A Gentleman who has writ lately in defence of reviv’d Prophecy, and has since fallen himself into the prophetick Extasys, tells us, “That the antient Prophets had the Spirit of God upon them under Extasy, with divers strange Gestures of Body denominating them Madmen, (or Enthusiasts) as appears evidently, says he, in the Instances of Balaam, Saul, David, Ezekiel, Daniel,&c.” And he proceeds to justify this by the Practice of the Apostolick Times, and by the Regulation which the Apostle himself applies to these seemingly irregular Gifts, so frequent and ordinary (as our Author pretends) in the primitive Church, on the first rise and spreading of Christianity. But I leave it to him to make the Resemblance as well as he can between his own and the Apostolick way. I only know, that the Symptoms he describes, and which himself (poor Gentleman!) labours under, are as Heathenish as he can possibly pretend them to be Christian. And when I saw him lately under an Agitation (as they call it) uttering Prophecy in a pompous Latin Style, of which, out of his Extasy, it seems, he is wholly incapable; it brought into my mind the Latin Poet’s Description of the Sibyl, whose Agonys were so perfectly like these.
Immediately her face changes, her colour flies, her hair falls in disorder, her breast heaves and her heart swells with mad passion; greater her stature seems, and her voice not mortal, for she is breathed upon by the god now imminent.
And again presently after:
The prophetess rages monstrously in the cave, seeking to cast from her breast the mighty God; so much the more he compels the rabid mouth, ruling the wild heart, and moulds her by his force.
Which is the very Style of our experienc’d Author. “For the Inspir’d (says he) undergo a Probation, wherein the Spirit, by frequent Agitations, forms the Organs, ordinarily for a Month or two before Utterance.”
The Roman Historian, speaking of a most horrible Enthusiasm which broke out in Rome long before his days, describes this Spirit of Prophecy; Men vaticinate as if out of their minds, with fanatical convulsions of the body. The detestable things which are further related of these Enthusiasts, I wou’d not willingly transcribe: but the Senate’s mild Decree in so execrable a Case, I can’t omit copying; being satisfy’d, that tho your Lordship has read it before now, you can read it again and again with admiration:
As to the future, the Senate enacted that if any one should believe that such a cult was religiously necessary to him, and that he could not without irreligion and impiety forego it, he should inform the praetor of the city, who should consult the Senate. If, with not less than a hundred present, the Senate should give permission, the rites might be performed; but there should not be more than five assisting at the sacrifice, nor should there be any common fund, nor any master of the rites, nor any priest.
So necessary it is to give way to this Distemper of Enthusiasm, that even that Philosopher who bent the whole Force of his Philosophy against Superstition, appears to have left room for visionary Fancy, and to have indirectly tolerated Enthusiasm. For it is hard to imagine, that one who had so little religious Faith as Epicurus, shou’d have so vulgar a Credulity, as to believe those accounts of Armys and Castles in the Air, and such visionary Phaenomena. Yet he allows them; and then thinks to solve ’em by his Effluvia, and Aerial Looking-glasses, and I know not what other stuff: which his Latin Poet, however, sets off beautifully, as he does all.
Many simulacra of things, thin, manifold in number and form, wander about in all manner of ways, which when in the air they meet, easily conjoin, like cobwebs or gold-leaf. . . . Thus we see Centaurs and limbs of Scylla, and shapes of dogs like Cerberus, and the phantasms of those passed away whose bones the earth enfolds; since everywhere float simulacra of every kind, partly those spontaneously shaped by the air within itself, partly those thrown off by various things.
’Twas a sign this Philosopher believ’d there was a good Stock of Visionary Spirit originally in Human Nature. He was so satisfy’d that Men were inclin’d to see Visions, that rather than they shou’d go without, he chose to make ’em to their hand. Notwithstanding he deny’d the Principles of Religion to be natural, he was forc’d tacitly to allow there was a wondrous Disposition in Mankind towards Supernatural Objects; and that if these Ideas were vain, they were yet in a manner innate, or such as Men were really born to, and cou’d hardly by any means avoid. From which Concession, a Divine, methinks, might raise a good Argument against him, for the Truth as well as the Usefulness of Religion. But so it is: whether the Matter of Apparition be true or false, the Symptoms are the same, and the Passion of equal force in the Person who is Vision-struck. The Lymphatici of the Latins were the Nympholepti of the Greeks. They were Persons said to have seen some Species of Divinity, as either some rural Deity, or Nymph; which threw them into such Transports as overcame their Reason. The Extasys express’d themselves outwardly in Quakings, Tremblings, Tossings of the Head and Limbs, Agitations, and (as Livy calls them) Fanatical Throws or Convulsions, extemporary Prayer, Prophecy, Singing, and the like. All Nations have their Lymphaticks of some kind or another; and all Churches, Heathen as well as Christian, have had their Complaints against Fanaticism.
One wou’d think the Antients imagin’d this Disease had some relation to that which they call’d Hydrophoby. Whether the antient Lymphaticks had any way like that of biting, to communicate the Rage of their Distemper, I can’t so positively determine. But certain Fanaticks there have been since the time of the Antients, who have had a most prosperous Faculty of communicating the Appetite of the Teeth. For since first the snappish Spirit got up in Religion, all Sects have been at it, as the saying is, Tooth and Nail; and are never better pleas’d, than in worrying one another without mercy.
So far indeed the innocent kind of Fanaticism extends it-self, that when the Party is struck by the Apparition, there follows always an Itch of imparting it, and kindling the same Fire in other Breasts. For thus Poets are Fanaticks too. And thus Horace either is, or feigns himself Lymphatick, and shews what an Effect the Vision of the Nymphs and Bacchus had on him.
Bacchus have I seen in far-off stony places teaching his songs (aftercomers, believe me!) and the nymphs conning them. . . . Evae! my heart trembles with the still-felt fear, and wildly maddens (lymphatur) in a breast filled with Bacchus. [The accepted reading is laetatur, “exults.”]
LYMPHATUR—————as Heinsius reads.
No Poet (as I ventur’d to say at first to your Lordship) can do any thing great in his own way, without the Imagination or Supposition of a Divine Presence, which may raise him to some degree of this Passion we are speaking of. Even the coldLucretius makes use of Inspiration, when he writes against it; and is forc’d to raise an Apparition of Nature, in a Divine Form, to animate and conduct him in his very Work of degrading Nature, and despoiling her of all her seeming Wisdom and Divinity.
Nutrient Venus, who under the gliding signs of heaven fillest with life the ship-bearing sea and the fruitful lands. . . . Since thou alone rulest the nature of things, nor without thee ariseth aught to the holy frontiers of light, nor groweth anything joyous or meet for love, thee would I have for helper in framing the song I seek to build for this our son of the Memmian line.
THE only thing, my Lord, I wou’d infer from all this, is, that Enthusiasm is wonderfully powerful and extensive; that it is a matter of nice Judgment, and the hardest thing in the world to know fully and distinctly; since even Atheism is not exempt from it. For, as some have well remark’d, there have been Enthusiastical Atheists. Nor can Divine Inspiration, by its outward Marks, be easily distinguish’d from it. For Inspiration is a real feeling of the Divine Presence, and Enthusiasm a false one. But the Passion they raise is much alike. For when the Mind is taken up in Vision, and fixes its view either on any real Object, or mere Specter of Divinity; when it sees, or thinks it sees any thing prodigious, and more than human; its Horror, Delight, Confusion, Fear, Admiration, or whatever Passion belongs to it, or is uppermost on this occasion, will have something vast, immane, and (as Painters say) beyond Life. And this is what gave occasion to the name of Fanaticism, as it was us’d by the Antients in its original Sense, for an Apparition transporting the Mind.
Something there will be of Extravagance and Fury, when the Ideas or Images receiv’d are too big for the narrow human Vessel to contain. So that Inspiration may be justly call’d DivineEnthusiasm: For the Word it-self signifies Divine Presence, and was made use of by the Philosopher whom the earliest Christian Fathers call’d Divine, to express whatever was sublime in human Passions. This was the Spirit he allotted to Heroes, Statesmen, Poets, Orators, Musicians, and even Philosophers themselves. Nor can we, of our own accord, forbear ascribing to a noble Enthusiasm, whatever is greatly perform’d by any of These. So that almost all of us know something of this Principle. But to know it as we shou’d do, and discern it in its several kinds, both in our-selves, and others; this is the great Work, and by this means alone we can hope to avoid Delusion. For to judg the Spirits whether they are of God, we must antecedently judg our own Spirit; whether it be of Reason and sound Sense; whether it be fit to judg at all, by being sedate, cool, and impartial; free of every biassing Passion, every giddy Vapor, or melancholy Fume. This is the first Knowledg and previous Judgment: “To understand our-selves, and know what Spirit we are of.” Afterwards we may judg the Spirit in others, consider what their personal Merit is, andprove the Validity of their Testimony by the Solidity of their Brain. By this means we may prepare our-selves with some Antidote against Enthusiasm. And this is what I have dar’d affirm is best perform’d by keeping to Good Humour. For otherwise the Remedy it-self may turn to the Disease.
And now, my Lord, having, after all, in some measure justify’d Enthusiasm, and own’d the Word; if I appear extravagant, in addressing to you after the manner I have done, you must allow me to plead an Impulse. You must suppose me (as with truth you may) most passionately your’s; and with that Kindness which is natural to you on other occasions, you must tolerate your Enthusiastick Friend, who, excepting only in the case of this over-forward Zeal, must ever appear with the highest Respect,
ON THE FREEDOM
WIT and HUMOUR.
In a LETTER to a Friend.
On the one side a wolf attacks, on the other a dog.
Hor. Sat. 2. Lib. 2.
Printed first in the Year M.DCC.IX.
I HAVE been considering (my Friend!) what your Fancy was, to express such a surprize as you did the other day, when I happen’d to speak to you in commendation of Raillery. Was it possible you shou’d suppose me so grave a Man, as to dislike all Conversation of this kind? Or were you afraid I shou’d not stand the trial, if you put me to it, by making the experiment in my own Case?
I must confess, you had reason enough for your Caution; if you cou’d imagine me at the bottom so true a Zealot, as not to bear the least Raillery on my own Opinions. ’Tis the Case, I know, with many. Whatever they think grave or solemn, they suppose must never be treated out of a grave and solemn way: Tho what Another thinks so, they can be contented to treat otherwise; and are forward to try the Edge of Ridicule against any Opinions besides their own.
The Question is, Whether this be fair or no? and, Whether it be not just and reasonable, to make as free with our own Opinions, as with those of other People? For to be sparing in this case, may be look’d upon as a piece of Selfishness. We may be charg’d perhaps with wilful Ignorance and blind Idolatry, for having taken Opinions upon Trust, and consecrated in our-selves certain Idol-Notions, which we will never suffer to be unveil’d, or seen in open light. They may perhaps be Monsters, and not Divinitys, or Sacred Truths, which are kept thus choicely, in some dark Corner of our Minds: The Specters may impose on us, whilst we refuse to turn ’em every way, and view their Shapes and Complexions in every light. For that which can be shewn only in a certain Light, is questionable. Truth, ’tis suppos’d, may bear all Lights: and one of those principal Lights or natural Mediums, by which Things are to be view’d, in order to a thorow Recognition, is Ridicule it-self, or that Manner of Proof by which we discern whatever is liable to just Raillery in any Subject. So much, at least, is allow’d by All, who at any time appeal to this Criterion. The gravest Gentlemen, even in the gravest Subjects, are suppos’d to acknowledg this: and can have no Right, ’tis thought, to deny others the Freedom of this Appeal; whilst they are free to censure like other Men, and in their gravest Arguments make no scruple to ask, Is it not Ridiculous?
Of this Affair, therefore, I design you shou’d know fully what my Sentiments are. And by this means you will be able to judg of me; whether I was sincere the other day in the Defence of Raillery, and can continue still to plead for those ingenious Friends of ours, who are often censur’d for their Humour of this kind, and for the Freedom they take in such an airy way of Conversation and Writing.
IN GOOD earnest, when one considers what use is sometimes made of this Species of Wit, and to what an excess it has risen of late, in some Characters of the Age; one may be startled a little, and in doubt, what to think of the Practice, or whither this rallying Humour will at length carry us. It has pass’d from the Men of Pleasure to the Men of Business. Politicians have been infected with it: and the grave Affairs of State have been treated with an Air of Irony and Banter. The ablest Negotiators have been known the notablest Buffoons: the most celebrated Authors, the greatest Masters of Burlesque.
There is indeed a kind of defensive Raillery (if I may so call it) which I am willing enough to allow in Affairs of whatever kind; when the Spirit of Curiosity wou’d force a Discovery of more Truth than can conveniently be told. For we can never do more Injury to Truth, than by discovering too much of it, on some occasions. ’Tis the same with Understandings as with Eyes: To such a certain Size and Make just so much Light is necessary, and no more. Whatever is beyond, brings Darkness and Confusion.
’Tis real Humanity and Kindness, to hide strong Truths from tender Eyes. And to do this by a pleasant Amusement, is easier and civiller, than by a harsh Denial, or remarkable Reserve. But to go about industriously to confound Men, in a mysterious manner, and to make advantage or draw pleasure from that Perplexity they are thrown into, by such uncertain Talk; is as unhandsom in a way of Raillery, as when done with the greatest Seriousness, or in the most solemn way of Deceit. It may be necessary, as well now as heretofore, for wise Men to speak in Parables, and with a double Meaning, that the Enemy may be amus’d, and they only who have Ears to hear, may hear. But ’tis certainly a mean, impotent, and dull sort of Wit, which amuses all alike, and leaves the most sensible Man, and even a Friend, equally in doubt, and at a loss to understand what one’s real Mind is, upon any Subject.
This is that gross sort of Raillery, which is so offensive in good Company. And indeed there is as much difference between one sort and another, as between Fair-dealing and Hypocrisy; or between the genteelest Wit, and the most scurrilous Buffoonery. But by Freedom of Conversation this illiberal kind of Wit will lose its Credit. For Wit is its own Remedy. Liberty and Commerce bring it to its true Standard. The only danger is, the laying an Embargo. The same thing happens here, as in the Case of Trade. Impositions and Restrictions reduce it to a low Ebb: Nothing is so advantageous to it as a Free-Port.
We have seen in our own time the Decline and Ruin of a false sort of Wit, which so much delighted our Ancestors, that their Poems and Plays, as well as Sermons, were full of it. All Humour had something of the Quibble. The very Language of the Court was Punning. But ’tis now banish’d the Town, and all good Company: There are only some few Footsteps of it in the Country; and it seems at last confin’d to the Nurserys of Youth, as the chief Entertainment of Pedants and their Pupils. And thus in other respects Wit will mend upon our hands, and Humour will refine it-self; if we take care not to tamper with it, and bring it under Constraint, by severe Usage and rigorous Prescriptions. All Politeness is owing to Liberty. We polish one another, and rub off our Corners and rough Sides by a sort of amicable Collision. To restrain this, is inevitably to bring a Rust upon Mens Understandings. ’Tis a destroying of Civility, Good Breeding, and even Charity it-self, under pretence of maintaining it.
TO describe true Raillery wou’d be as hard a matter, and perhaps as little to the purpose, as to define Good Breeding. None can understand the Speculation, besides those who have the Practice. Yet every-one thinks himself well-bred: and the formallest Pedant imagines he can railly with a good Grace and Humour. I have known some of those grave Gentlemen undertake to correct an Author for defending the Use of Raillery, who at the same time have upon every turn made use of that Weapon, tho they were naturally so very aukard at it. And this I believe may be observ’d in the Case of many Zealots, who have taken upon ’em to answer our modern Free-Writers. The Tragical Gentlemen, with the grim Aspect and Mein of true Inquisitors, have but an ill Grace when they vouchsafe to quit their Austerity, and be jocose and pleasant with an Adversary, whom they wou’d chuse to treat in a very different manner. For to do ’em Justice, had they their Wills, I doubt not but their Conduct and Mein wou’d be pretty much of a-piece. They wou’d, in all probability, soon quit their Farce, and make a thorow Tragedy. But at present there is nothing so ridiculous as this Janus-Face of Writers, who with one Countenance force a Smile, and with another show nothing beside Rage and Fury. Having enter’d the Lists, and agreed to the fair Laws of Combat by Wit and Argument, they have no sooner prov’d their Weapon, than you hear ’em crying aloud for help, and delivering over to the Secular Arm.
There can’t be a more preposterous Sight than an Executioner and a Merry-Andrew acting their Part upon the same Stage. Yet I am persuaded any-one will find this to be the real Picture of certain modern Zealots in their Controversial Writings. they are no more Masters of Gravity, than they are of Good Humour. The first always runs into harsh Severity, and the latter into an aukard Buffoonery. And thus between Anger and Pleasure, Zeal and Drollery, their Writing has much such a Grace as the Play of humoursom Children, who, at the same instant, are both peevish and wanton, and can laugh and cry almost in one and the same breath.
How agreeable such Writings are like to prove, and of what effect towards the winning over or convincing those who are suppos’d to be in Error, I need not go about to explain. Nor can I wonder, on this account, to hear those publick Lamentations of Zealots, that whilst the Books of their Adversarys are so current, their Answers to ’em can hardly make their way into the World, or be taken the least notice of. Pedantry and Bigotry are Mill-stones able to sink the best Book, which carries the least part of their dead weight. The Temper of the Pedagogue sutes not with the Age. And the World, however it may be taught, will not be tutor’d. If a Philosopher speaks, Men hear him willingly, while he keeps to his Philosophy. So is a Christian heard, while he keeps to his profess’d Charity and Meekness. In a Gentleman we allow of Pleasantry and Raillery, as being manag’d always with good Breeding, and never gross or clownish. But if a mere Scholastick, intrenching upon all these Characters, and writing as it were by Starts and Rebounds from one of these to another, appears upon the whole as little able to keep the Temper of Christianity, as to use the Reason of a Philosopher, or the Raillery of a Man of Breeding; what wonder is it, if the monstrous Product of such a jumbled Brain be ridiculous to the World?
If you think (my Friend!) that by this Description I have done wrong to these Zealot-Writers in religious Controversy; read only a few Pages in any one of ’em, (even where the Contest is not Abroad, but within their own Pale) and then pronounce.
BUT now that I have said thus much concerning Authors and Writings, you shall hear my Thoughts, as you have desir’d, upon the Subject of Conversation, and particularly a late One of a free kind, which you remember I was present at, with some Friends of yours, whom you fansy’d I shou’d in great Gravity have condemn’d.
’Twas, I must own, a very diverting one, and perhaps not the less so, for ending as abruptly as it did, and in such a sort of Confusion, as almost brought to nothing whatever had been advanc’d in the Discourse before. Some Particulars of this Conversation may not perhaps be so proper to commit to Paper. ’Tis enough that I put you in mind of the Conversation in general. A great many fine Schemes, ’tis true, were destroy’d; many grave Reasonings overturn’d: but this being done without offence to the Partys concern’d, and with improvement to the good Humour of the Company, it set the Appetite the keener to such Conversations. And I am persuaded, that had Reason herself been to judg of her own Interest, she wou’d have thought she receiv’d more advantage in the main from that easy and familiar way, than from the usual stiff Adherence to a particular Opinion.
But perhaps you may still be in the same humour of not believing me in earnest. You may continue to tell me, I affect to be paradoxical, in commending a Conversation as advantageous to Reason, which ended in such a total Uncertainty of what Reason had seemingly so well establish’d.
To this I answer, That according to the Notion I have of Reason, neither the written Treatises of the Learned, nor the set Discourses of the Eloquent, are able of themselves to teach the use of it. ’Tis the Habit alone of Reasoning, which can make a Reasoner. And Men can never be better invited to the Habit, than when they find Pleasure in it. A Freedom of Raillery, a Liberty in decent Language to question every thing, and an Allowance of unravelling or refuting any Argument, without offence to the Arguer, are the only Terms which can render such speculative Conversations any way agreeable. For to say truth, they have been render’d burdensom to Mankind by the Strictness of the Laws prescrib’d to ’em, and by the prevailing Pedantry and Bigotry of those who reign in ’em, and assume to themselves to be Dictators in these Provinces.
Must I always be listener only? is as natural a Case of Complaint in Divinity, in Morals, and in Philosophy, as it was of old, the Satirist’s, in Poetry. Vicissitude is a mighty Law of Discourse, and mightily long’d for by Mankind. In matter of Reason, more is done in a minute or two, by way of Question and Reply, than by a continu’d Discourse of whole Hours. Orations are fit only to move the Passions: And the Power of Declamation is to terrify, exalt, ravish, or delight, rather than satisfy or instruct. A free Conference is a close Fight. The other way, in comparison to it, is merely a Brandishing, or Beating the Air. To be obstructed therefore and manacled in Conferences, and to be confin’d to hear Orations on certain Subjects, must needs give us a Distaste, and render the Subjects so manag’d, as disagreeable as the Managers. Men had rather reason upon Trifles, so they may reason freely, and without the Imposition of Authority, than on the usefullest and best Subjects in the world, where they are held under a Restraint and Fear.
Nor is it a wonder that Men are generally such faint Reasoners, and care so little to argue strictly on any trivial Subject in Company; when they dare so little exert their Reason in greater matters, and are forc’d to argue lamely, where they have need of the greatest Activity and Strength. The same thing therefore happens here as in strong and healthy Bodys, which are debar’d their natural Exercise, and confin’d in a narrow Space. They are forc’d to use odd Gestures and Contortions. They have a sort of Action, and move still, tho with the worst Grace imaginable. For the animal Spirits in such sound and active Limbs cannot lie dead, or without Employment. And thus the natural free Spirits of ingenious Men, if imprison’d and controul’d, will find out other ways of Motion to relieve themselves in their Constraint: and whether it be in Burlesque, Mimickry or Buffoonery, they will be glad at any rate to vent themselves, and be reveng’d on their Constrainers.
If Men are forbid to speak their minds seriously on certain Subjects, they will do it ironically. If they are forbid to speak at all upon such Subjects, or if they find it really dangerous to do so; they will then redouble their Disguise, involve themselves in Mysteriousness, and talk so as hardly to be understood, or at least not plainly interpreted, by those who are dispos’d to do ’em a mischief. And thus Raillery is brought more in fashion, and runs into an Extreme. ’Tis the persecuting Spirit has rais’d the bantering one: And want of Liberty may account for want of a true Politeness, and for the Corruption or wrong Use of Pleasantry and Humour.
If in this respect we strain the just measure of what we call Urbanity, and are apt sometimes to take a Buffooning Rustick Air, we may thank the ridiculous Solemnity and sour Humour of our Pedagogues: or rather, they may thank themselves, if they in particular meet with the heaviest of this kind of Treatment. For it will naturally fall heaviest, where the Constraint has been the severest. The greater the Weight is, the bitterer will be the Satir. The higher the Slavery, the more exquisite the Buffoonery.
That this is really so, may appear by looking on those Countrys where the spiritual Tyranny is highest. For the greatest of Buffoons are the Italians: and in their Writings, in their freer sort of Conversations, on their Theatres, and in their Streets, Buffoonery and Burlesque are in the highest vogue. ’Tis the only manner in which the poor cramp’d Wretches can discharge a free Thought. We must yield to ’em the Superiority in this sort of Wit. For what wonder is it if we, who have more of Liberty, have less Dexterity in that egregious way of Raillery and Ridicule?
’TIS for this reason, I verily believe, that the Antients discover so little of this Spirit, and that there is hardly such a thing found as mere Burlesque in any Authors of the politer Ages. The manner indeed in which they treated the very gravest Subjects, was somewhat different from that of our days. Their Treatises were generally in a free and familiar Style. They chose to give us the Representation of real Discourse and Converse, by treating their Subjects in the way of Dialogue and free Debate. The Scene was commonly laid at Table, or in the publick Walks or Meeting-places; and the usual Wit and Humour of their real Discourses appear’d in those of their own composing. And this was fair. For without Wit and Humour, Reason can hardly have its proof, or be distinguish’d. The Magisterial Voice and high Strain of the Pedagogue, commands Reverence and Awe. ’Tis of admirable use to keep Understandings at a distance, and out of reach. The other Manner, on the contrary, gives the fairest hold, and suffers an Antagonist to use his full Strength hand to hand, upon even ground.
’Tis not to be imagin’d what advantage the Reader has, when he can thus cope with his Author, who is willing to come on a fair Stage with him, and exchange the Tragick Buskin for an easier and more natural Gate and Habit. Grimace and Tone are mighty Helps to Imposture. And many a formal Piece of Sophistry holds proof under a severe Brow, which wou’d not pass under an easy one. ’Twas the Saying of an antient Sage, “That Humour was the only Test of Gravity; and Gravity, of Humour. For a Subject which wou’d not bear Raillery, was suspicious; and a Jest which wou’d not bear a serious Examination, was certainly false Wit.”
But some Gentlemen there are so full of the Spirit of Bigotry, and false Zeal, that when they hear Principles examin’d, Sciences and Arts inquir’d into, and Matters of Importance treated with this frankness of Humour, they imagine presently that all Professions must fall to the ground, all Establishments come to ruin, and nothing orderly or decent be left standing in the world. They fear, or pretend to fear, that Religion it-self will be endanger’d by this free way; and are therefore as much alarm’d at this Liberty in private Conversation, and under prudent Management, as if it were grossly us’d in publick Company, or before the solemnest Assembly. But the Case, as I apprehend it, is far different. For you are to remember (my Friend!) that I am writing to you in defence only of the Liberty of the Club, and of that sort of Freedom which is taken amongst Gentlemen and Friends, who know one another perfectly well. And that ’tis natural for me to defend Liberty with this restriction, you may infer from the very Notion I have of Liberty it-self.
’Tis surely a Violation of the Freedom of publick Assemblys, for any one to take the Chair, who is neither call’d nor invited to it. To start Questions, or manage Debates, which offend the publick Ear, is to be wanting in that Respect which is due to common Society. Such Subjects shou’d either not be treated at all in publick, or in such a manner as to occasion no Scandal or Disturbance. The Publick is not, on any account, to be laugh’d at, to its face; or so reprehended for its Follys, as to make it think it-self contemn’d. And what is contrary to good Breeding, is in this respect as contrary to Liberty. It belongs to Men of slavish Principles, to affect a Superiority over the Vulgar, and to despise the Multitude. The Lovers of Mankind respect and honour Conventions and Societys of Men. And in mix’d Company, and Places where Men are met promiscuously on account of Diversion or Affairs, ’tis an Imposition and Hardship to force ’em to hear what they dislike, and to treat of Matters in a Dialect, which many who are present have perhaps been never us’d to. ’Tis a breach of the Harmony of publick Conversation, to take things in such a Key, as is above the common Reach, puts others to silence, and robs them of their Privilege of Turn. But as to private Society, and what passes in select Companys, where Friends meet knowingly, and with that very design of exercising their Wit, and looking freely into all Subjects; I see no pretence for any one to be offended at the way of Raillery and Humour, which is the very Life of such Conversations; the only thing which makes good Company, and frees it from the Formality of Business, and the Tutorage and Dogmaticalness of the Schools.
TO return therefore to our Argument. If the best of our modern Conversations are apt to run chiefly upon Trifles; if rational Discourses (especially those of a deeper Speculation) have lost their credit, and are in disgrace because of their Formality; there is reason for more allowance in the way of Humour and Gaiety. An easier Method of treating these Subjects, will make ’em more agreeable and familiar. To dispute about ’em, will be the same as about other Matters. They need not spoil good Company, or take from the Ease or Pleasure of a polite Conversation. And the oftner these Conversations are renew’d, the better will be their Effect. We shall grow better Reasoners, by reasoning pleasantly, and at our ease; taking up, or laying down these Subjects, as we fansy. So that, upon the whole, I must own to you, I cannot be scandaliz’d at the Raillery you took notice of, nor at the Effect it had upon our Company. The Humour was agreeable, and the pleasant Confusion which the Conversation ended in, is at this time as pleasant to me upon Reflection; when I consider, that instead of being discourag’d from resuming the Debate, we were so much the readier to meet again at any time, and dispute upon the same Subjects, even with more ease and satisfaction than before.
We had been a long while entertain’d, you know, upon the Subject of Morality and Religion. And amidst the different Opinions started and maintain’d by several of the Partys with great Life and Ingenuity; one or other wou’d every now and then take the liberty to appeal to Common Sense. Every-one allow’d the Appeal, and was willing to stand the trial. No-one but was assur’d Common Sense wou’d justify him. But when Issue was join’d, and the Cause examin’d at the Bar, there cou’d be no Judgment given. The Partys however were not less forward in renewing their Appeal, on the very next occasion which presented. No-one wou’d offer to call the Authority of the Court in question; till a Gentleman, whose good Understanding was never yet brought in doubt, desir’d the Company, very gravely, that they wou’d tell him what Common Sense was.
“If by the word Sense we were to understand Opinion and Judgment, and by the word common the Generality or any considerable part of Mankind; ’twou’d be hard, he said, to discover where the Subject of common Sense cou’d lie. For that which was according to the Sense of one part of Mankind, was against the Sense of another. And if the Majority were to determine common Sense, it wou’d change as often as Men chang’d. That which was according to common Sense to day, wou’d be the contrary to morrow, or soon after.”
But notwithstanding the different Judgments of Mankind in most Subjects, there were some however in which ’twas suppos’d they all agreed, and had the same Thoughts in common.—The Question was ask’d still, Where? “For whatever was of any moment, ’twas suppos’d, might be reduc’d under the head of Religion, Policy, or Morals.
“Of the Differences in Religion there was no occasion to speak; the Case was so fully known to all, and so feelingly understood by Christians, in particular, among themselves. They had made sound Experiment upon one another; each Party in their turn. No Endeavours had been wanting on the side of any particular Sect. Which-ever chanc’d to have the Power, fail’d not of putting all means in execution, to make their private Sense the publick one. But all in vain. Common Sense was as hard still to determine as Catholick or Orthodox. What with one was inconceivable Mystery, to another was of easy Comprehension. What to one was Absurdity, to another was Demonstration.
“As for Policy; What Sense or whose cou’d be call’d common, was equally a question. If plain British or Dutch Sense were right, Turkish and French Sense must certainly be very wrong. And as mere Nonsense as Passive-Obedience seem’d; we found it to be the common Sense of a great Party amongst our-selves, a greater Party in Europe, and perhaps the greatest Part of all the World besides.
“As for Morals; The difference, if possible, was still wider. For without considering the Opinions and Customs of the many barbarous and illiterate Nations; we saw that even the few who had attain’d to riper Letters, and to Philosophy, cou’d never as yet agree on one and the same System, or acknowledg the same moral Principles. And some even of our most admir’d modern Philosophers had fairly told us, that Virtue and Vice had, after all, no other Law or Measure, than mere Fashion and Vogue.”
It might have appear’d perhaps unfair in our Friends, had they treated only the graver Subjects in this manner; and suffer’d the lighter to escape. For in the gayer Part of Life, our Follys are as solemn as in the most serious. The fault is, we carry the Laugh but half-way. The false Earnest is ridicul’d, but the false Jest passes secure, and becomes as errant Deceit as the other. Our Diversions, our Plays, our Amusements become solemn. We dream of Happinesses, and Possessions, and Enjoyments, in which we have no Understanding, no Certainty; and yet we pursue these as the best known and most certain things in the World. There is nothing so foolish and deluding as a partial Scepticism. For whilst the Doubt is cast only on one side, the Certainty grows so much stronger on the other. Whilst only one Face of Folly appears ridiculous, the other grows more solemn and deceiving.
But ’twas not thus with our Friends. They seem’d better Criticks, and more ingenious, and fair in their way of questioning receiv’d Opinions, and exposing the Ridicule of Things. And if you will allow me to carry on their Humour, I will venture to make the Experiment thro’out; and try what certain Knowledg or Assurance of things may be recover’d, in that very way, by which all Certainty, you thought, was lost, and an endless Scepticism introduc’d.
IF a Native of Ethiopia were on a sudden transported into Europe, and placed either at Paris or Venice at a time of Carnival, when the general Face of Mankind was disguis’d, and almost every Creature wore a Mask; ’tis probable he wou’d for some time be at a stand, before he discover’d the Cheat: not imagining that a whole People cou’d be so fantastical, as upon Agreement, at an appointed time, to transform themselves by a Variety of Habits, and make it a solemn Practice to impose on one another, by this universal Confusion of Characters and Persons. Tho he might at first perhaps have look’d on this with a serious eye, it wou’d be hardly possible for him to hold his Countenance, when he had perceiv’d what was carrying on. The Europeans, on their side, might laugh perhaps at this Simplicity. But our Ethiopian wou’d certainly laugh with better reason. ’Tis easy to see which of the two wou’d be ridiculous. For he who laughs, and is himself ridiculous, bears a double share of Ridicule. However, shou’d it so happen, that in the Transport of Ridicule, our Ethiopian, having his Head still running upon Masks, and knowing nothing of the fair Complexion and common Dress of the Europeans, shou’d upon the sight of a natural Face and Habit, laugh just as heartily as before; wou’d not he in his turn become ridiculous, by carrying the Jest too far; when by a silly Presumption he took Nature for mere Art, and mistook perhaps a Man of Sobriety and Sense for one of those ridiculous Mummers?
There was a time when Men were accountable only for their Actions and Behaviour. Their Opinions were left to themselves. They had liberty to differ in these, as in their Faces. Every one took the Air and Look which was natural to him. But in process of time, it was thought decent to mend Mens Countenances, and render their intellectual Complexions uniform and of a sort. Thus the Magistrate became a Dresser, and in his turn wasdress’d too, as he deserv’d; when he had given up his Power to a new Order of Tire-Men. But tho in this extraordinary conjuncture ’twas agreed that there was only one certain and true Dress, one single peculiar Air, to which it was necessary all People shou’d conform; yet the misery was, that neither the Magistrate nor the Tire-Men themselves, cou’d resolve, which of the various Modes was the exact true-one. Imagine now, what the Effect of this must needs be; when Men became persecuted thus on every side about their Air and Feature, and were put to their shifts how to adjust and compose their Mein, according to the right Mode; when a thousand Models, a thousand Patterns of Dress were current, and alter’d every now and then, upon occasion, according to Fashion and the Humour of the Times. Judg whether Mens Countenances were not like to grow constrain’d, and the natural Visage of Mankind, by this Habit, distorted, convuls’d, and render’d hardly knowable.
But as unnatural or artificial as the general Face of Things may have been render’d by this unhappy Care of Dress, and Over-Tenderness for the Safety of Complexions; we must not therefore imagine that all Faces are alike besmear’d or plaister’d. All is not Fucus, or mere Varnish. Nor is the Face of Truth less fair and beautiful, for all the counterfeit Vizards which have been put upon her. We must remember the Carnival, and what the Occasion has been of this wild Concourse and Medley; who were the Institutors of it; and to what purpose Men were thus set a-work and amus’d. We may laugh sufficiently at the original Cheat; and, if pity will suffer us, may make our-selves diversion enough with the Folly and Madness of those who are thus caught, and practis’d on, by these Impostures. But we must remember withal our Ethiopian, and beware, lest by taking plain Nature for a Vizard, we become more ridiculous than the People whom we ridicule. Now if a Jest or Ridicule thus strain’d, be capable of leading the Judgment so far astray; ’tis probable that an Excess of Fear or Horror may work the same Effect.
Had it been your fortune (my Friend!) to have liv’d in Asia at the time when the Magi by an egregious Imposture got possession of the Empire; no doubt you wou’d have had a detestation of the Act: And perhaps the very Persons of the Men might have grown so odious to you, that after all the Cheats and Abuses they had committed, you might have seen ’em dispatch’d with as relentless an eye as our later European Ancestors saw the Destruction of a like politick Body of Conjurers, the Knights Templars; who were almost become an Over-Match for the civil Sovereign. Your Indignation perhaps might have carry’d you to propose the razing all Monuments and Memorials of these Magicians. You might have resolv’d not to leave so much as their Houses standing. But if it had happen’d that these Magicians, in the time of their Dominion, had made any Collection of Books, or compil’d any themselves, in which they had treated of Philosophy, or Morals, or any other Science, or Part of Learning; wou’d you have carry’d your Resentment so far as to have extirpated these also, and condemn’d every Opinion or Doctrine they had espous’d, for no other reason than merely because they had espous’d it? Hardly a Scythian, a Tartar, or a Goth, wou’d act or reason so absurdly. Much less wou’d you (my Friend!) have carry’d on this Magophony, or Priest-Massacre, with such a barbarous Zeal. For, in good earnest, to destroy a Philosophy in hatred to a Man, implies as errant a Tartar-Notion, as to destroy or murder a Man in order to plunder him of his Wit, and get the inheritance of his Understanding.
I must confess indeed, that had all the Institutions, Statutes, and Regulations of this antient Hierarchy, resembled the fundamental one, of the Order it-self, they might with a great deal of Justice have been suppress’d: For one can’t without some abhorrence read that Law of theirs;
For a Magus must be born of a mother and her son.
But the Conjurers (as we’ll rather suppose) having consider’d that they ought in their Principle to appear as fair as possible to the World, the better to conceal their Practice, found it highly for their Interest to espouse some excellent moral Rules, and establish the very best Maxims of this kind. They thought it for their advantage perhaps, on their first setting out, to recommend the greatest Purity of Religion, the greatest Integrity of Life and Manners. They may perhaps too, in general, have preach’d up Charity and Good-will. They may have set to view the fairest Face of human Nature; and, together with their By-Laws, and political Institutions, have interwove the honestest Morals and best Doctrine in the World.
How therefore shou’d we have behav’d our-selves in this Affair? How shou’d we have carry’d our-selves towards this Order of Men, at the time of the Discovery of their Cheat, and Ruin of their Empire? Shou’d we have fall’n to work instantly with their Systems, struck at their Opinions and Doctrines without distinction, and erected a contrary Philosophy in their teeth? Shou’d we have flown at every religious and moral Principle, deny’d every natural and social Affection, and render’d Men as much Wolves as was possible to one another, whilst we describ’d ’em such; and endeavour’d to make them see themselves by far more monstrous and corrupt, than with the worst Intentions it was ever possible for the worst of ’em to become?—This, you’ll say, doubtless wou’d have been a very preposterous Part, and cou’d never have been acted by other than mean Spirits, such as had been held in awe, and overfrighted by the Magi.
And yet an able and witty Philosopher of our Nation was, we know, of late Years, so possess’d with a Horror of this kind, that both with respect to Politicks and Morals, he directly acted in this Spirit of Massacre. The Fright he took upon the Sight of the then governing Powers, who unjustly assum’d the Authority of the People, gave him such an Abhorrence of all popular Government, and of the very Notion of Liberty it-self; that to extinguish it for ever, he recommends the very extinguishing of Letters, and exhorts Princes not to spare so much as an antient Roman or Greek Historian.—Is not this in truth somewhat Gothick? And has not our Philosopher, in appearance, something of the Savage, that he shou’d use Philosophy and Learning as the Scythians are said to have us’d Anacharsis and others, for having visited the Wise of Greece, and learnt the Manners of a polite People?
His Quarrel with Religion was the same as with Liberty. The same Times gave him the same Terror in this other kind. He had nothing before his Eyes beside the Ravage of Enthusiasm, and the Artifice of those who rais’d and conducted that Spirit. And the good sociable Man, as savage and unsociable as he wou’d make himself and all Mankind appear by his Philosophy, expos’d himself during his Life, and took the utmost pains, that after his Death we might be deliver’d from the occasion of these Terrors. He did his utmost to shew us, “That both in Religion and Morals we were impos’d on by our Governors; that there was nothing which by Nature inclin’d us either way; nothing which naturally drew us to the Love of what was without, or beyond our-selves”: Tho the Love of such great Truths and sovereign Maxims as he imagin’d these to be, made him the most laborious of all Men in composing Systems of this kind for our Use; and forc’d him, notwithstanding his natural Fear, to run continually the highest risk of being a Martyr for our Deliverance.
Give me leave therefore (my Friend!) on this occasion, to prevent your Seriousness, and assure you, that there is no such mighty Danger as we are apt to imagine from these fierce Prosecutors of Superstition, who are so jealous of every religious or moral Principle. Whatever Savages they may appear in Philosophy, they are in their common Capacity as Civil Persons, as one can wish. Their free communicating of their Principles may witness for them. ’Tis the height of Sociableness to be thus friendly and communicative.
If the Principles, indeed, were conceal’d from us, and made a Mystery, they might become considerable. Things are often made so, by being kept as Secrets of a Sect or Party; and nothing helps this more than the Antipathy and Shyness of a contrary Party. If we fall presently into Horrors, and Consternation, upon the hearing Maxims which are thought poisonous; we are in no disposition to use that familiar and easy part of Reason, which is the best Antidote. The only Poison to Reason, is Passion. For false Reasoning is soon redress’d, where Passion is remov’d. But if the very hearing certain Propositions of Philosophy be sufficient to move our Passion; ’tis plain, the Poison has already gain’d on us, and we are effectually prevented in the use of our reasoning Faculty.
Were it not for the Prejudices of this kind; what shou’d hinder us from diverting our-selves with the Fancy of one of these modern Reformers we have been speaking of? What shou’d we say to one of these Anti-zealots, who, in the Zeal of such a cool Philosophy, shou’d assure us faithfully, “That we were the most mistaken Men in the world, to imagine there was any such thing as natural Faith or Justice? for that it was only Force and Power which constituted Right. That there was no such thing in reality as Virtue; no Principle of Order in things above, or below; no secret Charm or Force of Nature, by which every-one was made to operate willingly or unwillingly towards publick Good, and punish’d and tormented if he did otherwise.”—Is not this the very Charm it-self? Is not the Gentleman at this instant under the power of it?—“Sir! The Philosophy you have condescended to reveal to us, is most extraordinary. We are beholden to you for your Instruction. But, pray, whence is this Zeal in our behalf? What are We to You? Are You our Father? Or if You were, why this Concern for Us? Is there then such a thing as natural Affection? If not; why all this Pains, why all this Danger on our account? Why not keep this Secret to Your-self? Of what advantage is it to You, to deliver us from the Cheat? The more are taken in it, the better. ’Tis directly against your Interest to undeceive Us, and let us know that only private Interest governs You; and that nothing nobler, or of a larger kind, shou’d govern us, whom you converse with. Leave us to our-selves, and to that notable Art by which we are happily tam’d, and render’d thus mild and sheepish. ’Tis not fit we shou’d know that by Nature we are all Wolves. Is it possible that one who has really discover’d himself such, shou’d take pains to communicate such a Discovery?”
IN reality (my Friend!) a severe Brow may well be spar’d on this occasion; when we are put thus upon the Defense of common Honesty, by such fair honest Gentlemen, who are in Practice so different from what they wou’d appear in Speculation. Knaves I know there are in Notion and Principle, as well as in Practice: who think all Honesty as well as Religion a mere Cheat; and by a very consistent reasoning, have resolv’d deliberately to do whatever by Power or Art they are able, for their private Advantage. But such as these never open themselves in Friendship to others. They have no such Passion for Truth, or Love for Mankind. They have no Quarrel with Religion or Morals; but know what use to make of both, upon occasion. If they ever discover their Principles, ’tis only at unawares. They are sure to preach Honesty, and go to Church.
On the other side, the Gentlemen for whom I am apologizing, cannot however be call’d Hypocrites. They speak as ill of themselves as they possibly can. If they have hard thoughts of human Nature; ’tis a Proof still of their Humanity, that they give such warning to the World. If they represent Men by Nature treacherous and wild, ’tis out of care for Mankind; lest by being too tame and trusting, they shou’d easily be caught.
Impostors naturally speak the best of human Nature, that they may the easier abuse it. These Gentlemen, on the contrary, speak the worst; and had rather they themselves shou’d be censur’d with the rest, than that a Few shou’d by Imposture prevail over the Many. For ’tis Opinion of Goodness which creates Easiness of Trust: and by Trust we are betray’d to Power; our very Reason being thus captivated by those in whom we come insensibly to have an implicit Faith. But supposing one another to be by Nature such very Savages, we shall take care to come less in one another’s power: and apprehending Power to be insatiably coveted by all, we shall the better fence against the Evil; not by giving all into one Hand (as the Champion of this Cause wou’d have us) but, on the contrary, by a right Division and Balance of Power, and by the Restraint of good Laws and Limitations, which may secure the publick Liberty.
Shou’d you therefore ask me, whether I really thought these Gentlemen were fully persuaded of the Principles they so often advance in Company? I shou’d tell you, That tho I wou’d not absolutely arraign the Gentlemens Sincerity; yet there was something of Mystery in the Case, more than was imagin’d. The Reason, perhaps, why Men of Wit delight so much to espouse these paradoxical Systems, is not in truth that they are so fully satisfy’d with ’em; but in a view the better to oppose some other Systems, which by their fair appearance have help’d, they think, to bring Mankind under Subjection. They imagine that by this general Scepticism, which they wou’d introduce, they shall better deal with the dogmatical Spirit which prevails in some particular Subjects. And when they have accustom’d Men to bear Contradiction in the main, and hear the Nature of Things disputed, at large; it may be safer, they conclude, to argue separately, upon certain nice Points in which they are not altogether so well satisfy’d. So that from hence, perhaps, you may still better apprehend why, in Conversation,the Spirit of Raillery prevails so much, and Notions are taken up for no reason besides their being odd, and out of the way.
BUT let who will condemn the Humour thus describ’d; for my part, I am in no such apprehension from this sceptical kind of Wit. Men indeed may, in a serious way, be so wrought on, and confounded, by different Modes of Opinion, different Systems and Schemes impos’d by Authority, that they may wholly lose all Notion or Comprehension of Truth. I can easily apprehend what Effect Awe has over Mens Understandings. I can very well suppose Men may be frighted out of their Wits: but I have no apprehension they shou’d be laugh’d out of ’em. I can hardly imagine that in a pleasant way they shou’d ever be talk’d out of their Love for Society, or reason’d out of Humanity and common Sense. A mannerly Wit can hurt no Cause or Interest for which I am in the least concern’d: And philosophical Speculations, politely manag’d, can never surely render Mankind more un-sociable or un-civiliz’d. This is not the Quarter from whence I can possibly expect an Inroad of Savageness and Barbarity. And by the best of my Observation, I have learnt, that Virtue is never such a Sufferer, by being contested, as by being betray’d. My Fear is not so much from its witty Antagonists, who give it Exercise, and put it on its Defense, as from its tender Nurses, who are apt to over-lay it, and kill it, with Excess of Care and Cherishing.
I Have known a Building, which by the Officiousness of the Workmen has been so shor’d, and screw’d up, on the side where they pretended it had a Leaning, that it has at last been turn’d the contrary way, and overthrown. There has something, perhaps, of this kind happen’d in Morals. Men have not been contented to shew the natural Advantages of Honesty and Virtue. They have rather lessen’d these, the better, as they thought, to advance another Foundation. They have made Virtue so mercenary a thing, and have talk’d so much of its Rewards, that one can hardly tell what there is in it, after all, which can be worth rewarding. For to be brib’d only or terrify’d into an honest Practice, bespeaks little of real Honesty or Worth. We may make, ’tis true, whatever Bargain we think fit; and may bestow in favour what Overplus we please. But there can be no Excellence or Wisdom in voluntarily rewarding what is neither estimable, nor deserving. And if Virtue be not really estimable in it-self, I can see nothing estimable in following it for the sake of a Bargain.
If the Love of doing good, be not, of it-self, a good and right Inclination; I know not how there can possibly be such a thing as Goodness or Virtue. If the Inclination be right; ’tis a perverting of it, to apply it solely to the Reward, and make us conceive such Wonders of the Grace and Favour which is to attend Virtue; when there is so little shewn of the intrinsick Worth or Value of the Thing it-self.
I cou’d be almost tempted to think, that the true Reason why some of the most heroick Virtues have so little notice taken of ’em in our holy Religion, is, because there wou’d have been no room left for Disinterestedness, had they been intitled to a share of that infinite Reward, which Providence has by Revelation assign’d to other Dutys. Private Friendship, andZeal for the Publick, and ourCountry, are Virtues purely voluntary in a Christian. They are no essential Parts of his Charity. He is not so ty’d to the Affairs of this Life; nor is he oblig’d to enter into such Engagements with this lower World, as are of no help to him in acquiring a better. His Conversation is in Heaven. Nor has he occasion for such supernumerary Cares or Embarassments here on Earth, as may obstruct his way thither, or retard him in the careful Task of working out his own Salvation. If nevertheless any Portion of Reward be reserv’d hereafter for the generous Part of a Patriot, or that of a thorow Friend; this is still behind the Curtain, and happily conceal’d from us; that we may be the more deserving of it, when it comes.
It appears indeed under the Jewish Dispensation, that each of these Virtues had their illustrious Examples, and were in some manner recommended to us as honourable, and worthy our Imitation. Even Saul himself, as ill a Prince as he is represented, appears both living and dying to have been respected and prais’d for the Love he bore his native Country. And the Love which was so remarkable between his Son and his Successor, gives us a noble View of a disinterested Friendship, at least on one side. But the heroick Virtue of these Persons had only the common Reward of Praise attributed to it, and cou’d not claim a future Recompence under a Religion which taught no future State, nor exhibited any Rewards or Punishments, besides such as were Temporal, and had respect to the written Law.
And thus the Jews as well as Heathens were left to their Philosophy, to be instructed in the sublime part of Virtue, and induc’d by Reason to that which was never injoin’d ’em by Command. No Premium or Penalty being inforc’d in these Cases, the disinterested Part subsisted, the Virtue was a free Choice, and the Magnanimity of the Act was left intire. He who wou’d be generous, had the Means. He who wou’d frankly serve his Friend, or Country, at the expence even of his Life, might do it on fair terms. Dulce et decorum est was his sole Reason. ’Twas Inviting and Becoming. ’Twas Good and Honest. And that this is still a good Reason, and according to Common Sense, I will endeavour to satisfy you. For I shou’d think my-self very ridiculous to be angry with any-one for thinking me dishonest; if I cou’d give no account of my Honesty, nor shew upon what Principle I differ’d from a Knave.
THE Roman Satirist may be thought more than ordinarily satirical, when speaking of the Nobility and Court, he is so far from allowing them to be the Standard of Politeness and good Sense, that he makes ’em in a manner the Reverse.
Rare is common sense in men of that rank.
Some of the most ingenious Commentators, however, interpret this very differently from what is generally apprehended. They make this Common Sense of the Poet, by a Greek Derivation, to signify Sense of Publick Weal, and of the Common Interest; Love of the Community or Society, natural Affection, Humanity, Obligingness, or that sort of Civility which rises from a just Sense of the common Rights of Mankind, and the natural Equality there is among those of the same Species.
And indeed if we consider the thing nicely, it must seem somewhat hard in the Poet, to have deny’d Wit or Ability to a Court such as that of Rome, even under a Tiberius or a Nero. But for Humanity or Sense of Publick Good, and the common Interest of Mankind, ’twas no such deep Satir to question whether this was properly the Spirit of a Court. ’Twas difficult to apprehend what Community subsisted among Courtiers; or what Publick between an absolute Prince and his Slave-Subjects. And for real Society, there cou’d be none between such as had no other Sense than that of private Good.
Our Poet therefore seems not so immoderate in his Censure; if we consider it is the Heart, rather than the Head, he takes to task: when reflecting on a Court-Education, he thinks it unapt to raise any Affection towards a Country; and looks upon young Princes, and Lords, as the young Masters of the World; who being indulg’d in all their Passions, and train’d up in all manner of Licentiousness, have that thorow Contempt and Disregard of Mankind, which Mankind in a manner deserves, where Arbitrary Power is permitted, and a Tyranny ador’d.
So much for the young man whom fame gives out as proud and puffed-up, and full of his relationship to Nero.
A publick Spirit can come only from a social Feeling or Sense of Partnership with human Kind. Now there are none so far from being Partners in this Sense, or Sharers in this common Affection, as they who scarcely know an Equal, nor consider themselves as subject to any Law of Fellowship or Community. And thus Morality and good Government go together. There is no real Love of Virtue, without the knowledg of Publick Good. And where absolute Power is, there is no Publick.
They who live under a Tyranny, and have learnt to admire its Power as Sacred and Divine, are debauch’d as much in their Religion, as in their Morals. Publick Good, according to their apprehension, is as little the Measure or Rule of Government in the Universe, as in the State. They have scarce a Notion of what is good or just, other than as mere Will and Power have determin’d. Omnipotence, they think, wou’d hardly be it-self, were it not at liberty to dispense with the Laws of Equity, and change at pleasure the Standard of moral Rectitude.
But notwithstanding the Prejudices and Corruptions of this kind, ’tis plain there is something still of a publick Principle, even where it is most perverted and depress’d. The worst of Magistracys, the mere Despotick kind, can shew sufficient Instances of Zeal and Affection towards it. Where no other Government is known, it seldom fails of having that Allegiance and Duty paid it, which is owing to a better Form. The Eastern Countrys, and many barbarous Nations, have been and still are Examples of this kind. The personal Love they bear their Prince, however severe towards them, may shew, how natural an Affection there is towards Government and Order among Mankind. If Men have really no publick Parent, no Magistrate in common to cherish and protect ’em, they will still imagine they have such a one; and, like new-born Creatures who have never seen their Dam, will fansy one for themselves, and apply (as by Nature prompted) to some like Form, for Favour and Protection. In the room of a true Foster-Father, and Chief, they will take after a false one; and in the room of a legal Government and just Prince, obey even a Tyrant, and endure a whole Lineage and Succession of such.
As for us Britons, thank Heaven, we have a better Sense of Government deliver’d to us from our Ancestors. We have the Notion of a Publick, and a Constitution; how a Legislative, and how an Executive is model’d. We understand Weight and Measure in this kind, and can reason justly on the Balance of Power and Property. The Maxims we draw from hence, are as evident as those in Mathematicks. Our increasing Knowledg shews us every day, more and more, what Common Sense is in Politicks: And this must of necessity lead us to understand a like Sense in Morals; which is the Foundation.
’Tis ridiculous to say, there is any Obligation on Man to act sociably, or honestly, in a form’d Government; and not in that which is commonly call’d the State of Nature. For, to speak in the fashionable Language of our modern Philosophy: “Society being founded on a Compact; the Surrender made of every Man’s private unlimited Right, into the hands of the Majority, or such as the Majority shou’d appoint, was of free Choice, and by a Promise.” Now the Promise it-self was made in the State of Nature: And that which cou’d make a Promise obligatory in the State of Nature, must make all other Acts of Humanity as much our real Duty, and natural Part. Thus Faith, Justice, Honesty, and Virtue, must have been as early as the State of Nature, or they cou’d never have been at all. The Civil Union, or Confederacy, cou’d never make Right or Wrong; if they subsisted not before. He who was free to any Villany before his Contract, will, and ought to make as free with his Contract, when he thinks fit. The Natural Knave has the same reason to be a Civil one; and may dispense with his politick Capacity as oft as he sees occasion: ’Tis only his Word stands in his way.—A Man is oblig’d to keep his Word. Why? Because he has given hisWord to keep it.—Is not this a notable Account of the Original of moral Justice, and the Rise of Civil Government and Allegiance!
BUT to pass by these Cavils of a Philosophy, which speaks so much of Nature with so little meaning; we may with justice surely place it as a Principle, “That if any thing be natural, in any Creature, or any Kind; ’tis that which is preservative of the Kind it-self, and conducing to its Welfare and Support.” If in original and pure Nature, it be wrong to break a Promise, or be treacherous; ’tis as truly wrong to be in any respect inhuman, or any way wanting in our natural part towards human Kind. If Eating and Drinking be natural, Herding is so too. If any Appetite or Sense be natural, the Sense of Fellowship is the same. If there be any thing of Nature in that Affection which is between the Sexes, the Affection is certainly as natural towards the consequent Offspring; and so again between the Offspring themselves, as Kindred and Companions, bred under the same Discipline and Oeconomy. And thus a Clan or Tribe is gradually form’d; a Publick is recogniz’d: and besides the Pleasure found in social Entertainment, Language, and Discourse, there is so apparent a Necessity for continuing this good Correspondency and Union, that to have no Sense or Feeling of this kind, no Love of Country, Community, or any thing in common, wou’d be the same as to be insensible even of the plainest Means of Self-Preservation, and most necessary Condition of Self-Enjoyment.
How the Wit of Man shou’d so puzzle this Cause, as to make Civil Government and Society appear a kind of Invention, and Creature of Art, I know not. For my own part, methinks, this herding Principle, and associating Inclination, is seen so natural and strong in most Men, that one might readily affirm, ’twas even from the Violence of this Passion that so much Disorder arose in the general Society of Mankind.
Universal Good, or the Interest of the World in general, is a kind of remote philosophical Object. That greater Community falls not easily under the Eye. Nor is a National Interest, or that of a whole People, or Body Politick, so readily apprehended. In less Partys, Men may be intimately conversant and acquainted with one another. They can there better taste Society, and enjoy the common Good and Interest of a more contracted Publick. They view the whole Compass and Extent of their Community; and see, and know particularly whom they serve, and to what end they associate and conspire. All Men have naturally their share of this combining Principle: and they who are of the sprightliest and most active Facultys, have so large a share of it, that unless it be happily directed by right Reason, it can never find Exercise for it-self in so remote a Sphere as that of the Body Politick at large. For here perhaps the thousandth part of those whose Interests are concern’d, are scarce so much as known by sight. No visible Band is form’d; no strict Alliance: but the Conjunction is made with different Persons, Orders, and Ranks of Men; not sensibly, but in Idea; according to that general View or Notion of a State or Commonwealth.
Thus the social Aim is disturb’d, for want of certain Scope. The close Sympathy and conspiring Virtue is apt to lose it-self, for want of Direction, in so wide a Field. Nor is the Passion any-where so strongly felt, or vigorously exerted, as in actual Conspiracy or War; in which the highest Genius’s are often known the forwardest to employ themselves. For the most generous Spirits are the most combining. They delight most to move in Concert; and feel (if I may so say) in the strongest manner, the force of the confederating Charm.
’Tis strange to imagine that War, which of all things appears the most savage, shou’d be the Passion of the most heroick Spirits. But ’tis in War that the Knot of Fellowship is closest drawn. ’Tis in War that mutual Succour is most given, mutual Danger run, and common Affection most exerted and employ’d. For Heroism and Philanthropy are almost one and the same. Yet by a small mis-guidance of the Affection, a Lover of Mankind becomes a Ravager: A Hero and Deliverer becomes an Oppressor and Destroyer.
Hence other Divisions amongst Men. Hence, in the way of Peace and Civil Government, that Love of Party, and Subdivision by Cabal. For Sedition is a kind of cantonizing already begun within the State. To cantonize is natural; when the Society grows vast and bulky: And powerful States have found other Advantages in sending Colonys abroad, than merely that of having Elbow-room at home, or extending their Dominion into distant Countrys. Vast Empires are in many respects unnatural: but particularly in this, That be they ever so well constituted, the Affairs of many must, in such Governments, turn upon a very few; and the Relation be less sensible, and in a manner lost, between the Magistrate and People, in a Body so unwieldy in its Limbs, and whose Members lie so remote from one another, and distant from the Head.
’Tis in such Bodys as these that strong Factions are aptest to engender. The associating Spirits, for want of Exercise, form new Movements, and seek a narrower Sphere of Activity, when they want Action in a greater. Thus we have Wheels within Wheels. And in some National Constitutions, notwithstanding the Absurdity in Politicks, we have one Empire within another. Nothing is so delightful as to incorporate. Distinctions of many kinds are invented. Religious Societys are form’d. Orders are erected; and their Interests espous’d, and serv’d, with the utmost Zeal and Passion. Founders and Patrons of this sort are never wanting. Wonders are perform’d, in this wrong social Spirit, by those Members of separate Societys. And the associating Genius of Man is never better prov’d, than in those very Societys, which are form’d in opposition to the general one of Mankind, and to the real Interest of the State.
In short, the very Spirit of Faction, for the greatest part, seems to be no other than the Abuse or Irregularity of that social Love, and common Affection, which is natural to Mankind. For the Opposite of Sociableness is Selfishness. And of all Characters, the thorow-selfish one is the least forward in taking Party. The Men of this sort are, in this respect, true Men of Moderation. They are secure of their Temper; and possess themselves too well, to be in danger of entering warmly into any Cause, or engaging deeply with any Side or Faction.
YOU have heard it (my Friend!) as a common Saying, that Interest governs the World. But, I believe, whoever looks narrowly into the Affairs of it, will find, that Passion, Humour, Caprice, Zeal, Faction, and a thousand other Springs, which are counter to Self-Interest, have as considerable a part in the Movements of this Machine. There are more Wheels and Counter-Poises in this Engine than are easily imagin’d. ’Tis of too complex a kind, to fall under one simple View, or be explain’d thus briefly in a word or two. The Studiers of this Mechanism must have a very partial Eye, to overlook all other Motions besides those of the lowest and narrowest compass. ’Tis hard, that in the Plan or Description of this Clock-work, no Wheel or Balance shou’d be allow’d on the side of the better and more enlarg’d Affections; that nothing shou’d be understood to be done in Kindness, or Generosity; nothing in pure Good-Nature or Friendship, or thro’ any social or natural Affection of any kind: when, perhaps, the main Springs of this Machine will be found to be either these very natural Affections themselves, or a compound kind deriv’d from them, and retaining more than one half of their Nature.
But here (my Friend!) you must not expect that I shou’d draw you up a formal Scheme of the Passions, or pretend to shew you their Genealogy and Relation; how they are interwoven with one another, or interfere with our Happiness and Interest. ’Twou’d be out of the Genius and Compass of such a Letter as this, to frame a just Plan or Model; by which you might, with an accurate View, observe what Proportion the friendly and natural Affections seem to bear in this Order of Architecture.
Modern Projectors, I know, wou’d willingly rid their hands of these natural Materials; and wou’d fain build after a more uniform way. They wou’d new-frame the human Heart; and have a mighty fancy to reduce all its Motions, Balances and Weights, to that one Principle and Foundation of a cool and deliberate Selfishness. Men, it seems, are unwilling to think they can be so outwitted, and impos’d on by Nature, as to be made to serve her Purposes, rather than their own. They are asham’d to be drawn thus out of themselves, and forc’d from what they esteem their true Interest.
There has been in all times a sort of narrow-minded Philosophers, who have thought to set this Difference to rights, by conquering Nature in themselves. A primitive Father and Founder among these, saw well this Power of Nature, and understood it so far, that he earnestly exhorted his Followers neither to beget Children, nor serve their Country. There was no dealing with Nature, it seems, while these alluring Objects stood in the way. Relations, Friends, Countrymen, Laws, Politick Constitutions, the Beauty of Order and Government, and the Interest of Society and Mankind, were Objects which, he well saw, wou’d naturally raise a stronger Affection than any which was grounded upon the narrow bottom of mere Self. His Advice, therefore, not to marry, nor engage at all in the Publick, was wise, and sutable to his Design. There was no way to be truly a Disciple of this Philosophy, but to leave Family, Friends, Country, and Society, to cleave to it.—And, in good earnest, who wou’d not, if it were Happiness to do so?—The Philosopher, however, was kind, in telling us his Thought. ’Twas a Token of his fatherly Love of Mankind.
Thou, Father, art [es is the revised reading] discoverer of things; thou givest us fatherly precepts.
But the Revivers of this Philosophy in latter Days, appear to be of a lower Genius. They seem to have understood less of this force of Nature, and thought to alter the Thing, by shifting a Name. They wou’d so explain all the social Passions, and natural Affections, as to denominate ’em ofthe selfish kind. Thus Civility, Hospitality, Humanity towards Strangers or People in distress, is only a more deliberate Selfishness. An honest Heart is only a more cunning one: and Honesty and Good-Nature, a more deliberate, or better-regulated Self-Love. The Love of Kindred, Children and Posterity, is purely Love of Self, and of one’s own immediate Blood: As if, by this Reckoning, all Mankind were not included; All being of one Blood, and join’d by Inter-Marriages and Alliances; as they have been transplanted in Colonys, and mix’d one with another. And thus Love of one’s Country, and Love of Mankind, must also be Self-Love.Magnanimity and Courage, no doubt, are Modifications of this universal Self-Love! For Courage (says our modern Philosopher) is constant Anger. And all Men (says a witty Poet) wou’d be Cowards if they durst.
That the Poet, and the Philosopher both, were Cowards, may be yielded perhaps without dispute. They may have spoken the best of their Knowledg. But for true Courage, it has so little to do with Anger, that there lies always the strongest Suspicion against it, where this Passion is highest. The true Courage is the cool and calm. The bravest of Men have the least of a brutal bullying Insolence; and in the very time of Danger are found the most serene, pleasant, and free. Rage, we know, can make a Coward forget himself and fight. But what is done in Fury or Anger, can never be plac’d to the account of Courage. Were it otherwise, Womankind might claim to be the stoutest Sex: for their Hatred and Anger have ever been allow’d the strongest and most lasting.
Other Authors there have been of a yet inferior kind: a sort of Distributers and petty Retailers of this Wit; who have run Changes, and Divisions, without end, upon this Article of Self-Love. You have the very same Thought spun out a hundred ways, and drawn into Motto’s, and Devises, to set forth this Riddle; That “act as disinterestedly or generously as you please, Self still is at the bottom, and nothing else.” Now if these Gentlemen, who delight so much in the Play of Words, but are cautious how they grapple closely with Definitions, wou’d tell us only what Self-Interest was, and determine Happiness and Good, there wou’d be an end of this enigmatical Wit. For in this we shou’d all agree, that Happiness was to be pursu’d, and in fact was always sought after: but whether found in following Nature, and giving way to common Affection; or in suppressing it, and turning every Passion towards private Advantage, a narrow Self-End, or the Preservation of mere Life; this wou’d be the matter in debate between us. The Question wou’d not be, “Who lov’d himself, or Who not”; but “Who lov’d and serv’d himself the rightest, and after the truest manner.”
’Tis the height of Wisdom, no doubt, to be rightly selfish. And to value Life, as far as Life is good, belongs as much to Courage as to Discretion. But a wretched Life is no wise Man’s wish. To be without Honesty, is, in effect, to be without natural Affection or Sociableness of any kind. And a Life without natural Affection, Friendship, or Sociableness, wou’d be found a wretched one, were it to be try’d. ’Tis as these Feelings and Affections are intrinsecally valuable and worthy, that Self-Interest is to be rated and esteem’d. A Man is by nothing so much himself, as by his Temper, and the Character of his Passions and Affections. If he loses what is manly and worthy in these, he is as much lost to himself as when he loses his Memory and Understanding. The least step into Villany or Baseness, changes the Character and Value of a Life. He who wou’d preserve Life at any rate, must abuse himself more than any-one can abuse him. And if Life be not a dear thing indeed, he who has refus’d to live a Villain, and has prefer’d Death to a base Action, has been a Gainer by the bargain.
’TIS well for you (my Friend!) that in your Education you have had little to do with the Philosophy, or Philosophers of our days. A good Poet, and an honest Historian, may afford Learning enough for a Gentleman. And such a one, whilst he reads these Authors as his Diversion, will have a truer relish of their Sense, and understand ’em better than a Pedant, with all his Labours, and the assistance of his Volumes of Commentators. I am sensible, that of old ’twas the custom to send the Youth of highest Quality to Philosophers to be form’d. ’Twas in their Schools, in their Company, and by their Precepts and Example, that the illustrious Pupils were inur’d to Hardship, and exercis’d in the severest Courses of Temperance and Self-denial. By such an early Discipline, they were fitted for the Command of others; to maintain their Country’s Honour in War, rule wisely in the State, and fight against Luxury and Corruption in times of Prosperity and Peace. If any of these Arts are comprehended in University-Learning, ’tis well. But as some Universitys in the World are now model’d, they seem not so very effectual to these Purposes, nor so fortunate in preparing for a right Practice of the World, or a just Knowledg of Men and Things. Had you been thorow-pac’d in the Ethicks or Politicks of the Schools, I shou’d never have thought of writing a word to you upon Common Sense, or the Love of Mankind. I shou’d not have cited the Poet’s Dulce & Decorum. Nor, if I had made a Character for you, as he for his noble Friend, shou’d I have crown’d it with his
He fears not to die for his dear friends and fatherland.
Our Philosophy now-a-days runs after the manner of that able Sophister, who said, “Skin for Skin: All that a Man has will he give for his Life.” ’Tis orthodox Divinity, as well as sound Philosophy, with some Men, to rate Life by the Number and Exquisiteness of the pleasing Sensations. These they constantly set in opposition to dry Virtue and Honesty. And upon this foot, they think it proper to call all Men Fools, who wou’d hazard a Life, or part with any of these pleasing Sensations; except on the condition of being repaid in the same Coin, and with good Interest into the bargain. Thus, it seems, we are to learn Virtue by Usury; and inhance the Value of Life, and of the Pleasures of Sense, in order to be wise, and to live well.
But you (my Friend!) are stubborn in this Point: and instead of being brought to think mournfully of Death, or to repine at the Loss of what you may sometimes hazard by your Honesty, you can laugh at such Maxims as these; and divert your-self with the improv’d Selfishness, and philosophical Cowardice of these fashionable Moralists. You will not be taught to value Life at their rate, or degrade Honesty as they do, who make it only a Name. You are persuaded there is something more in the Thing than Fashion or Applause; that Worth and Merit are substantial, and no way variable by Fancy or Will; and that Honour is as much it-self, when acting by it-self, and unseen, as when seen, and applauded by all the World.
Shou’d one, who had the Countenance of a Gentleman, ask me “Why I wou’d avoid being nasty, when nobody was present?” In the first place I shou’d be fully satisfy’d that he himself was a very nasty Gentleman who cou’d ask this Question; and that it wou’d be a hard matter for me to make him ever conceive what true Cleanliness was. However, I might, notwithstanding this, be contented to give him a slight Answer, and say, “’Twas because I had a Nose.”
Shou’d he trouble me further, and ask again, “What if I had a Cold? Or what if naturally I had no such nice Smell?” I might answer perhaps, “That I car’d as little to see my-self nasty, as that others shou’d see me in that condition.” “But what if it were in the dark?” Why even then, tho I had neither Nose, nor Eyes, my Sense of the matter wou’d still be the same; my Nature wou’d rise at the Thought of what was sordid: or if it did not, I shou’d have a wretched Nature indeed, and hate my-self for a Beast. Honour my-self I never cou’d; whilst I had no better a sense of what, in reality, I ow’d my-self, and what became me, as a human Creature.
Much in the same manner have I heard it ask’d, “Why shou’d a Man be honest in the dark?” What a Man must be to ask this Question, I won’t say. But for those who have no better a Reason for being honest than the fear of a Gibbet or a Jail; I shou’d not, I confess, much covet their Company, or Acquaintance. And if any Guardian of mine who had kept his Trust, and given me back my Estate when I came of Age, had been discover’d to have acted thus, thro’ Fear only of what might happen to him; I shou’d for my own part, undoubtedly, continue civil and respectful to him: but for my Opinion of his Worth, it wou’d be such as the Pythian God had of his Votary, who devoutly fear’d him, and therefore restor’d to a Friend what had been deposited in his hands.
So he paid it back, from fear, not from principle. Yet still he proved the oracle true and fit to be God’s voice, for he and his house perished root and branch.
I know very well that many Services to the Publick are done merely for the sake of a Gratuity; and that Informers in particular are to be taken care of, and sometimes made Pensioners of State. But I must beg pardon for the particular Thoughts I may have of these Gentlemens Merit; and shall never bestow my Esteem on any other than the voluntary Discoverers of Villany, and hearty Prosecutors of their Country’s Interest. And in this respect, I know nothing greater or nobler than the undertaking and managing some important Accusation; by which some high Criminal of State, or some form’d Body of Conspirators against the Publick, may be arraign’d and brought to Punishment, thro’ the honest Zeal and publick Affection of a private Man.
I know too, that the mere Vulgar of Mankind often stand in need of such a rectifying Object as the Gallows before their Eyes. Yet I have no belief, that any Man of a liberal Education, or common Honesty, ever needed to have recourse to this Idea in his Mind, the better to restrain him from playing the Knave. And if a Saint had no other Virtue than what was rais’d in him by the same Objects of Reward and Punishment, in a more distant State; I know not whose Love or Esteem he might gain besides: but for my own part, I shou’d never think him worthy of mine.
If my slave tells me, “I have not stolen, nor run away,” I answer, “You have your reward, you are not flogged.” “I have not killed a man!” “The crows do not devour you on the cross.” “I am good and honest!” My Sabine bailiff shakes his head and denies it.
BY this time (my Friend!) you may possibly, I hope, be satisfy’d, that as I am in earnest in defending Raillery, so I can be sober too in the Use of it. ’Tis in reality a serious Study, to learn to temper and regulate that Humour which Nature has given us, as a more lenitive Remedy against Vice, and a kind of Specifick against Superstition and melancholy Delusion. There is a great difference between seeking how to raise a Laugh from every thing; and seeking, in every thing, what justly may be laugh’d at. For nothing is ridiculous except what is deform’d: Nor is any thing proof against Raillery, except what is handsom and just. And therefore ’tis the hardest thing in the World, to deny fairHonesty the use of this Weapon, which can never bear an Edge against her-self, and bears against every thing contrary.
If the very Italian Buffoons were to give us the Rule in these cases, we shou’d learn by them, that in their lowest and most scurrilous way of Wit, there was nothing so successfully to be play’d upon, as the Passions of Cowardice and Avarice. One may defy the World to turn real Bravery or Generosity into Ridicule. A Glutton or mere Sensualist is as ridiculous as the other two Characters. Nor can an unaffected Temperance be made the Subject of Contempt to any besides the grossest and most contemptible of Mankind. Now these three Ingredients make up a virtuous Character: as the contrary three a vicious one. How therefore can we possibly make a Jest of Honesty?—To laugh both ways, is nonsensical. And if the Ridicule lie against Sottishness, Avarice, and Cowardice; you see the Consequence. A Man must be soundly ridiculous, who, with all the Wit imaginable, wou’d go about to ridicule Wisdom, or laugh at Honesty, or Good Manners.
A Man of thorow Good-Breeding, whatever else he be, is incapable of doing a rude or brutal Action. He never deliberates in this case, or considers of the matter by prudential Rules of Self-Interest and Advantage. He acts from his Nature, in a manner necessarily, and without Reflection: and if he did not, it were impossible for him to answer his Character, or be found that truly well-bred Man, on every occasion. ’Tis the same with the honest Man. He can’t deliberate in the Case of a plain Villany. A Plum is no Temptation to him. He likes and loves himself too well, to change Hearts with one of those corrupt Miscreants, who amongst ’em gave that name to a round Sum of Mony gain’d by Rapine and Plunder of the Commonwealth. He who wou’d enjoy a Freedom of Mind, and be truly Possessor of himself, must be above the thought of stooping to what is villanous or base. He, on the other side, who has a Heart to stoop, must necessarily quit the thought of Manliness, Resolution, Friendship, Merit, and a Character with himself and others: But to affect these Enjoyments and Advantages, together with the Privileges of a licentious Principle; to pretend to enjoy Society, and a free Mind, in company with a knavish Heart, is as ridiculous as the way of Children, who eat their Cake, and afterwards cry for it. When Men begin to deliberate about Dishonesty, and finding it go less against their Stomach, ask slily, “Why they shou’d stick at a good Piece of Knavery, for a good Sum?” They shou’d be told, as Children, that They can’t eat their Cake, and have it.
When Men, indeed, are become accomplish’d Knaves, they are past crying for their Cake. They know themselves, and are known by Mankind. ’Tis not these who are so much envy’d or admir’d. The moderate Kind are the more taking with us. Yet had we Sense, we should consider ’tis in reality the thorow profligate Knave, the very compleat unnatural Villain alone, who can any way bid for Happiness with the honest Man. True Interest is wholly on one side, or the other. All between is Inconsistency, Irresolution, Remorse, Vexation, and an Ague-Fit: from hot to cold; from one Passion to another quite contrary; a perpetual Discord of Life; and an alternate Disquiet and Self-dislike. The only Rest or Repose must be thro’ one, determin’d, considerate Resolution: which when once taken, must be courageously kept; and the Passions and Affections brought under obedience to it; the Temper steel’d and harden’d to the Mind; the Disposition to the Judgment. Both must agree; else all must be Disturbance and Confusion. So that to think with one’s self, in good earnest, “Why may not one do this little Villany, or commit this one Treachery, and but for once”; is the most ridiculous Imagination in the world, and contrary to Common Sense. For a common honest Man, whilst left to himself, and undisturb’d by Philosophy and subtle Reasonings about his Interest, gives no other Answer to the thought of Villany, than that he can’t possibly find in his heart to set about it, or conquer the natural Aversion he has to it. And this is natural and just.
The truth is; as Notions stand now in the world, with respect to Morals, Honesty is like to gain little by Philosophy, or deep Speculations of any kind. In the main, ’tis best to stick to Common Sense, and go no further. Mens first Thoughts, in this matter, are generally better than their second: their natural Notions better than those refin’d by Study, or Consultation with Casuists. According to common Speech, as well as common Sense, Honesty is the best Policy: But according to refin’d Sense, the only well-advis’d Persons, as to this World, are errant Knaves; and they alone are thought to serve themselves, who serve their Passions, and indulge their loosest Appetites and Desires.—Such, it seems, are the Wise, and such the Wisdom of this World!
An ordinary Man talking of a vile Action, in a way of Common Sense, says naturally and heartily, “He wou’d not be guilty of such a thing for the whole World.” But speculative Men find great Modifications in the case; many ways of Evasion; many Remedys; many Alleviations. A good Gift rightly apply’d; a right Method of suing out a Pardon; good Alms-Houses, and charitable Foundations erected for right Worshippers; and a good Zeal shewn for the right Belief, may sufficiently atone for one wrong Practice; especially when it is such as raises a Man to a considerable power (as they say) of doing good, and serving the true Cause.
Many a good Estate, many a high Station has been gain’d upon such a bottom as this. Some Crowns too may have been purchas’d on these terms: and some great Emperors (if I mistake not) there have been of old, who were much assisted by these or the like Principles; and in return were not ingrateful to the Cause and Party which had assisted ’em. The Forgers of such Morals have been amply endow’d: and the World has paid roundly for its Philosophy; since the original plain Principles of Humanity, and the simple honest Precepts of Peace and mutual Love, have, by a sort of spiritual Chymists, been so sublimated, as to become the highest Corrosives; and passing thro’ their Limbecks, have yielded the strongest Spirit of mutual Hatred and malignant Persecution.
BUT our Humours (my Friend!) incline us not to melancholy Reflections. Let the solemn Reprovers of Vice proceed in the manner most sutable to their Genius and Character. I am ready to congratulate with ’em on the Success of their Labours, in that authoritative way which is allow’d ’em. I know not, in the mean while, why others may not be allow’d to ridicule Folly, and recommend Wisdom and Virtue (if possibly they can) in a way of Pleasantry and Mirth. I know not why Poets, or such as write chiefly for the Entertainment of themselves and others, may not be allow’d this Privilege. And if it be the Complaint of our standing Reformers, that they are not heard so well by the Gentlemen of Fashion; if they exclaim against those airy Wits who fly to Ridicule as a Protection, and make successful Sallys from that Quarter; why shou’d it be deny’d one, who is only a Volunteer in this Cause, to engage the Adversary on his own terms, and expose himself willingly to such Attacks, on the single condition of being allow’d fair Play in the same kind?
By Gentlemen of Fashion, I understand those to whom a natural good Genius, or the Force of good Education, has given a Sense of what is naturally graceful and becoming. Some by mere Nature, others by Art and Practice, are Masters of an Ear in Musick, an Eye in Painting, a Fancy in the ordinary things of Ornament and Grace, a Judgment in Proportions of all kinds, and a general good Taste in most of those Subjects which make the Amusement and Delight of the ingenious People of the World. Let such Gentlemen as these be as extravagant as they please, or as irregular in their Morals; they must at the same time discover their Inconsistency, live at variance with themselves, and in contradiction to that Principle, on which they ground their highest Pleasure and Entertainment.
Of all other Beautys which Virtuosos pursue, Poets celebrate, Musicians sing, and Architects or Artists, of whatever kind, describe or form; the most delightful, the most engaging and pathetick, is that which is drawn from real Life, and from the Passions. Nothing affects the Heart like that which is purely from it-self, and of its own nature; such as the Beauty of Sentiments,the Grace of Actions, the Turn of Characters, and the Proportions and Features of a human Mind. This Lesson of Philosophy, even a Romance, a Poem, or a Play may teach us; whilst the fabulous Author leads us with such pleasure thro’ the Labyrinth of the Affections, and interests us, whether we will or no, in the Passions of his Heroes and Heroines:
Like a Mage, he tortures, enrages, soothes, fills us with false terrors.
Let Poets, or the Men of Harmony, deny, if they can, this Force of Nature, or withstand this moral Magick. They, for their parts, carry a double portion of this Charm about ’em. For in the first place, the very Passion which inspires ’em, is it-self the Love of Numbers, Decency and Proportion; and this too, not in a narrow sense, or after a selfish way, (for who of them composes for himself?) but in a friendly social View; for the Pleasure and Good of others; even down to Posterity, and future Ages. And in the next place, ’tis evident in these Performers, that their chief Theme and Subject, that which raises their Genius the most, and by which they so effectually move others, is purely Manners, and the moral Part. For this is the Effect, and this the Beauty of their Art; “in vocal Measures of Syllables, and Sounds, to express the Harmony and Numbers of an inward kind; and represent the Beautys of a human Soul, by proper Foils, and Contrarietys, which serve as Graces in this Limning, and render this Musick of the Passions more powerful and enchanting.”
The Admirers of Beauty in the Fair Sex wou’d laugh, perhaps, to hear of a moral Part in their Amours. Yet, what a stir is made about a Heart! What curious search of Sentiments, and tender Thoughts! What praises of a Humour, a Sense, a je-ne-sçai-quoi of Wit, and all those Graces of a Mind which these Virtuoso-Lovers delight to celebrate! Let them settle this matter among themselves; and regulate, as they think fit, the Proportions which these different Beautys hold one to another: They must allow still, there is a Beauty of the Mind; and such as is essential in the Case. Why else is the very Air of Foolishness enough to cloy a Lover, at first sight? Why does an Idiot-Look and Manner destroy the Effect of all those outward Charms, and rob the Fair-One of her Power; tho regularly arm’d, in all the Exactness of Features and Complexion? We may imagine what we please of a substantial solid part of Beauty: but were the Subject to be well criticiz’d, we shou’d find, perhaps, that what we most admir’d, even in the turn of outward Features, was only a mysterious Expression, and a kind of Shadow of something inward in the Temper: and that when we were struck with a majestick Air, a sprightly Look, an Amazon bold Grace, or a contrary soft and gentle one; ’twas chiefly the Fancy of these Characters or Qualitys which wrought on us: our Imagination being busy’d in forming beauteous Shapes and Images of this rational kind, which entertain’d the Mind, and held it in admiration; whilst other Passions of a lower Species were employ’d another way. The preliminary Addresses, the Declarations, the Explanations, Confidences, Clearings; the Dependence on something mutual, something felt by way of return; the Spes animi credula mutui: all these become necessary Ingredients in the Affair of Love, and are authentically establish’d by the Men of Elegance and Art in this way of Passion.
Nor can the Men of cooler Passions, and more deliberate Pursuits, withstand the Force of Beauty, in other Subjects. Every-one is a Virtuoso, of a higher or lower degree: Every-one pursues a Grace, and courts a Venus of one kind or another. The Venustum, the Honestum, theDecorum of Things, will force its way. They who refuse to give it scope in the nobler Subjects of a rational and moral kind, will find its Prevalency elsewhere, in an inferior Order of Things. They who overlook the main Springs of Action, and despise the Thought of Numbers and Proportion in a Life at large, will in the mean Particulars of it, be no less taken up, and engag’d; as either in the Study of common Arts, or in the Care and Culture of mere mechanick Beautys. The Models of Houses, Buildings, and their accompanying Ornaments; the Plans of Gardens, and their Compartments; the ordering of Walks, Plantations, Avenues; and a thousand other Symmetrys, will succeed in the room of that happier and higher Symmetry and Order of a Mind. The Species of Fair, Noble, Handsom, will discover it-self on a thousand Occasions, and in a thousand Subjects. The Specter still will haunt us, in some shape or other: and when driven from our cool Thoughts, and frighted from the Closet, will meet us even at Court, and fill our Heads with Dreams of Grandure, Titles, Honours, and a false Magnificence and Beauty; to which we are ready to sacrifice our highest Pleasure and Ease; and for the sake of which, we become the merest Drudges, and most abject Slaves.
The Men of Pleasure, who seem the greatest Contemners of this philosophical Beauty, are forc’d often to confess her Charms. They can as heartily as others commend Honesty; and are as much struck with the Beauty of a generous Part. They admire the Thing it-self, tho not the Means. And, if possible, they wou’d so order it, as to make Probity and Luxury agree. But the Rules of Harmony will not permit it. The Dissonancys are too strong. However, the Attempts of this kind are not unpleasant to observe. For tho some of the voluptuous are found sordid Pleaders for Baseness and Corruption of every sort: yet others, more generous, endeavour to keep measures with Honesty; and understanding Pleasure better, are for bringing it under some Rule. They condemn this manner: they praise the other. “So far was right: but further, wrong. Such a Case was allowable: but such a one not to be admitted.” They introduce a Justice, and an Order in their Pleasures. They wou’d bring Reason to be of their Party, account in some manner for their Lives, and form themselves to some kind of Consonancy, and Agreement: Or shou’d they find this impracticable on certain terms, they wou’d chuse to sacrifice their own Pleasures to those which arise from a generous Behaviour, a Regularity of Conduct, and a Consistency of Life and Manners:
To learn the measures and rules of the true life.
Other Occasions will put us upon this Thought: but chiefly a strong View of Merit, in a generous Character, oppos’d to some detestably vile one. Hence it is that among Poets, the Satirists seldom fail in doing Justice to Virtue. Nor are any of the nobler Poets false to this Cause. Even modern Wits, whose Turn is all towards Gallantry and Pleasure, when bare-fac’d Villany stands in their way, and brings the contrary Species in view, can sing in passionate strains the Praises of plain Honesty.
When we are highly Friends with the World, successful with the Fair, and prosperous in the possession of other Beautys; we may perchance, as is usual, despise this sober Mistress. But when we see, in the issue, what Riot and Excess naturally produce in the World; when we find that by Luxury’s means, and for the service of vile Interests, Knaves are advanc’d above us, and the vilest of Men prefer’d before the honestest; we then behold Virtue in a new Light, and by the assistance of such a Foil, can discern the Beauty of Honesty, and the reality of those Charms, which before we understood not to be either natural or powerful.
AND thus, after all, the most natural Beauty in the World is Honesty, and moral Truth. For all Beauty isTruth.True Features make the Beauty of a Face; and true Proportions the Beauty of Architecture; as true Measures that of Harmony and Musick. In Poetry, which is all Fable, Truth still is the Perfection. And whoever is Scholar enough to read the antient Philosopher, or his modern Copists, upon the nature of a Dramatick and Epick Poem, will easily understand this account of Truth.
A Painter, if he has any Genius, understands the Truth and Unity of Design; and knows he is even then unnatural, when he follows Nature too close, and strictly copys Life. For his Art allows him not to bring All Nature into his Piece, but a Part only. However, his Piece, if it be beautiful, and carrys Truth, must be a Whole, by it-self, compleat, independent, and withal as great and comprehensive as he can make it. So that Particulars, on this occasion, must yield to the general Design; and all things be subservient to that which is principal: in order to form a certain Easiness of Sight; a simple, clear, and united View, which wou’d be broken and disturb’d by the Expression of any thing peculiar or distinct.
Now the Variety of Nature is such as to distinguish every thing she forms, by a peculiar original Character; which, if strictly observ’d, will make the Subject appear unlike to any thing extant in the World besides. But this Effect the good Poet and Painter seek industriously to prevent. They hate Minuteness, and are afraid of Singularity; which wou’d make their Images, or Characters, appear capricious and fantastical. The mere Face-Painter, indeed, has little in common with the Poet; but, like the mere Historian, copys what he sees, and minutely traces every Feature, and odd Mark. ’Tis otherwise with the Men of Invention and Design. ’Tis from the many Objects of Nature, and not from a particular-one, that those Genius’s form the Idea of their Work. Thus the best Artists are said to have been indefatigable in studying the best Statues: as esteeming them a better Rule, than the perfectest human Bodys cou’d afford. And thus some considerable Wits have recommended the best Poems, as preferable to the best of Historys; and better teaching the Truth of Characters, and Nature of Mankind.
Nor can this Criticism be thought high-strain’d. Tho few confine themselves to these Rules, few are insensible of ’em. Whatever quarter we may give to our vicious Poets, or other Composers of irregular and short-liv’d Works; we know very well that the standing Pieces of good Artists must be form’d after a more uniform way. Every just Work of theirs comes under those natural Rules of Proportion and Truth. The Creature of their Brain must be like one of Nature’s Formation. It must have a Body and Parts proportionable: or the very Vulgar will not fail to criticize the Work, when it has neitherHead nor Tail. For so Common Sense, according to just Philosophy, judges of those Works which want the Justness of a Whole, and shew their Author, however curious and exact in Particulars, to be in the main a very Bungler.
Unhappy in the sum total of his work because he will be unable to explain the whole.
Such is poetical, and such (if I may so call it) graphical or plastick Truth. Narrative, or historical Truth, must needs be highly estimable; especially when we consider how Mankind, who are become so deeply interested in the Subject, have suffer’d by the want of Clearness in it. ’Tis it-self a part of moral Truth. To be a Judg in one, requires a Judgment in the other. The Morals, the Character, and Genius of an Author must be thorowly consider’d: And the Historian or Relater of Things important to Mankind, must, whoever he be, approve himself many ways to us; both in respect of his Judgment, Candor, and Disinterestedness; e’er we are bound to take any thing on his Authority. And as for critical Truth, or the Judgment and Determination of what Commentators, Translators, Paraphrasts, Grammarians, and others have, on this occasion, deliver’d to us; in the midst of such variety of Style, such different Readings, such Interpolations, and Corruptions in the Originals; such Mistakes of Copists, Transcribers, Editors, and a hundred such Accidents, to which antient Books are subject: it becomes, upon the whole, a Matter of nice Speculation; considering, withal, that the Reader, tho an able Linguist, must be supported by so many other Helps from Chronology, natural Philosophy, Geography, and other Sciences.
And thus many previous Truths are to be examin’d, and understood, in order to judg rightly of historical Truth, and of the past Actions and Circumstances of Mankind, as deliver’d to us by antient Authors of different Nations, Ages, Times, and different in their Characters and Interests. Some moral and philosophical Truths there are withal so evident in themselves, that ’twou’d be easier to imagine half Mankind to have run mad, and join’d precisely in one and the same Species of Folly, than to admit any thing as Truth, which shou’d be advanc’d against such natural Knowledg, fundamental Reason, and common Sense.
This I have mention’d the rather, because some modern Zealots appear to have no better knowledg of Truth, nor better manner of judging it, than by counting Noses. By this Rule, if they can poll an indifferent Number out of a Mob; if they can produce a Set of Lancashire Noddles, remote provincial Head-pieces, or visionary Assemblers, to attest a Story of a Witch upon a Broomstick, and a Flight in the Air; they triumph in the solid Proof of their new Prodigy, and cry, Great is truth and it will prevail.
Religion, no doubt, is much indebted to these Men of Prodigy; who, in such a discerning Age, wou’d set her on the foot of popular Tradition; and venture her on the same bottom with Parish-Tales, and gossiping Storys of Imps, Goblins, and Demoniacal Pranks, invented to fright Children, or make Practice for common Exorcists, and Cunning-Men! For by that Name, you know, Country People are us’d to call those Dealers in Mystery, who are thought to conjure in an honest way, and foil the Devil at his own Weapon.
And now (my Friend!) I can perceive ’tis time to put an end to these Reflections; left by endeavouring to expound things any further, I shou’d be drawn from my way of Humour, to harangue profoundly on these Subjects. But shou’d you find I had moraliz’d in any tolerable manner, according to Common Sense, and without Canting; I cou’d be satisfy’d with my Performance, such as it is, without fearing what disturbance I might possibly give to some formal Censors of the Age; whose Discourses and Writings are of another strain. I have taken the liberty, you see, to laugh, upon some occasions: And if I have either laugh’d wrong, or been impertinently serious; I can be content to be laugh’d at, in my turn. If contrariwise I am rail’d at, I can laugh still, as before; and with fresh advantage to my Cause. For tho, in reality, there cou’d be nothing less a laughing matter, than the provok’d Rage, Ill-will, and Fury of certain zealous Gentlemen, were they arm’d as lately they have been known; yet as the Magistrate has since taken care to pare their Talons, there is nothing very terrible in their Encounter. On the contrary, there is something comical in the case. It brings to one’s mind the Fancy of those Grotesque Figures, and Dragon-Faces, which are seen often in the Frontispiece, and on the Corner-Stones of old Buildings. They seem plac’d there, as the Defenders and Supporters of the Edifice; but with all their Grimace, are as harmless to People without, as they are useless to the Building within. Great Efforts of Anger to little purpose, serve for Pleasantry and Farce. Exceeding Fierceness, with perfect Inability and Impotence, makes the highest Ridicule.
I am, Dear Friend,
Affectionately Your’s, &c.
OR, ADVICE TO
And you need not have looked beyond yourself.
Pers. Sat. 1.
Printed first in the Year M.DCC.X.
I HAVE often thought how ill-natur’d a Maxim it was, which, on many occasions, I have heard from People of good understanding; “That, as to what related to private Conduct, No-one was ever the better forAdvice.’’ But upon farther Examination, I have resolv’d with my-self, that the Maxim might be admitted without any violent prejudice to Mankind. For in the manner Advice was generally given, there was no reason, I thought, to wonder it shou’d be so ill receiv’d. Something there was which strangely inverted the Case, and made the Giver to be the only Gainer. For by what I cou’d observe in many Occurrences of our Lives, That which we call’d giving Advice, was properly, taking an occasion to shew our own Wisdom, at another’s expence. On the other side, to be instructed, or to receive Advice on the terms usually prescrib’d to us, was little better than tamely to afford another the Occasion of raising himself a Character from our Defects.
In reality, however able or willing a Man may be to advise, ’tis no easy matter to make Advicea free Gift. For to make a Gift free indeed, there must be nothing in it which takes from Another, to add to Our-self. In all other respects, to give, and to dispense, is Generosity, and Good-will: but to bestow Wisdom, is to gain a Mastery which can’t so easily be allow’d us. Men willingly learn whatever else is taught ’em. They can bear a Master in Mathematicks, in Musick, or in any other Science; but not in Understanding and Good Sense.
’Tis the hardest thing imaginable for an Author not to appear assuming in this respect. For all Authors at large are, in a manner, profess’d Masters of Understanding to the Age. And for this reason, in early days, Poets were look’d upon as authentick Sages, for dictating Rules of Life, and teaching Manners and good Sense. How they may have lost their Pretension, I can’t say. ’Tis their peculiar Happiness and Advantage, not to be oblig’d to lay their Claim openly. And if whilst they profess only to please, they secretly advise, and give Instruction; they may now perhaps, as well as formerly, be esteem’d, with justice, the best and most honourable among Authors.
Mean while: “If dictating and prescribing be of so dangerous a nature, in other Authors; what must his Case be, who dictates to Authors themselves?”
To this I answer; That my Pretension is not so much to give Advice, as to consider of the Way and Manner of advising. My Science, if it be any, is no better than that of a Language-Master, or a Logician. For I have taken it strongly into my head, that there is a certain Knack or Leger-demain in Argument, by which we may safely proceed to the dangerous part of advising, and make sure of the good fortune to have our Advice accepted, if it be any thing worth.
My Proposal is to consider of this Affair, as a Case of Surgery. ’Tis Practice, we all allow, which makes a Hand. “But who, on this occasion, will be practis’d on? Who will willingly be the first to try our Hand, and afford us the requisite Experience?” Here lies the Difficulty. For supposing we had Hospitals for this sort of Surgery, and there were always in readiness certain meek Patients who wou’d bear any Incisions, and be prob’d or tented at our pleasure; the advantage no doubt wou’d be considerable in this way of Practice. Some Insight must needs be obtain’d. In time a Hand too might be acquir’d; but in all likelihood a very rough-one: which wou’d by no means serve the purpose of this latter Surgery. For here, a Tenderness of Hand is principally requisite. No Surgeon will be call’d, who has not Feeling and Compassion. And where to find a Subject in which the Operator is likely to preserve the highest Tenderness, and yet act with the greatest Resolution and Boldness, is certainly a matter of no slight Consideration.
I am sensible there is in all considerable Projects, at first appearance, a certain Air of chimerical Fancy and Conceit, which is apt to render the Projectors somewhat liable to ridicule. I wou’d therefore prepare my Reader against this Prejudice; by assuring him, that in the Operation propos’d, there is nothing which can justly excite his Laughter; or if there be, the Laugh perhaps may turn against him, by his own consent, and with his own concurrence: Which is a Specimen of that very Art or Science we are about to illustrate.
Accordingly, if it be objected against the above-mention’d Practice, and Art of Surgery, “That we can no-where find such a meek Patient, with whom we can in reality make bold, and for whom nevertheless we are sure to preserve the greatest Tenderness and Regard”: I assert the contrary; and say, for instance, That we have each of usOur Selvesto practise on. “Mere Quibble! (you’ll say:) For who can thus multiply himself into two Persons, and be his own Subject? Who can properly laugh at himself, or find in his heart to be either merry or severe on such an occasion?” Go to the Poets, and they will present you with many Instances. Nothing is more common with them, than this sort of Soliloquy. A Person of profound Parts, or perhaps of ordinary Capacity, happens, on some occasion, to commit a Fault. He is concern’d for it. He comes alone upon the Stage; looks about him, to see if any body be near; then takes himself to task, without sparing himself in the least. You wou’d wonder to hear how close he pushes matters, and how thorowly he carrys on the business of Self-dissection. By virtue of this Soliloquy he becomes two distinct Persons. He is Pupil and Preceptor. He teaches, and he learns. And in good earnest, had I nothing else to plead in behalf of the Morals of our modern Dramatick Poets, I shou’d defend ’em still against their Accusers for the sake of this very Practice, which they have taken care to keep up in its full force. For whether the Practice be natural or no, in respect of common Custom and Usage; I take upon me to assert, that it is an honest and laudable Practice; and that if already it be not natural to us, we ought however to make it so, by Study and Application.
“Are we to go therefore to the Stage for Edification? Must we learn our Catechism from the Poets? And, like the Players, speak aloud, what we debate any time with our-selves alone?” Not absolutely so, perhaps. Tho where the harm wou’d be, of spending some Discourse, and bestowing a little Breath and clear Voice purely upon our-selves, I can’t see. We might peradventure be less noisy and more profitable in Company, if at convenient times we discharg’d some of our articulate Sound, and spoke to ourselves vivâ voce when alone. For Company is an extreme Provocative to Fancy; and, like a hot Bed in Gardening, is apt to make our Imaginations sprout too fast. But by this anticipating Remedy of Soliloquy, we may effectually provide against the Inconvenience.
WE HAVE an account in History of a certain Nation, who seem to have been extremely apprehensive of the Effects of this Frothiness or Ventosity in Speech, and were accordingly resolv’d to provide thorowly against the Evil. They carry’d this Remedy of ours so far, that it was not only their Custom, but their Religion and Law, to speak, laugh, use Action, gesticulate, and do all in the same manner when by themselves, as when they were in Company. If you had stol’n upon ’em unawares at any time, when they had been alone, you might have found ’em in high Dispute, arguing with themselves, reproving, counselling, haranguing themselves, and in the most florid manner accosting their own Persons. In all likelihood they had been once a People remarkably fluent in Expression, much pester’d with Orators and Preachers, and mightily subject to that Disease which has been since call’d the Leprosy of Eloquence; till some sage Legislator arose amongst ’em, who when he cou’d not oppose the Torrent of Words, and stop the Flux of Speech, by any immediate Application, found means to give a vent to the loquacious Humour, and broke the force of the Distemper by eluding it.
Our present Manners, I must own, are not so well calculated for this Method of Soliloquy, as to suffer it to become a national Practice. ’Tis but a small Portion of this Regimen, which I wou’d willingly borrow, and apply to private use; especially in the case of Authors. I am sensible how fatal it might prove to many honourable Persons, shou’d they acquire such a Habit as this, or offer to practice such an Art, within reach of any mortal Ear. For ’tis well known, we are not many of us like that Roman, who wish’d for Windows to his Breast, that all might be as conspicuous there as in his House, which for that very reason he had built as open as was possible. I wou’d therefore advise our Probationer, upon his first Exercise, to retire into some thick Wood, or rather take the Point of some high Hill; where, besides the Advantage of looking about him for Security, he wou’d find the Air perhaps more rarefy’d, and sutable to the Perspiration requir’d, especially in the case of a Poetical Genius.
The whole band of authors loves a wood and shuns a city.
’Tis remarkable in all great Wits, that they have own’d this Practice of ours, and generally describ’d themselves as a People liable to sufficient Ridicule, for their great Loquacity by themselves, and their profound Taciturnity in Company. Not only the Poet and Philosopher, but the Orator himself was wont to have recourse to our Method. And the Prince of this latter Tribe may be prov’d to have been a great Frequenter of the Woods and River-Banks; where he consum’d abundance of his Breath, suffer’d his Fancy to evaporate, and reduc’d the vehemence both of his Spirit and Voice. If other Authors find nothing which invites ’em to these Recesses, ’tis because their Genius is not of force enough: Or tho it be, their Character, they may imagine, will hardly bear ’em out. For to be surpriz’d in the odd Actions, Gestures, or Tones, which are proper to such Asceticks, I must own wou’d be an ill Adventure for a Man of the World. But with Poets and Philosophers ’tis a known Case:
The man is either raving or composing.
Composing and Raving must necessarily, we see, bear a resemblance. And for those Composers who deal in Systems, and airy Speculations, they have vulgarly pass’d for a sort of Prose-Poets. Their secret Practice and Habit has been as frequently noted:
They chew over mumbles with themselves and rabid silences.
Both these sorts are happily indulg’d in this Method of Evacuation. They are thought to act naturally, and in their proper way, when they assume these odd Manners. But of other Authors ’tis expected they shou’d be better bred. They are oblig’d to preserve a more conversible Habit; which is no small misfortune to ’em. For if their Meditation and Resvery be obstructed by the fear of a nonconforming Mein in Conversation, they may happen to be so much the worse Authors for being finer Gentlemen. Their Fervency of Imagination may possibly be as strong as either the Philosopher’s or the Poet’s. But being deny’d an equal Benefit of Discharge, and with-held from the wholesom manner of Relief in private; ’tis no wonder if they appear with so much Froth and Scum in publick.
’Tis observable, that the Writers of Memoirs and Essays are chiefly subject to this frothy Distemper. Nor can it be doubted that this is the true Reason why these Gentlemen entertain the World so lavishly with what relates to themselves. For having had no opportunity of privately conversing with themselves, or exercising their own Genius, so as to make Acquaintance with it, or prove its Strength; they immediately fall to work in a wrong place, and exhibit on the Stage of the World that Practice, which they shou’d have kept to themselves; if they design’d that either they, or the World, shou’d be the better for their Moralitys. Who indeed can endure to hear an Empirick talk of his own Constitution, how he governs and manages it, what Diet agrees best with it, and what his Practice is with himself? The Proverb, no doubt, is very just, Physician cure thy-self. Yet methinks one shou’d have but an ill time, to be present at these bodily Operations. Nor is the Reader in truth any better entertain’d, when he is oblig’d to assist at the experimental Discussions of his practising Author, who all the while is in reality doing no better, than taking his Physick in publick.
For this reason, I hold it very indecent for any one to publish his Meditations, Occasional Reflections, Solitary Thoughts, or other such Exercises as come under the notion of this self-discoursing Practice. And the modestest Title I can conceive for such Works, wou’d be that of a certain Author, who call’d them his Cruditys. ’Tis the Unhappiness of those Wits, who conceive suddenly, but without being able to go out their full time, that after many Miscarriages and Abortions, they can bring nothing well-shapen or perfect into the World. They are not however the less fond of their Off-spring, which in a manner they beget in publick. For so publick-spirited they are, that they can never afford themselves the least time to think in private, for their own particular benefit and use. For this reason, tho they are often retir’d, they are never by themselves. The World is ever of the Party. They have their Author-Character in view, and are always considering how this or that Thought wou’d serve to compleat some Set of Contemplations, or furnish out the Common-Place-Book, from whence these treasur’d Riches are to flow in plenty on the necessitous World.
But if our Candidates for Authorship happen to be of the sanctify’d kind; ’tis not be imagin’d how much farther still their Charity is apt to extend. So exceeding great is their Indulgence and Tenderness for Mankind, that they are unwilling the least Sample of their devout Exercise shou’d be lost. Tho there are already so many Formularys and Rituals appointed for this Species of Soliloquy; they can allow nothing to lie conceal’d, which passes in this religious Commerce and way of Dialogue between them and their Soul.
These may be term’d a sort of Pseudo-Asceticks, who can have no real Converse either with themselves, or with Heaven; whilst they look thus a-squint upon the World, and carry Titles and Editions along with ’em in their Meditations. And altho the Books of this sort, by a common Idiom, are call’d good Books; the Authors, for certain, are a sorry Race: For religious Cruditys are undoubtedly the worst of any. A Saint-Author of all Men least values Politeness. He scorns to confine that Spirit, in which he writes, to Rules of Criticism and profane Learning. Nor is he inclin’d in any respect to play the Critick on himself, or regulate his Style or Language by the Standard of good Company, and People of the better sort. He is above the Consideration of that which in a narrow sense we call Manners. Nor is he apt to examine any other Faults than those which he calls Sins: Tho a Sinner against Good-Breeding, and the Laws of Decency, will no more be esteem’d a good Author, than will a Sinner against Grammar, good Argument, or good Sense. And if Moderation and Temper are not of the Party with a Writer; let his Cause be ever so good, I doubt whether he will be able to recommend it with great advantage to the World.
On this account, I wou’d principally recommend our Exercise of Self-Converse to all such Persons as are addicted to write after the manner of holy Advisers; especially if they lie under an indispensible Necessity of being Talkers or Haranguers in the same kind. For to discharge frequently and vehemently in publick, is a great hindrance to the way of private Exercise; which consists chiefly in Controul. But where, instead of Controul, Debate or Argument, the chief Exercise of the Wit consists in uncontroulable Harangues and Reasonings, which must neither be question’d nor contradicted; there is great danger, lest the Party, thro’ this Habit, shou’d suffer much by Cruditys, Indigestions, Choler, Bile, and particularly by a certain Tumour or Flatulency, which renders him of all Men the least able to apply the wholesom Regimen of Self-Practice. ’Tis no wonder if such quaint Practitioners grow to an enormous Size of Absurdity, whilst they continue in the reverse of that Practice, by which alone we correct the Redundancy of Humours, and chasten the Exuberance of Conceit and Fancy.
A remarkable Instance of the want of this sovereign Remedy may be drawn from our common great Talkers, who engross the greatest part of the Conversations of the World, and are the forwardest to speak in publick Assemblys. Many of these have a sprightly Genius, attended with a mighty Heat and Ebullition of Fancy. But ’tis a certain Observation in our Science, that they who are great Talkers in Company, have never been any Talkers by themselves, nor us’d to these private Discussions of our home Regimen. For which reason their Froth abounds. Nor can they discharge any thing without some mixture of it. But when they carry their Attempts beyond ordinary Discourse, and wou’d rise to the Capacity of Authors, the Case grows worse with ’em. Their Page can carry none of the Advantages of their Person. They can no-way bring into Paper those Airs they give themselves in Discourse. The Turns of Voice and Action, with which they help out many a lame Thought and incoherent Sentence, must here be laid aside; and the Speech taken to pieces, compar’d together, and examin’d from head to foot. So that unless the Party has been us’d to play the Critick thorowly upon himself, he will hardly be found proof against the Criticisms of others. His Thoughts can never appear very correct; unless they have been us’d to sound Correction by themselves, and been well form’d and disciplin’d before they are brought into the Field. ’Tis the hardest thing in the world to be a good Thinker, without being a strong Self-Examiner, and thorow-pac’d Dialogist, in this solitary way.
BUT to bring our Case a little closer still to Morals. I might perhaps very justifiably take occasion here to enter into a spacious Field of Learning, to shew the Antiquity of that Opinion, “That we have each of us a Daemon, Genius, Angel, or Guardian-Spirit, to whom we were strictly join’d, and committed, from our earliest Dawn of Reason, or Moment of our Birth.” This Opinion, were it literally true, might be highly serviceable, no doubt, towards the Establishment of our System and Doctrine. For it wou’d infallibly be prov’d a kind of Sacrilege or Impiety to slight the Company of so Divine a Guest, and in a manner banish him our Breast, by refusing to enter with him into those secret Conferences, by which alone he cou’d be enabled to become our Adviser and Guide. But I shou’d esteem it unfair to proceed upon such an Hypothesis as this: when the very utmost the wise Antients ever meant by this Daemon-Companion, I conceive to have been no more than enigmatically to declare, “That we had each of us a Patient in our-self; that we were properly our own Subjects of Practice; and that we then became due Practitioners, when by virtue of an intimate Recess we cou’d discover a certain Duplicity of Soul, and divide our-selves into two Partys.” One of these, as they suppos’d, wou’d immediately approve himself a venerable Sage; and with an air of Authority erect himself our Counsellor and Governor; whilst the other Party, who had nothing in him besides what was base and servile, wou’d be contented to follow and obey.
According therefore as this Recess was deep and intimate, and the Dual Number practically form’d in Us, we were suppos’d to advance in Morals and true Wisdom. This, they thought, was the only way of composing Matters in our Breast, and establishing that Subordinacy, which alone cou’d make Us agree with our-selves, and be of a-piece within. They esteem’d this a more religious Work than any Prayers, or other Duty in the Temple. And this they advis’d Us to carry thither, as the best Offering which cou’d be made:
Duty to God and man well blended in the mind, purity in the shrine of the heart.
This was, among the Antients, that celebrated Delphick Inscription, Recognize Your-self: which was as much as to say, Divide your-self, or BeTwo. For if the Division were rightly made, all within wou’d of course, they thought, be rightly understood, and prudently manag’d. Such Confidence they had in this Home-Dialect of Soliloquy. For it was accounted the peculiar of Philosophers and wise Men, to be able to hold themselves in Talk. And it was their Boast on this account, “That they were never less alone, than when by themselves.” A Knave, they thought, cou’d never be by himself. Not that his Conscience was always sure of giving him disturbance; but he had not, they suppos’d, so much Interest with himself, as to exert this generous Faculty, and raise himself a Companion; who being fairly admitted into Partnership, wou’d quickly mend his Partner, and set his Affairs on a right foot.
One wou’d think, there was nothing easier for us, than to know our own Minds, and understand what our main Scope was; what we plainly drove at, and what we propos’d to our-selves, as our End, in every Occurrence of our Lives. But our Thoughts have generally such an obscure implicit Language, that ’tis the hardest thing in the world to make ’em speak out distinctly. For this reason, the right Method is to give ’em Voice and Accent. And this, in our default, is what the Moralists or Philosophers endeavour to do, to our hand; when, as is usual, they hold us out a kind of vocal Looking-Glass, draw Sound out of our Breast, and instruct us to personate our-selves, in the plainest manner.
The prayer which a man utters within and secretly, when he has prayed aloud for sound mind and credit, is for the speedy death of a rich uncle.
A certain Air of Pleasantry and Humour, which prevails now-a-days in the fashionable World, gives a Son the assurance to tell a Father, he has liv’d too long; and a Husband the privilege of talking of his Second Wife before his First. But let the airy Gentleman, who makes thus bold with others, retire a-while out of Company; and he scarce dares tell himself his Wishes. Much less can he endure to carry on his Thought, as he necessarily must, if he enters once thorowly into Himself, and proceeds by Interrogatorys to form the Home-Acquaintance and Familiarity requir’d. For thus, after some struggle, we may suppose him to accost himself. “Tell me now, my honest Heart! Am I really honest, and of some worth? or do I only make a fair show, and am intrinsecally no better than a Rascal? As good a Friend, a Country-man, or a Relation, as I appear outwardly to the World, or as I wou’d willingly perhaps think my-self to be; shou’d I not in reality be glad they were hang’d, any of them, or broke their Necks, who happen’d to stand between Me and the least portion of an Estate? Why not? since ’tis my Interest. Shou’d I not be glad therefore to help this matter forwards, and promote my Interest, if it lay fairly in my power? No doubt; provided I were sure not to be punish’d for it. And what reason has the greatest Rogue in Nature for not doing thus? The same reason, and no other. Am I not then, at the bottom, the same as he? The same: an arrant Villain; tho perhaps more a Coward, and not so perfect in my kind. If Interest therefore points me out this Road; whither would Humanity and Compassion lead me? Quite contrary. Why therefore do I cherish such Weaknesses? Why do I sympathize with others? Why please myself in the Conceit of Worth and Honour? a Character, a Memory, an Issue, or a Name? What else are these but Scruples in my way? Wherefore do I thus bely my own Interest, and by keeping my-self half Knave, approve myself a thorow Fool?”
This is a Language we can by no means endure to hold with our-selves; whatever Raillery we may use with others. We may defend Villany, or cry up Folly, before the World: But to appear Fools, Mad-men, or Varlets, to our-selves; and prove it to our own faces, that we are really such, is insupportable. For so true a Reverence has every-one for himself, when he comes clearly to appear before his close Companion, that he had rather profess the vilest things of himself in open Company, than hear his Character privately from his own Mouth. So that we may readily from hence conclude, That the chief Interest of Ambition, Avarice, Corruption, and every sly insinuating Vice, is to prevent this Interview and Familiarity of Discourse which is consequent upon close Retirement and inward Recess. ’Tis the grand Artifice of Villany and Leudness, as well as of Superstition and Bigotry, to put us upon Terms of greater Distance and Formality with our-selves, and evade our proving Method of Soliloquy. And for this reason, how specious soever may be the Instruction and Doctrine of Formalists; their very Manner it-self is a sufficient Blind, or Remora in the way of Honesty and good Sense.
I am sensible, that shou’d my Reader be peradventure a Lover, after the more profound and solemn way of Love, he wou’d be apt to conclude, that he was no Stranger to our propos’d Method of Practice; being conscious to himself of having often made vigorous Excursions into those solitary Regions above-mention’d; where Soliloquy is upheld with most advantage. He may chance to remember how he has many times address’d the Woods and Rocks in audible articulate Sounds, and seemingly expostulated with himself in such a manner, as if he had really form’d the requisite Distinction, and had the Power to entertain himself in due form. But it is very apparent, that tho all were true we have here suppos’d, it can no way reach the Case before us. For a passionate Lover, whatever Solitude he may affect, can never be truly by himself. His Case is like the Author’s who has begun his Courtship to the Publick, and is embark’d in an Intrigue which sufficiently amuses, and takes him out of himself. Whatever he meditates alone, is interrupted still by the imagin’d Presence of the Mistress he pursues. Not a Thought, not an Expression, not a Sigh, which is purely for himself. All is appropriated, and all devoutly tender’d to the Object of his Passion. Insomuch that there is nothing ever so trivial or accidental of this kind, which he is not desirous shou’d be witness’d by the Party, whose Grace and Favour he sollicits.
’Tis the same Reason which keeps the imaginary Saint, or Mystick, from being capable of this Entertainment. Instead of looking narrowly into his own Nature and Mind, that he may be no longer a Mystery to himself, he is taken up with the Contemplation of other mysterious Natures, which he can never explain or comprehend. He has the Specters of his Zeal before his Eyes; and is as familiar with his Modes, Essences, Personages, and Exhibitions of Deity, as the Conjurer with his different Forms, Species, and Orders of Genii or Daemons. So that we make no doubt to assert, that not so much as a recluse Religionist, a Votary, or Hermit, was ever truly by himself. And thus since neither Lover, Author, Mystick, or Conjurer, (who are the only Claimants) can truly or justly be entitled to a Share in this Self-entertainment; it remains that the only Person intitled, is the Man of Sense, the Sage, or Philosopher. However, since of all other Characters we are generally the most inclin’d to favour that of a Lover; it may not, we hope, be impertinent, on this occasion, to recite the Story of an Amour.
A VIRTUOUS young Prince of a heroick Soul, capable of Love and Friendship, made war upon a Tyrant, who was in every respect his Reverse. ’Twas the Happiness of our Prince to be as great a Conqueror by his Clemency and Bounty, as by his Arms and military Virtue. Already he had won over to his Party several Potentates and Princes, who before had been subject to the Tyrant. Among those who adher’d still to the Enemy, there was a Prince, who having all the advantage of Person and Merit, had lately been made happy in the Possession and mutual Love of the most beautiful Princess in the world. It happen’d that the Occasions of the War call’d the new-marry’d Prince to a distance from his belov’d Princess. He left her secure, as he thought, in a strong Castle, far within the Country: but in his absence the Place was taken by surprize, and the Princess brought a Captive to the Quarters of our heroick Prince.
There was in the Camp a young Nobleman, Favourite of the Prince; one who had been educated with him, and was still treated by him with perfect Familiarity. Him he immediately sent for, and with strict Injunctions committed the captive Princess to his charge; resolving she shou’d be treated with that Respect which was due to her high Rank and Merit. ’Twas the same young Lord, who had discover’d her disguis’d among the Prisoners, and learnt her Story; the particulars of which he now related to the Prince. He spoke in extasy on this occasion; telling the Prince how beautiful she appear’d, even in the midst of Sorrow; and tho disguis’d under the meanest Habit, yet how distinguishable, by her Air and Manner, from every other Beauty of her Sex. But what appear’d strange to our young Nobleman, was, that the Prince, during this whole relation, discover’d not the least Intention of seeing the Lady, or satisfying that Curiosity, which seem’d so natural on such an occasion. He press’d him; but without success. “Not see her, Sir!” (said he, wondring) “when she is so handsom, beyond what you have ever seen!”
“For that very reason,” reply’d the Prince, “I wou’d the rather decline the Interview. For shou’d I, upon the bare Report of her Beauty, be so charm’d as to make the first Visit at this urgent time of Business; I may upon sight, with better reason, be induc’d perhaps to visit her when I am more at leisure: and so again and again; till at last I may have no leisure left for my Affairs.”
“Wou’d you, Sir! persuade me then,” said the young Nobleman, smiling, “that a fair Face can have such Power as to force the Will it-self, and constrain a Man in any respect to act contrary to what he thinks becoming him? Are we to hearken to the Poets in what they tell us of that Incendiary Love, and his irresistible Flames? A real Flame, we see, burns all alike. But that imaginary one of Beauty hurts only those who are consenting. It affects no otherwise, than as we ourselves are pleas’d to allow it. In many Cases we absolutely command it: as where Relation and Consanguinity are in the nearest degree. Authority and Law, we see, can master it. But ’twou’d be vain as well as unjust, for any Law to intermeddle or prescribe, were not the Case voluntary, and our Will entirely free.”
“How comes it then,” reply’d the Prince, “that if we are thus Masters of our Choice, and free at first to admire and love where we approve, we cannot afterwards as well cease to love whenever we see cause? This latter Liberty you will hardly defend. For I doubt not, you have heard of many, who tho they were us’d to set the highest value upon Liberty before they lov’d, yet afterwards were necessitated to serve in the most abject manner: finding themselves constrain’d and bound by a stronger Chain than any of Iron, or Adamant.”
“Such Wretches,” reply’d the Youth, “I have often heard complain; who, if you will believe ’em, are wretched indeed, without Means or Power to help themselves. You may hear ’em in the same manner complain grievously of Life it-self. But tho there are Doors enow to go out of Life, they find it convenient to keep still where they are. They are the very same Pretenders, who thro’ this Plea of irresistible Necessity make bold with what is another’s, and attempt unlawful Beds. But the Law, I perceive, makes bold with them in its turn, as with other Invaders of Property. Neither is it your Custom, Sir, to pardon such Offences. So that Beauty it-self, you must allow, is innocent and harmless, and can compel no-one to do any thing amiss. The Debauch’d compel themselves, and unjustly charge their Guilt on Love. They who are honest and just, can admire and love whatever is beautiful; without offering at any-thing beyond what is allow’d. How then is it possible, Sir, that one of your Virtue shou’d be in pain on any such account, or fear such a Temptation? You see, Sir, I am sound and whole, after having beheld the Princess. I have convers’d with her; I have admir’d her in the highest degree: yet am my-self still, and in my Duty; and shall be ever in the same manner at your command.”
“’Tis well” (reply’d the Prince): “keep your-self so. Be ever the same Man: and look to your Charge carefully, as becomes you. For it may so happen in the present posture of the War, that this Fair Captive may stand us in good stead.”
With this the young Nobleman departed to execute his Commission: and immediately took such care of the captive Princess and her Houshold, that she seem’d as perfectly obey’d, and had every thing which belong’d to her in as great Splendor now, as in her Principality, and in the height of Fortune. He found her in every respect deserving, and saw in her a Generosity of Soul which was beyond her other Charms. His Study to oblige her, and soften her Distress, made her in return desirous to express a Gratitude; which he easily perceiv’d. She shew’d on every occasion a real Concern for his Interest; and when he happen’d to fall ill, she took such tender care of him her-self, and by her Servants, that he seem’d to owe his Recovery to her Friendship.
From these Beginnings, insensibly, and by natural degrees (as may easily be conceiv’d) the Youth fell desperately in love. At first he offer’d not to make the least mention of his Passion to the Princess. For he scarce dar’d tell it to himself. But afterwards he grew bolder. She receiv’d his Declaration with an unaffected Trouble and Concern, spoke to him as a Friend, to dissuade him as much as possible from such an extravagant Attempt. But when he talk’d to her of Force, she immediately sent away one of her faithful Domesticks to the Prince, to implore his Protection. The Prince receiv’d the Message with the appearance of more than ordinary Concern: sent instantly for one of his first Ministers; and bid him go with that Domestick to the young Nobleman, and let him understand, “That Force was not to be offer’d to such a Lady; Persuasion he might use, if he thought fit.”
The Minister, who was no Friend to the young Nobleman, fail’d not to aggravate the Message, inveigh’d publickly against him on this occasion, and to his face reproach’d him as a Traitor and Dishonourer of his Prince and Nation: with all else which cou’d be said against him, as guilty of the highest Sacrilege, Perfidiousness, and Breach of Trust. So that in reality, the Youth look’d upon his Case as desperate, fell into the deepest Melancholy, and prepar’d himself for that Fate, which he thought he well deserv’d.
In this Condition the Prince sent to speak with him alone: and when he saw him in the utmost Confusion, “I find,” said he, “my Friend, I am now become dreadful to you indeed; since you can neither see me without Shame, nor imagine me to be without Resentment. But away with all those Thoughts from this time forwards. I know how much you have suffer’d on this occasion. I know the Power of Love, and am no otherwise safe my-self, than by keeping out of the way of Beauty. ’Twas I who was in fault; ’twas I who unhappily match’d you with that unequal Adversary, and gave you that impracticable Task and hard Adventure, which no-one yet was ever strong enough to accomplish.”
“In this, Sir,” reply’d the Youth, “as in all else, you express that Goodness which is so natural to you. You have Compassion, and can allow for human Frailty; but the rest of Mankind will never cease to upbraid me. Nor shall I ever be forgiven, were I able ever to forgive my-self. I am reproach’d by my nearest Friends. I must be odious to all Mankind, wherever I am known. The least Punishment I can think due to me, is Banishment for ever from your Presence.”
“Think not of such a thing for ever,” said the Prince, “but trust me: if you retire only for a while, I shall so order it, that you shall soon return again with the Applause, even of those who are now your Enemys, when they find what a considerable Service you shall have render’d both to them and Me.”
Such a Hint was sufficient to revive the Spirits of our despairing Youth. He was transported to think, that his Misfortune cou’d be turn’d any way to the Advantage of his Prince; he enter’d with Joy into the Scheme the Prince had laid for him, and appear’d eager to depart and execute what was appointed him. “Can you then,” said the Prince, “resolve to quit the charming Princess?”
“O Sir!” reply’d the Youth, “well am I now satisfy’d, that I have in reality within me two distinct separate Souls. This Lesson of Philosophy I have learnt from that villanous Sophister Love. For ’tis impossible to believe, that having one and the same Soul, it shou’d be actually both Good and Bad, passionate for Virtue and Vice, desirous of Contrarys. No. There must of necessity be Two: and when the Good prevails, ’tis then we act handsomly; when the Ill, then basely and villanously. Such was my Case. For lately the Ill Soul was wholly Master. But now the Good prevails, by your assistance; and I am plainly a new Creature, with quite another Apprehension, another Reason, another Will.’’
THUS it may appear how far a Lover by his own natural Strength may reach the chief Principle of Philosophy, and understand our Doctrine of Two Persons in one individual Self. Not that our Courtier, we suppose, was able, of himself, to form this Distinction justly and according to Art. For cou’d he have effected this, he wou’d have been able to cure himself, without the assistance of his Prince. However, he was wise enough to see in the issue, that his Independency and Freedom were mere Glosses, and Resolution a Nose of Wax. For let Will be ever so free, Humour and Fancy, we see, govern it. And these, as free as we suppose ’em, are often chang’d we know not how, without asking our consent, or giving us any account. If Opinion be that which governs, and makes the change; ’tis it-self as liable to be govern’d, and vary’d in its turn. And by what I can observe of the World, Fancy and Opinion stand pretty much upon the same bottom. So that if there be no certain Inspector or Auditor establish’d within us, to take account of these Opinions and Fancys in due form, and minutely to animadvert upon their several Growths and Habits, we are as little like to continue a Day in the same Will, as a Tree, during a Summer, in the same Shape, without the Gard’ner’s Assistance, and the vigorous Application of the Sheers and Pruning-Knife.
As cruel a Court as the Inquisition appears; there must, it seems, be full as formidable a one, erected in our-selves; if we wou’d pretend to that Uniformity of Opinion which is necessary to hold us to one Will, and preserve us in the same mind, from one day to another. Philosophy, at this rate, will be thought perhaps little better than Persecution: And a Supreme Judg in matters of Inclination and Appetite, must needs go exceedingly against the Heart. Every pretty Fancy is disturb’d by it: Every Pleasure interrupted by it. The Course of good Humour will hardly allow it: And the Pleasantry of Wit almost absolutely rejects it. It appears, besides, like a kind of Pedantry, to be thus magisterial with our-selves; thus strict over our Imaginations, and with all the airs of a real Pedagogue to be sollicitously taken up in the sour Care and Tutorage of so many boyish Fancys, unlucky Appetites and Desires, which are perpetually playing truant, and need Correction.
We hope, however, that by our Method of Practice, and the help of the grand Arcanum, which we have profess’d to reveal, this Regimen or Discipline of theFancys may not in the end prove so severe or mortifying as is imagin’d. We hope also that our Patient (for such we naturally suppose our Reader) will consider duly with himself, that what he endures in this Operation is for no inconsiderable End: since ’tis to gain him a Will, and insure him a certain Resolution; by which he shall know where to find himself; be sure of his own Meaning and Design; and as to all his Desires, Opinions, and Inclinations, be warranted one and the same Person to day as yesterday, and to morrow as to day.
This, perhaps, will be thought a Miracle by one who well considers the Nature of Mankind, and the Growth, Variation, and Inflection of Appetite and Humour. For Appetite, which is elder Brother to Reason, being the Lad of stronger growth, is sure, on every Contest, to take the advantage of drawing all to his own side. And Will, so highly boasted, is, at best, merely a Top or Foot-Ball between these Youngsters, who prove very unfortunately match’d; till the youngest, instead of now and then a Kick or Lash bestow’d to little purpose, forsakes the Ball or Top it-self, and begins to lay about his elder Brother. ’Tis then that the Scene changes. For the elder, like an arrant Coward, upon this Treatment, presently grows civil, and affords the younger as fair Play afterwards as he can desire.
And here it is that our Sovereign Remedy and Gymnastick Method of Soliloquy takes its rise: when by a certain powerful Figure of inward Rhetorick, the Mind apostrophizes its own Fancys, raises ’em in their proper Shapes and Personages, and addresses ’em familiarly, without the least Ceremony or Respect. By this means it will soon happen, that Two form’d Partys will erect themselves within. For the Imaginations or Fancys being thus roundly treated, are forc’d to declare themselves, and take party. Those on the side of the elder Brother Appetite, are strangely subtle and insinuating. They have always the Faculty to speak by Nods and Winks. By this practice they conceal half their meaning, and, like modern Politicians, pass for deeply wise, and adorn themselves with the finest Pretext and most specious Glosses imaginable; till being confronted with their Fellows of a plainer Language and Expression, they are forc’d to quit their mysterious Manner, and discover themselves mere Sophisters and Impostors, who have not the least to do with the Party of Reason and good Sense.
Accordingly we might now proceed to exhibit distinctly, and in due method, the Form and Manner of this Probation, or Exercise, as it regards all Men in general. But the Case of Authors, in particular, being, as we apprehend, the most urgent; we shall apply our Rule in the first place to these Gentlemen, whom it so highly imports to know themselves, and understand the natural Strength and Powers, as well as the Weaknesses of a human Mind. For without this Understanding, the Historian’s Judgment will be very defective; the Politician’s Views very narrow, and chimerical; and the Poet’s Brain, however stock’d with Fiction, will be but poorly furnish’d; as in the sequel we shall make appear. He who deals in Characters, must of necessity know his own; or he will know nothing. And he who wou’d give the World a profitable Entertainment of this sort, shou’d be sure to profit, first, by himself. For in this sense, Wisdom as well as Charity may be honestly said to begin at home. There is no way of estimating Manners, or apprizing the different Humours, Fancys, Passions and Apprehensions of others, without first taking an Inventory of the same kind of Goods within ourselves, and surveying our domestick Fund. A little of this Home-Practice will serve to make great Discoverys.
Live at home and learn how slenderly furnished your apartments are.
WHOEVER has been an Observer of Action and Grace in human Bodys, must of necessity have discover’d the great difference in this respect between such Persons as have been taught by Nature only, and such as by Reflection, and the assistance of Art, have learnt to form those Motions, which on experience are found the easiest and most natural. Of the former kind are either those good Rusticks, who have been bred remote from the form’d Societys of Men; or those plain Artizans, and People of lower Rank, who living in Citys and Places of resort, have been necessitated however to follow mean Imployments, and wanted the Opportunity and Means to form themselves after the better Models. There are some Persons indeed so happily form’d by Nature her-self, that with the greatest Simplicity or Rudeness of Education, they have still something of a natural Grace and Comeliness in their Action: And there are others of a better Education, who by a wrong Aim and injudicious Affectation of Grace, are of all People the farthest remov’d from it. ’Tis undeniable however, that the Perfection of Grace and Comeliness in Action and Behaviour, can be found only among the People of a liberal Education. And even among the graceful of this kind, those still are found the gracefullest, who early in their Youth have learnt their Exercises, and form’d their Motions under the best Masters.
Now such as these Masters and their Lessons are to a fine Gentleman, such are Philosophers, and Philosophy, to an Author. The Case is the same in the fashionable, and in the literate World. In the former of these ’tis remark’d, that by the help of good Company, and the force of Example merely, a decent Carriage is acquir’d, with such apt Motions and such a Freedom of Limbs, as on all ordinary occasions may enable the Party to demean himself like a Gentleman. But when upon further occasion, trial is made in an extraordinary way; when Exercises of the genteeler kind are to be perform’d in publick, ’twill easily appear who of the Pretenders have been form’d by Rudiments, and had Masters in private; and who, on the other side, have contented themselves with bare Imitation, and learnt their Part casually and by rote. The Parallel is easily made on the side of Writers. They have at least as much need of learning the several Motions, Counterpoises and Balances of the Mind and Passions, as the other Students those of the Body and Limbs.
Sound knowledge is the first requisite for writing well; the books of Socrates’ school will yield you the matter.
The Galant, no doubt, may pen a Letter to his Mistress, as the Courtier may a Compliment to the Minister, or the Minister to the Favourite above him, without going such vast Depths into Learning or Philosophy. But for these privileg’d Gentlemen, tho they set Fashions and prescribe Rules in other Cases, they are no Controulers in the Commonwealth of Letters. Nor are they presum’d to write to the Age, or for remote Posterity. Their Works are not of a nature to intitle ’em to hold the Rank of Authors, or be styl’d Writers by way of Excellence in the kind. Shou’d their Ambition lead ’em into such a Field, they wou’d be oblig’d to come otherwise equip’d. They who enter the publick Lists, must come duly train’d, and exercis’d, like well appointed Cavaliers, expert in Arms, and well instructed in the Use of their Weapon, and Management of their Steed. For to be well accouter’d, and well mounted, is not sufficient. The Horse alone can never make the Horseman; nor Limbs the Wrestler or the Dancer. No more can a Genius alone make a Poet; or good Parts a Writer, in any considerable kind. The Skill and Grace of Writing is founded, as our wise Poet tells us, in Knowledg and good Sense: and not barely in that Knowledg, which is to be learnt from common Authors, or the general Conversation of the World; but from those particular Rules of Art, which Philosophy alone exhibits.
The Philosophical Writings, to which our Poet in his Art of Poetry refers, were in themselves a kind of Poetry, like the Mimes, or personated Pieces of early times, before Philosophy was in vogue, and when as yet Dramatical Imitation was scarce form’d; or at least, in many Parts, not brought to due perfection. They were Pieces which, besides their force of Style, and hidden Numbers, carry’d a sort of Action and Imitation, the same as the Epick and Dramatick kinds. They were either real Dialogues, or Recitals of such personated Discourses; where the Persons themselves had their Characters preserv’d thro’out; their Manners, Humours, and distinct Turns of Temper and Understanding maintain’d, according to the most exact poetical Truth. ’Twas not enough that these Pieces treated fundamentally of Morals, and in consequence pointed out real Characters and Manners: They exhibited ’em alive, and set the Countenances and Complexions of Men plainly in view. And by this means they not only taught Us to know Others; but, what was principal and of highest virtue in ’em, they taught us to know Our-selves.
The Philosophical Hero of these Poems, whose Name they carry’d both in their Body and Front, and whose Genius and Manner they were made to represent, was in himself a perfect Character; yet, in some respects, so veil’d, and in a Cloud, that to the unattentive Surveyor he seem’d often to be very different from what he really was: and this chiefly by reason of a certain exquisite and refin’d Raillery which belong’d to his Manner, and by virtue of which he cou’d treat the highest Subjects, and those of the commonest Capacity both together, and render ’em explanatory of each other. So that in this Genius of writing, there appear’d both the heroick and the simple, the tragick, and the comick Vein. However, it was so order’d, that notwithstanding the Oddness or Mysteriousness of the principal Character, the Under-parts or second Characters shew’d human Nature more distinctly, and to the Life. We might here, therefore, as in a Looking-Glass, discover our-selves, and see our minutest Features nicely delineated, and suted to our own Apprehension and Cognizance. No-one who was ever so little a-while an Inspector, cou’d fail of becoming acquainted with his own Heart. And, what was of singular note in these magical Glasses, it wou’d happen, that by constant and long Inspection, the Partys accustom’d to the Practice, wou’d acquire a peculiar speculative Habit; so as virtually to carry about with ’em a sort of Pocket-Mirrour, always ready, and in use. In this, there were Two Faces which wou’d naturally present themselves to our view: One of them, like the commanding Genius, the Leader and Chief above-mention’d; the other like that rude, undisciplin’d and headstrong Creature, whom we our-selves in our natural Capacity most exactly resembled. Whatever we were employ’d in, whatever we set about; if once we had acquir’d the habit of this Mirrour; we shou’d, by virtue of the double Reflection, distinguish our-selves into two different Partys. And in this Dramatick Method, the Work of Self-Inspection wou’d proceed with admirable Success.
’Tis no wonder that the primitive Poets were esteem’d such Sages in their Times; since it appears, they were such well-practis’d Dialogists, and accustom’d to this improving Method, before ever Philosophy had adopted it. Their Mimes or characteriz’d Discourses were as much relish’d, as their most regular Poems; and were the Occasion perhaps that so many of these latter were form’d in such perfection. For Poetry it-self was defin’d an Imitation chiefly of Men and Manners: and was that in an exalted and noble degree, which in a low one we call Mimickry. ’Tis in this that the great Mimographer, the Father and Prince of Poets, excels so highly; his Characters being wrought to a Likeness beyond what any succeeding Masters were ever able to describe. Nor are his Works, which are so full of Action, any other than an artful Series or Chain of Dialogues, which turn upon one remarkable Catastrophe or Event. He describes no Qualitys or Virtues; censures no Manners: makes no Encomiums, nor gives Characters himself; but brings his Actors still in view. ’Tis they who shew themselves. ’Tis they who speak in such a manner, as distinguishes ’em in all things from all others, and makes ’em ever like themselves. Their different Compositions and Allays so justly made, and equally carry’d on, thro’ every particle of the Action, give more Instruction than all the Comments or Glosses in the world. The Poet, instead of giving himself those dictating and masterly Airs of Wisdom, makes hardly any figure at all, and is scarce discoverable in his Poem. This is being truly a Master. He paints so as to need no Inscription over his Figures, to tell us what they are, or what he intends by ’em. A few words let fall, on any slight occasion, from any of the Partys he introduces, are sufficient to denote their Manners and distinct Character. From a Finger or a Toe, he can represent to our Thoughts the Frame and Fashion of a whole Body. He wants no other help of Art, to personate his Heroes, and make ’em living. There was no more left for Tragedy to do after him, than to erect a Stage, and draw his Dialogues and Characters into Scenes; turning, in the same manner, upon one principal Action or Event, with that regard to Place and Time which was sutable to a real Spectacle. Even Comedy it-self was adjudg’d to this great Master; it being deriv’d from those Parodys or Mock-Humours, of which he had given the Specimen in a conceal’d sort of Raillery intermix’d with the Sublime.—A dangerous Stroke of Art! and which requir’d a masterly Hand, like that of the philosophical Hero, whose Character was represented in the Dialogue-Writings above-mention’d.
From hence possibly we may form a Notion of that Resemblance, which on so many occasions was heretofore remark’d between the Prince of Poets, and the Divine Philosopher, who was said to rival him, and who together with his Contemporarys of the same School, writ wholly in that manner of Dialogue above-describ’d. From hence too we may comprehend perhaps, why the Study of Dialogue was heretofore thought so advantageous to Writers, and why this manner of Writing was judg’d so difficult, which at first sight, it must be own’d, appears the easiest of any.
I have formerly wonder’d indeed why a Manner, which was familiarly us’d in Treatises upon most Subjects, with so much Success among the Antients, shou’d be so insipid and of little esteem with us Moderns. But I afterwards perceiv’d, that besides the difficulty of the Manner it-self, and that Mirrour-Faculty, which we have observ’d it to carry in respect of our-selves, it proves also of necessity a kind of Mirrour or Looking-Glass to the Age. If so; it shou’d of consequence (you’ll say) be the more agreeable and entertaining.
True; if the real View of our-selves be not perhaps displeasing to us. But why more displeasing to Us than to the Antients? Because perhaps they cou’d with just reason bear to see their natural Countenances represented. And why not We the same? What shou’d discourage us? For are we not as handsom, at least in our own eyes? Perhaps not: as we shall see, when we have consider’d a little further what the force is of this Mirrour-Writing, and how it differs from that more complaisant modish way, in which an Author, instead of presenting us with other natural Characters, sets off his own with the utmost Art, and purchases his Reader’s Favour by all imaginable Compliances and Condescensions.
AN AUTHOR who writes in his own Person, has the advantage of beingwho or what he pleases. He is no certain Man, nor has any certain or genuine Character: but sutes himself, on every occasion, to the Fancy of his Reader, whom, as the fashion is now-a-days, he constantly caresses and cajoles. All turns upon their two Persons. And as in an Amour, or Commerce of Love-Letters; so here the Author has the Privilege of talking eternally of himself, dressing and sprucing himself up; whilst he is making diligent court, and working upon the Humour of the Party to whom he addresses. This is the Coquetry of a modern Author; whose Epistles Dedicatory, Prefaces, and Addresses to the Reader, are so many affected Graces, design’d to draw the Attention from the Subject, towards Himself; and make it be generally observ’d, not so much what he says, as what he appears, or is, and what figure he already makes, or hopes to make, in the fashionable World.
These are the Airs which a neighbouring Nation give themselves, more particularly in what they call their Memoirs. Their very Essays on Politicks, their Philosophical and Critical Works, their Comments upon antient and modern Authors, all their Treatises are Memoirs. The whole Writing of this Age is become indeed a sort of Memoir-Writing. Tho in the real Memoirs of the Antients, even when they writ at any time concerning themselves, there was neither the I nor Thou thro’out the whole Work. So that all this pretty Amour and Intercourse of Caresses between the Author and Reader was thus intirely taken away.
Much more is this the Case in Dialogue. For here the Author is annihilated; and the Reader being no way apply’d to, stands for No-body. The self-interesting Partys both vanish at once. The Scene presents it-self, as by chance, and undesign’d. You are not only left to judg coolly, and with indifference, of the Sense deliver’d; but of the Character, Genius, Elocution, and Manner of the Persons who deliver it. These two are mere Strangers, in whose favour you are no way engag’d. Nor is it enough that the Persons introduc’d speak pertinent and good Sense, at every turn. It must be seen from what Bottom they speak; from what Principle, what Stock or Fund of Knowledg they draw; and what Kind or Species of Understanding they possess. For the Understanding here must have its Mark, its characteristick Note, by which it may be distinguish’d. It must be such and such an Understanding; as when we say, for instance, such or such a Face: since Nature has characteriz’d Tempers and Minds as peculiarly as Faces. And for an Artist who draws naturally, ’tis not enough to shew us merely Faces which may be call’d Men’s: Every Face must be a certain Man’s.
Now as a Painter who draws Battels or other Actions of Christians, Turks, Indians, or any distinct and peculiar People, must of necessity draw the several Figures of his Piece in their proper and real Proportions, Gestures, Habits, Arms, or at least with as fair resemblance as possible; so in the same manner that Writer, whoever he be, among us Moderns, who shall venture to bring his Fellow-Moderns into Dialogue, must introduce ’em in their proper Manners, Genius, Behaviour and Humour. And this is the Mirrour or Looking-Glass above describ’d.
For instance, a Dialogue, we will suppose, is fram’d, after the manner of our antient Authors. In it, a poor Philosopher, of a mean figure, accosts one of the powerfullest, wittiest, handsomest, and richest Noblemen of the time, as he is walking leisurely towards the Temple. “You are going then,” says he, (calling him by his plain name) “to pay your Devotions yonder at the Temple?” “I am so.” “But with an Air methinks, as if some Thought perplex’d you.” “What is there in the Case which shou’d perplex one?” “The Thought perhaps of your Petitions, and the Consideration what Vows you had best offer to the Deity.” “Is that so difficult? Can any one be so foolish as to ask of Heaven what is not for his Good?” “Not, if he understands what his Good is.” “Who can mistake it, if he has common Sense, and knows the difference between Prosperity and Adversity?” “’Tis Prosperity therefore you wou’d pray for.” “Undoubtedly.” “For instance, that absolute Sovereign, who commands all things by virtue of his immense Treasures, and governs by his sole Will and Pleasure, him you think prosperous, and his State happy.”
Whilst I am copying this, (for ’tis no more indeed than a borrow’d Sketch from one of those Originals before-mention’d) I see a thousand Ridicules arising from the Manner, the Circumstances and Action it-self, compar’d with modern Breeding and Civility.—Let us therefore mend the matter, if possible, and introduce the same Philosopher, addressing himself in a more obsequious manner, to his Grace, his Excellency, or his Honour; without failing in the least tittle of the Ceremonial. Or let us put the Case more favourably still for our Man of Letters. Let us suppose him to be incognito, without the least appearance of a Character, which in our Age is so little recommending. Let his Garb and Action be of the more modish sort, in order to introduce him better, and gain him Audience. And with these Advantages and Precautions, imagine still in what manner he must accost this Pageant of State, if at any time he finds him at leisure, walking in the Fields alone, and without his Equipage. Consider how many Bows, and simpering Faces! how many Preludes, Excuses, Compliments!—Now put Compliments, put Ceremony into a Dialogue, and see what will be the Effect!
This is the plain Dilemma against that antient manner of Writing, which we can neither well imitate, nor translate; whatever Pleasure or Profit we may find in reading those Originals. For what shall we do in such a Circumstance? What if the Fancy takes us, and we resolve to try the Experiment in modern Subjects? See the Consequence!—If we avoid Ceremony, we are unnatural: if we use it, and appear as we naturally are, as we salute, and meet, and treat one another, we hate the Sight.—What’s this but hating our own Faces? Is it the Painter’s Fault? Shou’d he paint falsly, or affectedly; mix Modern with Antient, join Shapes preposterously, and betray his Art? If not; what Medium is there? What remains for him, but to throw away the Pencil?—No more designing after the Life: no more Mirrour-Writing, or personal Representation of any kind whatever.
THUS Dialogue is at an end. The Antients cou’d see their own Faces; but we can’t. And why this? Why, but because we have less Beauty: for so our Looking-Glass can inform us.—Ugly Instrument! And for this reason to be hated.—Our Commerce and manner of Conversation, which we think the politest imaginable, is such, it seems, as we our-selves can’t endure to see represented to the Life. ’Tis here, as in our real Portraitures, particularly those at full Length, where the poor Pencil-man is put to a thousand shifts, whilst he strives to dress us in affected Habits, such as we never wore; because shou’d he paint us in those we really wear, they wou’d of necessity make the Piece to be so much more ridiculous, as it was more natural, and resembling.
Thus much for Antiquity, and those Rules of Art, those Philosophical Sea-Cards, by which the adventurous Genius’s of the Times were wont to steer their Courses, and govern their impetuous Muse. These were the Chartae of our Roman Master-Poet, and these the Pieces of Art, theMirrours, the Exemplars he bids us place before our Eyes.
Thumb your Greek patterns by night and by day.
And thus Poetry and the Writer’s Art, as in many respects it resembles the Statuary’s and the Painter’s, so in this more particularly, that it has its original Draughts and Models for Study and Practice; not for Ostentation, to be shown abroad, or copy’d for publick view. These are the antient Busts; the Trunks of Statues; the Pieces of Anatomy; the masterly rough Drawings which are kept within; as the secret Learning, the Mystery, and fundamental Knowledg of the Art. There is this essential difference however between the Artists of each kind; that they who design merely after Bodys, and form the Graces of this sort, can never with all their Accuracy, or Correctness of Design, be able to reform themselves, or grow a jot more shapely in their Persons. But for those Artists who copy from another Life, who study the Graces and Perfections of Minds, and are real Masters of those Rules which constitute this latter Science; ’tis impossible they shou’d fail of being themselves improv’d, and amended in their better Part.
I must confess there is hardly any where to be found a more insipid Race of Mortals, than those whom we Moderns are contented to call Poets, for having attain’d the chiming Faculty of a Language, with an injudicious random use of Wit and Fancy. But for the Man, who truly and in a just sense deserves the Name of Poet, and who as a real Master, or Architect in the kind, can describe both Men and Manners, and give to an Action its just Body and Proportions; he will be found, if I mistake not, a very different Creature. Such a Poet is indeed a second Maker; a just Prometheus, under Jove. Like that Sovereign Artist or universal Plastick Nature, he forms a Whole, coherent and proportion’d in it-self, with due Subjection and Subordinacy of constituent Parts. He notes the Boundarys of the Passions, and knows their exact Tones and Measures; by which he justly represents them, marks the Sublime of Sentiments and Action, and distinguishes the Beautiful from the Deform’d, the Amiable from the Odious. The moral Artist, who can thus imitate the Creator, and is thus knowing in the inward Form and Structure of his Fellow-Creature, will hardly, I presume, be found unknowing in Himself, or at a loss in those Numbers which make the Harmony of a Mind. For Knavery is mere Dissonance and Disproportion. And tho Villains may have strong Tones and natural Capacitys of Action; ’tis impossible that true Judgment and Ingenuity shou’d reside, where Harmony and Honesty have no being.
BUT having enter’d thus seriously into the Concerns of Authors, and shewn their chief Foundation and Strength, their preparatory Discipline, and qualifying Method of Self-Examination; ’tis fit, ere we disclose this Mystery any further, we shou’d consider the Advantages or Disadvantages our Authors may possibly meet with, from abroad: and how far their Genius may be depress’d or rais’d by any external Causes, arising from the Humour or Judgment of the World.
Whatever it be which influences in this respect, must proceed either from the Grandees and Men in Power, the Criticks and Men of Art, or the People themselves, the common Audience, and mere Vulgar. We shall begin therefore with the Grandees, and pretended Masters of the World: taking the liberty, in favour of Authors, to bestow some Advice also on these high Persons; if possibly they are dispos’d to receive it in such a familiar way as this.
AS usual as it is with Mankind to act absolutely by Will and Pleasure, without regard to Counsel, or the rigid Method of Rule and Precept; it must be acknowledg’d nevertheless, that the good and laudable Custom of asking Advice, is still upheld, and kept in fashion, as a matter of fair Repute, and honourable Appearance: Insomuch that even Monarchs, and absolute Princes themselves, disdain not, we see, to make profession of the Practice.
’Tis, I presume, on this account, that the Royal Persons are pleas’d, on publick Occasions, to make use of the noted Style of WE and US. Not that they are suppos’d to have any Converse with Themselves, as being endow’d with the Privilege of becoming Plural, and enlarging their Capacity, in the manner above describ’d. Single and absolute Persons in Government, I’m sensible, can hardly be consider’d as any other than single and absolute in Morals. They have no Inmate-Controuler to cavil with ’em, or dispute their Pleasure. Nor have they, from any Practice abroad, been able at any time to learn the way of being free and familiar with themselves, at home.Inclination and Will in such as these, admit as little Restraint or Check in private Meditation as in publick Company. The World, which serves as a Tutor to Persons of an inferior rank, is submissive to these Royal Pupils; who from their earliest days are us’d to see even their Instructors bend before ’em, and hear every thing applauded which they themselves perform.
For fear therefore, lest their Humour merely, or the Caprice of some Favourite, shou’d be presum’d to influence ’em, when they come to years of princely Discretion, and are advanc’d to the Helm of Government; it has been esteem’d a necessary Decency to summon certain Advisers by Profession, to assist as Attendants to the single Person, and be join’d with him in his written Edicts, Proclamations, Letters-Patent, and other Instruments of Regal Power. For this use, Privy-Counsellors have been erected; who being Persons of considerable Figure and wise Aspect, cannot be suppos’d to stand as Statues or mere Cyphers in the Government, and leave the Royal Acts erroneously and falsly describ’d to us in the Plural Number; when, at the bottom, a single Will or Fancy was the sole Spring and Motive.
Foreign Princes indeed have most of ’em that unhappy Prerogative of acting unadvisedly and wilfully in their national Affairs: But ’tis known to be far otherwise with the legal and just Princes of our Island. They are surrounded with the best of Counsellors, the Laws. They administer Civil Affairs by Legal Officers, who have the Direction of their Publick Will and Conscience: and they annually receive Advice and Aid, in the most effectual manner, from their good People. To this wise Genius of our Constitution we may be justly said to owe our wisest and best Princes; whose High Birth or Royal Education cou’d not alone be suppos’d to have given ’em that happy Turn: since by experience we find, that those very Princes, from whose Conduct the World abroad, as well as We at home, have reap’d the greatest Advantages, were such as had the most controverted Titles; and in their youth had stood in the remoter Prospects of Regal Power, and liv’d the nearest to a private Life.
Other Princes we have had, who tho difficult perhaps in receiving Counsel, have been eminent in the Practice of applying it to others. They have listed themselves Advisers in form; and by publishing their admonitory Works, have added to the number of those, whom in this Treatise we have presum’d to criticize. But our Criticism being withal an Apology for Authors, and a Defense of the literate Tribe; it cannot be thought amiss in us, to join the Royal with the Plebeian Penmen, in this common Cause.
’Twou’d be a hard Case indeed, shou’d the Princes of our Nation refuse to countenance the industrious Race of Authors; since their Royal Ancestors, and Predecessors, have had such Honour deriv’d to ’em from this Profession. ’Tis to this they owe that bright Jewel of their Crown, purchas’d by a warlike Prince; who having assum’d the Author, and essay’d his Strength in the polemick Writings of the School-Divines, thought it an Honour on this account to retain the Title of Defender of the Faith.
Another Prince, of a more pacifick Nature and fluent Thought, submitting Arms and martial Discipline to the Gown; and confiding in his princely Science and profound Learning, made his Style and Speech the Nerve and Sinew of his Government. He gave us his Works full of wise Exhortation and Advice to his Royal Son, as well as of Instruction to his good People; who cou’d not without admiration observe their Author-Sovereign, thus studious and contemplative in their behalf. ’Twas then, one might have seen our Nation growing young and docile, with that Simplicity of Heart, which qualify’d ’em to profit like a Scholar-People under their Royal Preceptor. For with abundant Eloquence he graciously gave Lessons to his Parliament, tutor’d his Ministers, and edify’d the greatest Churchmen and Divines themselves; by whose Suffrage he obtain’d the highest Appellations which cou’d be merited by the acutest Wit, and truest Understanding. From hence the British Nations were taught to own in common a Solomon for their joint Sovereign, the Founder of their late compleated Union. Nor can it be doubted that the pious Treatise of Self-Discourse ascrib’d to the succeeding Monarch, contributed in a great measure to his glorious and never-fading Titles of Saint, and Martyr.
However it be, I wou’d not willingly take upon me to recommend this Author-Character to our future Princes. Whatever Crowns or Laurels their renown’d Predecessors may have gather’d in this Field of Honour; I shou’d think that for the future, the speculative Province might more properly be committed to private Heads. ’Twou’d be a sufficient Encouragement to the learned World, and a sure Earnest of the Increase and Flourishing of Letters in our Nation, if its Sovereigns wou’d be contented to be the Patrons of Wit, and vouchsafe to look graciously on the ingenious Pupils of Art. Or were it the Custom of their Prime-Ministers, to have any such regard; it wou’d of it-self be sufficient to change the Face of Affairs. A small degree of Favour wou’d insure the Fortunes of a distress’d and ruinous Tribe, whose forlorn Condition has help’d to draw Disgrace upon Arts and Sciences, and kept them far off from that Politeness and Beauty, in which they wou’d soon appear, if the aspiring Genius of our Nation were forwarded by the least Care or Culture.
There shou’d not, one wou’d think, be any need of Courtship or Persuasion to engage our Grandees in the Patronage of Arts and Letters. For in our Nation, upon the foot Things stand, and as they are likely to continue; ’tis not difficult to foresee that Improvements will be made in every Art and Science. The Muses will have their Turn; and with or without their Maecenas’s will grow in Credit and Esteem; as they arrive to greater Perfection, and excel in every kind. There will arise such Spirits as wou’d have credited their Court-Patrons, had they found any so wise as to have fought ’em out betimes, and contributed to their rising Greatness.
’Tis scarce a quarter of an Age since such a happy Balance of Power was settled between our Prince and People, as has firmly secur’d our hitherto precarious Libertys, and remov’d from us the Fear of civil Commotions, Wars and Violence, either on account of Religion and Worship, the Property of the Subject, or the contending Titles of the Crown. But as the greatest Advantages of this World are not to be bought at easy Prices; we are still at this moment expending both our Blood and Treasure, to secure to our-selves this inestimable Purchase of our Free Government and National Constitution. And as happy as we are in this Establishment at home; we are still held in a perpetual Alarm by the Aspect of Affairs abroad, and by the Terror of that Power, which ere Mankind had well recover’d the Misery of those barbarous Ages consequent to the Roman Yoke, has again threaten’d the World with a Universal Monarchy, and a new Abyss of Ignorance and Superstition.
The British Muses, in this Dinn of Arms, may well lie abject and obscure; especially being as yet in their mere Infant-State. They have hitherto scarce arriv’d to any-thing of Shapeliness or Person. They lisp as in their Cradles: and their stammering Tongues, which nothing besides their Youth and Rawness can excuse, have hitherto spoken in wretched Pun and Quibble. Our DramatickShakespear, our Fletcher, Johnson, and our EpickMilton preserve this Style. And even a latter Race, scarce free of this Infirmity, and aiming at a false Sublime, with crouded Simile, and mix’d Metaphor, (the Hobby-Horse, and Rattle of the Muses) entertain our raw Fancy, and unpractis’d Ear; which has not as yet had leisure to form it-self, and become truly musical.
But those reverend Bards, rude as they were, according to their Time and Age, have provided us however with the richest Ore. To their eternal Honour they have withal been the first of Euro-peans, who since the GothickModel of Poetry, attempted to throw off the horrid Discord of jingling Rhyme. They have asserted antient Poetick Liberty, and have happily broken the Ice for those who are to follow ’em; and who treading in their Footsteps, may at leisure polish our Language, lead our Ear to finer Pleasure, and find out the true Rhythmus, and harmonious Numbers, which alone can satisfy a just Judgment, and Muse-like Apprehension.
’Tis evident, our natural Genius shines above that airy neighbouring Nation; of whom, however, it must be confess’d, that with truer Pains and Industry, they have sought Politeness, and study’d to give the Muses their due Body and Proportion, as well as the natural Ornaments of Correctness, Chastity, and Grace of Style. From the plain Model of the Antients, they have rais’d a noble Satirist. In the Epick Kind their Attempts have been less successful. In the Dramatick they have been so happy, as to raise their Stage to as great Perfection, as the Genius of their Nation will permit. But the high Spirit of Tragedy can ill subsist where the Spirit of Liberty is wanting. The Genius of this Poetry consists in the lively Representation of the Disorders and Misery of the Great; to the end that the People and those of a lower Condition may be taught the better to content themselves with Privacy, enjoy their safer State, and prize the Equality and Justice of their GuardianLaws. If this be found agreeable to the just Tragick Model, which the Antients have deliver’d to us; ’twill easily be conceiv’d how little such a Model is proportion’d to the Capacity or Taste of those, who in a long Series of Degrees, from the lowest Peasant to the high Slave of Royal Blood, are taught to idolize the next in Power above ’em, and think nothing so adorable as that unlimited Greatness, and tyrannick Power, which is rais’d at their own Expence, and exercis’d over themselves.
’Tis easy, on the other hand, to apprehend the Advantages of our Britain in this particular; and what effect its establish’d Liberty will produce in every thing which relates to Art, when Peace returns to us on these happy Conditions. ’Twas the Fate of Rome to have scarce an intermediate Age, or single Period of Time, between the Rise of Arts and Fall of Liberty. No sooner had that Nation begun to lose the Roughness and Barbarity of their Manners, and learn of Greece to form their Heroes, their Orators and Poets on a right Model, than by their unjust Attempt upon the Liberty of the World, they justly lost their own. With their Liberty they lost not only their Force of Eloquence, but even their Style and Language it-self. The Poets who afterwards arose among them, were mere unnatural and forc’d Plants. Their Two most accomplish’d, who came last, and clos’d the Scene, were plainly such as had seen the Days of Liberty, and felt the sad Effects of its Departure. Nor had these been ever brought in play, otherwise than thro’ the Friendship of the fam’d Maecenas, who turn’d a Prince naturally cruel and barbarous to the Love and Courtship of the Muses. These Tutoresses form’d in their Royal Pupil a new Nature. They taught him how to charm Mankind. They were more to him than his Arms or military Virtue; and, more than Fortune her-self, assisted him in his Greatness, and made his usurp’d Dominion so inchanting to the World, that it cou’d see without regret its Chains of Bondage firmly riveted. The corrupting Sweets of such a poisonous Government were not indeed long-liv’d. The Bitter soon succeeded. And, in the issue, the World was forc’d to bear with patience those natural and genuine Tyrants, who succeeded to this specious Machine of Arbitrary and Universal Power.
And now that I am fall’n unawares into such profound Reflections on the Periods of Government, and the Flourishing and Decay of Liberty and Letters; I can’t be contented to consider merely of the Inchantment which wrought so powerfully upon Mankind, when first this Universal Monarchy was establish’d. I must wonder still more, when I consider how after the Extinction of this Caesarean and Claudian Family, and a short Interval of Princes rais’d and destroy’d with much Disorder and publick Ruin, the Romans shou’d regain their perishing Dominion, and retrieve their sinking State, by an after-Race of wise and able Princes successively adopted, and taken from a private State to rule the Empire of the World. They were Men who not only possess’d the military Virtues, and supported that sort of Discipline in the highest degree; but as they sought the Interest of the World, they did what was in their power to restore Liberty, and raise again the perishing Arts, and decay’d Virtue of Mankind. But the Season was now past! The fatal Form of Government was become too natural: And the World, which had bent under it, and was become slavish and dependent, had neither Power nor Will to help it-self. The only Deliverance it cou’d expect, was from the merciless hands of the Barbarians, and a total Dissolution of that enormous Empire and despotick Power, which the best Hands cou’d not preserve from being destructive to human Nature. For even Barbarity and Gothicism were already enter’d into Arts, ere the Savages had made any Impression on the Empire. All the advantage which a fortuitous and almost miraculous Succession of good Princes cou’d procure their highly favour’d Arts and Sciences, was no more than to preserve during their own time those perishing Remains, which had for a-while with difficulty subsisted, after the Decline of Liberty. Not a Statue, not a Medal, not a tolerable Piece of Architecture cou’d shew it-self afterwards. Philosophy, Wit and Learning, in which some of those good Princes had themselves been so renown’d, fell with them: and Ignorance and Darkness overspread the World, and fitted it for the Chaos and Ruin which ensu’d.
WE ARE now in an Age when Liberty is once again in its Ascendent. And we are our-selves the happy Nation, who not only enjoy it at home, but by our Greatness and Power give Life and Vigour to it abroad; and are the Head and Chief of the EuropeanLeague, founded on this Common Cause. Nor can it, I presume, be justly fear’d that we shou’d lose this noble Ardour, or faint under the glorious Toil; tho, like antient Greece, we shou’d for succeeding Ages be contending with a foreign Power, and endeavouring to reduce the Exorbitancy of a Grand Monarch. ’Tis with us at present, as with the Roman People in those early Days, when they wanted only repose from Arms to apply themselves to the Improvement of Arts and Studys. We shou’d, in this case, need no ambitious Monarch to be allur’d, by hope of Fame or secret views of Power, to give Pensions abroad, as well as at home, and purchase Flattery from every Profession and Science. We shou’d find a better Fund within ourselves; and might, without such Assistance, be able to excel, by our own Virtue and Emulation.
Well it wou’d be indeed, and much to the Honour of our Nobles and Princes, wou’d they freely help in this Affair; and by a judicious Application of their Bounty, facilitate this happy Birth, of which I have ventur’d to speak in a prophetick Style. ’Twou’d be of no small advantage to ’em during their Life; and wou’d more than all their other Labours procure ’em an immortal Memory. For they must remember that their Fame is in the hands of Penmen; and that the greatest Actions lose their Force, and perish in the custody of unable and mean Writers.
Let a Nation remain ever so rude or barbarous, it must have its Poets, Rhapsoders, Historiographers, Antiquarys of some kind or other; whose business it will be to recount its remarkable Transactions, and record the Atchievements of its Civil and Military Heroes. And tho the Military Kind may happen to be the furthest remov’d from any acquaintance with Letters, or the Muses; they are yet, in reality, the most interested in the Cause and Party of these Remembrancers. The greatest share of Fame and Admiration falls naturally on the arm’d Worthys. The Great in Council are second in the Muses Favour. But if worthy poetick Genius’s are not found, nor able Penmen rais’d, to rehearse the Lives, and celebrate the high Actions of great Men, they must be traduc’d by such Recorders as Chance presents. We have few modern Heroes, who like Xenophon or Caesar can write their own Commentarys. And the raw Memoir-Writings and unform’d Pieces of modern Statesmen, full of their interested and private Views, will in another Age be of little service to support their Memory or Name; since already the World begins to sicken with the Kind. ’Tis the learn’d, the able, and disinterested Historian, who takes place at last. And when the signal Poet, or Herald of Fame is once heard, the inferior Trumpets sink in Silence and Oblivion.
But supposing it were possible for the Hero, or Statesman, to be absolutely unconcern’d for his Memory, or what came after him; yet for the present merely, and during his own time, it must be of importance to him to stand fair with the Men of Letters and Ingenuity, and to have the Character and Repute of being favourable to their Art. Be the illustrious Person ever so high or awful in his Station; he must have Descriptions made of him, in Verse, and Prose, under feign’d, or real Appellations. If he be omitted in sound Ode, or lofty Epick; he must be sung at least in Doggrel and plain Ballad. The People will needs have his Effigies; tho they see his Person ever so rarely: And if he refuses to sit to the good Painter, there are others who, to oblige the Publick, will take the Design in hand. We shall take up with what presents; and rather than be without the illustrious Physiognomy of our great Man, shall be contented to see him portraitur’d by the Artist who serves to illustrate Prodigys in Fairs, and adorn heroick Sign-Posts. The ill Paint of this kind cannot, it’s true, disgrace his Excellency; whose Privilege it is, in common with the Royal Issue, to be rais’d to this degree of Honour, and to invite the Passenger or Traveller by his signal Representative. ’Tis suppos’d in this Case, that there are better Pictures current of the Hero; and that such as these, are no true or favourable Representations. But, in another sort of Limning, there is great danger lest the Hand shou’d disgrace the Subject. Vile Encomiums, and wretched Panegyricks are the worst of Satirs: And when sordid and low Genius’s make their Court successfully in one way, the generous and able are aptest to revenge it in another.
ALL THINGS consider’d, as to the Interest of our Potentates and Grandees, they appear to have only this Choice left ’em; either wholly, if possible, to suppress Letters; or give a helping hand towards their Support. Wherever the Author-Practice and Liberty of the Pen has in the least prevail’d, the Governors of the State must be either considerable Gainers, or Sufferers by its means. So that ’twou’d become them either, by a right Turkish Policy, to strike directly at the Profession, and overthrow the very Art and Mystery it-self, or with Alacrity to support and encourage it, in the right manner, by a generous and impartial regard to Merit. To act narrowly, or by halves; or with indifference and coolness; or fantastically, and by humour merely; will scarce be found to turn to their account. They must do Justice; that Justice may be done them, in return. ’Twill be in vain for our Alexanders to give orders that none besides a Lysippus shou’d make their Statue, nor any besides an Apelles shou’d draw their Picture. Insolent Intruders will do themselves the honour to practice on the Features of these Heroes. And a vile Chaerilus, after all, shall, with their own Consent perhaps, supply the room of a deserving and noble Artist.
In a Government where the People are Sharers in Power, but no Distributers or Dispensers of Rewards, they expect it of their Princes and Great Men, that they shou’d supply the generous Part; and bestow Honour and Advantages on those from whom the Nation it-self may receive Honour and Advantage. ’Tis expected that they who are high and eminent in the State, shou’d not only provide for its necessary Safety and Subsistence, but omit nothing which may contribute to its Dignity and Honour. The Arts and Sciences must not be left Patron-less. The Publick it-self will join with the good Wits and Judges, in the resentment of such a Neglect. ’Tis no small advantage, even in an absolute Government, for a Ministry to have Wit on their side, and engage the Men of Merit in this kind to be their Well-wishers and Friends. And in those States where ambitious Leaders often contend for the supreme Authority, ’tis a considerable advantage to the ill Cause of such Pretenders, when they can obtain a Name and Interest with the Men of Letters. The good Emperor Trajan, tho himself no mighty Scholar, had his due as well as an Augustus; and was as highly celebrated for his Munificence, and just Encouragement of every Art and Virtue. And Caesar, who cou’d write so well himself, and maintain’d his Cause by Wit as well as Arms, knew experimentally what it was to have even a Catullus his Enemy: and tho lash’d so often in his Lampoons, continu’d to forgive and court him. The Traitor knew the Importance of this Mildness. May none who have the same Designs, understand so well the advantages of such a Conduct! I wou’d have requir’d only this one Defect in Caesar’s Generosity, to have been secure of his never rising to Greatness, or enslaving his native Country. Let him have shewn a Ruggedness and Austerity towards free Genius’s, or a Neglect or Contempt towards Men of Wit; let him have trusted to his Arms, and declar’d against Arts andLetters; and he wou’d have prov’d a second Marius, or a Catiline of meaner Fame, and Character.
’Tis, I know, the Imagination of some who are call’d Great Men, that in regard of their high Stations they may be esteem’d to pay a sufficient Tribute to Letters, and discharge themselves as to their own part in particular; if they chuse indifferently any Subject for their Bounty, and are pleas’d to confer their Favour either on some one Pretender to Art, or promiscuously to such of the Tribe of Writers, whose chief Ability has lain in making their court well, and obtaining to be introduc’d to their Acquaintance. This they think sufficient to instal them Patrons of Wit, and Masters of the literate Order. But this Method will of any other the least serve their Interest or Design. The ill placing of Rewards is a double Injury to Merit; and in every Cause or Interest, passes for worse than mere Indifference or Neutrality. There can be no Excuse for making an ill Choice. Merit in every kind is easily discover’d, when sought. The Publick it-self fails not to give sufficient indication; and points out those Genius’s who want only Countenance and Encouragement to become considerable. An ingenious Man never starves unknown: and Great Men must wink hard, or ’twou’d be impossible for ’em to miss such advantageous Opportunitys of shewing their Generosity, and acquiring the universal Esteem, Acknowledgments, and good Wishes of the ingenious and learned part of Mankind.
WHAT Judgment therefore we are to form, concerning the Influence of our Grandees in matters of Art, and Letters, will easily be gather’d from the Reflections already made. It may appear from the very Freedom we have taken in censuring these Men of Power, what little reason Authors have to plead ’em as their Excuse for any Failure in the Improvement of their Art and Talent. For in a free Country, such as ours, there is not any Order or Rank of Men, more free than that of Writers: who if they have real Ability and Merit, can fully right themselves when injur’d; and are ready furnish’d with Means, sufficient to make themselves consider’d by the Men in highest Power.
Nor shou’d I suspect the Genius of our Writers, or charge ’em with Meanness and Insufficiency on the account of this Low-spiritedness which they discover; were it not for another sort of Fear, by which they more plainly betray themselves, and seem conscious of their own Defect. The Criticks, it seems, are formidable to ’em. The Criticks are the dreadful Specters, the Giants, the Enchanters, who traverse and disturb ’em in their Works. These are the Persecutors, for whose sake they are ready to hide their heads; begging rescue and protection of all good People; and flying in particular to the Great, by whose Favour they hope to be defended from this merciless examining Race. “For what can be more cruel, than to be forc’d to submit to the rigorous Laws of Wit, and write under such severe Judges as are deaf to all Courtship, and can be wrought upon by no Insinuation or Flattery to pass by Faults, and pardon any Transgression of Art?”
To judg indeed of the Circumstances of a modern Author, by the Pattern of his Prefaces, Dedications, and Introductions, one wou’d think that at the moment when a Piece of his was in hand, some Conjuration was forming against him, some diabolical Powers drawing together to blast his Work, and cross his generous Design. He therefore rouzes his Indignation, hardens his Forehead, and with many furious Defiances and Avant-Satans! enters on his Business; not with the least regard to what may justly be objected to him in a way of Criticism; but with an absolute Contempt of the Manner and Art it-self.
Avaunt, ye uninitiated crowd, was in its time, no doubt, a generous Defiance. The Avant! was natural and proper in its place; especially where Religion and Virtue were the Poet’s Theme. But with our Moderns the Case is generally the very Reverse. And accordingly the Defiance or Avant shou’d run much after this manner: “As for you vulgar Souls, mere Naturals, who know no Art, were never admitted into the Temple of Wisdom, nor ever visited the Sanctuarys of Wit or Learning, gather your-selves together from all Parts, and hearken to the Song or Tale I am about to utter. But for you Men of Science and Understanding, who have Ears and Judgment, and can weigh Sense, scan Syllables, and measure Sounds; You who by a certain Art distinguish false Thought from true, Correctness from Rudeness, and Bombast and Chaos from Order and the Sublime; Away hence! or stand aloof! whilst I practise upon the Easiness of those mean Capacitys and Apprehensions, who make the most numerous Audience, and are the only competent Judges of my Labours.”
’Tis strange to see how differently the Vanity of Mankind runs, in different Times and Seasons. ’Tis at present the Boast of almost every Enterprizer in the Muses Art, “That by his Genius alone, and a natural Rapidity of Style and Thought, he is able to carry all before him; that he plays with his Business, does things in passing, at a venture, and in the quickest period of Time.” In the days of AttickElegance, as Works were then truly of another Form and Turn, so Workmen were of another Humour, and had their Vanity of a quite contrary kind. They became rather affected in endeavouring to discover the pains they had taken to be correct. They were glad to insinuate how laboriously, and with what expence of Time, they had brought the smallest Work of theirs (as perhaps a single Ode or Satir, an Oration or Panegyrick) to its perfection. When they had so polish’d their Piece, and render’d it so natural and easy, that it seem’d only a lucky Flight, a Hit of Thought, or flowing Vein of Humour; they were then chiefly concern’d lest it shou’d in reality pass for such, and their Artifice remain undiscover’d. They were willing it shou’d be known how serious their Play was; and how elaborate their Freedom and Facility: that they might say as the agreeable and polite Poet, glancing on himself,
He will seem in sport, yet really be toiling. . . .
So that any man may hope the same success, toil greatly, and work in vain at the same task,—so great is the might of the sequence and connection in writing.
Such Accuracy of Workmanship requires a Critick’s Eye. ’Tis lost upon a vulgar Judgment. Nothing grieves a real Artist more than that indifference of the Publick, which suffers Work to pass uncriticiz’d. Nothing, on the other side, rejoices him more than the nice View and Inspection of the accurate Examiner and Judg of Work. ’Tis the mean Genius, the slovenly Performer, who knowing nothing of true Workmanship, endeavours by the best outward Gloss and dazling Shew, to turn the Eye from a direct and steddy Survey of his Piece.
What is there which an expert Musician more earnestly desires, than to perform his part in the presence of those who are knowing in his Art? ’Tis to the Ear alone he applies himself; the critical, the nice Ear. Let his Hearers be of what Character they please: Be they naturally austere, morose, or rigid; no matter, so they are Criticks, able to censure, remark, and sound every Accord and Symphony. What is there mortifies the good Painter more, than when amidst his admiring Spectators there is not one present, who has been us’d to compare the Hands of different Masters, or has an Eye to distinguish the Advantages or Defects of every Style? Thro’ all the inferior Orders of Mechanicks, the Rule is found to hold the same. In every Science, every Art, the real Masters, or Proficients, rejoice in nothing more, than in the thorow Search and Examination of their Performances, by all the Rules of Art and nicest Criticism. Why therefore (in the Muses name!) is it not the same with our Pretenders to the Writing Art, our Poets, and Prose-Authors in every kind? Why in this Profession are we found such Critick-Haters, and indulg’d in this unlearned Aversion; unless it be taken for granted, that as Wit and Learning stand at present in our Nation, we are still upon the foot of Empiricks and Mountebanks?
From these Considerations, I take upon me absolutely to condemn the fashionable and prevailing Custom of inveighing against Criticks, as the common Enemys, the Pests, and Incendiarys of the Commonwealth of Wit and Letters. I assert, on the contrary, that they are the Props and Pillars of this Building; and that without the Encouragement and Propagation of such a Race, we shou’d remain as GothickArchitects as ever.
IN THE weaker and more imperfect Societys of Mankind, such as those compos’d of federate Tribes, or mix’d Colonys, scarce settled in their new Seats, it might pass for sufficient Good-fortune, if the People prov’d only so far Masters of Language, as to be able to understand one another, in order to confer about their Wants, and provide for their common Necessitys. Their expos’d and indigent State cou’d not be presum’d to afford ’em either that full Leisure, or easy Disposition which was requisite to raise ’em to any Curiosity of Speculation. They who were neither safe from Violence, nor secure of Plenty, were unlikely to engage in unnecessary Arts. Nor cou’d it be expected they shou’d turn their Attention towards the Numbers of their Language, and the harmonious Sounds which they accidentally emitted. But when, in process of time, the Affairs of the Society were settled on an easy and secure Foundation; when Debates and Discourses on these Subjects of common Interest, and publick Good, were grown familiar; and the Speeches of prime Men, and Leaders, were consider’d, and compar’d together: there wou’d naturally be observ’d not only a more agreeable Measure of Sound, but a happier and more easy Rangement of Thoughts, in one Speaker, than in another.
It may be easily perceiv’d from hence, that the GoddessPersuasion must have been in a manner the Mother of Poetry, Rhetorick, Musick, and the other kindred Arts. For ’tis apparent, that where chief Men, and Leaders had the strongest Interest to persuade; they us’d the highest endeavours to please. So that in such a State or Polity as has been describ’d, not only the best Order of Thought, and Turn of Fancy, but the most soft and inviting Numbers must have been employ’d, to charm the Publick Ear, and to incline the Heart, by the Agreeableness of Expression.
Almost all the antient Masters of this sort were said to have been Musicians. And Tradition, which soon grew fabulous, cou’d not better represent the first Founders or Establishers of these larger Societys, than as real Songsters, who by the power of their Voice and Lyre, cou’d charm the wildest Beasts, and draw the rude Forests and Rocks into the Form of fairest Citys. Nor can it be doubted that the same Artists, who so industriously apply’d themselves to study the Numbers of Speech, must have made proportionable Improvements in the Study of mere Sounds and natural Harmony; which, of it-self, must have considerably contributed towards the softning the rude Manners and harsh Temper of their new People.
If therefore it so happen’d in these free Communitys, made by Consent and voluntary Association, that after a-while, the Power of One, or of a Few, grew prevalent over the rest; if Force took place, and the Affairs of the Society were administer’d without their Concurrence, by the influence of Awe and Terror: it follow’d, that these pathetick Sciences and Arts of Speech were little cultivated, since they were of little use. But where Persuasion was the chief means of guiding the Society; where the People were to be convinc’d before they acted; there Elocution became considerable; there Orators and Bards were heard; and the chief Genius’s and Sages of the Nation betook themselves to the Study of those Arts, by which the People were render’d more treatable in a way of Reason and Understanding, and more subject to be led by Men of Science and Erudition. The more these Artists courted the Publick, the more they instructed it. In such Constitutions as these, ’twas the Interest of the Wise and Able, that the Community shou’d be Judges of Ability and Wisdom. The high Esteem of Ingenuity was what advanc’d the Ingenious to the greatest Honours. And they who rose by Science, and Politeness in the higher Arts, cou’d not fail to promote that Taste and Relish to which they ow’d their personal Distinction and Pre-eminence.
Hence it is that those Arts have been deliver’d to us in such perfection, by free Nations; who from the Nature of their Government, as from a proper Soil, produc’d the generous Plants: whilst the mightiest Bodys and vastest Empires, govern’d by Force, and a despotick Power, cou’d, after Ages of Peace and Leisure, produce no other than what was deform’d and barbarous of the kind.
When the persuasive Arts were grown thus into repute, and the Power of moving the Affections become the Study and Emulation of the forward Wits and aspiring Genius’s of the Times; it wou’d necessarily happen that many Genius’s of equal size and strength, tho less covetous of publick Applause, of Power, or of Influence over Mankind, wou’d content them-selves with the Contemplation merely of these enchanting Arts. These they wou’d the better enjoy, the more they refin’d their Taste, and cultivated their Ear. For to all Musick there must be an Ear proportionable. There must be an Art of Hearing found, ere the performing Arts can have their due effect, or any thing exquisite in the kind be felt or comprehended. The just Performers therefore in each Art wou’d naturally be the most desirous of improving and refining the publick Ear; which they cou’d no way so well effect as by the help of those latter Genius’s, who were in a manner their Interpreters to the People; and who by their Example taught the Publick to discover what was just and excellent in each Performance.
Hence was the Origin of Criticks; who, as Arts and Sciences advanc’d, wou’d necessarily come withal into repute; and being heard with satisfaction in their turn, were at length tempted to become Authors, and appear in publick. These were honour’d with the Name of Sophists: A Character which in early times was highly respected. Nor did the gravest Philosophers, who were Censors of Manners, and Criticks of a higher degree, disdain to exert their Criticism in the inferior Arts; especially in those relating to Speech, and the power of Argument and Persuasion.
When such a Race as this was once risen, ’twas no longer possible to impose on Mankind, by what was specious and pretending. The Publick wou’d be paid in no false Wit, or jingling Eloquence. Where the learnedCriticks were so well receiv’d, and Philosophers themselves disdain’d not to be of the number; there cou’d not fail to arise Criticks of an inferior Order, who wou’d subdivide the several Provinces of this Empire. Etymologists, Philologists, Grammarians,Rhetoricians, and others of considerable note, and eminent in their degree, wou’d every where appear, and vindicate the Truth and Justice of their Art, by revealing the hidden Beautys which lay in the Works of just Performers; and by exposing the weak Sides, false Ornaments, and affected Graces of mere Pretenders. Nothing of what we call Sophistry in Argument, or Bombast in Style; nothing of the effeminate Kind, or of the false Tender, the pointed Witticism, the disjointed Thought, the crouded Simile, or the mix’d Metaphor, cou’d pass even on the common Ear: whilst the Notarys, the Expositors, and Prompters above-mention’d, were every where at hand, and ready to explode the unnatural Manner.
’Tis easy to imagine, that amidst the several Styles and Manners of Discourse or Writing, the easiest attain’d, and earliest practis’d, was the Miraculous, the Pompous, or what we generally call the Sublime.Astonishment is of all other Passions the easiest rais’d in raw and unexperienc’d Mankind. Children in their earliest Infancy are entertain’d in this manner: And the known way of pleasing such as these, is to make ’em wonder, and lead the way for ’em in this Passion, by a feign’d surprize at the miraculous Objects we set before ’em. The best Musick of Barbarians is hideous and astonishing Sounds. And the fine Sights of Indians are enormous Figures, various odd and glaring Colours, and whatever of that sort is amazingly beheld, with a kind of Horror and Consternation.
In Poetry, and study’d Prose, the astonishing Part, or what commonly passes for Sublime, is form’d by the variety of Figures, the multiplicity of Metaphors, and by quitting as much as possible the natural and easy way of Expression, for that which is most unlike to Humanity, or ordinary Use. This the Prince of Criticks assures us to have been the Manner of the earliest Poets, before the Age of Homer; or till such time as this Father-Poet came into Repute, who depos’d that spurious Race, and gave rise to a legitimate and genuine Kind. He retain’d only what was decent of the figurative or metaphorick Style, introduc’d the natural and simple; and turn’d his thoughts towards the real Beauty of Composition, the Unity of Design, the Truth of Characters, and the just Imitation of Nature in each particular.
The Manner of this Father-Poet was afterwards variously imitated, and divided into several Shares; especially when it came to be copy’d in Dramatick.Tragedy came first; and took what was most solemn and sublime. In this part the Poets succeeded sooner than in Comedy or the facetious Kind; as was natural indeed to suppose, since this was in reality the easiest Manner of the two, and capable of being brought the soonest to perfection. For so the same Prince of Criticks sufficiently informs us. And ’tis highly worth remarking, what this mighty Genius and Judg of Art declares concerning Tragedy; that whatever Idea might be form’d of the utmost Perfection of this kind of Poem, it cou’d in practice rise no higher than it had been already carry’d in his time; “Having at length (says he) attain’d its Ends, and being apparently consummate in it-self”: But for Comedy, it seems, ’twas still in hand. It had been already in some manner reduc’d: but, as he plainly insinuates, it lay yet unfinish’d; notwithstanding the witty Labours of an Aristophanes, and the other comick Poets of the first Manner, who had flourish’d a whole Age before this Critick. As perfect as were those Wits in Style and Language; and as fertile in all the Varietys and Turns of Humour; yet the Truth of Characters, the Beauty of Order, and the simple Imitation of Nature, were in a manner wholly unknown to ’em; or thro’ Petulancy, or Debauch of Humour, were, it seems, neglected and set aside. A Menander had not as yet appear’d; who arose soon after, to accomplish the Prophecy of our grand Master of Art, and consummate Philologist.
Comedy had at this time done little more than what the antient Parodys had done before it. ’Twas of admirable use to explode the false Sublime of early Poets, and such as in its own Age were on every occasion ready to relapse into that vicious Manner. The good Tragedians themselves cou’d hardly escape its Lashes. The pompous Orators were its never-failing Subjects. Every thing which might be imposing, by a false Gravity or Solemnity, was forc’d to endure the Trial of this Touchstone. Manners and Characters, as well as Speech and Writings, were discuss’d with the greatest freedom. Nothing cou’d be better fitted than this Genius of Wit, to unmask the face of things, and remove those Larvae naturally form’d from the Tragick Manner, and pompous Style, which had preceded:
(Aeschylus) taught how to use high-flown language and to strut in the buskin. After them (Aeschylus and Thespis) came the Old Comedy.
’Twas not by chance that this Succession happen’d in Greece, after the manner describ’d; but rather thro’ Necessity, and from the Reason and Nature of Things. For in healthy Bodys, Nature dictates Remedys of her own, and provides for the Cure of what has happen’d amiss in the Growth and Progress of a Constitution. The Affairs of this free People being in the Increase; and their Ability and Judgment every day improving, as Letters and Arts advanc’d; they wou’d of course find in themselves a Strength of Nature, which by the help of good Ferments, and a wholesom opposition of Humours, wou’d correct in one way whatever was excessive, or peccant (as Physicians say) in another. Thus the florid and over-sanguine Humour of the high Style was allay’d by something of a contrary nature. The Comick Genius was apply’d, as a kind of Caustick, to those Exuberances and Fungus’s of the swoln Dialect, and magnificent manner of Speech. But after a-while, even this Remedy it-self was found to turn into a Disease: as Medicines, we know, grow corrosive, when the fouler Matters on which they wrought are sufficiently purg’d, and the Obstructions remov’d.
Freedom slipped into License and a violence which called for legal restraint.
’Tis a great Error to suppose, as some have done, that the restraining this licentious manner of Wit, by Law, was a Violation of the Liberty of the Athenian State, or an Effect merely of the Power of Foreigners; whom it little concern’d after what manner those Citizens treated one another in their Comedys; or what sort of Wit or Humour they made choice of, for their ordinary Diversions. If upon a Change of Government, as during the Usurpation of the Thirty, or when that Nation was humbled at any time, either by a Philip, an Alexander, or an Antipater, they had been forc’d against their Wills, to enact such Laws as these; ’tis certain they wou’d have soon repeal’d ’em, when those Terrors were remov’d, as they soon were, and the People restor’d to their former Libertys. For notwithstanding what this Nation suffer’d outwardly, by several shocks receiv’d from foreign States; notwithstanding the Dominion and Power they lost abroad, they preserv’d the same Government at home. And how passionately interested they were in what concern’d their Diversions and publick Spectacles; how jealous and full of Emulation in what related to their Poetry, Wit, Musick, and other Arts, in which they excel’d all other Nations; is well known to Persons who have any comprehension of antient Manners, or been the least conversant in History.
Nothing therefore cou’d have been the Cause of these publick Decrees, and of this gradual Reform in the Commonwealth of Wit, beside the real Reform of Taste and Humour in the Commonwealth or Government it-self. Instead of any Abridgment, ’twas in reality an Increase of Liberty, an Enlargement of the Security of Property, and an Advancement of private Ease and personal Safety, to provide against what was injurious to the good Name and Reputation of every Citizen. As this Intelligence in Life and Manners grew greater in that experienc’d People, so the Relish of Wit and Humour wou’d naturally in proportion be more refin’d. Thus Greece in general grew more and more polite; and as it advanc’d in this respect, was more averse to the obscene buffooning manner. The Athenians still went before the rest, and led the way in Elegance of every kind. For even their first Comedy was a Refinement upon some irregular Attempts which had been made in that dramatick way. And the grand Critick shews us, that in his own time the Phallica, or scurrilous and obscene Farce, prevail’d still, and had the Countenance of the Magistrate, in some Citys of Greece, who were behind the rest in this Reform of Taste and Manners.
But what is yet a more undeniable Evidence of this natural and gradual Refinement of Styles and Manners among the Antients, particularly in what concern’d their Stage, is, that this very Case of Prohibition and Restraint happen’d among the Romans themselves; where no Effects of foreign Power, or of a home Tyranny can be pretended. Their Fescennin, and Atellan way of Wit, was in early days prohibited, and Laws made against it, for the Publick’s sake, and in regard to the Welfare of the Community: such Licentiousness having been found in reality contrary to the just Liberty of the People.
Men were vexed when bitten by its bloody teeth; the unbitten too were anxious for the common weal; and even a law and penalty were enacted against libelling any one in verse.
In defense of what I have here advanc’d, I cou’d, besides the Authority of grave Historians and Chronologists, produce the Testimony of one of the wisest, and most serious of antient Authors; whose single Authority wou’d be acknowledg’d to have equal force with that of many concurring Writers. He shews us that this first-form’dComedy and Scheme of ludicrous Wit, was introduc’d upon the neck of theSublime. The familiar airy Muse was privileg’d as a sort of Counter-Pedagogue, against the Pomp and Formality of the more solemn Writers. And what is highly remarkable, our Author shews us, that in Philosophy it-self there happen’d, almost at the very same time, a like Succession of Wit and Humour; when in opposition to the sublime Philosopher, and afterwards to his grave Disciple and Successor in the Academy, there arose a Comick Philosophy, in the Person of another Master and other Disciples; who personally, as well as in their Writings, were set in direct opposition to the former: not as differing in Opinions or Maxims, but in their Style and Manner; in the Turn of Humour, and method of Instruction.
’TIS PLEASANT enough to consider how exact the resemblance was between the Lineage of Philosophy and that of Poetry; as deriv’d from their two chief Founders or Patriarchs; in whose Loins the several Races lay as it were inclos’d. For as thegrand poetickSire was, by the consent of all Antiquity, allow’d to have furnish’d Subject both to the Tragick, the Comick, and every other kind of genuine Poetry; so the philosophicalPatriarch, in the same manner, containing within himself the several Genius’s of Philosophy, gave rise to all those several Manners in which that Science was deliver’d.
His Disciple of noble Birth and lofty Genius, who aspir’d to Poetry and Rhetorick, took the Sublime part, and shone above his other Condisciples. He of mean Birth, and poorest Circumstances, whose Constitution as well as Condition inclin’d him most to the way we call Satirick, took the reproving part, which in his better-humour’d and more agreeable Successor, turn’d into the Comick kind, and went upon the Model of that antient Comedy which was then prevalent. But another noble Disciple, whose Genius was towards Action, and who prov’d afterwards the greatest Hero of his time took the genteeler Part, and softer Manner. He join’d what was deepest and most solid in Philosophy, with what was easiest and most refin’d in Breeding, and in the Character and Manner of a Gentleman. Nothing cou’d be remoter than his Genius was, from the scholastick, the rhetorical, or mere poetick kind. He was as distant, on one hand, from the sonorous, high, and pompous Strain; as, on the other hand, from the ludicrous, mimical, or satirick.
This was that natural and simple Genius of Antiquity, comprehended by so few, and so little relish’d by the Vulgar. This was that philosophical Menander of earlier Time, whose Works one may wonder to see preserv’d from the same Fate; since in the darker Ages thro’ which they pass’d, they might probably be alike neglected, on the account of their like Simplicity of Style and Composition.
There is, besides the several Manners of Writing above describ’d, another of considerable Authority and Weight, which had its rise chiefly from the critical Art itself, and from the more accurate Inspection into the Works of preceding Masters. The grand Critick, of whom we have already spoken, was a Chief and Leader in this Order of Pen-men. For tho the Sophists of elder time had treated many Subjects methodically, and in form; yet this Writer was the first who gain’d Repute in the methodick kind. As the Talent of this great Man was more towards polite Learning, and the Arts, than towards the deep and solid parts of Philosophy, it happen’d that in his School there was more care taken of other Sciences, than of Ethicks, Dialect, or Logick; which Provinces were chiefly cultivated by the Successors of the Academy and Porch.
It has been observ’d of this methodick or scholastick Manner, that it naturally befitted an Author, who, tho endow’d with a comprehensive and strong Genius, was not in himself of a refin’d Temper, bless’d by the Graces, or favour’d by any Muse; one who was not of a fruitful Imagination, but rather dry and rigid; yet withal acute and piercing, accurate and distinct. For the chief Nerve and Sinew of this Style consists in the clear Division and Partition of the Subjects. Tho there is nothing exalting in the Manner, ’tis naturally powerful and commanding; and, more than any other, subdues the Mind, and strengthens its Determinations. ’Tis from this Genius that firm Conclusions and steddy Maxims are best form’d: which, if solidly built, and on sure ground, are the shortest and best Guides towards Wisdom and Ability, in every kind; but if defective, or unsound, in the least part, must of necessity lead us to the grossest Absurditys, and stiffest Pedantry and Conceit.
Now tho every other Style and genuine Manner of Composition has its Order and Method, as well as this which, in a peculiar sense, we call the Methodick; yet it is this Manner alone which professes Method, dissects it-self in Parts, and makes its own Anatomy. The Sublime can no way condescend thus, or bear to be suspended in its impetuous Course. The Comick, or derisory Manner, is further still from making shew of Method. ’Tis then, if ever, that it presumes to give it-self this wise Air, when its Design is to expose the Thing it-self, and ridicule the Formality and Sophistry so often shelter’d beneath it. The Simple Manner, which being the strictest Imitation of Nature, shou’d of right be the completest, in the Distribution of its Parts, and Symmetry of its Whole, is yet so far from making any ostentation of Method, that it conceals the Artifice as much as possible: endeavouring only to express the effect of Art, under the appearance of the greatest Ease and Negligence. And even when it assumes the censuring or reproving part, it does it in the most conceal’d and gentle way.
The Authors indeed of our Age are as little capable of receiving, as of giving Advice, in such a way as this: So little is the general Palat form’d, as yet, to a Taste of real Simplicity. As for theSublime, tho it be often the Subject of Criticism; it can never be the Manner, or afford the Means. The Way of Form and Method, the didactive or preceptive Manner, as it has been usually practis’d amongst us, and as our Ears have been long accustom’d, has so little force towards the winning our Attention, that it is apter to tire us, than the Metre of an old Ballad. We no sooner hear the Theme propounded, the Subject divided and subdivided, (with first of the first, and so forth, as Order requires) than instantly we begin a Strife with Nature, who otherwise might surprize us in the soft Fetters of Sleep; to the great Disgrace of the Orator, and Scandal of the Audience. The only Manner left, in which Criticism can have its just Force amongst us, is the antientComick; of which kind were the first Roman Miscellanys, or Satirick Pieces: a sort of original Writing of their own, refin’d afterwards by the best Genius, and politest Poet of that Nation; who, notwithstanding, owns the Manner to have been taken from the Greek Comedy above-mention’d. And if our Home-Wits wou’d refine upon this Pattern, they might perhaps meet with considerable Success.
In effect, we may observe, that in our own Nation, the most successful Criticism, or Method of Refutation, is that which borders most on the manner of the earliest Greek Comedy. The highly-rated burlesque Poem, written on the Subject of our religious Controversys in the last Age, is a sufficient Token of this kind. And that justly-admir’d Piece of Comick Wit, given us some time after by an Author of the highest Quality, has furnish’d our best Wits in all their Controversys, even in Religion and Politicks, as well as in the Affairs of Wit and Learning, with the most effectual and entertaining Method of exposing Folly, Pedantry, false Reason, and ill Writing. And without some such tolerated manner of Criticism as this, how grosly we might have been impos’d on, and shou’d continue to be, for the future, by many Pieces of dogmatical Rhetorick, and pedantick Wit, may easily be apprehended by those who know any thing of the State of Letters in our Nation, or are in the least fitted to judg of the Manner of the common Poets, or formal Authors of the Times.
In what Form, or Manner soever, Criticism may appear amongst us, or Criticks chuse to exert their Talent; it can become none besides the grosly superstitious, or ignorant, to be alarm’d at this Spirit. For if it be ill manag’d, and with little Wit; it will be destroy’d by something wittier in the kind: If it be witty it-self, it must of necessity advance Wit.
And thus from the Consideration of antient as well as modern Time, it appears that the Cause and Interest of Criticks is the same with that of Wit, Learning, and good Sense.
THUS we have survey’d the State of Authors, as they are influenc’d from without; either by the Frowns or Favour of the Great, or by the Applause or Censure of the Criticks. It remains only to consider, how the People, or World, in general, stand affected towards our modern Pen-men; and what occasion these Adventurers may have of Complaint, or Boast, from their Encounter with the Publick.
There is nothing more certain, than that a real Genius, and thorow Artist, in whatever kind, can never, without the greatest unwillingness and shame, be induc’d to act below his Character, and for mere Interest be prevail’d with to prostitute his Art or Science, by performing contrary to its known Rules. Whoever has heard any thing of the Lives of famous Statuarys, Architects, or Painters, will call to mind many Instances of this nature. Or whoever has made any acquaintance with the better sort of Mechanicks, such as are real Lovers of their Art, and Masters in it, must have observ’d their natural Fidelity in this respect. Be they ever so idle, dissolute, or debauch’d; how regardless soever of other Rules; they abhor any Transgression in their Art, and wou’d chuse to lose Customers and starve, rather than by a base Compliance with theWorld, to act contrary to what they call the Justness and Truth of Work.
“Sir,” (says a poor Fellow of this kind, to his rich Customer) “you are mistaken in coming to me, for such a piece of Workmanship. Let who will make it for you, as you fansy; I know it to be wrong. Whatever I have made hitherto, has been true Work. And neither for your sake or any body’s else, shall I put my hand to any other.”
This is Virtue! real Virtue, and Love of Truth; independent of Opinion, and above theWorld. This Disposition transfer’d to the whole of Life, perfects a Character, and makes that Probity and Worth which the Learned are often at such a loss to explain. For is there not a Workmanship and a Truth in Actions? Or is the Workmanship of this kind less becoming, or less worthy our notice; that we shou’d not in this case be as surly at least as the honest Artizan, who has no other Philosophy, than what Nature and his Trade have taught him?
When one considers this Zeal and Honesty of inferiour Artists, one wou’d wonder to see those who pretend to Skill and Science in a higher kind, have so little regard to Truth, and the Perfection of their Art. One wou’d expect it of our Writers, that if they had real Ability, they shou’d draw theWorld to them; and not meanly sute themselves to theWorld, in its weak State. We may justly indeed make allowances for the Simplicity of those early Genius’s of our Nation, who after so many barbarous Ages, when Letters lay yet in their Ruins, made bold Excursions into a vacant Field, to seize the Posts of Honour, and attain the Stations which were yet unpossess’d by the Wits of their own Country. But since the Age is now so far advanc’d; Learning establish’d; the Rules of Writing stated; and the Truth of Art so well apprehended, and every where confess’d and own’d: ’tis strange to see our Writers as unshapen still and monstrous in their Works, as heretofore. There can be nothing more ridiculous than to hear our Poets, in their Prefaces, talk of Art and Structure; whilst in their Pieces they perform as ill as ever, and with as little regard to those profess’d Rules of Art, as the honest Bards, their Predecessors, who had never heard of any such Rules, or at least had never own’d their Justice or Validity.
Had the early Poets of Greece thus complimented their Nation, by complying with its first Relish and Appetite; they had not done their Countrymen such Service, nor themselves such Honour as we find they did, by conforming to Truth and Nature. The generous Spirits who first essay’d the Way, had not always theWorld on their side: but soon drew after ’em the best Judgments; and soon afterwards the World it-self. They forc’d their way into it, and by weight of Merit turn’d its Judgment on their side. They form’d their Audience; polish’d the Age; refin’d the publick Ear, and fram’d it right; that in return they might be rightly and lastingly applauded. Nor were they disappointed in their Hope. The Applause soon came, and was lasting; for it was found. They have Justice done them at this day. They have surviv’d their Nation; and live, tho in a dead Language. The more the Age is enlighten’d, the more they shine. Their Fame must necessarily last as long as Letters; and Posterity will ever own their Merit.
Our modern Authors, on the contrary, are turn’d and model’d (as themselves confess) by the publick Relish, and current Humour of the Times. They regulate themselves by the irregular Fancy of the World; and frankly own they are preposterous and absurd, in order to accommodate themselves to the Genius of the Age. In our Days the Audience makes the Poet; and the Bookseller the Author: with what Profit to the Publick, or what Prospect of lasting Fame and Honour to the Writer, let any one who has Judgment imagine.
But tho our Writers charge their Faults thus freely on thePublick; it will, I doubt, appear from many Instances, that this Practice is mere Imposture: since those Absurditys, which they are aptest to commit, are far from being delightful or entertaining. We are glad to take up with what our Language can afford us; and by a sort of Emulation with other Nations, are forc’d to cry up such Writers of our own, as may best serve us for Comparison. But when we are out of this Spirit, it must be own’d, we are not apt to discover any great Fondness or Admiration of our Authors. Nor have we any, whom by mutual Consent we make to be our Standard. We go to Plays, or to other Shows; and frequent the Theater, as the Booth. We read Epicks and Dramaticks, as we do Satirs and Lampoons. For we must of necessity know what Wit as well as what Scandal is stirring. Read we must; let Writers be ever so indifferent. And this perhaps may be some occasion of the Laziness and Negligence of our Authors; who observing this Need, which our Curiosity brings on us, and making an exact Calculation in the way of Trade, to know justly the Quality and Quantity of the publick Demand, feed us thus from hand to mouth; resolving not to over-stock the Market, or be at the pains of more Correctness or Wit than is absolutely necessary to carry on the Traffick.
Our Satir therefore is scurrilous, buffooning, and without Morals or Instruction, which is the Majesty and Life of this kind of writing. Our Encomium or Panegyrick is as fulsom and displeasing, by its prostitute and abandon’d manner of Praise. The worthy Persons who are the Subjects of it, may well be esteem’d Sufferers by the Manner. And the Publick, whether it will or no, is forc’d to make untoward Reflections, when led to it by such satirizing Panegyrists. For in reality the Nerve and Sinew of modern Panegyrick lies in a dull kind of Satir; which the Author, it’s true, intends shou’d turn to the advantage of his Subject; but which, if I mistake not, will appear to have a very contrary Effect.
The usual Method, which our Authors take, when they wou’d commend either a Brother-Author, a Wit, a Hero, a Philosopher, or a Statesman, is to look abroad, to find within the narrow compass of their Learning, some eminent Names of Persons, who answer’d to these Characters in a former time. These they are sure to lash, as they imagine, with some sharp stroke of Satir. And when they have stripp’d these reverend Personages of all their share of Merit, they think to clothe their Hero with the Spoils. Such is the Sterility of these Encomiasts! They know not how to praise, but by Detraction. If a Fair-One is to be celebrated, Helen must in comparison be deform’d; Venus her-self degraded. That a Modern may be honour’d, some Antient must be sacrific’d. If a Poet is to be extol’d; down with a Homer or a Pindar. If an Orator, or Philosopher; down with Demosthenes, Tully, Plato. If a General of our Army; down with any Hero whatever of Time past. “The Romans knew no Discipline! The Grecians never learnt the Art of War!”
Were there an Art of Writing to be form’d upon the modern Practice; this Method we have describ’d might perhaps be styl’d the Rule of Dispatch, or theHerculeanLaw; by which Encomiasts, with no other Weapon than their single Club, may silence all other Fame, and place their Hero in the vacant Throne of Honour. I wou’d willingly however advise these Celebrators to be a little more moderate in the use of this Club-method. Not that I pretend to ask quarter for the Antients. But for the sake merely of those Moderns, whom our Panegyrists undertake to praise, I wou’d wish ’em to be a little cautious of comparing Characters. There is no need to call up a Publicola, or a Scipio, an Aristides, or a Cato, to serve as Foils. These were Patriots and good Generals in their time, and did their Country honest service. No offence to any who at present do the same. The Fabricius’s, the AEmilius’s, the Cincinnatus’s (poor Men!) may be suffer’d to rest quietly: or if their Ghosts shou’d, by this unlucky kind of Inchantment, be rais’d in Mockery and Contempt; they may perhaps prove troublesom in earnest, and cast such Reflections on our Panegyrists, and their modern Patrons, as may be no-way for the advantage of either. The well-deserving Antients will have always a strong Party among the Wise and Learned of every Age. And the Memory of foreign Worthys, as well as those of our own Nation, will with gratitude be cherish’d by the nobler Spirits of Mankind. The Interest of the Dead is not so disregarded, but that in case of violence offer’d ’em, thro’ partiality to the Living, there are Hands ready prepar’d to make sufficient Reprisals.
’Twas in times when Flattery grew much in fashion, that the Title of Panegyrick was appropriated to such Pieces as contain’d only a profuse and unlimited Praise of some single Person. The antient Panegyricks were no other than merely such Writings, as Authors of every kind recited at the solemn Assemblys of the People. They were the Exercises of the Wits, and Men of Letters, who, as well as the Men of bodily Dexterity, bore their part at the Olympick, and other National and Panegyrick Games.
The British Nation, tho they have nothing of this kind ordain’d or establish’d by their Laws, are yet by Nature wonderfully inclin’d to the same Panegyrick Exercises. At their Fairs, and during the time of publick Festivals, they perform their rude Olympicks, and shew an Activity, and Address, beyond any other modern People whatever. Their Trials of Skill, it’s true, are wholly of the Body, not of the Brain. Nor is it to be wonder’d at, if being left to themselves, and no way assisted by the Laws or Magistrate, their bodily Exercises retain something of the Barbarian Character, or, at least, shew their Manners to hold more of Rome than Greece. The Gladiatorian, and other sanguinary Sports, which we allow our People, discover sufficiently our National Taste. And the Baitings and Slaughter of so many sorts of Creatures, tame as well as wild, for Diversion merely, may witness the extraordinary Inclination we have for Amphitheatrical Spectacles.
I know not whether it be from this killing Disposition, remark’d in us, that our Satirists prove such very Slaughter-men; and even our Panegyrick Authors, or Encomiasts, delight so much in the dispatching Method above describ’d: But sure I am, that our dramatick Poets stand violently affected this way; and delight to make Havock and Destruction of every kind.
’Tis alledg’d indeed by our Stage-Poets, in excuse for vile Ribaldry and other gross Irregularitys, both in the Fable and Language of their Pieces; that their Success, which depends chiefly on the Ladys, is never so fortunate, as when this Havock is made on Virtue and good Sense, and their Pieces are exhibited publickly in this monstrous Form. I know not how they can answer it to the Fair Sex, to speak (as they pretend) experimentally, and with such nice distinction of their Audience. How far this Excuse may serve ’em in relation to common Amours and Love-Adventures, I will not take upon me to pronounce. But I must own, I have often wonder’d to see our fighting Plays become so much the Entertainment of that tender Sex.
They who have no help from Learning to observe the wider Periods or Revolutions of human Kind, the Alterations which happen in Manners, and the Flux and Reflux of Politeness, Wit, and Art; are apt at every turn to make the present Age their Standard, and imagine nothing barbarous or savage, but what is contrary to the Manners of their own Time. The same pretended Judges, had they flourish’d in our Britain at the time when Caesar made his first Descent, wou’d have condemn’d, as a whimsical Critick, the Man who shou’d have made bold to censure our deficiency of Clothing, and laugh at the blue Cheeks and party-colour’d Skins which were then in fashion with our Ancestors. Such must of necessity be the Judgment of those who are only Criticks by fashion. But to a just Naturalist or Humanist, who knows the Creature Man, and judges of his Growth and Improvement in Society, it appears evidently that we British Men were as barbarous and unciviliz’d in respect of the Romans under a Caesar, as the Romans themselves were in respect of the Grecians, when they invaded that Nation under a Mummius.
The noble Wits of a Court-Education, who can go no farther back into Antiquity than their Pedegree will carry ’em, are able however to call to mind the different State of Manners in some few Reigns past, when Chivalry was in such repute. The Ladys were then Spectators not only of feign’d Combats and martial Exercises, but of real Duels and bloody Feats of Arms. They sat as Umpires and Judges of the doughty Frays. These were the Saint-Protectrices, to whom the Champions chiefly paid their Vows, and to whom they recommended themselves by these galante Quarrels, and elegant Decisions of Right and Justice. Nor is this Spirit so entirely lost amongst us, but that even at this hour the Fair Sex inspire us still with the Fancy of like Gallantrys. They are the chief Subject of many such civil Turmoils, and remain still the secret influencing Constellation by which we are engag’d to give and ask that Satisfaction, which is peculiar to the fine Gentlemen of the Age. For thus a certain Galante of our Court express’d the Case very naturally, when being ask’d by his Friends, why one of his establish’d Character for Courage and good Sense, wou’d answer the Challenge of a Coxcomb; he confess’d, “That for his own Sex, he cou’d safely trust their Judgment: But how shou’d he appear at night before the Maids of Honour?”
Such is the different Genius of Nations; and of the same Nation in different Times and Seasons. For so among the Antients, some have been known tender of the Sex to such a degree, as not to suffer ’em to expose their Modesty, by the View of Masculine Games, or Theatrical Representations of any kind whatever. Others, on the contrary, have introduc’d them into their Amphitheaters, and made ’em Sharers in the cruellest Spectacles.
But let our Authors or Poets complain ever so much of the Genius of our People, ’tis evident, we are not altogether so Barbarous or Gothick as they pretend. We are naturally no ill Soil; and have musical Parts which might be cultivated with great advantage, if these Gentlemen wou’d use the Art of Masters in their Composition. They have power to work upon our better Inclinations, and may know by certain Tokens, that their Audience is dispos’d to receive nobler Subjects, and taste a better Manner, than that which, thro’ indulgence to themselves more than to the World, they are generally pleas’d to make their choice.
Besides some laudable Attempts which have been made with tolerable Success, of late years, towards a just manner of Writing, both in the heroick and familiar Style; we have older Proofs of a right Disposition in our People towards the moral and instructive Way. Our old dramatick Poet may witness for our good Ear and manly Relish. Notwithstanding his natural Rudeness, his unpolish’d Style, his antiquated Phrase and Wit, his want of Method and Coherence, and his Deficiency in almost all the Graces and Ornaments of this kind of Writings; yet by the Justness of his Moral, the Aptness of many of his Descriptions, and the plain and natural Turn of several of his Characters, he pleases his Audience, and often gains their Ear, without a single Bribe from Luxury or Vice. That Piece of his, which appears to have most affected English Hearts, and has perhaps been oftnest acted of any which have come upon our Stage, is almost one continu’d Moral; a Series of deep Reflections, drawn from one Mouth, upon the Subject of one single Accident and Calamity, naturally fitted to move Horror and Compassion. It may be properly said of this Play, if I mistake not, that it has only OneCharacter or principal Part. It contains no Adoration or Flattery of the Sex: no ranting at the Gods: no blustring Heroism: nor any thing of that curious mixture of the Fierce and Tender, which makes the hinge of modern Tragedy, and nicely varies it between the Points of Love and Honour.
Upon the whole: since in the two great poetick Stations, the Epick and Dramatick, we may observe the moral Genius so naturally prevalent: since our most approv’d heroick Poem has neither the Softness of Language, nor the fashionable Turn of Wit; but merely solid Thought, strong Reasoning, noble Passion, and a continu’d Thred of moral Doctrine, Piety, and Virtue to recommend it; we may justly infer, that it is not so much the publick Ear, as the ill Hand and vitious Manner of our Poets, which need redress.
AND thus, at last, we are return’d to our old Article of Advice; that main Preliminary of Self-study and inward Converse, which we have found so much wanting in the Authors of our Time. They shou’d add the Wisdom of the Heart to the Task and Exercise of the Brain, in order to bring Proportion and Beauty into their Works. That their Composition and Vein of Writing may be natural and free, they shou’d settle matters, in the first place, with themselves. And having gain’d a Mastery here; they may easily, with the help of their Genius, and a right use of Art, command their Audience, and establish a good Taste.
’Tis on Themselves, that all depends. We have consider’d their other Subjects of Excuse. We have acquitted the Great Men, their presumptive Patrons; whom we have left to their own Discretion. We have prov’d the Criticks not only an inoffensive, but highly useful Race. And for the Audience, we have found it not so bad as might perhaps at first be apprehended.
It remains that we pass Sentence on our Authors; after having precluded ’em their last Refuge. Nor do we condemn ’em on their want of Wit or Fancy; but of Judgment and Correctness; which can only be attain’d by thorow Diligence, Study, and impartial Censure of themselves. ’TisManners which is wanting, ’Tis a due Sentiment of Morals which alone can make us knowing in Order and Proportion, and give us the just Tone and Measure of human Passion.
So much the Poet must necessarily borrow of the Philosopher, as to be Master of the commonTopicks of Morality. He must at least be speciously honest, and in all appearance a Friend to Virtue, thro’out his Poem. The Good and Wise will abate him nothing in this kind. And the People, tho corrupt, are, in the main, best satisfy’d with this Conduct.
Sometimes a play if it is embellished with sentiments and welldrawn as to its characters, though it has no grace, no weight of language, no art, delights the people more and keeps their attention better than verses with little in them and well-rounded trifles.
’TIS esteem’d the highest Compliment which can be paid a Writer, on the occasion of some new Work he has made publick, to tell him, “That he has undoubtedly surpass’dHimself.’’ And indeed when one observes how well this Compliment is receiv’d, one wou’d imagine it to contain some wonderful Hyperbole of Praise. For according to the Strain of modern Politeness; ’tis not an ordinary Violation of Truth, which can afford a Tribute sufficient to answer any common degree of Merit. Now ’tis well known that the Gentlemen whose Merit lies towards Authorship, are unwilling to make the least abatement on the foot of this Ceremonial. One wou’d wonder therefore to find ’em so entirely satisfy’d with a Form of Praise, which in plain sense amounts to no more than a bare Affirmative, “That they have in some manner differ’d from themselves, and are become somewhat worse or better, than their common rate.” For if the vilest Writer grows viler than ordinary, or exceeds his natural pitch on either side, he is justly said to exceed, or go beyond himself.
We find in the same manner, that there is no expression more generally us’d in a way of Compliment to great Men and Princes, than that plain one, which is so often verify’d, and may be safely pronounc’d for Truth, on most occasions; “That they have acted like themselves, and sutably to their own Genius and Character.” The Compliment, it must be own’d, sounds well. No one suspects it. For what Person is there who in his Imagination joins not something worthy and deserving with his true and native Self, as oft as he is refer’d to it, and made to consider, Who he is? Such is the natural Affection of all Mankind towards moral Beauty and Perfection, that they never fail in making this Presumption in behalf of themselves: “That by Nature they have something estimable and worthy in respect of others of their Kind; and that their genuine, true, and naturalSelf, is, as it ought to be, of real value in Society, and justly honourable for the sake of its Merit, and good Qualitys.” They conclude therefore they have the height of Praise allotted ’em, when they are assur’d by any-one, that they have done nothing below themselves, or that in some particular Action, they have exceeded the ordinary Tenor of their Character.
Thus is every-one convinc’d of the Reality of a betterSelf, and of the Cult or Homage which is due to It. The misfortune is, we are seldom taught to comprehend this Self, by placing it in a distinct View from its Representative or Counterfeit. In our holy Religion, which for the greatest part is adapted to the very meanest Capacitys, ’tis not to be expected that a Speculation of this kind shou’d be openly advanc’d. ’Tis enough that we have Hints given us of a nobler Self, than that which is commonly suppos’d the Basis and Foundation of our Actions. Self-Interest is there taken, as it is vulgarly conceiv’d. Tho on the other side there are, in the most sacred Characters, Examples given us of the highest Contempt of all such interested Views, of a Willingness to suffer without recompence for the sake of others, and of a desire to part even with Life and Being it-self, on account of what is generous and worthy. But in the same manner as the celestialPhaenomena are in the Sacred Volumes generally treated according to common Imagination, and the then current System of Astronomy and natural Science; so the moral Appearances are in many places preserv’d without Alteration, according to vulgar Prejudice, and the general Conception of Interest and Self-good. Our real and genuineSelf is sometimes suppos’d that ambitious one which is fond of Power and Glory; sometimes that childish one which is taken with vain Shew, and is to be invited to Obedience by promise of finer Habitations, precious Stones and Metals, shining Garments, Crowns, and other such dazling Beautys, by which another Earth, or material City, is represented.
It must be own’d, that even at that time, when a greater and purer Light disclos’d it-self in the chosen Nation; their natural Gloominess appear’d still, by the great difficulty they had to know themselves, or learn their real Interest, after such long Tutorage and Instruction from above. The Simplicity of that People must certainly have been very great; when the best Doctrine cou’d not go down without a Treat, and the best Disciples had their Heads so running upon their Loaves, that they were apt to construe every divine Saying in a Belly-Sense, and thought nothing more self-constituent than that inferior Receptacle. Their Taste in Morals cou’d not fail of being sutable to this extraordinary Estimation of themselves. No wonder if the better and noblerSelf was left as a Mystery to a People, who of all human Kind were the most grosly selfish, crooked and perverse. So that it must necessarily be confess’d, in honour of their divine Legislators, Patriots, and Instructors; that they exceeded all others in Goodness and Generosity; since they cou’d so truly love their Nation and Brethren, such as they were; and cou’d have so generous and disinterested Regards for those, who were in themselves so sordidly interested and undeserving.
But whatever may be the proper Effect or Operation of Religion, ’tis the known Province of Philosophy to teach us our-selves, keep us the self-same Persons, and so regulate our governing Fancys, Passions, and Humours, as to make us comprehensible to our selves, and knowable by other Features than those of a bare Countenance. For ’tis not certainly by virtue of our Face merely, that we are our-selves. ’Tis not WE who change, when our Complexion or Shape changes. But there is that, which being wholly metamorphos’d and converted, WE are thereby in reality transform’d and lost.
Shou’d an intimate Friend of ours, who had endur’d many Sicknesses, and run many ill Adventures while he travel’d thro’ the remotest parts of the East, and hottest Countrys of the South, return to us so alter’d in his whole outward Figure, that till we had for a time convers’d with him, we cou’d not know him again to be the same Person; the matter wou’d not seem so very strange, nor wou’d our concern on this account be very great. But shou’d a like Face and Figure of a Friend return to us with Thoughts and Humours of a strange and foreign Turn, with Passions, Affections, and Opinions wholly different from any thing we had formerly known; we shou’d say in earnest, and with the greatest Amazement and Concern, that this was another Creature, and not the Friend whom we once knew familiarly. Nor shou’d we in reality attempt any renewal of Acquaintance or Correspondence with such a Person, tho perhaps he might preserve in his Memory the faint Marks or Tokens of former Transactions which had pass’d between us.
When a Revolution of this kind, tho not so total, happens at any time in a Character; when the Passion or Humour of a known Person changes remarkably from what it once was; ’tis to Philosophy we then appeal. ’Tis either the Want or Weakness of this Principle, which is charg’d on the Delinquent. And on this bottom it is, that we often challenge our-selves, when we find such variation in our Manners; and observe that it is not always the same Self, nor the same Interest we have in view; but often a direct contrary-one, which we serve still with the same Passion and Ardour. When from a noted Liberality we change perhaps to as remarkable a Parsimony; when from Indolence and Love of Rest we plunge into Business; or from a busy and severe Character, abhorrent from the tender Converse of the fair Sex, we turn on a sudden to a contrary Passion, and become amorous or uxorious: we acknowledg the Weakness; and charging our Defect on the general want of Philosophy, we say (sighing) “That, indeed, we none of us truly know ourselves.” And thus we recognize the Authority and proper Object of Philosophy; so far at least, that tho we pretend not to be compleat Philosophers, we confess, “That as we have more or less of this Intelligence or Comprehension of our-selves, we are accordingly more or less trulyMen, and either more or less to be depended on, in Friendship, Society, and the Commerce of Life.”
The Fruits of this Science are indeed the fairest imaginable; and, upon due trial, are found to be as well relish’d, and of as good savour with Mankind. But when invited to the Speculation, we turn our Eyes on that which we suppose the Tree, ’tis no wonder if we slight the Gardenership, and think the manner of Culture a very contemptible Mystery. “Grapes, ’tis said, are not gather’d from Thorns; nor Figs from Thistles.” Now if in the literate World there be any choking Weed, any thing purely Thorn or Thistle, ’tis in all likelihood that very kind of Plant which stands for Philosophy in some famous Schools. There can be nothing more ridiculous than to expect that Manners or Understanding shou’d sprout from such a Stock. It pretends indeed some relation to Manners, as being definitive of the Natures, Essences, and Propertys of Spirits; and some relation to Reason, as describing the Shapes and Forms of certain Instruments imploy’d in the reasoning Art. But had the craftiest of Men, for many Ages together, been imploy’d in finding out a method to confound Reason, and degrade the Understanding of Mankind; they cou’d not perhaps have succeeded better, than by the Establishment of such a Mock-Science.
I knew once a notable Enthusiast of the itinerant kind, who being upon a high Spiritual Adventure in a Country where prophetick Missions are treated as no Jest, was, as he told me, committed a close Prisoner, and kept for several months where he saw no manner of Light. In this Banishment from Letters and Discourse, the Man very wittily invented an Amusement much to his purpose, and highly preservative both of Health and Humour. It may be thought perhaps, that of all Seasons or Circumstances here was one the most sutable to our oft-mention’d practice of Soliloquy; especially since the Prisoner was one of those whom in this Age we usually call Philosophers, a Successor of Paracelsus, and a Master in the occult Sciences. But as to Moral Science, or any thing relating to Self-converse, he was a mere Novice. To work therefore he went, after a different method. He tun’d his natural Pipes not after the manner of a Musician, to practice what was melodious and agreeable in Sounds, but to fashion and form all sorts of articulate Voices the most distinctly that was possible. This he perform’d by strenuously exalting his Voice, and essaying it in all the several Dispositions and Configurations of his Throat and Mouth. And thus bellowing, roaring, snarling, and otherwise variously exerting his Organs of Sound, he endeavour’d to discover what Letters of the Alphabet cou’d best design each Species, or what new Letters were to be invented, to mark the undiscover’d Modifications. He found, for instance, the Letter A to be a most genuine Character, an original and pure Vowel, and justly plac’d as principal in the front of the alphabetick Order. For having duly extended his under Jaw to its utmost distance from the upper; and by a proper Insertion of his Fingers provided against the Contraction of either Corner of his Mouth; he experimentally discover’d it impossible for human Tongue under these Circumstances to emit any other Modification of Sound than that which was describ’d by this primitive Character. The Vowel O was form’d by an orbicular Disposition of the Mouth; as was aptly delineated in the Character it-self. The Vowel U by a parallel Protrusion of the Lips. The other Vowels and Consonants by other various Collisions of the Mouth, and Operations of the active Tongue upon the passive Gum or Palat. The Result of this profound Speculation and long Exercise of our Prisoner, was a Philosophical Treatise, which he compos’d when he was set at liberty. He esteem’d himself the only Master of Voice and Language on the account of this his radical Science, and fundamental Knowledg of Sounds. But whoever had taken him to improve their Voice, or teach ’em an agreeable or just manner of Accent or Delivery, wou’d, I believe, have found themselves considerably deluded.
’Tis not that I wou’d condemn as useless this speculative Science of Articulation. It has its place, no doubt, among the other Sciences, and may serve to Grammar, as Grammar serves to Rhetorick, and to other Arts of Speech and Writing. The Solidity of Mathematicks, and its Advantage to Mankind, is prov’d by many effects in those beneficial Arts and Sciences which depend on it: tho Astrologers, Horoscopers, and other such, are pleas’d to honour themselves with the Title of Mathematicians. As for Metaphysicks, and that which in the Schools is taught for Logick or for Ethicks; I shall willingly allow it to pass for Philosophy, when by any real effects it is prov’d capable to refine our Spirits, improve our Understandings, or mend our Manners. But if the defining material and immaterial Substances, and distinguishing their Propertys and Modes, is recommended to us, as the right manner of proceeding in the Discovery of our own Natures, I shall be apt to suspect such a Study as the more delusive and infatuating, on account of its magnificent Pretension.
The Study of Triangles and Circles interferes not with the Study of Minds. Nor does the Student in the mean while suppose himself advancing in Wisdom, or the Knowledg of Himself or Mankind. All he desires, is to keep his Head sound, as it was before. And well, he thinks indeed, he has come off, if by good fortune there be no Crack made in it. As for other Ability or Improvement in the Knowledg of human Nature or the World; he refers himself to other Studys and Practice. Such is the Mathematician’s Modesty and good Sense. But for the Philosopher, who pretends to be wholly taken up in considering his higher Facultys, and examining the Powers and Principles of his Understanding; if in reality his Philosophy be foreign to the Matter profess’d; if it goes beside the mark, and reaches nothing we can truly call our Interest or Concern; it must be somewhat worse than mere Ignorance or Idiotism. The most ingenious way of becoming foolish, is by a System. And the surest Method to prevent good Sense, is to set up something in the room of it. The liker any thing is to Wisdom, if it be not plainlythe thing it-self, the more directly it becomes its opposite.
One wou’d expect it of these Physiologists and Searchers of Modes and Substances, that being so exalted in their Understandings, and inrich’d with Science above other Men, they shou’d be as much above ’em in their Passions and Sentiments. The Consciousness of being admitted into the secret Recesses of Nature, and the inward Resources of a human Heart, shou’d, one wou’d think, create in these Gentlemen a sort of Magnanimity, which might distinguish ’em from the ordinary Race of Mortals. But if their pretended Knowledg of the Machine of this World, and of their own Frame, is able to produce nothing beneficial either to the one or to the other; I know not to what purpose such a Philosophy can serve, except only to shut the door against better Knowledg, and introduce Impertinence and Conceit with the best Countenance of Authority.
’Tis hardly possible for a Student, but more especially an Author, who has dealt in Ideas, and treated formally of the Passions, in a way of natural Philosophy, not to imagine himself more wise on this account, and more knowing in his own Character, and the Genius of Mankind. But that he is mistaken in his Calculation, Experience generally convinces us: none being found more impotent in themselves, of less command over their Passions, less free from Superstition and vain Fears, or less safe from common Imposture and Delusion, than the noted Head-pieces of this stamp. Nor is this a wonder. The Speculation in a manner bespeaks the Practice. There needs no formal Deduction to make this evident. A small Help from our familiar Method of Soliloquy may serve turn: and we may perhaps decide this matter in a more diverting way; by confronting this super-speculative Philosophy with a more practical sort, which relates chiefly to our Acquaintance, Friendship, and good Correspondence with our-selves.
On this account, it may not be to my Reader’s disadvantage, if forgetting him for a-while, I apply chiefly to my-self; and, as occasion offers, assume that self-conversant Practice, which I have pretended to disclose. ’Tis hop’d therefore, he will not esteem it as ill Breeding, if I lose the usual regard to his Presence. And shou’d I fall insensibly into one of the Paroxysms describ’d; and as in a sort of Phrenzy, enter into high Expostulation with my-self; he will not surely be offended with the free Language, or even with the Reproaches he hears from a Person who only makes bold with whom he may.
IF A Passenger shou’d turn by chance into a Watchmaker’s Shop, and thinking to inform himself concerning Watches, shou’d inquire, of what Metal, or what Matter, each Part was compos’d; what gave the Colours, or what made the Sounds; without examining what the real Use was of such an Instrument; or by what Movements its End was best attain’d, and its Perfection acquir’d: ’tis plain that such an Examiner as this, wou’d come short of any Understanding in the real Nature of the Instrument. Shou’d a Philosopher, after the same manner, employing himself in the Study of human Nature, discover only, what Effects each Passion wrought upon the Body; what change of Aspect or Feature they produc’d; and in what different manner they affected the Limbs and Muscles; this might possibly qualify him to give Advice to an Anatomist or a Limner, but not to Mankind or to Himself: Since according to this Survey he consider’d not the real Operation or Energy of his Subject, nor contemplated the Man, as realMan, and as a human Agent; but as a Watch or common Machine.
“The Passion of Fear (as a modern Philosopher informs me) determines the Spirits to the Muscles of the Knees, which are instantly ready to perform their Motion; by taking up the Legs with incomparable Celerity, in order to remove the Body out of harm’s way.”—Excellent Mechanism! But whether the knocking together of the Knees be any more the cowardly Symptom of Flight, than the chattering of the Teeth is the stout Symptom of Resistance, I shall not take upon me to determine. In this whole Subject of Inquiry I shall find nothing of the least Self-concernment. And I may depend upon it, that by the most refin’d Speculation of this kind, I shall neither learn to diminish my Fears, or raise my Courage. This, however, I may be assur’d of, that ’tis the Nature of Fear, as well as of other Passions, to have its Increase and Decrease, as it is fed by Opinion, and influenc’d by Custom and Practice.
These Passions, according as they have the Ascendency in me, and differ in proportion with one another, affect my Character, and make me different with respect to my-self and others. I must, therefore, of necessity find Redress and Improvement in this case, by reflecting justly on the manner of my own Motion, as guided by Affections which depend so much on Apprehension and Conceit. By examining the various Turns, Inflections, Declensions, and inward Revolutions of the Passions, I must undoubtedly come the better to understand a human Breast, and judg the better both of others and my-self. ’Tis impossible to make the least advancement in such a Study, without acquiring some Advantage, from the Regulation and Government of those Passions, on which the Conduct of a Life depends.
For instance, if Superstition be the sort of Fear which most oppresses; ’tis not very material to inquire, on this occasion, to what Parts or Districts the Blood or Spirits are immediately detach’d, or where they are made to rendevouz. For this no more imports me to understand, than it depends on me to regulate or change. But when the Grounds of this superstitious Fear are consider’d to be from Opinion, and the Subjects of it come to be thorowly search’d and examin’d; the Passion it-self must necessarily diminish, as I discover more and more the Imposture which belongs to it.
In the same manner, if Vanity be from Opinion, and I consider how Vanity is conceiv’d, from what imaginary Advantages, and inconsiderable Grounds; if I view it in its excessive height, as well as in its contrary depression; ’tis impossible I shou’d not in some measure be reliev’d of this Distemper.
Are you swollen up with the love of praise? There are sure remedies. . . . There are spells and charms by which you may ease this pain and throw off a great part of your complaint.
The same must happen in respect of Anger, Ambition, Love, Desire, and the other Passions from whence I frame the different Notion I have of Interest. For as these Passions veer, my Interest veers, my Steerage varys; and I make alternately, now this, now that, to be my Course and Harbour. The Man in Anger, has a different Happiness from the Man in Love. And the Man lately become covetous, has a different Notion of Satisfaction from what he had before, when he was liberal. Even the Man in Humour, has another Thought of Interest and Advantage than the Man out of Humour, or in the least disturb’d. The Examination, therefore, of my Humours, and the Inquiry after my Passions, must necessarily draw along with it the Search and Scrutiny of my Opinions, and the sincere Consideration of my Scope and End. And thus the Study of human Affection cannot fail of leading me towards the Knowledg of human Nature, and of My-self.
This is the Philosophy, which, by Nature, has the Pre-eminence above all other Science or Knowledg. Nor can this surely be of the sort call’d vain or deceitful; since it is the only means by which I can discover Vanity and Deceit. This is not of that kind which depends on Genealogys or Traditions, and ministers Questions and vain Jangling. It has not its Name, as other Philosophys, from the mere Subtlety and Nicety of the Speculation; but, by way of Excellence, from its being superior to all other Speculations; from its presiding over all other Sciences and Occupations; teaching the Measure of each, and assigning the just Value of everything in Life. By this Science Religion it-self is judg’d, Spirits are search’d, Prophecys prov’d, Miracles distinguish’d: the sole Measure and Standard being taken from moral Rectitude, and from the Discernment of what is sound and just in the Affections. For if the Tree is known only by its Fruits; my first Endeavour must be to distinguish the true Taste of Fruits, refine my Palat, and establish a just Relish in the kind. So that to bid me judg Authority by Morals, whilst the Rule of Morals is suppos’d dependent on mere Authority and Will; is the same in reality as to bid me see with my Eyes shut, measure without a Standard, and count without Arithmetick.
And thus Philosophy, which judges both of her-self, and of every thing besides; discovers her own Province, and chief Command; teaches me to distinguish between her Person and her Likeness; and shews me her immediate and real self, by that sole Privilege of teaching me to know my-self, and what belongs to me. She gives to every inferior Science its just rank; leaves some to measure Sounds; others to scan Syllables; others to weigh Vacuums, and define Spaces, and Extensions: but reserves to her-self her due Authority, and Majesty; keeps her State, and antient Title, of Guide of life, investigator of virtue, and the rest of those just Appellations which of old belong’d to her; when she merited to be apostrophiz’d, as she was, by the Orator: “Thou didst find out laws, thou wast the teacher of character and method. . . . One day spent well and under thy rules is better than an eternity of error.” Excellent Mistress! but easy to be mistaken! whilst so many Handmaids wear as illustrious Apparel; and some are made to outshine her far, in Dress, and Ornament.
In reality, how specious a Study, how solemn an Amusement is rais’d from what we call Philosophical Speculations!—the Formation of Ideas!—their Compositions, Comparisons, Agreement, and Disagreement!—What can have a better Appearance, or bid fairer for genuine and truePhilosophy? Come on then. Let me philosophize in this manner; if this be indeed the way I am to grow wise. Let me examine my Ideas of Space and Substance: Let me look well into Matter and its Modes; if this be looking into My-self; if this be to improve my Understanding, and enlarge my Mind. For of this I may soon be satisfy’d. Let me observe therefore, with diligence, what passes here; what Connexion and Consistency, what Agreement or Disagreement I find within: “Whether, according to my present Ideas, that which I approve this Hour, I am like to approve as well the next: And in case it be otherwise with me; how or after what manner, I shall relieve myself; how ascertain my Ideas, and keep my Opinion, Liking, and Esteem of things, the same.” If this remains unsolv’d; if I am still the same Mystery to my-self as ever: to what purpose is all this reasoning and acuteness? Wherefore do I admire my Philosopher, or study to become such a one, my-self?
To-day things have succeeded well with me; consequently my Ideas are rais’d: “’Tis a fine World! All is glorious! Every thing delightful and entertaining! Mankind, Conversation, Company, Society; What can be more desirable?” To-morrow comes Disappointment, Crosses, Disgrace. And what follows? “O miserable Mankind! Wretched State! Who wou’d live out of Solitude? Who wou’d write or act for such a World?” Philosopher! where are thy Ideas? Where is Truth, Certainty, Evidence, so much talk’d of? ’Tis here surely they are to be maintain’d, if any where. ’Tis here I am to preserve some just Distinctions, and adequate Ideas; which if I cannot do a jot the more, by what such a Philosophy can teach me, the Philosophy is in this respect imposing, and delusive. For whatever its other Virtues are; it relates not to Me my-self, it concerns not the Man, nor any otherwise affects the Mind than by the conceit of Knowledg, and the false Assurance rais’d from a suppos’d Improvement.
Again. What are my Ideas of the World, of Pleasure, Riches, Fame, Life? What Judgment am I to make of Mankind and human Affairs? What Sentiments am I to frame? What Opinions? What Maxims? If none at all; why do I concern my-self in Speculations about my Ideas? What is it to me, for instance, to know what kind of Idea I can form of Space? “Divide a solid Body of whatever Dimension,” (says a renown’d modern Philosopher): “And ’twill be impossible for the Parts to move within the bounds of its Superficies; if there be not left in it a void Space, as big as the least part into which the said Body is divided.”—
Thus the Atomist, or Epicurean, pleading for a Vacuum. The Plenitudinarian, on the other side, brings his Fluid in play, and joins the Idea of Body and Extension. “Of this, says one, I have clear Ideas.” “Of this, says the other, I can be certain.” “And what, say I, if in the whole matter there be no certainty at all?” For Mathematicians are divided: and Mechanicks proceed as well on one Hypothesis as on the other. My Mind, I am satisfy’d, will proceed either way alike: For it is concern’d on neither side.—“Philosopher! Let me hear concerning what is of some moment to me. Let me hear concerning Life; what the right Notion is; and what I am to stand to, upon occasion: that I may not, when Life seems retiring, or has run it-self out to the very Dregs, cry Vanity! condemn the World, and at the same time complain, that Life is short and passing!” For why so short, indeed, if not found sweet? Why do I complain both ways? Is Vanity, mere Vanity, a Happiness? Or can Misery pass away too soon?
This is of moment to me to examine. This is worth my while. If, on the other side, I cannot find the Agreement or Disagreement of my Ideas in this place; if I can come to nothing certain here; what is all the rest to me? What signifys it how I come by my Ideas, or how compound ’em; which are simple, and which complex? If I have a right Idea of Life, now when perhaps I think slightly of it, and resolve with my-self, “That it may easily be laid down on any honourable occasion of Service to my Friends, or Country”; teach me how I may preserve this Idea: or, at least, how I may get safely rid of it; that it may trouble me no more, nor lead me into ill Adventures. Teach me how I came by such an Opinion of Worth and Virtue; what it is, which at one time raises it so high, and at another time reduces it to nothing; how these Disturbances and Fluctuations happen; “By what Innovation, what Composition, what Intervention of other Ideas.” If this be the Subject of the Philosophical Art; I readily apply to it, and embrace the Study. If there be nothing of this in the Case; I have no occasion for this sort of Learning; and am no more desirous of knowing how I form or compound those Ideas which are mark’d by Words, than I am of knowing how, and by what Motions of my Tongue or Palat, I form those articulate Sounds, which I can full as well pronounce, without any such Science or Speculation.
BUT here it may be convenient for me to quit my-self a-while, in favour of my Reader; lest if he prove one of the uncourteous sort, he shou’d raise a considerable Objection in this place. He may ask perhaps, “Why a Writer for Self-entertainment shou’d not keep his Writings to himself, without appearing in Publick, or before the World.”
In answer to this I shall only say, that for appearing in Publick, or before the World, I do not readily conceive what our worthy Objector may understand by it. I can call to mind, indeed, among my Acquaintance, certain Merchant-Adventurers in the Letter-Trade, who in correspondence with their Factor-Bookseller, are enter’d into a notable Commerce with the World. They have directly, and in due Form of Preface, and Epistle Dedicatory, sollicited the Publick, and made Interest with Friends for Favour and Protection on this account. They have ventur’d, perhaps, to join some great Man’s Reputation with their own; having obtain’d his Permission to address a Work to him, on presumption of its passing for something considerable in the eyes of Mankind. One may easily imagine that such patroniz’d and avow’d Authors as these, wou’d be shreudly disappointed if the Publick took no notice of their Labours. But for my own part, ’tis of no concern to me, what regard the Publick bestows on my Amusements; or after what manner it comes acquainted with what I write for my private Entertainment, or by way of Advice to such of my Acquaintance as are thus desperately embark’d.
’Tis requisite, that my Friends, who peruse these Advices, shou’d read ’em in better Characters than those of my own Hand-writing. And by good luck I have a very fair Hand offer’d, which may save me the trouble of re-copying, and can readily furnish me with as many handsom Copys as I wou’d desire, for my own and Friends Service. I have not, indeed, forbid my Amanuensis the making as many as he pleases for his own Benefit. What I write is not worth being made a Mystery. And if it be worth any one’s purchasing; much good may do the Purchaser. ’Tis a Traffick I have no share in; tho I accidentally furnish the Subject-matter.
And thus am I no-wise more an Author, for being in Print. I am conscious of no additional Virtue, or dangerous Quality, from having lain at any time under the weight of that alphabetick Engine call’d the Press. I know no Conjuration in it, either with respect to Church, or State. Nor can I imagine why the Machine shou’d appear so formidable to Scholars, and renown’d Clerks; whose very Mystery and Foundation depends on the Letter-Manufacture. To allow Benefit of Clergy, and to restrain the Press, seems to me to have something of Cross-purpose in it. I can hardly think that the Quality of what is written can be alter’d by the Manner of Writing; or that there can be any harm in a quick way of copying fair, and keeping Copys alike. Why a Man may not be permitted to write with Iron as well as Quill, I can’t conceive; or how a Writer changes his Capacity, by this new Dress, any more than by the wear of Wove-Stockins, after having worn no other Manufacture than the Knit.
SO MUCH for my Reader; if perchance I have any besides the Friend or two above-mention’d. For being engag’d in Morals, and induc’d to treat so rigorous a Subject as that of Self-examination; I naturally call to mind the extreme Delicacy and Tenderness of modern Appetites, in respect of the Philosophy of this kind. What Distaste possibly may have arisen from some medicinal Doses of a like nature, administer’d to raw Stomachs, at a very early Age, I will not pretend to examine. But whatever Manner in Philosophy happens to bear the least resemblance to that of Catechism, cannot, I’m persuaded, of it-self, prove very inviting. Such a smart way of questioning our-selves in our Youth, has made our Manhood more averse to the expostulatory Discipline. And tho the metaphysical Points of our Belief are by this method, with admirable Care and Caution, instill’d into tender Minds; yet the manner of this anticipating Philosophy, may make the After-work of Reason, and the inward Exercise of the Mind, at a riper Age, proceed the more heavily, and with greater reluctance.
It must needs be a hard Case with us, after having pass’d so learned a Childhood, and been instructed in our own and other higher Natures, Essences, incorporeal Substances, Personalitys, and the like; to condescend at riper Years to ruminate and con over this Lesson a second time. ’Tis hard, after having, by so many pertinent Interrogatorys, and decisive Sentences, declar’d Who and What we are; to come leisurely, in another view, to inquire concerning our real Self, and End, the Judgment we are to make of Interest, and the Opinion we shou’d have ofAdvantageandGood: which is what must necessarily determine us in our Conduct, and prove the leading Principle of our Lives.
Can we bear looking a-new into these Mysterys? Can we endure a new Schooling, after having once learnt our Lesson from the World? Hardly, I presume. For by the Lesson of this latter School, and according to the Sense I acquire in Converse with prime Men; shou’d I at any time ask my-self, What govern’d me? I shou’d answer readily, My Interest. “But what is Interest? And how govern’d?” “By Opinion and Fancy.” “Is every thing therefore my Interest which I fansy such? Or may my Fancy possibly be wrong?” “It may.” “If my Fancy of Interest therefore be wrong; can my Pursuit or Aim be right?” “Hardly so.” “Can I then be suppos’d to hit, when I know not, in reality, so much as how to aim?”
My chief Interest, it seems therefore, must be to get an Aim; and know certainly where my Happiness and Advantage lies. “Where else can it lie, than in my Pleasure; since my Advantage and Good must ever be pleasing: and what is pleasing, can never be other than my Advantage and Good?” “Excellent! Let Fancy therefore govern, and Interest be what we please. For if that which pleases us be our Good, because it pleases us; any-thing may be our Interest or Good. Nothing can come amiss. That which we fondly make our Happiness at one time, we may as readily un-make at another. No-one can learn what realGood is. Nor can anyone upon this foot be said to understand hisInterest.’’
Here, we see, are strange Embroils!—But let us try to deal more candidly with our-selves, and frankly own that Pleasure is no rule of Good; since when we follow Pleasure merely, we are disgusted, and change from one sort to another: condemning that at one time, which at another we earnestly approve; and never judging equally of Happiness, whilst we follow Passion and mere Humour.
A Lover, for instance, when struck with the Idea or Fancy of his Enjoyment, promises himself the highest Felicity, if he succeeds in his new Amour.—He succeeds in it; finds not the Felicity he expected: but promises himself the same again in some other.—The same thing happens: He is disappointed as before; but still has Faith.—Weary’d with this Game, he quits the Chace; renounces the way of Courtship and Intrigue, and detests the Ceremony and Difficulty of the Pleasure.—A new Species of Amours invites him. Here too he meets the same Inquietude and Inconstancy.—Scorning to grow sottish, and plunge in the lowest Sink of Vice, he shakes off his Intemperance; despises Gluttony and Riot; and hearkens to Ambition. He grows a Man of Business, and seeks Authority and Fame.—
With what chain can I bind the ever-changing figure of Proteus?
Lest this therefore shou’d be my own case; let me see whether I can controul my Fancy, and fix it, if possible, on something which may hold good.—When I exercise my Reason in moral Subjects; when I employ my Affection in friendly and social Actions, I find I can sincerely enjoy my-self. If there be a Pleasure therefore of this kind; why not indulge it? Or what harm wou’d there be, supposing it shou’d grow greater by Indulgence? If I am lazy, and indulge my-self in the languid Pleasure; I know the harm, and can foresee the Drone. If I am luxurious, I know the harm of this also, and have the plain prospect of the Sot. If Avarice be my Pleasure; the End, I know, is being a Miser. But if Honesty be my Delight, I know no other consequence from indulging such a Passion, than that of growing better natur’d, and enjoying more and more the Pleasures of Society. On the other hand, if this honest Pleasure be lost, by knavish Indulgence, and Immorality, there can hardly be a Satisfaction left of any kind; since Good-nature and social Affection are so essential even to the Pleasures of a Debauch.
If therefore the only Pleasure I can freely and without reserve indulge, be that of the honest and moral kind; if the rational and social Enjoyment be so constant in it-self, and so essential to Happiness; why shou’d I not bring my other Pleasures to correspond and be Friends with it, rather than raise my-self other Pleasures, which are destructive of this Foundation, and have no manner of Correspondency with one another?
Upon this bottom let me try how I can bear the Assault of Fancy, and maintain my-self in my moral Fortress, against the Attacks which are rais’d on the side of corrupt Interest and a wrong Self. When the Idea of Pleasure strikes, I ask my-self: “Before I was thus struck by the Idea, was any thing amiss with me?” “No.” “Therefore remove the Idea, and I am well.” “But having this Idea such as I now have, I cannot want the Thing, without regret.” “See, therefore, which is best: either to suffer under this Want, till the Idea be remov’d; or by satisfying the Want, confirm not only this Idea, but all of the same stamp!”
In reality, has not everyFancy a like Privilege of passing; if any single one be admitted upon its own Authority? And what must be the Issue of such an OEconomy, if the whole fantastick Crew be introduc’d, and the Door refus’d to none? What else is it than this Management which leads to the most dissolute and profligate of Characters? What is it, on the contrary, which raises us to any degree of Worth or Steddiness, besides a direct contrary Practice and Conduct? Can there be Strength of Mind; can there be Command over one’s self; If the Ideas of Pleasure, the Suggestions of Fancy, and the strong Pleadings of Appetite and Desire are not often withstood, and the Imaginations soundly reprimanded, and brought under subjection?
Thus it appears that the Method of examining our Ideas is no pedantick Practice. Nor is there any thing un-galante in the manner of thus questioning the Lady-Fancys, which present themselves as charmingly dress’d as possible to sollicit their Cause, and obtain a Judgment, by favour of that worse Part, and corrupt Self, to whom they make their Application.
It may be justly said of these, that they are very powerful Sollicitresses. They never seem to importune us; tho they are ever in our eye, and meet us which-ever way we turn. They understand better how to manage their Appearance, than by always throwing up their Veil, and shewing their Faces openly in a broad Light, to run the danger of cloying our Sight, or exposing their Features to a strict Examination. So far are they from such forwardness, that they often stand as at a distance; suffering us to make the first advance, and contenting themselves with discovering a Side-face, or bestowing now and then a glance in a mysterious manner, as if they endeavour’d to conceal their Persons.
One of the most dangerous of these Enchantresses appears in a sort of dismal Weed, with the most mournful Countenance imaginable; often casting up her Eyes, and wringing her Hands; so that ’tis impossible not to be mov’d by her, till her Meaning be consider’d, and her Imposture fully known. The Airs she borrows, are from the tragick Muse Melpomene. Nor is she in her own Person any way amiable or attractive. Far from it. Her Art is to render her-self as forbidding as possible; that her Sisters may by her means be the more alluring. And if by her tragick Aspect, and melancholy Looks, she can persuade us that Death (whom she represents) is such a hideous Form; she conquers in behalf of the whole fantastick Tribe of wanton, gay, and fond Desires. Effeminacy and Cowardice instantly prevail. The poorest Means of Life grow in repute, when the Ends and just Conditions of it are so little known, and the Dread of parting with it, rais’d to so high a degree. The more eagerly we grasp at Life, the more impotent we are in the Enjoyment of it. By this Avidity, its very Lees and Dregs are swallow’d. The Ideas of sordid Pleasure are advanc’d. Worth, Manhood, Generosity, and all the nobler Opinions and Sentiments of honestGood, and virtuous Pleasure, disappear, and fly before this Queen of Terrors.
’Tis a mighty Delight which a sort of Counter-Philosophers take in seconding this Phantom, and playing her upon our Understandings, whenever they wou’d take occasion to confound ’em. The vicious Poets employ this Specter too on their side; tho after a different manner. By the help of this tragick Actress, they gain a fairer Audience for the luxurious Fancys; and give their Erato’s, and other playsom Muses a fuller Scope in the support of Riot and Debauch. The gloomy Prospect of Death becomes the Incentive to Pleasures of the lowest Order. Ashes and Shade, the Tomb and Cypress, are made to serve as Foils to Luxury. The Abhorrence of an insensible State makes mere Vitality and Animal-Sensation highly cherish’d.
Give your genius play; let us take our pleasures; your life (alone) is ours; you will (soon) be but dust, a ghost, a name.
’Tis no wonder if Luxury profits by the Deformity of this Specter-Opinion. She supports her Interest by this childish Bugbear; and, like a Mother by her Infant, is hugg’d so much the closer by her Votary, as the Fear presses him, and grows importunate. She invites him to live fast, according to her best measure of Life. And well she may. Who wou’d not willingly make Life pass away as quickly as was possible; when the nobler Pleasures of it were already lost or corrupted by a wretched Fear of Death? The intense Selfishness and Meanness which accompanys this Fear, must reduce us to a low ebb of Enjoyment; and in a manner bring to nothing that main Sum of satisfactory Sensations, by which we vulgarly rate the Happiness of our private Condition and Fortune.
But see! A lovely Form advances to our Assistance, introduc’d by the prime Muse, the beauteous Calliope! She shews us what real Beauty is, and what thoseNumbers are, which make Life perfect, and bestow the chief Enjoyment. She sets Virtue before our Eyes, and teaches us how to rate Life, from the Experience of the most heroick Spirits. She brings her Sisters Clio and Urania to support her. From the former she borrows whatever is memorable in History, and antient Time, to confront the tragick Specter, and shew the fix’d Contempt which the happiest and freest Nations, as well as single Heroes, and private Men worthy of any Note, have ever express’d for that Impostress. From the latter she borrows what is sublimest in Philosophy, to explain the Laws of Nature, the Order of the Universe, and represent to us the Justice of accompanying this amiable Administration. She shews us, that by this just Compliance we are made happiest: and that the measure of a happy Life is not from the fewer or more Suns we behold, the fewer or more Breaths we draw, or Meals we repeat; but from the having once liv’d well, acted our Part handsomly, and made our Exit chearfully, and as became us.
Thus we retain on Virtue’s side the noblest Party of the Muses. Whatever is august amongst those Sisters, appears readily in our behalf. Nor are the more jocund Ladys wanting in their Assistance, when they act in the Perfection of their Art, and inspire some better Genius’s in this kind of Poetry. Such were the nobler Lyricks, and those of the latter, and more refin’d Comedy of the Antients. The Thalia’s, the Polyhymnia’s, the Terpsychore’s, the Euterpe’s willingly join their Parts; and being alike interested in the Cause of Numbers, are with regret employ’d another way, in favour of Disorder. Instead of being made Syrens to serve the Purposes of Vice, they wou’d with more delight accompany their elder Sisters, and add their Graces and attractive Charms to what is most harmonious, Muse-like, and Divine in human Life. There is this difference only between these and the more heroick Dames; that they can more easily be perverted, and take the vicious Form. For what Person of any Genius or masterly Command in the poetick Art, cou’d think of bringing the Epick or Tragick Muse to act the Pandar, or be subservient to Effeminacy and Cowardice? ’Tis not against Death, Hazards or Toils, that Tragedy and the heroick Fable are pointed. ’Tis not mere Life which is here exalted, or has its Price enhanc’d. On the contrary, its Calamitys are expos’d: the Disorders of the Passions set to view: Fortitude recommended: Honour advanc’d: the Contempt of Death plac’d as the peculiar Note of every generous and happy Soul; and the tenacious Love of Life, as the truest Character of an abject Wretch.
Is it so hard to die?
’Tis not to be imagin’d how easily we deal with the deluding Apparitions and false Ideas of Happiness and Good; when this frightful Specter of Misery and Ill, is after this manner well laid, and by honest Magick conjur’d down; so as not to give the least assistance to the other tempting Forms. This is that occult Science, or sort of Counter-Necromancy, which instead of Ghastliness and Horror, inspires only what is gentle and humane, and dispels the imposing Phantoms of every kind. He may pass, undoubtedly, for no mean Conjurer, who can deal with Spirits of this sort.—But hold!—Let us try the Experiment in due form, and draw the magick Circle. Let us observe how the inferior Imps appear; when the Head-Goblin is securely laid!—
See! The EnchantressIndolence presents her-self, in all the Pomp of Ease and lazy Luxury. She promises the sweetest Life, and invites us to her Pillow: injoins us to expose our-selves to no adventurous Attempt; and forbids us any Engagement which may bring us into Action. “Where, then, are the Pleasures which Ambition promises, and Love affords? How is the gay World enjoy’d? Or are those to be esteem’d no Pleasures, which are lost by Dulness and Inaction?” “But Indolence is the highest Pleasure.” “To live, and not to feel!” “To feel no Trouble.” “What Good then?” “Life it-self.” “And is this properly to live? Is sleeping, Life? Is this what I shou’d study to prolong?”—Here the fantastick Tribe it-self seems scandaliz’d. A Civil War begins. The major part of the capricious Dames range themselves on Reason’s side, and declare against the languid Syren.Ambition blushes at the offer’d Sweet. Conceit and Vanity take superior Airs. Even Luxury her-self, in her polite and elegant Humour, reproves the Apostate-Sister, and marks her as an Alien to true Pleasure—“Away, thou drousy Phantom! Haunt me no more. For I have learn’d from better than thy Sisterhood, that Life and Happiness consist in Action and Employment.”
But here a busy Form sollicits us; active, industrious, watchful, and despising Pains and Labour. She wears the serious Countenance of Virtue, but with Features of Anxiety and Disquiet. What is it she mutters? What looks she on, with such Admiration and Astonishment?—Bags! Coffers! Heaps of shining Metal! “What! for the Service of Luxury? For her these Preparations? Art thou then her Friend (grave Fancy!) is it for her thou toil’st?” “No, but for Provision against Want.” “But, Luxury apart, tell me now, hast thou not already a Competence?” “’Tis good to be secure against the fear of Starving.” “Is there then no Death beside this? No other Passage out of Life? Are other Doors secur’d, if this be barr’d? Say, Avarice! (thou emptiest of Phantoms) is it not vile Cowardice thou serv’st? What further have I then to do with thee (thou doubly vile Dependent!) when once I have dismiss’d thy Patroness, and despis’d her Threats?”
Thus I contend with Fancy and Opinion; and search the Mint and Foundery of Imagination. For here the Appetites and Desires are fabricated. Hence they derive their Privilege and Currency. If I can stop the Mischief here, and prevent false Coinage; I am safe. “Idea! wait a-while till I have examin’d thee, whence thou art, and to whom thou retain’st. Art thou of Ambition’s Train? Or dost thou promise only Pleasure? Say! what am I to sacrifice for thy sake? What Honour? What Truth? What Manhood?—What Bribe is it thou bring’st along with thee? Describe the flattering Object; but without Flattery; plain, as the thing is; without addition, without sparing or reserve. Is it Wealth? is it a Report? a Title? or a Female? Come not in a Troop, (ye Fancys!) Bring not your Objects crouding, to confound the Sight. But let me examine your Worth and Weight distinctly. Think not to raise accumulative Happiness. For if separately, you contribute nothing; in conjunction, you can only amuse.”
WHILST I am thus penning a Soliloquy in form, I can’t forbear reflecting on my Work. And when I view the Manner of it with a familiar Eye; I am readier, I find, to make my-self Diversion on this occasion, than to suppose I am in good earnest about a Work of consequence. “What! Am I to be thus fantastical? Must I busy my-self with Phantoms? fight with Apparitions and Chimeras?” “For certain: Or the Chimeras will be before-hand with me, and busy themselves so as to get the better of my Understanding.” “What! Talk to my-self like some Madman, in different Persons, and under different Characters?” “Undoubtedly: or ’twill be soon seen who is a real Madman, and changes Character in earnest, without knowing how to help it.”
This indeed is but too certain; That as long as we enjoy a Mind, as long as we have Appetites and Sense, the Fancys of all kinds will be hard at work; and whether we are in company, or alone, they must range still, and be active. They must have their Field. The Question is, Whether they shall have it wholly to themselves; or whether they shall acknowledg some Controuler or Manager. If none; ’tis this, I fear, which leads to Madness. ’Tis this, and nothing else, which can be call’d Madness, or Loss of Reason. For if Fancy be left Judg of any thing, she must be Judg of all. Every-thing is right, if anything be so, because I fansy it. “The House turns round. The Prospect turns.” “No, but my Head turns indeed: I have a Giddiness; that’s all. Fancy wou’d persuade me thus and thus: but I know better.” ’Tis by means therefore of a Controuler and Corrector of Fancy, that I am sav’d from being mad. Otherwise, ’tis the House turns, when I am giddy. ’Tis Things which change (for so I must suppose) when my Passion merely, or Temper changes. “But I was out of order. I dreamt.” “Who tells me this?” “Who besides the Correctrice, by whose means I am in my Wits, and without whom I am no longer my-self?”
Every Man indeed who is not absolutely beside himself, must of necessity hold his Fancys under some kind of Discipline and Management. The stricter this Discipline is, the more the Man is rational and in his Wits. The looser it is, the more fantastical he must be, and the nearer to the Madman’s State. This is a Business which can never stand still. I must always be Winner or Loser at the Game. Either I work upon my Fancys, or They on Me. If I give Quarter, They won’t. There can be no Truce, no Suspension of Arms between us. The one or the other must be superior, and have the Command. For if the Fancys are left to themselves, the Government must of course be theirs. And then, what difference between such a State and Madness?
The Question therefore is the same here, as in a Family, or Houshold, when ’tis ask’d, “Who rules? or Who is Master?”
Learn by the Voices. Observe who speaks aloud, in a commanding Tone: Who talks, who questions; or who is talk’d with, and who question’d. For if the Servants take the former part; they are the Masters, and the Government of the House will be found such as naturally may be expected in these Circumstances.
How stands it therefore, in my own OEconomy, my principal Province and Command? How stand my Fancys? How deal they with me? Or do I take upon me rather to deal with Them? Do I talk, question, arraign? Or am I talk’d with, arraign’d, and contented to hear, without giving a Reply? If I vote with Fancy, resign my Opinion to her Command, and judg of Happiness and Misery as she judges; how am I my-self?”
He who in a Plain imagines Precipices at his Feet, impending Rocks over his Head; fears bursting Clouds in a clear Sky; cries Fire! Deluge! Earthquake, or Thunder! when all is quiet: does he not rave? But one whose Eyes seemingly strike fire, by a Blow; one whose Head is giddy from the Motion of a Ship, after having been newly set ashore; or one who from a Distemper in his Ear hears thundring Noises; can readily redress these several Apprehensions, and is by this means sav’d from Madness.
A Distemper in my Eye may make me see the strangest kind of Figures: And when Cataracts and other Impuritys are gathering in that Organ; Flies, Insects, and other various Forms, seem playing in the Air before me. But let my Senses err ever so widely; I am not on this account beside my-self: Nor am I out of my own Possession, whilst there is a Person left within; who has Power to dispute the Appearances, and redress the Imagination.
I am accosted by Ideas and striking Apprehensions: But I take nothing on their Report. I hear their Story, and return ’em Answer, as they deserve. Fancy and I are not all one. The Disagreement makes me my own. When, on the contrary, I have no Debate with her, no Controversy; but take for Happiness and Misery, for Good and Ill, whatever she presents as such; I must then join Voices with her, and cry Precipice! Fire!Cerberus!Elyzium!—
A Grecian Prince, who had the same Madness as Alexander, and was deeply struck with the Fancy of conquering Worlds, was ingeniously shewn the Method of expostulating with his Lady-Governess; when by a discreet Friend, and at an easy Hour, he was ask’d little by little concerning his Design, and the final Purpose, and promis’d Good which the flattering Dame propos’d to him. The Story is sufficiently noted. All the Artifice employ’d against the Prince was a well-manag’d Interrogatory of what next? Lady-Fancy was not aware of the Design upon her; but let her-self be worm’d out, by degrees. At first, she said the Prince’s design was only upon a Tract of Land, which stood out like a Promontory before him, and seem’d to eclipse his Glory. A fair rich Island, which was close by, presented it-self next, and as it were naturally invited Conquest. The opposite Coast came next in view. Then the Continent on each side the larger Sea. And then (what was easiest of all, and wou’d follow of course) the Dominion both of Sea and Land. “And What next? reply’d the Friend. What shall we do, when we are become thus happy, and have obtain’d our highest Wish?” “Why then, we’ll sit down peaceably, and be good Company over a Bottle.” “Alas, Sir! What hinders us from doing the same, where we now are? Will our Humour, or our Wine grow better? Shall we be more secure, or at Heart’s Ease? What you may possibly lose by these Attempts, is easy to conceive. But which way you will be a Gainer, your own Fancy (you see) cannot so much as suggest.” Fancy in the mean while carry’d her point: for she was absolute over the Monarch; and had been too little talk’d to by her-self, to bear being reprov’d in Company. The Prince grew sullen; turn’d the Discourse; abhor’d the Profanation offer’d to his Sovereign-Empress; deliver’d up his Thoughts to her again with deep Devotion, and fell to conquering with all his Might. The Sound of Victory rung in his Ears. Laurels and Crowns play’d before his Eyes.—What was this beside Giddiness and Dream? Appearances uncorrected? “Worlds dancing? Phantoms playing?”
“Seas of Milk, and Ships of Amber!”
’Tis easy to bring the Hero’s Case home to our-selves; and see, in the ordinary Circumstances of Life, how Love, Ambition, and the gayer Tribe of Fancys (as well as the gloomy and dark Specters of another sort) prevail over our Mind. ’Tis easy to observe how they work on us, when we refuse to be before-hand with ’em, and bestow repeated Lessons on the encroaching Sorceresses. On this it is, that our offer’d Advice, and Method of Soliloquy depends. And whether this be of any use towards making us either wiser, or happier; I am confident, it must help to make us wittier and politer. It must, beyond any other Science, teach us the Turns of Humour and Passion, the Variety of Manners, the Justness of Characters, and Truth of Things; which when we rightly understand, we may naturally describe. And on this depends chiefly the Skill and Art of a good Writer. So that if to write well be a just pretence to Merit; ’tis plain, that Writers, who are apt to set no small Value on their Art, must confess there is something valuable in this self-examining Practice, and Method of inward Colloquy.
As for the Writer of these Papers (as modern Authors are pleas’d modestly to style themselves) he is contented, for his part, to take up with this Practice, barely for his own proper Benefit; without regard to the high Function or Capacity of Author. It may be allow’d him, in this particular, to imitate the best Genius and most Gentleman-like of Roman Poets. And tho by an Excess of Dulness, it shou’d be his misfortune to learn nothing of this Poet’s Wit, he is persuaded he may learn something of his Honesty and good Humour.
For I do not fail when my study-couch or a colonnade has received me. “This is more right; if I do thus, I shall live better; so my friends will be glad to meet me.” . . . These are my silent reflections with myself.
WE are now arriv’d to that part of our Performance, where it becomes us to cast our Eye back, on what has already pass’d. The Observers of Method generally make this the place of Recapitulation. Other Artists have substituted the Practice of Apology, or Extenuation. For the anticipating Manner of prefatory Discourse, is too well known, to work any surprizing effect in the Author’s behalf: Preface being become only another word to signify Excuse. Besides that the Author is generally the most straiten’d in that preliminary Part, which on other accounts is too apt to grow voluminous. He therefore takes the advantage of his Corollary or Winding-up; and ends pathetically, by endeavouring in the softest manner to reconcile his Reader to those Faults which he chuses rather to excuse than to amend.
General Practice has made this a necessary Part of Elegance, hardly to be pass’d over by any Writer. ’Tis the chief Stratagem by which he engages in personal Conference with his Reader; and can talk immoderately of Himself, with all the seeming Modesty of one who is the furthest from any selfish Views, or conceited Thoughts of his own Merit. There appears such a peculiar Grace and Ingenuity in the method of confessing Laziness, Precipitancy, Carelessness, or whatever other Vices have been the occasion of the Author’s Deficiency; that it wou’d seem a Pity, had the Work it-self been brought to such Perfection, as to have left no room for the penitent Party to enlarge on his own Demerits. For from the multiplicity of these, he finds Subject to ingratiate himself with his Reader; who doubtless is not a little rais’d by this Submission of a confessing Author; and is ready, on these terms, to give him Absolution, and receive him into his good Grace and Humour.
In the galante World, indeed, we easily find how far a Humility of this kind prevails. They who hope to rise by Merit, are likeliest to be disappointed in their Pretensions. The confessing Lover, who ascribes all to the Bounty of the Fair-one, meets his Reward the sooner, for having study’d less how to deserve it. For Merit is generally thought presumptuous, and suppos’d to carry with it a certain Assurance and Ease, with which a Mistress is not so well contented. The Claim of well-deserving seems to derogate from the pure Grace and Favour of the Benefactrice; who then appears to her-self most sovereign in Power, and likeliest to be obey’d without reserve, when she bestows her Bounty, where there is least Title, or Pretension.
Thus a certain Adoration of the Sex, which passes in our Age without the least Charge of Profaneness, or Idolatry, may, according to vulgar Imagination, serve to justify these galante Votarys, in the imitation of the real Religious and Devout. The method of Self-abasement may perhaps be thought the properest to make Approaches to the sacred Shrines: And the intire Resignation of Merit, in each Case, may be esteem’d the only ground of well-deserving. But what we allow to Heaven, or to the Fair, shou’d not, methinks, be made a Precedent, in favour of the World. Whatever Deference is due to that Body of Men whom we call Readers; we may be suppos’d to treat ’em with sufficient Honour, if with thorow Diligence, and Pains, we endeavour to render our Works perfect; and leave ’em to judg of the Performance, as they are able.
However difficult or desperate it may appear in any Artist to endeavour to bring Perfection into his Work; if he has not at least the Idea ofPerfection to give him Aim, he will be found very defective and mean in his Performance. Tho his Intention be to please the World, he must nevertheless be, in a manner, above it; and fix his Eye upon that consummate Grace, that Beauty of Nature, and that Perfection of Numbers, which the rest of Mankind, feeling only by the Effect, whilst ignorant of the Cause, term the Je-ne-sçay-quoy, the unintelligible, or the I know not what; and suppose to be a kind of Charm, or Inchantment, of which the Artist himself can give no account.
BUT HERE, I find, I am tempted to do what I have my-self condemn’d. Hardly can I forbear making some Apology for my frequent Recourse to the Rules of common Artists, to the Masters of Exercise, to the Academys of Painters, Statuarys, and to the rest of the Virtuoso-Tribe. But in this I am so fully satisfy’d I have Reason on my side, that let Custom be ever so strong against me, I had rather repair to these inferior Schools, to search for Truth, and Nature; than to some other Places, where higher Arts and Sciences are profess’d.
I am persuaded that to be a Virtuoso (so far as befits a Gentleman) is a higher step towards the becoming a Man of Virtue and good Sense, than the being what in this Age we call a Scholar. For even rude Nature it-self, in its primitive Simplicity, is a better Guide to Judgment, than improv’d Sophistry, and pedantick Learning. The Faciunt, nae, intellegendo, ut nihil intellegant, will be ever apply’d by Men of Discernment and free Thought to such Logick, such Principles, such Forms and Rudiments of Knowledg, as are establish’d in certain Schools of Literature and Science. The case is sufficiently understood even by those who are unwilling to confess the Truth of it. Effects betray their Causes. And the known Turn and Figure of those Understandings, which sprout from Nurserys of this kind, give a plain Idea of what is judg’d on this occasion. ’Tis no wonder, if after so wrong a ground of Education, there appears to be such need of Redress, and Amendment, from that excellent School which we call the World. The mere Amusements of Gentlemen are found more improving than the profound Researches of Pedants. And in the Management of our Youth, we are forc’d to have recourse to the former; as an Antidote against the Genius peculiar to the latter. If the Formalists of this sort were erected into Patentees, with a sole Commission of Authorship; we shou’d undoubtedly see such Writing in our days, as wou’d either wholly wean us from all Books in general, or at least from all such as were the product of our own Nation, under such a subordinate and conforming Government.
However this may prove, there can be no kind of Writing which relates to Men and Manners, where it is not necessary for the Author to understand Poetical and MoralTruth,the Beauty of Sentiments, the Sublime of Characters; and carry in his Eye the Model or Exemplar of that natural Grace, which gives to every Action its attractive Charm. If he has naturally no Eye, or Ear, for these interior Numbers; ’tis not likely he shou’d be able to judg better of that exterior Proportion and Symmetry of Composition, which constitutes a legitimate Piece.
Cou’d we once convince our-selves of what is in it-self so evident; “That in the very nature of Things there must of necessity be the Foundation of a right and wrong Taste, as well in respect of inward Characters and Features, as of outward Person, Behaviour, and Action”; we shou’d be far more asham’d of Ignorance and wrong Judgment in the former, than in the latter of these Subjects. Even in the Arts, which are mere Imitations of that outward Grace and Beauty, we not only confess a Taste; but make it a part of refin’d Breeding, to discover, amidst the many false Manners and ill Styles, the true and natural one, which represents the real Beauty and Venus of the kind. ’Tis the like moralGrace, and Venus, which discovering it-self in the Turns of Character, and the variety of human Affection, is copy’d by the writing Artist. If he knows not this Venus, these Graces, nor was ever struck with the Beauty, the Decorum of this inward kind, he can neither paint advantageously after the Life, nor in a feign’d Subject, where he has full scope. For never can he, on these Terms, represent Merit and Virtue, or mark Deformity and Blemish. Never can he with Justice and true Proportion assign the Boundarys of either Part, or separate the distant Characters. The Schemes must be defective, and the Draughts confus’d, where the Standard is weakly establish’d, and the Measure out of use. Such a Designer, who has so little Feeling of these Proportions, so little Consciousness of this Excellence, or these Perfections, will never be found able to describe a perfect Character; or, what is more according to Art, “express the Effect and Force of this Perfection, from the Result of various and mixt Characters of Life.” And thus the Sense of inward Numbers, the Knowledg and Practice of the social Virtues, and the Familiarity and Favour of the moralGraces, are essential to the Character of a deserving Artist, and just Favourite of the Muses. Thus are the Arts and Virtues mutually Friends: and thus the Science of Virtuoso’s, and that of Virtue it-self, become, in a manner, one and the same.
One who aspires to the Character of a Man of Breeding and Politeness, is careful to form his Judgment of Arts and Sciences upon right Models of Perfection. If he travels to Rome, he inquires which are the truest Pieces of Architecture, the best Remains of Statues, the best Paintings of a Raphael, or a Carache. However antiquated, rough, or dismal they may appear to him, at first sight; he resolves to view ’em over and over, till he has brought himself to relish ’em, and finds their hidden Graces and Perfections. He takes particular care to turn his Eye from every thing which is gaudy, luscious, and of a false Taste. Nor is he less careful to turn his Ear from every sort of Musick, besides that which is of the best Manner, and truest Harmony.
’Twere to be wish’d we had the same regard to a rightTaste in Life and Manners. What Mortal, being once convinc’d of a difference in inward Character, and of a Preference due to one Kind above another; wou’d not be concern’d to make his own the best? If Civility and Humanity be a Taste; if Brutality, Insolence, Riot, be in the same manner a Taste; who, if he cou’d reflect, wou’d not chuse to form himself on the amiable and agreeable, rather than the odious and perverse Model? Who wou’d not endeavour to forceNature as well in this respect, as in what relates to a Taste or Judgment in other Arts and Sciences? For in each place the Force onNature is us’d only for its Redress. If a natural goodTaste be not already form’d in us; why shou’d not we endeavour to form it, and become natural?—
“I like! I fansy! I admire!” “How?” “By accident: or as I please.” “No. But I learn to fansy, to admire, to please, as the Subjects themselves are deserving, and can bear me out. Otherwise, I like at this hour, but dislike the next. I shall be weary of my Pursuit, and, upon experience, find little Pleasure in the main, if my Choice and Judgment in it be from no other Rule than that single one, becauseI please. Grotesque and monstrous Figures often please. Cruel Spectacles, and Barbaritys are also found to please, and, in some Tempers, to please beyond all other Subjects. But is this Pleasure right? And shall I follow it, if it presents? Not strive with it, or endeavour to prevent its growth or prevalency in my Temper?—How stands the case in a more soft and flattering kind of Pleasure?—Effeminacy pleases me. The Indian Figures, the Japan-Work, the Enamel strikes my Eye. The luscious Colours and glossy Paint gain upon my Fancy. A French or Flemish Style is highly lik’d by me, at first sight; and I pursue my liking. But what ensues?—Do I not for ever forfeit my good Relish? How is it possible I shou’d thus come to taste the Beautys of an Italian Master, or of a Hand happily form’d on Nature and the Antients? ’Tis not by Wantonness and Humour that I shall attain my End, and arrive at the Enjoyment I propose. The Art it-self is severe: the Rules rigid. And if I expect the Knowledg shou’d come to me by accident, or in play; I shall be grosly deluded, and prove my-self, at best, a Mock-Virtuoso, or mere Pedant of the kind.”
HERE therefore we have once again exhibited our moral Science in the same Method and Manner of Soliloquy as above. To this Correction of Humour and Formation of a Taste, our Reading, if it be of the right sort, must principally contribute. Whatever Company we keep; or however polite and agreeable their Characters may be, with whom we converse, or correspond: if the Authors we read are of another kind, we shall find our Palat strangely turn’d their way. We are the unhappier in this respect, for being Scholars; if our Studys be ill chosen. Nor can I, for this reason, think it proper to call a Man well-read who reads many Authors; since he must of necessity have more ill Models, than good; and be more stuff’d with Bombast, ill Fancy, and wry Thought; than fill’d with solid Sense, and just Imagination.
But notwithstanding this hazard of our Taste, from a Multiplicity of Reading; we are not, it seems, the least scrupulous in our choice of Subject. We read whatever comes next us. What was first put into our hand, when we were young, serves us afterwards for serious Study, and wise Research, when we are old. We are many of us, indeed, so grave as to continue this Exercise of Youth thro’ our remaining Life. The exercising-Authors of this kind have been above describ’d, in the beginning of this Treatise. The Manner of Exercise is call’d Meditation, and is of a sort so solemn and profound, that we dare not so much as thorowly examine the Subject on which we are bid to meditate. This is a sort of Task-Reading, in which a Taste is not permitted. How little soever we take of this Diet; ’tis sufficient to give full Exercise to our grave Humour, and allay the Appetite towards further Research and solid Contemplation. The rest is Holiday, Diversion, Play, and Fancy. We reject all Rule; as thinking it an Injury to our Diversions, to have regard to Truth or Nature: without which, however, nothing can be truly agreeable, or entertaining; much less, instructive, or improving. Thro’ a certain Surfeit taken in a wrong kind of serious Reading, we apply our-selves, with full content, to the most ridiculous. The more remote our Pattern is from any thing moral or profitable; the more Freedom and Satisfaction we find in it. We care not how Gothick or Barbarous our Models are; what ill-design’d or monstrous Figures we view; or what false Proportions we trace, or see describ’d in History, Romance, or Fiction. And thus our Eye and Ear is lost. Our Relish or Taste must of necessity grow barbarous, whilst Barbarian Customs, Savage Manners, Indian Wars, and Wonders of the Terra Incognita, employ our leisure Hours, and are the chief Materials to furnish out a Library.
These are in our present Days, what Books of Chivalry were, in those of our Forefathers. I know not what Faith our valiant Ancestors may have had in the Storys of their Giants, their Dragons, and St. George’s. But for our Faith indeed, as well as our Taste, in this other way of reading; I must confess I can’t consider it, without Astonishment.
It must certainly be something else than Incredulity, which fashions the Taste and Judgment of many Gentlemen, whom we hear censur’d as Atheists, for attempting to philosophize after a newer manner than any known of late. For my own part, I have ever thought this sort of Men to be in general more credulous, tho after another manner, than the mere Vulgar. Besides what I have observ’d in Conversation with the Men of this Character, I can produce many anathematiz’d Authors, who if they want a true Israelitish Faith, can make amends by a Chinese or Indian one. If they are short in Syria, or the Palestine; they have their full measure in America, or Japan. Historys of Incas or Iroquois, written by Fryers and Missionarys, Pirates and Renegades, Sea-Captains and trusty Travellers, pass for authentick Records, and are canonical, with the Virtuoso’s of this sort. Tho Christian Miracles may not so well satisfy ’em; they dwell with the highest Contentment on the Prodigys of Moorish and Pagan Countrys. They have far more Pleasure in hearing the monstrous Accounts of monstrous Men, and Manners; than the politest and best Narrations of the Affairs, the Governments, and Lives of the wisest and most polish’d People.
’Tis the same Taste which makes us prefer a Turkish History to a Grecian, or a Roman; an Ariosto to a Virgil; and a Romance, or Novel, to an Iliad. We have no regard to the Character or Genius of our Author: nor are so far curious, as to observe how able he is in the Judgment of Facts, or how ingenious in the Texture of his Lyes. For Facts unably related, tho with the greatest Sincerity, and good Faith, may prove the worst sort of Deceit: And mere Lyes, judiciously compos’d, can teach us the Truth of Things, beyond any other manner. But to amuse our-selves with such Authors as neither know how to lye, nor tell truth, discovers a Taste, which methinks one shou’d not be apt to envy. Yet so enchanted we are with the travelling Memoirs of any casual Adventurer; that be his Character, or Genius, what it will, we have no sooner turn’d over a Page or two, than we begin to interest our-selves highly in his Affairs. No sooner has he taken Shipping at the Mouth of the Thames, or sent his Baggage before him to Gravesend, or Buoy in the Nore, than strait our Attention is earnestly taken up. If in order to his more distant Travels, he takes some Part of Europe in his way; we can with patience hear of Inns and Ordinarys, Passage-Boats and Ferrys, foul and fair Weather; with all the Particulars of the Author’s Diet, Habit of Body, his personal Dangers and Mischances, on Land, and Sea. And thus, full of desire and hope, we accompany him, till he enters on his great Scene of Action, and begins by the Description of some enormous Fish, or Beast. From monstrous Brutes he proceeds to yet more monstrous Men. For in this Race of Authors, he is ever compleatest, and of the first Rank, who is able to speak of Things the most unnatural and monstrous.
This Humour our old Tragick Poet seems to have discover’d. He hit our Taste in giving us a Moorish Hero, full fraught with Prodigy: a wondrous Story-teller! But for the attentive Part, the Poet chose to give it to Woman-kind. What passionate Reader of Travels, or Student in the prodigious Sciences, can refuse to pity that fair Lady, who fell in Love with the miraculousMoor; especially considering with what sutable grace such a Lover cou’d relate the most monstrous Adventures, and satisfy the wondring Appetite with the most wondrous Tales; Wherein (says the Hero-Traveller)
Seriously, ’twas a woful Tale! unfit, one wou’d think, to win a tender Fair-one. It’s true, the Poet sufficiently condemns her Fancy; and makes her (poor Lady!) pay dearly for it, in the end. But why, amongst his Greek Names, he shou’d have chosen one which denoted the Lady Superstitious, I can’t imagine: unless, as Poets are sometimes Prophets too, he shou’d figuratively, under this dark Type, have represented to us, That about a hundred Years after his Time, the Fair Sex of this Island shou’d, by other monstrous Tales, be so seduc’d, as to turn their Favour chiefly on the Persons of the Tale-tellers; and change their natural Inclination for fair, candid, and courteous Knights, into a Passion for a mysterious Race of black Enchanters: such as of old were said to creep into Houses, and lead captive silly Women.
’Tis certain there is a very great Affinity between the Passion of Superstition, and that of Tales. The Love of strange Narrations, and the ardent Appetite towards unnatural Objects, has a near Alliance with the like Appetite towards the supernatural kind, such as are call’d prodigious, and of dire Omen. For so the Mind forebodes, on every such unusual Sight or Hearing. Fate, Destiny, or the Anger of Heaven, seems denoted, and as it were delineated, by the monstrous Birth, the horrid Fact, or dire Event. For this reason the very Persons of such Relators or Tale-tellers, with a small help of dismal Habit, sutable Countenance and Tone, become sacred and tremendous in the Eyes of Mortals, who are thus addicted from their Youth. The tender Virgins, losing their natural Softness, assume this tragick Passion, of which they are highly susceptible, especially when a sutable kind of Eloquence and Action attends the Character of the Narrator. A thousand Desdemona’s are then ready to present themselves, and wou’d frankly resign Fathers, Relations, Country-men, and Country it-self, to follow the Fortunes of a Hero of the black Tribe.
But whatever monstrous Zeal, or superstitious Passion, the Poet might foretel, either in the Gentlemen, Ladys, or common People, of an after Age; ’tis certain that as to Books, the same Moorish Fancy, in its plain and literal sense, prevails strongly at this present time. Monsters and Monster-Lands were never more in request: And we may often see a Philosopher, or a Wit, run a Tale-gathering in those idle Desarts, as familiarly as the silliest Woman, or merest Boy.
ONE WOU’D imagine, that our Philosophical Writers, who pretend to treat of Morals, shou’d far out-do mere Poets, in recommending Virtue, and representing what was fair and amiable in human Actions. One wou’d imagine, that if they turn’d their Eye towards remote Countrys, (of which they affect so much to speak) they shou’d search for that Simplicity of Manners, and Innocence of Behaviour, which has been often known among mere Savages; ere they were corrupted by our Commerce, and, by sad Example, instructed in all kinds of Treachery and Inhumanity. ’Twou’d be of advantage to us, to hear the Causes of this strange Corruption in our-selves, and be made to consider of our Deviation from Nature, and from that just Purity of Manners which might be expected, especially from a People so assisted and enlighten’d by Religion. For who wou’d not naturally expect more Justice, Fidelity, Temperance, and Honesty, from Christians, than from Mahometans, or mere Pagans? But so far are our modern Moralists from condemning any unnatural Vices, or corrupt Manners, whether in our own or foreign Climates, that they wou’d have Vice it-self appear as natural as Virtue; and from the worst Examples, wou’d represent to us, “That all Actions are naturally indifferent; that they have no Note or Character of Good, or Ill, in themselves; but are distinguish’d by mere Fashion, Law, or arbitraryDecree.’’ Wonderful Philosophy! rais’d from the Dregs of an illiterate mean kind, which was ever despis’d among the great Antients, and rejected by all Men of Action, or sound Erudition; but, in these Ages, imperfectly copy’d from the Original, and, with much Disadvantage, imitated and assum’d, in common, both by devout and indevout Attempters in the moral kind.
Shou’d a Writer upon Musick, addressing himself to the Students and Lovers of the Art, declare to ’em, “That the Measure or Rule of Harmony was Caprice or Will, Humour or Fashion”; ’tis not very likely he shou’d be heard with great Attention, or treated with real Gravity. For Harmony is Harmony by Nature, let Men judg ever so ridiculously of Musick. So is Symmetry and Proportion founded still in Nature, let Mens Fancy prove ever so barbarous, or their Fashions ever so Gothick in their Architecture, Sculpture, or whatever other designing Art. ’Tis the same case, where Life and Manners are concern’d. Virtue has the same fix’d Standard. The same Numbers, Harmony, and Proportion will have place in Morals; and are discoverable in the Characters and Affections of Mankind; in which are laid the just Foundations of an Art and Science, superior to every other of human Practice and Comprehension.
This, I suppose therefore, is highly necessary, that a Writer shou’d comprehend. For Things are stubborn, and will not be as we fansy ’em, or as the Fashion varys, but as they stand in Nature. Now whether the Writer be Poet, Philosopher, or of whatever kind; he is in truth no other than a Copist afterNature. His Style may be differently suted to the different Times he lives in, or to the different Humour of his Age or Nation: His Manner, his Dress, his Colouring may vary. But if his Drawing be uncorrect, or his Design contrary to Nature; his Piece will be found ridiculous, when it comes thorowly to be examin’d. For Nature will not be mock’d. The Prepossession against her can never be very lasting. Her Decrees and Instincts are powerful; and her Sentiments in-bred. She has a strong Party abroad; and as strong a one within our-selves: And when any Slight is put upon her, she can soon turn the Reproach, and make large Reprisals on the Taste and Judgment of her Antagonists.
Whatever Philosopher, Critick, or Author is convinc’d of this Prerogative of Nature, will easily be persuaded to apply himself to the great Work of reforming hisTaste; which he will have reason to suspect, if he be not such a one as has deliberately endeavour’d to frame it by the justStandard of Nature. Whether this be his Case, he will easily discover, by appealing to his Memory. For Custom and Fashion are powerful Seducers: And he must of necessity have fought hard against these, to have attain’d that Justness of Taste, which is requir’d in one who pretends to follow Nature. But if no such Conflict can be call’d to mind; ’tis a certain token that the Party has his Taste very little different from the Vulgar. And on this account he shou’d instantly betake himself to the wholesom Practice recommended in this Treatise. He shou’d set afoot the powerfullest Facultys of his Mind, and assemble the best Forces of his Wit and Judgment, in order to make a formal Descent on the Territorys of the Heart: resolving to decline no Combat, nor hearken to any Terms, till he had pierc’d into its inmost Provinces, and reach’d the Seat of Empire. No Treatys shou’d amuse him; no Advantages lead him aside. All other Speculations shou’d be suspended, all other Mysterys resign’d; till this necessary Campaign was made, and these inward Conflicts learnt; by which he wou’d be able to gain at least some tolerable insight into himself, and Knowledg of his own natural Principles.
IT MAY here perhaps be thought, that notwithstanding the particular Advice we have given, in relation to the forming of a Taste in natural Characters and Manners; we are still defective in our Performance, whilst we are silent on super-natural Cases, and bring not into our consideration the Manners and Characters deliver’d us in Holy Writ. But this Objection will soon vanish, when we consider, that there can be no Rules given by human Wit, to that which was never humanly conceiv’d, but divinely dictated, and inspir’d.
For this Reason, ’twou’d be in vain for any Poet, or ingenious Author, to form his Characters, after the Models of our sacred Penmen. And whatever certain Criticks may have advanc’d concerning the Structure of a heroick Poem of this kind; I will be bold to prophesy, that the Success will never be answerable to Expectation.
It must be own’d, that in our sacred History we have both Leaders, Conquerors, Founders of Nations, Deliverers, and Patriots, who, even in a human Sense, are noway behind the chief of those so much celebrated by the Antients. There is nothing in the Story of AEneas, which is not equal’d or exceeded by a Joshua or a Moses. But as illustrious as are the Acts of these sacred Chiefs, ’twou’d be hard to copy them in just Heroick. ’Twou’d be hard to give to many of ’em that grateful Air, which is necessary to render ’em naturally pleasing to Mankind; according to the Idea Men are universally found to have of Heroism, and Generosity.
Notwithstanding the pious Endeavours which, as devout Christians, we may have us’d in order to separate ourselves from the Interests of mere Heathens, and Infidels; notwithstanding the true pains we may have taken, to arm our Hearts in behalf of a chosen People, against their neighbouring Nations, of a false Religion, and Worship; there will be still found such a Partiality remaining in us, towards Creatures of the same Make and Figure with our-selves, as will hinder us from viewing with Satisfaction the Punishments inflicted by human Hands on such Aliens and Idolaters.
In mere Poetry, and the Pieces of Wit and Literature, there is a Liberty of Thought and Easiness of Humour indulg’d to us, in which perhaps we are not so well able to contemplate the Divine Judgments, and see clearly into the Justice of those Ways, which are declared to be so far from our Ways, and above our highest Thoughts or Understandings. In such a Situation of Mind, we can hardly endure to see Heathen treated as Heathen, and the Faithful made the Executioners of the Divine Wrath. There is a certain perverse Humanity in us, which inwardly resists the Divine Commission, tho ever so plainly reveal’d. The Wit of the best Poet is not sufficient to reconcile us to the Campaign of a Joshua, or the Retreat of a Moses, by the assistance of an EgyptianLoan. Nor will it be possible, by the Muses Art, to make that Royal Hero appear amiable in human Eyes, who found such Favour in the Eye of Heaven. Such are mere human Hearts; that they can hardly find the least Sympathy with that only one which had the Character of being after the Pattern of the Almighty’s.
’Tis apparent therefore that the Manners, Actions, and Characters of Sacred Writ, are in no wise the proper Subject of other Authors than Divines themselves. They are Matters incomprehensible in Philosophy: They are above the pitch of the mere human Historian, the Politician, or the Moralist; and are too sacred to be submitted to the Poet’s Fancy, when inspir’d by no other Spirit than that of his profane Mistresses, theMuses.
I shou’d be unwilling to examine rigorously the Performance of our great Poet, who sung so piously the Fall of Man. The War in Heaven, and the Catastrophe of that original Pair from whom the Generations of Mankind were propagated, are Matters so abstrusely reveal’d, and with such a resemblance of Mythology, that they can more easily bear what figurative Construction or fantastick Turn the Poet may think fit to give ’em. But shou’d he venture farther, into the Lives and Characters of the Patriarchs, the holy Matrons, Heroes and Heroines of the chosen Seed; shou’d he employ the sacred Machine, the Exhibitions and Interventions of Divinity, according to Holy Writ, to support the Action of his Piece; he wou’d soon find the Weakness of his pretended OrthodoxMuse, and prove how little those Divine Patterns were capable of human Imitation, or of being rais’d to any other Majesty, or Sublime, than that in which they originally appear.
The Theology, or Theogony, of the Heathens cou’d admit of such different Turns and figurative Expressions, as suted the Fancy and Judgment of each Philosopher or Poet. But the Purity of our Faith will admit of no such Variation. The ChristianTheology; the Birth, Procedure, Generation, and personal Distinction of the Divinity, are Mysterys only to be determin’d by the initiated, or ordain’d; to whom the State has assign’d the Guardianship and Promulgation of the Divine Oracles. It becomes not those who are un-inspir’d from Heaven, and un-commission’d from Earth, to search with Curiosity into the Original of those holy Rites and Records, by Law establish’d. Should we make such an Attempt, we should in probability find the less Satisfaction, the further we presum’d to carry our Speculations. Having dar’d once to quit the Authority and Direction of the Law, we shou’d easily be subject to Heterodoxy and Error, when we had no better Warrant left us for the Authority of our sacred Symbols, than the Integrity, Candour, and Disinterestedness of their Compilers, and Registers. How great that Candour and Disinterestedness may have been, we have no other Historys to inform us, than those of their own licensing or composing. But busy Persons, who officiously search into these Records, are ready even from hence to draw Proofs very disadvantageous to the Fame and Character of this Succession of Men. And Persons moderately read in these Historys, are apt to judg no otherwise of the Temper of antient Councils, than by that of later Synods and modern Convocations.
When we add to this the melancholy Consideration of what Disturbances have been rais’d from the Disputes of this kind; what Effusion of Blood, what Devastations of Provinces, what Shock and Ruin of Empires have been occasion’d by Controversys, founded on the nicest Distinction of an Article relating to these Mysterys; ’twill be judg’d vain in any Poet, or polite Author, to think of rendring himself agreeable, or entertaining, whilst he makes such Subjects as these to be his Theme.
But tho the Explanation of such deep Mysterys, and religious Dutys, be allotted as the peculiar Province of the sacred Order; ’tis presum’d, nevertheless, that it may be lawful for other Authors to retain their antient Privilege of instructing Mankind, in a way of Pleasure, and Entertainment. Poets may be allow’d their Fictions, and Philosophers their Systems. ’Twou’d go hard with Mankind, shou’d the Patentees for Religion be commission’d for all Instruction and Advice, relating to Manners, or Conversation. The Stage may be allow’d to instruct, as well as the Pulpit. The way of Wit and Humour may be serviceable, as well as that of Gravity and Seriousness: And the way of plain Reason as well as that of exalted Revelation. The main matter is to keep these Provinces distinct, and settle their just Boundarys. And on this account it is that we have endeavour’d to represent to modern Authors the necessity of making this Separation justly, and in due form.
’Twould be somewhat hard, methinks, if Religion,as by Lawestablish’d, were not allow’d the same Privilege as Heraldry. ’Tis agreed on all hands, that particular Persons may design or paint, in their private Capacity, after what manner they think fit: But they must blazon only as the Publick directs. Their Lion or Bear must be figur’d as the Science appoints; and their Supporters and Crest must be such as their wise and gallant Ancestors have procur’d for ’em. No matter whether the Shapes of these Animals hold just Proportion with Nature. No matter tho different or contrary Forms are join’d in one. That which is deny’d to Painters, or Poets, is permitted to Heralds.Naturalists may, in their separate and distinct Capacity, inquire, as they think fit, into the real Existence and natural Truth of Things: But they must by no means dispute the authoriz’d Forms. Mermaids and Griffins were the Wonder of our Forefathers; and, as such, deliver’d down to us by the authentick Traditions and Delineations above-mention’d. We ought not so much as to criticize the Features or Dimensions of a Saracen’s Face, brought by our conquering Ancestors from the holy Wars; nor pretend to call in question the Figure or Size of a Dragon, on which the History of our national Champion, and the Establishment of a high Order, and Dignity of the Realm, depends.
But as worshipful as are the Persons of the illustrious Heralds Clarencieux, Garter, and the rest of those eminent Sustainers of British Honour, and Antiquity; ’tis to be hop’d that in a more civiliz’d Age, such as at present we have the good fortune to live in, they will not attempt to strain their Privileges to the same height as formerly. Having been reduc’d by Law, or settled Practice, from the Power they once enjoy’d, they will not, ’tis presum’d, in defiance of the Magistrate and Civil Power, erect anew their Stages, and Lists, introduce the manner of civil Combat, set us to Tilt and Turnament, and raise again those Defiances, and mortal Frays, of which their Order were once the chief Managers, and Promoters.
TO CONCLUDE: The only Method which can justly qualify us for this high Privilege of giving Advice, is, in the first place, to receive it, our-selves, with due Submission; where the Publick has vouchsaf’d to give it us, by Authority. And if in our private Capacity, we can have Resolution enough to criticize ourselves, and call in question our high Imaginations, florid Desires, and specious Sentiments, according to the manner of Soliloquy above prescrib’d; we shall, by the natural course of things, as we grow wiser, prove less conceited; and introduce into our Character that Modesty, Condescension, and just Humanity which is essential to the Success of all friendly Counsel and Admonition. An honest Home-Philosophy must teach us the wholesom Practice within our-selves. Polite Reading, and Converse with Mankind of the better sort, will qualify us for what remains.
The End of the First Volume.
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