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Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, ed. Douglas den Uyl (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001). 3 vols. Vol. 3.
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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Of course he was favorable to Virtue only
and to her friends.
Horat. Sat. I. Lib. 2.
Printed first in the Year M.DCC.XIV.
PEACE be with the Soul of that charitable and courteous Author, who for the common Benefit of his Fellow-Authors, introduc’d the ingenious way of MiscellaneousWriting!—It must be own’d that since this happy Method was establish’d, the Harvest of Wit has been more plentiful, and the Labourers more in number than heretofore. ’Tis well known to the able Practitioners in the writing Art; “That as easy as it is to conceive Wit, ’tis the hardest thing imaginable to be deliver’d of It, upon certain Terms.” Nothing cou’d be more severe or rigid than the Conditions formerly prescrib’d to Writers; when Criticism took place, and Regularity and Order were thought essential in a Treatise. The Notion of a genuine Work, a legitimate and just Piece, has certainly been the Occasion of great Timidity and Backwardness among the Adventurers in Wit: And the Imposition of such strict Laws and Rules of Composition, has set heavy on the free Spirits and forward Genius’s of Mankind. ’Twas a Yoke, it seems, which our Forefathers bore; but which, for our parts, we have generously thrown off. In effect, the invidious Distinctions of Bastardy and Legitimacy being at length remov’d; the natural and lawful Issue of the Brain comes with like advantage into the World: And Wit (mereWit) is well receiv’d; without examination of the Kind, or censure of the Form.
This the MiscellaneousManner of Writing, it must be own’d, has happily effected. It has render’d almost every Soil productive. It has disclos’d those various Seeds of Wit, which lay suppress’d in many a Bosom; and has rear’d numberless Conceits and curious Fancys, which the natural Rudeness and Asperity of their native Soil wou’d have with-held, or at least not have permitted to rise above the ground. From every Field, from every Hedge or Hillock, we now gather as delicious Fruits and fragrant Flowers, as of old from the richest and best-cultivated Gardens. Miserable were those antient Planters, who understanding not how to conform themselves to the rude Taste of unpolish’d Mankind, made it so difficult a Task to serve the World with intellectual Entertainments, and furnish out the Repasts of Literature and Science.
There was certainly a time when the Name of Author stood for something considerable in the World. To succeed happily in such a Labour as that of writing a Treatise or a Poem, was taken as a sure mark of Understanding and Good Sense. The Task was painful: But, it seems, ’twas honourable. How the Case happen’d, in process of time, to be so much revers’d, is hard to say. The primitive Authors perhaps being few in number, and highly respected for their Art, fell under the weight of Envy. Being sensible of their Misfortune in this respect, and being excited, as ’tis probable, by the Example of some popular Genius; they quitted their regular Schemes and accurate Forms of Workmanship, in favour of those Wits who could not possibly be receiv’d as Authors upon such difficult Terms. ’Twas necessary, it seems, that the Bottom of Wit shou’d be enlarg’d. ’Twas advisable that more Hands shou’d be taken into the Work. And nothing cou’d better serve this popular purpose, than the way of Miscellany, or commonEssay; in which the most confus’d Head, if fraught with a little Invention, and provided with Common-place-Book Learning, might exert itself to as much advantage, as the most orderly and well-settled Judgment.
To explain the better how this Revolution in Letters has been effected, it may not perhaps be indecent, shou’d we offer to compare our Writing-Artists, to the Manufacturers in Stuff or Silk. For among These ’tis esteem’d a principal piece of Skill, to frame a Pattern, or Plan of Workmanship, in which the several Colours are agreeably dispos’d; with such proportionable Adjustment of the various Figures and Devices, as may, in the whole, create a kind of Harmony to the Eye. According to this Method, each Piece must be, in reality, an Original. For to copy what has gone before, can be of no use. The Fraud wou’d easily be perceiv’d. On the other side, to work originally, and in a manner create each time anew, must be a matter of pressing weight, and fitted to the Strength and Capacity of none besides the choicest Workmen.
A Manner therefore is invented to confound this Simplicity and Conformity of Design. Patch-work is substituted. Cuttings and Shreds of Learning, with various Fragments, and Points of Wit, are drawn together, and tack’d in any fantastick form. If they chance to cast a Luster, and spread a sort of sprightly Glare; the Miscellany is approv’d, and the complex Form and Texture of the Work admir’d. The Eye, which before was to be won by Regularity, and had kept true to Measure and strict Proportion, is by this means pleasingly drawn aside, to commit a kind of Debauch, and amuse it-self in gaudy Colours, and disfigur’d Shapes of things. Custom, in the mean while, has not only tolerated this Licentiousness, but render’d it even commendable, and brought it into the highest repute. The Wild and Whimsical, under the name of the Odd and Pretty, succeed in the room of the Graceful and the Beautiful. Justness and Accuracy of Thought are set aside, as too constraining, and of too painful an aspect, to be endur’d in the agreeable and more easy Commerce of Gallantry, and modern Wit.
Now since it has been thought convenient, in these latter Ages, to distinguish the Provinces of Wit and Wisdom, and set apart the agreeable from the useful; ’tis evident there cou’d be nothing devis’d more sutable to the distinct and separate Interest of the former of these Provinces, than this complex manner of Performance which we call Miscellany. For whatever is capricious and odd, is sure to create Diversion, to those who look no further. And where there is nothing like Nature, there is no room for the troublesom part of Thought or Contemplation. ’Tis the Perfection of certain Grotesque-Painters, to keep as far from Nature as possible. To find a Likeness in their Works, is to find the greatest Fault imaginable. A natural Connexion is a Slur. A Coherence, a Design, a Meaning, is against their purpose, and destroys the very Spirit and Genius of their Workmanship.
I remember formerly when I was a Spectator in the French Theater, I found it the Custom, at the end of every grave and solemn Tragedy, to introduce a comick Farce, or Miscellany, which they call’d the little Piece. We have indeed a Method still more extraordinary upon our own Stage. For we think it agreeable and just, to mix the Little Piece or Farce with the main Plot or Fable, thro’ every Act. This perhaps may be the rather chosen, because our Tragedy is so much deeper and bloodier than that of the French, and therefore needs more immediate Refreshment from the elegant way of Drollery, and Burlesque-wit; which being thus closely interwoven with its opposite, makes that most accomplish’d kind of theatricalMiscellany, call’d by our Poets a Tragi-comedy.
I cou’d go further perhaps, and demonstrate from the Writings of many of our grave Divines, the Speeches of our Senators, and other principal Models of our national Erudition, “That the MiscellaneousManner is at present in the highest esteem.” But since my chief Intention in the following Sheets is to descant cursorily upon some late Pieces of a British Author; I will presume, That what I have said already on this Head is sufficient; and That it will not be judg’d improper or absurd in me, as I proceed, to take advantage of this miscellaneous Taste which now evidently prevails. According to this Method, whilst I serve as Critick or Interpreter to this new Writer, I may the better correct his Flegm, and give him more of the fashionable Air and Manner of the World; especially in what relates to the Subject and Manner of his two last Pieces, which are contain’d in his second Volume. For these being of the more regular and formal kind, may easily be oppressive to the airy Reader; and may therefore with the same assurance as Tragedy claim the necessary Relief of the little Piece or Farce above-mention’d.
Nor ought the Title of a MiscellaneousWriter to be deny’d me, on the account that I have grounded my Miscellanys upon a certain Set of Treatises already publish’d. Grounds and Foundations are of no moment in a kind of Work, which, according to modern Establishment, has properly neither Top nor Bottom, Beginning nor End. Besides, that I shall no-way confine myself to the precise Contents of these Treatises; but, like my Fellow-Miscellanarians, shall take occasion to vary often from my propos’d Subject, and make what Deviations or Excursions I shall think fit, as I proceed in my randomEssays.
AMONG the many Improvements daily made in the Art of Writing, there is none perhaps which can be said to have attain’d a greater Height than that of Controversy, or the Method of Answer and Refutation. ’Tis true indeed, that antiently the Wits of Men were for the most part taken up in other Employment. If Authors writ ill, they were despis’d: If well, they were by some Party or other espous’d. For Partys there wou’d necessarily be, and Sects of every kind, in Learning and Philosophy. Every one sided with whom he lik’d; and having the liberty of hearing each side speak for it-self, stood in no need of express Warning-Pieces against pretended Sophistry, or dangerous Reasoning. Particular Answers to single Treatises, were thought to be of little use. And it was esteem’d no Compliment to a Reader, to help him so carefully in the Judgment of every Piece which came abroad. Whatever Sects there were in those days, the Zeal of Party-causes ran not so high as to give the Reader a Taste of those personal Reproaches, which might pass in a Debate between the different Partymen.
Thus Matters stood of old; when as yet the Method of writing Controversy was not rais’d into an Art, nor the Feuds of contending Authors become the chief Amusement of the learned World. But we have at present so high a Relish of this kind, that the Writings of the Learned are never truly gustful till they are come to what we may properly enough call their due Ripeness, and have begot a Fray. When the Answer and Reply is once form’d, our Curiosity is excited: We begin then, for the first time, to whet our Attention, and apply our Ear.
For example: Let a zealous Divine and flaming Champion of our Faith, when inclin’d to shew himself in Print, make choice of some tremendous Mystery of Religion, oppos’d heretofore by some damnable Heresiarch; whom having vehemently refuted, he turns himself towards the orthodox Opinion, and supports the true Belief, with the highest Eloquence and profoundest Erudition; he shall, notwithstanding this, remain perhaps in deep Obscurity, to the great affliction of his Bookseller, and the regret of all who bear a just Veneration for Church-history, and the antient Purity of the Christian Faith. But let it so happen that in this Prosecution of his deceas’d Adversary, our Doctor raises up some living Antagonist; who, on the same foot of Orthodoxy with himself, pretends to arraign his Expositions, and refute the Refuter upon every Article he has advanc’d; from this moment the Writing gathers Life, the Publick listens, the Bookseller takes heart; and when Issue is well join’d, the Repartees grown smart, and the Contention vigorous between the learned Partys, a Ring is made, and Readers gather in abundance. Every one takes party, and encourages his own Side. “This shall be my Champion!—This Man for my Money!—Well hit, on our side!—Again, a good Stroke!—There he was even with him!—Have at him the next Bout!”—Excellent Sport! And when the Combatants are for a-while drawn off, and each retir’d with his own Companions; What Praises, and Congratulations! What Applauses of the suppos’d Victor! And how honourably is he saluted by his Favourers, and complimented even to the disturbance of his Modesty! “Nay, but Gentlemen!—Good Gentlemen! Do you really think thus?—Are you sincere with me?—Have I treated my Adversary as he deserves?” “Never was Man so maul’d. Why you have kill’d him downright.” “O, Sirs! you flatter me.” “He can never rise more.” “Think ye so indeed?” “Or if he shou’d; ’twou’d be a Pleasure to see how you wou’d handle him.”
These are the Triumphs. This what sets sharp: This gives the Author his Edge, and excites the Reader’s Attention; when the Trumpets are thus sounded to the Croud, and a kind of Amphitheatrical Entertainment exhibited to the Multitude, by these Gladiatorian Pen-men.
The Author of the preceding Treatises being by profession a nice Inspector into the Ridicule of Things, must in all probability have rais’d to himself some such Views as these, which hinder’d him from engaging in the way of Controversy. For when, by accident, the First of these Treatises (a private Letter, and in the Writer’s Esteem, little worthy of the Publick’s notice) came to be read abroad in Copys, and afterwards in Print; the smartest Answers which came out against it, cou’d not, it seems, move our Author to form any Reply. All he was heard to say in return, was, “That he thought whoever had taken upon him to publish a Book in answer to that casual Piece, had certainly made either a very high Compliment to the Author, or a very ill one to the Publick.”
It must be own’d, that when a Writer of any kind is so considerable as to deserve the Labour and Pains of some shreud Heads to refute him in publick, he may, in the quality of an Author, be justly congratulated on that occasion. ’Tis suppos’d necessarily that he must have writ with some kind of Ability or Wit. But if his original Performance be in truth no better than ordinary; his Answerer’s Task must certainly be very mean. He must be very indifferently imploy’d, who wou’d take upon him to answer Nonsense in form, ridicule what is of it-self a Jest, and put it upon the World to read a second Book for the sake of the Impertinencys of a former.
Taking it, however, for granted, “That a sorry Treatise may be the foundation of a considerable Answer;” aReply still must certainly be ridiculous, which-ever way we take it. For either the Author, in his original Piece, has been truly refuted, or not. If refuted; why does he defend? If not refuted; why trouble himself? What has the Publick to do with his private Quarrels, or his Adversary’s Impertinence? Or supposing the World out of curiosity may delight to see a Pedant expos’d by a Man of better Wit, and a Controversy thus unequally carry’d on between two such opposite Partys; How long is this Diversion likely to hold good? And what will become of these polemick Writings a few Years hence? What is already become of those mighty Controversys, with which some of the most eminent Authors amus’d the World within the memory of the youngest Scholar? An original Work or two may perhaps remain: But for the subsequent Defenses, the Answers, Rejoinders, and Replications; they have been long since paying their attendance to the Pastry-cooks. Mankind perhaps were heated at that time, when first those Matters were debated: But they are now cool again. They laugh’d: They carry’d on the Humour: They blew the Coals: They teaz’d, and set on, maliciously, and to create themselves diversion. But the Jest is now over. No-one so much as inquires Where the Wit was; or Where possibly the Sting shou’d lie of those notable Reflections and satirical Hints, which were once found so pungent, and gave the Readers such high Delight.—Notable Philosophers and Divines, who can be contented to make sport, and write in learned Billingsgate, to divert the Coffee-house, and entertain the Assemblys at Booksellers Shops, or the more airy Stalls of inferior Book-retailers!
It must be allow’d, That in this respect, controversial Writing is not so wholly unprofitable; and that for Book-Merchants, of whatever Kind or Degree, they undoubtedly receive no small Advantage from a right Improvement of a learned Scuffle. Nothing revives ’em more, or makes a quicker Trade, than a Pair of substantial Divines or grave Philosophers, well match’d, and soundly back’d; till by long worrying one another, they are grown out of breath, and have almost lost their Force of Biting.—“So have I known a crafty Glazier, in time of Frost, procure a Football, to draw into the Street the emulous Chiefs of the robust Youth. The tumid Bladder bounds at every Kick, bursts the withstanding Casements, the Chassys, Lanterns, and all the brittle vitrious Ware. The Noise of Blows and Out-cries fills the whole Neighbourhood; and Ruins of Glass cover the stony Pavements; till the bloated battering Engine, subdu’d by force of Foot and Fist, and yielding up its Breath at many a fatal Cranny, becomes lank and harmless, sinks in its Flight, and can no longer uphold the Spirit of the contending Partys.”
This our Author supposes to have been the occasion of his being so often and zealously complimented by his Amanuensis (for so he calls his Bookseller or Printer) on the Fame of his first Piece. The obliging Crafts-man has at times presented him with many a handsom Book, set off with Titles of Remarks, Reflections, and the like, which, as he assur’d him, were Answers to his small Treatise. “Here Sir! (says he) you have a considerable Hand has undertaken you!——This Sir, is a Reverend—This a Right Reverend——This a noted Author——Will you not reply, Sir?——O’ my word, Sir, the World is in expectation.” “Pity they shou’d be disappointed!” “A dozen Sheets, Sir, wou’d be sufficient.—You might dispatch it presently.” “Think you so?” “I have my Paper ready—And a good Letter.—Take my word for it—You shall see, Sir!” “Enough. But hark ye (Mr. A, a, a, a) my worthy Engineer, and Manager of the War of Letters! Ere you prepare your Artillery, or engage me in Acts of Hostility, let me hear, I intreat you, Whether or no my Adversary be taken notice of.—Wait for his Second Edition. And if by next Year, or Year or two after, it be known in good Company that there is such a Book in being, I shall then perhaps think it time to consider of a Reply.”
AS resolute as our Author may have shewn himself in refusing to take notice of the smart Writings publish’d against him by certain Zealots of his own Country, he cou’d not, it seems, but out of curiosity observe what the foreign and more impartial Criticks might object to his small Treatise, which he was surpriz’d to hear had been translated into foreign Languages, soon after it had been publish’d here at home. The first Censure of this kind which came to our Author’s sight, was that of the ParisJournal des Savans. Considering how little favourable the Author of the Letter had shewn himself towards the Romish Church, and Policy of France, it must be own’d those Journalists have treated him with sufficient Candor: tho they fail’d not to take what Advantages they well cou’d against the Writing, and particularly arraign’d it for the want of Order and Method.
The Protestant Writers, such as live in a free Country, and can deliver their Sentiments without Constraint, have certainly done our Author more Honour than he ever presum’d to think he cou’d deserve. His Translator indeed, who had done him the previous Honour of introducing him to the Acquaintance of the foreign World, represents particularly, by the Turn given to the latter end of the Letter, that the Writer of it was, as to his Condition and Rank, little better than an inferior Dependent on the noble Lord to whom he had address’d himself. And in reality the Original has so much of that air; that I wonder not, if what the Author left ambiguous, the Translator has determin’d to the side of Clientship and Dependency.
But whatever may have been the Circumstance or Character of our Author himself; that of his great Friend ought in justice to have been consider’d by those former Criticks above-mention’d. So much, at least, shou’d have been taken notice of, that there was a realgreat Man characteriz’d, and sutable Measures of Address and Style preserv’d. But they who wou’d neither observe this, nor apprehend the Letter it-self to be real, were insufficient Criticks, and unqualify’d to judg of the Turn or Humour of a Piece, which they had never consider’d in a proper light.
’Tis become indeed so common a Practice among Authors, to feign a Correspondency, and give the Title of a private Letter to a Piece address’d solely to thePublick, that it wou’d not be strange to see other Journalists and Criticks, as well as the Gentlemen of Paris, pass over such Particularitys, as things of Form. This Prejudice however cou’d not misguide a chief Critick of the Protestant side; when mentioning this Letter concerning Enthusiasm, he speaks of it as a real Letter, (such as in truth it was) not a precise and formal Treatise, design’d for publick View.
It will be own’d surely, by those who have learnt to judg of Elegancy and Wit by the help merely of modern Languages, That we cou’d have little Relish of the best Letters of a Balsac or Voiture, were we wholly ignorant of the Characters of the principal Persons to whom those Letters were actually written. But much less cou’d we find pleasure in this reading, shou’d we take it into our heads, that both the Personages and Correspondency it-self were merely fictitious. Let the best of Tully’s Epistles be read in such a narrow View as this, and they will certainly prove very insipid. If a real Brutus, a real Atticus be not suppos’d, there will be no real Cicero. The elegant Writer will disappear: as will the vast Labour and Art with which this eloquent Roman writ those Letters to his illustrious Friends. There was no kind of Composition in which this great Author prided or pleas’d himself more than in this; where he endeavour’d to throw off the Mein of the Philosopher and Orator, whilst in effect he employ’d both his Rhetorick and Philosophy with the greatest Force. They who can read an Epistle or Satir of Horace in somewhat better than a mere scholastick Relish, will comprehend that the Concealment of Order and Method, in this manner of Writing, makes the chief Beauty of the Work. They will own, that unless a Reader be in some measure appriz’d of the Characters of an Augustus, a Maecenas, a Florus, or a Trebatius, there will be little Relish in those Satirs or Epistles address’d in particular to the Courtiers, Ministers, and Great Men of the Times. Even the Satirick, or MiscellaneousManner of the polite Antients, requir’d as much Order as the most regular Pieces. But the Art was to destroy every such Token or Appearance, give an extemporary Air to what was writ, and make the Effect of Art be felt, without discovering the Artifice. There needs no further Explanation on this Head. Our Author himself has said enough in his Advice to an Author, particularly where he treats of the simple Style, in contra-distinction to the learned, the formal, or methodick.
’Tis a different Case indeed, when the Title of Epistle is improperly given to such Works as were never writ in any other view than that of being made publick, or to serve as Exercises or Specimens of the Wit of their Composer. Such were those infinite Numbers of Greek and Latin Epistles, writ by the antient Sophists, Grammarians, or Rhetoricians; where we find the real Character of the Epistle, the genuine Style and Manners of the corresponding Partys sometimes imitated; but at other times not so much as aim’d at, nor any Measures of historical Truth preserv’d. Such perhaps we may esteem even the Letters of a Seneca to his Friend Lucilius. Or supposing that philosophical Courtier had really such a Correspondency; and, at several times, had sent so many fair Epistles, honestly sign’d and seal’d, to his Country-friend at a distance; it appears however by the Epistles themselves, in their proper Order, (if they may be said to have any) that after a few Attempts at the beginning, the Author by degrees loses sight of his Correspondent, and takes the World in general for his Reader or Disciple. He falls into the random way of Miscellaneous Writing; says every-where great and noble Things, in and out of the way, accidentally as Words led him (for with these he plays perpetually); with infinite Wit, but with little or no Coherence; without a Shape or Body to his Work; without a real Beginning, a Middle, or an End. Of a hundred and twenty four Epistles, you may, if you please, make five Hundred, or half a Score. A great-one, for instance, you may divide into five or six. A little-one you may tack to another; and that to another; and so on. The Unity of the Writing will be the same: The Life and Spirit full as well preserv’d. ’Tis not only whole Letters or Pages you may change and manage thus at pleasure: Every Period, every Sentence almost, is independent; and may be taken asunder, transpos’d, postpon’d, anticipated, or set in any new Order, as you fansy.
This is the Manner of Writing so much admir’d and imitated in our Age, that we have scarce the Idea of any other Model. We know little, indeed, of the Difference between one Model or Character of writing and another. All runs to the same Tune, and beats exactly one and the same Measure. Nothing, one wou’d think, cou’d be more tedious than this uniform Pace. The common Amble or Canterbury is not, I am persuaded, more tiresom to a good Rider, than this see-saw of Essay-Writers is to an able Reader. The just Composer of a legitimate Piece is like an able Traveller, who exactly measures his Journey, considers his Ground, premeditates his Stages, and Intervals of Relaxation and Intention, to the very Conclusion of his Undertaking, that he happily arrives where he first propos’d when he set out. He is not presently upon the Spur, or in his full Career; but walks his Steed leisurely out of his Stable, settles himself in his Stirrups, and when fair Road and Season offer, puts on perhaps to a round Trot; thence into a Gallop, and after a while takes up. As Down, or Meadow, or shady Lane present themselves, he accordingly sutes his Pace, favours his Palfry; and is sure not to bring him puffing, and in a heat, into his last Inn. But the Post-way is become highly fashionable with modern Authors. The very same stroke sets you out, and brings you in. Nothing stays, or interrupts. Hill or Valley; rough or smooth; thick or thin: No Difference; no Variation. When an Author sits down to write, he knows no other Business he has, than to be witty, and take care that his Periods be well turn’d, or (as they commonly say) run smooth. In this manner, he doubts not to gain the Character of bright. When he has writ as many Pages as he likes, or as his Run of Fancy wou’d permit; he then perhaps considers what Name he had best give to his new Writing: whether he shou’d call it Letter, Essay, Miscellany, or aught else. The Bookseller perhaps is to determine this at last, when all, besides the Preface, Epistle Dedicatory, and Title-page, is dispatch’d.
[Hesitating whether he should make a bench or a Priapus. . . . So I am a God!] Horat. Sat. 8. Lib. i. ver. 2.
WHETHER in fact there be any real Enchantment, any Influence of Stars, any Power of Daemons or of foreign Natures over our own Minds, is thought questionable by many. Some there are who assert the Negative, and endeavour to solve the Appearances of this kind by the natural Operation of our Passions, and the common Course of outward Things. For my own part, I cannot but at this present apprehend a kind of Enchantment or Magick in that which we call Enthusiasm; since I find, that having touch’d slightly on this Subject, I cannot so easily part with it at pleasure.
After having made some cursory Reflections on our Author’s Letter, I thought I might have sufficiently acquitted my-self on this head; till passing to his next Treatise, I found my-self still further ingag’d. I perceiv’d plainly that I had as yet scarce enter’d into our Author’s Humour, or felt any thing of that Passion, which, as he informs us, is so easily communicable and naturally engaging. But what I had pass’d over in my first Reflections, I found naturally rising in me, upon second thoughts. So that by experience I prov’d it true what our Author says, “That we all of us know something of this Principle.” And now that I find I have in reality so much of it imparted to me, I may with better reason be pardon’d, if, after our Author’s example, I am led to write on such Subjects as these, with Caution, at different Reprises; and not singly, in one Breath.
I have heard indeed that the very reading of Treatises and Accounts of Melancholy, has been apt to generate that Passion in the over-diligent and attentive Reader. And this perhaps may have been the reason, why our Author himself (as he seems to intimate towards the Conclusion of his first Letter) car’d not in reality to grapple closely with his Subject, or give us, at once, the precise Definition of Enthusiasm. This however we may, with our Author, presume to infer, from the coolest of all Studys, even from Criticism it-self, (of which we have been lately treating) “That there is a Power in Numbers, Harmony, Proportion, and Beauty of every kind, which naturally captivates the Heart, and raises the Imagination to an Opinion or Conceit of something majestick and divine.”
Whatever this Subject may be in it-self; we cannot help being transported with the thought of it. It inspires us with something more than ordinary, and raises us above our-selves. Without this Imagination or Conceit, the World wou’d be but a dull Circumstance, and Life a sorry Pass-time. Scarce cou’d we be said to live. The animal Functions might in their course be carry’d on; but nothing further sought for, or regarded. The gallant Sentiments, the elegant Fancys, the Belle-passions, which have, all of them, this Beauty in view, wou’d be set aside, and leave us probably no other Employment than that of satisfying our coarsest Appetites at the cheapest rate; in order to the attainment of a supine State of Indolence and Inactivity.
Slender wou’d be the Enjoyments of the Lover, the ambitious Man, the Warrior, or the Virtuoso, (as our Author has elsewhere intimated) if in the Beautys which they admire, and passionately pursue, there were no reference or regard to any higher Majesty or Grandure, than what simply results from the particular Objects of their pursuit. I know not, in reality, what we shou’d do to find a seasoning to most of our Pleasures in Life, were it not for the Taste or Relish, which is owing to this particular Passion, and the Conceit or Imagination which supports it. Without this, we cou’d not so much as admire a Poem, or a Picture; a Garden, or a Palace; a charming Shape, or a fair Face.Love it-self wou’d appear the lowest thing in Nature, when thus anticipated, and treated according to the Anti-enthusiastick Poet’s method:
And to indulge lust with whoever is at hand.
How Heroism or Magnanimity must stand in this Hypothesis, is easy to imagine. The Muses themselves must make a very indifferent figure in this philosophical Draught. Even the Prince of Poets wou’d prove a most insipid Writer, if he were thus reduc’d. Nor cou’d there, according to this Scheme, be yet a place of Honour left even for our Latin Poet, the great Disciple of this un-polite Philosophy, who dares with so little Equity employ the Muses Art in favour of such a System. But in spite of his Philosophy, he everywhere gives way to Admiration, and rapturous Views of Nature. He is transported with the several Beautys of the World, even whilst he arraigns the Order of it, and destroys the Principle ofBeauty, from whence in antient Languages the World it-self was nam’d.
This is what our Author advances; when in behalf of Enthusiasm he quotes its formal Enemys, and shews That they are as capable of it as its greatest Confessors and Assertors. So far is he from degrading Enthusiasm, or disclaiming it in himself; that he looks on this Passion, simply consider’d, as the most natural, and its Object as the justest in the World. Even Virtue it-self he takes to be no other than a noble Enthusiasm justly directed, and regulated by that high Standard which he supposes in the Nature of Things.
He seems to assert, “That there are certain moral Species or Appearances so striking, and of such force over our Natures, that when they present themselves, they bear down all contrary Opinion or Conceit, all opposite Passion, Sensation, or mere bodily Affection.” Of this kind he makes Virtue it-self to be the chief: since of all Views or Contemplations, this, in his account, is the most naturally and strongly affecting. The exalted part of Love is only borrow’d hence. That of pure Friendship is its immediate Self. He who yields his Life a Sacrifice to his Prince or Country; the Lover who for his Paramour performs as much; the heroick, the amorous, the religious Martyrs, who draw their Views, whether visionary or real, from this Pattern and Exemplar of Divinity: all these, according to our Author’s Sentiment, are alike actuated by this Passion, and prove themselves in effect so many different Enthusiasts.
Nor is thorow Honesty, in his Hypothesis, any other than this Zeal, or Passion, moving strongly upon the Species or View of the Decorum, and Sublime of Actions. Others may pursue different Forms, and fix their Eye on different Species, (as all Men do on one or other): The real honest Man, however plain or simple he appears, has that highest Species, Honesty it-self, in view; and instead of outward Forms or Symmetrys, is struck with that of inward Character, the Harmony and Numbers of the Heart, and Beauty of the Affections, which form the Manners and Conduct of a truly social Life.
’Tis indeed peculiar to the Genius of that cool Philosophy above describ’d; that as it denies the Order or Harmony of Things in general, so by a just Consequence and Truth of Reasoning, it rejects the Habit of admiring or being charm’d with whatever is call’d Beautiful in particular. According to the Regimen prescrib’d by this Philosophy, it must be acknowledg’d that the Evils of Love, Ambition, Vanity, Luxury, with other Disturbances deriv’d from the florid, high, and elegant Ideas of Things, must in appearance be set in a fair way of being radically cur’d.
It need not be thought surprizing, that Religion it-self shou’d in the account of these Philosophers be reckon’d among those Vices and Disturbances, which it concerns us after this manner to extirpate. If the Idea of Majesty and Beauty in other inferior Subjects be in reality distracting; it must chiefly prove so, in that principal Subject, the Basis and Foundation of this Conceit. Now if the Subject it-self be not in Nature, neither the Idea nor the Passion grounded on it can be properly esteem’d natural: And thus all Admiration ceases; and Enthusiasm is at an end. But if there be naturally such a Passion; ’tis evident that Religion it-self is of the kind, and must be therefore natural to Man.
We can admire nothing profoundly, without a certain religious Veneration. And because this borders so much on Fear, and raises a certain Tremor or Horror of like appearance; ’tis easy to give that Turn to the Affection, and represent all Enthusiasm and religious Extasy as the Product or mere Effect of Fear:
The first fear fashioned the gods on earth.
But the original Passion, as appears plainly, is of another kind, and in effect is so confess’d by those who are the greatest Opposers of Religion, and who, as our Author observes, have shewn themselves sufficiently convinc’d, “That altho these Ideas of Divinity and Beauty 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.”
Now as all Affections have their Excess, and require Judgment and Discretion to moderate and govern them; so this high and noble Affection, which raises Man to Action, and is his Guide in Business as well as Pleasure, requires a steddy Rein and strict Hand over it. All Moralists, worthy of any Name, have recogniz’d the Passion; tho among these the wisest have prescrib’d Restraint, press’d Moderation, and to all Tyro’s in Philosophy forbid the forward Use of Admiration, Rapture, or Extasy, even in the Subjects they esteem’d the highest, and most divine. They knew very well that the first Motion, Appetite, and Ardour of the Youth in general towards Philosophy and Knowledg, depended chiefly on this Turn of Temper: Yet were they well appriz’d, withal, That in the Progress of this Study, as well as in the affairs of Life, the florid Ideas and exalted Fancy of this kind became the Fuel of many incendiary Passions; and that, in religious Concerns particularly, the Habit of Admiration and contemplative Delight, wou’d, by over-Indulgence, too easily mount into high Fanaticism, or degenerate into abject Superstition.
Upon the whole therefore, according to our Author, Enthusiasm is, in it-self, a very natural honest Passion; and has properly nothing for its Object but what is Good and Honest. ’Tis apt indeed, he confesses, to run astray. And by modern example we know, perhaps yet better than by any antient, that, in Religion, the Enthusiasm which works by Love, is subject to many strange Irregularitys; and that which works by Fear, to many monstrous and horrible Superstitions. Mysticks and Fanaticks are known to abound as well in our Reform’d, as in the Romish Churches. The pretended Floods of Grace pour’d into the Bosoms of the Quietists, Pietists, and those who favour the extatick way of Devotion, raise such Transports, as by their own Proselytes are confess’d to have something strangely agreeable, and in common with what ordinary Lovers are us’d to feel. And it has been remark’d by many, That the Female Saints have been the greatest Improvers of this soft part of Religion. What truth there may be in the related Operations of this pretended Grace and amorous Zeal, or in the Accounts of what has usually past between the Saints of each Sex, in these devout Extasys, I shall leave the Reader to examine: supposing he will find credible Accounts, sufficient to convince him of the dangerous progress of Enthusiasm in this amorous Lineage.
There are many Branches indeed more vulgar, as that of Fear, Melancholy, Consternation, Suspicion, Despair. And when the Passion turns more towards the astonishing and frightful, than the amiable and delightful side, it creates rather what we call Superstition than Enthusiasm. I must confess withal, that what we commonly style Zeal in matters of Religion, is seldom without a mixture of both these Extravagancys. The extatick Motions of Love and Admiration, are seldom un-accompany’d with the Horrors and Consternations of a lower sort of Devotion. These Paroxysms of Zeal are in reality as the hot and cold Fits of an Ague, and depend on the different and occasional Views or Aspects of the Divinity; according as the Worshiper is guided from without, or affected from within, by his particular Constitution. Seldom are those Aspects so determinate and fix’d, as to excite constantly one and the same Spirit of Devotion. In Religions therefore, which hold most of Love, there is generally room left for Terrors of the deepest kind. Nor is there any Religion so diabolical, as, in its representation of Divinity, to leave no room for Admiration and Esteem. Whatever Personage orSpecter of Divinity is worship’d; a certain Esteem and Love is generally affected by his Worshipers. Or if, in the Devotion paid him, there be in truth no real or absolute Esteem; there is however a certain astonishing Delight or Ravishment excited.
This Passion is experienc’d, in common, by every Worshiper of the Zealot-kind. The Motion, when un-guided, and left wholly to it-self, is in its nature turbulent and incentive. It disjoints the natural Frame, and relaxes the ordinary Tone or Tenor of the Mind. In this Disposition the Reins are let loose to all Passion which arises: And the Mind, as far as it is able to act or think in such a State, approves the Riot, and justifies the wild Effects, by the suppos’d Sacredness of the Cause. Every Dream and Frenzy is made Inspiration; every Affection, Zeal. And in this Persuasion the Zealots, no longer self-govern’d, but set adrift to the wide Sea of Passion, can in one and the same Spirit of Devotion, exert the opposite Passions of Love and Hatred; unite affectionately, and abhor furiously; curse, bless, sing, mourn, exult, tremble, caress, assassinate, inflict and sufferMartyrdom, with a thousand other the most vehement Efforts of variable and contrary Affection.
THE common Heathen Religion, especially in its latter Age, when adorn’d with the most beautiful Temples, and render’d more illustrious by the Munificence of the Roman Senate and succeeding Emperors, ran wholly into Pomp, and was supported chiefly by that sort of Enthusiasm, which is rais’d from the external Objects of Grandure, Majesty, and what we call August. On the other side, the Egyptian or Syrian Religions, which lay more in Mystery and conceal’d Rites; having less Dependence on the Magistrate, and less of that Decorum of Art, Politeness, and Magnificence, ran into a more pusillanimous, frivolous, and mean kind of Superstition; “The Observation of Days, the Forbearance of Meats, and the Contention about Traditions, Seniority of Laws, and Priority of Godships.”
Hence a raging madness is abroad on both sides, because each place hates its neighbours’ deities, since it believes that only its own objects of worship are Gods.
History, withal, informs us of a certain Establishment in Egypt, which was very extraordinary, and must needs have had a very uncommon effect; no way advantageous to that Nation in particular, or to the general Society of Mankind. We know very well, that nothing is more injurious to the Police, or municipal Constitution of any City or Colony, than the forcing of a particular Trade: Nothing more dangerous than the over-peopling any Manufacture, or multiplying the Traders, or Dealers, of whatever Vocation, beyond their natural Proportion, and the publick Demand. Now it happen’d of old, in this Mother-Land of Superstition, that the Sons of certain Artists were by Law oblig’d always to follow the same Calling with their Fathers. Thus the Son of a Priest was always a Priest by Birth, as was the whole Lineage after him, without interruption. Nor was it a Custom with this Nation, as with others, to have only one single Priest or Priestess to a Temple: but as the Number of Gods and Temples was infinite; so was that of the Priests. The Religious Foundations were without Restriction: and to one single Worship or Temple, as many of the Holy Order might be Retainers, as cou’d raise a Maintenance from the Office.
Whatever happen’d to other Races or Professions, that of the Priest, in all likelihood, must, by this Regulation, have propagated the most of any. ’Tis a tempting Circumstance; to have so easy a Mastery over the World; to subdue by Wit instead of Force; to practise on the Passions, and triumph over the Judgment of Mankind; to influence private Familys, and publick Councils; conquer Conquerors; controul the Magistrate himself, and govern without the Envy which attends all other Government or Superiority. No wonder if such a Profession was apt to multiply: especially when we consider the easy Living and Security of the Professors, their Exemption from all Labour, and Hazard; the suppos’d Sacredness of their Character; and their free Possession of Wealth, Grandure, Estates, and Women.
There was no need to invest such a Body as this, with rich Lands and ample Territorys, as it happen’d in Egypt. The Generation or Tribe being once set apart as sacred, wou’d, without further encouragement, be able, no doubt, in process of time, to establish themselves a plentiful and growing Fund, or religious Land-Bank. ’Twas a sufficient Donative, to have had only that single Privilege from the Law; “That they might retain what they cou’d get; and that it might be lawful for their Order to receive such Estates by voluntary Contribution, as cou’d never afterwards be converted to other Uses.”
Now if, besides the Method of Propagation by Descent, other Methods of Increase were allow’d in this Order of Men; if Volunteers were also admitted at pleasure, without any Stint or Confinement to a certain Number; ’tis not difficult to imagine how enormous the Growth wou’d be of such a Science or Profession, thus recogniz’d by the Magistrate, thus invested with Lands and Power, and thus intitled to whatever extent of Riches or Possession cou’d be acquir’d by Practice and Influence over the superstitious part of Mankind.
There were, besides, in Egypt some natural Causes of Superstition, beyond those which were common to other Regions. This Nation might well abound in Prodigys, when even their Country and Soil it-self was a kind of Prodigy in Nature. Their solitary idle Life, whilst shut up in their Houses by the regular Inundations of the Nile; the unwholesom Vapours arising from the new Mud, and slimy Relicts of their River, expos’d to the hot Suns; their various Meteors and Phaenomena; with the long Vacancy they had to observe and comment on them; the necessity, withal, which, on the account of their Navigation, and the Measure of their yearly drowned Lands, compell’d them to promote the Studys of Astronomy and other Sciences, of which their Priesthood cou’d make good advantages: All these may be reckon’d, perhaps, as additional Causes of the immense Growth of Superstition, and the enormous Increase of the Priesthood in this fertile Land.
’Twill however, as I conceive, be found unquestionably true, according to political Arithmetick, in every Nation whatsoever; “That the Quantity of Superstition (if I may so speak) will, in proportion, nearly answer the Number of Priests, Diviners, Soothsayers, Prophets, or such who gain their Livelihood, or receive Advantages by officiating in religious Affairs.” For if these Dealers are numerous, they will force a Trade. And as the liberal Hand of the Magistrate can easily raise Swarms of this kind, where they are already but in a moderate proportion; so where, thro’ any other cause, the Number of these increasing still, by degrees, is suffer’d to grow beyond a certain measure, they will soon raise such a Ferment in Mens Minds, as will at least compel the Magistrate, however sensible of the Grievance, to be cautious in proceeding to a Reform.
We may observe in other necessary Professions, rais’d on the Infirmitys and Defects of Mankind, (as for instance, in Law and Physick) “That with the least help from the Bounty or Beneficence of the Magistrate, the Number of the Professors, and the Subject-matter of the Profession, is found over and above increasing.” New Difficultys are started: New Subjects of Contention: Deeds and Instruments of Law grow more numerous and prolix: Hypotheses, Methods, Regimens, more various; and the Materia Medica more extensive and abundant. What, in process of time, must therefore naturally have happen’d in the case of Religion, among the Egyptians, may easily be gather’d.
Nor is it strange that we shou’d find the Property and Power of the Egyptian Priesthood, in antient days, arriv’d to such a height, as in a manner to have swallow’d up the State and Monarchy. A worse Accident befel the Persian Crown, of which the Hierarchy having got absolute possession, had once a fair Chance for Universal Empire. Now that the Persian or Babylonian Hierarchy was much after the Model of the Egyptian, tho different perhaps in Rites and Ceremonys, we may well judg; not only from the History of the Magi, but from what is recorded of antient Colonys sent long before by the Egyptians into Chaldea and the adjacent Countrys. And whether the Ethiopian Model was from that of Egypt, or the Egyptian from that of Ethiopia, (for each Nation had its pretence) we know by remarkable Effects, that the Ethiopian Empire was once in the same Condition: the State having been wholly swallow’d in the exorbitant Power of their landed Hierarchy. So true it is, “That Dominion must naturally follow Property.” Nor is it possible, as I conceive, for any State or Monarchy to withstand the Encroachments of a growing Hierarchy, founded on the Model of these Egyptian and Asiatick Priesthoods. No Superstition will ever be wanting among the Ignorant and Vulgar, whilst the Able and Crafty have a power to gain Inheritances and Possessions by working on this human Weakness. This is a Fund which, by these Allowances, will prove inexhaustible. New Modes of Worship, new Miracles, new Heroes, Saints, Divinitys (which, serve as new Occasions for sacredDonatives) will be easily supply’d on the part of the religious Orders; whilst the Civil Magistrate authorizes the accumulative Donation, and neither restrains the Number or Possessions of the Sacred Body.
We find, withal, that in the early days of this antient Priestly Nation of whom we have been speaking, ’twas thought expedient also, for the increase of Devotion, to enlarge their System of Deity; and either by mystical Genealogy, Consecration, or Canonization, to multiply their reveal’d Objects of Worship, and raise new Personages of Divinity in their Religion. They proceeded, it seems, in process of time, to increase the Number of their Gods, so far that, at last, they became in a manner numberless. What odd Shapes, Species, and Forms of Deity were in latter times exhibited, is well known. Scarce an Animal or Plant but was adopted into some share of Divinity.
O pious nation, for whom Gods like these grow in the garden!
No wonder if by a Nation so abounding in religious Orders, spiritual Conquests were sought in foreign Countrys, Colonys led abroad, and Missionarys detach’d, on Expeditions, in this prosperous Service. ’Twas thus a Zealot-People, influenc’d of old by their very Region and Climate, and who thro’ a long Tract of Time, under a peculiar Policy, had been rais’d both by Art and Nature to an immense Growth in religious Science and Mystery; came by degrees to spread their variety of Rites and Ceremonys, their distinguishing Marks of separate Worships and secrete Communitys, thro’ the distant World; but chiefly thro’ their neighbouring and dependent Countrys.
We understand from History, that even when the EgyptianState was least powerful in Arms, it was still respected for its Religion and Mysterys. It drew Strangers from all Parts to behold its Wonders. And the Fertility of its Soil forc’d the adjacent People, and wandring Nations, who liv’d dispers’d in single Tribes, to visit them, court their Alliance, and sollicit a Trade and Commerce with them, on whatsoever Terms. The Strangers, no doubt, might well receive religious Rites and Doctrines from those, to whom they ow’d their Maintenance and Bread.
Before the time that Israel was constrain’d to go down to Egypt, and sue for Maintenance to these powerful Dynastys or Low-Land States, the Holy PatriarchAbraham himself had been necessitated to this Compliance on the same account. He apply’d in the same manner to the EgyptianCourt. He was at first well receiv’d, and handsomly presented; but afterwards ill us’d, and out of favour with the Prince, yet suffer’d to depart the Kingdom, and retire with his Effects; without any attempt of recalling him again by force, as it happen’d in the case of his Posterity. ’Tis certain that if this holy Patriarch, who first instituted the sacred Rite of Circumcision within his own Family or Tribe, had no regard to any Policy or Religion of the Egyptians; yet he had formerly been a Guest and Inhabitant in Egypt (where Historians mention this to have been a national Rite); long ere he had receiv’d any divine Notice or Revelation, concerning this Affair. Nor was it in Religion merely that this reverend Guest was said to have deriv’d Knowledg and Learning from the Egyptians. ’Twas from this Parent-Country of occult Sciences, that he was presum’d, together with other Wisdom, to have learnt that of judicial Astrology; as his Successors did afterwards other prophetical and miraculous Arts, proper to the Magi, or Priesthood of this Land.
One cannot indeed but observe, in after times, the strange Adherence and servile Dependency of the whole Hebrew Race on the Egyptian Nation. It appears that tho they were of old abus’d in the Person of their grand Patriarch; tho afterwards held in bondage, and treated as the most abject Slaves; tho twice expel’d, or necessitated to save themselves by flight, out of this oppressive Region; yet in the very instant of their last Retreat, whilst they were yet on their March, conducted by visible Divinity, supply’d and fed from Heaven, and supported by continual Miracles; they notwithstanding inclin’d so strongly to the Manners, the Religion, Rites, Diet, Customs, Laws, and Constitutions of their tyrannical Masters, that it was with the utmost difficulty they could be with-held from returning again into the same Subjection. Nor could their great Captains and Legislators prevent their relapsing perpetually into the same Worship to which they had been so long accustom’d.
How far the divine Providence might have indulg’d the stubborn Habit and stupid Humour of this People, by giving them Laws (as the Prophet says) which he himself approv’d not, I have no Intention to examine. This only I pretend to infer from what has been advanc’d; “That the Manners, Opinions, Rites and Customs of the Egyptians, had, in the earliest times, and from Generation to Generation, strongly influenc’d the Hebrew People (their Guests, and Subjects) and had undoubtedly gain’d a powerful Ascendency over their Natures.”
How extravagant soever the multitude of the EgyptianSuperstitions may appear, ’tis certain that their Doctrine and Wisdom were in high repute; since it is taken notice of in Holy Scripture, as no small Advantage even to Moses himself, “That he had imbib’d the Wisdom of this Nation”; which, as is well known, lay chiefly among their Priests and Magi.
Before the Time that the great Hebrew Legislator receiv’d his Education among these Sages, a Hebrew Slave, who came a Youth into the Egyptian Court, had already grown so powerful in this kind of Wisdom, as to outdo the chief Diviners, Prognosticators, and Interpreters of Egypt. He rais’d himself to be chief Minister to a Prince, who, following his Advice, obtain’d in a manner the whole Property, and consequently the absolute Dominion of that Land. But to what height of Power the establish’d Priesthood was arriv’d even at that time, may be conjectur’d hence; “That the Crown (to speak in a modern Style) offer’d not to meddle with the Church-Lands”; and that in this great Revolution nothing was attempted, so much as by way of Purchase or Exchange, in prejudice of this Landed Clergy: The prime Minister himself having join’d his Interest with theirs, and enter’d by Marriage into their Alliance. And in this he was follow’d by the great Founder of the Hebrew-State; for he also match’d himself with the Priesthood of some of the neighbouring Nations, and Traders into Egypt, long ere his Establishment of the Hebrew Religion and Commonwealth. Nor had he perfected his Model, till he consulted the foreign Priest his Father-in-law, to whose Advice he paid such remarkable Deference.
BUT TO resume the Subject of our Speculation, concerning the wide Diffusion of the Priestly Science or Function; it appears from what has been said, that notwithstanding the Egyptian Priesthood was, by antient Establishment, hereditary; the Skill of Divining, Soothsaying, and Magick was communicated to others besides their national sacred Body: and that the Wisdom of the Magicians, the Power of Miracles, their Interpretation of Dreams and Visions, and their Art of administring in Divine Affairs, were entrusted even to Foreigners who resided amongst them.
It appears, withal, from these Considerations, how apt the religious Profession was to spread it-self widely in this Region of the World; and what Efforts wou’d naturally be made by the more necessitous of these unlimited Professors, towards a Fortune, or Maintenance, for themselves and their Successors.
Common Arithmetick will, in this Case, demonstrate to us, “That as the Proportion of so many Lay-men to each Priest grew every day less and less, so the Wants and Necessitys of each Priest must grow more and more.” The Magistrate too, who according to this Egyptian Regulation had resign’d his Title or share of Right in sacred Things, cou’d no longer govern, as he pleas’d, in these Affairs, or check the growing Number of these Professors. The spiritual Generations were left to prey on others, and (like Fish of Prey) even on themselves, when destitute of other Capture, and confin’d within too narrow Limits. What Method, therefore, was there left to heighten the Zeal of Worshipers, and augment their Liberality, but “to foment their Emulation, prefer Worship to Worship, Faith to Faith; and turn the Spirit of Enthusiasm to the side of sacred Horror, religious Antipathy, and mutual Discord between Worshipers?”
Thus Provinces and Nations were divided by the most contrary Rites and Customs which cou’d be devis’d, in order to create the strongest Aversion possible between Creatures of a like Species. For when all other Animositys are allay’d, and Anger of the fiercest kind appeas’d, the religious Hatred, we find, continues still, as it began, without Provocation or voluntary Offence. The presum’d Misbeliever and Blasphemer, as one rejected and abhor’d of God, is thro’ a pious Imitation, abhor’d by the adverse Worshiper, whose Enmity must naturally increase as his religious Zeal increases.
From hence the Opposition rose of Temple against Temple, Proselyte against Proselyte. The most zealous Worship of oneGod, was best express’d (as they conceiv’d) by the open defiance of another.Sir-Names and Titles of Divinity pass’d as Watch-words. He who had not the Symbol, nor cou’d give the Word, receiv’d the Knock.
Down with him! Kill him! Merit Heaven thereby;
As our Poet has it, in his American Tragedy.
Nor did Philosophy, when introduc’d into Religion, extinguish, but rather inflame this Zeal: as we may shew perhaps in our following Chapter more particularly; if we return again, as is likely, to this Subject. For this, we perceive, is of a kind apt enough to grow upon our hands. We shall here, therefore, observe only what is obvious to every Student in sacred Antiquitys, That from the contentious Learning and Sophistry of the antient Schools (when true Science, Philosophy, and Arts were already deep in their Decline) religious Problems of a like contentious Form sprang up; and certain DoctrinalTests were fram’d, by which religious Partys were ingag’d and lifted against one another, with more Animosity than in any other Cause or Quarrel had been ever known. Thus religious Massacres began, and were carry’d on; Temples were demolish’d; holy Utensils destroy’d; the sacred Pomp trodden under-foot, insulted; and the Insulters in their turn expos’d to the same Treatment, in their Persons as well as in their Worship. Thus Madness and Confusion were brought upon the World, like that Chaos, which the Poet miraculously describes in the mouth of his mad Hero: When even in Celestial Places, Disorder and Blindness reign’d:—“No Dawn of Light”;
WHAT I had to remark of my own concerning Enthusiasm, I have thus dispatch’d: What Others have remark’d on the same Subject, I may, as an Apologist to another Author, be allow’d to cite; especially if I take notice only of what has been dropt very naturally by some of our most approv’d Authors, and ablest Divines.
It has been thought an odd kind of Temerity, in our Author, to assert, “That even Atheism it-self was not wholly exempt from Enthusiasm; That there have been in reality Enthusiastical Atheists; and That even the Spirit of Martyrdom cou’d, upon occasion, exert it-self as well in this Cause, as in any other.” Now, besides what has been intimated in the preceding Chapter, and what in fact may be demonstrated from the Examples of Vaninus and other Martyrs of a like Principle, we may hear an excellent and learned Divine, of highest Authority at home, and Fame abroad; who after having describ’d an Enthusiastical Atheist and one atheistically inspir’d, says of this very sort of Men, “That they are Fanaticks too; however that word seem to have a more peculiar respect to something of aDeity: All Atheists being that blind Goddess-Nature’sFanaticks.”
And again: “All Atheists (says he) are possess’d with a certain kind of Madness, that may be call’d Pneumatophobia, that makes them have an irrational but desperate Abhorrence from Spirits or incorporal Substances; they being acted also, at the same time, with an Hylomania, whereby they madly dote upon Matter, and devoutly worship it, as the only Numen.”
What the Power of Extasy is, whether thro’ Melancholy, Wine, Love, or other natural Causes, another learned Divine of our Church, in a Discourse upon Enthusiasm, sets forth: bringing an Example from Aristotle, “of a Syracusean Poet, who never versify’d so well, as when he was in his distracted Fits.” But as to Poets in general, compar’d with thereligious Enthusiasts, he says: There is this Difference; “That a Poet is an Enthusiast in jest: and an Enthusiast is a Poet in good earnest.”
“’Tis a strong Temptation (says the Doctor) with a Melancholist, when he feels a Storm of Devotion and Zeal come upon him like a mighty Wind; his Heart being full of Affection, his Head pregnant with clear and sensible Representations, and his Mouth flowing and streaming with fit and powerful Expressions, such as would astonish an ordinary Auditory; ’tis, I say, a shreud Temptation to him, to think it the very Spirit of God that then moves supernaturally in him; whenas all that Excess of Zeal and Affection, and Fluency of Words, is most palpably to be resolv’d into the power of Melancholy, which is a kind of natural Inebriation.”
The learned Doctor, with much pains afterwards, and by help of the Peripatetick Philosophy, explains this Enthusiastick Inebriation, and shews in particular, “How the Vapours and Fumes of Melancholy partake of the nature of Wine.”
One might conjecture from hence, that the malicious Opposers of early Christianity were not unvers’d in this Philosophy; when they sophistically objected against the apparent Force of the Divine Spirit speaking in divers Languages, and attributed it “To the Power of newWine.”
But our devout and zealous Doctor seems to go yet further. For besides what he says of the Enthusiastick Power of Fancy in Atheists, he calls Melancholya pertinacious and religious Complexion; and asserts, “That there is not any true spiritual Grace from God, but this mere natural Constitution, according to the several Tempers and Workings of it, will not only resemble, but sometimes seem to outstrip.” And after speaking of PropheticalEnthusiasm, and establishing (as our Author does) a Legitimate and a Bastard-sort, he asserts and justifies the DevotionalEnthusiasm (as he calls it) of holy and sincere Souls, and ascribes this also to Melancholy.
He allows, “That the Soul may sink so far into Phantasms, as not to recover the use of her free Facultys; and that this enormous Strength of Imagination does not only beget the Belief of mad internal Apprehensions, but is able to assure us of the Presence of external Objects which are not.” He adds, “That what Custom and Education do by degrees, distemper’d Fancy may do in a shorter time.” And speaking of Extasy and the Power of Melancholy in Extatick Fancys, he says, “That what the Imagination then puts forth, of herself, is as clear as broad day; and the Perception of the Soul at least as strong and vigorous, as at any time in beholding things awake.”
From whence the Doctor infers, “That the Strength of Perception is no sure Ground of Truth.”
Had any other than a reverend Father of our Church express’d himself in this manner, he must have been contented perhaps to bear a sufficient Charge of Scepticism.
’Twas good fortune in my Lord Bacon’s Case, that he shou’d have escap’d being call’d an Atheist, or a Sceptick, when speaking in a solemn manner of the religious Passion, the Ground of Superstition, or Enthusiasm, (which he also terms a Panick) he derives it from an Imperfection in the Creation, Make, or natural Constitution of Man. How far the Author of theLetter differs from this Author in his Opinion both of the End and Foundation of this Passion, may appear from what has been said above. And, in general, from what we read in the other succeeding Treatises of our Author, we may venture to say of him with Assurance, “That he is as little a Sceptick (according to the vulgar Sense of that word) as he is Epicurean, or Atheist.” This may be prov’d sufficiently from his Philosophy: And for any thing higher, ’tis what he no-where presumes to treat; having forborn in particular to mention any Holy Mysterys of our Religion, or Sacred Article of our Belief.
As for what relates to Revelation in general, if I mistake not our Author’s meaning, he professes to believe, as far as is possible for any one who himself had never experienc’d any Divine Communication, whether by Dream, Vision, Apparition, or other supernatural Operation; nor was ever present as Eye-witness of any Sign, Prodigy, or Miracle whatsoever. Many of these, he observes, are at this day pretendedly exhibited in the World, with an Endeavour of giving them the perfect Air and exact Resemblance of those recorded in Holy Writ. He speaks indeed with Contempt of the Mockery of modern Miracles and Inspiration. And as to all Pretences to things of this kind in ourpresent Age; he seems inclin’d to look upon ’em as no better than mere Imposture or Delusion. But for what is recorded of Ages heretofore, he seems to resign his Judgment, with intire Condescension, to his Superiors. He pretends not to frame any certain or positive Opinion of his own, notwithstanding his best Searches into Antiquity, and the Nature of religious Record and Tradition: but on all occasions submits most willingly, and with full Confidence and Trust, to the Opinions by Law establish’d. And if this be not sufficient to free him from the Reproach of Scepticism, he must, for ought I see, be content to undergo it.
To say truth, I have often wonder’d to find such a Disturbance rais’d about the simple name of Sceptick. ’Tis certain that, in its original and plain signification, the word imports no more than barely, “That State or Frame of Mind in which every one remains, on every Subject of which he is not certain.” He who is certain, or presumes to say he knows, is in that particular, whether he be mistaken or in the right, a Dogmatist. Between these two States or Situations of Mind, there can be no medium. For he who says, “That he believes for certain, or is assur’d of what he believes”; either speaks ridiculously, or says in effect, “That he believes strongly, but is not sure.” So that whoever is not conscious of Revelation, nor has certain Knowledg of any Miracle or Sign, can be no more than Sceptick in the Case: And the best Christian in the World, who being destitute of the means of Certainty, depends only on History and Tradition for his Belief in these Particulars, is at best but a Sceptick-Christian. He has no more than a nicely critical Historical Faith, subject to various Speculations, and a thousand different Criticisms of Languages and Literature.
This he will naturally find to be the Case, if he attempts to search into Originals, in order to be his own Judg, and proceed on the bottom of his own Discernment, and Understanding. If, on the other hand, he is no Critick, nor competently learned in these Originals; ’tis plain he can have no original Judgment of his own; but must rely still on the Opinion of those who have opportunity to examine such matters, and whom he takes to be the unbias’d and disinterested Judges of these religious Narratives. His Faith is not in antient Facts or Persons, nor in the antient Writ, or Primitive Recorders; nor in the successive Collators or Conservators of these Records (for of these he is unable to take cognizance): But his Confidence and Trust must be in those modern Men, or Societys of Men, to whom the Publick, or He himself, ascribes the Right to judg of these Records, and commits the Determination of sacred Writ and genuine Story.
Let the Person seem ever so positive or dogmatical in these high Points of Learning; he is yet in reality no Dogmatist, nor can any way free himself from a certain kind of Scepticism. He must know himself still capable of Doubting: Or if, for fear of it, he strives to banish every opposite Thought, and resolves not so much as to deliberate on the Case; this still will not acquit him. So far are we from being able to be sure when we have a mind; that indeed we can never be thorowly sure, but then only when we can’t help it, and find of necessity we must be so, whether we will or not. Even the highest implicit Faith is in reality no more than a kind of passiveScepticism; “A Resolution to examine, recollect, consider, or hear, as little as possible to the prejudice of that Belief, which having once espous’d we are ever afterwards afraid to lose.”
If I might be allow’d to imitate our Author, in daring to touch now and then upon the Characters of our Divine Worthys, I shou’d, upon this Subject of Belief, observe how fair and generous the great Christian Convert, and learnedApostle, has shewn himself in his Sacred Writings. Notwithstanding he had himself an original Testimony and Revelation from Heaven, on which he grounded his Conversion; notwithstanding he had in his own Person the Experience of outward Miracles and inward Communications; he condescended still, on many occasions, to speak sceptically, and with some Hesitation and Reserve, as to the Certainty of these Divine Exhibitions. In his account of some Transactions of this kind, himself being the Witness, and speaking (as we may presume) of his own Person, and proper Vision, he says only that “He knew a Man: whether in the Body or out of it, he cannot tell. But such a one caught up to the third Heaven, he knew formerly (he says) above fourteen years before his then Writing.” And when in another Capacity the same inspir’d Writer, giving Precepts to his Disciples, distinguishes what he writes by Divine Commission from what he delivers as his own Judgment and private Opinion, he condescends nevertheless to speak as one no way positive, or Master of any absolute Criterion in the Case. And in several subsequent Passages, he expresses himself as under some kind of Doubt how to judg or determine certainly, “Whether he writes by Inspiration or otherwise.” He only “thinks he has the Spirit.” He “is not sure,” nor wou’d have us to depend on him as positive or certain in a matter of so nice Discernment.
The holy Founders and inspir’d Authors of our Religion requir’d not, it seems, so strict an Assent, or such implicit Faith in behalf of their original Writings and Revelations, as later un-inspir’d Doctors, without the help of Divine Testimony, or any Miracle on their side, have requir’d in behalf of their own Comments and Interpretations. The earliest and worst of Hereticks, ’tis said, were those call’d Gnosticks, who took their name from an audacious Pretence to certain Knowledg and Comprehension of the greatest Mysterys of Faith. If the most dangerous State of Opinion was this dogmatical and presumptuous sort; the safest, in all likelihood, must be the sceptical and modest.
There is nothing more evident than that our HolyReligion, in its original Constitution, was set so far apart from all Philosophy or refin’d Speculation, that it seem’d in a manner diametrically oppos’d to it. A Man might have been not only a Sceptick in all the controverted Points of the Academys, or Schools of Learning, but even a perfect Stranger to all of this kind; and yet compleat in his Religion, Faith, and Worship.
Among the polite Heathens of the antient World, these different Provinces of Religion and Philosophy were upheld, we know, without the least interfering with each other. If in some barbarous Nations the Philosopher and Priest were join’d in one, ’tis observable that the Mysterys, whatever they were, which sprang from this extraordinary Conjunction, were kept secret and undivulg’d. ’Twas Satisfaction enough to the Priest-Philosopher, if the initiated Party preserv’d his Respect and Veneration for the Tradition and Worship of the Temple, by complying in every respect with the requisite Performances and Rites of Worship. No Account was afterwards taken of the Philosophick Faith of the Proselyte, or Worshiper. His Opinions were left to himself, and he might philosophize according to what foreign School or Sect he fansy’d. Even amongst the Jews themselves, the Sadducee (a Materialist, and Denyer of the Soul’s Immortality) was as well admitted as the Pharisee; who from the Schools of Pythagoras, Plato, or other latter Philosophers of Greece, had learnt to reason upon immaterial Substances, and the natural Immortality of Souls.
’Tis no astonishing Reflection to observe how fast the World declin’d in Wit and Sense, in Manhood, Reason, Science, and in every Art, when once the Roman Empire had prevail’d, and spread an universal Tyranny and Oppression over Mankind. Even the Romans themselves, after the early Sweets of one peaceful and long Reign, began to groan under that Yoke, of which they had been themselves the Imposers. How much more must other Nations, and mighty Citys, at a far distance, have abhor’d this Tyranny, and detested their common Servitude under a People, who were themselves no better than mere Slaves?
It may be look’d upon, no doubt, as providential, that at this time, and in these Circumstances of the World, there shou’d arise so high an expectation of a divine Deliverer; and that from the Eastern Parts and Confines of Judea the Opinion shou’d spread it-self of such a Deliverer to come, with Strength from Heaven sufficient to break that Empire, which no earthly Power remaining cou’d be thought sufficient to encounter. Nothing cou’d have better dispos’d the generality of Mankind, to receive the Evangelical Advice; whilst they mistook the News, as many of the first Christians plainly did, and understood the Promises of a Messias in this temporal Sense, with respect to his second Coming, and sudden Reign here upon Earth.
Superstition, in the mean while, cou’d not but naturally prevail, as Misery and Ignorance increas’d. The Roman Emperors, as they grew more barbarous, grew so much the more superstitious. The Lands and Revenues, as well as the Numbers of the Heathen Priests grew daily. And when the season came, that by means of a Convert-Emperor, the Heathen Church-Lands, with an Increase of Power, became transfer’d to the Christian Clergy, ’twas no wonder if by such Riches and Authority they were in no small measure influenc’d and corrupted; as may be gather’d even from the Accounts given us of these matters by themselves.
When, together with this, the Schools of the antient Philosophers, which had been long in their Decline, came now to be dissolv’d, and their sophistick Teachers became Ecclesiastical Instructors; the unnatural Union of Religion and Philosophy was compleated, and the monstrous Product of this Match appear’d soon in the World. The odd exterior Shapes of Deitys, Temples, and holy Utensils, which by the Egyptian Sects had been formerly set in battel against each other, were now metamorphos’d into philosophical Forms and Phantoms; and, like Flags and Banners, display’d in hostile manner, and borne offensively, by one Party against another. In former times those barbarous Nations above mention’d were the sole Warriors in these religious Causes; but now the whole World became engag’d: when instead of Storks and Crocodiles, other Ensigns were erected; when sophistical Chimeras, crabbed Notions, bombastick Phrases, Solecisms, Absurditys, and a thousand Monsters of a scholastick Brood, were set on foot, and made the Subject of vulgar Animosity and Dispute.
Here first began that Spirit of Bigotry, which broke out in a more raging manner than had been ever known before, and was less capable of Temper or Moderation than any Species, Form, or Mixture of Religion in the antient World.Mysterys, which were heretofore treated with profound respect, and lay unexpos’d to vulgar Eyes, became publick and prostitute; being enforc’d with Terrors, and urg’d with Compulsion and Violence, on the unfitted Capacitys and Apprehensions of Mankind. The very Jewish Traditions, and Cabalistick Learning underwent this Fate. That which was naturally the Subject of profound Speculation and Inquiry, was made the necessary Subject of a strict and absolute Assent. The allegorical, mythological Account of Sacred Things, was wholly inverted: Liberty of Judgment and Exposition taken away: No Ground left for Inquiry, Search, or Meditation: No Refuge from the dogmatical Spirit let loose. Every Quarter was taken up; every Portion prepossess’d. All was reduc’d to Article and Proposition.
Thus a sort of philosophicalEnthusiasm overspread the World. And Bigotry (a Species of Superstition hardly known before) took place in Mens Affections, and arm’d ’em with a new Jealousy against each other. Barbarous Terms and Idioms were every day introduc’d: Monstrous Definitions invented and impos’d: New Schemes of Faith erected from time to time; and Hostilitys, the fiercest imaginable, exercis’d on these occasions. So that the Enthusiasm or Zeal, which was usually shewn by Mankind in behalf of their particular Worships, and which for the most part had been hitherto defensive only, grew now to be universally of the offensive kind.
IT MAY be expected of me perhaps, that being fallen thus from remote Antiquity to later Periods, I shou’d speak on this occasion with more than ordinary Exactness and Regularity. It may be urg’d against me, that I talk here, as at random, and without-book: neglecting to produce my Authoritys, or continue my Quotations, according to the profess’d Style and Manner in which I began this present Chapter. But as there are many greater Privileges by way of Variation, Interruption, and Digression, allow’d to us Writers ofMiscellany; and especially to such as are Commentators upon other Authors; I shall be content to remain mysterious in this respect, and explain my-self no further than by a noted Story; which seems to sute our Author’s purpose, and the present Argument.
’Tis observable from Holy Writ, that the antient Ephesian Worshipers, however zealous or enthusiastick they appear’d, had only a defensive kind of Zeal in behalf of their Temple; whenever they thought in earnest, it was brought in danger. In the Tumult which happen’d in that City near the time of the holy Apostle’s Retreat, we have a remarkable instance of what our Author calls a religious Panick. As little Bigots as the People were, and as far from any offensive Zeal, yet when their establish’d Church came to be call’d in question, we see in what a manner their Zeal began to operate. “All with one voice, about the space of two hours, cried out, saying, Great isDianaof the Ephesians.” At the same time this Assembly was so confus’d, that the greater part knew not wherefore they were come together; and consequently cou’d not understand why their Church was in any Danger. But the Enthusiasm was got up, and a PanickFear for the Church had struck the Multitude. It ran into a popular Rage or epidemical Phrenzy, and was communicated (as our Author expresses it) “by Aspect, or, as it were, by Contact, or Sympathy.”
It must be confess’d, that there was, besides these Motives, a secret Spring which forwarded this Enthusiasm. For certain Partys concern’d, Men of Craft, and strictly united in Interest, had been secretly call’d together, and told, “Gentlemen! (or Sirs!) Ye know that by this Mystery, or Craft, we have our Wealth. Ye see withal, and have heard, that not only here at Ephesus, but almost thro’out all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turn’d away many People, by telling them, They are no real Gods who are figur’d, or wrought with hands: so that not only this our Craft is in danger; but also the Temple it-self.”
Nothing cou’d be more moderate and wise, nothing more agreeable to that magisterial Science or Policy, which our Author recommends, than the Behaviour of the Town-Clerk or Recorder of the City, as he is represented on this occasion, in Holy Writ. I must confess indeed, he went pretty far in the use of this moderating Art. He ventur’d to assure the People, “That every one acquiesc’d in their antient Worship of the great Goddess, and in their Tradition of the Image, which fell down from Jupiter: That these were Facts undeniable: and That the new Sect neither meant the pulling down of their Church, nor so much as offer’d to blaspheme or speak amiss of their Goddess.”
This, no doubt, was stretching the point sufficiently; as may be understood by the Event, in after time. One might perhaps have suspected this Recorder to have been himself a Dissenter, or at least an Occasional Conformist, who cou’d answer so roundly for the new Sect, and warrant the Church in Being secure of Damage, and out of all Danger for the future. Mean while the Tumult was appeas’d: No harm befel the Temple for that time. The new Sect acquiesc’d in what had been spoken on their behalf. They allow’d the Apology of the Recorder. Accordingly the Zeal of the Heathen Church, which was only defensive, gave way: And the new Religionists were prosecuted no further.
Hitherto, it seems, the Face of Persecution had not openly shewn it-self in the wide World. ’Twas sufficient Security for every Man, that he gave no disturbance to what was publickly establish’d. But when offensive Zeal came to be discover’d in one Party, the rest became in a manner necessitated to be Aggressors in their turn. They who observ’d, or had once experienc’d this intolerating Spirit, cou’d no longer tolerate on their part. And they who had once exerted it over others, cou’d expect no better Quarter for themselves. So that nothing less than mutual Extirpation became the Aim, and almost open Profession of each religious Society.
In this extremity, it might well perhaps have been esteem’d the happiest Wish for Mankind, That one of these contending Partys of incompatible Religionists shou’d at last prevail over the rest; so as by an universal and absolute Power to determine Orthodoxy, and make that Opinion effectually Catholick, which in their particular Judgment had the best right to that Denomination. And thus by force of Massacre and Desolation, Peace in Worship, and Civil Unity by help of the Spiritual, might be presum’d in a fair way of being restor’d to Mankind.
I shall conclude with observing how ably the Roman-Christian, and once Catholick Church, by the assistance of their converted Emperors, proceeded in the Establishment of their growing Hierarchy. They consider’d wisely the various Superstitions and Enthusiasms of Mankind; and prov’d the different Kinds and Force of each. All these seeming Contrarietys of human Passion they knew how to comprehend in their political Model and subservient System of Divinity. They knew how to make advantage both from the high Speculations of Philosophy, and the grossest Ideas of vulgar Ignorance. They saw there was nothing more different than thatEnthusiasm which ran upon Spirituals, according to the simpler Views of the divine Existence, and that which ran upon external Proportions, Magnificence of Structures, Ceremonys, Processions, Quires, and those other Harmonys which captivate the Eye and Ear. On this account they even added to this latter kind, and display’d Religion in a yet more gorgeous Habit of Temples, Statues, Paintings, Vestments, Copes, Miters, Purple, and the Cathedral Pomp. With these Arms they cou’d subdue the victorious Goths, and secure themselves an Attila, when their Caesars fail’d them.
The truth is, ’tis but a vulgar Species of Enthusiasm, which is mov’d chiefly by Shew and Ceremony, and wrought upon by Chalices and Candles, Robes, and figur’d Dances. Yet this, we may believe, was lookt upon as no slight Ingredient of Devotion in those Days; since, at this hour, the Manner is found to be of considerable Efficacy with some of the Devout amongst our-selves, who pass the least for superstitious, and are reckon’d in the Number of the polite World. This the wise Hierarchy duly preponderating; but being satisfy’d withal that there were other Tempers and Hearts which cou’d not so easily be captivated by this exterior Allurement, they assign’d another Part of Religion to Proselytes of another Character and Complexion, who were allow’d to proceed on a quite different bottom; by the inward way of Contemplation, and Divine Love.
They are indeed so far from being jealous of mere Enthusiasm, or the extatick manner of Devotion, that they allow their Mysticks to write and preach in the most rapturous and seraphick Strains. They suffer them, in a manner, to supersede all external Worship, and triumph over outward Forms; till the refin’d Religionists proceed so far as either expresly or seemingly to dissuade the Practice of the vulgar and establish’d Ceremonial Dutys. And then, indeed, they check the suppos’d exorbitantEnthusiasm, which wou’d prove dangerous to their Hierarchal State.
If modern Visions, Prophecys, and Dreams, Charms, Miracles, Exorcisms, and the rest of this kind, be comprehended in that which we call Fanaticism or Superstition; to this Spirit they allow a full Career; whilst to ingenuous Writers they afford the Liberty, on the other side, in a civil manner, to call in question these spiritual Feats perform’d in Monasterys, or up and down by their mendicant or itinerant Priests, and ghostly Missionarys.
This is that antient Hierarchy, which in respect of its first Foundation, its Policy, and the Consistency of its whole Frame and Constitution, cannot but appear in some respect august and venerable, even in such as we do not usually esteem weak Eyes. These are the spiritual Conquerors, who, like the first Caesars, from small Beginnings, establish’d the Foundations of an almost Universal Monarchy. No wonder if at this day the immediate View of this Hierarchal Residence, the City and Court of Rome, be found to have an extraordinary Effect on Foreigners of other latter Churches. No wonder if the amaz’d Surveyors are for the future so apt either to conceive the horridest Aversion to all Priestly Government; or, on the contrary, to admire it, so far as even to wish a Coalescence or Re-union with this antient Mother-Church.
In reality, the Exercise of Power, however arbitrary or despotick, seems less intolerable under such a spiritual Sovereignty, so extensive, antient, and of such a long Succession, than under the petty Tyrannys and mimical Politys of some new Pretenders. The former may even persecute with a tolerable Grace: The latter, who wou’d willingly derive their Authority from the former, and graft on their successive Right, must necessarily make a very aukard Figure. And whilst they strive to give themselves the same Air of Independency on the Civil Magistrate; whilst they affect the same Authority in Government, the same Grandure, Magnificence, and Pomp in Worship, they raise the highest Ridicule, in the Eyes of those who have real Discernment, and can distinguish Originals from Copys:
O imitators, a slavish herd!
THE celebrated Wits of the Miscellanarian Race, the Essay-Writers, casual Discoursers, Reflection-Coiners, Meditation-Founders, and others of the irregular kind of Writers, may plead it as their peculiar Advantage, “That they follow the Variety of Nature.” And in such a Climate as ours, their Plea, no doubt, may be very just. We Islanders, fam’d for other Mutabilitys, are particularly noted for the Variableness and Inconstancy of our Weather. And if our Taste in Letters be found answerable to this Temperature of our Climate; ’tis certain a Writer must, in our Account, be the more valuable in his kind, as he can agreeably surprize his Reader, by sudden Changes, and Transports, from one Extreme to another.
Were it not for the known Prevalency of this Relish, and the apparent Deference paid to those Genius’s who are said to elevate and surprize; the Author of these Miscellanys might, in all probability, be afraid to entertain his Reader with this multifarious, complex, and desultory kind of Reading. ’Tis certain, that if we consider the Beginning and Process of our present Work, we shall find sufficient Variation in it. From a profess’d Levity, we are laps’d into a sort of Gravity unsutable to our manner of setting out. We have steer’d an adventurous Course, and seem newly come out of a stormy and rough Sea. ’Tis time indeed we shou’d enjoy a Calm, and instead of expanding our Sails before the swelling Gusts, it befits us to retire under the Lee-shore, and ply our Oars in a smooth Water.
’Tis the Philosopher, the Orator, or the Poet, whom we may compare to some First-Rate Vessel, which launches out into the wide Sea, and with a proud Motion insults the encountering Surges. WeEssay-Writers are of the Small-Craft, or Galley-kind. We move chiefly by Starts and Bounds; according as our Motion is by frequent Intervals renew’d. We have no great Adventure in view; nor can tell certainly Whither we are bound. We undertake no mighty Voyage, by help of Stars or Compass; but row from Creek to Creek, keep up a coasting Trade, and are fitted only for fair Weather and the Summer Season.
Happy therefore it is for us in particular, that having finish’d our Course of Enthusiasm, and pursu’d our Author into his second Treatise, we are now, at last, oblig’d to turn towards pleasanter Reflections, and have such Subjects in view as must naturally reduce us to a more familiar Style. Wit and Humour (the profess’d Subject of the Treatise now before us) will hardly bear to be examin’d in ponderous Sentences and pois’d Discourse. We might now perhaps do best, to lay aside the Gravity of strict Argument, and resume the way of Chat; which, thro’ Aversion to a contrary formal manner, is generally relish’d with more than ordinary Satisfaction. For excess of Physick, we know, has often made Men hate the name of wholesom. And an abundancy of forc’d Instruction, and solemn Counsel, may have made Men full as averse to any thing deliver’d with an Air of high Wisdom and Science; especially if it be so high as to be set above all human Art of Reasoning, and even above Reason it-self, in the account of its sublime Dispensers.
However, since it may be objected to us by certain Formalists of this sort, “That we can prove nothing duly without proving it in form”: we may for once condescend to their Demand; state our Case formally; and divide our Subject into Parts, after the precise manner, and according to just Rule and Method.
Our purpose, therefore, being to defend an Author, who has been charg’d as too presumptuous for introducing the way of Wit and Humour into religious Searches; we shall endeavour to make appear:
1st, That Wit and Humour are corroborative of Religion, and promotive of true Faith.
2ly, That they are us’d as proper Means of this kind by the holy Founders of Religion.
3ly, That notwithstanding the dark Complexion and sour Humour of some religious Teachers, we may be justly said to have in the main, A witty and good-humour’d Religion.
Among the earliest Acquaintance of my Youth, I remember, in particular, a Club of three or four merry Gentlemen, who had long kept Company with one another, and were seldom separate in any Party of Pleasure or Diversion. They happen’d once to be upon a travelling Adventure, and came to a Country, where they were told for certain, they should find the worst Entertainment, as well as the worst Roads imaginable. One of the Gentlemen, who seem’d the least concern’d for this Disaster, said slightly and without any seeming Design, “That the best Expedient for them in this Extremity wou’d be to keep themselves in high Humour, and endeavour to commend every thing which the Place afforded.” The other Gentlemen immediately took the hint; but, as it happen’d, kept silence, pass’d the Subject over, and took no further notice of what had been propos’d.
Being enter’d into the dismal Country, in which they proceeded without the least Complaint; ’twas remarkable, that if by great chance they came to any tolerable Bit of Road, or any ordinary Prospect, they fail’d not to say something or other in its praise, and wou’d light often on such pleasant Fancys and Representations, as made the Objects in reality agreeable.
When the greatest part of the Day was thus spent, and our Gentlemen arriv’d where they intended to take their Quarters, the first of ’em who made trial of the Fare, or tasted either Glass or Dish, recommended it with such an air of Assurance, and in such lively Expressions of Approbation, that the others came instantly over to his Opinion, and confirm’d his Relish with many additional Encomiums of their own.
Many ingenious Reasons were given for the several odd Tastes and Looks of Things, which were presented to ’em at Table. “Some Meats were wholesom: Others of a high Taste: Others according to the manner of eating in this or that foreign Country.” Every Dish had the flavour of some celebrated Receit in Cookery; and the Wine, and other Liquors, had, in their turn, the advantage of being treated in the same elegant strain. In short, our Gentlemen eat and drank heartily, and took up with their indifferent Fare so well, that ’twas apparent they had wrought upon themselves to believe they were tolerably well serv’d.
Their Servants, in the mean time, having laid no such Plot as this against themselves, kept to their Senses, and stood it out, “That their Masters had certainly lost theirs. For how else cou’d they swallow so contentedly, and take all for good which was set before ’em?”—
Had I to deal with a malicious Reader; he might perhaps pretend to infer from this Story of my travelling Friends, that I intended to represent it as an easy matter for People to persuade themselves into what Opinion or Belief they pleas’d. But it can never surely be thought, that Men of true Judgment and Understanding shou’d set about such a Task as that of perverting their own Judgment, and giving a wrong Bias to their Reason. They must easily foresee that an Attempt of this kind, shou’d it have the least Success, wou’d prove of far worse Consequence to them than any Perversion of their Taste, Appetite, or ordinary Senses.
I must confess it, however, to be my Imagination, that where fit Circumstances concur, and many inviting Occasions offer from the side of Mens Interest, their Humour, or their Passion; ’tis no extraordinary Case to see ’em enter into such a Plot as this against their own Understandings, and endeavour by all possible means to persuade both themselves and others of what they think convenient and useful to believe.
If in many particular Cases, where Favour and Affection prevail, it be found so easy a thing with us, to impose upon ourselves; it cannot surely be very hard to do it, where we take for granted, our highest Interest is concern’d. Now it is certainly no small Interest or Concern with Men, to believe what is by Authority establish’d; since in the Case of Disbelief there can be no Choice left but either to live a Hypocrite, or be esteem’d profane. Even where Men are left to themselves, and allow’d the Freedom of their Choice, they are still forward enough in believing; and can officiously endeavour to persuade themselves of the Truth of any flattering Imposture.
Nor is it unusual to find Men successful in this Endeavour: As, among other Instances, may appear by the many religious Faiths or Opinions, however preposterous or contradictory, which, Age after Age, we know to have been rais’d on the Foundation of Miracles and pretended Commissions from Heaven. These have been as generally espous’d and passionately cherish’d as the greatest Truths and most certain Revelations. ’Tis hardly to be suppos’d that such Combinations shou’d be form’d, and Forgerys erected with such Success and Prevalency over the Understandings of Men, did not they themselves co-operate, of their own accord, towards the Imposture, and shew, “That by a good-Will and hearty Desire of believing, they had in reality a considerable Hand in the Deceit.”
’Tis certain that in a Country, where Faith has, for a long time, gone by Inheritance, and Opinions are entail’d by Law, there is little room left for the Vulgar to alter their Persuasion, or deliberate on the Choice of their religious Belief. Whensoever a Government thinks fit to concern it-self with Mens Opinions, and by its absolute Authority impose any particular Belief, there is none perhaps ever so ridiculous or monstrous in which it needs doubt of having good Success. This we may see thorowly effected in certain Countrys, by a steddy Policy, and sound Application of Punishment and Reward: with the Assistance of particular Courts erected to this end; peculiar Methods of Justice; peculiar Magistrates and Officers; proper Inquests, and certain wholesom Severitys, not slightly administer’d, and play’d with, (as certain Triflers propose) but duly and properly inforc’d; as is absolutely requisite to this end of strict Conformity, and Unity in one and the same Profession, and manner of Worship.
But shou’d it happen to be theTruth it-self which was thus effectually propagated by the Means we have describ’d; the very Nature of such Means can, however, allow but little Honour to the Propagators, and little Merit to the Disciples and Believers. ’Tis certain that Mahometism, Paganism, Judaism, or any otherBelief may stand, as well as the truest, upon this Foundation. He who is now an OrthodoxChristian, wou’d by virtue of such a Discipline have been infallibly as true a Mussulman, or as errant a Heretick; had his Birth happen’d in another place.
For this reason there can be no rational Belief but where Comparison is allow’d, Examination permitted, and a sincere Toleration establish’d. And in this case, I will presume to say, “That WhateverBelief is once espous’d or countenanc’d by the Magistrate, it will have a sufficient advantage; without any help from Force or Menaces on one hand, or extraordinary Favour and partial Treatment on the other.” If theBelief be in any measure consonant to Truth and Reason, it will find as much favour in the Eyes of Mankind, as Truth and Reason need desire. Whatever Difficultys there may be in any particular Speculations or Mysterys belonging to it; the better sort of Men will endeavour to pass ’em over. They will believe (as our Author says) to the full stretch of theirReason, and add Spurs to their Faith, in order to be the more sociable; and conform the better with what their Interest, in conjunction with their Good-Humour, inclines them to receive as credible, and observe as their religious Duty and devotional Task.
Here it is that Good Humour will naturally take place, and the Hospitable Disposition of our travelling Friends above-recited will easily transfer it-self into Religion, and operate in the same manner with respect to the establish’d Faith (however miraculous or incomprehensible) under a tolerating, mild, and gentle Government.
Every one knows, indeed, That by Heresy is understood a Stubbornness in the Will, not a Defect merely in the Understanding. On this account ’tis impossible that an honest and good-humour’d Man shou’d be a Schismatick or Heretick, and affect to separate from his national Worship on slight Reason, or without severe Provocation.
To be pursu’d by pettyInquisitors; to be threatned with Punishment, or penal Laws; to be mark’d out as dangerous and suspected; to be rail’d at in high Places, with all the study’d Wit and Art of Calumny; are indeed sufficient Provocations to ill Humour, and may force People to divide, who at first had never any such Intention. But the Virtue of Good-Humour in Religion is such, that it can even reconcile Persons to a Belief, in which they were never bred, or to which they had conceiv’d a former Prejudice.
From these Considerations we cannot but of course conclude, “That there is nothing so ridiculous in respect of Policy, or so wrong and odious in respect of common Humanity, as a moderate and half-wayPersecution.” It only frets the Sore; it raises the Ill-humour of Mankind; excites the keener Spirits; moves Indignation in Beholders; and sows the very Seeds of Schism in Mens bosoms. A resolute and bold-fac’dPersecution leaves no time or scope for these engendring Distempers, or gathering Ill-humours. It does the work at once; by Extirpation, Banishment, or Massacre; and like a bold Stroke in Surgery, dispatches by one short Amputation, what a bungling Hand wou’d make worse and worse, to the perpetual Sufferance and Misery of the Patient.
If there be on earth a proper way to render the most sacred Truth suspected, ’tis by supporting it with Threats, and pretending to terrify People into the Belief of it. This is a sort of daring Mankind in a Cause, where they know themselves superior, and out of reach. The weakest Mortal finds within himself, that tho he may be out-witted and deluded, he can never be forc’d in what relates to his Opinion or Assent. And there are few Men so ignorant of human Nature, and of what they hold in common with their Kind, as not to comprehend, “That where great Vehemence is express’d by any-one in what relates solely to another, ’tis seldom without some private Interest of his own.”
In common Matters of Dispute, the angry Disputant makes the best Cause to appear the worst. A Clown once took a fancy to hear the Latin Disputes of Doctors at a University. He was ask’d what pleasure he could take in viewing such Combatants, when he could never know so much as which of the Partys had the better. “For that matter,” reply’d the Clown, “I a’n’t such a Fool neither, but I can see who’s the first that puts t’other into a Passion.” Nature her-self dictated this Lesson to the Clown; “That he who had the better of the Argument, wou’d be easy and well-humour’d: But he who was unable to support his Cause by Reason, wou’d naturally lose his Temper, and grow violent.”
Were two Travellers agreed to tell their Story separate in publick: the one being a Man of Sincerity, but positive and dogmatical; the other less sincere, but easy and good-humour’d: tho it happen’d that the Accounts of this latter Gentleman were of the more miraculous sort; they wou’d yet sooner gain Belief, and be more favourably receiv’d by Mankind, than the strongly asserted Relations and vehement Narratives of the other fierce Defender of the Truth.
That GOOD HUMOUR is a chief Cause of Compliance, or Acquiescence in matters of Faith, may be prov’d from the very Spirit of those, whom we commonly call Criticks. ’Tis a known Prevention against the Gentlemen of this Character; “That they are generally ill-humour’d, and splenetick.” The World will needs have it, That their Spleen disturbs ’em. And I must confess I think the World in general to be so far right in this Conceit, That tho all Criticks perhaps are not necessarily splenetick; all splenetick People (whether naturally such, or made so by ill Usage) have a necessary Propensity to Criticism and Satir. When Men are easy in themselves, they let others remain so; and can readily comply with what seems plausible, and is thought conducing to the Quiet or good Correspondence of Mankind. They study to raise no Difficultys or Doubts. And in religious Affairs, ’tis seldom that they are known forward to entertain ill Thoughts or Surmises, whilst they are unmolested. But if disturb’d by groundless Arraignments and Suspicions, by unnecessary Invectives, and bitter Declamations, and by a contentious quarrelsom Aspect of Religion; they naturally turn Criticks, and begin to question every thing. The Spirit of Satir rises with the ill Mood: and the chief Passion of Men thus diseas’d and thrown out of Good Humour, is to find fault, censure, unravel, confound, and leave nothing without exception and controversy.
These are the Scepticks or Scrupulists, against whom there is such a Clamor rais’d. ’Tis evident, in the mean while, that the very Clamor it-self, join’d with the usual Menaces and Shew of Force, is that which chiefly raises this sceptical Spirit, and helps to multiply the number of these inquisitive and ill-humour’dCriticks. Mere Threats, without power of Execution, are only exasperating and provocative. They who are Masters of the carnal as well as spiritual Weapon, may apply each at their pleasure, and in what proportion they think necessary. But where the Magistrate resolves steddily to reserve his Fasces for his own proper Province, and keep the Edg-Tools and deadly Instruments out of other Hands, ’tis in vain for spiritual Pretenders to take such magisterial Airs. It can then only become them to brandish such Arms, when they have strength enough to make the Magistrate resign his Office, and become Provost or Executioner in their service.—
Shou’d any one who happens to read these Lines, perceive in himself a rising Animosity against the Author, for asserting thus zealously the Notion of a religious Liberty, and mutual Toleration; ’tis wish’d that he wou’d maturely deliberate on the Cause of his Disturbance and Ill-humour. Wou’d he deign to look narrowly into himself, he wou’d undoubtedly find that it is not Zeal for Religion or the Truth, which moves him on this occasion. For had he happen’d to be in a Nation where he was no Conformist, nor had any Hope or Expectation of obtaining the Precedency for his own Manner of Worship, he wou’d have found nothing preposterous in this our Doctrine of Indulgence. ’Tis a Fact indisputable, that whatever Sect or Religion is undermost, tho it may have persecuted at any time before; yet as soon as it begins to suffer Persecution in its turn, it recurs instantly to the Principles of Moderation, and maintains this our Plea for Complacency, Sociableness, and Good Humourin Religion. The Mystery therefore of this Animosity, or rising Indignation of my devout and zealous Reader, is only this; “That being devoted to the Interest of a Party already in possession or expectation of the temporal Advantages annex’d to a particular Belief; he fails not, as a zealous Party-Man, to look with jealousy on every unconformable Opinion, and is sure to justify those Means which he thinks proper to prevent its growth.” He knows that if in Matters of Religion any one believes amiss, ’tis at his own peril. If Opinion damns; Vice certainly does as much. Yet will our Gentleman easily find, if he inquires the least into himself, that he has no such furious Concern for the Security of Mens Morals, nor any such violent Resentment of their Vices, when they are such as no-way incommode him. And from hence it will be easy for him to infer, “That the Passion he feels on this occasion, is not from pure Zeal, but privateInterest, and worldlyEmulation.”
COME we now (as authentick Rhetoricians express themselves) to our second Head: which we shou’d again subdivide into Firsts and Seconds, but that this manner of carving is of late days grown much out of fashion.
’Twas the Custom of our Ancestors, perhaps as long since as the days of our hospitable KingArthur, to have nothing serv’d at Table but what was intire and substantial. ’Twas a whole Boar, or solid Ox which made the Feast. The Figure of the Animal was preserv’d intire, and the Dissection made in form by the appointed Carver, a Man of Might as well as profound Craft and notable Dexterity; who was seen erect, with goodly Mein and Action, displaying Heads and Members, dividing according to Art, and distributing his Subject-matter into proper Parts, sutable to the Stomachs of those he serv’d. In latter days ’tis become the Fashion to eat with less Ceremony and Method. Every-one chuses to carve for himself. The learned Manner of Dissection is out of request; and a certain Method of Cookery has been introduc’d; by which the anatomical Science of the Table is intirely set aside. Ragouts and Fricassees are the reigning Dishes, in which every thing is so dismember’d and thrown out of all Order and Form, that no Part of the Mass can properly be divided, or distinguish’d from another.
Fashion is indeed a powerful Mistress, and by her single Authority has so far degraded the carving Method and Use of Solids, even in Discourse and Writing, that our religious Pastors themselves have many of ’em chang’d their Manner of distributing to us their spiritual Food. They have quitted their substantial Service, and uniform Division into Parts and Under-Parts; and in order to become fashionable, they have run into the more savoury way of learned Ragout and Medley. ’Tis the unbred rustick Orator alone, who presents his clownish Audience with a divisible Discourse. The elegant Court-Divine exhorts in Miscellany, and is asham’d to bring his Two’s and Three’s before a fashionable Assembly.
Shou’d I therefore, as a mere Miscellanarian or Essay-Writer, forgetting what I had premis’d, be found to drop a Head, and lose the connecting Thred of my present Discourse; the Case perhaps wou’d not be so preposterous. For fear however lest I shou’d be charg’d for being worse than my word, I shall endeavour to satisfy my Reader, by pursuing my Method propos’d: if peradventure he can call to mind, what that Method was. Or if he cannot, the matter is not so very important, but he may safely pursue his reading, without further trouble.
To proceed, therefore. Whatever Means or Methods may be employ’d at any time in maintaining or propagating a religious Belief already current and establish’d, ’tis evident that the first Beginnings must have been founded in that natural Complacency, and Good Humour, which inclines to Trust and Confidence in Mankind. Terrors alone, tho accompany’d with Miracles and Prodigys of whatever kind, are not capable of raising that sincere Faith and absolute Reliance which is requir’d in favour of the divinely authoriz’d Instructor, and spiritual Chief. The Affection and Love which procures a true Adherence to the new religious Foundation, must depend either on a real or counterfeit Goodness in the religious Founder. Whatever ambitious Spirit may inspire him; whatever savage Zeal or persecuting Principle may lie in reserve, ready to disclose it-self when Authority and Power is once obtain’d; the First Scene of Doctrine, however, fails not to present us with the agreeable Views of Joy, Love, Meekness, Gentleness, and Moderation.
In this respect, Religion, according to the common Practice in many Sects, may be compar’d to that sort of Courtship, of which the Fair Sex are known often to complain. In the Beginning of an Amour, when these innocent Charmers are first accosted, they hear of nothing but tender Vows, Submission, Service, Love. But soon afterwards, when won by this Appearance of Gentleness and Humility, they have resign’d themselves, and are no longer their own, they hear a different Note, and are taught to understand Submission and Service in a sense they little expected. Charity and Brotherly Love are very engaging Sounds: But who wou’d dream that out of abundant Charity and Brotherly Love shou’d come Steel, Fire, Gibbets, Rods, and such a sound and hearty Application of these Remedys as shou’d at once advance the worldly Greatness of religious Pastors, and the particular Interest of private Souls, for which they are so charitably concern’d?
It has been observ’d by our Author, “That the Jews were naturally a very cloudy People.” That they had certainly in Religion, as in every thing else, the least Good-Humour of any People in the World, is very apparent. Had it been otherwise, their holy Legislator and Deliverer, who was declar’d the meekest Man on Earth, and who for many years together had by the most popular and kind Acts endeavour’d to gain their Love and Affection, wou’d in all probability have treated them afterwards with more Sweetness, and been able with less Blood and Massacre to retain them in their religious Duty. This however we may observe, That if the first Jewish Princes and celebrated Kings acted in reality according to the Institutions of their great Founder, not only Musick, but even Play and Dance, were of holy Appointment, and divine Right. The first Monarch of this Nation, tho of a melancholy Complexion, join’d Musick with his spiritual Exercises, and even us’d it as a Remedy under that darkEnthusiasm or evil Spirit; which how far it might resemble that of Prophecy, experienc’d by him even after his Apostacy, our Author pretends not to determine. ’Tis certain that the Successor of this Prince was a hearty Espouser of the merry Devotion, and by his example has shewn it to have been fundamental in the religious Constitution of his People. The famous Entry or high Dance perform’d by him, after so conspicuous a manner, in the Procession of the sacred Coffer, shews that he was not asham’d of expressing any Extasy of Joy or playsom Humour, which was practis’d by the meanest of the Priests or People on such an occasion.
Besides the many Songs and Hymns dispers’d in Holy Writ, the Book of Psalms it-self, Job, Proverbs, Canticles, and other intire Volumes of the sacred Collection, which are plainly Poetry, and full of humorous Images, and jocular Wit, may sufficiently shew how readily the inspir’d Authors had recourse to Humour and Diversion, as a proper Means to promote Religion, and strengthen the establish’d Faith.
When the Affairs of the Jewish Nation grew desperate, and every thing seem’d tending to a total Conquest and Captivity, the Style of their holy Writers and Prophets might well vary from that of earlier days, in the Rise and Vigor of their Common-wealth, or during the first Splendor of their Monarchy, when the Princes themselves prophesy’d, and potent Kings were of the number of the Sacred Pen-men. This still we may be assur’d of; That however melancholy or ill-humour’d any of the Prophets may appear at any time, ’was not that kind of Spirit, which God was wont to encourage in them. Witness the Case of the Prophet Jonah; whose Character is so naturally describ’d in Holy Writ.
Pettish as this Prophet was, unlike a Man, and resembling rather some refractory boyish Pupil; it may be said that God, as a kind Tutor, was pleas’d to humour him, bear with his Anger, and in a lusory manner, expose his childish Frowardness, and shew him to himself.
“Arise (said his gracious Lord) and go toNinive.” “No such matter,” says our Prophet to himself; but away over-Sea for Tarshish. He fairly plays the Truant, like an arch School-Boy; hoping to hide out of the way. But his Tutor had good Eyes, and a long Reach. He overtook him at Sea; where a Storm was ready prepar’d for his Exercise, and a Fish’s Belly for his Lodging. The Renegade found himself in harder Durance than any at Land. He was sufficiently mortify’d: He grew good, pray’d, moraliz’d, and spoke mightily against Lying Vanitys.
Again, the Prophet is taken into favour, and bid go toNinive, to foretel Destruction. He foretels it. Ninive repents: God pardons: and the Prophet is angry.
“Lord!—Did I not foresee what this wou’d come to? Was not this my Saying, when I was safe and quiet at home?—What else shou’d I have run away for?—As if I knew not how little dependence there was on the Resolution of those, who are always so ready to forgive, and repent of what they have determin’d.—No!—Strike me dead!—Take my Life, this moment. ’Tis better for me.—If ever I prophesy again.” * * * * * *
“And Dost thou well then to be thus angry,Jonah? Consider with thy-self.—Come!—Since thou wilt needs retire out of the City, to see at a distance what will come of it; here, Take a better Fence than thy own Booth against the hot Sun which incommodes Thee. Take this tall Plant as a shady Covering for thy Head. Cool thy-self, and be deliver’d from thy Grief.”
When the Almighty had shown this Indulgence to the Prophet, he grew better-humour’d, and pass’d a tolerable Night. But the next morning the Worm came, and an East-Wind: the Arbor was nip’d: the Sun shone vehemently, and the Prophet’s Head was heated, as before. Presently the ill Mood returns, and the Prophet is at the old pass. “Better die, than live at this rate.—Death, Death alone can satisfy me. Let me hear no longer of Living.—No!—’Tis in vain to talk of it.”—
Again GOD expostulates; but is taken up short, and answer’d churlishly, by the testy Prophet. “Angry he is; angry he ought to be, and angry he will be, to his Death.” But the Almighty, with the utmost pity towards him, in this melancholy and froward Temper, lays open the Folly of it; and exhorts to Mildness, and Good Humour, in the most tender manner, and under the most familiar and pleasant Images; whilst he shews expressly more Regard and Tenderness to the very Cattel and Brute-Beasts, than the Prophet to his own Human Kind, and to those very Disciples whom by his Preaching he had converted.
In the antienter Parts of Sacred Story, where the Beginning of things, and Origin of human Race are represented to us, there are sufficient Instances of this Familiarity of Style, this popular pleasant Intercourse, and Manner of Dialogue between God and Man: I might add even between Man and Beast; and what is still more extraordinary, between God and Satan.
Whatsoever of this kind may be allegorically understood, or in the way of Parable or Fable; this I am sure of, That the Accounts, Descriptions, Narrations, Expressions, and Phrases are in themselves many times exceedingly pleasant, entertaining, and facetious. But fearing lest I might be mis-interpreted, shou’d I offer to set these Passages in their proper Light, (which however has been perform’d by undoubted good Christians, and most learned and eminent Divines of our own Church) I forbear to go any further into the Examination or Criticism of this sort.
As for our Saviour’s Style, ’tis not more vehement and majestick in his gravest Animadversions or declamatory Discourses; than it is sharp, humorous, and witty in his Repartees, Reflections, fabulous Narrations, or Parables, Similes, Comparisons, and other Methods of milder Censure and Reproof. His Exhortations to his Disciples; his particular Designation of their Manners; the pleasant Images under which he often couches his Morals and prudential Rules; even his Miracles themselves (especially the first he ever wrought) carry with them a certain Festivity, Alacrity, and Good Humour so remarkable, that I shou’d look upon it as impossible not to be mov’d in a pleasant manner at their Recital.
Now, if what I have here asserted in behalf of Pleasantry and Humour, be found just and real in respect of the Jewish and Christian Religions; I doubt not, it will be yielded to me, in respect of the antient Heathen Establishments; that the highest Care was taken by their original Founders, and following Reformers, to exhilarate Religion, and correct that Melancholy and Gloominess to which it is subject; according to those different Modifications of Enthusiasm above specify’d.
Our Author, as I take it, has elsewhere shewn that these Founders were real Musicians, and Improvers of Poetry, Musick, and the entertaining Arts; which they in a manner incorporated with Religion: Not without good reason; as I am apt to imagine. For to me it plainly appears, That in the early times of all Religions, when Nations were yet barbarous and savage, there was ever an Aptness or Tendency towards the dark part of Superstition, which among many other Horrors produc’d that of human Sacrifice. Something of this nature might possibly be deduc’d even from Holy Writ. And in other Historys we are inform’d of it more at large.
Every one knows how great a Part of the old Heathen Worship consisted in Play, Poetry, and Dance. And tho some of the more melancholy and superstitious Votarys might approach the Shrines of their Divinitys with mean Grimaces, Crouchings, and other fawning Actions, betraying the low Thoughts they had of the Divine Nature; yet ’tis well known, that in those times the illiberalsycophantick manner of Devotion was by the wiser sort contemn’d, and oft suspected, as knavish and indirect.
How different an Air and Aspect the good and virtuous were presum’d to carry with them to the Temple, let Plutarch singly, instead of many others, witness, in his excellent Treatise of Superstition; and in another against the Epicurean Atheism, where it will plainly enough appear what a share Good Humour had in that which the politer Antients esteem’d as Piety, and true Religion.
BUT NOW, methinks, I have been sufficiently grave and serious, in defense of what is directly contrary to Seriousness and Gravity. I have very solemnly pleaded for Gaity and Good Humour: I have declaim’d against Pedantry in learned Language, and oppos’d Formality in Form. I now find my-self somewhat impatient to get loose from the Constraint of Method: And I pretend lawfully to exercise the Privilege which I have asserted, of rambling from Subject to Subject, from Style to Style, in my Miscellaneous manner, according to my present Profession and Character.
I may, in the mean while, be censur’d probably for passing over my Third Head. But the methodical Reader, if he be scrupulous about it, may content himself with looking back: And if possibly he can pick it out of my Second, he will forgive this Anticipation, in a Writing which is govern’d less by Form than Humour. I had indeed resolv’d with my-self to make a large Collection of Passages from our most eminent and learned Divines, in order to have set forth this Latter Head of my Chapter; and by better Authority than my own to have evinc’d, “That we had in the main a good-humour’d Religion.” But after considering a little while, I came to this short Issue with my-self: “That it was better not to cite at all, than to cite partially.” Now if I cited fairly what was said as well on the melancholy as the chearful side of our Religion, the Matter, I found, wou’d be pretty doubtfully balanc’d: And the Result at last wou’d be this; “That, generally speaking, as oft as a Divine was in good Humour, we shou’d find Religionthe sweetest and best-humour’d thing in Nature: But at other times (and that, pretty often) we shou’d find a very different Face of Matters.”
Thus are we alternately exalted and humbled, chear’d and dejected, according as our spiritual Director is himself influenc’d: And this, peradventure, for our Edification and Advantage; “That by these Contrarietys and Changes we may be render’d more supple and compliant.” If we are very low, and down; we are taken up. If we are up, and high; we are taken down.—This is Discipline. This is Authority and Command.—Did Religion carry constantly one and the same Face, and were it always represented to us alike in every respect; we might perhaps be overbold, and make Acquaintance with it, in too familiar a manner: We might think our-selves fully knowing in it, and assur’d of its true Character and Genius. From whence perhaps we might become more refractory towards the Ghostly Teachers of it, and be apt to submit our-selves the less to those who, by Appointment and Authority, represent it to us, in such Lights, as they esteem most proper and convenient.
I shall therefore not only conclude abruptly, but even sceptically on this my last Head: referring my Reader to what has been said already, on my preceding Heads, for the bare probability “of our having, in the main, a witty and good-humour’dReligion.”
This, however, I may presume to assert; That there are undoubtedly some Countenances or Aspects of our Religion, which are humorous and pleasant in them-selves; and that the sadder Representations of it are many times so over-sad and dismal, that they are apt to excite a very contrary Passion to what is intended by the Representers.
HAVING already asserted my Privilege, as a Miscellaneous or Essay-Writer of the modern Establishment; to write on every Subject, and in every Method, as I fansy; to use Order, or lay it aside, as I think fit; and to treat of Order and Method in other Works, tho free perhaps and unconfin’d as to my own: I shall presume, in this place, to consider the present Method and Order of my Author’s Treatises, as in this joint-Edition they are rang’d.
Notwithstanding the high Airs of Scepticism which our Author assumes in his first Piece; I cannot, after all, but imagine that even there he proves himself, at the bottom, a realDogmatist, and shews plainly that he has his private Opinion, Belief, or Faith, as strong as any Devotee or Religionist of ’em all. Tho he affects perhaps to strike at other Hypotheses and Schemes; he has something of his own still in reserve, and holds a certain Plan or System peculiar to him-self, or such, at least, in which he has at present but few Companions or Followers.
On this account I look upon his Management to have been much after the rate of some ambitiousArchitect; who being call’d perhaps to prop a Roof, redress a leaning Wall, or add to some particular Apartment, is not contented with this small Specimen of his Mastership: but pretending to demonstrate the Un-serviceableness and Inconvenience of the old Fabrick, forms the Design of a new Building, and longs to shew his Skill in the principal Parts of Architecture and Mechanicks.
’Tis certain that in matters of Learning and Philosophy, the Practice of pulling down is far pleasanter, and affords more Entertainment, than that of building and setting up. Many have succeeded, to a miracle, in the first, who have miserably fail’d in the latter of these Attempts. We may find a thousand Engineers, who can sap, undermine, and blow up, with admirable Dexterity, for one single-one, who can build a Fort, or lay the Plat-form of a Citadel. And tho Compassion in real War may make the ruinous Practice less delightful, ’tis certain that in the literate warring-World, the springing of Mines, the blowing up of Towers, Bastions, and Ramparts of Philosophy, with Systems, Hypotheses, Opinions, and Doctrines into the Air, is a Spectacle of all other, the most naturally rejoicing.
Our Author, we suppose, might have done well to consider this. We have fairly conducted him thro’ his first and secondLetter, and have brought him, as we see here, into his third Piece. He has hitherto, methinks, kept up his sapping Method, and unravelling Humour, with tolerable good Grace. He has given only some few, and very slender Hints of going further, or attempting to erect any Scheme or Model, which may discover his Pretence to a real Architect-Capacity. Even in this his Third Piece he carrys with him the same sceptical Mein: and what he offers by way of Project or Hypothesis, is very faint, hardly spoken aloud; but mutter’d to himself, in a kind of dubious Whisper, or feign’d Soliloquy. What he discovers of Form and Method, is indeed so accompany’d with the random Miscellaneous Air, that it may pass for Raillery, rather than good Earnest. ’Tis in his following Treatise that he discovers himself openly, as a plain Dogmatist, a Formalist, and Man of Method; with his Hypotheses tack’d to him, and his Opinions so close-sticking, as wou’d force one to call to mind the Figure of some precise and strait-lac’d Professor in a University.
What may be justly pleaded in his behalf, when we come in company with him, to inquire into such solemn and profound Subjects, seems very doubtful. Mean while, as his Affairs stand hitherto in this his Treatise of Advice, I shall be contented to yoke with him, and proceed, in my miscellaneous Manner, to give my Advice also to Men of Note; whether they are Authors or Politicians, Virtuosi or Fine-Gentlemen; comprehending Him, the said Author, as one of the Number of the Advis’d, and My-self too (if occasion be) after his own example of Self-Admonition and private Address.
BUT FIRST as to our Author’s Dissertation in this third Treatise, where his Reflections upon Authors in general, and the Rise and Progress of Arts, make the Inlet or Introduction to his Philosophy; we may observe, That it is not without some appearance of Reason that he has advanc’d this Method. It must be acknowledg’d, that tho, in the earliest times, there may have been divine Men of a transcending Genius, who have given Laws both in Religion and Government, to the great Advantage and Improvement of Mankind; yet Philosophy it-self, as a Science and known Profession worthy of that name, cannot with any probability be suppos’d to have risen (as our Author shews) till otherArts had been rais’d, and, in a certain proportion, advanc’d before it. As this was of the greatest Dignity and Weight, so it came last into Form. It was long clearing it-self from the affected Dress of Sophists, or Enthusiastick Air of Poets; and appear’d late in its genuine, simple, and just Beauty.
The Reader perhaps may justly excuse our Author for having in this place so over-loaded his Margin with those weighty Authoritys and antient Citations, when he knows that there are many grave Professors in Humanity and Letters among the Moderns, who are puzzled in this Search, and write both repugnantly to one another, and to the plain and natural Evidence of the Case. The real Lineage and Successionof Wit, is indeed plainly founded in Nature: as our Author has endeavour’d to make appear both from History and Fact. The GreekNation, as it is Original to us, in respect to these polite Arts and Sciences, so it was in reality original to it-self. For whether the Egyptians, Phenicians, Thracians, or Barbarians of any kind, may have hit fortunately on this or that particular Invention, either in Agriculture, Building, Navigation, or Letters; which-ever may have introduc’d this Rite of Worship, this Title of a Deity, this or that Instrument of Musick, this or that Festival, Game, or Dance, (for on this matter there are high Debates among the Learned) ’tis evident, beyond a doubt, that the Arts and Sciences were form’d in Greece it-self. ’Twas there that Musick, Poetry, and the rest came to receive some kind of shape, and be distinguish’d into their several Orders and Degrees. Whatever flourish’d, or was rais’d to any degree of Correctness, or real Perfection in the kind, was by means of Greece alone, and in the hand of that sole polite, most civiliz’d, and accomplish’d Nation.
Nor can this appear strange, when we consider the fortunate Constitution of that People. For tho compos’d of different Nations, distinct in Laws and Governments, divided by Seas and Continents, dispers’d in distant Islands; yet being originally of the same Extract, united by one single Language, and animated by that social, publick and free Spirit, which notwithstanding the Animosity of their several warring States, induc’d them to erect such heroick Congresses and Powers as those which constituted the AmphictonianCouncils, the Olympick, Isthmian, and other Games; they cou’d not but naturally polish and refine each other. ’Twas thus they brought their beautiful and comprehensive Language to a just Standard, leaving only such Variety in the Dialects as render’d their Poetry, in particular, so much the more agreeable. The Standard was in the same proportion carry’d into other Arts. The Secretion was made. The several Species found, and set apart. The Performers and Masters in every kind, honour’d and admir’d. And, last of all, even Criticks themselves acknowledg’d and receiv’d as Masters over all the rest. From Musick, Poetry, Rhetorick, down to the simple Prose of History, thro’ all the plastick Arts of Sculpture, Statuary, Painting, Architecture, and the rest; every thing Muse-like, graceful and exquisite, was rewarded with the highest Honours, and carry’d on with the utmost Ardor and Emulation. Thus Greece, tho she exported Arts to other Nations, had properly for her own share no Import of the kind. The utmost which cou’d be nam’d, wou’d amount to no more than raw Materials, of a rude and barbarous form. And thus the Nation was evidently Original in Art; and with them every noble Study and Science was (as the great Master, so often cited by our Author, says of certain kinds of Poetry) self-form’d, wrought out of Nature, and drawn from the necessary Operation and Course of things, working, as it were, of their own accord, and proper inclination. Now according to this natural Growth of Arts, peculiar to Greece, it wou’d necessarily happen; That at the beginning, when the Force of Language came to be first prov’d; when the admiring World made their first Judgment, and essay’d their Taste in the Elegancys of this sort; the Lofty, the Sublime, the Astonishing and Amazing wou’d be the most in fashion, and prefer’d. Metaphorical Speech, Multiplicity of Figures and high-sounding Words wou’d naturally prevail. Tho in the Common-wealth it-self, and in the Affairs of Government, Men were us’d originally to plain and direct Speech; yet when Speaking became an Art, and was taught by Sophists, and other pretended Masters, the high-poetick, and the figurative Way began to prevail, even at the Bar, and in the Publick Assemblys: Insomuch that the Grand-Master, in the above-cited part of his Rhetoricks, where he extols the Tragick Poet Euripides, upbraids the Rhetoricians of his own Age, who retain’d that very bombastick Style, which even Poets, and those too of the tragick kind, had already thrown off, or at least considerably mitigated. But the Taste of Greece was now polishing. A better Judgment was soon form’d, when a Demosthenes was heard, and had found success. The People themselves (as our Author has shewn) came now to reform their Comedy, and familiar Manner, after Tragedy, and the higher Style, had been brought to its perfection under the last hand of an Euripides. And now in all the principal Works of Ingenuity and Art,Simplicity and Nature began chiefly to be sought: And this was the Taste which lasted thro’ so many Ages, till the Ruin of all things, under a Universal Monarchy.
If the Reader shou’d peradventure be led by his Curiosity to seek some kind of Comparison between this antient Growth of Taste, and that which we have experienc’d in modern days, and within our own Nation; he may look back to the Speeches of our Ancestors in Parliament. He will find ’em generally speaking, to have been very short and plain, but coarse, and what we properly call home-spun; till Learning came in vogue, and Science was known amongst us. When our Princes and Senators became Scholars, they spoke scholastically. And the pedantick Style was prevalent, from the first Dawn of Letters, about the Age of the Reformation, till long afterwards. Witness the best written Discourses, the admir’d Speeches, Orations, or Sermons, thro’ several Reigns, down to these latter, which we compute within the present Age. ’Twill undoubtedly be found, That till very late days, the Fashion of speaking, and the Turn of Wit, was after the figurative and florid Manner. Nothing was so acceptable as the high-sounding Phrase, the far-fetch’d Comparison, the capricious Point, and Play of Words; and nothing so despicable as what was merely of the plain or natural kind. So that it must either be confess’d, that in respect of the preceding Age, we are fallen very low in Taste; or that, if we are in reality improv’d, the natural and simple Manner which conceals and coversArt, is the most truly artful, and of the genteelest, truest, and best-study’d Taste: as has above been treated more at large.
NOW, THEREFORE, as to our Author’s Philosophy it-self, as it lies conceal’d in this Treatise, but more profess’d and formal in his next; we shall proceed gradually according to his own Method: since it becomes not one who has undertaken the part of his airy Assistant and humorous Paraphrast, to enter suddenly, without good preparation, into his dry Reasonings and moral Researches about the social Passions and natural Affections, of which he is such a punctilious Examiner.
Of all human Affections, the noblest and most becoming human Nature, is that of Loveto one’s Country. This, perhaps, will easily be allow’d by all Men, who have really a Country, and are of the number of those who may be call’d a People, as enjoying the Happiness of a real Constitution and Polity, by which they are free and independent. There are few such Country-men or Free-men so degenerate, as directly to discountenance or condemn this Passion of Love to their Community and national Brotherhood. The indirect Manner of opposing this Principle, is the most usual. We hear it commonly, as a Complaint, “That there is little of this Love extant in the World.” From whence ’tis hastily concluded, “That there is little or nothing of friendly or social Affection inherent in our Nature, or proper to our Species.” ’Tis however apparent, That there is scarce a Creature of human Kind, who is not possess’d at least with some inferior degree or meaner sort of this natural Affection to a Country.
Our own country charms and draws us with a certain sweetness.
’Tis a wretched Aspect of Humanity which we figure to our-selves, when we wou’d endeavour to resolve the very Essence and Foundation of this generous Passion into a Relation to mere Clay and Dust, exclusively of any thing sensible, intelligent, or moral. ’Tis, I must own, on certain Relations, or respective Proportions, that all natural Affection does in some measure depend. And in this View it cannot, I confess, be deny’d, that we have each of us a certain Relation to the mere Earth it-self, the very Mould or Surface of that Planet, in which, with other Animals of various sorts, We (poor Reptiles!) were also bred and nourish’d. But had it happen’d to one of us British-Men to have been born at Sea, cou’d we not therefore properly be call’d British-Men? Cou’d we be allow’d Country-Men of no sort, as having no distinct relation to any certain Soil or Region; no original Neighbourhood but with the watry Inhabitants and Sea-Monsters? Surely, if we were born of lawful Parents, lawfully employ’d, and under the Protection of Law; wherever they might be then detain’d, to whatever Colonys sent, or whither-soever driven by any Accident, or in Expeditions or Adventures in the Publick Service, or that of Mankind, we shou’d still find we had a Home, and Country, ready to lay claim to us. We shou’d be oblig’d still to consider our-selves as Fellow-Citizens, and might be allow’d to love our Country or Nation as honestly and heartily as the most inland Inhabitant or Native of the Soil. Our political and social Capacity wou’d undoubtedly come in view, and be acknowledg’d full as natural and essential in our Species, as the parental and filial kind, which gives rise to what we peculiarly call natural Affection. Or supposing that both our Birth and Parents had been unknown, and that in this respect we were in a manner younger Brothers in Society to the rest of Mankind; yet from our Nurture and Education we shou’d surely espouse some Country or other; and joyfully embracing the Protection of a Magistracy, shou’d of necessity and by force of Nature join our-selves to the general Society of Mankind, and those in particular, with whom we had enter’d into a nearer Communication of Benefits, and closer Sympathy of Affections. It may therefore be esteem’d no better than a mean Subterfuge of narrow Minds, to assign this natural Passion for Society and a Country, to such a Relation as that of a mere Fungus or common Excrescence, to its Parent-Mould, or nursing Dung-hill.
The Relation of Country-man, if it be allow’d any thing at all, must imply something moral and social. The Notion it-self pre-supposes a naturally civil and political State of Mankind, and has reference to that particular part of Society, to which we owe our chief Advantages as Men, and rational Creatures, such as are naturally and necessarily united for each other’s Happiness and Support, and for the highest of all Happiness and Enjoyments; “The Intercourse of Minds, the free Use of our Reason, and the Exercise of mutual Love and Friendship.”
An ingenious Physician among the Moderns, having in view the natural Dependency of the vegetable and animal Kinds on their common Mother-Earth, and observing that both the one and the other draw from her their continual Sustenance, (some rooted and fix’d down to their first abodes, others unconfin’d, and wandring from place to place to suck their Nourishment): He accordingly, as I remember, styles this latter animal-Race, her releas’d Sons; Filios Terrae emancipatos. Now if this be our only way of reckoning for Mankind, we may call our-selves indeed, The Sons ofEarth,at large; but not of any particularSoil, or District. The Division of Climates and Regions is fantastick and artificial: much more the Limits of particular Countrys, Citys or Provinces. Our Natale Solum, or Mother-Earth, must by this account be the realGlobe it-self which bears us, and in respect of which we must allow the common Animals, and even the Plants of all degrees, to claim an equal Brotherhood with us, under this common Parent.
According to this Calculation we must of necessity carry our Relation as far as to the whole material World or Universe; where alone it can prove compleat. But for the particular District or Tract of Earth, which in a vulgar sense we call ourCountry, however bounded or geographically divided, we can never, at this rate, frame any accountable Relation to it, nor consequently assign any natural or proper Affection towards it.
If unhappily a Man had been born either at an Inn, or in some dirty Village; he wou’d hardly, I think, circumscribe himself so narrowly as to accept a Denomination or Character from those nearest Appendices, or local Circumstances of his Nativity. So far shou’d one be from making the Hamlet or Parish to be characteristical in the Case, that hardly wou’d the Shire it-self, or County, however rich or flourishing, be taken into the honorary Term or Appellation of one’sCountry. “What, then, shall we presume to call ourCountry? Is it England it-self?” “But what of Scotland? Is it therefore Britain?” “But what of the other Islands, the Northern Orcades, and the Southern Jersey and Guernsey? What of the Plantations, and poor Ireland?”—Behold, here, a very dubious Circumscription!
But what, after all, if there be a Conquest or Captivity in the case? a Migration? a national Secession, or Abandonment of our native Seats for some other Soil or Climate? This has happen’d, we know, to our Forefathers. And as great and powerful a People as we have been of late, and have ever shewn our-selves under the influence of free Councils, and a tolerable Ministry; shou’d we relapse again into slavish Principles, or be administer’d long under such Heads as having no Thought of Liberty for themselves, can have much less for Europe or their Neighbours; we may at last feel a War at home, become the Seat of it, and in the end a Conquest. We might then gladly embrace the hard Condition of our Predecessors, and exchange our beloved native Soil for that of some remote and uninhabited part of the World. Now shou’d this possibly be our Fate; shou’d some considerable Colony or Body be form’d afterwards out of our Remains, or meet, as it were by Miracle, in some distant Climate; wou’d there be, for the future, no English-man remaining? No common Bond of Alliance and Friendship, by which we cou’d still call Country-men, as before? How came we, I pray, by our antient name of English-men? Did it not travel with us over Land and Sea? Did we not, indeed, bring it with us heretofore from as far as the remoter Parts of Germany to this Island?
I MUST confess, I have been apt sometimes to be very angry with our Language, for having deny’d us the use of the word Patria, and afforded us no other name to express our native Community, than that of Country; which already bore two different Significations, abstracted from Mankind or Society. Reigning words are many times of such force, as to influence us considerably in our Apprehension of things. Whether it be from any such Cause as this, I know not: but certain it is, that in the Idea of a CivilState or Nation, we English-men are apt to mix somewhat more than ordinary gross and earthy. No People who ow’d so much to a Constitution, and so little to a Soil or Climate, were ever known so indifferent towards one, and so passionately fond of the other. One wou’d imagine from the common Discourse of our Country-men, that the finest Lands near the Euphrates, the Babylonian or PersianParadises, the rich Plains of Egypt, the GrecianTempe, the RomanCampania, Lombardy, Provence, the SpanishAndalusia, or the most delicious Tracts in the Eastern or WesternIndies, were contemptible Countrys in respect of Old England.
Now by the good leave of these worthy Patriots of the Soil, I must take the liberty to say, I think Old England to have been in every respect a very indifferent Country: and that LateEngland, of an Age or two old, even since Queen Bess’s days, is indeed very much mended for the better. We were, in the beginning of her Grandfather’s Reign, under a sort of Polish Nobility; and had no other Libertys, than what were in common to us with the then fashionable Monarchys and Gothick Lordships of Europe. For Religion, indeed, we were highly fam’d, above all Nations; by being the most subject to our Ecclesiasticks at home, and the best Tributarys and Servants to the Holy See abroad.
I must go further yet, and own, that I think LateEngland, since the Revolution, to be better still than OldEngland, by many degrees; and that, in the main, we make somewhat a better Figure in Europe, than we did a few Reigns before. But however our People may of late have flourish’d, our Name, or Credit have risen; our Trade, and Navigation, our Manufactures, or our Husbandry been improv’d; ’tis certain that our Region, Climate, and Soil, is, in its own nature, still one and the same. And to whatever Politeness we may suppose our-selves already arriv’d; we must confess, that we are the latest barbarous, the last civiliz’d or polish’d People of Europe. We must allow that our first Conquest by the Romans brought us out of a State hardly equal to the Indian Tribes; and that our last Conquest by the Normans brought us only into the capacity of receiving Arts and civil Accomplishments from abroad. They came to us by degrees, from remote distances, at second or third hand; from other Courts, States, Academys, and foreign Nurserys of Wit and Manners.
Notwithstanding this, we have as over-weaning an Opinion of our-selves, as if we had a claim to be Original and Earth-born. As oft as we have chang’d Masters, and mix’d Races with our several successive Conquerors, we still pretend to be as legitimate and genuine Possessors of our Soil, as the antient Athenians accounted themselves to have been of theirs. ’Tis remarkable however in that truly antient, wise, and witty People, That as fine Territorys and noble Countrys as they possess’d, as indisputable Masters and Superiors as they were in all Science, Wit, Politeness, and Manners; they were yet so far from a conceited, selfish, and ridiculous Contempt of others, that they were even, in a contrary Extreme, “Admirers of whatever was in the least degree ingenious or curious in foreign Nations.” Their Great Men were constant Travellers. Their Legislators and Philosophers made their Voyages into Egypt, pass’d into Chaldea, and Persia; and fail’d not to visit most of the dispers’d Grecian Governments and Colonys thro’ the Islands of the AEgean, in Italy, and on the Coasts of Asia and Africa. ’Twas mention’d as a Prodigy, in the case of a great Philosopher, tho known to have been always poor; “That he shou’d never have travel’d, nor had ever gone out of Athens for his Improvement.” How modest a Reflection in those who were themselvesAthenians!
For our part, we neither care that Foreigners shou’d travel to us, nor any of ours shou’d travel into foreign Countrys. Our best Policy and Breeding is, it seems, “To look abroad as little as possible; contract our Views within the narrowest Compass; and despise all Knowledg, Learning, or Manners, which are not of a Home Growth.” For hardly will the Antients themselves be regarded by those, who have so resolute a Contempt of what the politest Moderns of any Nation, besides their own, may have advanc’d in the way of Literature, Politeness, or Philosophy.
THIS Disposition of our Country-men, from whatever Causes it may possibly be deriv’d, is, I fear, a very prepossessing Circumstance against our Author; whose Design is to advance something new, or at least something different from what is commonly current in Philosophy and Morals. To support this Design of his, he seems intent chiefly on this single Point; “To discover, how we may, to best advantage, form within our-selves what in the polite World is call’d a Relish, or GoodTaste.”
He begins, it’s true, as near home as possible, and sends us to the narrowest of all Conversations, that of Soliloquy or Self-discourse. But this Correspondence, according to his Computation, is wholly impracticable, without a previous Commerce with the World: And the larger this Commerce is, the more practicable and improving the other, he thinks, is likely to prove. The Sources of this improving Art of Self-correspondence he derives from the highest Politeness and Elegance of antient Dialogue, and Debate, in matters of Wit, Knowledg, and Ingenuity. And nothing, according to our Author, can so well revive this self-corresponding Practice, as the same Search and Study of the highest Politeness in modern Conversation. For this, we must necessarily be at the pains of going further abroad than the Province we call Home. And, by this Account, it appears that our Author has little hopes of being either relish’d or comprehended by any other of his Country-men, than those who delight in the open and free Commerce of the World, and are rejoic’d to gather Views, and receive Light from every Quarter; in order to judg the best of what is perfect, and according to a just Standard, and true Taste in every kind.
It may be proper for us to remark in favour of our Author, that the sort of Ridicule or Raillery, which is apt to fall upon Philosophers, is of the same kind with that which falls commonly on the Virtuosi, or refin’d Wits of the Age. In this latter general Denomination we include the real fine Gentlemen, the Lovers of Art and Ingenuity; such as have seen the World, and inform’d themselves of the Manners and Customs of the several Nations of Europe, search’d into their Antiquitys, and Records; consider’d their Police, Laws, and Constitutions; observ’d the Situation, Strength, and Ornaments of their Citys, their principal Arts, Studys, and Amusements; their Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, Musick, and their Taste in Poetry, Learning, Language, and Conversation.
Hitherto there can lie no Ridicule, nor the least Scope for Satirick Wit or Raillery. But when we push this Virtuoso-Character a little further, and lead our polish’d Gentleman into more nice Researches; when from the view of Mankind and their Affairs, our speculative Genius, and minute Examiner of Nature’s Works, proceeds with equal or perhaps superior Zeal in the Contemplation of the Insect-Life, the Conveniencys, Habitations and OEconomy of a Race of Shell-Fish; when he has erected a Cabinet in due form, and made it the real Pattern of his Mind, replete with the same Trash and Trumpery of correspondent empty Notions, and chimerical Conceits; he then indeed becomes the Subject of sufficient Raillery, and is made the Jest of common Conversations.
A worse thing than this happens commonly to these inferiorVirtuosi. In seeking so earnestly for Raritys, they fall in love with Rarityfor Rareness-sake. Now the greatest Raritys in the World are Monsters. So that the Study and Relish of these Gentlemen, thus assiduously imploy’d, becomes at last in reality monstrous: And their whole Delight is found to consist in selecting and contemplating whatever is most monstrous, disagreeing, out of the way, and to the least purpose of any thing in Nature.
In Philosophy, Matters answer exactly to this Virtuoso-Scheme. Let us suppose a Man, who having this Resolution merely, how to employ his Understanding to the best purpose, considers “Who or What he is; Whence he arose, or had his Being; to what End he was design’d; and to what Course of Action he is by his natural Frame and Constitution destin’d:” shou’d he descend on this account into himself, and examine his inward Powers and Facultys; or shou’d he ascend beyond his own immediate Species, City, or Community, to discover and recognize his higher Polity, or Community, (that common and universal-one, of which he is born a Member); nothing, surely, of this kind, cou’d reasonably draw upon him the least Contempt or Mockery. On the contrary, the finest Gentleman must after all be consider’d but as an Idiot, who talking much of the knowledg of the World and Mankind, has never so much as thought of the Study or Knowledg of himself, or of the Nature and Government of that real Publick and World, from whence he holds his Being.
What are we and for what kind of life are we born?
“Where are we? Under what Roof? Or on board what Vessel? Whither bound? On what Business? Under whose Pilotship, Government, or Protection?” are Questions which every sensible Man wou’d naturally ask, if he were on a sudden transported into a new Scene of Life. ’Tis admirable, indeed, to consider, That a Man shou’d have been long come into a World, carry’d his Reason and Sense about with him, and yet have never seriously ask’d himself this single Question, “Wheream I? orWhat?” but, on the contrary, shou’d proceed regularly to every other Study and Inquiry, postponing this alone, as the least considerable; or leaving the Examination of it to others, commission’d, as he supposes, to understand and think for him, upon this Head. To be bubbled, or put upon by any sham-Advices in this Affair, is, it seems, of no consequence! We take care to examine accurately, by our own Judgment, the Affairs of other People, and the Concerns of the World which least belong to us: But what relates more immediately to our-selves, and is our chief Self-Interest, we charitably leave to others to examine for us, and readily take up with the first Comers; on whose Honesty and good Faith ’tis presum’d we may safely rely.
Here, methinks, the Ridicule turns more against the Philosophy-Haters than the Virtuosi or Philosophers. Whilst Philosophy is taken (as in its prime Sense it ought) for Mastership inLife and Manners, ’tis like to make no ill Figure in the World, whatever Impertinencys may reign, or however extravagant the Times may prove. But let us view Philosophy, like mere Virtuoso-ship, in its usual Career, and we shall find the Ridicule rising full as strongly against the Professors of the higher as the lower kind. Cockleshell abounds with each. Many things exterior, and without our-selves, of no relation to our real Interests or to those of Society and Mankind, are diligently investigated: Nature’s remotest Operations, deepest Mysterys, and most difficult Phaenomena discuss’d, and whimsically explain’d; Hypotheses and fantastick Systems erected; a Universe anatomiz’d; and by some notable Scheme so solv’d and reduc’d, as to appear an easy Knack or Secret to those who have the Clew. Creation it-self can, upon occasion, be exhibited; Transmutations, Projections, and other PhilosophicalArcana, such as in the corporeal World can accomplish all things; whilst in the intellectual, a set Frame of metaphysical Phrases and Distinctions can serve to solve whatever Difficultys may be propounded either in Logicks, Ethicks, or any real Science, of whatever kind.
It appears from hence, that the Defects of Philosophy, and those of Virtuoso-ship are of the same nature. Nothing can be more dangerous than a wrong Choice, or Misapplication in these Affairs. But as ridiculous as these Studys are render’d by their sensless Managers; it appears, however, that each of ’em are, in their nature, essential to the Character of a Fine Gentleman and Man of Sense.
To philosophize, in a just Signification, is but to carry Good-breeding a step higher. For the Accomplishment of Breeding is, To learn whatever is decent in Company, or beautiful in Arts; and the Sum of Philosophy is, To learn what is just in Society, and beautiful in Nature, and the Order of the World.
’Tis not Wit merely, but a Temper which must form the Well-bred Man. In the same manner, ’tis not a Head merely, but a Heart and Resolution which must compleat the realPhilosopher. Both Characters aim at what is excellent, aspire to a just Taste, and carry in view the Model of what is beautiful and becoming. Accordingly, the respective Conduct and distinct Manners of each Party are regulated; The one according to the perfectest Ease, and good Entertainment of Company;the other according to the strictest Interest of Mankind and Society:The one according to a Man’s Rank and Quality in his private Nation; the other according to his Rank and Dignity in Nature.
Whether each of these Offices, of social Parts, are in themselves as convenient as becoming, is the great Question which must some-way be decided. The Well-bred Man has already decided this, in his own Case, and declar’d on the side of what is Handsom: For whatever he practises in this kind, he accounts no more than what he owes purely to himself; without regard to any further Advantage. The Pretender toPhilosophy, who either knows not how to determine this Affair, or if he has determin’d, knows not how to pursue his Point, with Constancy, and Firmness, remains in respect of Philosophy, what a Clown or Coxcomb is in respect of Breeding and Behaviour. Thus, according to our Author, the Taste of Beauty, and the Relish of what is decent, just, and amiable, perfects the Character of the Gentleman, and the Philosopher. And the Study of such a Taste or Relish will, as we suppose, be ever the great Employment and Concern of him, who covets as well to be wise and good, as agreeable and polite.
I care about and I ask what is true and fitting and I am completely occupied in this.
BY this time, surely, I must have prov’d my-self sufficiently engag’d in the Project and Design of our Self-discoursingAuthor, whose Defence I have undertaken. His Pretension, as plainly appears in this third Treatise, is to recommend Morals on the same foot, with what in a lower sense is call’d Manners; and to advance Philosophy (as harsh a Subject as it may appear) on the very Foundation of what is call’d agreeable and polite. And ’tis in this Method and Management that, as his Interpreter, or Paraphrast, I have propos’d to imitate and accompany him, as far as my MiscellaneousCharacter will permit.
Our joint Endeavour, therefore, must appear this: To shew, “That nothing which is found charming or delightful in the polite World, nothing which is adopted as Pleasure, or Entertainment, of whatever kind, can any way be accounted for, supported, or establish’d, without the Pre-establishment or Supposition of a certainTaste.” Now a Taste or Judgment, ’tis suppos’d, can hardly come ready form’d with us into the World. Whatever Principles or Materials of this kind we may possibly bring with us; whatever good Facultys, Senses, or anticipating Sensations, and Imaginations, may be of Nature’s Growth, and arise properly, of themselves, without our Art, Promotion, or Assistance; the general Idea which is form’d of all this Management, and the clear Notion we attain of what is preferable and principal in all these Subjects of Choice and Estimation, will not, as I imagine, by any Person, be taken for in-nate. Use, Practice and Culture must precede the Understanding and Wit of such an advanc’d Size and Growth as this. A legitimate and just Taste can neither be begotten, made, conceiv’d, or produc’d, without the antecedent Labour and Pains of Criticism.
For this reason we presume not only to defend the Cause of Criticks; but to declare open War against those indolent supine Authors, Performers, Readers, Auditors, Actors, or Spectators; who making their Humour alone the Rule of what is beautiful and agreeable, and having no account to give of such their Humour or odd Fancy, reject the criticizing or examining Art, by which alone they are able to discover the trueBeauty and Worth of every Object.
According to that affected Ridicule which these insipid Remarkers pretend to throw upon just Criticks, the Enjoyment of all real Arts or natural Beautys wou’d be intirely lost: Even in Behaviour and Manners, we shou’d at this rate become in time as barbarous, as in our Pleasures and Diversions. I wou’d presume it, however, of these Critick-Haters, that they are not yet so unciviliz’d, or void of all social Sense, as to maintain, “That the most barbarous Life, or brutish Pleasure, is as desirable as the most polish’d or refin’d.”
For my own part, when I have sometimes heard Men of reputed Ability join in with that effeminate plantive Tone of Invective against Criticks, I have really thought they had it in their Fancy, to keep down the growing Genius’s of the Youth, their Rivals, by turning them aside from that Examination and Search, on which all good Performance as well as good Judgment depends. I have seen many a time a well-bred Man, who had him-self a real goodTaste, give way, with a malicious Complaisance, to the Humour of a Company, where, in favour chiefly of the tender Sex, this soft languishing Contempt of Criticks, and their Labours, has been the Subject set a-foot. “Wretched Creatures! (says one) impertinent Things, these Criticks, as ye call ’em!—As if one cou’dn’t know what was agreeable or pretty, without their help.—’Tis fine indeed, that one shou’dn’t be allow’d to fansy for one’s-self.—Now shou’d a thousand Criticks tell me that Mr. A——’s new Play wan’t the wittiest in the World, I wou’dn’t mind ’em one bit.”
This our real Man of Wit hears patiently; and adds, perhaps of his own, “That he thinks it, truly, somewhat hard, in what relates to People’s Diversion and Entertainment, that they shou’d be oblig’d to chuse what pleas’d others, and not themselves.” Soon after this he goes himself to the Play, finds one of his effeminate Companions commending or admiring at a wrong place. He turns to the next Person who sits by him, and asks privately, “What he thinks of his Companion’s Relish.”
Such is the Malice of the World! They who by Pains and Industry have acquir’d a realTaste in Arts, rejoice in their Advantage over others, who have either none at all, or such as renders ’em ridiculous. At an Auction of Books, or Pictures, you shall hear these Gentlemen persuading every one “To bid for what he fansys.” But, at the same time, they wou’d be soundly mortify’d themselves, if by such as they esteem’d good Judges, they shou’d be found to have purchas’d by a wrong Fancy, or illTaste. The same Gentleman who commends his Neighbour for ordering his Garden or Apartment, as hisHumour leads him, takes care his own shou’d be so order’d as the best Judgments wou’d advise. Being once a Judg himself, or but tolerably knowing in these Affairs, his Aim is not “To change the Being of Things, and bring Truth and Nature to his Humour: but, leaving Nature and Truth just as he found ’em, to accommodate his Humour and Fancy to theirStandard.” Wou’d he do this in a yet higher Case, he might in reality become as wise and great a Man, as he is already a refin’d and polish’dGentleman. By one of these Tastes he understands how to lay out his Garden, model his House, fansy his Equipage, appoint his Table: By the other he learns of what Value these Amusements are in Life, and of what Importance to a Man’s Freedom, Happiness, and Self-enjoyment. For if he wou’d try effectually to acquire the real Science or Taste of Life; he wou’d certainly discover, “That a right Mind, and generous Affection, had more Beauty and Charm, than all other Symmetrys in the World besides”: And, “That a Grain of Honesty and native Worth, was of more value than all the adventitious Ornaments, Estates, or Preferments; for the sake of which some of the better sort so oft turn Knaves; forsaking their Principles, and quitting their Honour and Freedom, for a mean, timorous, shifting State of gaudy Servitude.”
A LITTLE better Taste (were it a very little) in the Affair of Life it-self, wou’d, if I mistake not, mend the Manners, and secure the Happiness of some of our noble Countrymen, who come with high Advantage and a worthy Character into the Publick. But ere they have long engag’d in it, their Worth unhappily becomes venal. Equipages, Titles, Precedencys, Staffs, Ribbons, and other such glittering Ware, are taken in exchange for inwardMerit, Honour, and a Character.
This they may account perhaps a shreud Bargain. But there will be found very untoward Abatements in it, when the matter comes to be experienc’d. They may have descended in reality from ever so glorious Ancestors, Patriots, and Sufferers for their Country’s Liberty and Welfare: They may have made their Entrance into the World upon this bottom of anticipated Fame and Honour: They may have been advanc’d on this account to Dignitys, which they were thought to have deserv’d. But when induc’d to change their honest Measures, and sacrifice their Cause and Friends to an imaginary private Interest; they will soon find, by Experience, that they have lost the Relish and Taste of Life; and for insipid wretched Honours, of a deceitful kind, have unhappily exchang’d an amiable and sweet Honour, of a sincere and lasting Relish, and good Savour. They may, after this, act Farces, as they think fit; and hear Qualitys and Virtues assign’d to ’em, under the Titles of Graces, Excellencys, Honours, and the rest of this mock-Praise and mimical Appellation. They may even with serious Looks be told of Honour and Worth, theirPrinciple, and theirCountry: But they know better within themselves; and have occasion to find, That, after all, the World too knows better; and that their few Friends and Admirers have either a very shallow Wit, or a very profound Hypocrisy.
’Tis not in one Party alone that these Purchases and Sales of Honour are carry’d on. I can represent to my-self a noted Patriot, and reputed Pillar of the religious Part of our Constitution, who having by many and long Services, and a steddy Conduct, gain’d the Reputation of thorow Zeal with his own Party, and of Sincerity and Honour with his very Enemys, on a sudden (the time being come that the Fulness of his Reward was set before him) submits complacently to the propos’d Bargain, and sells himself for what he is worth, in a vile detestable Old-Age, to which he has reserv’d the Infamy of betraying both his Friends and Country.
I can imagine, on the other side, one of a contrary Party; a noted Friend to Liberty in Church and State; an Abhorrer of the slavish Dependency on Courts, and of the narrow Principles of Bigots: Such a one, after many publick Services of note, I can see wrought upon, by degrees, to seek Court-Preferment; and this too under a Patriot-Character. But having perhaps try’d this way with less success, he is oblig’d to change his Character, and become a royal Flatterer, a Courtier against his Nature; submitting himself, and suing, in so much the meaner degree, as his inherent Principles are well known at Court, and to his new-adopted Party, to whom he feigns himself a Proselyte.
The greater the Genius or Character is of such a Person, the greater is his Slavery, and heavier his Load. Better had it been that he had never discover’d such a Zeal for publick Good, or signaliz’d him-self in that Party; which can with least grace make Sacrifices of national Interests to a Crown, or to the private Will, Appetite, or Pleasure of a Prince. For supposing such a Genius as this had been to act his Part of Courtship in some foreign and absolute Court; how much less infamous wou’d his Part have prov’d? How much less slavish, admist a People who were All Slaves? Had he peradventure been one of that forlorn begging Troop of Gentry extant in Denmark, or Sweden, since the time that those Nations lost their Libertys; had he liv’d out of a free Nation, and happily-balanc’d Constitution; had he been either conscious of no Talent in the Affairs of Government, or of no Opportunity to exert any such, to the advantage of Mankind: Where had been the mighty shame, if perhaps he had employ’d some of his Abilitys in flattering like others, and paying the necessary Homage requir’d for Safety’s sake, and Self-preservation, in absolute and despotick Governments? The Taste, perhaps, in strictness, might still be wrong, even in this hard Circumstance: But how inexcusable in a quite contrary one! For let us suppose our Courtier not only an Englishman, but of the Rank and Stem of those old English Patriots, who were wont to curb the Licentiousness of our Court, arraign its Flatterers, and purge away those Poisons from the Ear of Princes; let us suppose him of a competent Fortune and moderate Appetites, without any apparent Luxury or Lavishment in his Manners: What shall we, after this, bring in Excuse, or as an Apology, for such a Choice as his? How shall we explain this preposterous Relish, this odd Preference of Subtlety and Indirectness, to true Wisdom, open Honesty, and Uprightness?
’Tis easier, I confess, to give account of this Corruption ofTaste in some noble Youth of a more sumptuous gay Fancy; supposing him born truly Great, and of honourable Descent; with a generous freeMind, as well as ample Fortune. Even these Circumstances themselves may be the very Causes perhaps of his being thus ensnar’d. The Elegance of his Fancy in outward things, may have made him overlook the Worth of inward Character and Proportion: And the Love of Grandure and Magnificence, wrong turn’d, may have possess’d his Imagination over-strongly with such things as Frontispieces, Parterres, Equipages, trim Valets in party-colour’d Clothes; and others in Gentlemens Apparel.—Magnanimous Exhibitions of Honour and Generosity!—“In Town, a Palace and sutable Furniture! In the Country the same; with the addition of such Edifices and Gardens as were unknown to our Ancestors, and are unnatural to such a Climate as Great Britain!”
Mean while the Year runs on; but the Year’s Income answers not its Expence. For “Which of these Articles can be retrench’d? Which way take up, after having thus set out?” A Princely Fancy has begot all this; and a Princely Slavery, and Court-Dependence must maintain it.
The young Gentleman is now led into a Chace, in which he will have slender Capture, tho Toil sufficient. He is him-self taken. Nor will he so easily get out of that Labyrinth, to which he chose to commit his steps, rather than to the more direct and plainer Paths in which he trod before. “Farewel that generous proud Spirit, which was wont to speak only what it approv’d, commend only whom it thought worthy, and act only what it thought right! Favourites must be now observ’d, little Engines of Power attended on, and loathsomly caress’d: an honest Man dreaded, and every free Tongue or Pen abhor’d as dangerous and reproachful.” For till our Gentleman is become wholly prostitute and shameless; till he is brought to laugh at publick Virtue, and the very Notion of common Good; till he has openly renounc’d all Principles of Honour and Honesty, he must in good Policy avoid those to whom he lies so much expos’d, and shun that Commerce and Familiarity which was once his chief Delight.
Such is the Sacrifice made to a wrong Pride, and ignorant Self-esteem; by one whose inward Character must necessarily, after this manner, become as mean and abject, as his outward Behaviour insolent and intolerable.
There are another sort of Suitors to Power, and Traffickers of inwardWorthandLiberty for outward Gain, whom one wou’d be naturally drawn to compassionate. They are themselves of a humane, compassionate, and friendly nature, Well-wishers to their Country and Mankind. They cou’d, perhaps, even embrace Poverty contentedly, rather than submit to any thing diminutive either of their inward Freedom or national Liberty. But what they can bear in their own Persons, they cannot bring themselves to bear in the Persons of such as are to come after them. Here the best and noblest of Affections are borne down by the Excess of the next best, those of Tenderness for Relations and near Friends.
Such Captives as these wou’d disdain, however, to devote themselves to any Prince or Ministry, whose Ends were wholly tyrannical, and irreconcilable with the true Interest of their Nation. In other cases of a less Degeneracy, they may bow down perhaps in the Temple ofRimmon, support the Weight of their supineLords, and prop the Steps and ruining Credit of their corrupt Patrons.
This is Drudgery sufficient for such honest Natures; such as by hard Fate alone cou’d have been made dishonest. But as for Pride or Insolence on the account of their outward Advancement and seeming Elevation; they are so far from any thing resembling it, that one may often observe what is very contrary in these fairer Characters of Men. For tho perhaps they were known somewhat rigid and severe before; you see ’em now grown in reality submissive and obliging. Tho in Conversation formerly dogmatical and over-bearing, on the Points of State and Government; they are now the patientest to hear, the least forward to dictate, and the readiest to embrace any entertaining Subject of Discourse, rather than that of the Publick, and their own personal Advancement.
Nothing is so near Virtue as this Behaviour; and nothing so remote from it, nothing so sure a Token of the most profligate Manners, as the contrary. In a free Government, ’tis so much the Interest of every one in Place, who profits by the Publick, to demean himself with Modesty and Submission; that to appear immediately the more insolent and haughty on such an Advancement, is the mark only of a contemptible Genius, and of a want of true Understanding, even in the narrow Sense of Interest and private Good.
Thus we see, after all, that ’tis not merely what we call Principle, but a Taste, which governs Men. They may think for certain “This is right, or that wrong”: They may believe “This a Crime, or that a Sin; This punishable by Man, or that by God!” Yet if the Savor of things lies cross to Honesty; if the Fancy be florid, and the Appetite high towards the subaltern Beautys and lower Order of worldly Symmetrys and Proportions; the Conduct will infallibly turn this latter way.
Even Conscience, I fear, such as is owing to religious Discipline, will make but a slight Figure, where this Taste is set amiss. Among the Vulgar perhaps it may do wonders. A Devil and a Hell may prevail, where a Jail and Gallows are thought insufficient. But such is the Nature of the liberal, polish’d, and refin’d part of Mankind; so far are they from the mere Simplicity of Babes and Sucklings; that, instead of applying the Notion of a future Reward or Punishment to their immediate Behaviour in Society, they are apt, much rather, thro’ the whole Course of their Lives, to shew evidently that they look on the pious Narrations to be indeed no better than Childrens Tales, or the Amusement of the mere Vulgar:
That our ghosts exist and realms below the earth . . . not even children believe, except those who are too young to pay at the baths.
Something therefore shou’d, methinks, be further thought of, in behalf of our generous Youths, towards the correcting of their Taste, or Relish in the Concerns of Life. For this at last is what will influence. And in this respect the Youth alone are to be regarded. Some hopes there may be still conceiv’d of These. The rest are confirm’d and harden’d in their way. A middle-ag’d Knave (however devout or orthodox) is but a common Wonder: An old-one is no Wonder at all: But a young-one is still (thank Heaven!) somewhat extraordinary. And I can never enough admire what was said once by a worthy Man at the first appearance of one of these young able Prostitutes, “That he even trembled at the sight, to find Nature capable of being turn’d so soon: and That he boded greater Calamity to his Country from this single Example of young Villany, than from the Practices and Arts of all the old Knaves in being.”
Let us therefore proceed in this view, addressing our-selves to the grown Youth of our polite World. Let the Appeal be to these, whose Relish is retrievable, and whose Taste may yet be form’d in Morals; as it seems to be, already, in exterior Manners and Behaviour.
THAT there is really a Standard of this latter kind, will immediately, and on the first view, be acknowledg’d. The Contest is only, “Which is right:—Which the un-affected Carriage, and just Demeanour: And Which the affected and false.” Scarce is there any-one, who pretends not to know and to decide What is well-bred and handsom. There are few so affectedly clownish, as absolutely to disown Good-breeding, and renounce the Notion of a Beauty in outward Manners and Deportment. With such as these, wherever they shou’d be found, I must confess, I cou’d scarce be tempted to bestow the least Pains or Labour, towards convincing ’em of a Beauty in inward Sentiments and Principles.
Whoever has any Impression of what we call Gentility or Politeness, is already so acquainted with the Decorum and Grace of things, that he will readily confess a Pleasure and Enjoyment in the very Survey and Contemplation of this kind. Now if in the way of polite Pleasure, the Study and Love ofBeauty be essential; the Study and Love ofSymmetry and Order, on which Beauty depends, must also be essential, in the same respect.
’Tis impossible we can advance the least in any Relish or Taste of outward Symmetry and Order; without acknowledging that the proportionate and regular State is the truly prosperous and natural in every Subject. The same Features which make Deformity, create Incommodiousness and Disease. And the same Shapes and Proportions which make Beauty, afford Advantage, by adapting to Activity and Use. Even in the imitative or designing Arts, (to which our Author so often refers) the Truth or Beauty of every Figure or Statue is measur’d from the Perfection of Nature, in her just adapting of every Limb and Proportion to the Activity, Strength, Dexterity, Life and Vigor of the particular Species or Animal design’d.
Thus Beauty and Truth are plainly join’d with the Notion of Utility andConvenience, even in the Apprehension of every ingenious Artist, the Architect, the Statuary, or the Painter. ’Tis the same in the Physician’s way. Natural Health is the just Proportion, Truth, and regular Course of things, in a Constitution. ’Tis the inward Beauty of theBody. And when the Harmony and just Measures of the rising Pulses, the circulating Humours, and the moving Airs or Spirits are disturb’d or lost, Deformity enters, and with it, Calamity and Ruin.
Shou’d not this, one wou’d imagine, be still the same Case, and hold equally as to theMind? Is there nothing there which tends to Disturbance and Dissolution? Is there no natural Tenour, Tone, or Order of the Passions or Affections? No Beauty, or Deformity in this moral kind? Or allowing that there really is; must it not, of consequence, in the same manner imply Health or Sickliness, Prosperity or Disaster? Will it not be found in this respect, above all, “That what is beautiful is harmonious and proportionable; what is harmonious and proportionable, is true; and what is at once both beautiful and true, is, of consequence, agreeable and good?”
Where then is this Beauty or Harmony to be found? How is this Symmetry to be discover’d and apply’d? Is it any other Art than that of Philosophy, or the Study of inward Numbers and Proportions, which can exhibit this in Life? If no other; Who, then, can possibly have a Taste of this kind, without being beholden to Philosophy? Who can admire the outward Beautys, and not recur instantly to the inward, which are the most real and essential, the most naturally affecting, and of the highest Pleasure, as well as Profit and Advantage?
In so short a compass does that Learning and Knowledge lie, on which Manners and Life depend. ’Tis We our-selves create and form our Taste. If we resolve to have it just; ’tis in our power. We may esteem and value, approve and disapprove, as we wou’d wish. For who wou’d not rejoice to be always equal and consonant to himself, and have constantly that Opinion of things which is natural and proportionable? But who dares search Opinion to the bottom, or call in question his early and prepossessingTaste? Who is so just to himself, as to recal his Fancy from the power of Fashion and Education, to that of Reason? Cou’d we, however, be thus courageous; we shou’d soon settle in our-selves such an Opinion of Good as wou’d secure to us an invariable, agreeable, and justTaste in Life and Manners.
THUS HAVE I endeavour’d to tread in my Author’s steps, and prepare the Reader for the serious and downright Philosophy, which even in this last commented Treatise, our Author keeps still as a Mystery, and dares not formally profess. His Pretence has been to advise Authors, and polish Styles; but his Aim has been to correct Manners, and regulate Lives. He has affected Soliloquy, as pretending only to censure Himself; but he has taken occasion to bring others into his Company, and make bold with Personages and Characters of no inferior Rank. He has given scope enough to Raillery and Humour; and has intrench’d very largely on the Province of us Miscellanarian Writers. But the Reader is now about to see him in a new aspect, “a formal and profess’d Philosopher, a System-Writer, a Dogmatist, and Expounder.”—Habes consitentem reum.
So to his Philosophy I commit him. Tho, according as my Genius and present Disposition will permit, I intend still to accompany him at a distance, keep him in sight, and convoy him, the best I am able, thro’ the dangerous Seas he is about to pass.
WE have already, in the beginning of our preceding Miscellany, taken notice of our Author’s Plan, and the Connection and Dependency of his Joint-Tracts, comprehended in two preceding Volumes. We are now, in our Commentator-Capacity, arriv’d at length to his second Volume, to which the three Pieces of his first appear preparatory. That they were really so design’d, the Advertisement to the first Edition of his Soliloquy is a sufficient Proof. He took occasion there, in a line or two, under the Name of his Printer, or (as he otherwise calls him) his Amanuensis, to prepare us for a more elaborate and methodical Piece which was to follow. We have this System now before us. Nor need we wonder, such as it is, that it came so hardly into the World, and that our Author has been deliver’d of it with so much difficulty, and after so long a time. His Amanuensis and he, were not, it seems, heretofore upon such good Terms of Correspondence. Otherwise such an unshapen Foetus, or false Birth, as that of which our Author in his Title-page complains, had not formerly appear’d abroad. Nor had it ever risen again in its more decent Form, but for the accidental Publication of our Author’s First Letter, which, by a necessary Train of Consequences, occasion’d the revival of this abortive Piece, and gave usherance to its Companions.
It will appear therefore in this Joint-Edition of our Author’s Five Treatises, that the Three former are preparatory to the Fourth, on which we are now enter’d; and the Fifth (with which he concludes) a kind of Apology for this reviv’d Treatise concerning Virtue and Religion.
As for his Apology (particularly in what relates to reveal’d Religion, and a World to come) I commit the Reader to the disputant Divines, and Gentlemen, whom our Author has introduc’d in that concluding Piece of Dialogue-Writing, or rhapsodical Philosophy. Mean while, we have here no other part left us, than to enter into the dryPhilosophy, and rigid Manner of our Author; without any Excursions into various Literature; without help from the Comick or TragickMuse, or from the Flowers of Poetry or Rhetorick.
Such is our present Pattern, and strict moral Task; which our more humorous Reader fore-knowing, may immediately, if he pleases, turn over; skipping (as is usual in many grave Works) a Chapter or two, as he proceeds. We shall, to make amends, endeavour afterwards, in our following Miscellany, to entertain him again with more chearful Fare, and afford him a Dessert, to rectify his Palat, and leave his Mouth at last in good relish.
To the patient and graveReader, therefore, who in order to moralize, can afford to retire into his Closet, as to some religious or devout Exercise, we presume thus to offer a few Reflections, in the support of our Author’s profound Inquiry. And accordingly, we are to imagine our Author speaking, as follows.
HOW LITTLE regard soever may be shewn to that moral Speculation or Inquiry, which we call the Study of our-selves; it must, in strictness, be yielded, That all Knowledg whatsoever depends upon this previous-one: “And that we can in reality be assur’d of nothing, till we are first assur’d of What we areOur-selves.” For by this alone we can know what Certainty and Assurance is.
That there is something undoubtedly which thinks, our very Doubt it-self and scrupulous Thought evinces. But in what Subject that Thought resides, and how that Subject is continu’d one and the same, so as to answer constantly to the suppos’d Train of Thoughts or Reflections which seem to run so harmoniously thro’ a long Course of Life, with the same relation still to one single and self-samePerson; this is not a Matter so easily or hastily decided, by those who are nice Self-Examiners, or Searchers after Truth and Certainty.
’Twill not, in this respect, be sufficient for us to use the seeming Logick of a famous Modern, and say “We think: therefore We are.” Which is a notably invented Saying, after the Model of that like philosophical Proposition; That “What is, is.”—Miraculously argu’d! “If I am; I am.”—Nothing more certain! For the Ego or I, being establish’d in the first part of the Proposition, the Ergo, no doubt, must hold it good in the latter. But the Question is, “What constitutes the We or I?” And, “Whether the I of this instant, be the same with that of any instant preceding, or to come.” For we have nothing but Memory to warrant us: and Memory may be false. We may believe we have thought and reflected thus or thus: but we may be mistaken. We may be conscious of that, as Truth; which perhaps was no more than Dream: and we may be conscious of that as a past Dream, which perhaps was never before so much as dreamt of.
This is what Metaphysicians mean, when they say, “That Identity can be prov’d only by Consciousness; but that Consciousness, withal, may be as well false as real, in respect of what is past.” So that the same successional We or I must remain still, on this account, undecided.
To the force of this Reasoning I confess I must so far submit, as to declare that for my own part, I take my Being upon Trust. Let others philosophize as they are able: I shall admire their strength, when, upon this Topick, they have refuted what able Metaphysicians object, and Pyrrhonists plead in their own behalf.
Mean while, there is no Impediment, Hinderance, or Suspension of Action, on account of these wonderfully refin’d Speculations. Argument and Debate go on still. Conduct is settled. Rules and Measures are given out, and receiv’d. Nor do we scruple to act as resolutely upon the mere Supposition that we are, as if we had effectually prov’d it a thousand times, to the full satisfaction of our Metaphysical or Pyrrhonean Antagonist.
This to me appears sufficient Ground for a Moralist. Nor do I ask more, when I undertake to prove the reality of Virtue and Morals.
If it be certain that I am; ’tis certain and demonstrable Who and WhatI ought to be, even on my own account, and for the sake of my own private Happiness and Success. For thus I take the liberty to proceed.
The Affections, of which I am conscious, are either Grief, or Joy; Desire, or Aversion. For whatever mere Sensation I may experience; if it amounts to neither of these, ’tis indifferent, and no way affects me.
That which causes Joy and Satisfaction when present, causes Grief and Disturbance when absent: And that which causes Grief and Disturbance when present, does when absent, by the same necessity occasion Joy and Satisfaction.
Thus Love (which implies Desire, with Hope of Good) must afford occasion to Grief and Disturbance, when it acquires not what it earnestly seeks. And Hatred (which implies Aversion, and Fear of Ill) must, in the same manner, occasion Grief and Calamity, when that which it earnestly shun’d, or wou’d have escap’d, remains present, or is altogether unavoidable.
That which being present can never leave the Mind at rest, but must of necessity cause Aversion, is its Ill. But that which can be sustain’d without any necessary Abhorrence, or Aversion, is not its Ill; but remains indifferent in its own nature; the Ill being in the Affection only, which wants redress.
In the same manner, that which being absent, can never leave the Mind at rest, or without Disturbance and Regret, is of necessity its Good. But that which can be absent, without any present or future Disturbance to the Mind, is not its Good, but remains indifferent in its own nature. From whence it must follow, That the Affection towards it, as suppos’dGood, is an ill Affection, and creative only of Disturbance and Disease. So that the Affections of Love and Hatred,Liking and Dislike, on which the Happiness or Prosperity of the Person so much depends, being influenc’d and govern’d by Opinion; the highest Good or Happiness must depend on right Opinion, and the highest Misery be deriv’d from wrong.
To explain this, I consider, for instance, the Fancy or Imagination I have of Death, according as I find this Subject naturally passing in my Mind. To this Fancy, perhaps, I find united an Opinion or Apprehension of Evil and Calamity. Now the more my Apprehension of this Evil increases; the greater, I find, my Disturbance proves, not only at the approach of the suppos’d Evil, but at the very distant Thought of it. Besides that, the Thought it-self will of necessity so much the oftner recur, as the Aversion or Fear is violent, and increasing.
From this suppos’d Evil I must, however, fly with so much the more earnestness, as the Opinion of the Evil increases. Now if the Increase of the Aversion can be no Cause of the Decrease or Diminution of the Evil it-self, but rather the contrary; then the Increase of the Aversion must necessarily prove the Increase of Disappointment and Disturbance. And so on the other hand, the Diminution or Decrease of the Aversion (if this may any way be effected) must of necessity prove the Diminution of inward Disturbance, and the better Establishment of inward Quiet and Satisfaction.
Again, I consider with my-self, That I have the Imagination of something beautiful, great, and becoming in Things. This Imagination I apply perhaps to such Subjects as Plate, Jewels, Apartments, Coronets, Patents of Honour, Titles, or Precedencys. I must therefore naturally seek these, not as mere Conveniencys, Means, or Helps in Life, (for as such my Passion cou’d not be so excessive towards ’em) but as excellent in them-selves, necessarily attractive of my Admiration, and directly and immediately causing my Happiness, and giving me Satisfaction. Now if thePassion rais’d on this Opinion (call it Avarice, Pride, Vanity, or Ambition) be indeed incapable of any real Satisfaction, even under the most successful Course of Fortune; and then too, attended with perpetual Fears of Disappointment and Loss: how can the Mind be other than miserable, when possess’d by it? But if instead of forming thus the Opinion ofGood; if instead of placing Worth or Excellence in these outward Subjects, we place it, where it is truest, in the Affections or Sentiments, in the governing Part and inward Character; we have then the full Enjoyment of it within our power: The Imagination or Opinion remains steddy and irreversible: And the Love, Desire and Appetite is answer’d; without Apprehension of Loss or Disappointment.
Here therefore arises Work and Employment for us Within: “To regulateFancy, and rectify Opinion, on which all depends.” For if our Loves, Desires, Hatreds and Aversions are left to themselves; we are necessarily expos’d to endless Vexation and Calamity: but if these are found capable of Amendment, or in any measure flexible or variable by Opinion; we ought, methinks, to make trial, at least, how far we might by this means acquire Felicity and Content.
Accordingly, if we find it evident, on one hand, that by indulging any wrong Appetite (as either Debauch, Malice, or Revenge) the Opinion of the false Good increases; and the Appetite, which is a real Ill, grows so much the stronger: we may be as fully assur’d, on the other hand, that by restraining this Affection, and nourishing a contrary sort in opposition to it; we cannot fail to diminish what is Ill, and increase what is properly our Happiness and Good.
On this account, a Man may reasonably conclude, “That it becomes him, by working upon his own Mind, to withdraw the Fancy or Opinion of Good or Ill from that to which justly and by necessity it is not join’d; and apply it, with the strongest Resolution, to that with which it naturally agrees.” For if the Fancy or Opinion of Good be join’d to what is not durable, nor in my power either to acquire or to retain; the more such an Opinion prevails, the more I must be subject to Disappointment and Distress. But if there be that to which, whenever I apply the Opinion or Fancy of Good, I find the Fancy more consistent, and the Good more durable, solid, and within my Power and Command; then the more such an Opinion prevails in me, the more Satisfaction and Happiness I must experience.
Now, if I join the Opinion of Good to the Possessions of the Mind; if it be in the Affections themselves that I place my highest Joy, and in those Objects, whatever they are, of inward Worth and Beauty, (such as Honesty, Faith, Integrity, Friendship, Honour) ’tis evident I can never possibly, in this respect, rejoice amiss, or indulge my-self too far in the Enjoyment. The greater my Indulgence is, the less I have reason to fear either Reverse or Disappointment.
This, I know, is far contrary in another Regimen of Life. The Tutorage of Fancy and Pleasure, and the easy Philosophy of taking that for Good which pleases me, or which I fansy merely, will, in time, give me Uneasiness sufficient. ’Tis plain, from what has been debated, That the less fanciful I am, in what relates to my Content and Happiness, the more powerful and absolute I must be, in Self-enjoyment, and the Possession of my Good. And since ’tis Fancy merely, which gives the force of Good, or power of passing as such, to Things of Chance and outward Dependency; ’tis evident, that the more I take from Fancy in this respect, the more I confer upon my-self. As I am less led or betray’d by Fancy to an Esteem of what depends on others; I am the more fix’d in the Esteem of what depends on myself alone. And if I have once gain’d the Taste of Liberty, I shall easily understand the force of this Reasoning, and know both my trueSelf and Interest.
The Method therefore requir’d in this my inward OEconomy, is, to make those Fancys themselves the Objects of my Aversion which justly deserve it; by being the Cause of a wrong Estimation and Measure of Good and Ill, and consequently the Cause of my Unhappiness and Disturbance.
Accordingly (as the learned Masters in this Science advise) we are to begin rather by the averse, than by the prone and forward Disposition. We are to work rather by the weaning than the ingaging Passions: since if we give way chiefly to Inclination, by loving, applauding and admiring what is Great and Good, we may possibly, it seems, in some high Objects of that kind, be so amus’d and extasy’d, as to lose our-selves, and miss our proper Mark, for want of a steddy and settled Aim. But being more sure and infallible in what relates to our Ill, we shou’d begin, they tell us, by applying our Aversion, on that side, and raising our Indignation against those Meannesses of Opinion and Sentiment, which are the Causes of our Subjection, and Perplexity.
Thus the covetous Fancy, if consider’d as the Cause of Misery, (and consequently detested as a real Ill) must of necessity abate: And the ambitious Fancy, if oppos’d in the same manner, with Resolution, by better Thought, must resign it-self, and leave the Mind free, and disincumber’d in the pursuit of its better Objects.
Nor is the Case different in the Passion of Cowardice, or Fear of Death. For if we leave this Passion to it-self, (or to certain Tutors to manage for us) it may lead us to the most anxious and tormenting State of Life. But if it be oppos’d by sounder Opinion, and a just Estimation of things, it must diminish of course: And the natural Result of such a Practice must be, the Rescue of the Mind from numberless Fears, and Miserys of other kinds.
Thus at last a Mind, by knowing it-self, and its own proper Powers and Virtues, becomes free, and independent. It sees its Hindrances and Obstructions, and finds they are wholly from it-self, and from Opinions wrong-conceiv’d. The more it conquers in this respect, (be it in the least particular) the more it is its own Master, feels its own naturalLiberty, and congratulates with it-self on its own Advancement and Prosperity.
Whether some who are call’d Philosophers have so apply’d their Meditations, as to understand any thing of this Language, I know not. But well I am assur’d that many an honest and free-hearted Fellow, among the vulgar Rank of People, has naturally some kind of Feeling or Apprehension of this Self-enjoyment; when refusing to act for Lucre or outward Profit, the Thing which from his Soul he abhors, and thinks below him; he goes on, with harder Labour, but more Content, in his direct plain Path. He is secure within; free of what the World calls Policy, or Design; and sings, according to the old Ballad,
My Mind to me a Kingdom is, &c.
Which in Latin we may translate,
BUT I FORGET, it seems, that I am now speaking in the Person of our graveInquirer. I shou’d consider I have no Right to vary from the Pattern he has set; and that whilst I accompany him in this particular Treatise, I ought not to make the least Escape out of the high Road of Demonstration, into the diverting Paths of Poetry, or Humour.
As grave however as Morals are presum’d in their own nature, I look upon it as an essential matter in their Delivery, to take now and then the natural Air of Pleasantry. The first Morals which were ever deliver’d in the World, were in Parables, Tales, or Fables. And the latter and most consummate Distributers of Morals, in the very politest times, were great Tale-Tellers, and Retainers to honest AEsop.
After all the regular Demonstrations and Deductions of our grave Author, I dare say ’twou’d be a high Relief and Satisfaction to his Reader, to hear an Apologue, or Fable, well told, and with such humour as to need no sententious Moral at the end, to make the application.
As an Experiment in this case, let us at this instant imagine our grave Inquirer taking pains to shew us, at full length, the unnatural and unhappy Excursions, Rovings, or Expeditions of our ungovern’d Fancys and Opinions over a World of Riches, Honours, and other ebbing and flowing Goods. He performs this, we will suppose, with great Sagacity, to the full measure and scope of our Attention. Mean while, as full or satiated as we might find our-selves of serious and solid Demonstration, ’tis odds but we might find Vacancy still sufficient to receive Instruction by another Method. And I dare answer for success, shou’d a merrier Moralist of the AEsopaean-School present himself; and, hearing of this Chace describ’d by our Philosopher, beg leave to represent it to the life, by a homely Cur or two, of his Master’s ordinary breed.
“Two of this Race” (he wou’d tell us) “having been daintily bred, and in high thoughts of what they call’d Pleasure and good Living, travel’d once in quest of Game and Raritys, till they came by accident to the Sea-side. They saw there, at a distance from the shore, some floating pieces of a Wreck, which they took a fancy to believe some wonderful rich Dainty, richer than Amber-greese, or the richest Product of the Ocean. They cou’d prove it, by their Appetite and Longing, to be no less than Quintessence of the Main, ambrosial Substance, the Repast of marine Deitys, surpassing all which Earth afforded.—By these rhetorical Arguments, after long Reasoning with one another in this florid Vein, they proceeded from one Extravagance of Fancy to another; till they came at last to this issue. Being unaccustom’d to Swimming, they wou’d not, it seems, in prudence, venture so far out of their Depth as was necessary to reach their imagin’d Prize: But being stout Drinkers, they thought with themselves, they might compass to drink all which lay in their way; even TheSea it-self; and that by this method they might shortly bring their Goods safe to dry Land. To work therefore they went; and drank till they were both burst.”
For my own part, I am fully satisfy’d that there are more Sea-drinkers than one or two, to be found among the principal Personages of Mankind; and that if these Dogs of ours were silly Curs, many who pass for wise in our own Race are little wiser; and may properly enough be said to have the Sea to drink.
’Tis pretty evident that they who live in the highest Sphere of human Affairs, have a very uncertain View of the thing call’d Happiness or Good. It lies out at Sea, far distant, in the Offin; where those Gentlemen ken it but very imperfectly: And the means they employ in order to come up with it, are very wide of the matter, and far short of their propos’d End.—“First a general Acquaintance.—Visits, Levees.—Attendance upon the Great and Little.—Popularity.—A Place in Parliament.—Then another at Court.—Then Intrigue, Corruption, Prostitution.—Then a higher Place.—Then a Title.—Then a Remove.—A newMinister!—Fractions at Court.—Ship-wreck of Ministrys—The new: The old.—Engage with one: piece up with t’other.—Bargains; Losses; After-Games; Retrievals.”—Is not this, the Sea to drink?
But if riches could make you wise, if they could make you less lustful, less easily frightened, of course you would blush to have any one alive more avaricious than you.
But lest I shou’d be tempted to fall into a manner I have been oblig’d to disclaim in this part of my Miscellaneous Performance; I shall here set a Period to this Discourse, and renew my attempt of serious Reflection and grave Thought, by taking up my Clew in a fresh Chapter.
AS heavily as it went with us, in the deep philosophical part of our preceding Chapter; and as necessarily engag’d as we still are to prosecute the same serious Inquiry, and Search, into those dark Sources; ’tis hop’d, That our remaining Philosophy may flow in a more easy Vein; and the second Running be found somewhat clearer than the first. However it be; we may, at least, congratulate with our-selves for having thus briefly pass’d over that Metaphysical part, to which we have paid sufficient deference. Nor shall we scruple to declare our Opinion, “That it is, in a manner, necessary for one who wou’d usefully philosophize, to have a Knowledg in this part of Philosophy, sufficient to satisfy him that there is no Knowledg or Wisdom to be learnt from it.” For of this Truth nothing besides Experience and Study will be able fully to convince him.
When we are even past these empty Regions and Shadows of Philosophy; ’twill still perhaps appear an uncomfortable kind of travelling thro’ those other invisible Ideal Worlds: such as the Study of Morals, we see, engages us to visit. Men must acquire a very peculiar and strong Habit of turning their Eye inwards, in order to explore the interior Regions and Recesses of the Mind, the hollow Caverns of deep Thought, the private Seats of Fancy, and the Wastes and Wildernesses, as well as the more fruitful and cultivated Tracts of this obscure Climate.
But what can one do? Or how dispense with these darker Disquisitions and Moon-light Voyages, when we have to deal with a sort of Moon-blindWits, who tho very acute and able in their kind, may be said to renounce Day-light, and extinguish, in a manner, the bright visible outward World, by allowing us to know nothing beside what we can prove, by strict and formal Demonstration?
’Tis therefore to satisfy such rigid Inquirers as these, that we have been necessitated to proceed by the inward way; and that in our preceding Chapter we have built only on such foundations as are taken from our very Perceptions, Fancys, Appearances, Affections, and Opinions themselves, without regard to any thing of an exteriorWorld, and even on the supposition that there is no such World in being.
Such has been our late dry Task. No wonder if it carrys, indeed, a meagre and raw Appearance. It may be look’d on, in Philosophy, as worse than a mere EgyptianImposition. For to make Brick without Straw or Stubble, is perhaps an easier labour, than to prove Morals without a World, and establish a Conduct of Life without the Supposition of any thing living or extant besides our immediate Fancy, and Worldof Imagination.
But having finished this mysterious Work, we come now to open Day, and Sunshine: And, as a Poet perhaps might express himself, we are now ready to quit
We are, henceforward, to trust our Eyes, and take for real the whole Creation, andthe fair Forms which lie before us. We are to believe the Anatomy of our own Body, and in proportionable Order, the Shapes, Forms, Habits, and Constitutions of other Animal-Races. Without demurring on the profound modern Hypothesis of animal Insensibility, we are to believe firmly and resolutely, “That other Creatures have their Sense and Feeling, their mere Passions and Affections, as well as our-selves.” And in this manner we proceed accordingly, on our Author’s Scheme, “To inquire what is truly natural to each Creature: And Whether that which is natural to each, and is its Perfection, be not withal its Happiness, or Good.”
To deny there is any thing properly natural, (after the Concessions already made) wou’d be undoubtedly very preposterous and absurd. Nature and the outward World being own’d existent, the rest must of necessity follow. The Anatomy of Bodys, the Order of the Spheres, the proper Mechanisms of a thousand kinds, and the infinite Ends and sutable Means establish’d in the general Constitution and Order of Things; all this being once admitted, and allow’d to pass as certain and unquestionable, ’tis as vain afterwards to except against the Phrase of natural and unnatural, and question the Propriety of this Speech apply’d to the particular Forms and Beings in the World, as it wou’d be to except against the common Appellations of Vigour and Decay in Plants, Health or Sickness in Bodys, Sobriety or Distraction in Minds, Prosperity or Degeneracy in any variable part of the known Creation.
We may, perhaps, for Humour sake, or after the known way of disputant Hostility, in the support of any odd Hypothesis, pretend to deny this natural and unnatural in Things. ’Tis evident, however, that tho our Humour or Taste be, by such Affectation, ever so much deprav’d; we cannot resist our natural Anticipation in behalf ofNature; according to whose suppos’d Standard we perpetually approve and disapprove, and to whom in all natural Appearances, all moral Actions (whatever we contemplate, whatever we have in debate) we inevitably appeal, and pay our constant Homage, with the most apparent Zeal and Passion.
’Tis here, above all other places, that we say with strict Justice,
You may turn out nature with a pitchfork, yet back she will keep coming.
The airy Gentlemen, who have never had it in their thoughts to studyNature in their own Species; but being taken with other Loves, have apply’d their Parts and Genius to the same Study in a Horse, a Dog, a Game-Cock, a Hawk, or any other Animal of that degree; know very well, that to each Species there belongs a several Humour, Temper, and Turn of inward Disposition, as real and peculiar as the Figure and outward Shape, which is with so much Curiosity beheld and admir’d. If there be any thing ever so little amiss or wrong in the inward Frame, the Humour or Temper of the Creature, ’tis readily call’d vicious; and when more than ordinarily wrong, unnatural. The Humours of the Creatures, in order to their redress, are attentively observ’d; sometimes indulg’d and flatter’d; at other times controul’d and check’d with proper Severitys. In short, their Affections, Passions, Appetites, and Antipathys, are as duly regarded as those in Human Kind, under the strictest Discipline of Education. Such is theSenseof inward Proportion and Regularity of Affections, even in our Noble Youths them-selves; who in this respect are often known expert and able Masters of Education, tho not so susceptible of Discipline and Culture in their own case, after those early Indulgences to which their Greatness has intitled ’em.
As little favourable however as these sportly Gentlemen are presum’d to show themselves towards the Care or Culture of their own Species; as remote as their Contemplations are thought to lie from Nature and Philosophy; they confirm plainly and establish our philosophical Foundation of the natural Ranks, Orders, interior and exterior Proportions of the several distinct Species and Forms of Animal Beings. Ask one of these Gentlemen, unawares, when sollicitously careful and busy’d in the great Concerns of his Stable, or Kennel, “Whether his Hound or Greyhound-Bitch who eats her Puppys, is as natural as the other who nurses ’em?” and he will think you frantick. Ask him again, “Whether he thinks the unnatural Creature who acts thus, or the natural-one who does otherwise, is best in its kind, and enjoys it-self the most?” And he will be inclin’d to think still as strangely of you. Or if perhaps he esteems you worthy of better Information; he will tell you, “That his best-bred Creatures, and of the truest Race, are ever the noblest and most generous in their Natures: That it is this chiefly which makes the difference between the Horse of good Blood, and the errant Jade of a base Breed; between the Game-Cock, and the Dunghil-Craven; between the true Hawk, and the mere Kite or Buzzard; and between the right Mastiff, Hound, or Spaniel, and the very Mungrel.” He might, withal, tell you perhaps with a masterly Air in this Brute-Science, “That the timorous, poor-spirited, lazy and gluttonous of his Dogs, were those whom he either suspected to be of a spurious Race, or who had been by some accident spoil’d in their Nursing and Management: for that this was not natural to ’em. That in every Kind, they were still the miserablest Creatures who were thus spoil’d: And that having each of ’em their proper Chace or Business, if they lay resty and out of their Game, chamber’d, and idle, they were the same as if taken out of their Element. That the saddest Curs in the world, were those who took the Kitchin-Chimney and Dripping-pan for their Delight; and that the only happyDog (were one to be a DogOne’s-Self) was he, who in his proper Sport and Exercise, his natural Pursuit and Game, endur’d all Hardships, and had so much delight in Exercise and in the Field, as to forget Home and his Reward.”
Thus the natural Habits and Affections of the inferior Creatures are known; and their unnatural and degenerate part discover’d. Depravity and Corruption is acknowledg’d as real in their Affections, as when any thing is mishapen, wrong, or monstrous in their outward Make. And notwithstanding much of this inward Depravity is discoverable in the Creatures tam’d by Man, and, for his Service or Pleasure merely, turn’d from their natural Course into a contrary Life and Habit; notwithstanding that, by this means, the Creatures who naturally herd with one another, lose their associating Humour, and they who naturally pair and are constant to each other, lose their kind of conjugal Alliance and Affection; yet when releas’d from human Servitude, and return’d again to their natural Wilds, and rural Liberty, they instantly resume their natural and regular Habits, such as are conducing to the Increase and Prosperity of their own Species.
Well it is perhaps for Mankind, that tho there are so many Animals who naturally herd for Company’s sake, and mutual Affection, there are so few who for Conveniency, and by Necessity are oblig’d to a strict Union, and kind of confederate State. The Creatures who, according to the OEconomy of their Kind, are oblig’d to make themselves Habitations of Defense against the Seasons and other Incidents; they who in some parts of the Year are depriv’d of all Subsistence, and are therefore necessitated to accumulate in another, and to provide withal for the Safety of their collected Stores, are by their Nature indeed as strictly join’d, and with as proper Affections towards their Publick and Community, as the looser Kind, of a more easy Subsistence and Support, are united in what relates merely to their Offspring, and the Propagation of their Species. Of these thorowly associating and confederate-Animals, there are none I have ever heard of, who in Bulk or Strength exceed theBeaver. The major part of these political Animals, and Creatures of a joint Stock, are as inconsiderable as the Race of Ants or Bees. But had Nature assign’d such an OEconomy as this to so puissant an Animal, for instance, as theElephant, and made him withal as prolifick as those smaller Creatures commonly are; it might have gone hard perhaps with Mankind: And a single Animal, who by his proper Might and Prowess has often decided the Fate of the greatest Battels which have been fought by Human Race, shou’d he have grown up into a Society, with a Genius for Architecture and Mechanicks proportionable to what we observe in those smaller Creatures; we shou’d, with all our invented Machines, have found it hard to dispute with him the Dominion of the Continent.
Were we in a disinterested View, or with somewhat less Selfishness than ordinary, to consider the OEconomys, Parts, Interests, Conditions, and Terms of Life, which Nature has distributed and assign’d to the several Species of Creatures round us, we shou’d not be apt to think our-selves so hardly dealt with. But Whether our Lot in this respect be just, or equal, is not the Question with us, at present. ’Tis enough that we know “There is certainly an Assignment and Distribution: That each OEconomy or Part so distributed, is in it-self uniform, fix’d, and invariable: and That if any thing in the Creature be accidentally impair’d; if any thing in the inward Form, the Disposition, Temper or Affections, be contrary or unsutable to the distinct OEconomy or Part, the Creature is wretched and unnatural.”
The social or natural Affections, which our Author considers as essential to the Health, Wholeness, or Integrity of the particular Creature, are such as contribute to the Welfare and Prosperity of that Whole or Species, to which he is by Nature join’d. All the Affections of this kind our Author comprehends in that single name of natural. But as the Design or End of Nature in each Animal-System, is exhibited chiefly in the Support and Propagation of the particular Species; it happens, of consequence, that those Affections of earliest Alliance and mutual Kindness between the Parent and the Offspring, are known more particularly by the name of natural Affection. However, since it is evident that all Defect or Depravity of Affection, which counterworks or opposes the original Constitution and OEconomy of the Creature, is unnatural; it follows, “That in Creatures who by their particular OEconomy are fitted to the strictest Society and Rule of common Good, the most unnatural of all Affections are those which separate from this Community; and the mosttruly natural, generous and noble, are those which tend towards Publick Service, and the Interest of theSocietyat large.”
This is the main Problem which our Author in more philosophical Terms demonstrates, in this Treatise, “That for a Creature whose natural End is Society, to operate as is by Nature appointed him towards the Good of such hisSociety,orWhole, is in reality to pursue his own natural and properGood.” And “That to operate contrary-wise, or by such Affections as sever from that common Good, or publick Interest, is, in reality, to work towards his own natural and properIll.” Now if Man, as has been prov’d, be justly rank’d in the number of those Creatures whose OEconomy is according to a joint-Stock and publick-Weal; if it be understood, withal, that the only State of his Affections which answers rightly to this publick-Weal, is the regular, orderly, or virtuous State; it necessarily follows, “That Virtue is his natural Good, and Vice his Misery and Ill.”
As for that further Consideration, “Whether Nature has orderly and justly distributed the several OEconomys or Parts; and Whether the Defects, Failures, or Calamitys of particular Systems are to the advantage of all in general, and contribute to the Perfection of the one common and universal System”; we must refer to our Author’s profounder Speculations in this his Inquiry, and in his following PhilosophickDialogue. But if what he advances in this respect be real, or at least the most probable by far of any Scheme or Representation which can be made of the Universal Nature and Cause of things; it will follow, “That since Man has been so constituted, by means of his rational Part, as to be conscious of this his more immediate Relation to the Universal System, and Principle of Order and Intelligence; he is not only by Nature sociable, within the Limits of his own Species, or Kind; but in a yet more generous and extensive manner. He is not only born toVirtue,Friendship, Honesty, and Faith; but to Religion,Piety, Adoration, and a generous Surrender of his Mind to whatever happens from that SupremeCause, or Order of Things, which he acknowledges intirely just, and perfect.”
THESE ARE our Author’s formal and grave Sentiments; which if they were not truly his, and sincerely espous’d by him, as the real Result of his best Judgment and Understanding, he wou’d be guilty of a more than common degree of imposture. For, according to his own Rule, an affected Gravity, and feign’d Seriousness carry’d on, thro’ any Subject, in such a manner as to leave no Insight into the Fiction or intended Raillery; is in truth no Raillery, or Wit, at all; but a gross, immoral, and illiberal way of Abuse, foreign to the Character of a good Writer, a Gentleman, or Man ofWorth.
But since we have thus acquitted our-selves of that serious Part, of which our Reader was before-hand well appriz’d; let him now expect us again in our original Miscellaneous Manner and Capacity. ’Tis here, as has been explain’d to him, that Raillery and Humour are permitted: and Flights, Sallys, and Excursions of every kind are found agreeable and requisite. Without this, there might be less Safety found, perhaps, in Thinking. Every light Reflection might run us up to the dangerous State of Meditation. And in reality, profound Thinking is many times the Cause of shallow Thought. To prevent this contemplative Habit and Character, of which we see so little good effect in the World, we have reason perhaps to be fond of the diverting Manner in Writing, and Discourse, especially if the Subject be of a solemn kind. There is more need, in this case, to interrupt the long-spun Thred of Reasoning, and bring into the Mind, by many different Glances and broken Views, what cannot so easily be introduc’d by one steddy Bent, or continu’d Stretch of Sight.
OF all the artificial Relations, form’d between Mankind, the most capricious and variable is that of Author and Reader. Our Author, for his part, has declar’d his Opinion of this, where he gives his Advice to modern Authors. And tho he supposes that every Author in Form, is, in respect of the particular matter he explains, superior in Understanding to his Reader; yet he allows not that any Author shou’d assume the upper hand, or pretend to withdraw himself from that necessary Subjection to foreign Judgment and Criticism, which must determine the Place of Honour on the Reader’s side.
’Tis evident that an Author’s Art and Labour are for his Reader’s sake alone. ’Tis to his Reader he makes his application, if not openly and avowedly, yet, at least, with implicit Courtship. Poets indeed, and especially those of a modern kind, have a peculiar manner of treating this Affair with a high hand. They pretend to set themselves above Mankind. “Their Pens are sacred: Their Style and Utterance divine.” They write, often, as in a Language foreign to human Kind; and wou’d disdain to be reminded of those poor Elements of Speech, their Alphabet and Grammar.
But here inferior Mortals presume often to intercept their Flight, and remind them of their fallible and human part. Had those first Poets who began this Pretence to Inspiration, been taught a manner of communicating their rapturous Thoughts and high Ideas by some other Medium than that of Style and Language; the Case might have stood otherwise. But the inspiringDivinity or Muse having, in the Explanation of her-self, submitted her Wit and Sense to the mechanick Rules of human arbitrary Composition; she must, in consequence, and by necessity, submit her-self to human Arbitration, and the Judgment of the literate World. And thus the Reader is still superior, and keeps the upper hand.
’Tis indeed no small Absurdity, to assert a Work or Treatise, written in human Language, to be above human Criticism, or Censure. For if the Art of Writing be from the grammatical Rules of human Invention and Determination; if even these Rules are form’d on casual Practice and various Use: there can be no Scripture but what must of necessity be subject to the Reader’s narrow Scrutiny and strict Judgment; unless a Language and Grammar, different from any of human Structure, were deliver’d down from Heaven, and miraculously accommodated to human Service and Capacity.
’Tis no otherwise in the grammatical Art of Characters, and painted Speech, than in the Art of Painting it-self. I have seen, in certain Christian Churches, an antient Piece or two, affirm’d, on the solemn Faith of Priestly Tradition, “to have been Angelically and Divinely wrought, by a supernatural Hand, and sacred Pencil.” Had the Piece happen’d to be of a Hand like Raphael’s, I cou’d have found nothing certain to oppose to this Tradition. But having observ’d the whole Style and Manner of the pretended heavenly Workmanship to be so indifferent as to vary in many Particulars from the Truth of Art, I presum’d within my-self to beg pardon of the Tradition, and assert confidently, “That if the Pencil had been Heaven-guided, it cou’d never have been so lame in its performance”: It being a mere contradiction to all Divine and Moral Truth, that a Celestial Hand, submitting it-self to the Rudiments of a human Art, shou’d sin against theArtit-self, and express Falshood and Error, instead of Justness and Proportion.
It may be alledg’d perhaps, “That there are, however, certain Authors in the World, who tho, of themselves, they neither boldly claim the Privilege of Divine Inspiration, nor carry indeed the least resemblance of Perfection in their Style or Composition; yet they subdue theReader, gain the ascendent over his Thought and Judgment, and force from him a certain implicit Veneration and Esteem.” To this I can only answer, “That if there be neither Spell nor Inchantment in the Case; this can plainly be no other than mere Enthusiasm”; except, perhaps, where the supreme Powers have given their Sanction to any religious Record, or pious Writ: And in this Case, indeed, it becomes immoral and profane in any one, to deny absolutely, or dispute the sacred Authority of the least Line or Syllable contain’d in it. But shou’d the Record, instead of being single, short and uniform, appear to be multifarious, voluminous, and of the most difficult Interpretation; it wou’d be somewhat hard, if not wholly impracticable in the Magistrate, to suffer this Record to be universally current, and at the same time prevent its being variously apprehended and descanted on, by the several differing Genius’s and contrary Judgments of Mankind.
’Tis remarkable, that in the politest of all Nations, the Writings look’d upon as most sacred, were those of their great Poets; whose Works indeed were truly divine, in respect of Art, and the Perfection of their Frame and Composition. But there was yet more Divinity ascrib’d to them, than what is comprehended in this latter Sense. The Notions of vulgar Religion were built on their miraculous Narrations. The wiser and better sort themselves paid a regard to them in this respect; tho they interpreted them indeed more allegorically. Even the Philosophers who criticiz’d ’em with most Severity, were not their least Admirers; when they ascrib’d to ’em that divine Inspiration, or sublimeEnthusiasm, of which our Author has largely treated elsewhere.
It wou’d, indeed, ill become any Pretender to Divine Writing, to publish his Work under a Character of Divinity; if, after all his Endeavours, he came short of a consummate and just Performance. In this respect the CumeanSibyl was not so indiscreet or frantick, as she might appear, perhaps, by writing her Prophetick Warnings and pretended Inspirations upon Joint-Leaves; which, immediately after their elaborate Superscription, were torn in pieces, and scatter’d by the Wind.
You will see an inspired prophetess, who chants destiny at the foot of her rock and entrusts her marks and words to leaves. Whatever lines the maid has written on the leaves, she sorts into order and shuts them within her cave. There they remain unmoved nor shift from their order. Yet when the hinge turns and a breath of wind has stirred them, and the door has disordered the light leaves, never thereafter does she trouble to capture them as they flutter in her cavern or to restore their order or join the leaves. Away men go without advice and hate the Sibyl’s home.
’Twas impossible to disprove the Divinity of such Writings, whilst they cou’d be perus’d only in Fragments. Had the Sister-Priestess of Delphos, who deliver’d her-self in audible plain Metre, been found at any time to have transgress’d the Rule of Verse, it wou’d have been difficult in those days to father the lame Poetry upon Apollo himself. But where the Invention of the Leaves prevented the reading of a single Line intire; whatever Interpretations might have been made of this fragil and volatil Scripture, no Imperfection cou’d be charg’d on the OriginalText it-self.
What those Volumes may have been, which the disdainful Sibyl or Prophetess committed to the Flames; or what the remainder was, which the Roman Prince receiv’d and consecrated; I will not pretend to judg: Tho it has been admitted for Truth by the antient Christian Fathers, That these Writings were so far sacred and divine, as to have prophesy’d of the Birth of our religious Founder, and bore testimony to that holy Writ which has preserv’d his Memory, and is justly held, in the highest degree, sacred among Christians.
The Policy however of OldRome was such, as not absolutely to rest the Authority of their Religion on any Composition of Literature. The SibyllineVolumes were kept safely lock’d, and inspected only by such as were ordain’d, or deputed for that purpose. And in this Policy the NewRome has follow’d their Example; in scrupling to annex the supreme Authority and sacred Character of Infallibility toScriptureit-self; and in refusing to submit that Scripture to publick Judgment, or to any Eye or Ear but what they qualify for the Inspection of such sacred Mysterys.
The Mahometan Clergy seem to have a different Policy. They boldly rest the Foundation of their Religion on a Book: Such a one as (according to their Pretension) is not only perfect, but inimitable. Were a real Man of Letters, and a just Critick permitted to examine this Scripture by the known Rules of Art; he wou’d soon perhaps refute this Plea. But so barbarous is the accompanying Policy and Temper of these Eastern Religionists, that they discourage, and in effect extinguish all true Learning, Science, and the politer Arts, in company with the antient Authors and Languages, which they set aside; and by this infallible Method, leave their Sacred Writthe sole Standard of literate Performance. For being compar’d to nothing besides it-self, or what is of an inferior kind, it must undoubtedly be thought incomparable.
’Twill be yielded, surely, to the Honour of the Christian World, that theirFaith (especially that of the Protestant Churches) stands on a more generous Foundation. They not only allow Comparison of Authors, but are content to derive their Proofs of the Validity of their sacred Record and Revelation, even from those Authors call’d Profane; as being well appriz’d, according to the Maxim of our Divine Master, “That in what we bear witness only to our-selves, our Witness cannot be establish’d as a Truth.” So that there being at present no immediate Testimony of Miracle or Sign in behalf of holy Writ; and there being in its own particular Composition or Style nothing miraculous, or self-convincing; if the collateral Testimony of other antient Records, Historians, and foreign Authors, were destroy’d, or wholly lost; there wou’d be less Argument or Plea remaining against that natural Suspicion of those who are call’d Sceptical, “That the holy Records them-selves were no other than the pure Invention or artificial Compilement of an interested Party, in behalf of the richest Corporation and most profitable Monopoly which cou’d be erected in the World.”
Thus, in reality, the Interest of our pious Clergy is necessarily join’d with that of antient Letters, and polite Learning. By this they perpetually refute the crafty Arguments of those Objectors. When they abandon this; they resign their Cause. When they strike at it; they strike even at the Root and Foundation of our holy Faith, and weaken that Pillar on which the whole Fabrick of our Religion depends.
It belongs to mere Enthusiasts and Fanaticks to plead the Sufficiency of a reiterate translated Text, deriv’d to ’em thro’ so many Channels, and subjected to so many Variations, of which they are wholly ignorant. Yet wou’d they persuade us, it seems, that from hence alone they can recognize the Divine Spirit, and receive it in themselves, un-subject (as they imagine) to any Rule, and superior to what they themselves often call the dead Letter, and unprofitable Science.—This, any one may see, is building Castles in the Air, and demolishing them again at pleasure; as the exercise of an aerial Fancy, or heated Imagination.
But the judicious Divines of the establish’d Christian Churches, have sufficiently condemn’d this Manner. They are far from resting their Religion on the common Aspect, or obvious Form of their vulgarBible, as it presents it-self in the printed Copy, or modern Version. Neither do they in the Original it-self represent it to us as a very Master-piece of Writing, or as absolutely perfect in the Purity and Justness either of Style, or Composition. They allow the Holy Authors to have written according to their best Facultys, and the Strength of their natural Genius: “A Shepherd like a Shepherd; and a Prince like a Prince: A Man of reading, and advanc’d in Letters, like a Proficient in the kind; and a Man of meaner Capacity and Reading, like one of the ordinary sort, in his own common Idiom, and imperfect manner of Narration.”
’Tis the Substance only of the Narrative, and the principal Facts confirming the Authority of the Revelation, which our Divines think themselves concern’d to prove, according to the best Evidence of which the Matter it-self is capable. And whilst the Sacred Authors themselves allude not only to the Annals and Historys of the HeathenWorld, but even to the philosophical Works, the regular Poems, the very Plays and Comedys of the learned and polite Antients; it must be own’d, that as those antient Writings are impair’d, or lost, not only the Light and Clearness of holy Writ, but even the Evidence it-self of its main Facts, must in proportion be diminish’d and brought in question. So ill advis’d were those devout Churchmen heretofore, who in the height of Zeal did their utmost to destroy all Footsteps of Heathen Literature, and consequently all further use of Learning or Antiquity.
But happily the Zeal of this kind is now left as proper only to those despis’d and ignorant modern Enthusiasts we have describ’d. The RomanChurch it-self is so recover’d from this primitive Fanaticism, that their Great Men, and even their Pontiffs, are found ready to give their helping Hand, and confer their Bounty liberally towards the advancement of all antient and polite Learning. They justly observe, that their very Traditions stand in need of some collateral Proof. The Conservation of these other antient and disinterested Authors, they wisely judg essential to the Credibility of those principal Facts, on which the whole religious History and Tradition depend.
’Twou’d indeed be in vain for us, to bring a Pontius Pilate into our Creed, and recite what happen’d under him, in Judea, if we knew not, “Under whom he himself govern’d, whose Authority he had, or what Character he bore, in that remote Country, and amidst a foreign People.” In the same manner, ’twou’d be in vain for a RomanPontiff to derive his Title to spiritual Sovereignty from the Seat, Influence, Power, and Donation of the RomanCaesars, and their Successors; if it appear’d not by any History, or collateral Testimony, “Who the first Caesars were; and how they came possess’d of that universal Power, and long Residence of Dominion.”
MY READER doubtless, by this time, must begin to wonder thro’ what Labyrinth of Speculation, and odd Texture of capricious Reflections, I am offering to conduct him. But he will not, I presume, be altogether displeas’d with me, when I give him to understand, that being now come into my last Miscellany, and being sensible of the little Courtship I have paid him, comparatively with what is practis’d in that kind by other modern Authors; I am willing, by way of Compensation, to express my Loyalty or Homage towards him, and shew, by my natural Sentiments, and Principles, “What particular Deference and high Respect I think to be his Due.”
The Issue therefore of this long Deduction is, in the first place, with due Compliments, in my Capacity of Author, and in the name of all modest Work-men willingly joining with me in this Representation, to congratulate our EnglishReader on the Establishment of what is so advantageous to himself; I mean, that mutual Relation between him and our-selves, which naturally turns so much to his Advantage, and makes us to be in reality the subservient Party. And in this respect ’tis to be hop’d he will long enjoy his just Superiority and Privilege over his humble Servants, who compose and labour for his sake. The Relation in all likelihood must still continue, and be improv’d. Our common Religion and Christianity, founded on Letters and Scripture, promises thus much. Nor is this Hope likely to fail us, whilst Readers are really allow’d the Liberty to read; that is to say, to examine, construe, and remark with Understanding.Learning and Science must of necessity flourish, whilst the Language of the wisest and most learned of Nations is acknowledg’d to contain the principal and essential part of our holy Revelation. And Criticism,Examinations, Judgments, literate Labours and Inquirys must still be in Repute and Practice; whilst Antient Authors, so necessary to the Support of the Sacred Volumes, are in request, and afford Imployment of such infinite Extent to us Moderns of whatever degree, who are desirous to signalize our-selves by any Atchievement in Letters, and be consider’d as the Investigators of Knowledg and Politeness.
I may undoubtedly, by virtue of my preceding Argument in behalf of Criticism, be allow’d, without suspicion of Flattery or mere Courtship, to assert the Reader’s Privilege above the Author; and assign to him, as I have done, the upper Hand, and Place of Honour. As to Fact, we know for certain, that the greatest of Philosophers, the very Founder of Philosophy it-self, was no Author. Nor did the Divine Author, and Founder of our Religion, condescend to be an Author in this other respect. He who cou’d best have given us the History of his own Life, with the intire Sermons and divine Discourses which he made in publick, was pleas’d to leave itto others, “To take in hand”: As there were many, it seems, long afterwards, who did; and undertook accordingly “to write in order, and as seem’d good to them, for the better Information of particular Persons, what was then believ’d among the Initiated or Catechiz’d, from Tradition, and early Instruction in their Youth; or what had been transmitted, by Report, from such as were the presum’d Auditors, and Eye-witnesses of those things in former time.”
Whether those sacred Books ascrib’d to the Divine Legislator of the Jews, and which treat of his Death, Burial, and Succession, as well as of his Life and Actions, are strictly to be understood as coming from the immediate Pen of that holy Founder, or rather from some other inspir’d Hand, guided by the same influencing Spirit; I will not presume so much as to examine or enquire. But in general we find, That both as to publick Concerns, in Religion, and in Philosophy, the great and eminent Actors were of a Rank superior to the Writing-Worthys. The great Athenian Legislator, tho noted as a poetical Genius, cannot be esteem’d an Author, for the sake of some few Verses he may occasionally have made. Nor was the great SpartanFounder, a Poet himself, tho Author or Redeemer (if I may so express it) to the greatest and best of Poets; who ow’d in a manner his Form and Being to the accurate Searches and Collections of that greatPatron. The Politicians and civilSages, who were fitted in all respects for the great Scene of Business, cou’d not, it seems, be well taken out of it, to attend the slender and minute Affairs of Letters, and Scholastick Science.
’Tis true, indeed, that without a Capacity for Action, and a Knowledg of the World and Mankind, there can be no Author naturally qualify’d to write with Dignity, or execute any noble or great Design. But there are many, who with the highest Capacity for Business, are by their Fortune deny’d the Privilege of that higher Sphere. As there are others, who having once mov’d in it, have been afterwards, by many Impediments and Obstructions, necessitated to retire, and exert their Genius in this lower degree.
’Tis to some Catastrophe of this kind that we owe the noblest Historians (even the two Princes and Fathers of History) as well as the greatest Philosophical Writers, the Founder of the Academy, and others, who were also noble in respect of their Birth, and fitted for the highest Stations in the Publick; but discourag’d from engaging in it, on account of some Misfortunes, experienc’d either in their own Persons, or that of their near Friends.
’Tis to the early Banishment and long Retirement of a heroick Youth out of his native Country, that we owe an original System of Works, the politest, wisest, usefullest, and (to those who can understand the Divineness of a just Simplicity) the most amiable, and even the most elevating and exalting of all un-inspir’d and merely human Authors.
To this Fortune we owe some of the greatest of the antient Poets. ’Twas this Chance which produc’d the Muse of an exalted GrecianLyrick, and of his Follower Horace; whose Character, tho easy to be gather’d from History, and his own Works, is little observ’d by any of his Commentators: The general Idea, conceiv’d of him, being drawn chiefly from his precarious and low Circumstances at Court, after the forfeiture of his Estate, under the Usurpation and Conquest of an Octavius, and the Ministry of a Maecenas; not from his better Condition, and nobler Employments in earlier days, under the Favour and Friendship of greater and better Men, whilst the Roman State and Liberty subsisted. For of this Change he himself, as great a Courtier as he seem’d afterwards, gives sufficient Intimation.
Let Authors therefore know them-selves; and tho conscious of Worth, Virtue, and a Genius, such as may justly place them above Flattery or mean Courtship to their Reader; yet let them reflect, that as Authors merely, they are but of the second Rank of Men. And let theReader withal consider, “That when he unworthily resigns the place of Honour, and surrenders his Taste, or Judgment, to an Author of ever so great a Name, or venerable Antiquity, and not to Reason, and Truth, at whatever hazard; he not only betrays himself, but withal the common Cause of Author and Reader, the Interest of Letters and Knowledg, and the chief Liberty, Privilege, and Prerogative of the rational part of Mankind.”
’Tis related in History of the Cappadocians, That being offer’d their Liberty by the Romans, and permitted to govern themselves by their own Laws and Constitutions, they were much terrify’d at the Proposal; and as if some sore harm had been intended ’em, humbly made it their Request, “That they might be govern’d by arbitrary Power, and that an absolute Governour might without delay be appointed over ’em at the discretion of the Romans.” For such was their Disposition towards mere Slavery and Subjection; that they dar’d not pretend so much as to chuse their own Master. So essential they thought Slavery, and so divine a thing the Right ofMastership, that they dar’d not be so free even as to presume to give themselves that Blessing, which they chose to leave rather to Providence, Fortune, or a Conqueror, to bestow upon them. They dar’d not make a King; but wou’d rather take one from their powerful Neighbours. Had they been necessitated to come to an Election, the Horror of such a Use of Liberty in Government, wou’d perhaps have determin’d ’em to chuse blindfold, or leave it to the Decision of the commonest Lot, Cast of Dye, Cross or Pile, or whatever it were which might best enable them to clear themselves of the heinous Charge of using the least Foresight, Choice, or Prudence in such an Affair.
I shou’d think it a great Misfortune, were my Reader of the number of those, who in a kind of Cappadocian Spirit, cou’d easily be terrify’d with the Proposal of giving him his Liberty, and making him his own Judg. My Endeavour, I must confess, has been to shew him his just Prerogative in this respect, and to give him the sharpest Eye over his Author, invite him to criticize honestly, without favour or affection, and with the utmost Bent of his Parts and Judgment. On this account it may be objected to me, perhaps, “That I am not a little vain and presumptuous, in my own as well as in my Author’s behalf, who can thus, as it were, challenge my Reader to a Trial of his keenest Wit.”
But to this I answer, That shou’d I have the good fortune to raise the masterly Spirit of justCriticism in my Readers, and exalt them ever so little above the lazy, timorous, over-modest, or resign’d State, in which the generality of them remain; tho by this very Spirit, I my-self might possibly meet my Doom: I shou’d however abundantly congratulate with my-self on these my low Flights, be proud of having plum’d the Arrows of better Wits, and furnish’d Artillery, or Ammunition of any kind, to those Powers, to which I my-self had fall’n a Victim.
I will play the part of a whetstone.
I cou’d reconcile my Ambition in this respect to what I call my Loyalty to theReader; and say of his Elevation in Criticism and Judgment, what a Roman Princess said of her Son’s Advancement to Empire, “Let him kill me, so long as he comes to the throne.”
Had I been a SpanishCervantes, and with success equal to that comick Author, had destroy’d the reigning Taste of Gothick or MoorishChivalry, I cou’d afterwards contentedly have seen my Burlesque-Work it-self despis’d, and set aside; when it had wrought its intended effect, and destroy’d those Giants and Monsters of the Brain, against which it was originally design’d. Without regard, therefore, to the prevailing Relish or Taste which, in my own Person, I may unhappily experience, when these my Miscellaneous Works are leisurely examin’d; I shall proceed still in my Endeavour to refine my Reader’sPalate;whetting and sharpening it, the best I can, for Use, and Practice, in the lower Subjects: that by this Exercise it may acquire the greater Keenness, and be of so much the better effect in Subjects of a higher kind, which relate to his chief Happiness, his Liberty and Manhood.
SUPPOSING me therefore a mere comick Humourist, in respect of those inferior Subjects, which after the manner of my familiar Prose-Satir I presume to criticize; May not I be allow’d to ask, “Whether there remains not still among us noble Britons, something of that original Barbarous and Gothick Relish, not wholly purg’d away; when, even at this hour, Romances and Gallantrys of like sort, together with Works as monstrous of other kinds, are current, and in vogue, even with the People who constitute our reputed polite World?” Need I on this account refer again to our Author, where he treats in general of the Style and Manner of our modern Authors, from the Divine to the Comedian? What Person is there of the least Judgment or Understanding, who cannot easily, and without the help of a Divine, or rigid Moralist, observe the lame Condition of our EnglishStage; which nevertheless is found the Rendevouz and chief Entertainment of our best Company, and from whence in all probability our Youth will continue to draw their Notion of Manners, and their Taste of Life, more directly and naturally, than from the Rehearsals and Declamations of a graverTheater?
Let those whose business it is, advance, as they best can, the Benefit of that sacred Oratory, which we have lately seen and are still like to see employ’d to various purposes, and further designs than that of instructing us in Religion or Manners. Let ’em in that high Scene endeavour to refine our Taste and Judgment in sacred Matters. ’Tis the good Critick’s Task to amend our commonStage; nor ought this Dramatick Performance to be decry’d or sentenc’d by those Criticks of a higher Sphere. The Practice and Art is honest, in it-self. Our Foundations are well laid. And in the main, our EnglishStage (as has been remark’d) is capable of the highest Improvement; as well from the present Genius of our Nation, as from the rich Oar of our early Poets in this kind. But Faults are easier imitated than Beautys.
We find, indeed, our Theater become of late the Subject of a growing Criticism. We hear it openly complain’d, “That in our newer Plays as well as in our older, in Comedy as well as Tragedy, the Stage presents a proper Scene of Uproar;—Duels fought; Swords drawn, many of a side; Wounds given, and sometimes dress’d too; the Surgeon call’d, and the Patient prob’d and tented upon the Spot. That in our Tragedy, nothing is so common as Wheels, Racks, and Gibbets properly adorn’d; Executions decently perform’d; Headless Bodys and Bodiless Heads, expos’d to view: Battels fought: Murders committed: and the Dead carry’d off in great Numbers.”—Such is our Politeness!
Nor are these Plays, on this account, the less frequented by either of the Sexes: Which inclines me to favour the Conceit our Author has suggested concerning the mutual Correspondence and Relation between our RoyalTheater, and PopularCircus or Bear-Garden. For in the former of these Assemblys, ’tis undeniable that at least the two upper Regions or Gallerys contain such Spectators, as indifferently frequent each Place of Sport. So that ’tis no wonder we hear such Applause resounded on the Victorys of an Almanzor; when the same Partys had possibly, no later than the Day before, bestow’d their Applause as freely on the victorious Butcher, the Hero of another Stage: where amidst various Frays, bestial and human Blood, promiscuous Wounds and Slaughter; one Sex are observ’d as frequent and as pleas’d Spectators as the other, and sometimes not Spectators only, but Actors in the Gladiatorian Parts.—These Congregations, which we may be apt to call Heathenish, (tho in reality never known among the politer Heathens) are, in our Christian Nation, unconcernedly allow’d and tolerated, as no way injurious to religious Interests; whatever effect they may be found to have on national Manners, Humanity, and Civil Life. Of such Indulgencys as these, we hear no Complaints. Nor are any Assemblys, tho of the most barbarous and enormous kind, so offensive, it seems, to Men of Zeal, as religious Assemblys of a different Fashion or Habit from their own.
I am sorry to say, that, tho in the many parts of Poetry our Attempts have been high and noble, yet in general theTaste of Wit and Letters lies much upon a level with what relates to our Stage.
I can readily allow to our BritishGenius what was allow’d to the Roman heretofore:
By nature full of elevation and passion; for he has tragic inspiration enough and happy boldness.
But then I must add too, that the excessive Indulgence and Favour shown to our Authors on account of what their mere Genius and flowing Vein afford, has render’d them intolerably supine, conceited, and Admirers of themselves. The Publick having once suffer’d ’em to take the ascendent, they become, like flatter’d Princes, impatient of Contradiction or Advice. They think it a disgrace to be criticiz’d, even by a Friend; or to reform, at his desire, what they them-selves are fully convinc’d is negligent, and uncorrect.
The Limae Labor is the great Grievance, with our Country-men. An EnglishAuthor wou’d be allGenius. He wou’d reap the Fruits of Art; but without Study, Pains, or Application. He thinks it necessary, indeed, (lest his Learning shou’d be call’d in question) to show the World that he errs knowingly against the Rules of Art. And for this reason, whatever Piece he publishes at any time, he seldom fails, in some prefix’d Apology, to speak in such a manner of Criticism and Art, as may confound the ordinary Reader, and prevent him from taking up a Part, which, shou’d he once assume, wou’d prove fatal to the impotent and mean Performance.
’Twere to be wish’d, that when once our Authors had consider’d of a Model or Plan, and attain’d the Knowledg of a Whole and Parts; when from this beginning they had proceeded to Morals, and the Knowledg of what is call’d Poetick Manners, and Truth; when they had learnt to reject false Thought, embarassing and mix’d Metaphors, the ridiculous Paint in Comedy, and the false Sublime, and Bombast in Heroick; they wou’d at last have some regard to Numbers, Harmony, and anEar; and correct, as far as possible, the harsh Sounds of our Language, in Poetry at least, if not in Prose.
But so much are our British Poets taken up, in seeking out that monstrous Ornament which we call Rhyme, that ’tis no wonder if other Ornaments, and real Graces are unthought of, and left un-attempted. However, since in some Parts of Poetry, especially in the Dramatick, we have been so happy as to triumph over this barbarous Taste; ’tis unaccountable that our Poets, who from this Privilege ought to undertake some further Refinements, shou’d remain still upon the same level as before. ’Tis a shame to our Authors, that in their elegant Style and metred Prose there shou’d not be found a peculiar Grace and Harmony, resulting from a more natural and easy Disengagement of their Periods, and from a careful avoiding the Encounter of the shocking Consonants and jarring Sounds to which our Language is so unfortunately subject.
They have of late, ’tis true, reform’d in some measure the gouty Joints and Darning-work of Whereunto’s, Whereby’s, Thereof’s, Therewith’s, and the rest of this kind; by which, complicated Periods are so curiously strung, or hook’d on, one to another, after the long-spun manner of the Bar, or Pulpit. But to take into consideration no real Accent, or Cadency of Words, no Sound or Measure of Syllables; to put together, at one time, a Set of Compounds, of the longest Greek or Latin Termination; and at another, to let whole Verses, and those too of our heroick and longest sort, pass currently in Monosyllables; is, methinks, no slender Negligence. If single Verses at the head, or in the most emphatical places, of the most considerable Works, can admit of such a Structure, and pass for truly harmonious and poetical in this negligent form; I see no reason why more Verses than one or two, of the same formation, shou’d not be as well admitted; or why an un-interrupted Succession of these well-strung Monosyllables might not be allow’d to clatter after one another, like the Hammers of a Paper-Mill, without any breach of Musick, or prejudice to the Harmony of our Language. But if Persons who have gone no farther than a Smith’s Anvil to gain an Ear, are yet likely, on fair trial, to find a plain defect in these Ten-Monosyllable Heroicks; it wou’d follow, methinks, that even a Prose-Author, who attempts to write politely, shou’d endeavour to confine himself within those Bounds, which can never, without breach of Harmony, be exceeded in any just Metre, or agreeable Pronunciation.
THUS HAVE I ventur’d to arraign the Authority of those self-privileg’d Writers, who wou’d exempt themselves from Criticism, and save their ill-acquir’d Reputation, by the Decrial of an Art, on which the Cause and Interest of Wit and Letters absolutely depend. Be it they themselves, or their great Patrons in their behalf, who wou’d thus arbitrarily support the Credit of ill Writings; the Attempt, I hope, will prove unsuccessful. Be they Moderns or Antients, Foreigners or Natives, ponderous and austere Writers, or airy and of the humorous kind: Whoever takes refuge here, or seeks Protection hence; whoever joins his Party or Interest to this Cause; it appears from the very Fact and Endeavour alone, that there is just ground to suspect some Insufficiency or Imposture at the bottom. And on this account the Reader, if he be wise, will the rather redouble his Application and Industry, to examine the Merit of his assuming Author. If, as Reader, and Judg, he dares once assert that Liberty to which we have shewn him justly intitled; he will not easily be threaten’d or ridicul’d out of the use of his examining Capacity, and native Privilege of Criticism.
’Twas to this Art, so well understood and practis’d heretofore, that the wise Antients ow’d whatever was consummate and perfect in their Productions. ’Tis to the same Art we owe the Recovery of Letters in these latter Ages. To this alone we must ascribe the Recognition of antient Manuscripts, the Discovery of what is spurious, and the Discernment of whatever is genuine of those venerable Remains which have pass’d thro’ such dark Periods of Ignorance, and rais’d us to the Improvements we now make in every Science. ’Tis to this Art, that even the Sacred Authors themselves owe their highest Purity and Correctness. So sacred ought the Art it-self to be esteem’d; when from its Supplies alone is form’d that judicious and learned Strength, by which the Defenders of our Holy Religion are able so successfully to refute the Heathens, Jews, Sectarians, Hereticks, and other Enemys or Opposers of our primitive and antient Faith.
But having thus, after our Author’s example, asserted the Use of Criticism, in all literate Works, from the main Frame, or Plan of every Writing, down to the minutest Particle; we may now proceed to exercise this Art upon our Author himself, and by his own Rules examine him in this his last Treatise; reserving still to our-selves the same Privilege of Variation, and Excursion into other Subjects, the same Episodick Liberty, and Right of wandering, which we have maintain’d in the preceding Chapters.
ACCORDING to the common Course of Practice in our Age, we seldom see the Character of Writer and that of Critick united in the same Person. There is, I know, a certain Species of Authors, who subsist wholly by the criticizing or commenting Practice upon others, and can appear in no other Form besides what this Employment authorizes them to assume. They have no original Character, or first Part; but wait for something which may be call’d a Work, in order to graft upon it, and come in, for Sharers, at second hand.
The Pen-men of this Capacity and Degree are, from their Function and Employment, distinguish’d by the Title of Answerers. For it happens in the World, that there are Readers of a Genius and Size just fitted to these answering Authors. These, if they teach ’em nothing else, will teach ’em, they think, to criticize. And tho the new practising Criticks are of a sort unlikely ever to understand any original Book or Writing; they can understand, or at least remember, and quote the subsequent Reflections, Flouts, and Jeers, which may accidentally be made on such a Piece. Where-ever a Gentleman of this sort happens, at any time, to be in company, you shall no sooner hear a new Book spoken of, than ’twill be ask’d, “Who has answer’d it?” or “When is there an Answer to come out?”—Now the Answer, as our Gentleman knows, must needs be newer than the Book. And the newer a thing is, the more fashionable still, and the genteeler the Subject of Discourse. For this the Bookseller knows how to fit our Gentleman to a nicety: For he has commonly an Answer ready bespoke, and perhaps finish’d, by the time his new Book comes abroad. And ’tis odds but our fashionable Gentleman, who takes both together, may read the latter first, and drop the other for good and all.
But of these answeringWits, and the manner of Rejoinders, and reiterate Replies, we have said what is sufficient in a former Miscellany. We need only remark in general, “That ’tis necessary a writingCritick shou’d understand how to write. And tho every Writer is not bound to shew himself in the capacity of Critick, every writing Critick is bound to shew himself capable of being a Writer. For if he be apparently impotent in this latter kind, he is to be deny’d all Title or Character in the other.”
To censure merely what another Person writes; to twitch, snap, snub up, or banter; to torture Sentences and Phrases, turn a few Expressions into Ridicule, or write what is now-a-days call’d an Answer to any Piece, is not sufficient to constitute what is properly esteem’d a Writer, or Author, in due form. For this reason, tho there are many Answerers seen abroad, there are few or no Criticks or Satirists. But whatever may be the State of Controversy in our Religion, or politick Concerns; ’tis certain that in the mere literate World, Affairs are manag’d with a better Understanding between the principal Partys concern’d. The Writers or Authorsin possession have an easier time than any Ministry, or religious Party, which is uppermost. They have found a way, by decrying allCriticismin general, to get rid of their Dissenters, and prevent all Pretences to further Reformation in their State. TheCritick is made to appear distinct, and of another Species; wholly different from the Writer. None who have a Genius for Writing, and can perform with any Success, are presum’d so ill-natur’d or illiberal as to endeavour to signalize themselves in Criticism.
’Tis not difficult, however, to imagine why this practical Difference between Writer and Critick has been so generally establish’d amongst us, as to make the Provinces seem wholly distinct, and irreconcilable. The forwardWits, who without waiting their due time, or performing their requisite Studys, start up in the World as Authors, having with little Pains or Judgment, and by the strength of Fancy merely, acquir’d a Name with Mankind, can on no account afterwards submit to a Decrial or Disparagement of those raw Works, to which they ow’d their early Character and Distinction. Ill wou’d it fare with ’em, indeed, if on these tenacious Terms they shou’d venture upon Criticism, or offer to move that Spirit which wou’d infallibly give such Disturbance to their establish’d Title.
Now we may consider, That in our Nation, and especially in our present Age, whilst Wars, Debates, and publick Convulsions turn our Minds so wholly upon Business and Affairs; the better Genius’s being in a manner necessarily involv’d in the active Sphere, on which the general Eye of Mankind is so strongly fixt; there must remain in the Theatre of Wit a sufficient Vacancy of Place: and the quality of Actor upon that Stage must of consequence be very easily attainable, and at a low Price of Ingenuity or Understanding.
The Persons therefore who are in possession of the prime Parts in this deserted Theatre, being suffer’d to maintain their Ranks and Stations in full Ease, have naturally a good Agreement and Understanding with their Fellow-Wits. Being indebted to the Times for this Happiness, that with so little Industry or Capacity they have been able to serve the Nation with Wit, and supply the Place of real Dispensers and Ministers of the MusesTreasures; they must, necessarily, as they have any Love for themselves, or fatherly Affection for their Works, conspire with one another to preserve their common Interest of Indolence, and justify their Remisness, Uncorrectness, Insipidness, and downright Ignorance of all literate Art, or just poetick Beauty.
Great is the unity of the effeminate.
For this reason you see ’em mutually courteous, and benevolent; gracious and obliging, beyond measure; complimenting one another interchangeably, at the head of their Works, in recommendatory Verses, or in separate Panegyricks, Essays, and Fragments of Poetry; such as in the Miscellaneous Collections (our yearly Retail of Wit) we see curiously compacted, and accommodated to the Relish of the World. Here the Tyrocinium of Genius’s is annually display’d. Here, if you think fit, you may make acquaintance with the young Offspring of Wits, as they come up gradually under the old; with due Courtship, and Homage, paid to those high Predecessors of Fame, in hope of being one day admitted, by turn, into the noble Order, and made Wits by Patent and Authority.
This is the young Fry which you may see busily surrounding the grown Poet, or chief Play-house-Author, at a Coffee-House. They are his Guards; ready to take up Arms for him; if by some presumptuous Critick he is at any time attack’d. They are indeed the very Shadows of their immediate Predecessor, and represent the same Features, with some small Alteration perhaps for the worse. They are sure to aim at nothing above or beyond their Master; and wou’d on no account give him the least Jealousy of their aspiring to any Degree or Order of writing above him. From hence that Harmony and reciprocal Esteem, which, on such a bottom as this, cannot fail of being perfectly well establish’d among our Poets: The Age, mean while, being after this manner hopefully provided, and secure of a constant and like Succession of meritorious Wits, in every kind!
If by chance a Man of Sense, un-appriz’d of the Authority of these high Powers, shou’d venture to accost the Gentlemen of this Fraternity, at some Coffee-house Committee, whilst they were taken up, in mutual Admiration, and the usual Praise of their national and co-temporary Wits; ’tis possible he might be treated with some Civility, whilst he inquir’d, for Satisfaction sake, into the Beautys of those particular Works so unanimously extoll’d. But shou’d he presume to ask, in general, “Why is our Epick or Dramatick, our Essay, or common Prose no better executed?” Or, “Why in particular does such or such a reputed Wit write so incorrectly, and with so little regard to Justness of Thought or Language?” The Answer wou’d presently be given, “That we Englishmen are not ty’d up to such rigid Rules as those of the antient Grecian, or modern French Criticks.”
“Be it so (Gentlemen!) ’Tis your good Pleasure. Nor ought any one to dispute it with you. You are Masters, no doubt, in your own Country. But (Gentlemen!) the Question here, is not What your Authority may be over your own Writers. You may have them of what Fashion or Size of Wit you please; and allow them to entertain you at the rate you think sufficient, and satisfactory. But can you, by your good Pleasure, or the Approbation of your highest Patrons, make that to be either Wit, or Sense, which wou’d otherwise have been Bombast and Contradiction? If your Poets are still Mr. Bays’s, and your Prose-Authors Sir Rogers, without offering at a better Manner; must it follow that the Manner it-self is good, or the Wit genuine?—What say you (Gentlemen!) to this new Piece?—Let us examine these Lines which you call shining! This String of Sentences which you call clever! This Pile of Metaphors which you call sublime!—Are you unwilling (Gentlemen!) to stand the Test? Do you despise the Examination?
“Sir!—Since you are pleas’d to take this Liberty with us; May we presume to ask you a Question?” “O Gentlemen! as many as you please: I shall be highly honour’d.” “Why then (pray Sir!) inform us, Whether you have ever writ?” “Very often (Gentlemen!) especially on a Post-night.” “But have you writ (for instance, Sir!) a Play, a Song, an Essay, or a Paper, as, by way of Eminence, the current Pieces of our Weekly Wits are generally styl’d?” “Something of this kind I may perhaps (Gentlemen!) have attempted, tho without publishing my Work. But pray (Gentlemen!) what is my writing, or not writing to the question in hand?” “Only this, (Sir!) and you may fairly take our words for it: That, whenever you publish, you will find the Town against you. Your Piece will infallibly be condemn’d.” “So let it. But for what reason, Gentlemen? I am sure, you never saw the Piece.” “No, Sir. But you are a Critick. And we know by certain Experience, that, when a Critick writes according to Rule and Method, he is sure never to hit the English Taste. Did not Mr. R——, who criticiz’d our English Tragedy, write a sorry one of his own?” “If he did (Gentlemen!) ’twas his own fault, not to know his Genius better. But is his Criticism the less just on this account? If a Musician performs his Part well in the hardest Symphonys, he must necessarily know the Notes, and understand the Rules of Harmony and Musick. But must a Man, therefore, who has an Ear, and has study’d the Rules of Musick, of necessity have a Voice or Hand? Can no one possibly judg a Fiddle, but who is himself a Fiddler? Can no one judg a Picture, but who is himself a Layer of Colours?”—
Thus far our rational Gentleman perhaps might venture, before his Coffee-house Audience. Had I been at his Elbow to prompt him as a Friend, I shou’d hardly have thought fit to remind him of any thing further. On the contrary, I shou’d have rather taken him aside, to inform him of this Cabal, and establish’d Corporation of Wit; of their declar’d Aversion to Criticism, and of their known Laws and Statutes in that Case made and provided. I shou’d have told him, in short, that learned Arguments wou’d be mispent on such as these: And that he wou’d find little Success, tho he shou’d ever so plainly demonstrate to the Gentlemen of this Size of Wit and Understanding, “That the greatest Masters of Art, in every kind of Writing, were eminent in the critical Practice.” But that they really were so, witness, among the Antients, their greatest Philosophers, whose critical Pieces lie intermixt with their profound philosophical Works, and other politer Tracts ornamentally writ, for publick use. Witness in History and Rhetorick,Isocrates, Dionysius Halicarnasseus, Plutarch, and the corrupt Lucian himself; the only one perhaps of these Authors, whom our Gentlemen may, in some modern Translation, have look’d into, with any Curiosity or Delight. To these among the Romans we may add Cicero, Varro, Horace, Quintilian, Pliny, and many more.
Among the Moderns, a Boileau and a Corneille are sufficient Precedents in the Case before us. They apply’d their Criticism with just Severity, even to their own Works. This indeed is a Manner hardly practicable with the Poets of our own Nation. It wou’d be unreasonable to expect of ’em that they shou’d bring such Measures in use, as being apply’d to their Works, wou’d discover ’em to be wholly deform’d and disproportionable. ’Tis no wonder therefore if we have so little of this critical Genius extant, to guide us in our Taste. ’Tis no wonder if what is generally current in this kind, lies in a manner bury’d, and in disguise under Burlesque, as particularly in the witty Comedy of a noble Author of this last Age. To the Shame, however, of our profess’d Wits and Enterprizers in the higher Spheres of Poetry, it may be observ’d, that they have not wanted good Advice and Instruction of the graver kind, from as high a Hand in respect of Quality and Character: Since one of the justest of our modern Poems, and so confess’d even by our Poets themselves, is a short Criticism, An ArtofPoetry; by which, if they themselves were to be judg’d, they must in general appear no better than mere Bunglers, and void of all true Sense and Knowledg in their Art. But if in reality both Critick and Poet, confessing the Justice of these Rules of Art, can afterwards, in Practice, condemn and approve, perform and judg, in a quite different manner from what they acknowledg just and true: it plainly shews, That, tho perhaps we are not indigent in Wit; we want what is of more consequence, and can alone raise Wit to any Dignity or Worth; even plainHonesty, Manners, and a Sense of that Moral Truth, on which (as has been often express’d in these Volumes) poetickTruth and Beauty must naturally depend.
The man who has learned what are his duties to his fatherland or to his friends; what affection is due to a father, a brother, or a guest; what is the duty of a senator, what of a juryman, . . . he to be sure knows how to find suitable language for each character.
As for this Species of Morality which distinguishes the Civil Offices of Life, and describes each becoming Personage or Character in this Scene; so necessary it is for the Poet and polite Author to be appriz’d of it, that even the Divine himself may with juster pretence be exempted from the knowledg of this sort. The Composer of religious Discourses has the advantage of that higher Scene of Mystery, which is above the level of human Commerce. ’Tis not so much his Concern, or Business, to beagreeable. And often when he wou’d endeavour it, he becomes more than ordinarily displeasing. His Theater, and that of the polite World, are very different: Insomuch that in a ReverendAuthor, or Declaimer of this sort, we naturally excuse the Ignorance of ordinary Decorum, in what relates to the Affairs of our inferior temporal World. But for thePoet or genteelWriter, who is of this World merely, ’tis a different Case. He must be perfect in this moral Science. We can easily bear the loss of indifferentPoetry or Essay. A good Bargain it were, cou’d we get rid of every moderate Performance in this kind. But were we oblig’d to hear only excellentSermons, and to read nothing, in the way of Devotion, which was not well writ; it might possibly go hard with many Christian People, who are at present such attentive Auditors and Readers. Establish’d Pastors have a right to be indifferent. But voluntary Discourses and Attempters in Wit or Poetry, are as intolerable, when they are indifferent, as either Fiddlers or Painters:
Because a dinner could be carried on without them.
Other Bays’s and Poetasters may be lawfully baited; tho we patiently submit to our Bays’s in Divinity.
Had the Author of our Subject-Treatises consider’d thorowly of these literate Affairs, and found how the Interest of Wit stood at present in our Nation, he wou’d have had so much regard surely to his own Interest, as never to have writ unless either in the single Capacity of mere Critick, or that of Authorin form. If he had resolv’d never to produce a regular or legitimate Piece, he might pretty safely have writ on still after the rate of his first Volume, and mixt manner. He might have been as critical, as satirical, or as full of Raillery as he had pleas’d. But to come afterwards as a grave Actor upon the Stage, and expose himself to Criticism in his turn, by giving us a Work or two in form, after the regular manner of Composition, as we see in his second Volume; this, I think, was no extraordinary Proof of his Judgment or Ability, in what related to his own Credit and Advantage.
One of these formal Pieces (the Inquiry already examin’d) we have found to be wholly after the Manner, which in one of his critical Pieces he calls the Methodick. But his next Piece (the Moralists, which we have now before us) must, according to his own Rules, be reckon’d as an Undertaking of greater weight. ’Tis not only at the bottom, as systematical, didactick and preceptive, as that other Piece of formal Structure; but it assumes withal another Garb, and more fashionable Turn of Wit. It conceals what is scholastical, under the appearance of a polite Work. It aspires to Dialogue, and carrys with it not only those poetick Features of the Pieces antiently call’d Mimes; but it attempts to unite the several Personages and Characters in OneAction, or Story, within a determinate Compass of Time, regularly divided, and drawn into different and proportion’d Scenes: And this, too, with variety of Style; the simple, comick, rhetorical, and even the poetick or sublime; such as is the aptest to run into Enthusiasm and Extravagance. So much is our Author, by virtue of this Piece,aPoetin due form, and by a more apparent claim, than if he had writ a Play, or dramatick Piece, in as regular a manner, at least, as any known at present on our Stage.
It appears, indeed, that as high as our Author, in his critical Capacity, wou’d pretend to carry the refin’d Manner and accurate Simplicity of the Antients; he dares not, in his own Model and principal Performance, attempt to unite his Philosophy in one solid and uniform Body, nor carry on his Argument in one continu’d Chain or Thred. Here our Author’s Timorousness is visible. In the very Plan or Model of his Work, he is apparently put to a hard shift, to contrive how or with what probability he might introduce Men of any Note or Fashion, reasoning expresly and purposely, without play or trifling, for two or three hours together, on mere Philosophy and Morals. He finds these Subjects (as he confesses) so wide of common Conversation, and, by long Custom, so appropriated to the School, the University-Chair, or Pulpit, that he thinks it hardly safe or practicable to treat of them elsewhere, or in a different Tone. He is forc’d therefore to raise particular Machines, and constrain his principal Characters, in order to carry a better Face, and bear himself out, against the appearance of Pedantry. Thus his Gentleman-Philosopher Theocles, before he enters into his real Character, becomes a feign’d Preacher. And even when his real Character comes on, he hardly dares stand it out; but to deal the better with his Sceptick-Friend, he falls again to personating, and takes up the Humour of the Poet and Enthusiast.Palemon the Man of Quality, and who is first introduc’d as Speaker in the Piece, must, for fashion-sake, appear in Love, and under a kind of Melancholy, produc’d by some Mis-adventures in the World. How else shou’d he be suppos’d so serious? Philocles his Friend (an airy Gentleman of the World, and a thorow Raillier) must have a home Charge upon him, and feel the Anger of his grave Friend, before he can be suppos’d grave enough to enter into a philosophical Discourse. A quarter of an hour’s reading must serve to represent an hour or two’s Debate. And a new Scene presenting it self, ever and anon, must give Refreshment, it seems, to the faint Reader, and remind him of the Characters and Business going on.
’Tis in the same view that we Miscellanarian Authors, being fearful of the natural Lassitude and Satiety of our indolent Reader, have prudently betaken ourselves to the way of Chapters and Contents; that as the Reader proceeds, by frequent Intervals of Repose, contriv’d on purpose for him, he may from time to time be advertis’d of what is yet to come, and be tempted thus to renew his Application.
Thus in our modern Plays we see, almost in every other Leaf, Descriptions or Illustrations of the Action, not in the Poem it-self, or in the mouth of the Actors; but by the Poet, in his own Person; in order, as appears, to help out a Defect of the Text, by a kind of marginal Note, or Comment: which renders these Pieces of a mix’d kind between the narrative and dramatick. ’Tis in this fashionable Style, or manner of dumb Shew, that the Reader finds the Action of the Piece more amazingly express’d, than he possibly cou’d by the Lines of the Drama it-self; where the Partys alone are suffer’d to be Speakers.
’Tis out of the same regard to Ease, both in respect of Writer and Reader, that we see long Characters and Descriptions at the head of most dramatick Pieces, to inform us of the Relations, Kindred, Interests, and Designs of the Dramatis Personae: This being of the highest importance to the Reader, that he may the better understand the Plot, and find out the principal Characters and Incidents of the Piece; which otherways cou’d not possibly discover themselves, as they are read in their due order. And to do justice to our Play-Readers, they seldom fail to humour our Poets in this respect, and read over the Characters with strict application, as a sort of Grammar, or Key, before they enter on the Piece it-self. I know not whether they wou’d do so much for any philosophical Piece in the world. Our Author seems very much to question it; and has therefore made that part easy enough, which relates to the distinction of his Characters, by making use of the narrative Manner. Tho he had done, as well, perhaps, not to have gone out of the natural plain way, on this account. For with those to whom such philosophical Subjects are agreeable, it cou’d be thought no laborious Task to give the same attention to Characters in Dialogue, as is given at the first entrance by every Reader to the easiest Play, compos’d of fewest and plainest Personages. But for those who read these Subjects with mere Supineness, and Indifference; they will as much begrudg the pains of attending to the Characters thus particularly pointed out, as if they had only been discernible by Inference and Deduction from the mouth of the speaking Partys themselves.
MORE REASONS are given by our Author himself, for his avoiding the direct way of Dialogue; which at present lies so low, and is us’d only now and then, in our Party-Pamphlets, or new-fashion’d theological Essays. For of late, it seems, the Manner has been introduc’d into Church-Controversy, with an Attempt of Raillery and Humour, as a more successful Method of dealing with Heresy and Infidelity. The Burlesque-Divinity grows mightily in vogue. And the cry’d-up Answers to heterodox Discourses are generally such as are written in Drollery, or with resemblance of the facetious and humorous Language of Conversation.
Joy to the reverend Authors, who can afford to be thus gay, and condescend to correct us, in this Lay-Wit. The Advances they make in behalf of Piety and Manners, by such a popular Style, are doubtless found, upon experience, to be very considerable. As these Reformers are nicely qualify’d to hit the Air of Breeding and Gentility, they will in time, no doubt, refine their Manner, and improve this jocular Method, to the Edification of the polite World; who have been so long seduc’d by the way of Raillery and Wit. They may do wonders by their comickMuse, and may thus, perhaps, find means to laugh Gentlemen into their Religion, who have unfortunately been laugh’d out of it. For what reason is there to suppose that Orthodoxy shou’d not be able to laugh as agreeably, and with as much Refinedness, as Heresy or Infidelity?
At present, it must be own’d, the Characters, or Personages, employ’d by our new orthodox Dialogists, carry with ’em little Proportion or Coherence; and in this respect may be said to sute perfectly with that figurative metaphorical Style and rhetorical Manner, in which their Logick and Arguments are generally couch’d. Nothing can be more complex or multiform than their moral Draughts or Sketches of Humanity. These, indeed, are so far from representing any particularMan, or Order ofMen, that they scarce resemble any thing of the Kind. ’Tis by their Names only that these Characters are figur’d. Tho they bear different Titles, and are set up to maintain contrary Points; they are found, at the bottom, to be all of the same side; and, notwithstanding their seeming Variance, to co-operate in the most officious manner with the Author, towards the display of his own proper Wit, and the establishment of his private Opinion and Maxims. They are indeed his very legitimate and obsequious Puppets; as like real Men in Voice, Action, and Manners, as those wooden or wire Engines of the lower Stage. Philotheus and Philatheus, Philautus and Philalethes are of one and the same Order: Just Tallys to one another: Questioning and Answering in concert, and with such a sort of Alternative as is known in a vulgar Play, where one Person lies down blindfold, and presents himself, as fair as may be, to another, who by favour of the Company, or the assistance of his Good-fortune, deals his Companion many a sound Blow, without being once challeng’d, or brought into his Turn of lying down.
There is the same curious Mixture of Chance, and elegant Vicissitude, in the Style of these Mock-Personages of our new Theological Drama: with this difference only, “That after the poor Phantom or Shadow of an Adversary has said as little for his Cause as can be imagin’d, and given as many Opens and Advantages as cou’d be desir’d, he lies down for good and all, and passively submits to the killing Strokes of his unmerciful Conqueror.”
Hardly, as I conceive, will it be objected to our Moralist, (the Author of the philosophick Dialogue above) “That the Personages who sustain the sceptical or objecting Parts, are over-tame and tractable in their Disposition.” Did I perceive any such foul dealing in his Piece; I shou’d scarce think it worthy of the Criticism here bestow’d. For in this sort of Writing, where Personages are exhibited, and natural Conversation set in view; if Characters are neither tolerably preserv’d, nor Manners with any just Similitude describ’d; there remains nothing but what is too gross and monstrous for Criticism or Examination.
’Twill be alledg’d, perhaps, in answer to what is here advanc’d, “That shou’d a Dialogue be wrought up to the Exactness of these Rules; it ought to be condemn’d, as the worse Piece, for affording the Infidel or Sceptick such good quarter, and giving him the full advantage of his Argument and Wit.”
But to this I reply, That either Dialogue shou’d never be attempted; or, if it be, the Partys shou’d appear natural, and such as they really are. If we paint at all; we shou’d endeavour to paint like Life, and draw Creatures as they are knowable, in their proper Shapes and better Features; not in Metamorphosis, not mangled, lame, distorted, aukard Forms, and impotent Chimeras. Atheists have their Sense and Wits, as other Men; or why is Atheism so often challeng’d in those of the better Rank? Why charg’d so often to the account of Wit and subtle Reasoning?
Were I to advise these Authors, towards whom I am extremely well-affected on account of their good-humour’d Zeal, and the seeming Sociableness of their Religion; I shou’d say to ’em, “Gentlemen! Be not so cautious of furnishing your representativeSceptick with too good Arguments, or too shreud a Turn of Wit or Humour. Be no so fearful of giving quarter. Allow your Adversary his full Reason, his Ingenuity, Sense, and Art. Trust to the chief Character or Heroof your Piece. Make him as dazling bright, as you are able. He will undoubtedly overcome the utmost Force of his Opponent, and dispel the Darkness or Cloud, which the Adversary may unluckily have rais’d. But if when you have fairly wrought up your Antagonist to his due Strength and cognizable Proportion, your chief Character cannot afterwards prove a match for him, or shine with a superior Brightness; Whose Fault is it?—The Subject’s?—This, I hope, you will never allow.—Whose, therefore, beside your own?—Beware then; and consider well your Strength and Mastership in this manner of Writing, and in the qualifying Practice of the polite World, ere you attempt these accurate and refin’d Limnings or Portraitures of Mankind, or offer to bring Gentlemen on the Stage. For if real Gentlemen, seduc’d, as you pretend, and made erroneous in their Religion or Philosophy, discover not the least Feature of their real Faces in your Looking-glass, nor know themselves, in the least, by your Description; they will hardly be apt to think they are refuted. How wittily soever your Comedy may be wrought up, they will scarce apprehend any of that Wit to fall upon themselves. They may laugh indeed at the Diversion you are pleas’d to give ’em: But the Laugh perhaps may be different from what you intend. They may smile secretly to see themselves thus encounter’d; when they find, at last, your Authority laid by, and your scholastick Weapons quitted, in favour of this weak Attempt, To master them by their own Arms, and proper Ability.”
THUS WE have perform’d our critical Task, and try’d our Strength, both on our Author, and those of his Order, who attempt to write in Dialogue, after the active dramatick, mimical, or personating Way; according to which a Writer is properly poetical.
What remains, we shall examine in our succeeding and last Chapter.
BEING now come to the Conclusion of my Work; after having defended the Cause of Criticks in general, and employ’d what Strength I had in that Science upon our adventurous Author in particular; I may, according to Equity, and with the better grace, attempt a line or two, in defense of that Freedom of Thought which our Author has us’d, particularly in one of the Personages of his last Dialogue-Treatise.
There is good reason to suppose, that however equally fram’d, or near alike, the Race of Mankind may appear in other respects, they are not always equal Thinkers, or of a like Ability in the management of this natural Talent which we call Thought. The Race, on this account, may therefore justly be distinguish’d, as they often are, by the Appellation of the Thinking, and the Unthinking sort. The mere Unthinking are such as have not yet arriv’d to that happy Thought, by which they shou’d observe, “How necessary Thinking is, and how fatal the want of it must prove to ’em.” The Thinking part of Mankind, on the other side, having discover’d the Assiduity and Industry requisite to right-Thinking, and being already commenc’dThinkers upon this Foundation; are, in the progress of the Affair, convinc’d of the necessity of thinking to good purpose, and carrying the Work to a thorow Issue. They know that if they refrain or stop once, upon this Road, they had done as well never to have set out. They are not so supine as to be with-held by mere Laziness; when nothing lies in the way to interrupt the free Course and Progress of their Thought.
Some Obstacles, ’tis true, may, on this occasion, be pretended. Specters may come a-cross; and Shadows of Reason rise up against Reasonit-self. But if Men have once heartily espous’d the reasoning or thinking Habit; they will not easily be induc’d to lay the Practice down; they will not at an instant be arrested, or made to stand, and yield themselves, when they come to such a certain Boundary, Land-Mark, Post, or Pillar, erected here or there (for what reason may probably be guess’d) with the Inscription of a Ne plus ultrà.
’Tis not, indeed, any Authority on Earth, as we are well assur’d, can stop us on this Road, unless we please to make the Arrest, or Restriction, of our own accord. ’Tis our own Thought which must restrain our Thinking. And whether the restraining Thought be just, how shall we ever judge, without examining it freely, and out of all constraint? How shall we be sure that we have justly quitted Reason, as too high and dangerous, too aspiring or presumptive; if thro’ Fear of any kind, or submitting to mere Command, we quit our very examining Thought, and in the moment stop short, so as to put an end to further Thinking on the matter? Is there much difference between this Case, and that of the obedient Beasts of Burden, who stop precisely at their appointed Inn, or at whatever Point the Charioteer, orGovernour of the Reins, thinks fit to give the signal for a Halt?
I cannot but from hence conclude, That of all Species of Creatures said commonly to have Brains; the most insipid, wretched and preposterous are those, whom in just Propriety of Speech, we call Half-thinkers.
I have often known Pretenders toWit break out into admiration, on the sight of some raw, heedless, unthinking Gentleman; declaring on this occasion, That they esteem’d it the happiest Case in the World, “Never to think, or trouble one’s Head with Study or Consideration.” This I have always look’d upon as one of the highest Airs of Distinction, which the self-admiring Wits are us’d to give them-selves, in publick Company. Now the Echo or Antiphony which these elegant Exclaimers hope, by this Reflection, to draw necessarily from their Audience, is, “That they themselves are over-fraighted with this Merchandize of Thought; and have not only enough for Ballast, but such a Cargo over and above, as is enough to sink ’em by its Weight.” I am apt however to imagine of these Gentlemen, That it was never their over-thinking which oppress’d them; and that if their Thought had ever really become oppressive to ’em, they might thank themselves, for having under-thought, or reason’d short, so as to rest satisfy’d with a very superficial Search into Matters of the first and highest Importance.
If, for example, they over-look’d the chief Enjoyments of Life, which are founded in Honesty and a good Mind; if they presum’d mere Life to be fully worth what its tenacious Lovers are pleas’d to rate it at; if they thought publick Distinction, Fame, Power, an Estate, or Title, to be of the same value as is vulgarly conceiv’d, or as they concluded, on a first Thought, without further Scepticism or After-deliberation; ’tis no wonder, if being in time become such mature Dogmatists, and well-practis’d Dealers in the Affairs of what they call a Settlement or Fortune, they are so hardly put to it, to find ease or rest within themselves.
These are the deeply-loaded and over-pensive Gentlemen, who esteeming it the truest Wit to pursue what they call their Interest, wonder to find they are still as little at ease when they have succeeded, as when they first attempted to advance.
There can never be less Self-enjoyment than in these suppos’d wise Characters, these selfish Computers of Happiness and private Good; whose Pursuits of Interest, whether for this World or another, are attended with the same steddy Vein of cunning and low Thought, sordid Deliberations, perverse and crooked Fancys, ill Dispositions, and false Relishes of Life and Manners. The most negligent undesigning thoughtless Rake has not only more of Sociableness, Ease, Tranquillity, and Freedom from worldly Cares, but in reality more of Worth, Virtue, and Merit, than such grave Plodders, and thoughtful Gentlemen as these.
If it happens, therefore, that these graver, more circumspect, and deeply interested Gentlemen, have, for their Soul’s sake, and thro’ a careful Provision for Hereafter, engag’d in certain Speculations of Religion; their Taste of Virtue, and Relish of Life is not the more improv’d, on this account. The Thoughts they have on these new Subjects of Divinity are so biass’d, and perplex’d, by those Half-Thoughts and raw Imaginations of Interest, and worldly Affairs; that they are still disabled in the rational Pursuit of Happiness and Good: And being necessitated thus to remain Short-Thinkers, they have the Power to go no further than they are led by those to whom, under such Disturbances and Perplexitys, they apply themselves for Cure and Comfort.
IT HAS been the main Scope and principal End of these Volumes, “To assert the Reality of a Beauty and Charm in moral as well as natural Subjects; and to demonstrate the Reasonableness of a proportionateTaste, and determinateChoice, in Life and Manners.” The Standard of this kind, and the noted Character of MoralTruth appear so firmly establish’d in Nature it-self, and so widely display’d thro’ the intelligent World, that there is no Genius, Mind, or thinking Principle, which (if I may say so) is not really conscious in the case. Even the most refractory and obstinate Understandings are by certain Reprises or Returns of Thought, on every occasion, convinc’d of this Existence, and necessitated, in common with others, to acknowledg the actual Right and Wrong.
’Tis evident that whensoever the Mind, influenc’d by Passion or Humour, consents to any Action, Measure, or Rule of Life, contrary to this governingStandard and primaryMeasure of Intelligence, it can only be thro’ a weak Thought, a Scantiness of Judgment, and a Defect in the application of that unavoidable Impression and first natural Rule of Honesty and Worth; against which, whatever is advanc’d, will be of no other moment than to render a Life distracted, incoherent, full of Irresolution, Repentance, and Self-disapprobation.
Thus every Immorality and Enormity of Life can only happen from a partial and narrow View of Happiness and Good. Whatever takes from the Largeness or Freedom of Thought, must of necessity detract from that first Relish, or Taste, on which Virtue and Worth depend.
For instance, when the Eye or Appetite is eagerly fix’d on Treasure, and the money’d Bliss of Bags and Coffers; ’tis plain there is a kind of Fascination in the case. The Sight is instantly diverted from all other Views of Excellence or Worth. And here, even the Vulgar, as well as the more liberal part of Mankind, discover the contracted Genius, and acknowledg the Narrowness of such a Mind.
In Luxury and Intemperance we easily apprehend how far Thought is oppress’d, and the Mind debar’d from just Reflection, and from the free Examination and Censure of its own Opinions or Maxims, on which the Conduct of a Life is form’d.
Even in that complicated Good of vulgar kind, which we commonly call Interest, in which we comprehend both Pleasure, Riches, Power, and other exterior Advantages; we may discern how a fascinated Sight contracts a Genius, and by shortning the View even of that very Interest which it seeks, betrays the Knave, and necessitates the ablest and wittiest Proselyte of the kind, to expose himself on every Emergency and sudden Turn.
But above all other enslaving Vices, and Restrainers of Reason and just Thought, the most evidently ruinous and fatal to the Understanding is that of Superstition, Bigotry, and vulgarEnthusiasm. This Passion, not contented like other Vices to deceive, and tacitly supplant our Reason, professes open War, holds up the intended Chains and Fetters, and declares its Resolution to enslave.
The artificial Managers of this human Frailty declaim against Free-Thought, and Latitude of Understanding. To go beyond those Bounds of thinking which they have prescrib’d, is by them declar’d a Sacrilege. To them, Freedomof Mind, aMasteryof Sense, and aLiberty in Thought and Action, imply Debauch, Corruption, and Depravity.
In consequence of their moral Maxims, and political Establishments, they can indeed advance no better Notion of human Happiness and Enjoyment, than that which is in every respect the most opposite to Liberty. ’Tis to them doubtless that we owe the Opprobriousness and Abuse of those naturally honest Appellations of Free-Livers, Free-Thinkers, Latitudinarians, or whatever other Character implies a Largeness of Mind, and generous Use of Understanding. Fain wou’d they confound Licentiousness in Morals, with Liberty in Thought and Action; and make the Libertine, who has the least Mastery of himself, resemble his direct Opposite. For such indeed is the Man of resolute Purpose and immovable Adherence to Reason, against every thing which Passion, Prepossession, Craft, or Fashion can advance in favour of ought else. But here, it seems, the Grievance lies. ’Tis thought dangerous for us to be over-rational, or too much Masters of our-selves, in what we draw, by just Conclusions, from Reason only. Seldom therefore do these Expositors fail of bringing the Thought of Liberty into disgrace. Even at the expence of Virtue, and of that very Idea of Goodness on which they build the Mysterys of their profitable Science, they derogate from Morals, and reverse all true Philosophy; they refine on Selfishness, and explode Generosity; promote a slavish Obedience in the room of voluntary Duty, and free Service; exalt blind Ignorance for Devotion, recommend low Thought, decry Reason, extol Voluptuousness, Wilfulness, Vindicativeness, Arbitrariness, Vain-Glory; and even deify those weak Passions which are the Disgrace rather than Ornament of human Nature.
But so far is it from the Nature of Liberty to indulge such Passions as these, that whoever acts at any time under the power of any single-one, may be said to have already provided for himself an absolute Master. And he who lives under the power of a whole Race, (since ’tis scarce possible to obey one without the other) must of necessity undergo the worst of Servitudes, under the most capricious and domineering Lords.
That this is no Paradox, even the Writers for Entertainment can inform us; however others may moralize, who discourse or write, as they pretend, for Profit and Instruction. The Poets even of the wanton sort, give ample Testimony of this Slavery and Wretchedness of Vice. They may extol Voluptuousness to the Skies, and point their Wit as sharply as they are able against a virtuous State. But when they come afterwards to pay the necessary Tribute to their commanding Pleasures; we hear their pathetick Moans, and find the inward Discord and Calamity of their Lives. Their Example is the best of Precepts; since they conceal nothing, are sincere, and speak their Passion out aloud. And ’tis in this that the very worst of Poets may justly be prefer’d to the generality of modern Philosophers, or other formal Writers of a yet more specious name. The MusesPupils never fail to express their Passions, and write just as they feel. ’Tis not, indeed, in their nature to do otherwise; whilst they indulge their Vein, and are under the power of that natural Enthusiasm which leads ’em to what is highest in their Performance. They follow Nature. They move chiefly as she moves in ’em; without thought of disguising her free Motions, and genuine Operations, for the sake of any Scheme or Hypothesis, which they have form’d at leisure, and in particular narrow Views. On this account, tho at one time they quarrel perhaps with Virtue, for restraining ’em in their forbidden Loves, they can at another time make her sufficient amends; when with indignation they complain, “That Merit is neglected, and their worthless Rival prefer’d before them.”
To think that the honest heart of a poor man should have no weight against gold!
And thus even in common Elegiack, in Song, Ode, or Epigram, consecrated to Pleasure it-self, we may often read the dolorous Confession in behalf of Virtue, and see, at the bottom, how the Case stands:
For then and then only are the words of truth drawn from the bottom of a man’s heart.
The airy Poets, in these Fits, can, as freely as the Tragedian, condole with Virtue, and bemoan the case of sufferingMerit;
The Poetick Chiefs may give what reason they think fit for their Humour of representing our mad Appetites (especially that of Love) under the shape of Urchins and wanton Boys, scarce out of their State of Infancy. The original Design, and Moral of this Fiction, I am persuaded, was to shew us, how little there was of great and heroick in the Government of these Pretenders, how truly weak and childish they were in themselves, and how much lower than mere Children we then became, when we submitted our-selves to their blind Tutorage. There was no fear left in this Fiction the boyish Nature shou’d be misconstru’d as innocent and gentle. The Storms of Passion, so well known in every kind, kept the tyrannick Quality of this wanton Race sufficiently in view. Nor cou’d the poetical Description fail to bring to mind their mischievous and malignant Play. But when the Image of imperious Threatning, and absolute Command, was join’d to that of Ignorance, Puerility, and Folly; the Notion was compleated, of that wretched slavish State, which modern Libertines, in conjunction with some of a graver Character, admire, and represent, as the most eligible of any.—“Happy Condition! (says one) “Happy Life, that of the indulg’dPassions; might we pursue it!—Miserable Condition! Miserable Life, that of Reason and Virtue, which we are bid pursue!”
’Tis the same, it seems, with Men, in Morals, as in Politicks. When they have been unhappily born and bred to Slavery, they are so far from being sensible of their slavish Course of Life, or of that ill Usage, Indignity and Misery they sustain; that they even admire their own Condition: and being us’d to think short, and carry their Views no further than those Bounds which were early prescrib’d to ’em; they look upon Tyranny as a natural Case, and think Mankind in a sort of dangerous and degenerate State, when under the power of Laws, and in the possession of a free Government.
We may by these Reflections come easily to apprehend What Men they were who first brought Reason and Free-Thought under disgrace, and made the noblest of Characters, that of a Free-Thinker, to become invidious. ’Tis no wonder if the same Interpreters wou’d have those also to be esteem’d free in their Lives, and Masters of good Living, who are the least Masters of themselves, and the most impotent in Passion and Humour, of all their Fellow-Creatures. But far be it, and far surely will it ever be, from any worthy Genius, to be consenting to such a treacherous Language, and Abuse of Words. For my own part, I thorowly confide in the good Powers of Reason, “That Liberty and Freedom shall never, by any Artifice or Delusion, be made to pass with me as frightful Sounds, or as reproachful, or invidious, in any sense.”
I can no more allow that to be Free-living, where unlimited Passion, and unexamin’d Fancy govern, than I can allow that to be a Free Government, where the mere People govern, and not the Laws. For no People in a Civil State can possibly be free, when they are otherwise govern’d than by such Laws as they themselves have constituted, or to which they have freely given consent. Now to be releas’d from these, so as to govern themselves by each Day’s Will or Fancy, and to vary on every Turn the Rule and Measure of Government, without respect to any antient Constitutions or Establishments, or to the stated and fix’d Rules of Equity and Justice; is as certain Slavery, as it is Violence, Distraction, and Misery; such as in the Issue must prove the Establishment of an irretrievable State of Tyranny, and absolute Dominion.
In the Determinations of Life, and in the Choice and Government of Actions, he alone is free who has within himself no Hindrance, or Controul, in acting what he himself, by his best Judgment, and most deliberate Choice, approves. Cou’d Vice agree possibly with it-self; or cou’d the vicious any way reconcile the various Judgments of their inward Counsellors; they might with Justice perhaps assert their Liberty and Independency. But whilst they are necessitated to follow least, what, in their sedate hours, they most approve; whilst they are passively assign’d, and made over from one Possessor to another, in contrary Extremes, and to different Ends and Purposes, of which they are them-selves wholly ignorant; ’tis evident, That the more they turn their Eyes (as many times they are oblig’d) towards Virtue and a free Life, the more they must confess their Misery and Subjection. They discern their own Captivity, but not with Force and Resolution sufficient to redeem themselves, and become their own. Such is the real Tragick State, as the old Tragedian represents it:
I see and I esteem the better course, I follow the worse.
And thus the highest Spirits, and most refractory Wills, contribute to the lowest Servitude and most submissive State. Reason and Virtue alone can bestow Liberty.Vice is unworthy, and unhappy, on this account only, “That it is slavish and debasing.”
THUS HAVE we pleaded the Cause of Liberty in general; and vindicated, withal, our Author’s particular Freedom, in taking the Person of a Sceptick, as he has done in this last Treatise, on which we have so largely paraphras’d. We may now perhaps, in compliance with general Cusstom, justly presume to add something in defense of the same kind of Freedom we our-selves have assum’d in these latter Miscellaneous Comments; since it wou’d doubtless be very unreasonable and unjust, for those who had so freely play’d the Critick, to expect any thing less than the same free Treatment, and thorow Criticism in return.
As for the Style or Language us’d in these Comments; ’tis very different, we find; and varys in proportion with the Author commented, and with the different Characters and Persons frequently introduc’d in the original Treatises. So that there will undoubtedly be Scope sufficient for Censure and Correction.
As for the Observations on Antiquity; we have in most Passages, except the very common and obvious, produc’d our Vouchers and Authoritys in our own behalf. What may be thought of our Judgment or Sense in the Application of these Authoritys, and in the Deductions and Reasonings we have form’d from such learned Topicks, must be submitted to the Opinion of the Wise and Learned.
In Morals, of which the very Force lies in a love of Discipline, and in a willingness to redress and rectify false Thought, and erring Views; we cannot but patiently wait Redress and amicable Censure from the sole competent Judges, the Wise and Good; whose Interest it has been our whole Endeavour to advance.
The only Subject on which we are perfectly secure, and without fear of any just Censure or Reproach, is that of Faith, and OrthodoxBelief. For in the first place, it will appear, that thro’ a profound Respect, and religious Veneration, we have forborn so much as to name any of the sacred and solemn Mysterys of Revelation. And, in the next place, as we can with confidence declare, that we have never in any Writing, publick or private, attempted such high Researches, nor have ever in Practice acquitted our-selves otherwise than as just Conformists to the lawful Church; so we may, in a proper Sense, be said faithfully and dutifully to embrace those holy Mysterys, even in their minutest Particulars, and without the least Exception on account of their amazing Depth. And tho we are sensible that it wou’d be no small hardship to deprive others of a liberty of examining and searching, with due Modesty and Submission, into the nature of those Subjects; yet as for our-selves, who have not the least scruple whatsoever, we pray not any such Grace or Favour in our behalf: being fully assur’d of our own steddy Orthodoxy, Resignation, and intire Submission to the truly Christian and Catholick Doctrines of our Holy Church, as by Law establish’d.
’Tis true, indeed, that as to CriticalLearning, and the Examination of Originals, Texts, Glosses, various Readings, Styles, Compositions, Manuscripts, Compilements, Editions, Publications, and other Circumstances, such as are common to the Sacred Books with all other Writings and Literature; this we have confidently asserted to be a just and lawful Study. We have even represented this Species of Criticism as necessary to the Preservation and Purity of Scripture; that Sacred Scripture, which has been so miraculously preserv’d in its successive Copys and Transcriptions, under the Eye (as we must needs suppose) of holy and learned Criticks, thro’ so many dark Ages of Christianity, to these latter Times; in which Learning has been happily reviv’d.
But if this critical Liberty raises any jealousy against us, we shall beg leave of our offended Reader to lay before him our Case, at the very worst: That if on such a naked Exposition, it be found criminal, we may be absolutely condemn’d; if otherwise, acquitted, and with the same favour indulg’d, as others in the same Circumstances have been before us.
On this occasion therefore, we may be allow’d to borrow something from the Form or Manner of our Dialogue Author, and represent a Conversation of the same free nature as that recited by him in his Night-Scene; where the suppos’d Sceptick, or Free-Thinker, delivers his Thoughts, and reigns in the Discourse.
’TWAS IN a more considerable Company, and before a more numerous Audience, that not long since, a Gentleman of some Rank, (one who was generally esteem’d to carry a sufficient Caution and Reserve in religious Subjects of Discourse, as well as an apparent Deference to Religion, and in particular to the national and establish’d Church) having been provok’d by an impertinent Attack of a certain violent bigotted Party, was drawn into an open and free Vindication not only of Free-Thinking, but Free-Professing, and Discoursing, in Matters relating to Religion and Faith.
Some of the Company, it seems, after having made bold with him, as to what they fansy’d to be his Principle, began to urge “The Necessity of reducing Men to one Profession and Belief.” And several Gentlemen, even of those who pass’d for moderate in their way, seem’d so far to give into this Zealot-Opinion as to agree, “That notwithstanding the right Method was not yet found, ’twas highly requisite that some way shou’d be thought on, to reconcile Differences in Opinion; since so long as this Variety shou’d last, Religion, they thought, cou’d never be successfully advanc’d.”
To this our Gentleman, at first, answer’d coldly, That “What was impossible to be done, cou’d not, he thought, be properly pursu’d, as necessary to be done.” But the Raillery being ill taken, he was forc’d at last to defend himself the best he cou’d, upon this Point; “That Variety of Opinions was not to be cur’d.” And “That ’twas impossible All shou’d be of one Mind.”
I well know, said he, “That many pious Men, seeing the Inconveniences which the Dis-union of Persuasions and Opinions accidentally produces, have thought themselves oblig’d to stop this Inundation of Mischiefs, and have made Attempts accordingly. Some have endeavour’d to unite these Fractions, by propounding such a Guide, as they were all bound to follow; hoping that the Unity of a Guide wou’d have produc’d Unity of Minds. But who this Guide shou’d be, after all, became such a Question, that ’twas made part of that Fire it-self which was to be extinguish’d. Others thought of a Rule.—This was to be the effectual Means of Union! This was to do the Work, or nothing cou’d!—But supposing all the World had been agreed on this Rule, yet the Interpretation of it was so full of Variety, that this also became part of the Disease.”
The Company, upon this Preamble of our Gentleman, press’d harder upon him than before; objecting the Authority of Holy Scripture against him, and affirming this to be of it-self a sufficient Guide and Rule. They urg’d again and again that known Saying of a fam’d Controversial Divine of our Church against the Divines of another, “That the Scripture, the Scripture was the Religion of Protestants.”
To this our Gentleman, at first, reply’d only, by desiring them to explain their word Scripture, and by inquiring into the Original of this Collection of antienter and later Tracts, which in general they comprehended under that Title: Whether it were the apocryphalScripture, or the more canonical? The full or the half-authoriz’d? The doubtful, or the certain? The controverted, or uncontroverted? The singly-read, or that of various Reading? The Text of these Manuscripts, or of those? The Transcripts, Copys, Titles, Catalogues of this Church and Nation, or of that other? of this Sect and Party, or of another? of those in one Age call’d Orthodox, and in possession of Power, or of those who in another overthrew their Predecessors Authority, and in their turn also assum’d the Guardianship and Power of holy Things? For how these sacred Records were guarded in those Ages, might easily, he said, be imagin’d by any one who had the least Insight into the History of those Times which we call’d primitive, and the Characters of those Men, whom we styl’d Fathers of the Church.
“It must be confess’d, continu’d he, ’twas a strange Industry and unlucky Diligence which was us’d, in this respect, by these Ecclesiastical Fore-Fathers. Of all those Heresys which gave them Imployment, we have absolutely no Record, or Monument, but what them-selves who were Adversarys have transmitted to us; and we know that Adversarys, especially such who observe all Opportunitys to discredit both the Persons and Doctrines of their Enemys, are not always the best Recorders or Witnesses of such Transactions.” We see it (continu’d he, in a very emphatical, but somewhat embarass’d Style) “We see it now in this very Age, in the present Dis-temperatures, that Partys are no good Registers of the Actions of the adverse Side: And if we cannot be confident of the Truth of a Story now, (now, I say, that it is possible for any Man, especially for the interested Adversary, to discover the Imposture) it is far more unlikely, that After-Ages shou’d know any other Truth than such as serves the ends of the Representers.”
Our Gentleman by these Expressions had already given considerable Offense to his Zealot-Auditors. They ply’d him faster with passionate Reproaches, than with Arguments or rational Answers. This, however, serv’d only to animate him the more, and made him proceed the more boldly, with the same assum’d Formality, and air of Declamation, in his general Criticism of Holy Literature.
“There are, said he, innumerable Places that contain (no doubt) great Mysterys, but so wrap’d in Clouds, or hid in Umbrages, so heighten’d with Expressions, or so cover’d with Allegorys and Garments of Rhetorick; so profound in the matter, or so alter’d and made intricate in the manner; that they may seem to have been left as Trials of our Industry, and as Occasions and Opportunitys for the exercise of mutual Charity and Toleration, rather than as the Repositorys of Faith, and Furniture of Creeds. For when there are found in the Explications of these Writings, so many Commentarys; so many Senses and Interpretations; so many Volumes in all Ages, and all like Mens Faces, no one exactly like another: either this Difference is absolutely no fault at all; or if it be, it is excusable. There are, besides, so many thousands of Copys that were writ by Persons of several Interests and Persuasions, such different Understandings and Tempers, such distinct Abilitys and Weaknesses, that ’tis no wonder there is so great variety of Readings:—whole Verses in one, that are not in another:—whole Books admitted by one Church or Communion, which are rejected by another: and whole Storys and Relations admitted by some Fathers, and rejected by others.—I consider withal, that there have been many Designs and Views in expounding these Writings; many Senses in which they are expounded: and when the Grammatical Sense is found out, we are many times never the nearer. Now there being such variety of Senses in Scripture, and but few Places so mark’d out, as not to be capable of more than one; if Men will write Commentarys by Fancy, what infallible Criterion will be left to judg of the certain Sense of such Places as have been the matter of Question? I consider again, that there are indeed divers Places in these sacred Volumes containing in them Mysterys and Questions of great Concernment; yet such is the Fabrick and Constitution of the Whole, that there is no certain Mark to determine whether the Sense of these Passages shou’d be taken as literal or figurative. There is nothing in the nature of the thing to determine the Sense or Meaning: but it must be gotten out as it can. And therefore ’tis unreasonably requir’d, That what is of it-self ambiguous, shou’d be understood in its own prime Sense and Intention, under the pain of either a Sin, or an Anathema. Very wise Men, even the antient Fathers, have expounded things allegorically, when they shou’d have expounded them literally. Others expound things literally, when they shou’d understand them in Allegory. If such great Spirits cou’d be deceiv’d in finding out what kind of Senses were to be given to Scriptures, it may well be endur’d that we, who sit at their Feet, shou’d be subject at least to equal Failure. If we follow any OneTranslation, or any One Man’s Commentary, what Rule or Direction shall we have, by which to chuse that One aright? Or is there any one Man, that hath translated perfectly, or expounded infallibly? If we resolve to follow any one as far only as we like, or fansy; we shall then only do wrong or right by Chance. If we resolve absolutely to follow any-one, whither-soever he leads, we shall probably come at last, where, if we have any Eyes left, we shall see our-selves become sufficiently ridiculous.”
The Reader may here perhaps, by his natural Sagacity, remark a certain air of study’d Discourse and Declamation, not so very proper or natural in the mouth of a mere Gentleman, nor sutable to a Company where alternate Discourse is carry’d on, in un-concerted Measure, and un-premeditated Language. Something there was so very emphatical, withal, in the delivery of these words, by the sceptical Gentleman; that some of the Company who were still more incens’d against him for these Expressions, began to charge him as a Preacher of pernicious Doctrines, one who attack’d Religion in form, and carry’d his Lessons or Lectures about with him, to repeat by rote, at any time, to the Ignorant and Vulgar, in order to seduce them.
’Tis true indeed, said he, Gentlemen! that what I have here ventur’d to repeat, is address’d chiefly to those you call Ignorant; such, I mean, as being otherwise engag’d in the World, have had little time perhaps to bestow upon Inquirys into Divinity-Matters. As for you, Gentlemen! in particular, who are so much displeas’d with my Freedom; I am well assur’d, you are in effect so able and knowing, that the Truth of every Assertion I have advanc’d is sufficiently understood and acknowledg’d by you; however it may happen, that, in your great Wisdom, you think it proper to conceal these Matters from such Persons as you are pleas’d to style the Vulgar.
’Tis true, withal, Gentlemen! continu’d he, I will confess to you, That the words you have heard repeated, are not my own. They are no other than what have been publickly and solemnly deliver’d, even by one of the Episcopal Order, a celebrated Churchman, and one of the highest sort; as appears by his many devotional Works, which carry the Rites, Ceremonys and Pomp of Worship, with the Honour and Dignity of the Priestly and Episcopal Order, to the highest Degree. In effect, we see the Reverend Doctor’s Treatises standing, as it were, in the Front of this Order of Authors, and as the foremost of those Good-Books us’d by the politest and most refin’d Devotees of either Sex. They maintain the principal Place in the Study of almost every elegant and high Divine. They stand in Folio’s and other Volumes, adorn’d with variety of Pictures, Gildings, and other Decorations, on the advanc’d Shelves or Glass-Cupboards of the Ladys Closets. They are in use at all Seasons, and for all Places, as well for Church-Service as Closet-Preparation; and, in short, may vie with any devotional Books in British Christendom. And for the Life and Character of the Man himself; I leave it to you, Gentlemen, (you, I mean, of the Zealot-kind) to except against it, if you think proper. ’Tis your Manner, I know, and what you never fail to have recourse to, when any Authority is produc’d against you. Personal Reflection is always seasonable, and at hand, on such an occasion. No matter what Virtue, Honesty, or Sanctity may lie in the Character of the Person cited. No matter tho he be ever so much, in other respects, of your own Party, and devoted to your Interest. If he has indiscreetly spoken some Home-Truth, or discover’d some Secret which strikes at the temporal Interests of certain spiritual Societys; he is quickly doom’d to Calumny and Defamation.
I shall try this Experiment, however, once more, (continu’d our Gentleman) and as a Conclusion to this Discourse, will venture to produce to you a further Authority of the same kind. You shall have it before you, in the exact Phrase and Words of the great Author, in his theological Capacity; since I have now no further occasion to conceal my Citations, and accommodate them to the more familiar Style and Language of Conversation.
Our excellent Archbishop, and late Father of our Church, when expresly treating that very Subject of a Rulein matters of Belief, in opposition to Mr. S . . . and Mr. R . . . . . his Romish Antagonists, shews plainly how great a shame it is, for us Protestants at least, (whatever the Case may be with Romanists) to disallow Difference of Opinions, and forbid private Examination, and Search into matters of antientRecord, and scripturalTradition; when, at the same time, we have no pretence to oral or verbal; no Claim to any absolute superior Judg, or decisive Judgment in the Case; no Polity, Church, or Community; no particular Man, or number of Men, who are not, even by our own Confession, plainly fallible, and subject to Error and Mistake.
“The Protestants” (says his Grace, speaking in the Person of Mr. S . . . and the Romanists) “cannot know how many the Books of Scripture ought to be; and Which of the many controverted ones may be securely put in that Catalogue; Which not.—But I shall tell him, replies his Grace, That we know that just so many ought to be receiv’d as un-controverted Books, concerning which it cannot be shewn there was ever any Controversy.” It was not incumbent perhaps on my Lord Archbishop to help Mr. S . . . . . so far in his Objection, as to add, That in reality the burning, suppressing, and interpolating Method, so early in fashion, and so tightly practis’d on the Epistles, Comments, Historys, and Writings of the Orthodox and Hereticks of old, made it impossible to say with any kind of Assurance, “What Books, Copys, or Transcripts those were, concerning which there was never any Controversy at all.” This indeed wou’d be a Point not so easily to be demonstrated. But his Grace proceeds, in shewing the Weakness of the Romish Pillar, Tradition. “For it must either,” says he, “acknowledg some Books to have been controverted, or not. Ifnot, why doth he make a Supposition of controverted Books? If Oral Tradition acknowledges some Books to have been controverted; then it cannot assure us that they have not been controverted; nor consequently that they ought to be receiv’d as never having been controverted; but only as such, concerning which those Churches who did once raise a Controversy about them, have been since satisfy’d that they areCanonical.—Where is then the Infallibility of Oral Tradition? How does the living Voice of the present Church assure us, that what Books are now receiv’d by Her, were ever receiv’d by Her? And if it cannot do this, but the matter must come to be try’d by the best Records of former Ages, (which the Protestants are willing to have the Catalogue try’d by) then it seems the Protestants have a better way to know what Books are Canonical, than is the infallible way of Oral Tradition. And so long as ’tis better, no matter tho it be not call’d Infallible.”—
Thus the free and generous Archbishop. For, indeed, what greater Generosity is there, than in owning Truth frankly and openly, even where the greatest Advantages may be taken by an Adversary? Accordingly, our worthy Archbishop, speaking again immediately in the Person of his Adversary, “The Protestants,” says he, “cannot know that the very Original, or a perfectly true Copy of these Books, hath been preserv’d.” “Nor is it necessary,” replies the Archbishop, “that they shou’d know either of these. It is sufficient that they know that those Copys which they have, are not materially corrupted.—But how do the Church of Rome know that they have perfectly true Copys of the Scriptures in the original Languages? They do not pretend to know this. The learned Men of that Church acknowledg the various Readings as well as we, and do not pretend to know, otherwise than by probable Conjecture, (as we also may do) Which of those Readings is the true-one.” —
And thus, continu’d our Lay-Gentleman, I have finish’d my Quotations, which I have been necessitated to bring in my own Defense; to prove to you That I have asserted nothing on this Head of Religion, Faith, or the Sacred Mysterys, which has not been justify’d and confirm’d by the most celebrated Church-Men and respected Divines. You may now proceed in your Invectives; bestowing as free Language of that kind, as your Charity and Breeding will permit. And You, ReverendSirs! who have assum’d a Character which sets you above that of the mere Gentleman, and releases you from those Decorums, and constraining Measures of Behaviour to which we of an inferior sort are bound; You may liberally deal your religious Compliments and Salutations in what Dialect you think fit; since for my own part, neither the Names of Heterodox, Schismatick, Heretick, Sceptick, nor even Infidel, or Atheist it-self, will in the least scandalize me, whilst the Sentence comes only from your mouths. On the contrary, I rather strive with my-self to suppress whatever Vanity might naturally arise in me, from such Favour bestow’d. For whatever may, in the bottom, be intended me, by such a Treatment; ’tis impossible for me to term it other than Favour; since there are certain Enmitys, which it will be ever esteem’d a real Honour to have merited.
If, contrary to the Rule and Measure of Conversation, I have drawn the Company’s Attention towards me thus long, without affording them an Intermission, during my Recital; they will, I hope, excuse me, the rather, because they heard the other Recitals, and were Witnesses to the heavy Charge and personal Reflection, which without any real Provocation was made upon me in publick, by these Zealot-Gentlemen, to whom I have thus reply’d. And notwithstanding they may, after such Breaches of Charity as are usual with them, presume me equally out of Charity, on my own side; I will take upon me however to give them this good Advice, at parting: “That since they have of late been so elated by some seeming Advantages, and a Prosperity, which they are ill fitted to bear; they wou’d at least beware of accumulating too hastily those high Characters, Appellations, Titles, and Ensigns of Power, which may be Tokens, perhaps, of what they expect hereafter, but which, as yet, do not answer the real Power and Authority bestow’d on them.” The Garb and Countenance will be more graceful, when the Thing it-self is secur’d to ’em, and in their actual possession. Mean while, the Anticipation of high Titles, Honours, and nominal Dignitys, beyond the common Style and antient Usage; tho it may be highly fashionable at present, may not prove beneficial or advantageous in the end.
I wou’d, in particular, advise my elegant Antagonists of this Zealot-kind; That among the many Titles they assume to themselves, they wou’d be rather more sparing in that high-one of Embassador, till such time as they have just Means and Foundation to join that of Plenipotentiary together with it. For as matters stand hitherto in our British World, neither their Commission from the Sovereign, nor that which they pretend from Heaven, amounts to any absolute or determining Power.
The first holy Messengers (for That I take to be the highest apostolick Name) brought with them their proper Testimonials, in their Lives, their Manners and Behaviour; as well as in powerful Works,Miracles, and Signs from Heaven. And tho indeed it might well be esteem’d a Miracle in the kind, shou’d our presentMessengers go about to represent their Predecessors in any part of their Demeanour or Conversation; yet there are further Miracles remaining for ’em to perform, ere they can in modesty plead the Apostolick or Messenger-Authority. For tho, in the torrent of a sublime and figurative Style, a holy Apostle may have made use, perhaps, of such a Phrase as that of Embassy or Embassador, to express the Dignity of his Errand; ’twere to be wish’d that some who were never sent of any Errand or Message at all from Godhimself, wou’d use a modester Title to express their voluntary Negotiation between Us and Heaven.
I must confess, for my own part, that I think the Notion of an Embassy from thence to be at best somewhat high-strain’d, in the metaphorical way of Speech. But certain I am, that if there be any such Residentship or Agentship now establish’d; ’tis not immediately from Godhimself, but thro’ the Magistrate, and by the Prince or Sovereign Power here on Earth, that these Gentlemen-Agents are appointed, distinguish’d, and set over us. They have undoubtedly a legal Charter, and Character, legal Titles, and Precedencys, legal Habits, Coats of Arms, Colours, Badges. But they may do well to consider, That a thousand Badges or Liverys bestow’d by Men merely, can never be sufficient to entitle ’em to the same Authority as Theirs, who bore the immediate Testimony and Miraculous Signs of Power, from Above. For in this case, there was need only of Eyes, and ordinary Senses, to distinguish the Commission, and acknowledg the Embassy or Message as divine.
But allowing it ever so certain a Truth, “That there has been a thousand or near two thousand Years Succession in this Commission of Embassy”: Where shall we find this Commission to have lain?—How has it been supply’d still, or renew’d?—How often dormant?—How often divided, even in one and the same Species of Claimants?—What Party are they, among Moderns, who by virtue of any immediate Testimonial from Heaven are thus intitled?—Where are the Letters-Patent?TheCredentials? For these shou’d, in the nature of the thing, be open, visible, and apparent.
A certain Indian of the Train of the Embassador-Princes sent to us lately from some of those Pagan Nations, being engag’d, one Sunday, in visiting our Churches, and happening to ask his Interpreter, “Who the eminent Persons were whom he observ’d haranguing so long, with such Authority from a high Place?” was answer’d, “They were Embassadors from the Almighty, or (according to the Indian Language) from the Sun.” Whether the Indian took this seriously or in raillery, did not appear. But having afterwards call’d in, as he went along, at the Chapels of some of his Brother-Embassadors, of the Romish Religion, and at some other Christian Dissenting Congregations, where Matters, as he perceiv’d, were transacted with greater Privacy, and inferior State; he ask’d, “Whether These also were Embassadors from the same Place.” He was answer’d, “That they had indeed been heretofore of the Embassy, and had Possession of the same chief Places he had seen: But they were now succeeded there, by Others.” “If those therefore,” reply’d the Indian, “were Embassadors from theSun;these, I take for granted, are from theMoon.”
Supposing, indeed, one had been no Pagan, but a good Christian; conversant in the original Holy Scriptures, but unacquainted with the Rites, Titles, Habits and Ceremonials, of which there is no mention in those Writings: Might one not have inquir’d, with humble Submission, into this Affair? Might one not have softly, and at a distance, apply’d for information concerning this highEmbassy; and addressing perhaps to some inferior Officer or Livery-Man of the Train, ask’d modestly, “How and Whence they came? Whose Equipage they appear’d in? At Whose Charges they were entertain’d? and by Whose Suffrage or Command appointed and authoriz’d?—Is it true, pray Sirs! that their Excellencys of the present Establishment, are the sole-commission’d? Or are there as many real Commissioners as there are Pretenders? If so; there can be no great danger for us, which-ever way we apply our-selves. We have ample Choice, and may adhere to whichCommissionwe like best. If there be only One single True-one; we have then, it seems, good reason to look about us, search narrowly into the Affair, be scrupulous in our Choice, and (as the current Physick-Bills admonish us) beware of Counterfeits; since there are so many of these abroad, with earthly Powers, and temporalCommissions, to back their spiritual Pretenses.”—
’Tis to be fear’d, in good earnest, that the Discernment of this kind will prove pretty difficult; especially amidst this universal Contention, Embroil, and Fury of religious Challengers, these high Defiances of contrary Believers, this zealous Opposition of Commission to Commission; and this Din of Hell, Anathema’s, and Damnations, rais’d every where by one religious Party against another.
So far are the pretendedly commission’d Partys from producing their Commission openly, or proving it from the original Record, or Court-Rolls of Heaven, that they deny us inspection into these very Records they plead, and refuse to submit their Title to human Judgment or Examination.
A Poet of our Nation insinuates indeed in their behalf, That they are fair enough in this respect. For when the murmuring People, speaking by their chosen Orator, or Spokes-man, to the Priests, says to ’em,
The Apologist afterwards excusing this Boldness of the People, and soothing the incens’d Priests with fairer Words, says to ’em, on a foot of Moderation, which he presumes to be their Character:
The Poet, it seems, never dreamt of a time when the very Countenance of Moderation shou’d be out of fashion with the Gentlemen of this Order, and the Word it-self exploded as unworthy of their Profession. And, indeed, so far are they at present from bearing with any Sceptick, or Inquirer, ever so modest or discreet, that to hear an Argument on a contrary side to theirs, or read whatever may be writ in answer to their particular Assertions, is made the highest Crime. Whilst they have among themselves such Differences, and sharp Debates, about their heavenlyCommission, and are even in one and the same Community or Establishment, divided into different Sects and Headships; they will allow no particular Survey or Inspection into the Foundations of their controverted Title. They wou’d have us inferior passive Mortals, amaz’d as we are, and beholding with astonishment from afar these tremendous Subjects of Dispute, wait blindfold the Event and final Decision of the Controversy. Nor is it enough that we are merely passive. ’Tis requir’d of us, That in the midst of this irreconcilable Debate concerning heavenly Authoritys and Powers, we shou’d be as confident of the Veracity of some one, as of the Imposture and Cheat of all the other Pretenders: and that believing firmly there is still A realCommission at the bottom, we shou’d endure the Misery of these Conflicts, and engage on one side or the other, as we happen to have our Birth or Education; till by Fire and Sword, Execution, Massacre, and a kind of Depopulation of this Earth, it be determin’d at last amongst us, “Which is the trueCommission,exclusive of all others, and superior to the rest.”
HERE our secularGentleman, who in the latter end of his Discourse had already made several Motions and Gestures which betoken’d a Retreat, made his final Bow in form, and quitted the Place and Company for that time; till (as he told his Auditors) he had another Opportunity, and fresh Leisure to hear, in his turn, whatever his Antagonists might anew object to him, in a Manner more favourable and moderate; or, if they so approv’d, in the same Temper, and with the same Zeal as they had done before.
A Notion of the
Historical Draught or Tablature
of the Judgment of Hercules,
According to Prodicus,Lib. II. Xen. de Mem. Soc.
With a Letter concerning
Find more important Herculean tasks, hard labors,
than all the loves, the banquets, and the featherly
comforts of Sardanapolus. Juv. Sat. 10.
Printed first in the Year M.DCC.XIII.
BEFORE we enter on the Examination of our Historical Sketch, it may be proper to remark, that by the word Tablature (for which we have yet no name in English, besides the general one of Picture) we denote, according to the original word Tabula, a Work not only distinct from a mere Portraiture, but from all those wilder sorts of Painting which are in a manner absolute, and independent; such as the Paintings in Fresco upon the Walls, the Cielings, the Stair-Cases, the Cupolo’s, and other remarkable Places either of Churches or Palaces.
(2.) Accordingly we are to understand, that it is not merely the Shape or Dimension of a Cloth, or Board, which denominates the Piece or Tablature; since a Work of this kind may be compos’d of any colour’d Substance, as it may of any Form; whether square, oval or round. But ’tis then that in Painting we may give to any particular Work the Name of Tablature, when the Work is in reality “a Single Piece, comprehended in one View, and form’d according to one single Intelligence, Meaning, or Design; which constitutes a realWhole, by a mutual and necessary Relation of its Parts, the same as of the Members in a natural Body.” So that one may say of a Picture compos’d of any number of Figures differently rang’d, and without any regard to this Correspondency or Union describ’d, That it is no more a real Piece or Tablature, than a Picture wou’d be a Man’s Picture, or proper Portraiture, which represented on the same Cloth, in different places, the Legs, Arms, Nose, and Eyes of such a Person, without adjusting them according to the true Proportion, Air, and Character which belong’d to him.
(3.) This Regulation has place even in the inferior degrees of Painting; since the mere Flower-Painter is, we see, oblig’d to study the Form of Festons, and to make use of a peculiar Order, or Architecture of Vases, Jars, Cannisters, Pedestals, and other Inventions, which serve as Machines, to frame a certain proportionate Assemblage, or united Mass; according to the Rules of Perspective; and with regard as well to the different shapes and sizes of his several Flowers, as to the harmony of Colours resulting from the whole: this being the only thing capable of rendering his Work worthy the name of a Composition or real Piece.
(4.) So much the more, therefore, is this Regulation applicable to History-Painting, where not only Men, but Manners, and human Passions are represented. Here the Unity of Design must with more particular exactness be preserv’d, according to the just Rules of poetick Art; that in the Representation of any Event, or remarkable Fact, the Probability, or seeming Truth, which is the real Truth of Art, may with the highest advantage be supported and advanc’d: as we shall better understand in the Argument which follows on the historical Tablature of The Judgment ofHercules; who being young, and retir’d to a solitary place in order to deliberate on the Choice he was to make of the different ways of Life, was accosted (as our Historian relates) by the two Goddesses, Virtue and Pleasure. ’Tis on the issue of the Controversy between these Two, that the Character of Hercules depends. So that we may naturally give to this Piece and History, as well the Title of The Education, as the Choice or Judgment ofHercules.
THIS Fable or History may be variously represented, according to the Order of Time:
Either in the instant when the two Goddesses, Virtue and Pleasure, accost Hercules;
Or when they are enter’d on their Dispute;
Or when their Dispute is already far advanc’d, and Virtue seems to gain her Cause.
(2.) According to the first Notion, Hercules must of necessity seem surpriz’d on the first appearance of such miraculous Forms. He admires, he contemplates; but is not yet ingag’d or interested. According to the second Notion, he is interested, divided, and in doubt. According to the third, he is wrought, agitated, and torn by contrary Passions. ’Tis the last Effort of the vitious one, striving for possession over him. He agonizes, and with all his Strength of Reason endeavours to overcome himself:
And the spirit is overwhelmed by reason, and it struggles to be conquered.
(3.) Of these different Periods of Time, the latter has been chosen; as being the only one of the three, which can well serve to express the grand Event, or consequent Resolution of Hercules, and the Choice he actually made of a Life full of Toil and Hardship, under the conduct of Virtue, for the deliverance of Mankind from Tyranny and Oppression. And ’tis to such a Piece, or Tablature, as represents this Issue of the Balance, in our pondering Hero, that we may justly give the Title of the Decision or Judgment ofHercules.
(4.) The same History may be represented yet according to a fourth Date or Period: as at the time when Hercules is intirely won by Virtue. But then the signs of this resolute Determination reigning absolutely in the Attitude, and Air of our young Hero; there wou’d be no room left to represent his Agony, or inward Conflict, which indeed makes the principal Action here; as it wou’d do in a Poem, were this Subject to be treated by a good Poet. Nor wou’d there be any more room left in this case, either for the persuasive Rhetorick of Virtue, who must have already ended her Discourse, or for the insinuating Address of Pleasure, who having lost her Cause, must necessarily appear displeas’d, or out of humour: a Circumstance which wou’d no way sute her Character.
(5.) In the original Story or Fable of this Adventure of our young Hercules, ’tis particularly noted, that Pleasure, advancing hastily before Virtue, began her Plea, and was heard with prevention; as being first in turn. And as this Fable is wholly philosophical and moral, this Circumstance in particular is to be consider’d as essential.
(6.) In this third Period therefore of our History (dividing it, as we have done, into four successive Dates or Points of Time) Hercules being Auditor, and attentive, speaks not. Pleasure has spoken. Virtue is still speaking. She is about the middle, or towards the end of her Discourse; in the place where, according to just Rhetorick, the highest Tone of Voice and strongest Action are employ’d.
(7.) ’Tis evident, that every Master in Painting, when he has made choice of the determinate Date or Point of Time, according to which he wou’d represent his History, is afterwards debar’d the taking advantage from any other Action than what is immediately present, and belonging to that single Instant he describes. For if he passes the present only for a moment, he may as well pass it for many years. And by this reckoning he may with as good right repeat the same Figure several times over, and in one and the same Picture represent Hercules in his Cradle, struggling with the Serpents; and the same Hercules of full Age, fighting with the Hydra, with Anteus, and with Cerberus: which wou’d prove a mere confus’d Heap, or Knot of Pieces, and not a single intire Piece, or Tablature, of the historical kind.
(8.) It may however be allowable, on some occasions, to make use of certain enigmatical or emblematical Devises, to represent a future Time: as when Hercules, yet a mere Boy, is seen holding a small Club, or wearing the Skin of a young Lion. For so we often find him in the best Antiques. And tho History had never related of Hercules, that being yet very young, he kill’d a Lion with his own hand; this Representation of him wou’d nevertheless be intirely conformable to poetick Truth; which not only admits, but necessarily presupposes Prophecy or Prognostication, with regard to the Actions, and Lives of Heroes and Great Men. Besides that as to our Subject, in particular, the natural Genius of Hercules, even in his tenderest Youth, might alone answer for his handling such Arms as these, and bearing, as it were in play, these early tokens of the future Hero.
(9.) To preserve therefore a just Conformity with historical Truth, and with the Unity of Time and Action, there remains no other way by which we can possibly give a hint of any thing future, or call to mind any thing past, than by setting in view such Passages or Events as have actually subsisted, or according to Nature might well subsist, or happen together in one and the same instant. And this is what we may properly call The Rule of Consistency.
(10.) How is it therefore possible, says one, to express a Change of Passion in any Subject, since this Change is made by Succession; and that in this case the Passion which is understood as present, will require a Disposition of Body and Features wholly different from the Passion which is over, and past? To this we answer, That notwithstanding the Ascendency or Reign of the principal and immediate Passion, the Artist has power to leave still in his Subject the Tracts or Footsteps of its Predecessor: so as to let us behold not only a rising Passion together with a declining one; but, what is more, a strong and determinate Passion, with its contrary already discharg’d and banish’d. As for instance, when the plain Tracts of Tears new fallen, with other fresh tokens of Mourning and Dejection, remain still in a Person newly transported with Joy at the sight of a Relation or Friend, who the moment before had been lamented as one deceas’d or lost.
(11.) Again, by the same means which are employ’d to call to mind the Past, we may anticipate the Future: as wou’d be seen in the case of an able Painter, who shou’d undertake to paint this History of Hercules according to the third Date or Period of Time propos’d for our historical Tablature. For in this momentary Turn of Action, Hercules remaining still in a situation expressive of Suspense and Doubt, wou’d discover nevertheless that the Strength of this inward Conflict was over, and that Victory began now to declare her-self in favour of Virtue. This Transition, which seems at first so mysterious a Performance, will be easily comprehended, if one considers, That the Body, which moves much slower than the Mind, is easily out-strip’d by this latter; and that the Mind on a sudden turning it-self some new way, the nearer situated and more sprightly parts of the Body (such as the Eyes, and Muscles about the Mouth and Forehead) taking the alarm, and moving in an instant, may leave the heavier and more distant Parts to adjust them-selves, and change their Attitude some moments after.
(12.) This different Operation may be distinguish’d by the names of Anticipation and Repeal.
(13.) If by any other method an Artist shou’d pretend to introduce into this Piece any portion of Time, future or past, he must either sin directly against the Law of Truth and Credibility, in representing things contrary and incompatible; or against that Law of Unity and Simplicity of Design, which constitutes the very Being of his Work. This particularly shews it-self in a Picture, when one is necessarily left in doubt, and unable to determine readily, Which of the distinct successive parts of the History or Action is that very-one represented in the Design. For even here the case is the same as in the other Circumstances of Poetry and Painting: “That what is principal or chief, shou’d immediately shew it-self, without leaving the Mind in any uncertainty.”
(14.) According to this Rule of the Unity of Time, if one shou’d ask an Artist, who had painted this History of The Judgment ofHercules, “Which of these four Periods or Dates of Time above propos’d he intended in his Picture to represent”; and it shou’d happen that he cou’d not readily answer, ’Twas this, or that: It wou’d appear plainly he had never form’d a real Notion of his Workmanship, or of the History he intended to represent. So that when he had executed even to a Miracle all those other Beautys requisite in a Piece, and had fail’d in this single one, he wou’d from hence alone be prov’d to be in truth no History-Painter, or Artist in the kind, who understood not so much as how to form the real Design of a historical Piece.
TO apply therefore what has been said above to our immediate Design or Tablature in hand; we may observe, in the first place, with regard to Hercules, (the first or principal Figure of our Piece) that being plac’d in the middle, between the two Goddesses, he shou’d by a skilful Master be so drawn, as even setting aside the Air and Features of the Face, it shou’d appear by the very Turn, or Position of the Body alone, that this young Hero had not wholly quitted the balancing or pondering part. For in the manner of his turn towards the worthier of these Goddesses, he shou’d by no means appear so averse or separate from the other, as not to suffer it to be conceiv’d of him, that he had ever any inclination for her, or had ever hearken’d to her Voice. On the contrary, there ought to be some hopes yet remaining for this latter Goddess Pleasure, and some regret apparent in Hercules. Otherwise we shou’d pass immediately from the third to the fourth Period; or at least confound one with the other.
(2.) Hercules, in this Agony describ’d, may appear either sitting, or standing: tho it be more according to probability for him to appear standing; in regard to the presence of the two Goddesses, and by reason the case is far from being the same here as in The Judgment ofParis; where the interested Goddesses plead their Cause before their Judg. Here the Interest of Hercules himself is at stake. ’Tis his own Cause which is trying. He is in this respect not so much the Judg, as he is in reality the Party judg’d.
(3.) The superior and commanding Passion of Hercules may be express’d either by a strong Admiration, or by an Admiration which holds chiefly of Love.
Excited by an amorous love.
(4.) If the latter be us’d, then the reluctant Passion, which is not yet wholly overcome, may shew it-self in Pity and Tenderness, mov’d in our Hero by the thought of those Pleasures and Companions of his Youth, which he is going for ever to abandon. And in this sense Hercules may look either on the one or the other of the Goddesses, with this difference; That if he looks on Pleasure, it shou’d be faintly, and as turning his Eyes back with Pity; having still his Action and Gesture turn’d the other way towards Virtue. If, on the contrary, he looks on Virtue; it ought to be earnestly, and with extreme attention, having some part of the Action of his Body, inclining still towards Pleasure, and discovering by certain Features of Concern and Pity, intermix’d with the commanding or conquering Passion, that the Decision he is about to make in favour of Virtue, cost him not a little.
(5.) If it be thought fit rather to make use of Admiration, merely to express the commanding Passion of Hercules: then the reluctant-one may discover it-self in a kind of Horror, at the thought of the Toil and Labour, to be sustain’d in the rough rocky way apparent on the side of Virtue.
(6.) Again, Hercules may be represented as looking neither towards Virtue nor Pleasure, but as turning his Eyes either towards the mountainous rocky Way pointed out to him by Virtue, or towards the flowry Way of the Vale and Meadows, recommended to him by Pleasure. And to these different Attitudes may be apply’d the same Rules for the Expression of the Turn or Balance of Judgment in our pensive Hero.
(7.) Whatever may be the manner chosen for the designing of this Figure of Hercules, according to that part of the History in which we have taken him; ’tis certain he shou’d be so drawn, as neither by the opening of his mouth, or by any other sign, to leave it in the least dubious whether he is speaking or silent. For ’tis absolutely requisite that Silence shou’d be distinctly characteriz’d in Hercules, not only as the natural effect of his strict Attention, and the little leisure he has from what passes at this time within his breast; but in order withal to give that appearance of Majesty and Superiority becoming the Person and Character of pleading Virtue; who by her Eloquence and other Charms has ere this made her-self mistress of the Heart of our enamour’d Hero:
And again she hangs on the lips of the storyteller.
This Image of the Sublime in the Discourse and Manner of Virtue, wou’d be utterly lost, if in the instant that she employ’d the greatest Force of Action, she shou’d appear to be interrupted by the ill-tim’d Speech, Reply, or Utterance of her Auditor. Such a Design or Representation as this, wou’d prove contrary to Order, contrary to the History, and to the Decorum, or Decency of Manners. Nor can one well avoid taking notice here, of that general Absurdity committed by many of the esteem’d great Masters in Painting; who in one and the same Company, or Assembly of Persons jointly employ’d, and united according to the History, in one single or common Action, represent to us not only two or three, but several, and sometimes all speaking at once. Which must naturally have the same effect on the Eye, as such a Conversation wou’d have upon the Ear, were we in reality to hear it.
AFTER what has been said on the Subject of Hercules, it appears plainly what the Attitude must be of our second Figure, Virtue; who, as we have taken her in this particular Period of our History, must of necessity be speaking with all the Force of Action, such as wou’d appear in an excellent Orator, when at the height, and in the most affecting part of his Discourse.
(2.) She ought therefore to be drawn standing; since ’tis contrary to all probable Appearance, and even to Nature it-self, that in the very Heat and highest Transport of Speech, the Speaker shou’d be seen sitting, or in any Posture which might express Repose.
(3.) She may be habited either as an Amazon, with the Helmet, Lance, and in the Robe or Vest of Pallas; or as any other of the Virtues, Goddesses, or Heroines, with the plain original Crown, without Rays, according to genuine Antiquity. Our History makes no mention of a Helmet, or any other Armour of Virtue. It gives us only to understand, that she was dress’d neither negligently, nor with much study or ornament. If we follow this latter method, we need give her only in her hand the Imperial or Magisterial Sword; which is her true characteristick Mark, and wou’d sufficiently distinguish her, without the Helmet, Lance, or other military Habit. And in this manner, the opposition between her-self and her Rival wou’d be still more beautiful and regular.—“But this Beauty, says one, wou’d be discoverable only by the Learned.”—Perhaps so. But then again, there wou’d be no loss for others: since no-one wou’d find this Piece the less intelligible on the account of this Regulation. On the contrary, one who chanc’d to know little of Antiquity in general, or of this History in particular, wou’d be still further to seek, if upon seeing an armed Woman in the Piece, he shou’d represent to himself either a Pallas, a Bellona, or any other warlike Form, or Deity of the female kind.
(4.) As for the Shape, Countenance, or Person of Virtue; that which is usually given to Pallas may fitly serve as a Model for this Dame; as on the other side, that which is given to Venus may serve in the same manner for her Rival. The Historian whom we follow, represents Virtue to us as a Lady of a goodly Form, tall and majestick. And by what he relates of her, he gives us sufficiently to understand, that tho she was neither lean, nor of a tann’d Complexion, she must have discover’d however, by the Substance and Colour of her Flesh, that she was sufficiently accustom’d to exercise. Pleasure, on the other hand, by an exact Opposition, is represented in better case, and of a Softness of Complexion; which speaks her Manners, and gives her a middle Character between the Person of a Venus, and that of a BacchinalNymph.
(5.) As for the Position, or Attitude of Virtue; tho in a historical Piece, such as ours is design’d, ’twou’d on no account be proper to have immediate recourse to the way of Emblem; one might, on this occasion, endeavour nevertheless by some artifice to give our Figure, as much as possible, the resemblance of the same Goddess, as she is seen on Medals, and other antient emblematick Pieces of like nature. In this view, she shou’d be so design’d, as to stand firm with her full poise upon one foot, having the other a little advanc’d, and rais’d on a broken piece of ground or rock, instead of the Helmet or little Globe on which we see her usually setting her foot, as triumphant, in those Pieces of the emblematick kind. A particular advantage of this Attitude, so judiciously assign’d to Virtue by antient Masters, is, that it expresses as well her aspiring Effort, or Ascent towards the Stars and Heaven, as her Victory and Superiority over Fortune and the World. For so the Poets have, of old, describ’d her.
And in our Piece particularly, where the arduous and rocky way of Virtue requires to be emphatically represented; the ascending Posture of this Figure, with one Foot advanc’d, in a sort of climbing Action, over the rough and thorny Ground, must of necessity, if well executed, create a due effect, and add to the Sublime of this antient Poetick Work.
(6.) As for the Hands or Arms, which in real Oratory, and during the strength of Elocution, must of necessity be active; ’tis plain in respect of our Goddess, that the Arm in particular which she has free to her-self, and is neither incumber’d with Lance or Sword, shou’d be employ’d another way, and come in, to second the Discourse, and accompany it, with a just Emphasis and Action. Accordingly, Virtue wou’d then be seen with this Hand, turn’d either upwards to the rocky Way mark’d out by her with approbation; or to the Sky, or Stars, in the same sublime sense; or downwards to the flowery Way and Vale, as in a detesting manner, and with abhorrence of what passes there; or last of all (in a disdainful sense, and with the same appearance of Detestation) against Pleasure herself. Each Manner wou’d have its peculiar advantage. And the best Profit shou’d be made of this Arm and Hand at liberty, to express either the Disapprobation or the Applause propos’d. It might prove, however, a considerable advantage to our Figure of Virtue, if holding the Lance, or Imperial Sword, slightly, with one of her Hands stretch’d downwards, she cou’d, by that very Hand and Action, be made to express the latter meaning; opening for that purpose some of the lower Fingers of this Hand, in a refusing or repelling manner; whilst with the other Arm and Hand at liberty, she shou’d express as well the former meaning, and point out to Hercules the way which leads to Honour, and the just Glory of heroick Actions.
(7.) From all these Circumstances of History, and Action, accompanying this important Figure, the difficulty of the Design will sufficiently appear, to those who carry their Judgment beyond the mere Form, and are able to consider the Character of the Passion to which it is subjected. For where a real Character is mark’d, and the inward Form peculiarly describ’d, ’tis necessary the outward shou’d give place. Whoever shou’d expect to see our Figure of Virtue, in the exact Mein of a fine Talker, curious in her Choice of Action, and forming it according to the usual Decorum, and regular Movement of one of the fair Ladys of our Age, wou’d certainly be far wide of the Thought and Genius of this Piece. Such study’d Action, and artificial Gesture, may be allow’d to the Actors and Actrices of the Stage. But the good Painter must come a little nearer to Truth, and take care that his Action be not theatrical, or at second hand; but original, and drawn from Nature her-self. Now altho in the ordinary Tenour of Discourse, the Action of the Party might be allow’d to appear so far govern’d and compos’d by Art, as to retain that regular Contraste, and nice Balance of Movement, which Painters are apt to admire as the chief Grace of Figures; yet in this particular case, where the natural Eagerness of Debate, supported by a thorow Antipathy and Animosity, is join’d to a sort of enthusiastick Agitation incident to our prophetick Dame, there can be little of that fashionable Mein, or genteel Air admitted. The Painter who, in such a Piece as we describe, is bound to preserve the heroick Style, will doubtless beware of representing his Heroine as a mere Scold. Yet this is certain, That it were better for him to expose himself to the Meanness of such a Fancy, and paint his Lady in a high Rant, according to the common Weakness of the Sex, than to engage in the Embelishment of the mere Form; and, forgetting the Character of Severity and Reprimand belonging to the illustrious Rival, present her to us a fair specious Personage, free of Emotion, and without the least Bent or Movement, which shou’d express the real Pathetick of the kind.
CONCERNING Pleasure there needs little to be said, after what has been already remark’d in relation to the two preceding Figures. The Truth of Appearance, that of History, and even the Decorum it-self, (according to what has been explain’d above) require evidently that in this Period or Instant describ’d, Pleasure shou’d be found silent. She can have no other Language allow’d her than that merely of the Eyes. And ’twou’d be a happy Management for her in the Design, if in turning her Eyes to meet those of Hercules, she shou’d find his Head and Face already turn’d so much on the contrary side, as to shew it impossible for her as yet to discover the growing Passion of this Hero in favour of her Rival. By this means she might still with good right retain her fond Airs of Dalliance and Courtship; as having yet discover’d no reason she has to be dissatisfy’d.
(2.) She may be drawn either standing, leaning, sitting, or lying; without a Crown, or crown’d either with Roses, or with Myrtle; according to the Painter’s Fancy. And since in this third Figure the Painter has so great a liberty left him, he may make good advantage of it for the other two, to which this latter may be subjected, as the last in order, and of least consequence.
(3.) That which makes the greatest difficulty in the Disposition or Ordonnance of this Figure Pleasure, is, that notwithstanding the supine Air and Character of Ease and Indolence, which shou’d be given her, she must retain still so much Life and Action, as is sufficient to express her persuasive Effort, and Manner of Indication towards her proper Paths; those of the flowery kind, and Vale below, whither she wou’d willingly guide our Hero’s steps. Now shou’d this Effort be over-strongly express’d; not only the supine Character and Air of Indolence wou’d be lost in this Figure of Pleasure; but, what is worse, the Figure wou’d seem to speak, or at least appear so, as to create a double Meaning, or equivocal Sense in Painting: which wou’d destroy what we have establish’d as fundamental, concerning the absolute Reign of Silence thro’out the rest of the Piece, in favour of Virtue, the sole speaking Party at this Instant, or third Period of our History.
(4.) According to a Computation, which in this way of Reasoning might be made, of the whole Motion or Action to be given to our Figure of Pleasure; she shou’d scarce have one fifth reserv’d for that which we may properly call active in her, and have already term’d her persuasive or indicative Effort. All besides shou’d be employ’d to express, if one may say so, her Inaction, her Supineness, Effeminacy, and indulgent Ease. The Head and Body might intirely favour this latter Passion. One Hand might be absolutely resign’d to it; serving only to support, with much ado, the lolling lazy Body. And if the other Hand be requir’d to express some kind of Gesture or Action toward the Road of Pleasures recommended by this Dame; the Gesture ought however to be slight and negligent, in the manner of one who has given over speaking, and appears weary and spent.
(5.) For the Shape, the Person, the Complexion, and what else may be further remark’d as to the Air and Manner of Pleasure; all this is naturally comprehended in the Opposition, as above stated, between Her-self and Virtue.
TIS sufficiently known, how great a liberty Painters are us’d to take, in the colouring of their Habits, and of other Draperys belonging to their historical Pieces. If they are to paint a Roman People, they represent ’em in different Dresses; tho it be certain the common People among ’em were habited very near alike, and much after the same colour. In like manner, the Egyptians, Jews, and other antient Nations, as we may well suppose, bore in this particular their respective Likeness or Resemblance one to another; as at present the Spaniards, Italians, and several other People of Europe. But such a Resemblance as this wou’d, in the way of Painting, produce a very untoward effect; as may easily be conceiv’d. For this reason the Painter makes no scruple to introduce Philosophers, and even Apostles, in various Colours, after a very extraordinary manner. ’Tis here that the historical Truth must of necessity indeed give way to that which we call poetical, as being govern’d not so much by Reality, as by Probability, or plausible Appearance, So that a Painter, who uses his Privilege or Prerogative in this respect, ought however to do it cautiously, and with discretion. And when occasion requires that he shou’d present us his Philosophers or Apostles thus variously colour’d, he must take care at least so to mortify his Colours, that these plain poor Men may not appear, in his Piece, adorn’d like so many Lords or Princes of the modern Garb.
(2.) If, on the other hand, the Painter shou’d happen to take for his Subject some solemn Entry or Triumph, where, according to the Truth of Fact, all manner of Magnificence had without doubt been actually display’d, and all sorts of bright and dazling Colours heap’d together and advanc’d, in emulation, one against another; he ought on this occasion, in breach of the historical Truth, or Truth of Fact, to do his utmost to diminish and reduce the excessive Gaiety and Splendor of those Objects, which wou’d otherwise raise such a Confusion, Oppugnancy, and Riot of Colours, as wou’d to any judicious Eye appear absolutely intolerable.
(3.) It becomes therefore an able Painter in this, as well as in the other parts of his Workmanship, to have regard principally, and above all, to the Agreement or Correspondency of things. And to that end ’tis necessary he shou’d form in his Mind a certain Note or Character of Unity, which being happily taken, wou’d, out of the many Colours of his Piece, produce (if one may say so) a particular distinct Species of an original kind: like those Compositions in Musick, where among the different Airs, (such as Sonatas, Entrys, or Sarabands) there are different and distinct Species; of which we may say in particular, as to each, “That it has its own proper Character or Genius, peculiar to it-self.”
(4.) Thus the Harmony of Painting requires, “That in whatever Key the Painter begins his Piece, he shou’d be sure to finish it in the same.”
(5.) This Regulation turns on the principal Figure, or on the two or three which are eminent, in a Tablature compos’d of many. For if the Painter happens to give a certain Height or Richness of colouring to his principal Figure; the rest must in proportion necessarily partake this Genius. But if, on the contrary, the Painter shou’d have chanc’d to give a softer Air, with more Gentleness and Simplicity of colouring, to his principal Figure; the rest must bear a Character proportionable, and appear in an extraordinary Simplicity; that one and the same Spirit may, without contest, reign thro’ the whole of his Design.
(6.) Our Historical Draught of Hercules will afford us a very clear example in the case. For considering that the Hero is to appear on this occasion retir’d and gloomy; being withal in a manner naked, and without any other Covering than a Lion’s Skin, which is it-self of a yellow and dusky colour; it wou’d be really impracticable for a Painter to represent this principal Figure in any extraordinary brightness or lustre. From whence it follows, that in the other inferior Figures or subordinate parts of the Work, the Painter must necessarily make use of such still quiet Colours, as may give to the whole Piece a Character of Solemnity and Simplicity, agreeable with it-self. Now shou’d our Painter honestly go about to follow his Historian, according to the literal Sense of the History, which represents Virtue to us in a resplendent Robe of the purest and most glossy White; ’tis evident he must after this manner destroy his Piece. The good Painter in this, as in all other occasions of like nature, must do as the good Poet; who undertaking to treat some common and known Subject, refuses however to follow strictly, like a mere Copyist or Translator, any preceding Poet or Historian; but so orders it, that his Work in it-self becomes really new and original.
A public subject will be a private right to you if you will not linger around worthless and common matters nor will endeavor to return word for word as a conscientious interpreter.
(7.) As for what relates to the Perspective or Scene of our historical Piece, it ought so to present it-self, as to make us instantly conceive that ’tis in the Country, and in a place of Retirement, near some Wood or Forest, that this whole Action passes. For ’twou’d be impertinent to bring Architecture or Buildings of whatever kind in view, as tokens of Company, Diversion, or Affairs, in a Place purposely chosen to denote Solitude, Thoughtfulness, and premeditated Retreat. Besides, that according to the Poets (our Guides and Masters in this Art) neither the Goddesses, nor other divine Forms of whatever kind, car’d ever to present themselves to human Sight, elsewhere than in these deep Recesses. And ’tis worth observing here, how particularly our philosophical Historian affects to speak, by way of prevention, of the solitary place where Hercules was retir’d, and of his Thoughtfulness preceding this Apparition: which from these Circumstances may be constru’d hence-forward as a mere Dream; but as such, a truly rational, and divine one.
(8.) As to the Fortress, Temple, or Palace of Virtue, situated on a Mountain, after the emblematical way; as we see represented in some Pieces form’d upon this Subject; there is nothing of this kind express’d by our Historian. And shou’d this, or any thing of a like nature, present it-self in our Design, it wou’d fill the Mind with foreign Fancys, and mysterious Views, no way agreeable to the Taste and Genius of this Piece. Nor is there any thing, at the same time, on Pleasure’s side, to answer, by way of opposition, to this Palace of Virtue; which, if express’d, wou’d on this account destroy the just Simplicity and Correspondency of our Work.
(9.) Another Reason against the Perspective-part, the Architecture, or other study’d Ornaments of the Landskip-kind, in this particular Piece of ours, is, That in reality there being no occasion for these Appearances, they wou’d prove a mere Incumbrance to the Eye, and wou’d of necessity disturb the Sight, by diverting it from that which is principal, the History and Fact. Whatsoever appears in a historical Design, which is not essential to the Action, serves only to confound the Representation, and perplex the Mind: more particularly, if these Episodick parts are so lively wrought, as to vie with the principal Subject, and contend for Precedency with the Figures and human Life. A just Design, or Tablature, shou’d, at first view, discover, What Nature it is design’d to imitate; what Life, whether of the higher or lower kind, it aims chiefly to represent. The Piece must by no means be equivocal or dubious; but must with ease distinguish it-self, either as historical and moral, or as perspective and merely natural. If it be the latter of these Beautys, which we desire to see delineated according to its perfection, then the former must give place. The higher Life must be allay’d, and in a manner discountenanc’d and obscur’d; whilst the lower displays it-self, and is exhibited as principal. Even that, which according to a Term of Art we commonly call Still-Life, and is in reality of the last and lowest degree of Painting, must have its Superiority and just Preference in a Tablature of its own Species. ’Tis the same in Animal-Pieces; where Beasts, or Fowl are represented. In Landskip, Inanimates are principal: ’Tis the Earth, the Water, the Stones and Rocks which live. All other Life becomes subordinate. Humanity, Sense, Manners, must in this place yield, and become inferior. ’Twou’d be a fault even to aim at the Expression of any real Beauty in this kind, or go about to animate or heighten in any considerable degree the accompanying Figures of Men, or Deitys, which are accidentally introduc’d, as Appendices, or Ornaments, in such a Piece. But if, on the contrary, the human Species be that which first presents it-self in a Picture; if it be the intelligent Life, which is set to view; ’tis the other Species, the other Life, which must then surrender and become subservient. The merely natural must pay homage to the historical or moral. Every Beauty, every Grace must be sacrific’d to the realBeautyof this first and highest Order. For nothing can be more deform’d than a Confusion of many Beautys: And the Confusion becomes inevitable, where the Subjection is not compleat.
(10.) By the word Moral are understood, in this place, all Sorts of judicious Representations of the human Passions; as we see even in Battel-Pieces; excepting those of distant Figures, and the diminutive kind; which may rather be consider’d as a sort of Landskip. In all other martial Pieces, we see express’d in lively Action, the several degrees of Valor, Magnanimity, Cowardice, Terror, Anger, according to the several Characters of Nations, and particular Men. ’Tis here that we may see Heroes and Chiefs (such as the Alexanders or Constantines) appear, even in the hottest of the Action, with a Tranquillity and Sedateness of Mind peculiar to themselves: which is, indeed, in a direct and proper sense, profoundly moral.
(11.) But as the Moral part is differently treated in a Poem, from what it is in History, or in a philosophical Work; so must it, of right, in Painting be far differently treated, from what it naturally is, either in the History, or Poem. For want of a right understanding of this Maxim, it often happens that, by endeavouring to render a Piece highly moral and learned, it becomes thorowly ridiculous and impertinent.
(12.) For the ordinary Works of Sculpture, such as the Low-Relieves, and Ornaments of Columns and Edifices, great allowance is made. The very Rules of Perspective are here wholly revers’d, as necessity requires; and are accommodated to the Circumstance and Genius of the Place or Building, according to a certain OEconomy or Order of a particular and distinct kind; as will easily be observ’d by those who have thorowly study’d the Trajan and Antoninus-Pillars, and other Relieve-Works of the Antients. In the same manner, as to Pieces of ingrav’d Work, Medals, or whatever shews it-self in one Substance, (as Brass or Stone) or only by Shade and Light, (as in ordinary Drawings, or Stamps) much also is allow’d, and many things admitted, of the fantastick, miraculous, or hyberbolical kind. ’Tis here, that we have free scope, withal, for whatever is learned, emblematical, or enigmatick. But for the compleatly imitative and illusive Art of Painting, whose Character it is to employ in her Works the united Force of different Colours; and who, surpassing by so many Degrees, and in so many Privileges, all other human Fiction, or imitative Art, aspires in a directer manner towards Deceit, and a Command over our very Sense; she must of necessity abandon whatever is over-learned, humorous, or witty; to maintain her-self in what is natural, credible, and winning of our Assent: that she may thus acquit her-self of what is her chief Province, the specious Appearance of the Object she represents. Otherwise we shall naturally bring against her the just Criticism of Horace, on the scenical Representation so nearly ally’d to her:
Whatsoever you show me, disbelieving it, I despise it.
(13.) We are therefore to consider this as a sure Maxim or Observation in Painting, “That a historical and moral Piece must of necessity lose much of its natural Simplicity and Grace, if any thing of the emblematical or enigmatick kind be visibly and directly intermix’d.” As if for instance, the Circle of the Zodiack, with its twelve Signs, were introduc’d. Now this being an Appearance which carrys not any manner of similitude or colourable resemblance to any thing extant in real Nature; it cannot possibly pretend to win the Sense, or gain Belief, by the help of any poetical Enthusiasm, religious History, or Faith. For by means of these, indeed, we are easily induc’d to contemplate as Realitys those divine Personages and miraculous Forms, which the leading Painters, antient and modern, have speciously design’d, according to the particular Doctrine or Theology of their several religious and national Beliefs. But for our Tablature in particular, it carrys nothing with it of the mere emblematical or enigmatick kind: since for what relates to the double Way of the Vale and Mountain, this may naturally and with colourable appearance be represented at the Mountain’s foot. But if on the Summit or highest Point of it, we shou’d place the Fortress, or Palace of Virtue, rising above the Clouds, this wou’d immediately give the enigmatical mysterious Air to our Picture, and of necessity destroy its persuasive Simplicity, and natural Appearance.
(14.) In short, we are to carry this Remembrance still along with us, “That the fewer the Objects are, besides those which are absolutely necessary in a Piece, the easier it is for the Eye, by one simple Act and in one View, to comprehend the Sum or Whole.” The multiplication of Subjects, tho subaltern, renders the Subordination more difficult to execute in the Ordonnance or Composition of a Work. And if the Subordination be not perfect, the Order (which makes the Beauty) remains imperfect. Now the Subordination can never be perfect, except “When the Ordonnance is such, that the Eye not only runs over with ease the several Parts of the Design, (reducing still its View each moment to the principal Subject on which all turns) but when the same Eye, without the least detainment in any of the particular Parts, and resting, as it were, immovable in the middle, or center of the Tablature, may see at once, in an agreeable and perfect Correspondency, all which is there exhibited to the Sight.”
THERE remains for us now to consider only of the separate Ornaments, independent both of Figures and Perspective; such as the Machine-Work, or Divinitys in the Sky, the Winds, Cupids, Birds, Animals, Dogs, or other loose Pieces, which are introduc’d without any absolute necessity, and in a way of Humour. But as these belong chiefly to the ordinary Life, and to the comick, or mix’d kind; our Tablature, which on the contrary is wholly epick, heroick, and in the tragick Style, wou’d not so easily admit of any thing in this light way.
(2.) We may besides consider, that whereas the Mind is naturally led to fansy Mystery in a Work of such a Genius or Style of Painting as ours, and to confound with each other the two distinct kinds of the emblematick, and merely historical, or poetick; we shou’d take care not to afford it this occasion of Error and Deviation, by introducing into a Piece of so uniform a Design, such Appendices, or supplementary Parts, as, under pretext of giving light to the History, or characterizing the Figures, shou’d serve only to distract or dissipate the Sight, and confound the Judgment of the more intelligent Spectators.
(3.) “Will it then,” says one, “be possible to make out the Story of these two Dames in company with Hercules, without otherwise distinguishing them than as above describ’d?”—We answer, it is possible; and not that only, but certain and infallible, in the case of one who has the least Genius, or has ever heard in general concerning Hercules, without so much as having ever heard this History in particular. But if, notwithstanding this, we wou’d needs add some exterior marks, more declaratory and determinative of these two Personages, Virtue and Pleasure; it may be perform’d, however, without any necessary recourse to what is absolutely of the Emblem-kind. The Manner of this may be explain’d as follows.
(4.) The Energy or natural Force of Virtue, according to the moral Philosophy of highest note among the Antients, was express’d in the double effect ofForbearance and Indurance, or what we may otherwise call Refrainment and Support. For the former, the Bit or Bridle, plac’d somewhere on the side of Virtue, may serve as Emblem sufficient; and for the second, the Helmet may serve in the same manner; especially since they are each of them Appurtenances essential to Heroes, (who, in the quality of Warriors, were also Subduers or Managers of Horses) and that at the same time these are really portable Instruments, such as the martial Dame, who represents Virtue, may be well suppos’d to have brought along with her.
(5.) On the side of Pleasure, certain Vases, and other Pieces of imboss’d Plate, wrought in the figures of Satyrs, Fauns, and Bacchanals, may serve to express the Debauches of the Table-kind. And certain Draperys thrown carelesly on the ground, and hung upon a neighbouring Tree, forming a kind of Bower and Couch for this luxurious Dame, may serve sufficiently to suggest the Thought of other Indulgences, and to support the Image of the effeminate, indolent, and amorous Passions. Besides that, for this latter kind, we may rest satisfy’d, ’tis what the Painter will hardly fail of representing to the full. The fear is, lest he shou’d overdo this part, and express the Affection too much to the life. The Appearance will, no doubt, be strongly wrought in all the Features and Proportions of this third Figure; which is of a relish far more popular, and vulgarly ingaging, than that other oppos’d to it, in our historical Design.
WE may conclude this Argument with a general Reflection, which seems to arise naturally from what has been said on this Subject in particular: “That in a real History-Painter, the same Knowledg, the same Study, and Views, are requir’d, as in a real Poet.” Never can the Poet, whilst he justly holds that name, become a Relator, or Historian at large. He is allow’d only to describe a single Action; not the Actions of a single Man, or People. The Painter is a Historian at the same rate, but still more narrowly confin’d, as in fact appears; since it wou’d certainly prove a more ridiculous Attempt to comprehend two or three distinct Actions or Parts of History in one Picture, than to comprehend ten times the number in one and the same Poem.
(2.) Tis well known, that to each Species of Poetry, there are natural Proportions and Limits assign’d. And it wou’d be a gross Absurdity indeed to imagine, that in a Poem there was nothing which we cou’d call Measure or Number, except merely in the Verse. An Elegy, and an Epigram, have each of ’em their Measure, and Proportion, as well as a Tragedy, or Epick Poem. In the same manner, as to Painting, Sculpture, or Statuary, there are particular Measures which form what we call a Piece: as for instance, in mere Portraiture, a Head, or Bust: the former of which must retain always the whole, or at least a certain part of the Neck; as the latter the Shoulders, and a certain part of the Breast. If any thing be added or retrench’d, the Piece is destroy’d. ’Tis then a mangled Trunk, or dismember’d Body, which presents it-self to our Imagination; and this too not thro’ use merely, or on the account of custom, but of necessity, and by the nature of the Appearance: since there are such and such parts of the human Body, which are naturally match’d, and must appear in company: the Section, if unskilfully made, being in reality horrid, and representing rather an Amputation in Surgery, than a seemly Division or Separation according to Art. And thus it is, that in general, thro’ all the plastick Arts, or Works of Imitation, “Whatsoever is drawn from Nature, with the intention of raising in us the Imagination of the natural Species or Object, according to real Beauty and Truth, shou’d be compriz’d in certain compleat Portions or Districts, which represent the Correspondency or Union of each part of Nature, with intireNatureher-self.” And ’tis this natural Apprehension, or anticipating Sense of Unity, which makes us give even to the Works of our inferior Artizans, the name of Pieces by way of Excellence, and as denoting the Justness and Truth of Work.
(3.) In order therefore to succeed rightly in the Formation of any thing truly beautiful in this higher Order of Design; ’twere to be wish’d that the Artist, who had Understanding enough to comprehend what a real Piece or Tablature imported, and who, in order to this, had acquir’d the Knowledg of a Whole and Parts, wou’d afterwards apply himself to the Study of moral and poetick Truth: that by this means the Thoughts, Sentiments, or Manners, which hold the first rank in his historical Work, might appear sutable to the higher and nobler Species of Humanity in which he practis’d, to the Genius of the Age which he describ’d, and to the principal or main Action which he chose to represent. He wou’d then naturally learn to reject those false Ornaments of affected Graces, exaggerated Passions, hyperbolical and prodigious Forms; which, equally with the mere capricious and grotesque, destroy the just Simplicity, and Unity, essential in a Piece. And for his Colouring; he wou’d then soon find how much it became him to be reserv’d, severe, and chaste, in this particular of his Art; where Luxury and Libertinism are, by the power of Fashion and the modern Taste, become so universally establish’d.
(4.) ’Tis evident however from Reason it-self, as well as from History and Experience, that nothing is more fatal, either to Painting, Architecture, or the other Arts, than this false Relish, which is govern’d rather by what immediately strikes the Sense, than by what consequentially and by reflection pleases the Mind, and satisfies the Thought and Reason. So that whilst we look on Painting with the same Eye, as we view commonly the rich Stuffs, and colour’d Silks worn by our Ladys, and admir’d in Dress, Equipage, or Furniture; we must of necessity be effeminate in our Taste, and utterly set wrong as to all Judgment and Knowledg in the kind. For of this imitative Art we may justly say; “That tho It borrows help indeed from Colours, and uses them, as means, to execute its Designs; It has nothing, however, more wide of its real Aim, or more remote from its Intention, than to make a shew of Colours, or from their mixture, to raise a separate and flattering Pleasure to the Sense.”
The Muses before all things.
Vir. Georg. Lib. ii.
THIS Letter comes to your Lordship, accompany’d with a small Writing intitled A Notion: for such alone can that Piece deservedly be call’d, which aspires no higher than to the forming of a Project, and that too in so vulgar a Science as Painting. But whatever the Subject be, if it can prove any way entertaining to you, it will sufficiently answer my Design. And if possibly it may have that good success, I shou’d have no ordinary opinion of my Project; since I know how hard it wou’d be to give your Lordship a real Entertainment by any thing which was not in some respect worthy and useful.
On this account I must, by way of prevention, inform your Lordship, that after I had conceiv’d my Notion such as you see it upon paper, I was not contented with this, but fell directly to work; and by the Hand of a Master-Painter brought it into Practice, and form’d a real Design. This was not enough. I resolv’d afterwards to see what effect it wou’d have, when taken out of mere Black-and-White, into Colours: And thus a Sketch was afterwards drawn. This pleas’d so well, that being incourag’d by the Virtuosi, who are so eminent in this part of the World, I resolv’d at last to engage my Painter in the great Work. Immediately a Cloth was bespoke of a sutable Dimension, and the Figures taken as big or bigger than the common Life; the Subject being of the Heroick kind, and requiring rather such Figures as shou’d appear above ordinary human Stature.
Thus my Notion, as light as it may prove in the Treatise, is become very substantial in the Workmanship. The Piece is still in hand; and like to continue so for some time. Otherwise the first Draught or Design shou’d have accompany’d the Treatise; as the Treatise does this Letter. But the Design having grown thus into a Sketch, and the Sketch afterwards into a Picture; I thought it fit your Lordship shou’d either see the several Pieces together, or be troubled only with that which was the best; as undoubtedly the great one must prove, if the Master I employ sinks not very much below himself, in this Performance.
Far surely shou’d I be, my Lord, from conceiving any Vanity or Pride in Amusements of such an inferior kind as these; especially were they such as they may naturally at first sight appear. I pretend not here to apologize either for them, or for my-self. Your Lordship however knows, I have naturally Ambition enough to make me desirous of employing my-self in Business of a higher Order: since it has been my fortune in publick Affairs to act often in concert with you, and in the same Views, on the Interest of Europe and Mankind. There was a Time, and that a very early one of my Life, when I was not wanting to my Country, in this respect. But after some years of hearty Labour and Pains in this kind of Workmanship, an unhappy Breach in my Health drove me not only from the Seat of Business, but forc’d me to seek these foreign Climates; where, as mild as the Winters generally are, I have with much ado liv’d out this latter-one; and am now, as your Lordship finds, employing my-self in such easy Studys as are most sutable to my state of Health, and to the Genius of the Country where I am confin’d.
This in the mean time I can, with some assurance, say to your Lordship in a kind of spirit of Prophecy, from what I have observ’d of the rising Genius of our Nation, That if we live to see a Peace any way answerable to that generous Spirit with which this War was begun, and carry’d on, for our own Liberty and that of Europe; the Figure we are like to make abroad, and the Increase of Knowledg, Industry and Sense at home, will render unitedBritain the principal Seat of Arts; and by her Politeness and Advantages in this kind, will shew evidently, how much she owes to those Counsels, which taught her to exert herself so resolutely in behalf of the common Cause, and that of her own Liberty, and happy Constitution, necessarily included.
I can my-self remember the Time, when, in respect of Musick, our reigning Taste was in many degrees inferior to the French. The long Reign of Luxury and Pleasure under King Charles the Second, and the foreign Helps and study’d Advantages given to Musick in a following Reign, cou’d not raise our Genius the least in this respect. But when the Spirit of the Nation was grown more free, tho engag’d at that time in the fiercest War, and with the most doubtful Success, we no sooner began to turn our-selves towards Musick, and enquire what Italy in particular produc’d, than in an instant we outstrip’d our Neighbours the French, enter’d into a Genius far beyond theirs, and rais’d our-selves an Ear, and Judgment, not inferior to the best now in the World.
In the same manner, as to Painting. Tho we have as yet nothing of our own native Growth in this kind worthy of being mention’d; yet since the Publick has of late begun to express a Relish for Ingravings, Drawings, Copyings, and for the original Paintings of the chief Italian Schools, (so contrary to the modern French) I doubt not that, in very few years, we shall make an equal progress in this other Science. And when our Humour turns us to cultivate these designing Arts, our Genius, I am persuaded, will naturally carry us over the slighter Amusements, and lead us to that higher, more serious, and noble Part of Imitation, which relates to History, Human Nature, and the chief Degree or Order ofBeauty; I mean that of the rational Life, distinct from the merely vegetable and sensible, as in Animals, or Plants; according to those several Degrees or Orders of Painting, which your Lordship will find suggested in this extemporary Notion I have sent you.
As for Architecture, ’tis no wonder if so many noble Designs of this kind have miscarry’d amongst us; since the Genius of our Nation has hitherto been so little turn’d this way, that thro’ several Reigns we have patiently seen the noblest publick Buildings perish (if I may say so) under the Hand of one single Court-Architect; who, if he had been able to profit by Experience, wou’d long since, at our expence, have prov’d the greatest Master in the World. But I question whether our Patience is like to hold much longer. The Devastation so long committed in this kind, has made us begin to grow rude and clamorous at the hearing of a new Palace spoilt, or a new Design committed to some rash or impotent Pretender.
’Tis the good Fate of our Nation in this particular, that there remain yet two of the noblest Subjects for Architecture; our Prince’s Palace, and our House of Parliament. For I can’t but fansy that when Whitehall is thought of, the neighbouring Lords and Commons will at the same time be plac’d in better Chambers and Apartments, than at present; were it only for Majesty’s sake, and as a Magnificence becoming the Person of the Prince, who here appears in full Solemnity. Nor do I fear that when these new Subjects are attempted, we shou’d miscarry as grosly as we have done in others before. Our State, in this respect, may prove perhaps more fortunate than our Church, in having waited till a national Taste was form’d, before these Edifices were undertaken. But the Zeal of the Nation cou’d not, it seems, admit so long a Delay in their Ecclesiastical Structures, particularly their Metropolitan. And since a Zeal of this sort has been newly kindled amongst us, ’tis like we shall see from afar the many Spires arising in our great City, with such hasty and sudden growth, as may be the occasion perhaps that our immediate Relish shall be hereafter censur’d, as retaining much of what Artists call the Gothick Kind.
Hardly, indeed, as the Publick now stands, shou’d we bear to see a Whitehall treated like a Hampton-Court, or even a new Cathedral like St. Paul’s. Almost every-one now becomes concern’d, and interests himself in such publick Structures. Even those Pieces too are brought under the common Censure, which, tho rais’d by private Men, are of such a Grandure and Magnificence, as to become National Ornaments. The ordinary Man may build his Cottage, or the plain Gentleman his Country-house according as he fansys: but when a great Man builds, he will find little Quarter from the Publick, if instead of a beautiful Pile, he raises, at a vast expence, such a false and counterfeit Piece of Magnificence, as can be justly arraign’d for its Deformity by so many knowing Men in Art, and by the whole People, who, in such a Conjuncture, readily follow their Opinion.
In reality the People are no small Partys in this Cause. Nothing moves successfully without ’em. There can be no Publick, but where they are included. And without a Publick Voice, knowingly guided and directed, there is nothing which can raise a true Ambition in the Artist; nothing which can exalt the Genius of the Workman, or make him emulous of after-Fame, and of the approbation of his Country, and of Posterity. For with these he naturally, as a Freeman, must take part: in these he has a passionate Concern, and Interest, rais’d in him by the same Genius of Liberty, the same Laws and Government, by which his Property, and the Rewards of his Pains and Industry are secur’d to him, and to his Generation after him.
Every thing co-operates, in such a State, towards the Improvement of Art and Science. And for the designing Arts in particular, such as Architecture, Painting, and Statuary, they are in a manner link’d together. The Taste of one kind brings necessarily that of the others along with it. When the free Spirit of a Nation turns it-self this way, Judgments are form’d; Criticks arise; the publick Eye and Ear improve; a right Taste prevails, and in a manner forces its way. Nothing is so improving, nothing so natural, so con-genial to the liberal Arts, as that reigning Liberty and high Spirit of a People, which from the Habit of judging in the highest Matters for themselves, makes ’em freely judg of other Subjects, and enter thorowly into the Characters as well of Men and Manners, as of the Products or Works of Men, in Art and Science. So much, my Lord, do we owe to the Excellence of our National Constitution, and Legal Monarchy; happily fitted for Us, and which alone cou’d hold together so mighty a People; all sharers (tho at so far a distance from each other) in the Government of themselves; and meeting under one Head in one vast Metropolis; whose enormous Growth, however censurable in other respects, is actually a Cause that Workmanship and Arts of so many kinds arise to such perfection.
What Encouragement our higher Powers may think fit to give these growing Arts, I will not pretend to guess. This I know, that ’tis so much for their advantage and Interest to make themselves the chief Partys in the Cause, that I wish no Court or Ministry, besides a truly virtuous and wise one, may ever concern themselves in the Affair. For shou’d they do so, they wou’d in reality do more harm than good; since ’tis not the Nature of a Court (such as Courts generally are) to improve, but rather corrupt a Taste. And what is in the beginning set wrong by their Example, is hardly ever afterwards recoverable in the Genius of a Nation.
Content therefore I am, my Lord, that Britain stands in this respect as she now does. Nor can one, methinks, with just reason regret her having hitherto made no greater advancement in these affairs of Art. As her Constitution has grown, and been establish’d, she has in proportion fitted her-self for other Improvements. There has been no Anticipation in the Case. And in this surely she must be esteem’d wise, as well as happy; that ere she attempted to raise her-self any other Taste or Relish, she secur’d her-self a right one in Government. She has now the advantage of beginning in other Matters, on a new foot. She has her Models yet to seek, her Scale and Standard to form, with deliberation and good choice. Able enough she is at present to shift for her-self; however abandon’d or helpless she has been left by those whom it became to assist her. Hardly, indeed, cou’d she procure a single Academy for the training of her Youth in Exercises. As good Soldiers as we are, and as good Horses as our Climate affords, our Princes, rather than expend their Treasure this way, have suffer’d our Youth to pass into a foreign Nation, to learn to ride. As for other Academys, such as those for Painting, Sculpture, or Architecture, we have not so much as heard of the Proposal; whilst the Prince of our rival Nation raises Academys, breeds Youth, and sends Rewards and Pensions into foreign Countrys, to advance the Interest and Credit of his own. Now if, notwithstanding the Industry and Pains of this foreign Court, and the supine Un-concernedness of our own, the National Taste however rises, and already shews it-self in many respects beyond that of our so highly-assisted Neighbours; what greater Proof can there be of the Superiority of Genius in one of these Nations above the other?
’Tis but this moment that I chance to read in an Article of one of the Gazettes from Paris, that ’tis resolv’d at Court to establish a new Academy for political Affairs. “In it the present Chief-Minister is to preside; having under him six Academists, douëz des Talens nécessaires —No Person to be receiv’d under the age of twenty five. A thousand Livres Pension for each Scholar—Able Masters to be appointed for teaching them the necessary Sciences, and instructing them in the Treatys of Peace and Alliances, which have been formerly made—The Members to assemble three times a Week—C’est de ce Seminaire (says the Writer) qu’on tirera les Secretaires d’Ambassade; qui par degrez pourront monter à de plus hauts Emplois.”
I must confess, my Lord, as great an Admirer as I am of these regular Institutions, I can’t but look upon an Academy for Ministers as a very extraordinary Establishment; especially in such a Monarchy as France, and at such a Conjuncture as the present. It looks as if the Ministers of that Court had discover’d lately some new Methods of Negotiation, such as their Predecessors Richelieu and Mazarine never thought of; or that, on the contrary, they have found themselves so declin’d, and at such a loss in the Management of this present Treaty, as to be forc’d to take their Lesson from some of those Ministers with whom they treat: a Reproach, of which, no doubt, they must be highly sensible.
But ’tis not my design here, to entertain your Lordship with any Reflections upon Politicks, or the Methods which the French may take to raise themselves new Ministers, or new Generals; who may prove a better Match for us than hitherto, whilst we held our old. I will only say to your Lordship on this Subject of Academys; that indeed I have less concern for the Deficiency of such a one as this, than of any other which cou’d be thought of, for England; and that as for a Seminary of Statesmen, I doubt not but, without this extraordinary help, we shall be able, out of our old Stock, and the common course of Business, constantly to furnish a sufficient Number of well-qualify’d Persons to serve upon occasion, either at home, or in our foreign Treatys; as often as such Persons accordingly qualify’d shall duly, honestly, and bonâ fide be requir’d to serve.
I return therefore to my Virtuoso-Science; which being my chief Amusement in this Place and Circumstance, your Lordship has by it a fresh Instance that I can never employ my Thoughts with satisfaction on any Subject, without making you a Party. For even this very Notion had its rise chiefly from the Conversation of a certain Day, which I had the happiness to pass a few years since in the Country with your Lordship. ’Twas there you shew’d me some Ingravings, which had been sent you from Italy. One in particular I well remember; of which the Subject was the very same with that of my written Notion inclos’d. But by what Hand it was done, or after what Master, or how executed, I have quite forgot. ’Twas the Summer-season, when you had Recess from Business. And I have accordingly calculated this Epistle and Project for the same Recess and Leisure. For by the time this can reach England, the Spring will be far advanc’d, and the national Affairs in a manner over, with those who are not in the immediate Administration.
Were that indeed your Lordship’s Lot, at present; I know not whether in regard to my Country I shou’d dare throw such Amusements as these in your way. Yet even in this Case, I wou’d venture to say however, in defense of my Project, and of the Cause of Painting; that cou’d my young Hero come to your Lordship as well represented as he might have been, either by the Hand of a Marat or a Jordano, (the Masters who were in being, and in repute, when I first travel’d here in Italy) the Picture it-self, whatever the Treatise prov’d, wou’d have been worth notice, and might have become a Present worthy of our Court, and Prince’s Palace; especially were it so bless’d as to lodge within it a royal Issue of her Majesty’s. Such a Piece of Furniture might well fit the Gallery, or Hall of Exercises, where our young Princes shou’d learn their usual Lessons. And to see Virtue in this Garb and Action, might perhaps be no slight Memorandum hereafter to a Royal Youth, who shou’d one day come to undergo this Trial himself; on which his own Happiness, as well as the Fate of Europe and of the World, wou’d in so great a measure depend.
This, my Lord, is making (as you see) the most I can of my Project, and setting off my Amusements with the best Colour I am able; that I may be the more excusable in communicating them to your Lordship, and expressing thus, with what Zeal I am,
Naples, March 6
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