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The Complete Works of M. de Montesquieu (London: T. Evans, 1777), 4 vols. Vol. 4.
This is volume 4 from the Complete Works. It contains many of his letters, An Essay on Taste, The Temple of Gnidus, and other shorter pieces.
The text is in the public domain.
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I HAD the honour of writing to you by the last post, my reverend father; and now write to you again by this. I take a pleasure in doing every thing that may recal to your memory, a friendship which is to me so dear. I add to what I wrote to you concerning a certain affair . . . . that if M. de Fouquet exacts more than the sum I seemed to fix you upon giving, you may enlarge it, and give more, and do in regard to every other condition, what may not appear obviously unreasonable. I know the Chevalier Lambert, a famous banker here, who tells me that there is a correspondence between him and Belloni. I shall forward immediately through his hands, whatever sum you may have agreed upon; for M. Fouquet’s will seems to me to be so whiffling and indeterminate, as to induce me to think that it is not worth while to proceed to any contract, until his fixed resolution be previously known .
I am now in a country that but very little resembles that rest of Europe. We have not as yet been informed of the contents of the treaty with Spain. It is taken for granted that it has made no change in the quadruple alliance, excepting that the six thousand men which are to go into Italy to pay their court to Don Carlos, must consist of Spanish, but not of neutral troops.
There fly about here every day, as you must have heard, all forts of indecent and licentious printed papers. About a fortnight or three weeks ago I was extremely irritated at one, declaring that my Lord Cardinal of Rohan had caused to be brought from Germany, with great care and expence for the use of the people of his diocese, a machine, so constructed, that one might play at dice withal, shake them and throw them without receiving any impressive direction from the hand of a gamester, who before this invention might glide them out smoothly, or volly them off impetuously, just as he pleased, or occasion suited, by the energy of a most illicit knack, which established a fraudulent practice in what had been invented merely for a recreation of the mind. I own to you I am of opinion that so ridiculous a pleasantry could be started by none other but by an heretic or jansenist.
If there should appear in Italy any new printed work worthy of being read, pray do not keep it a secret from me. I have the honour to be with every degree of tenderness and friendship.
London, Dec. 21, 1729.
FATHER Cerati, you are my benefactor.—Like Orpheus, you make rocks to follow you. I have informed Abbé Duval , that I do not mean he should abuse the politeness of Mr. Fouquet, but that he should continue his pursuit, and that whatever might be the result, should in a friendly manner be shared between them both.
Rome is then at last delivered from the mean tyranny of Benevento, and the reins of pontifical supremacy are no longer guided by such vile hands. All those upstart coxcombs, S. Marie at their head, have disappeared, and are retired to their native cottages, there to entertain their kindred with recitals of their former insolence. Coscia has nothing now left but his money and his gout. Let all those of the Benevento party be hanged who have robbed; in order that the prophecy may be accomplished on their chief, Vox in Rama audita est; Rachel plorans filios suos, noluit consolari, quia non sunt.
Give us a Pope with a sword like St. Paul, but not with a rosary like St. Dominick, or with a knapsack like St. Francis.—Arouse from your lethargy—exoriare aliquis. Are you not ashamed to shew us still the old chair of St. Peter with a broken back, and all over worm-eaten? Are people to look upon your coffer, in which, forsooth, are such magazines of spiritual treasure as on a quackish box of orvietan or mithridat? To say the truth, you make a fine use of your infallibility by employing it to prove that Quenel’s book is worth nothing; but you do not presume to exert it in deciding that the Emperor’s pretensions upon Parma and Placentia are groundless. Your triple crown resembles very much to the laurel one, which Cæsar put on to cover his baldness. Present my acts of adoration to Cardinal de Polignac. I was three days ago received a member of the Royal Society of London; where there was mention made of a letter from Mr. Thomas Dhisam to his brother, desiring to know the sentiments of that learned body concerning the astronomical discoveries of M. Bianchini. Embrace on my behalf, if you please, Abbé, the dear Abbé Nicolini.—I salute you, dear father, with all my heart.
London, March 1, 1730.
I HAVE received, Sir, the honour of your letter, with much more pleasure than I should have thought, on being made to know that L’Abbé Cherac, whom I already held very high in my estimation, is brother of the Chevalier Venuti, with whom I contracted a friendship at Florence, and through whose kind offices I was honoured with a place in the academy of Cortona. I earnestly supplicate that you will entertain for me sentiments congenial with those of your brother. I have learnt by letter from M. Campagne, the elegant present you have entrusted him with for me; and that lays me under the greatest obligation to you. Mr. Baritaut had already made me read a part of this work; and what pleased me infinitely in your dissertations, was to discover wit and learning united, so rare a phænomenon in the literary world!
You are the cause, Sir, that the academy of Bourdeaux presses me so violently to obtain an arret of the grand council for creating twenty associates, instead of twenty pupils. The great desire she has of boasting your enrolment on her list; and the difficulty arising on the other hand from all the associates places being filled, instigates her with the desire of seeing new places created. The affairs of Cardinal de Polignac, and others, have proved an obstacle to this arret’s being not yet obtained. I write however to the gentlemen of the academy, about removing this impediment, and that you deserve, if the door be shut, to favour your entrance, a breach should be made. I hope, Sir, that next year, in case I should return to my provincial residence, I shall have the honour of seeing you at Clerac, and of inviting you to Bourdeaux. I shall cherish every opportunity that may contribute to encrease our acquaintance; no body can be more respectfully your’s than I am.
P. S. When you write to your brother the Chevalier Venuti, be so good as to relate to him a thousand things on my behalf. His excellent qualities are ever present in my mind’s eye.
I HAVE received with a sincere joy the letter you have been pleased to honour me with, dear and illustrious Abbé. You are one of those men who can never be forgotten, and impress an indelible stamp on remembrance. My heart, my soul, all all are yours, dearest Abbé.
You inform me of two very agreeable articles; the one is that we are to see the noble Cerati in France, and the other is, that the Marchioness Feroni has not forgotten me. I pray you will be so good as to cement with the one and the other, that friendship they have been so kind as to honour me with, and of which I would fain be thought worthy. I cannot help being vain about one article, nay of boasting, that although born on this side of the Alps, I have been as much charmed by her manifold excellencies as any of you, who drew your first breath on the other side.
I am now at Bourdeaux about a month, and propose continuing there three or four months longer, where I should be inconsolable were that to prevent the pleasure of seeing my dearest Cerati; but in that case, I must dare to presume on his coming to visit me at Bourdeaux. He there would see his friend, and through that occasion, enjoy a better view of France, in which there is nothing worth the seeing but Paris, and the distant provinces, because the latter have not as yet been devoured by the former; he then must shape his way along the two sides of a square, instead of proceeding on it’s diagonal line, and conveniently take in a view of our more beautiful provinces, which are those bordering on the ocean, and Mediterranean.
What think you now of the English? Behold how they cover all the seas. They are like an immense whale, et latum sub pectore possidet æquor. The queen of Spain has taught Europe a grand secret, to wit, that the Indies, which were believed to be attached to her by an hundred thousand chains, holds to the Spanish crown but by a weak and very slender thread. Adieu dear and illustrious Abbé, grant to me the same cordial sentiments with which my bosom glows for you. I am with every mark of respect.
Bourdeaux, March 6, 1740.
YOUR letter, Sir, came very late to hand. It is dated January the 10th, and I did not receive it till the 5th of May, at Bourdeaux, where I have been for a month past, and shall continue for three or four months longer. Promise to me, nay swear, that if I am not in Paris when you shall pass through that city, you will come and see me at Bourdeaux, and make that your way in returning to Italy. I have already observed to Nicolini, that there is nothing more in it than in pursuing the two sides of a parallelogram, instead of following the diagonal line; by which direction the beautiful part of France is to be seen; but if on the contrary you should chuse traversing by the midway of the kingdom, you then can see Paris only, but not your friend. However, observe, that this is meant in case I should not be at Paris when you shall be there; but whether absent from or present in that metropolis, I shall take care of all due honours being paid to a person so deserving, and that is, by the introducing you on our Mount Parnassus. If you should incline for visiting England, let me know it, that I may give you letters for several of my friends there. In fine, I flatter myself with the pleasing hope, that you will from time to time let me hear from you during your voyage, and inform me by letter, how you proceed. My address is either at Bourdeaux or at Paris, St. Dominic street. You are going to enjoy the most agreeable tour that can be made. In regard to finances, if at Paris, I shall be your mentor. In that surprising city, you will see crowds of meritorious people trudging on foot, and the gaudy carriages occupied for the most part by worthless coxcombs. Cardinal de Polignac has judged right in not going to the conclave, and in leaving this affair of ecclesiastic intrigue to be determined by others: he is however in a very good state of health, and that is the most important of affairs both to himself, and his friends. You will find him as amiable as ever, though he is not now in the fashion. Farewel illustrious Sir, and be persuaded that I not only now am, but ever shall, while life endures, be actuated by the most affectionate sentiments for your welfare. As much as the world in general esteems, so do I love your merit; and in whatever realm you may be stationed, you will be ever present to my thoughts. I have the honour of being with the most profound respect and esteem.
I HAVE but just time, Sir, to write to you a world or two. Some of your friends have applied to me to speak to Madame de Tencin about certain letters that have been written against you . But as I am altogether in the dark concerning this affair, and am absolutely ignorant whether they mean the first letters, or any new ones: be so good then as to clear up this matter. Communicate to me what you desire I should say to the cardinal, whose arrival here is expected soon; for you may believe me to be, without any reserve, your openly avowed and very respectful friend.
Paris, April 17, 1742.
I AM very glad to learn, my dear friend, that the letter which I gave you for our ambassador has rendered Turin agreeable to you, and made it to compensate in some manner for the harsh treatment you had met with from the Marquis d’Ormea . I was very certain that Mr. de Sennectere and his lady would be very well pleased with your acquaintance, and that from the moment they should be made to know, who you are, they would receive you with open arms. I commission you, Sir, to assure them how gratefully sensible I am of the very obliging regard with which they have honoured my recommendation. I also congratulate you on the pleasure which you will have in travelling with the Count of Egmond. He is indeed one of my friends, and one of the nobility for whom I have the greatest esteem. I accept of the appointment to sup with you at his house, on your return from Naples. But I am very apprehensive, that if the war continues, I must go, and pass my time obscurely at la Brede. The commerce of Guienne will in consequence be soon at its last gasp, because our wines will remain in our cellars, and in that article you know consist all our riches. I foresee that the provisional treaty between the courts of Turin and Vienna will deprive us of the Commander de Solar, and in that case I shall regret Paris less. Say a thousand things for me to the Marquis de Breil. Humanity will be under a lasting obligation to that gentleman for the excellent education which he has given to his royal highness the Duke of Savoy, of whom I often hear most noble instances. I own I am not free from the tincture of a pleasing vanity on this head, by enjoying a completion of that laudable idea which I had formed of this excellent man, when I had the honour of knowing him at Vienna. I ardently wish for your return to Paris, before my departure from it, till when I reserve to myself the satisfaction of letting you into the secret of the temple of Gnidus . Endeavour to settle your family affairs in the best manner you can, and assign over to a more favourable time all thoughts of a due reparation for ministerial wrongs done to your house. It is in your own upright principles, your prudent conduct, and laudable occupations that you are to seek, at the present time for arms, consolation, and resources. The Marquis d’Ormea is not a man to flinch: and on maturely considering the situation of affairs at your court now, there would be but little attention paid to your representations. The ambassador salutes you; his eyes begin to be opened, and to see his female friend in a point of light, to which I have somewhat contributed, and am not displeased with myself for so doing: because this made him out an ugly and dishonourable figure,—adieu.—
I WAS charmed, my dear Count, on receiving a proof of your kind remembrance, in the letter which your brother sent to me. Madam de Tencin and other persons to whom I have paid your compliments, have commissioned me to assure you with what acknowledging sensibility they have been accepted. I am sorry that it is not in my power to satisfy your curiosity concerning the letters, of the lady our friend. It is a secret that I am under a promise of not revealing.
The confidence with which you are pleased to honour me, demands, that I declare frankly my mind on the interesting subject of your letter. I am not to conceal from you that I have communicated it to Commander de Solar, whom you are to look upon as one of your friends. We both concur in opinion, that the offers made by M. de Belle-Isle, in order to attach you and your brother to the service of France, are by no means acceptable. After the advantageous reports that have been made of you to him in M. de la Chetardie’s letters, it is inconceivable how he could flatter himself with the notion of retaining you, by the proposal of a rank inferior to that you have had under other banners. I do not know upon what is founded the report that in France, the military ranks in other countries are not deemed as equivalent to hers. Such a maxim would be neither just nor polite, and must deprive us of many good officers. I think you have been perfectly right to refuse joining in his expedition, till you should have previous and solid assurances from the court of those conditions, it would not be unseemly in you to comply with. But as you appear to be quite determined on the negative side; it were useless to trouble you with any more reflections upon the subject.
The proposals from the Prussian ambassador about raising a foreign regiment, deserve a more serious attention, so that they may seem fair to jump in amicably with your finances. But one must calculate for futurity, as well as for the present. What assurance have you, that on the conclusion of a peace, the regiment may not be reformed, and in such a case what retribution are you to hope in lieu of the pecuniary advances that you must inevitably have made. Besides, in the point of interest, that court cannot be dealt with too cautiously.
In regard to the insinuated advantages that may accrue to you from passing over to the service of the new emperor; you are a more competent judge than I can pretend to be, for to decide solidly on the affair, and too prudent to let yourself be dazzled by any false glare. For my part, being not as yet thoroughly convinced of the stability of the new political German system, I should not incline to found my hopes on a precarious, or perhaps, transitory fortune. From what I have said, you must perceive that I cannot but approve of the engagements offered to you, from the Austrian service. Moreover your first inclinations were turned that way, and the example held out to you by so many of your countrymen, prove that service to be congenial to your nation. The adverse strokes of fortune with which the court of Vienna is now afflicted, I look upon but as temporary disasters. Because a great and long established power, that has a natural and intrinsic energy to supply it with resources, cannot be overturned and reduced in a hurry. Notwithstanding whatever mishaps may have befallen it, the military service will be always there upon a more solid foundation, than in a newly raised and too rapidly spreading state. It is more than an even bett, that the court of Turin will make one common cause with that of Vienna. Consequently the motives, which in quitting Piedmont hindred you from entering into the Austrian service, are ceased in the present circumstances. Nay, I do not see a better opportunity for your sneering at, and triumphing over the insolent enmity of the Marquis d’Ormea, than by serving a court in alliance with his, and where too, considering what has been formerly transacted, he must have no great credit . But you are prudent and cautious, therefore I submit entirely to your own judgment those conjectures of mine, which a sincere desire for your welfare, as well as the discussion and candour of reason, have equally given birth to. I shall learn with pleasure your final resolution, and am with every assurance of respect.
THE Abbé Venuti has informed me, dear Sir, of the great affliction you have suffered for the loss of your deceased friend, Prince Cantimir; as well as of the intended project to make a tour into our southern provinces for the recovery of your health. Whithersoever you go, you will find friends to fill up the place of him you have lost. But, alas, Russia will not so readily supply an ambassador of equal merit with the late Prince Cantimir. I join with Abbé Venuti in urging the execution of your project. The air, the grapes, the wine produced on the banks of the Garonne; and, above all, the native pleasantry of the Gascoons, are excellent antidotes against melancholy. I exult in the idea of conducting you to my country seat, at la Brede, where, to say the truth, you will see but an old gothic castle, yet with an exterior pleasingly decorated, and of which I took the idea in England. Now, Sir, as you are a gentleman of taste, I mean to consult you about those articles I intend adding to it. But there is a more important subject which I propose consulting you upon, and that is my grand work , that now advances with gigantic strides, since I am no longer harrassed with parisian invitations to toilsome dinners and fatiguing suppers. I with much satisfaction observe my stomach to be better in consequence; and I hope that the sober course of life, which you shall lead with me, will prove the most powerful specific against all your present ills. I expect your arrival here in the approaching autumn, and long most fervently to embrace you.
Bourdeaux, August, 1744.
WE shall set out, my learned friend, on Monday next; I rely upon your making one of the party.—Altho’ I cannot make room for you in my post-chaise, because I am to take Madame de Montesquieu with me; I shall furnish you with horses. One of them moves as easily as a boat on a smooth canal, or as a Venetian gondola, or as a bird that skims through the air. Exercise on horseback is said to be very good for ailments of the breast. The celebrated Sydenham, England’s Hippocrates, recommends it highly. And we have had among us a great physician, who, through a persevering zeal for the superior efficacy of his remedy, died on horseback. We shall sojourn at la Brede until St. Martin’s Festival.—There we will study, will walk, will plant trees, will lay out meadows—Adieu, dear Abbé, I embrace you with all my heart.
Bourdeaux, September 30th, 1745.
I SHALL be in town the day after to-morrow. Accept not of any invitation to dine on Friday next, for I have engaged for your going to President Barbot’s. You must be there precisely at ten o’clock in the morning, as we are to begin a reading of the grand work which you have heard of. We propose also to continue the reading after dinner. There will be none other present but you, my son, and the president. You will have an uncontrolled liberty to judge and to censure .
I have sent your anacreontic production to my daughter. It is a charming piece, and must prove very flattering to her. I have read also your new year’s gift or epistle in the Petrarch-manner, to Madam de Pontac . It is enriched with most pleasing ideas. Why, my dear Abbé, you are a poet, and yet by your conduct it seems as if you do not know it.—Adieu.
La Brede, Feb. 10, 1745.
From Clerac to Bourdeaux.
YOU are most obligingly amiable, madam, to have taken the trouble of writing on the marriage of my daughter . Both she and I are most devotedly your’s. We both most gratefully entreat a continuation of that kindness on your part, which is an honour to us. I have been told that the jurats have sent an embroidered velvet purse filled with jettons or counters, to Abbé Venuti. I did not think them capable even of such an act of politeness. There is nothing important in such a present but its being that of a great city. In Italy, perhaps, such a tributary compliment might give an additional consequence to his fame; but it is already too well established to need any such assistance.
You will be so good as to tell Abbé de Guasco, that I cannot comprehend what kind of echoes they are that could convey to the Mercury of Paris the verses which had been composed in the wood of la Brede. I am very angry not to have known it earlier, because I should have given this sonnet as a part of my daughter’s dowry. I have the honour to be, madam, with the most profound respect.
I FIND, Sir, by your letter that you are safely arrived at Pisa. Since you say nothing about your eyes, I am induced to think that they are become better, and gather new strength every day. I wish it most devoutly, in order that you may pass through life agreeably, both for your own satisfaction and the happiness of your friends. You strenuously advise me to publish.—I as ardently advise you to do the same, and to favour the world with those admirable reflections which you must have made in the different regions that you have seen and examined. There are numbers of people who pay for posthorses and run through provinces; there are but few travellers, and scarcely one such as you. Tell Abbé Nicolini that he is indebted to us a journey to France, and how sincerely I am his friend.
How proud should I be to have you both at my country seat at la Brede, there to enjoy such conversations as the triflingness and folly of Paris so rarely admit of. I have informed Abbé Venuti that his medals are sold. I have with me Abbé de Guasco, who proves a faithful companion. He has commissioned me to present his compliments to you.
Italy must certainly be a charming place, since so many powers are so desirous of having it. There are now no less than five armies struggling for a possession of the tempting prize. In our province of Guienne no such thing happens; for there indeed no other armies are to be seen but armies of men of business, that strive truly to make a conquest of it in their way, and which they more effectually do, than Count de Gages can compleat his intended success. I suppose many sneering remarks are now made on the huge periwig of Marquis d’Ormea. I shall not go to Paris for a year to come at soonest. I have no money to support me in a city that delights in devouring the provinces, and pretends to supply us with all sorts of pleasure, by making us forget what true life is. During the two years elapsed that I am retreated hither, I have closely applied myself to the work you mention . But my life advances, and the work recoils, on account of its immensity. You may rely on your being among the first that shall receive news of its final completion. I am informed that the paper I write on begins to fail me. I therefore conclude, and present you with a thousand embraces.
Bourdeaux, Jan. 16, 1745.
YOU have guessed right; for within these three days I have done the work of three months; so that if you come this way in the month of April, I shall be able to furnish you with the commission you are so desirous of executing for me in Holland, and according to the plan we have agreed upon. I am now thoroughly instructed in what I have to do. Out of thirty articles I will give you twenty-fix, and while you are working at them on your part, I will prepare to send to you the other four. Father Desmolets told me, that he has found a bookseller to deal with you for your manuscript copy of Satires ; but no body will bid for your learned dissertation, because there is a certainty of a good sale for every work bearing the name of Satires, but scarce any hope of selling learned dissertations.—Your Censor is dead, but that is a loss I can easily put up with, since the attacked author is still alive. It but ill becomes you, Sir, to reproach me for not having sent any news to you, especially who have never made the least mention to me of the marriage of Mademoiselle Mimi, nor of my vintage at Clerac, which must certainly turn out less profitable this year than it otherwise would, on account of the vast havock you make among the grapes of my vineyard. Lord Morthon’s affair is not like to turn out so dangerous, as was at first thought by the public, exasperated against the English by the present war. Father Desmolets has had no bickerings with those of his congregation; inasmuch as he does not wear a wig . He complains of your sending him too many commissions. I apply to you the porcupine’s motto, cominus, eminus.—Father Desmolets declares, that you have more affairs upon your hands, than if you were going to make the conquest of Provence.—Pray observe, Sir, it is he says it, not I.—While you are at Clerac be careful of three things; to preserve your eyes, to defend yourself from the gallantry of M. de la Mire, and to avoid quotations from St. Austin in your controversial disputes. I envy Madame de Montesquieu the happiness she will enjoy on seeing you again.—Adieu—and imagine I embrace you.
I DO not know what tour the letter may have made which you directed to me at Barege.—It came to hand but within these few days. I have been shocked to hear the tumultuous behaviour of M. le Chevalier D’****. This pretended Governor of Barege is a ridiculous man. The cordonbleu (blue ribband) must have caused strange revolutions in his head. When I shall see him in Paris, I will not fail asking him if you have made a great progress in politics by reading his Gazettes. I have related here the groundless quarrel he started against you, and at the same time seriously observed how extraordinary it was, that a man, born in the States of Sardinia, should be so anxiously disquieted on that monarch’s having the small pox, or being attached through two brothers to the court of Vienna, should appear so deeply afflicted by any mishaps that befall it. Learn from me, my good friend, that certain lordly personages are never to be disputed with after dinner. You acted according to the dictates of prudence, in writing to him the next morning. Your letter is worthy of you, and I am charmed to hear of his being disarmed by it. You have now ample cause to exult in having triumphed over one of our Lieutenant-Generals, without the aid of any person, and that on the anniversary day of St. Lewis too.
Let me know if you are to accompany Madame de Montesquieu to Clerac, because my work advances; but if you should take the opposite road, let me know whither I can forward to you the part that is soon to be ready. I hope that your ambitious and aspiring trip to the Pike in the south, will turn out of more happy event than your hunting after the amiantus, or your fishing for trouts in the lake of the Pyrenean Mountains. I observe, my good Sir, that difficult enterprizes have great charms for you; and that you are more impelled thereto by mental curiosity, than by bodily strength. Remember that your eyes are but little better than mine. Leave it then to my son, who has good ones, to clamber up to the tops of mountains, there to make researches for the extending of natural history. But preserve yours for necessary things alone. If you have been looked upon as a dangerous politician, because you love to read Gazettes; you now run the risk of passing for a sorcerer, if you be seen climbing to the summits of craggy rocks. Farewell.
Paris, August, 1746.
I HAVE read, learned Sir, your dissertation upon pleasure, and am certain that I shall adorn your head with a second laurel crown from my garden, if you be at la Brede, as I hope you will, when the academy shall have decided in your favour. The subject is beautiful, vast, interesting, and you have treated it in a masterly manner. I am pleased to see you in idea hunting on my ground,--You!--and who would not be so on seeing such a sportsman?
There are two articles in your dissertation which I wish you would clear up. The first is, that according as the text now stands, one might be induced to believe, you rank Carthage after the second Punic war, as among the autonomous cities subject to the Roman empire. You must very well know, that she then continued to be a free state, and intirely independant. The second objection relates to what you say concerning the title of Eleutherian; you indicate no difference between the towns that took this title, and those which took that of Autonomous. You have touched but slightly on an affair, which merits to be seriously cleared up. You cannot be ignorant that there are solemn debates upon this subject, and that in the sense of many learned men, Eleutherian signifies something more than Autonomous. I advise you to consider this affair attentively, and on its account to give some additional matter to your dissertation. I have had a berlin made on purpose, that you may be carried with more ease and convenience to Clerac, a place you love so much. We shall have no more disputes about usury, and that will gain you two hours a day. My meadows want you, and the smart lively servant never ceases to say, “O now if the Abbé were here.” I answer for that lad’s being very docile to your instructions; he will make as many trenches to carry off the water as you please. Let me know if I may flatter myself with the hope of your coming along the Guienne; because in that case I may now profit of an opportunity that presents itself of sending directly my manuscript to the printer .
In order to enjoy you myself, I release you from your promise, and the readier, since the impression of the work is not now to be made in Holland, much less in England, because she being an enemy we are to carry on no exchange of commerce with her, but that of cannon-balls. The Piedmontese are by no means in the same predicament, because we are not to look upon ourselves as in a state of warfare with each other; and if we besiege their forts, and they make our battalion prisoners there is no harm meant on either side; and it is done only by way of military amusement. Therefore you can have no cogent reasons for leaving us. You will be always received as a friend in Guienne. I thank you for having spoken of me to the Serenissimo, and am much flattered with his obliging remembrance of my having paid my court to him at Modena. I will send you one of my books, which you request, for him. You will find herewith subjoined the notes, but rather obscuring than elucidating , which are sent to you by the chapter of Cominges. You must be very simple, and unexperienced, my dear Abbé, to imagine that the members of a chapter ever give themselves the trouble of making literary researches; it is not I, but my brother who is dean of a chapter, that gives you the friendly advice of addressing yourself to better hands. Let not that however retard your history of Clement V. ; you have promised it to our academy; return and you will work much more at your ease upon the tomb of this pope . I desire that you will not omit the article of Brunissende , for I apprehend that you are too timorous to treat of this affair, and therefore desire no more than your dispatching it in a note. Your researches will make you read the works of learned men; and a touch of gallantry will make you read the works of those who are not. I have sent your medal to Bourdeaux, with orders to deliver it to M. Tourni, that he may forward it to the intendant of Languedoc. My dear Sir, this affair is attended with two difficulties, the one is to come at the medal; and the other, that the medal should come to you. Adieu, I respect you, I sigh for you, and in the mean time present the friendly effusions of my heart.
MY dear Abbé, I have hitherto spoken to you but of vague matters, but now I come to things of a more precise nature. I am anxious to publish my work as soon as possible. I shall begin to-morrow to give the last hand to the first volume, that is to the first thirteen books, and I think you may receive them in about five or six weeks. As I have very strong reasons to have nothing to do in this affair with Holland, and much less with England, I intreat that I may be let to know if you persevere in the resolution, to make the tour of Switzerland before you visit the two other countries: because in that case you must depart immediately from the delightful climate of Languedoc. I shall send my packet to Lyons, which you will find ready as you pass through that city. I leave you to your own free choice, Geneva, Soleure, or Basle. While you are continuing your voyage, and the printing of the first volume, being commenced and proceeded on, I shall apply myself closely to a completion of the second volume; and that I shall forward to you according to your directions when you shall please to send them. This will consist of ten books, and the following of seven. They will be volumes in 4to. I wait for your answer upon this subject, and to be sure of your setting off directly, without your stopping at either right or left. I most ardently wish that my work may be honoured with a god-father such as you. Adieu, my dear friend, and think that I embrace you.
Paris, December 6, 1746.
MY letter to which I have received your answer, has produced a quite different effect from what I expected; it has expedited, it seems, your departure, instead (as I relied on) of making you tarry, to receive some news of my manuscript having been sent off; that was at least the literal and spiritual sense of my letter. But having heard since that time of the Austrian army’s passing the Var, I began to reflect that you were a Piedmontese, that therefore it must be very disagreeable to a man who thinks only of his favourite books, his chosen studies, and not at all of the affairs of princes, to be in a strange country during such circumstances as the present, and that therefore you might take it into your head to repair to your own country, and the more so, if the report be true that your friend the Marquis d’Ormea is dead or out of favour . I told our common friend Gendron, the disagreeable situation into which such an event must have plunged you, and he is quite of the same opinion with me. We hoped indeed that at the conclusion of a peace, you might enjoy with more tranquility the sweets of France, a country which you love, and where you are much beloved. Perhaps, my dear friend, I have pushed my scruples too far on a certain article; but in that I rely upon your prudence and wisdom. Moreover, in the present situation of affairs, I do not think it proper for me, to send my book to be printed; and the more so, because I am uncertain what part you will take. If you think of remaining in France, I doubt not but you will revisit the Garonne, and write another dissertation, in order to obtain a new premium from the academy of inscriptions. In that you will imitate the Abbé le Beuf (or Ox) without being so heavy an ox as he. Farewell, I embrace you with all my heart.
Paris, December 24, 1746.
YOU have been true to your word, Sir; sent me the extract of my letter: wherein are some articles of no value. I had written to you that I should send you a part of my work, but on the condition, that on receipt thereof, you should not be amused from it by any other pursuits; now, Sir, what is the nature of your proceeding relative to this contract? Why truly without waiting for the arrival of, you have wantonly set out on your several excursionary tours of curiosity. My opinion is, that when the system of the metempsychosis takes place in you, your next appearance on our globe, will be in the person of a profest traveller—I advise you to get yourself cured of this folly.—But from such whims let us now turn to matters of more importance.
In three months hence, you shall receive from me fifteen or twenty books, that need only to be read anew, and copied again; by which means, of five parts you will have received three, which are to constitute the first volume: I then shall proceed to work upon the second volume, which you may expect to receive about two or three months after. If you have no excursions, either literary or gallant to make in Languedoc, you would do well to resume your post of confessor to Mademoiselle de Montesquieu, or that of penitent to the Bishop of Agen.
But whatever may be your destination, and in whatever place you will point out to me, I shall send to you at the end of April, the first volume.—If you think it may be necessary to have a passport from our court, let me be your last resource, because in my opinion, it is better to employ the interest of Mr. Le Nain, or Mr. de Tourni.—What I say is not an evasive pretext, from rendering you all the service I can, but from a certain knowledge that intendants have more power in that quarter, than a president who does not act in office. I embrace you with all my heart.
Paris, February 20, 1747.
I HAVE spoken to M. de Boze, who sent me off in an aukward, and unpolite manner, saying forsooth, that he did not meddle in such business, and that the proper persons to be applied to were Mr. Freret , and the Count de Maurepas. He sarcastically observed, that it was the common phrenzy of all those who had obtained a premium, to think they ought to be forthwith admitted as members of the academy. In my opinion he has somebody else in view. I spoke on the same day to Mr. Du Clos, who seems to be very well inclined, but then remember he is but one of the last. There is no way of securing Mr. de Maurepas’ interest, but through the Dutchess of Aiguillon your favourite muse. If I propose it to her, it is morally certain that she will do nothing in the affair. But if you write to her yourself, she will speak to me upon the subject, then I shall say such things as will make her your sanguine patroness. If you should win another premium, that would smooth all difficulties. Father Desmolets told me, that you are at work; so am I: but my work goes on heavy.
The Chevalier Caldwell has informed me by letter, that you were tempted to accompany him into Egypt, to which I made answer that it was, no doubt with a design of seeing your brethren the mummies. His adventure at Toulouse is very laughable . It seems that in this city, the folks are as fanatically mad in political as religious affairs.
Present my respectful compliments to the first president M. Bon. The first physical production I had ever seen, was a treatise upon Spiders, written by him. I have always looked upon him as one of the most learned personages in France. His example first inspired me with a noble emulation, seeing that he had joined such a consummate knowledge of his own profession, with that of other callings. Assure him of my sincere thanks for all the marks of kindness, with which he was pleased to favour me. I had also the honour of knowing Mr. Le Nain , at La Rochelle, to which place I went to see the Count of Matignon. I pray you will call up anew to his memory, the sincerity of my respect towards him. It is reported here, that by his prudent and œconomical dispositions, he has banished the enemy from Provence. Your bill of exchange is not yet arrived, but only a letter of advice. You see, Sir, what it is to have a quick and lively feeling; you have sent Mr. Jude almost breathless for a thing, that he might have proceeded in quest of, with all his wonted and solemn gravity. Adieu! I embrace you with all my heart.
Paris, March 1, 1747.
I HAVE received, Sir, my illustrious friend being at Paris, the letter for which I am obliged to your friendship. You do not make any mention of your health, and I should be glad to have a better guarantee for it than mere negative proofs. You have inserted one article in your letter, which I have read over several times with a glowing pleasure, and which is that where you say, you feel a strong desire of passing two years in Paris, and that from thence you might probably stretch as far as Bourdeaux. These are very agreeable ideas; and on my part I have formed the project of going some time or other to Pisa, in order to correct my work with you; and where can I meet with a sounder judgment than yours? The war has so perplexed me, that I have been obliged to pass three years and a half on my estate, in the country: thence I returned to Paris. But if the war should seem likely to continue much longer, I will betake me again to my rural retreat, and there shut myself up snugly in my philosophical shell, until the return of peace. It seems indeed to me, that all the princes of Europe are desirous of a peace; if so, they are pacific. No, not they—for there cannot be any pacific princes, but those who are willing to sacrifice something for the sake of peace; as no man can be called generous, who cannot on a proper occasion yield up a part of his interest; and no man can be deemed charitable who does not know when to give. To dispute too rigorously about matters of interest and property, is the spunge of every virtue. You do not make any mention of your eyes; mine are precisely in the same situation, as when you left me. I have at last discovered that a cataract is formed on the good eye, which Mr. Gendron, my Fabius Maximus, tells me is of a benign disposition; and that he will soon open the window-shutter. However, I have desired that the operation may be put off until next spring; for which reason I shall pass the winter here.—To mend the matter, that excellent man, our good friend Gendron, is in very good health, and we frequently say to each other, “Have you lately received any news from M. Cerati?”—He is as gay as ever, and reasons as well.——
Apropos, I had like to have forgotten to inform you, that on my arrival at Paris, I found that city happily delivered from the presence of the greatest fool, coxcomb, and most disagreeable pest of society that I had ever known. His voyage to England, has procured to me four or five months quiet breathing in Paris; and most luckily for me since his return hither, I have seen him but once, and that on the night before my departure for the country, with the most devout and zealous wish of never seeing him more.—You must very well know, that by this sketch, I can mean no other person but the Marquis de Loc-Maria, whose unparalleled faculty of tiring is more than sufficient to torture, not only the human race, but to add to the sufferings of those in hell, in purgatory, and make even the inhabitants of Paradise unhappy.
The work you know, is to make its appearance in five volumes, to which hereafter may be added a sixth by way of supplement; of which whenever it may happen, you shall have early notice. I am quite broken down with fatigue; I now propose enjoying the sweets of rest the remainder of my life. Adieu, dear Sir, I hope you will always preserve a warm place for me in your remembrance: And on my side I shall ever think on you with the tenderest sentiments of friendship, therefore conclude with all possible respect.
VICTORIOUS Abbé I announce to you, your success in having obtained a second triumph at the Academy. I have not made any mention of your affairs to Madame D’Aiguillon, that lady having set off with lightning-speed for Bourdeaux: Her thoughts are now all engrossed about her freehold affair; to which every other consideration must give way for the present, even that of the most valued friends.
I manifest to you at the same time, that at the beginning of the next month, the work in question will be ready to be copied. I am almost of a mind to publish it in twelves, which I shall send to you. It will amount to five distinct volumes in the copy. Be pleased to let me know what address I am to write on your packet; I expect an answer from you before it can be finished, wherefore you are not to let slip any time before you write to me, and let me know where you shall be all the month of June. I am glad to hear that your health meliorates; for your quincey had alarmed me much. Adieu, dear Sir.
Paris, May 4, 1747.
I AM on the wing, as well as you, my dear friend, and ready to set off for Lorraine with Madame de Mirepoix; I address this letter to Mr. le Nain. There must have been something wrongly expressed in my letter to him. I meant only to say, there was every appearance of your becoming a member of the academy, but not that you were actually one. I make no doubt of a place being granted to you on your being presented to the academy, in consequence of this second victory. I thought I had already informed you of my having sent your second medal to the care of Mr. Dalnet at Bourdeaux, and he being worth two or three millions of currency in our French livres, I thought I could not have made a better choice to deposit your treasure with. Your letter has quite confounded and put me out of my bias, seeing you to be thus involved in a variety of undertakings that would require an age for their completion; and that besides, one does not know where certainly to find you, in the circle of ten or twelve cities or towns, whose names you have recited; seeing also that in those places where I was obliged to apply for the printing of my work, on account of the present war, you might not find all the conveniencies necessary; I have seized on an occasion that has presented itself to me, and that I thought would prove more agreeable to you than to break the chain of your intended voyages. My wish of preference is, that you would take the road to Bourdeaux. If you can be there next autumn, or in the spring following, I shall see you with the greatest pleasure. I rely upon your accepting an apartment in my house, and promise that I shall not treat with my usual familiarity, a gentleman who has triumphed twice in the academy. Farewell dear Abbé; I embrace you a thousand times.
Paris, May 30, 1747.
I HAD the honour of writing to you, my dear Abbé, whose letter tells me nothing but what is very true, in mentioning the difficulties which you should meet with in this affair, besides the several voyages, commenced, projected, and to be put in execution; and that consideration has made me to profit of a very favourable opportunity that presented itself, and which rescues you from a great deal of trouble.
I am now to tell you, that for the present I thought proper to retrench the chapter on the Stadtholdership. In the now-critical situation of affairs, it might undergo the disgrace of an unfavourable reception in France . And I am resolved to decline every cause for altercation or chicanery. But that shall be no hindrance of my giving it to you hereafter for the Italian translation which you have undertaken to perform, as soon as my book is printed, I will take care that you shall have one of the first copies. You will find it much more commodious to translate from the printed, than the manuscript copy.
I have been whelmed with civilities, acts of politeness, and honours done to me at the court of Lorraine. I have enjoyed most delightful moments, in conversation with King Stanislaus. It is very probable that I shall be at Bourdeaux before the end of August. In the interval, until my return you should go and visit Madame de Montesquieu at Clerac. I shall not fail sending to you the two copies of the new edition of my romances which I have promised to you; one for his Serene Highness, and the other for M. le Nain. Farewell, I embrace you with all my heart.
I ASK pardon for having amused you with false hopes of my return. Particular business by which I am detained in Paris, has hindered me from departing hence as soon as I had intended, I am now ever on the wing here, like yourself, but shall nevertheless be at Bourdeaux in the beginning of March. In the mean time I must pray you to present compliments for me, and make my court to the most amiable Countess de Pontac, at whose mansion I believe you reside at present, and from which seat of inchantment, I hope, you will deign to come to Bourdeaux, where we will dispute upon politics, on divinity, and I will send my book to M. le Nain. There can be no harm in sending a romance to a counsellor of state . But for heads like yours, there must be provided a more solid entertainment, such as is to be found in the thoughts of a Pascal, although the eighteen or twenty ladies placed to your account in Languedoc and Provence (as I have been informed by Prince Wurtemburg) must have greatly changed, and rendered you less incredulous, concerning adventures of gallantry. Your case will not be unlike to that of the hermit, whose damnation the devil effectuated by shewing him a little shoe. I always perceived in you a tendency for elegant desires, and am sure that in your religious worship, you often felt a mutinous rebel in your heart. But let that pass, you must be studious to divest yourself at Bourdeaux. I will recommend you to the care of my daughter-in-law for that purpose.
I saw Mr. de Boze the other day, and had a long conversation with him about you. When next you shall make your appearance in this part of the world, you will be admitted a member of the academy, through the great gate (that is in a distinguished manner.) Yet, nevertheless my advice to you, is to write another dissertation upon the subject that is proposed for the premium of next year, and as this not only is connected with the one you have already treated , but that you are also a perfect master of the series of the several preceding reigns, you will meet with far less difficulties in your present researches. If the memoirs which I had composed on the history of Lewis XI. had not been burnt , I could have supplied you with some materials for this subject.
If you are so lucky as to be adjudged a third premium, you then will not want the recommendatory assistance of any person, and your reception will in consequence be the more glorious. You will have as much leisure time as you please at Clerac and la Brede, where you will not be distracted by either voyages or ladies. You will be quite at home in writing this work, therefore you can execute it with much more ease to yourself, than any other person can. Adieu, I present you with a thousand embraces.
Paris, October 19, 1747.
ALL I can tell you is, that I intend to set out as soon as possible for Bourdeaux, and that I hope to have the pleasure of seeing you there. I own that I owe you my thanks for the two little dogs of Bengal, of the same race with those of Don Philip, which you are to bring me. But as my thanks ought to be proportioned to the beauty of the dogs, I must wait to have seen them before I can appreciate the words of my compliment. It is not however for blind fellows like you and me to suit them properly, I leave that to my huntsman, who in such subjects is a very intelligent mortal, as you well know, and consequently a better judge than either of us can pretend to be.
I have sent my romance to M. le Nain, and I think it is not a little extraordinary to have a theologist to be the chief panegyrist of so frivolous a work. I am about sending a copy of the new edition of the Rise and Fall of the Romans to Prince Edward, who on sending his manifesto to me, observed it was proper a correspondence should be kept up among authors, and that therefore he requested my works.
I am rendering you all the service I can here.—I have spoken of you to the Countess de Sennectere, who declares herself to be greatly your friend; I did not design to speak of you to the mother, for mothers are with you musty articles, and that have but very little place in your affections. Pray present a number of compliments for me to the Countess de Pontac: whatever you may say in behalf of the daughter, I hold still for the mother. I am not so falsely delicate in this article as you are.
Inform Abbé Venuti that I have spoken to the Abbé de St. Cyr, who says he will attempt another effort with the Bishop of Mirèpoix. I never knew a man who held in higher estimation those who administer only the offices of religion, or in less those who prove it .
Mr. Lomellini has told me, that during your stay in Languedoc, you were become a citizen of St. Marino , and one of the most illustrious senators of that republic. I laughed heartily at the news. It could not truly be that qualification which inspired M. de Belleisle with so violent a desire of having you along with him on the banks of the Var, because he knew very well that you were the native of another country; and I think you did very wisely in not accepting of his invitation: Heaven knows what various interpretation would be started upon such a voyage into your own country.
I ardently wish I may find you at Bourdeaux on my return thither, and the more so as I want to have your friendly opinion in an affair that concerns me personally. My son will not take upon him the charge of President de Mortier, which I had long destined to be his lot in life.—I therefore must either sell, or resume the place myself. It is upon this alternative that we must have some conference, before I come to a final determination. I expect from you your sincere opinion after that I shall have candidly displayed to you, the reasons for, or against either side of the question: contrive matters so, as that you may not be long waited for.—Adieu.
Paris, March 28th, 1748.
I HAVE received, Sir, not only with pleasure, but with infinite joy, your favour thro’ the channel of Prince de Craon; but as in the letter there is no mention made of your health, and that you write nevertheless, I naturally conclude it to be good, an advantage in which I am so much interested. Mr. Gendron is not dead; and I hope you will see him again at Paris, walking in his garden, with his little cane, and not breaking out into any expressions of admiration, either in behalf of the Jesuits or physicians. But to speak seriously, it is a happiness for society, that so excellent a man is still alive. What a loss should you and I have in his death.—He always begins a conversation with me in those words, “have you received any news from M. Cerati?”
Abbé de Guasco is returned from his tour of Languedoc, or Provence.—You have known him a virtuous man; but like Solomon and David, he too is lost. The Prince of Wurtemburg has informed me, that there are twenty-one ladies enrolled upon his list. He says, indeed, it is better that number should be ascribed to him than but one; and perhaps he is in the right. But in the midst of his vagrant gallantries, he fails not to carry off premiums at the academy; he obtained the one of last year; and has lately succeeded in winning that of the present. In about a fortnight I must quit Paris, and spend four or five months at my provincial dwelling. I shall take Abbé de Guasco with me to la Brede, that he may perform due penance there, for the late irregularities of his life. Madam Geofrin’s house is frequented by the best company, she is very desirous that you and I should encrease the number.—You will oblige me much, by paying my respectful compliments and court to the prince de Craon, and assure him that I should deem it one of the most brilliant incidents of my life, could I have the happiness of being for some time near him. In the interim, I have the honour of paying my court to one of an exalted character, and nearly of a similar stamp, I mean the prince de Beauvais. Believe me he has the proper stuff in him, and the materials requisite for constituting a great man. I plume myself on forming a just and precious judgment of those who are destined to run the career of glory, nor have I been much mistaken.
In regard of my work, I will let you into the secret. It is actually printing in a foreign country; this fact I continue to tell you in great secrecy. There will be two volumes in quarto, of which one is printed, but will not be published until the other is ready. Immediately on the fixed time for publication, I will send you a set, as an homage due to you from my estate. I have almost exhausted myself for three months past, in endeavouring to finish a short tract, I mean to add to them, and that will form a book, on the origin and revolution of our civil laws in France.—Although the reading of it would not take up more than three hours time; yet, I assure you, I have been obliged to work so hard upon this interesting matter, that it has made my hairs become white. In order that my work were complete in all points, it would be necessary that I should give two additional books on the feudal laws. I think I have made some elucidating discoveries upon a topic the most obscure in literary researches, but which nevertheless affords a more magnificent subject. If I can be left quiet for three months, I think I may be able to put a finishing hand to these two desirable books, if not, my work must go forth without them.
The favour that your friend M. de Hein does me often, to come and pass the morning with me, is not of the most obliging nature, because it proves prejudicial to my work, both by the badness of the corrupt French which he speaks, and the irksome prolixity of his details. He has been just now with me, to know if I had received any news from you. He takes up my time unmercifully in complaining of an old malady which he has long laboured under, to wit, a difficulty of making urine; and says, that M. le Dran has not been able as yet to cure him. With le Dran he seems to be as little satisfied as with the Stadtholder.—Pray let me always have some share in your friendship, nor ever absolutely consign to oblivion, a man who loves and honours you.
Paris, March 28, 1748.
MOST illustrious Prince, I was at first afraid lest that I should be charged with vanity for the liberty I had taken to present you with my work. But to whom, with more propriety, can the Roman heroes be presented than to him who makes them to revive in his person. I have the honour of being with infinite respect.—
SIR, and most noble commander, your letter has becalmed my soul with peace, that before its arrival was perplexed with a multitude of little trifling affairs. If I were with you at Rome, I should think of nothing but content and diversity of pleasures; and in the catalogue of my pleasures would I insert all your persecutions of me. I assure you, that if my stars should incline me to undertake any more voyages, I will go to Rome, and there challenge you to the fulfilling of your promise. I will insist on having a small chamber in your house. Rome (antica e moderna) hath always delighted me. What an intensity of pleasure must it be to meet one’s friends at Rome! I must inform you that Marquis de Breil has not forgotten me. He was at Nice with M. de Serilly. They both have written to me a most agreeable letter, imagine to yourself, what a refined satisfaction it must be to receive marks of friendship from a man whom I revere. I have replied to him, that if my abode were on the banks of the Rhone instead of the Garonne, I should not have tarried to pay him a visit at Nice. It is no matter of surprise to me, that you are in love with Rome, for, had I eyes, I should as lieve reside in Rome as at Paris. But as Rome’s merit consists chiefly in externals, there is a too constant privation of its excellencies for those who have not eyes.
The departure of the Marquis de Mirepoix, and of the Duke of Richmond is deferred. The Paris report is, that it has been caused by the king of England’s not chusing to send a titled personage to the court of France, unless one of the same rank were also sent to his. But that is not the fact, because the high birth of M. de Mirepoix exempts him from the necessity of a title ; and that the late Emperor Charles the Sixth, who had sent Prince Lichlenstein his ambassador to France, did not, through a groundless delicacy, make any objection to M. de Mirepoix’s being ambassador at Vienna. The true reason of the matter lies here; the Duke of Richmond is not satisfied with the sum of money that is intended to be given to him for the support of his embassy: moreover, the Duchess of Richmond is sick; and the Duke who adores, would not willingly quit her or cross the sea without her.
Our political agents here whisper, that the treaty between Spain and England goes on very lamely. They have not come to any agreement as yet about the principal point that caused the war, and which is the mode to be followed, in carrying on a commerce with America, or the 90,000l. sterling as an indemnification for the prizes taken. It is moreover reported, that in the Spanish ports all the vexations, delays, and difficulties that can be thrown in the way of the English shipping, are daily practised. Is it not curious for you to observe a provincial correspondent dealing out such fine articles of news, for which in your ecclesiastic way either of preconisation or congregation, you will hardly be able to pay me with an equivalent? The trade of Bourdeaux begins to revive, and the English have been ambitious enough to drink some of my wine this year. Our commerce notwithstanding cannot be thoroughly established, but through the means of the American isles, because our dealing with them is its principal branch. I am very much pleased to know that you like the Spirit of Laws. The eulogiums given by the general run of mankind, might flatter my vanity, but yours enhances my pride; as must all those given by a man distinguished for the soundness of his judgment . It must be owned that the subject is beautiful, is great, and I had often reason to fear lest it should become too great for me. I may indeed say that I have employed all my life in working upon it; for scarce had I quitted college, and that very young, when the books of law were put into my hands. I wanted to discover the spirit of them, I made continual researches, but to little or no purpose. It is now about twenty years ago since I first seized on my principles; they are very simple, and any other person who should have worked as much on the subject as I had, might in all probability have made more of it. But I can with truth declare, that this work had like to cost me my life. Henceforwards I mean to enjoy hours of repose, and to work no more.
I think your happiness must be compleat in having the Duke de Nivernois at Rome. That noble Lord honoured me formerly with some marks of kindness; he was then but amiable. My pride is hurt at the loss of not being near him, as he advances so laudably in the paths of reason. He has in his suite a man of merit, founded on great talents, and that is M. de la Bruere . I owe him my thanks, which I entreat that you will pay to him for me, when you shall next see him at the Duke de Nivernois’.
You seem not to desire the complimentary appellation of your Excellence; nor to have the trouble of saying, why the Devil does he plague me with your Excellence? notwithstanding the objection, I have the honour of embracing you a thousand times.
Paris, March 7, 1749.
IN order to prove, illustrious Abbé, how much you were in the wrong to quit me, and for how short a time I can exist without you, I hereby give notice that I am to set out to-morrow for Paris in quest of you. For since your departure I feel such an irksomeness diffused over my mind, as makes me to think I am incapacitated either for enjoying myself, or doing any thing with satisfaction to myself. It was very weak in you not to have paid a visit to the archbishop , since you stopt for some time at Tours. Perhaps he was the only person you ought to have seen; you would have met with a most agreeable reception. You should also have made a short trip on the left to Verret, where the Duke and Dutchess of Aiguillon would have applauded your politeness for so doing; and surely that was a matter of more importance than going to the Abbey of Marmoutier, where there was nothing to be seen but Gothic works, and old dusty papers that must have hurt your eyes by poring on them. The anecdote of your Irish friend at Nantz, afforded me no small diversion. It was very natural for a banker to imagine, that when a travelling gentleman spoke to him about academies, he meant those of gaming, and not of literature; besides, as a money-dealing man, he had nothing to gain by the transactions of the latter. Thus the vicar sees in a dream the steeple of his parish-church, and his servant maid her master’s breeches. I knew very well that you had given sufficient proofs of your being a rambler, but till now had never surmised your having qualifications to be a courier. M. Stuart says you have quite exhausted him with fatigue. The next time that you embark your person, be so good as to embark your chaise, because people cannot labour so easily against the current of a river, as they can fall down with it. I hope that you are not in a hurry to visit England; it would be very unkind of you not to wait for a person who undertakes a journey of an hundred and fifty leagues to see you. I propose being at Paris about the 17th. You have time enough to remove to the Rue des Rosiers, for you must not be lodged too far from me.
Bourdeaux, July 2, 1749.
M. d’Estouteville , my dear Abbé, persecutes me to prevail on you to grant him a fixed hour every evening, in order to finish the reading and correction of his translation of Dante. He promises to be implicitly amenable to all the alterations you shall think necessary for him to make.
He solicits your indulgence only for his preface . You are not ignorant that he has a very particular style, from which he will not depart, even when he speaks to ministers . Let me know what answer I am to make to him. Remember he is to call on you every evening, until the lecture of his translation shall be finished.
AS I was going on a tour into the country, I met with the Messieurs de Saint Palaye, who spoke to me of Mr. Cerati. I constantly questioned them about Mr. Cerati. One article displeased me much, and that is my not being in Rome with the great man, whom they spoke to me of with so much warmth. They informed me that you were in very good health. I return thanks to the air of Rome, and congratulate with all your friends on the happy occasion. M. de Buffon has just published three volumes, which are to be followed by twelve more. The three first contain but general ideas; the twelve other are to contain a description of the curiosities in the king’s garden. M. de Buffon has among the learned in this country a great number of enemies, and their preponderating judgments, will, I dread bear down the balance against him for some time. I, for my part, who find many excellent things in the work, shall wait with discretion and modesty, for the decision of the learned in foreign countries. I have not however as yet met with any person who does not allow that there is a great deal of useful matter in the work.
Mr. de Maupertuis, who has believed all his life, and given perhaps convincing proofs that he was not happy, has just published a treatise upon Happiness. It is the production of a man of wit, fraught both with sound reasoning and gracefulness of style. In consequence of my work on The Spirit of Laws, I hear some dissatisfied drones humming and buzzing about my years; but while the bees extract a little honey from it I am satisfied—What you write to me about it gives me infinite pleasure; for what is more agreeable than to be approved of by the persons whom we love. Deign, Sir, to accept the tribute of my most respectful sentiments.
Paris, Nov. 11, 1749.
I OUGHT to thank you my dear Abbé for the fine book which the Marquis Venuti has made me a present of. I have not as yet read it, because it is at my book-binder’s; I do not doubt that it is worthy of the name it bears. I wish you a very happy year. If you are not at Bourdeaux on my return thither, I shall not only be very much displeased, but conclude also that the academy must have lost its wit, and its learning. Present my most respectful compliments to the countess , and embrace her on my behalf, while I myself, without proxy, embrace you, who are not altogether so amiable.
Paris, January 17, 1750.
MY dear Count I had already learned from Lord Albemarle that you were not drowned in crossing over from Calais to Dover, and the kind reception which you met with in London. You will be still more happy in your acquaintance with the duke of Richmond, Lord Chesterfield, and Lord Granville. I am sure that on their sides, they will seek every occasion of having you as much with them as they can. Speak often and much to them of me. But I do not insist upon your toasting so often when you dine at the duke of Richmond’s. Assure Lord Chesterfield that nothing can flatter me so much as his approbation, and that since he honours my work with a third reading, he will be the better able to tell me what parts of it want to be corrected or altered. How useful and instructive to me would his observations and criticism prove!
You, Sir, ought to be very vainglorious for having your work perused by a monarch, and who approves all you have said concerning England. I cannot hope for such high and mighty suffrages; and of all mankind, kings are perhaps the last that will read, and what is not improbable, perhaps they will not even look into the book. There is however one sovereign in this world who has read it, and I have been informed by Mr. de Maupertuis, that he said there were some places concerning which he differed in opinion; my answer to Maupertuis was, that I would lay a wager, I could put my finger on those places. I must also tell you, Sir, that the Duke de Savoi has begun a second reading. I am very much pleased with what you tell me about the approbation of the English; and I hope that the translator of The Spirit of Laws will acquit himself as well, as did the translator of The Persian Letters. You have done very right (notwithstanding Miss Pit’s advice to the contrary) to deliver your recommendatory letters to Lord Bath. You have nothing to do with the disputes of party, as a travelling stranger is not to take on with any, but to see every body. I am not surprized at the acts of friendship you meet with from those you had known in Paris, and am persuaded that the longer you continue in London, the more you will receive. But it is to be hoped, Sir, the kind proceedings of the English, will not make you forget your friends in France, at the head of whom, you know I pride myself to be. In order that you may be well received here on your return, I will communicate to all my acquaintance that article of your letter, where you say that in England the men are more than men, but the women less women than in any other country. Since the Prince of Wales deigns to honour me with his remembrance, present my most respectful sentiments to him, and with all humility. Your friend embraces you.
Paris, March 12, 1750.
I AM much chagrined, my dear Abbé, to hear that you are going to Italy, and what is still worse, that you are not pleased with us: although by all I can gather there has been no deficiency in paying every mark of regard that is so legitimately due to exalted merit like yours. I wish however you may be satisfied with your voyage to Italy; and I could wish also, that after this course of pilgrimage were over, you might be passed to some state of a more happy transmigration, and more adequate to your personal desert. If you can withdraw your dissertation from the hands of President Barbot, which he keeps in as safe custody, as if it were one of the sybilline books, I can make it turn out to your advantage; but your letter gives me no room to hope. Present my compliments to the Countess , and to Madame du Plessis . If you continue your journey entirely by land you will see the Commander de Solar at Turin, who will come thither from Rome. Adieu. Let nothing abate your hitherto friendly sentiments for me; and believe that in whatever part of the world I shall be, you will always have a sincere and faithful friend.
Paris, May 18, 1750.
I ENTREAT, Sir, that you will permit me the honour of recommending Mr. Fordyce to you, professor of the university of Edinburgh, who is very estimable on account of his learning, and many useful productions; among others of that of education. This worthy professor has been very obliging to me, and honours me with his friendship, wherefore I reiterate the request that my recommendation of him may be agreeable to you. I pray you will introduce this learned gentleman to Abbé Nicolini, whom I take this opportunity of saluting. We have lost that most worthy man Mr. Gendron. I am much afflicted at the sad event, and am sure that you will be so too. He had an excellent physical, as well as moral head. And I remember what a number of good things used to spring from it. I supplicate that you will always love me, as much as I love; or rather, as I honour and admire you. Our friend Abbé de Guasco, now become a celebrated traveller, is in my apartment, and commissions me to present you with a thousand compliments. He is just come from England.
Paris, October 23, 1750.
I HAVE not as yet thanked you my dear Abbé, for the distinguished place you have allotted to me in your triumph . You are Petrarch, and I nothing of consequence. Mr. Tercier has written to me to thank you in his name for the copy which I had sent to him; and to assure you that M. Puysieux had received his with the greatest satisfaction . As there have appeared here as yet but very few copies, I shall not be able for some time to let you know the success of the work among us. I have heard it well spoken of, and it seems to me to be of the true poetic turn.
I cannot accustom myself dear Abbé to think you are no longer at Bourdeaux. You have left a number of friends there, that sincerely regret your separation from them; and I am one of those who feel the most upon that occasion. Write to me sometimes. I shall execute your commands in regard to Stuart, and the collection of dissertations. You act very candidly with him; and I think he ought to be highly pleased with your generosity. I shall see Mr. Curne. Abbé le Beuf (or ox) shall to be spoken to, and if he be not a Beuf (or ox) he must perceive that there is but very little to be corrected in your dissertation.
The President Barbot should find for you the dissertation that is lost like a needle in the bundle of hay, or learned lumber with which his vast and chaostic cabinet is crammed. It was very ridiculous to have been guilty of any incivility to Madame de Pontac, by boasting so much an increase of the rent which we shall not touch; and while too we have so badly managed the affairs of the academy . Send to me what you propose adding to the dissertations which I have. Farewell my dear Abbé, I salute and embrace you with all my heart.
Paris, October 20, 1750.
MY dear Abbé, do not flatter yourself with the vain hope of receiving a letter from the triumphant pen of Abbé de Guasco. If you were indeed a discarded minister of foreign affairs , he might repair to your house with the kind intention of comforting you. The good man’s occupation now is to run his eye over all the new pamphlets, and other fugitive publications—or with a most obliging prodigality to accommodate his bad stomach to all the invitations which he receives from foreign ambassadors. He nevertheless ruins his breast in the service of his Cantimir, and of his Clement the Fifth. For notwithstanding all the trouble he takes to animate Cantimir, it will always be deemed a cold, and uninteresting work. But the fault was in his late Excellence, not in our friend —.
There is now no likelihood of my going to England; there is a much stronger probability of my retiring to La Brede. I am now writing a letter of congratulation to president De la Lane on his reception at the academy. Bonardi, who is president of that academy, has been to visit and give me a detail of all the dinners he has been at since his return among all the fashionable wits who give dinners, with the genealogy of each invited to dinner . He tells me that he has addressed his first letter to the newly adopted associate. And I am of opinion that you will think this was quite according to rule. I observe that our academy is converting itself into a society of Free Masons, with this difference that there is neither drinking nor singing, but there is much building. Mr. de Tourni is our King Hiram; he will furnish us with workmen, but I doubt that he will supply us with cedar.
I believe the Prince de Craon is actually at Vienna, but he will soon be in Lorraine, and if you will send me your letter, I will forward it to him. I must now tell you some news from Italy concerning The Spirit of Laws. The Duke de Nivernois wrote about three weeks ago to Mr. de Forqualquier, in such a commendatory manner, as that it would be impossible for me to repeat without blushing. About two days ago he received another from him, wherein he is informed that as soon as the work appeared at Turin, the king of Sardinia read it; I cannot even dare to repeat what he has said on the subject. Let the following fact be sufficient; he gave it to his son the Duke de Savoi to peruse, and that prince has read it twice—Mr. de Breille informs me that his royal pupil has declared he will study it during life.—There must, to be sure, appear a great deal of coxcombry in me to tell you this anecdote. But as it is of public notoriety, why may you not learn it from me as well as from any body else. You must now naturally conclude, that I have the most implicit reliance in the judgment of Italian princes.—Marquis de Breille assures me that his Royal Highness the Duke de Sovoi is blessed with an exalted genius, lively conception, and solid judgement to a wonderful degree.
Huart, the bookseller, is very desirous of having the translation of the beginning of the Temple of Gnidus into Latin verse by Doctor Clancy to join with the Italian translation , and theoriginal. Now try which you can get for me, either an amanuensis copy of those verses, or a consent from the academy to oblige me with a printed one, which I shall speedily return.
But a-propos the Portrait of Madame de Mirepoix is extolled to the highest degree both at Paris and Versailles. I have no way contributed towards its good fortune in the city of Bourdeaux, so far on the contrary, that I had dispatched thither Abbé de Guasco to malignly criticise it. Now you who are the wit of all wits, ought to translate it, which translation I would send to Madame de Mirepoix actually in London. I have not a copy of it, but either the President Barbot, or M. du Pin has. You know very well it was but a stroke of fancy hit out at Luneville, as a momentary amusement for the king of Poland.
I had forgotten to observe to you, that there is a compensation of all things in this world. I have already informed you of the favourable judgments in Italy relative to The Spirit of Laws. There is soon to appear in Paris a large and formidable criticism on that work, written by M. Dupin, a farmer general; so I am now to be summoned before the tribunal of tax-gatherers, and excisemen, as I had been sometime ago before the journalists of Trevoux. Farewell, my dear Abbé, this letter is in the Bonardi manner . I salute and I embrace you with all my heart.
Do not however be the dupe of the translation which I desire; for if your mind does not impel you kindly; it is not worth the while that you should mispend a quarter of an hour’s time in thinking about it.
IT is a great happiness my dear Abbé to have a well formed mind; but it is also a degree of prudence to never let it be the dupe of another man’s cunning. The intendant may say what he pleases, but he can never justify the having broken his word to the academy, and having led its members into an error through his false promises. I am not at all surprized, that, become conscious of the wrong he had done to the corps, he labours so strenuously to exculpate himself. But you Sir, who have been an eye witness of the whole transaction, are not to suffer yourself to be imposed upon by excuses that intrinsically are of as little value as his promises. For my part, I am too well satisfied in giving up to him his friendship, to desire any more of it. For of what avail is the friendship of a man in place, who is always actuated by diffidence: and can think nothing right but what falls in with hls own system; who knows not how to do the least favour, or to render any essential service. Let me be far removed from the occasion of asking him any, either for myself, or others. And by that desireable situation I shall be delivered from many importunities.
Dulcis inexpertis cultura potentis amici: Expertus metui.
It is prudent to shun every woman, who is nothing but a coquette, because she practically deceives by giving false hopes. These are my last words upon the subject. I flatter myself that the Duchess coincides with my reason: for which the affair of her freehold will go on neither better nor worse.
I am flatteringly pleased with Abbé Oliva’s friendly remembrance of me. I frequently call to mind, and with a refined satisfaction, the delightful moments I enjoyed in the literary society set on foot by this learned Italian, who nobly soars above all the prejudices of his country, and which rendezvous no other motive but the despotic and turbulent spirit of father Tournemine could have made me to decline frequenting, where there was so much improvement to be met, and that I could have profited by. The dissolution of those little private academies where every article is debated with a due spirit of freedom, proves a great loss to men of letters; and I assure you that you have reason to lament that of father Desmoletz being proscribed . I insist upon your writing to me, before you leave Turin, and demand another letter from you on your arrival there. Adieu.
Paris, December 5, 1750.
MY dear Abbé and Count, I have received at La Brede, where I now am, and wish you to be, your letter dated from Turin. The Marquis de St. Germain, who interests himself warmly in every thing that concerns you, had already informed me of the distinguished manner in which you were received at your court, and the justice that has been done to you. How comfortable must it be for a whole people to see their sovereign making adequate amends for the injuries which a wicked minister had caused him to inflict on a deserving subject. I conceive too with joy, that through the aid of time, merit will always pierce, and make itself known to intelligent princes, who give themselves the trouble of seeing every thing with their own eyes.
The good offices which the Marquis de St. Germain has rendered you by his letters, enhances the esteem which I had already for his various deserts. I compliment you sincerely on your being invested with the title of Count, and it would add much to my satisfaction on this occasion, were I to hear also of your being invested with an Abbotship, which would be no more than a proper reparation for the injuries which you have received. However, my dear Abbé, I hope you will not yet yield to any temptation of quitting us. You must be convinced that we do justice to your merit in France, and that you have many friends there. It would then be ingratitude in you to leave us for a short gale of court-favour. You will permit me, I hope, to quiet myself on this article by the old maxim, “That no man is a prophet in his own country.”
I have had Lord Hyde with me here. He is now gone from Paris to Verret, to visit our amiable Duchess; from thence he means to shape his course to Richlieu, to see the marshal; afterwards to Bourdeaux, then to la Brede, and is to close his journey at Aiguillon: whither the Duke has dispatched orders that all the honours of his castle should be paid to him; so that he meets every where with all the zealous efforts of obliging courtesy, that are due to his high birth, and personal merit. My Lord Hyde professes a great regard for, and would be very glad to meet you, at la Brede.
You have aroused and tickled my vanity in the tenderest point by your information, that his royal highness has been so kind as to remember me. Present that excellent Prince with my respects approaching to adoration.—Now that Europe is so intermixed, and that there is so general a communication among all the parts, it may with truth be said, he who causes the happiness of one contributes to that of the rest, and so the spreading circle of happiness reaches from realm to realm.
While I am indulging my thoughts in visionary scenes, I am cheared with the pleasing prospects, that I may possibly revisit Turin, and there pay my court to your most amiable prince.
Assure Marquis de Breille, and the grand Prior, that while I breathe I shall be always theirs, and most devotedly. On my first seeing them at Vienna, I formed a resolution of being honoured with their friendship, which I soon obtained. I learn from Madam de St. Maure, that you are now at Piedmont in a new Herculaneum ; where, after having scraped up the earth for about eight days, you found nothing but a brazen grasshopper. It is beyond a doubt that the gentlemen, called Antiquarians, are very great quacks. I have received no letters, nor any account whatsoever from Abbé Venuti, since his departure from Bourdeaux. He had some symptoms of friendship for me before he was made a priest and a provost. Let me know if you intend returning to Paris. For my part, I shall pass the winter, and part of the spring, where I am. The province is ruined, and in the case of such a public calamity, every body ought to stay at home. I am informed from Paris, that the luxury there is enormous. We have lost what we had of that folly here, which was indeed no great matter.
Were you to see la Brede in its present flourishing condition, I believe you would not be displeased with it. Your advice has been followed, and the alterations in consequence have called forth every latent charm. In short, it is a beautiful and sprightly butterfly, that has triumphantly extricated itself from the sluggish state of inert nymph-existence. Adieu, my friend, I salute and embrace you a thousand times.
WHAT you have marked to me in your billet of yesterday cannot determine me to renounce my adopted principle . When at your return I shall know what you have heard concerning the two parliamentary counsellors in question; I may perhaps be able to judge if it be worth my while to give any farther illustration of those points that seem to have shocked their delicacy. I am of opinion that they only echo the censure of the ecclesiastic news-writers, whose idle declamations should never be attended to by ingenuous minds. As for the plan which the little minister of Wirtemburg wishes I had followed in a work, whose title is, The Spirit of Laws, tell that pragmatic gentleman, my intention was to compose my own work, not his. Adieu.
From Paris to Fountainbleau.
WHILE you my friend fly through the sublime regions of the air, I only crawl upon earth, as it were; and that is the reason of our not meeting. From the moment that I was at liberty to leave Paris, I set out for this place, where I had some considerable affairs to transact. I am now going to Clerac, I have hastened my journey hither a month sooner than I had intended, in order to meet the Duke d’Aiguillon , and bring matters to a conclusion, because his agents have puzzled things more than they have contributed to clear them. I have sent the pipe of wine to Lord Elibank which you asked for his Lordship. He is to pay me for it what he pleases, with this proviso, that in proportion as he shall abate of the price, he will favour me with an increase of his friendship, which I shall esteem a most invaluable present. Pray let him know, that he may keep it as long as he pleases, even to the extended term of fifteen years, if he should fancy so to do; but it must not be mixed with any other wines. He may be assured that he has it in the same state of purity in which I received it from the deity. It has not passed through the adulterating hands of wine-merchants.
At your return from Italy, my dear Abbé, why should you not be desirous of passing through Bourdeaux, of seeing your friends there, and the castle of la Brede, which I have so greatly embellished since your having seen it? It is now the most beautiful country retreat that I know of any where.
Sunt mihi cœlicolæ, sunt cætera numina fauni.
At length I enjoy those pleasant meadows which you were wont to torment me so much about. Your prophecy is verified; the success has by far surpassed my expectation, and my sprightly country-valet often exclaims in his incorrect provincial jargon, Boudri bien que M. l’Abbé Guasco his aco. I wish with all my heart, that Mr. l’Abbé Guasco was here.
I have seen the countess; she has made a deplorable marriage; I pity her much. The too-ardent desire of being rich, in the end but too often presents us with a blank. The Chevalier Citron hath also made a great match of the same taste, in the islands, which has produced to him for his wife’s dowry, seven hogsheads of sugar. It is true indeed, he has made a voyage to the islands, and the result may be a broken heart. Farewell, I embrace you with all my soul.
De la Brede, March 16, 1752.
MY dear Count, I own that you are admirable for bringing about are-union of three friends, who have not seen each other for several years, being separated by the sea; but among whom you have now opened a new commercial intercourse. Mr. Michel and I did not absolutely lose sight of each other. But M. d’Ayrolles, whom I had the honour of knowing at Brussels, had entirely forgotten me.
I have no more of last year’s wine, but I will preserve an hogshead of this year’s vintage for each of you. I have already notified to you, that I proposed being at Paris in the month of September, and as you are to be there at the same time, I shall bring with me the merchant’s answer to Abbé de la Porte. The person in question is not a mere nominal merchant, as you may imagine, but one in reality, and a young man of this city who is author of that performance.
You must know, my dear Abbé, that I have received very large commissions from England, for the wine of this year , and I am in hopes that our province will soon recover from its late misfortunes. I pity the poor Flemings, who have nothing now to eat but oysters, and without butter.
I am induced to think that the system is altered in regard to the barrier places, and that England is at last convinced they could serve to no other purpose but to determine the Dutch to continue in peace; while other powers shall be in war. The English think also that the Low Countries are rendered stronger by the addition of twelve hundred thousand florins than they should be, while garrisoned only by the Dutch troops, who defend them so badly. Moreover, the queen of Hungary is now persuaded that the giving her a peace in Flanders, was done with no other intent but to enable the enemy to transfer the seat of war to another place. I should not be at all surprized, if on the first occasion, the system of the ballance of power, and of certain political alliances in Europe were to undergo a total change; for which many reasons can be assigned; and we will talk them all over at our case in the months of September and October. I have received a very fine letter from Abbé Venuti; who, after a continued silence of two years without reason, has now broke it with as little.
La Brede, June 27, 1752.
THRICE welcome my dear Count, I regret very much my not having been at Paris to receive you. I am told that my house-keeper, Mrs. Betty, took you for a ghost, and screamed out so outrageously on seeing you, that all the neighbours were frighted from their sleep. I thank you for the kind manner in which you have received the person I protect. I shall be at Paris in the month of September. If you shall be returned from your residence before my arrival there, I hope you will honour my apartment with the welcome inmateship of your breviary. But I think that I shall be at Paris before you. You are indeed an extraordinary man; for scarcely had you drunk of the waters drawn from the cisterns of Tournay, but you have been sent as a deputy from that very Tournay. Such an event has never happened to any canon before.
I must tell you that the theological society of Sorbonne, but little satisfied with the applause which they have received on the account of their deputies, have nominated others to re-examine the affair . I am very easy upon that article; they can but repeat what the ecclesiastical news-scribbler hath already advanced; and I will tell to them what I have already declared to him; to wit, that their cause is not rendered a whit the stronger by the aid of him, nor his by the assistance of them. Reason must ultimately decide the matter; my book is a book of politics, and not a book of divinity; and the ill-grounded objections spring from their own heads, but not from my work.
As for Voltaire, he has too much wit to understand me. He reads no books but those he writes, and then he approves or censures his own progeny, as the whim takes him. I thank you for father Gerdil’s criticism, it is the performance of a man who really deserves to understand, and afterwards to criticize my work. I should be very glad, my dear friend, to see you again at Paris; then you would talk to me about all Europe, and I should discourse with you about my rural villa at la Brede, as well as about my castle that is now made fitting to receive for a guest, the personage who has taken a philosophical survey of almost every country.
Madame de Montesquieu, the dean of St. Surin, and myself, are actually at Baron, a house situated between two seas, and which you have not seen. My son is at Clerac, which I have ceded to him for his domaine, and added Montesquieu. In a few days I propose going to Nisor, where the abbey of my brother is; we shall pass through Toulouse, where I intend paying my respects to Clemence Isaure , whose ladyship you so very well know. If you shall win the academic prize there, let me know it. I will take up your medal en passant, (if you gain one) seeing that you cannot any longer, have the resource of intendants. You should have a man solely employed in collecting the medals you so frequently win. If agreeable to you, I propose, when at Toulouse, paying a visit to Madame Montegu , your inspiring muse; but upon this condition, that I shall not like you be obliged to converse with her in poetical language.
I have to tell you for news, that the jurats are now filling up all the excavations which they had made before the academy. If the Dutch had defended Bergen-op-zoom, as well as our intendant has defended his trenches, we should not have had a peace as yet. It is a terrible thing to have a litigable suit with an intendant. But in such a case it is a very agreeable thing to get the better of an intendant. If you have any manner of connection or acquaintance with M. de Larrey at the Hague, speak to him of the warm friendship we formerly had for each other. I am highly pleased to hear of the credit and estimation, in which he is held at the Stadt-holder’s court. He merits every degree of confidence with which he may be honoured. I embrace you, my dear friend, with all my heart.
From Raymond in Gascony, August 8, 1752.
YOUR letter, my dear count, informs me, that you are at Paris. I am astonished at my not being there too. The journey which I had been obliged to make to the abbey of Nisor, in company with my brother, and that lasted very near a month, has quite disconcerted all my measures; wherefore, upon calculating, I find, that I cannot be at Paris before the end of this month, or in the beginning of the next; for I am absolutely bent on seeing, and passing some weeks with you before your departure. It was very weak in you, my dear Abbé, that in consequence of your conjecturing I could not arrive so soon, you did not take possession of my apartment below stairs. I send orders to Mrs. Betty to receive you there, although she needs not any on that article. And I entreat that without farther ceremony, you will encamp yourself there. You think of going to Vienna; where, alas, within the course of two and twenty years since I have been there; I am inclined to believe I have lost all my acquaintance.
Prince Eugene was alive when I was there, and that great man made me to enjoy many happy hours with him . The Counts de Kinski, the Prince of Lichtenstein, the Marquis de Prié, the Count de Harak and all his family, which I had the honour of seeing at Naples, when he was Viceroy there, favoured me likewise with many marks of their kindness: all the rest are dead, and I believe I shall soon follow them. However, if you can make those who are alive remember me, you will do me a great pleasure. You are going to figure upon a new theatre, where I am sure you will acquit yourself as well as you have done every where else. The Germans are a good people, but somewhat suspicious. Be upon your guard, for they are diffident of the Italians, whom they look upon as a race of mortals too subtle for them; but they know likewise that the Italians are not useless to their interest, and therefore are too prudent to do without them.
You were much in the wrong, not to have come by la Brede, as you returned from Italy. I may now fafely say, that it is one of the most agreeable places in France, its castle excepted. So easily sports nature there, as in her Robe de Chamber, and as at her uprising from the flowery couch of gentle slumber. I have received from England an answer about the wine you made me send to Lord Elibank. He gives a most favourable account of it. I have received a commission for fifteen pipes more; which will enable me to finish my rustic house. The success of my work in that country, contributes I perceive, not a little to the success of my wine. My son will not fail to execute that commission. As for a certain person in question, he multiplies his injuries by the reciting acknowledgment he makes. He becomes more exasperated every day, and I become more calm in regard to him. He is for ever dead to me.
The Dean, who is now in my chamber, sends you a thousand compliments, and you are one of the canons in this world whom he honours the most. He, I, my wife, and children, esteem and love you, as if one of our family. I shall be highly pleased to begin an acquaintance with the Count de Sartiranne . When at Paris, it must be your business to give a favourable impression of me. I pray you will present my most affectionate compliments, to such of my friends as you shall see. But if you go to Montigni, it is there you must pour out the warmest effusions of my heart. You gentlemen of Italy, being remarkable for the pathetic; display, on this occasion, all the power in that walk with which nature has blest you. Make the utmost exertion of it to the Dutchess of Aiguillon, and Madam du pre de St. Maure; convince the latter of my most sincere attachment to her . I am of Lord Elibank’s opinion as to the truth of the picture which you made of her.
I must consult you upon an affair, and for this very good reason, that I have always found your advice prove advantageous to me. The ecclesiastical news-writer, has attributed to me in his paper, dated the fourth of June, a pamphlet which I have seen but very lately, and is called A Sequel of the defence of the Spirit of Laws, composed by a protestant, an able writer, and a man who has a great deal of wit . The ecclesiastical scribbler hath ascribed it to me with the sinister view of abusing me in the most atrocious terms. I have not thought proper to make any reply, 1st, through contempt; 2. because all those who are acquainted with the present train of literary affairs, know that I am not the author; so that the whole infamy of this charge recoils upon the calumniating caitiff. I do not know what may be the fashionable mode of thinking now in Paris, or whether, in case that this hackney-publication of scandal may have made the least impression upon any honest minds, to think me author of a composition, which certainly no Roman Catholic could write; would it be right for me, I say, to give a short answer, in a page or two, cum gran salis. If you should not deem it absolutely necessary, I renounce the very idea, as there is nothing I hate more than to make myself talked of. I should be glad to know if there be any relativeness between that business, and the Sorbonne affair. Sequestered as I am now in the country, I am ignorant of most things, and pleased with my ignorance. All this Sir, is between you and me. Let there not be any escape from you of my having written to you on the subject; because I have adopted it as a principle not to be desirous of re-entering the lists with contemptible adversaries. As I have found myself right for doing what you had desired me to do, when you so eagerly pressed me to write my defence; I shall undertake nothing about this matter, but in consequence of your answer.
Huart wants to give a new edition of the Persian Letters, but there are some exceptionable Juvenilia , that I would fain retouch first; although there is nothing so just, as that a Turk should see things, think, and speak, as a Turk, not as a Christian: and to this truth a great many readers of the Persian Letters do not make a proper attention.
I perceive that poor Clement the Fifth will fall a second time into oblivion, and that you are going to abandon the affairs of Philip le Bel, in order to take up with those of the present century. The history of my country and the republic of letters will be great losers, but the political world will gain considerably by such a manœuvre. Do not fail writing to me from Vienna: and do not forget to manage a continuation of your brother’s friendship to me. He is one of those military characters , which I look upon as predestined for bold enterprizes, and heroic actions. Farewell my dear Abbé, I embrace you with all my heart.
La Brede, October 4, 1752.
I HAVE received my dear Count your letter from Vienna, dated December 28. I am much afflicted at the loss of those who had honoured me with their friendship. The Prince Lichtenstein yet remains; whom I entreat you will address with all your powers of eloquence in my behalf. I have received some obliging marks of friendly regard from M. Duval, the Emperor’s librarian. This man does great honour to Lorain his native country . Be sure also, to say something for me to Mr. Van Sweiten, for I sincerely admire that celebrated Esculapius . I saw yesterday Mr. and Madame de Senectére. You know that I now no longer see any persons, but the fathers and the mothers in those families where I visit. We spoke a great deal about you. He seems to have a very sanguine friendship for you.
I have commenced an acquaintance with —— all I can say to you of him is, that he is a magnificent nobleman, and thoroughly satisfied with his own parts; but he is not our Marquis de Saint Germain, nor is he an ambassador from Piedmont . Many of those diplomatic heads are in too great a hurry to form a judgment of us; they ought first to study us a little longer. I should be very desirous of seeing the narratives relating to our internal affairs, as sent by certain ambassadors to their respective courts. Some indulgence must be made to ministers who are often imbibed with principles of arbitrary power for their not having precise notions upon certain articles, and for dealing in Apophthegms, to make up, as it were, for their deficiency of reason .
Sorbonne is always on the watch from some new attack against me; her bedoctered sons have been now two years at work, without knowing where to begin. If they provoke me to a retort, I believe I shall complete their interment . I should however be sorry to be forced to that necessity, because I love peace above all things.
It is now a fortnight since the Abbé Bonardi has sent to me a large packet to put in my letter for you; but as I very well know that it contains nothing but old rhapsodies which you would not read, I resolved on sparing you the postage, by keeping the letter until your return, or that you shall write to me to forward it to you, in case it should contain any thing else besides the news of the streets.
I have read with a great deal of pleasure, all that you write to me upon your own account. The obliging expressions of the empress to you do honour to her discernment, and the effects of the good opinion which she manifested to you, will do her still more honour. We have read here the answer of the king of England to the king of Prussia. It is looked upon (among us) as unanswerable. Now, you who are a doctor of the right of nations, may candidly judge of this affair in your own private opinion.
You have done very right in passing through Luneville. I judge from the satisfaction I had myself in making the like vogage, of that which you must have felt from the gracious reception of you by King Stanislaus. He insisted upon my promise of making another trip into Loraine. What an inexpressible joy if we both should meet there, at your return from Germany. The pressing manner with which the king solicits you in his gracious letter to touch once more at Loraine, should prevail upon you to take that road. And you are now you see, once more brothers in Apollo , wherefore in that quality I give you an hearty hug.
Paris, March 5, 1753.
I FEEL the cogency of your reasons, my dear Count, for not engaging yourself too hastily, but upon mature deliberation in this affair; yet I fancy that the contrary reasons for detaining you may preponderate, and that your patriotic spirit will yield to them. I now observe, and with pleasure, that what I had heard of the great care taken in the education of the archdukes, is incontrovertibly true. It is not enough to place near their persons merely learned men; no, they ought to be men of more elevated views, and who have a thorough knowledge of the world, and I believe, without any design of alarming your modesty, that through the energy of such requisites, nobody has a stronger claim to preference than you. The department of the study of history is one of the most important for a prince. But then he must be taught to consider it as a philosopher. It is very difficult for one of the regulars, who are men of a pedantic cast, and from their religious situation in life habituated in prejudices, to unfold it in this point of light, and especially where an occasion presents itself of debating upon times, both critical and interesting for the empire. If the court can take the thorn out of the department that is proposed to you, I am too great a friend to the interest of mankind not to advise you to bound over any difficulties that may seem to thwart your proceeding in this affair. With certain precautions the climate of Vienna may be rendered not more unfriendly to your eyes, than was that of Flanders, unless you prefer beer to tokay wine. Notwithstanding the established ceremonial of court etiquettes , I am convinced there is too much good sense in the court of Vienna to lose so valuable a man, for the sake of adhering to such unimportant trifles: and in this article I found an implicit reliance in the superior views of Maria Theresa. You may observe that I do not glance in the least to the brilliant fortune you may make there, because I know that it is not the object that concerns you most. I beg you will not conceal your resolution from me, nor the decision of the court, for whose sake I am as much interested as for yours.
If you continue in a free state, I advise you to persevere in prosecuting the enterprize you mentioned to me. A canon ought to be better qualified than a profane writer for treating on The Spirit of Ecclesiastical Laws. Your plan is very excellent, yet I think repose preferable to it; and therefore assign this career of glory to your indefatigable zeal. Adieu.
MY dear Sir, your titles encrease so fast, and to such a number, that I doubt if I can remember them.—Let me see—Count de Claviéres, Canon of Tournay, Knight of an Imperial Cross , Member of the Academy of Inscriptions, Fellow of the Royal Societies of London, Berlin, and of so many others, even down to the humble Academy of Bourdeaux—you deserve all these honours and still greater.
I am glad you have succeeded in the negociation for your chapter. It is a happiness for them to possess such a man as you, and they were right in deputing you to the court to transact their business, instead of detaining you at home to sing and drink; for I am certain that you negotiate as well as you sing badly and drink but poorly. I am sorry, however, for the miscarriage of that affair which regards you personally. You are not the only loser in consequence; but then you have your liberty, and let me tell you, that is no small article. This strict adherence to the court etiquette can produce no compensation for the loss incurred thereby—I strongly surmise there are other latent reasons besides that of the etiquette, and which the example of other courts might have encouraged to dispense with on the present occasion. When certain persons have rooted themselves about the throne of majesty, they never fail in studying reasons for the removal of able men, whom they should dread as too clear-sighted inspectors of their conduct. Moreover, you are not a bel esprit from the country of Liege, or of Luxemburg— as to the rest, I put my fingers on my lips.
Your letter has been delivered to me at la Brede where I now am. Like a complete rustic, I walk about from morning to night; and make many out of door fine improvements.
You are then set out for enchanting Italy. I suppose the gallery of Florence will detain you for a long time; independently of which, that city in my time, was a charming place to reside in; and what proved one of the most agreeable sights to me there, was to see the first minister of the Grand Duke seated before his door on a little wooden chair, in a short tight coat, with a straw hat on his head. Happy country said I to myself, where the first minister lives in so very simple a manner; and so totally disengaged from all the perplexing intrigues of a court life.
You will see the Marchioness de Feroni there, and Abbé Nicolini; mention me to them: embrace as a proxy for me the noble Cerati at Pisa. As for Turin, you know who are the objects of my esteem there, namely our Grand Prior, the Marquisses de Breil, and de Saint Germain. If any lucky occasion should offer itself, present my very dutiful respect to his most serene highness. If you write to the Count de Cobetuzel, at Bruxelles, I pray you to thank him for me, and to tell him how much I feel myself honoured with his favourable judgment in what concerns me. When there shall be ministers of state like him, then there may be hopes that the taste for literature will be revived in the Austrian states, and then you will hear no more of those groundless and erroneous propositions, at which you have been so much scandalized .
I believe I shall be in Paris at the time when you will come thither. I propose writing to the dutchess of d’Aiguillon to let her know how mortified you are at her having forgotten you. But my dear Abbé, the ladies do not remember all the knights who declare themselves their admirers without their having atchieved any exploits of knight errantry. I should be glad to have you eight days at la Brede, after your return from Rome; there would we talk of delicate Italy, and the stronger Germany.
Behold Voltaire unhous’d, and seeming not to know where he may rest his head , ut eadem tellus quæ modo victori defuerat, deesset ad sepulturam. Sound sense is a better implement to work with than brilliancy of wit.
You will be so good as to pay my court to the duke of Nivernois, when you shall see him in Rome. I do not think that you want any particular letter of recommendation to him; you are his brother academician; he knows you; however, if you should think one necessary, let me know it. Adieu.
La Brede, September 28, 1753.
I ARRIVED the night before last here from Bourdeaux; I have seen no body as yet, and am more desirous of writing to you, than of receiving or paying any visit whatsoever. I shall see Huart , and if he has not fulfilled your orders, will insist upon his executing them forthwith. You have greater credit with him than I have. I only give him words, you give him money.
It is very flattering for me that the Auditor Bertolini has found my book good enough for him to take the pains of making it better, and that he has relished my principles. I entreat that on the first opportunity you will procure for me a copy of Bertolini’s work. Nothing can be better written than his preface. All that he says there is just, except the encomiums. Say all the kind things you can for me to Abbé Nicolini. I hope dear Abbé, you will come to Paris this winter, and to the titles of Germany, and Italy join those of France. If you pass through Turin, you know my illustrious friends there, to whom pray speak of me, as I embrace you with all my heart.
Paris, December 26, 1754.
I HAVE been in Paris for some time, my dear Count. I begin by informing you, that our book man-midwife, Huart, has just been with me. He has given me very good reasons for having fretted you, and said that he will without loss of time forward your memorial, and an account to you of the sum due to him.
You have a box filled with the flowers of erudition, which you scatter plentifully on all the countries you pass through. It must be very flattering to you to have appeared with honour before the pope; for he is the pope of the learned; and the learned can do nothing better than to chuse for their head, the man who is head of the church. The offers that have been made, would have proved strong temptations to any other person but you, who do not let yourself be easily tempted, not even by the strong appearances of a fortune; although by your manly sentiments you should have already made one. The laudable acts you tell me of Count de Firmian , are not quite new to me. It is your duty to procure me the honour of his acquaintance; it is also your business to bring it about; and if you do not, it was very wicked in you to tell me so many fine things of him. I do not remember to have known at Rome the Father Contucci . The only Jesuit whom I knew there was the Father Vitri , who used to dine often at Cardinal Polignac’s. He was a man of much seeming importance; he made antique medals, and articles of faith. I have a right to expect that ere long you will write me a letter dated from the Herculaneum, where methinks I see you scouring through all the subterraneous regions. We receive various accounts from it. The articles you shall communicate, I will look upon as so many informations from a grave author. Do not be apprehensive of disgusting me with details, however plain or minute they may be.
I am entirely of your opinion concerning the Disputes with Malta . The order nevertheless, is perhaps one of the most respectable institutions in the universe, and that which contributes most to keep up the true spirit of honour and courage throughout the nations where it has diffused itself. Was it not a bold act in you to address to me, a Capuchin Friar? Were you not afraid lest I should read to him the Persian Letter against the Capuchins?
I shall be in the month of August at la Brede. O rus quando ego te Aspiciam; I am no longer fit for this metropolis, I must therefore renounce the leading of a city-life. If you should return by the southern provinces of France, you will find your old laboratory; and in return will give me some new hints about improving my woods, and my meadows. The great extent of my heaths present a fair opportunity to you of exercising your zeal for agriculture. Moreover, I hope that you have not forgotten your being proprietor of an hundred acres of heath, where you may dig up the earth, plant and fow as much as you please. Adieu, I embrace you with all my heart.
Paris, April 9, 1754.
MY dear Abbé, you must have received the letter I had written to you at Naples, and the one since addressed to you at Rome. I now no longer know in what part of the world you are. But as one of your letters marked August 13, I. 54, is dated from Bologna, and announces to me your approaching return to Paris, I address this letter to you at Turin, at your friend’s the Marquis de Barol.
I begin by thanking you for not having forgotten the wine of Roche-Maurin, and promise you that all due attention shall be paid in executing Lord Pembroke’s commission. It is to my friends, but especially to you, who are at any time worth ten others, that I owe the spreading reputation which my wine has acquired through Europe for these three or four years past. As to payment, that is an article, thank God, I am never in a hurry about. You have not told me if Lord Pembroke, who speaks to you of my wine, remembers my person. It is now about two years since I took leave of him, full of esteem and veneration for his excellent qualities. You do not take the least notice of M. de Cloire who was with him, a man of merit, very intelligent, and whom I should be very glad to see again. It would afford me the highest pleasure, if your affairs could permit your coming from Turin to Bourdeaux. Now you, who see every thing, why not be desirous of seeing again la Brede, and your friends who are all ready to receive you with acclamations, and repeated Io Pæans. But perhaps I shall see you in Paris—Take notice, you are to look no where for a lodging, but in my house; and the more so now that Mrs. Boyer, your Hostess heretofore, is deceased. When I shall have heard that you are arrived at Paris, then will I hasten my departure hence.
What the Pope has told you about the letter from Lewis XIV , to Clement XI, is indeed a curious anecdote. The confessor doubtless had not more difficulty to prevail on the king to promise that he would command a retractation to be made of the four propositions of the clergy; than he met with in making him promise to the Pope, that his bull should be received without contradiction. But kings cannot always make good their promises: because they often promise through too great a reliance on the supposed fidelity of designing men, who advise them according to their own interested views. Farewell my dear Count, I salute and embrace you a thousand times.
La Brede, November 3, 1754.
I BEGIN by embracing you in every form. I have the honour of presenting to you a M. de la Condamine, member of the academy of science in Paris. You know his fame, but it is still better to know his person; and therefore it is that I present him to you, because in my sense you are all Italy to me. Do not forget I entreat you, the man who loves, honours, and esteems you more than any other person in this world.
Bourdeaux, December 1, 1754.
PERMIT me, dear Abbé, to remind you of a former friend. I recommend to you M. de la Condamine, shall say nothing more to you of him, than that he is one of my friends; his great fame will tell you many other things, but his presence still more. My dear Abbé, I shall love you until death.
Bourdeaux, December 1, 1754.
WELCOME my dear Count. I do not doubt but my house-keeper has taken care to have your bed well warmed— Wearied as you must have been by running post day and night, and your several trips to Fontainbleau. All these little attentions are necessary, in order to recover you from your late fatigue. You are not to leave my apartment, nor Paris, before my arrival there, unless your business to that city were only to give me the disagreeable information that I shall not see you more. I find you are bent upon going to Flanders. I would there were as sufficient reasons for your tarrying with us, besides those of friendship. But, I perceive, that our bishops will no longer stand in need of any better co-operators, than the D****.
Could you have believed, that a lacquey metamorphosed into a fanatical priest, and preserving always the mean sentiments of his original state, should nevertheless start up to figure as one of the dignitaries in a certain chapter. I have many things to communicate if I see you in Paris, as I hope I shall; for you certainly cannot be angry with, and punish a friend, who sets out on a chace after you, from the moment he gets intelligence where you may be found.
I am very glad that his royal Highness the Duke of Savoy, has deigned to accept the dedication of your Italian Translation; which by the rebound is most flattering to me, on finding that my work is to make its appearance in Italy, under such illustrious and lucky auspices. I have just finished the reading of your translation, and I have throughout observed that all my thoughts are rendered with as much perspicuity as justness. Your dedication is very well imagined, but I am not a sufficient master of the Italian to be able to pronounce accurately on the merits of so elegant a stile.
I think that both the project, and the plan of your treatise upon the Statutes, are interesting and beautiful. My curiosity is all awake to see it. Farewell.
La Brede, December 2, 1754.
ON account of the uncertainty I am in, whether you will wait for me or not, I write to you once more, before my departure. You are a canon of Tournay; and I cultivate meadows; I shall want fifty pounds weight of the seed of the Flanders trefoil, which may be sent to me from Dunkirk by Bourdeaux. I hope you will be so kind as to charge some friend of yours at Tournay with this commission, for which I shall pay you as a gentleman, or what is much better as a merchant, and when you come to la Brede, you shall see your trefoil bloom in all its glory. Remember, Sir, that all my meadows are of your creation; they are children whose education you are still to superintend. I shall certainly see you soon, but that must not hinder you from telling agreeable accounts of the Pretender to Mrs. Betty . She will be the more careful of you in consequence. I will notify to you by a letter on purpose the day of my arrival, which at present is unknown to me. But were I not to write, and should appear before you without any previous information given; in such a case I say, you can readily move your night-sack, your breviary, and your medals, into my son’s apartment. When next you see Madame Dupreé de St. Maure, ask that lady if she has received a letter from me. Present my respects to her, and to Mr. de Trudaine our very valuable friend. Abbé, once more I say, wait for me.
Since you are of opinion that I should write to the Auditor Bertolini, I inclose a letter to you, for him. I embrace you with all my heart.
La Brede, December 5, 1754.
I HAVE read two articles in your preface, Sir, with which I am greatly pleased; and take up my pen to certify it to you: and although I have seen them through the medium of self-love, being decorated thereby as for a triumphant festival, yet I think I should not have espied so many beauties, if they had not a real existence. There is one place in particular, which I pray you will retrench, that is concerning the English; and where you say, that I have given a more striking picture of their form of government than any given by their own authors. If the English find this to be so, from the more intimate acquaintance which they must have from their own books, we may be sure, that they will be generous enough to declare it; therefore let us renounce that affair to their decision. I cannot refrain from telling you, Sir, how much I was astonished at your being so thorough a master of our language. I have many thanks to pay you, Sir, for your apology in my behalf, that proceeded from your having understood my work so well, against people who so perversely, or so little understand it, and concerning whom one might safely lay a wager, that they had never read it; I am otherwise very well pleased, and congratulate myself, that some passages in my work, have furnished you with an occasion of making the great queen’s eulogium. I have the honour, Sir, of being with the most genuine sentiments of respect and esteem, your, &c.
La Brede, December 5, 1754.
EVERY thing duly considered, I cannot as yet resolve on giving my romance of Arsaces to be printed . The triumph of connubial love in the eastern parts of the world, is of so different a complexion from our manners, as that there is no great likelihood of its being well received in France. I will bring this manuscript with me to town, there we will read it together. I propose likewise to lend it to some friends for their critical inspection.
As to my several voyages, I assure you that I mean to arrange them on the first leisure time that I shall have; and we will consult in Paris about the properest mode of exhibiting them . There are too many persons yet living, of whom I make mention in this intended publication. I jump not implicitly in with the system of those, who advised M. de Fontenelle, to empty the sack before his demise. The printing of his comedies pursuant to that advice, has not added in the least to his reputation.
Since you sometimes plume yourself on being an antiquarian, I do not perceive that there can be any inconvenience in giving your collection this title, The Gallery of the political Portraits of this Age, and I, who am no antiquarian, should prefer it to that of The Gallery of Statues. You think perhaps that such a work can be calculated only for the age to come, to which one may be useful without incurring any risk of danger; for as you justly observe, the characters and personal qualities of statesmen and ministers having so great an influence on all public affairs as well as political events, the entrance of their sanctuary might prove perilous to uninitiated and profane medlers. Farewell.
La Brede, December 8, 1754.
YOU were present yesterday at the dispute I had with Mr. de Mairan concerning the Chinese . I am afraid I have been too warm upon that matter, and I should have been very much hurt to have given that excellent man any cause of uneasiness. If you dine to day at M. Trudain’s, you will probably meet him there; and should you, I pray sound him a little in order to know if he has taken any thing I said in an unfriendly part. According as you shall report, I will take such measures towards him as cannot fail of convincing him, that I had no unkind intention, and that I entertain the highest regard for his merit and friendship.
ALL your excellence can urge is in vain, I do not find the excusatory reasons which you advance with so much art, are a sufficient plea for the scarceness of your writing; therefore will not pardon it, but be revenged on your neglect, by addressing you in a ceremonious manner.
I must first tell you as an article of news, that a counsellor of our parliament has been sent into exile for having lent his pen to the dressing up of a remonstrance, which the body thought it their duty to present to his majesty. But what is most extraordinary, not to say incredible, in this affair, is that the sentence of exile was inflicted, without the remonstrance having been read.
Abbé de Guasco is returned from his tour to London, with which he is highly satisfied. He talks with the highest encomiums of M. and Madame de Mirepoix to whom you recommended him. He says they are greatly beloved in that city. Our Abbé is highly enraptured with the success of inoculation; and to become master of the practice, gave himself the trouble of attending a course.—He brought himself into a scrape the other day, by venturing to praise that salutary measure in the presence of the Dutchess de Maine at Sceaux. He was treated as all other apostles have been at their first daring to preach of truths unknown.
The dutchess became quite furious on the occasion, declaring it was quite obvious to every body, that he had contracted the ferocity of the English during his short stay in their island, that it was scandalously shameful for a man of his sacred character to speak in behalf of a practice so repugnant to humanity. I doubt much that his apostolic zeal in favour of inoculation, will contribute towards the making of his fortune in Paris. How could he take it into his head I wonder, to think that an Asiatic custom passing through the hands of the English into Europe, and recommended to us by a stranger, could ever succeed, or be thought useful among the natives of France, who overweeningly in our own behalf, believe ourselves to be specially invested from above, with the exclusive privilege of instituting new fashions, and establishing the bon ton in every thing.
The Abbé is intent on a journey to Italy in the next spring. He desires me to assure you that he pleases himself before hand with the idea of seeing you at Turin. I wish I could partake of this happiness in company with him. But I believe that my old castle and my vats will soon call me to the country; for since the peace my wine becomes more and more in vogue amongst the English, nay much more so than even my book. I pray you will speak for me in the tenderest terms to the Marquis de Breille, and that you will soon communicate to me some news concerning the two persons whom I love and respect the most in the city of Turin.
IT is your majesty’s goodness in my behalf, that your academy is to form an opinion of whatever my pretensions to merit may be. From your royal vouching who doubt my being possest of a great deal. A laudable zeal impels me to seize on every occasion that may draw me nearer to the sphere of your royal influence: and when I reflect on the many great qualities that centre in your majesty, admiration would fain extort expressions from which respect commands me to with-hold.
HOW can I do otherwise, Sir, but think most favourably of the future progress of my literary society, from the moment of its having inspired you with a desire of being admitted. A name so distinguished in the republic of letters as yours is, and a merit still greater than that name, must prove very flattering to the academy; and whatever circumstance or incident is so to her, affords a real pleasure to me. I have lately been present at one of the private meetings. Your letter to me which I ordered to be read, caused a general joy; whose animating sentiments they are soon to communicate to you. This joy would still be greater, could the society flatter themselves with the pleasure of possessing you now and then. Such a happiness of which the members know well the value, would be an additional one to me, who should be highly and truly pleased to see you again at my court. My sentiments in regard to you, are invariably the same, and I shall never cease to be most sincerely yours. Sir, your very affectionate
stanislaus, king .
I DO not know any better method of returning my thanks to your literary society, than by paying a tributary homage before I am called upon for one, and by discharging the duty of an academician from the moment of my having been nominated. In this tract I make a monarch speak, whose great qualities had raised him to the throne of Asia, and on whom the same very great qualities had brought the severest reverses of fortune. I paint him as the father of the country, as the love, and the delight of the people. I thought this subject was better suited to your society than to any other, and to whose members I pray you will present my most respectful compliments.
Paris, April 4, 1751.
[Extracted from an English Gazette of August 16.]
I MOST thankfully acknowledge the receipt of two performances which you have been so obliging as to send me, as well as the letter which you have honoured me with, concerning the Posthumous Works of Lord Bolingbroke; but as this letter relates to me more particularly than the works that accompany it, in which all those who are endowed with any reason have an equal share, it must affect me with a particular pleasure.
I have read some of Lord Bolingbroke’s Works, and if I may be allowed to speak my sentiments thereon, he certainly has a great deal of fire; but he seems to me to employ it commonly against things, whereas he should employ it only in painting the very things. In those posthumous works of which you give me a very clear idea; he seems to have prepared a continual matter of triumph for you. He who attacks revealed religion, attacks but revealed religion; but he who attacks natural religion, attacks all the religions in the world. If men are taught that they are not to curbed by one bridle, yet they may think themselves restrainable by another; but how much more pernicious is it to teach them that they are not to own any.
It cannot be deemed impossible to attack a revealed religion, because it is founded upon particular facts; and that facts, from their nature, may be even liable to adispute. But it is not so with natural religion, it is derived from the essence of man, which cannot be disputed, and from the interior sentiments of man which also cannot be disputed. To this assertion I think it not improper to add the following question; What can be the motive now for attacking revealed religion in England, where it has been so effectually purged of all destructive prejudices, as that it can do no hurt, but on the contrary produce an infinite deal of good?
I am very sensible, that a man in Spain or Portugal, who is condemned to be burnt, or fears to be burnt, because he does not believe in certain articles of faith, depending or not depending upon a revealed religion, has very just reason for attacking it; because by so doing, he may conceive some hopes of contributing to his own natural safety. But the same argument cannot be made use of in England, where every man who attacks revealed religion, attacks it without any view of an accruing interest. Because this opponent, even through success, with all the cogent apparatus of reason on his side, must overturn usual practices, good in themselves, to establish in their place a merely speculative truth. I have been charmed with your work, Sir, &c. montesquieu.
I HAVE received, madam, the very obliging letter, with which you were pleased to honour me, as I was setting out from la Brede to Paris. I shall remain however, seven or eight days at Bourdeaux for the settling of a law suit I have there. The motive of my departure hence is not to wait on the faculty of Sorbonne, but on you. I quit la Brede with regret, and the more so, because I learn from every quarter, that Paris at this time is very dull. I have received within these three or four days a very original letter; it is from a burgher of Paris, who owes me some money; he prays me to wait for his payment until the return of parliament; my answer to him was, that he might have fixed upon a more certain time.
The small-pox is a terrible pest to human society; it is a second death, added to that to which we are all destined by nature. The smiling pictures which Homer draws of dying persons, as of the flower that falls under the reaper’s hook, cannot be applied to the death caused by this horrid malady.
I should have had the honour of sending you those chapters you were pleased to desire, but from your information since, that you were no longer in the place, where you should have liked to shew them—I propose however, carrying them with me to town. You shall correct them, and tell me in one place without reserve, “I don’t like that passage,” and in another, “You should have expressed yourself thus”—I beseech you, madam, that you will deign graciously to receive the most respectful sentiments of montesquieu.
La Brede, December 3, 1753.
I HAVE not courage enough, Sir, to relate to you the malady, and much less the death of M. de Montesquieu. Neither the assistance of physicians, nor tender care of friends could save so valuable a man. I judge of your affliction by my own, “Quis desiderio sit pudor tam Cari capitis”—The anxiety of the public during his malady, the universal regret of all ranks of people, his majesty’s declaration that the loss of such a man was irreparable , refiect great honour on his memory, but afford no consolation to his friends. Heaven, how I feel for the fatal event! The impression of such an affecting spectacle, and the deep-felt grief in consequence, can be effaced only by the help of time—But the loss of a man, like him, to society, must be for ever lamented by all those who had the happiness of knowing his merit. I did not quit him till he became quite senseless , and that was about eighteen hours before his death; Madam du Preé was equally attentive to a dying friend. The Chevalier de Jaucour did not leave him till the very last moment, just as he expired. I am, most worthy Abbé, your devoted servant, &c.
De Pontchartain, February, 17, 1755.
I COULD not read your letter from Florence dated the 8th of February, without a mixed sense of the highest pleasure, and of the warmest gratitude. I have long known by reputation, Marquis Nicolini, and the nobly born Cerati. I have heard my father speak of them an hundred times, in the most affectionate terms, and which painted in the most lively manner, that mutual sympathy which glowed between their souls and his. I chearfully accept of your offer , and theirs; they are too honourable to the memory of my father, not to accede to them with all due respect, and tenderness of gratitude.
Some academicians I know, will contribute with pleasure towards the expence. But we can lay no very great stress upon such assistance. I even cannot take upon me to say how far their generosity might stretch on this occasion. I do not know whether we Frenchmen may be chargeable with too much vanity, if we think that our sculptors are equally excellent with those of Italy. A bargain however, was actually made with M. le Moine, who is a most generous and disinterested man.
The French academy, having desired to have a portrait of my father, and the most famous painters of Paris, having refused to undertake the task, on account of the obvious difficulty against succeeding, from the assistance only of a medal that was struck off by some English artists. Notwithstanding this impediment, Mr. le Moine, has most obligingly offered his service, to assist a young painter with the help of a large medallion, which he has been so kind as to make a very strong resemblance of the small medal. Now, M. le Moine from having imprinted on his mind the figure of my father, will be better enabled than any other artist, to execute a bust of him in marble. He has moreover preserved the model he has made, which he has shewn to several persons who knew my father intimately, and who have pointed out to him whatever faults were remaining in his former efforts, which certainly is another reason for his succeeding in a work of consequence.
Bourdeaux, March 25, 1765.
I perceive that you have not received the letter I had the honour of writing to you from Paris, in which I have amply explained myself concerning the Bust for the author of The Spirit of Laws—The Prince of Beauvau having been appointed commander of Guienne in 1765, seemed dcsirous of obtaining a seat in the academy of Bourdeaux; which was immediately offered to him, and he accepted of. He prayed the Academicians would have no objection to his presenting them with a marble bust of the author of The Spirit of Laws, to be placed in their Assembly Room, which request was assented to with the warmest gratitude. M. le Moine is now at work upon this Bust, and it will soon be finished.
If your noble friend Mr. Cerati, and the Marquis Nicolini might be desirous of becoming foreign associates to the academy of Bourdeaux; I should glory in proposing them, through the principles of esteem and gratitude—I am not ignorant that a thousand advantages and recommendatory things may be said in their behalf; for my father never used to speak to me of them but with the most friendly and respectful sentiments—Now, as I do not exactly remember all he has said to me on their account, I shall be enabled to speak better of them through your instructions, which pray do not fail communicating to me: moreover, as an old member of our Academy, you are in duty bound to interest yourself in whatever may contribute to its glory.
end of the familiar letters.
BY bestowing upon me the place of M. de Sacy, you have not so much taught the public what I am, as what I ought to be.
It was not your intention to compare me with him, but to point him out to me as a model.
Formed for society, he was amiable, he was useful in it: his manners were easy and agreeable; his morals were strict and severe.
To a fine genius he joined a still more excellent heart: the qualities of his head held only the second place in him; they were an ornament to his merit, but not its principal source.
He wrote to instruct; and while instructing, he always made himself be beloved. Every thing in his works breathes a spirit of candor and probity. They make us feel and confess the goodness of his heart: we never discover the great man, but along with the man of honour.
He followed virtue from natural inclination; he was still more attached to it by his studies. He was of opinion that having wrote upon morality, it became him to be more strict in his conduct than others; that there could be no excuse for him, since he had laid down the rules of duty; that it would be ridiculous if he himself could not do what he believed all men capable of doing; that it would be an abandoning of his own maxims; and that he would at the same time have had reason to blush for what he had done, and for what he had said.
In what a noble manner did he exercise his profession? All who stood in need of his assistance became his friends. At the end of each day, he hardly met with any other reward but that of some additional good action: always less rich, and always more disinterested, he hath left his children scarce any thing more than the honour of having had so illustrious a father.
Gentlemen, you love virtuous men; you do not overlook, even in the finest genius, any ill quality of the heart; and you look upon talents, without virtue, as fatal presents, only proper to add strength to our vices, or to render them more conspicuous.
And by this you are indeed worthy of those great protectors who have intrusted you with their glory, who have wished to be transmitted down to posterity, but who have wished to be so along with you.
Many orators and poets have celebrated them; but it is only you who have been established to render them, so to speak, a perpetual homage.
Full of zeal and admiration for those great men; you are always a recalling them to our remembrance. You are continually celebrating them; and yet so surprising is the effect of your art, your eulogiums appear always new.
You always excite our admiration and wonder, when you celebrate that great minister, who out of chaos reduced the rules of monarchy to a regular system; who taught France the secret of her strength, Spain that of her weakness; freed Germany from her chains, gave her new ones; broke every power in its turn, and destined, so to speak, Lewis the Great for the great actions which he afterwards performed.
You never resemble each other in your Eloges of that chancellor, who neither abused the confidence of kings, nor the obedience and submission of the people; and who, in the exercise of magistracy, was without passion like the laws, which absolve and punish without love or hatred.
But above all we are charmed to behold you with emulation strive to draw the portrait of Lewis the Great, that portrait every day begun and never finished, every day more advanced and more difficult. Hardly can we conceive the wonders of that reign which you celebrate. When you represent to us sciences every where encouraged, arts protected, Belles Lettres cultivated, we imagine we hear you talking of a reign of peace and tranquility. When you sing of wars and victories, you seem to us to be relating the history of some nation rushing from the north to change the face of the earth. Here we see the king, there the hero. It is thus that a majestic river is turned into a torrent that destroys every thing that opposes its passage: it is thus that the sky appears to the husbandman clear and serene, whilst, in the neighbouring country, it is covered over with fire, lightning and thunder.
Gentlemen, you have associated me with yourselves in your labours, you have raised me to your own dignity; and I return you thanks for permitting me to know you better, and more nearly to behold and admire you.
I return you thanks for giving me a particular right to write the actions of our young monarch. May he delight to hear those encomiums which are given to pacific princes! May that immense power which is put in his hands, be a pledge of the happiness of all! May all the earth repose itself under his throne! May he be the king of one nation, and the protector of every other! May every people love him; may his subjects adore him; and may there not be one single person in the universe who shall grieve at his happiness, or dread his prosperity! May those fatal jealousies, which render men the enemies of men, at last perish! May human blood, that blood which always pollutes the earth, be spared! And that this great object may be obtained, may that minister who is necessary to the world, who is such a one as the people of France should have asked of heaven, continue to give counsels which penetrate the heart of a prince always ready to do every good action that is proposed to him, or to repair that ill which he was not the author of, and which time has produced!
Lewis has shewn, that as people are subjected to the laws, princes are so to their promises, which are sacred: that great kings who cannot be so by any other power, are invincibly bound by those chains which they make for themselves, like that God whose representatives they are, who is always independant, and always faithful to his promises. How many virtues does a faith, so religiously observed, presage! Such shall be the destiny of France, that after having been agitated under the Valois, settled under Henry, aggrandized under his successor, victorious or invincible under Lewis the Great, it shall be perfectly happy under him who shall not be obliged to conquer, and who shall place all his glory in governing.
ACCORDING to the present constitution of our being, the soul enjoys three sorts of pleasure. That derived from its very existence; that which results from its union with the body; and that founded upon the turn and prejudices it has received from certain institutions, customs, and habits.
It is the different pleasures of the soul which form the objects of taste; as, the beautiful, the good, the agreeable, the simple, the delicate, the tender, the graceful, the inexpressible charm, the noble, the grand, the sublime, the majestic, &c. For example, when we receive pleasure from the view of what we perceive to be useful to ourselves, we say that it is good; when we feel pleasure in beholding it, without perceiving any present advantage, we call it beautiful.
This the antients did not properly distinguish; they considered all the relative qualities of the mind as merely positive: hence those dialogues in which Plato makes Socrates reason, those dialogues so much admired by the antients, are at present insupportable, because they are founded upon a false philosophy; for all reasonings drawn from the good, the beautiful, perfect, wise, foolish, hard, soft, dry, wet, when treated as things positive, are now of no weight.
The sources of the beautiful, the good, the agreeable, &c. are then in ourselves, and to inquire into their causes, is to inquire into the causes of our mental pleasures.
Let us then examine the mind; let us study it in its actions, and in its passions; let us seek for it in its pleasures, it is there where it shows itself most. Poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture, music, dancing, the different kinds of games, and in a word the works of nature and art, can give it pleasure: let us see why, how, and when, they give it; let us endeavour to account for our sensations: this may contribute to form the taste; which is nothing else but an ability of discovering, with delicacy and quickness, the degree of pleasure which every thing ought to give to man.
THE soul, independently of those pleasures it derives from the senses, has some which it would have without them, and are proper to itself. Such are those it derives from curiosity, the ideas of its own grandeur and perfections, the idea of its existence, opposed to the thought of annihilation, the pleasure of embracing the whole of a general idea, that of viewing a multiplicity of objects at once, and that of comparing, joining, and separating ideas. These pleasures are, from the nature of the soul, independent of the senses, because they belong to every being that thinks: and it is of small consequence to examine here, whether the soul has these pleasures, as a substance united to the body, or as separated from it, because it always has them, and they are the objects of taste: on which account we shall not distinguish here the pleasures that flow from the nature of the soul, from those that result from its union with the body; these we shall call natural pleasures, and distinguish them from those which the soul creates to itself, by certain associations with these natural pleasures; and in the same manner, and for same reason, we shall distinguish natural and acquired taste.
It is proper we should know the sources of those pleasures of which taste is the judge. The knowledge of natural and acquired pleasures may serve to rectify our natural and acquired taste. We must begin with considering the nature of our being, and know what its pleasures are, to be able at last to measure those pleasures, and even sometimes to feel them.
If the soul had not been united to the body, it would have had clear intelligence, and it is probable that it would have loved what it fully understood: at present we scarcely love any thing that we are thoroughly acquainted with.
Our manner of existing is entirely arbitrary; we might have been made as we are, or otherwise: but if we had been made otherwise, we should have had different feelings; one organ, more or less, in our machine, would have given rise to another kind of eloquence, another kind of poetry; a different contexture of the same organs would have still produced another sort of poetry; for example, if the constitution of our organs had rendered us capable of a longer attention, all the rules about proportioning the disposition of a subject to the measure of our attention, would have been at an end; if we had been made capable of more penetration, all the rules founded upon the degree of our penetration, would have fallen to the ground. In a word, all the laws formed from the contexture of our machine would be different if our machine was not formed in that manner.
If our sight had been weaker, and more confused, fewer mouldings, and greater uniformity, would have been necessary in the parts of architecture; if it had been more distinct, and the mind capable of embracing more things at once, more ornaments would have been proper in architecture: if our ears had been made as those of certain animals, our musical instruments must have been much altered. I am very sensible, that the relations which things have among themselves would have subsisted; but the relation which they have with us being changed, things which at present have a certain effect upon us, would have it no more: and as the perfection of art consists in presenting things to us in such a way as to give us the greatest pleasure possible, there must have been a change made in the arts, because there must have been one made in the manner most proper to give us pleasure.
We are at first ready to believe that the knowledge of the different sources of our pleasure is sufficient to constitute taste; and that when we know what philosophy has told us on the subject, we have taste, and may boldly judge of works. But natural taste is not a theoretical knowledge; it is a quick and exquisite application of rules which we do not even know. It is not necessary to know, that the pleasure we receive from any thing we think beautiful, arises from surprise; it is enough that it does surprise us, and that it surprises as much as it ought, and that neither more nor less.
Thus what may here be said, and all the precepts that might be given to form the taste, can only relate immediately and directly to that which is acquired; though it may have an indirect relation to natural taste: for the acquired taste affects, changes, augments, and diminishes the natural taste; as the natural taste affects, changes, augments, and diminishes that which is acquired.
The most general definition of taste, without considering whether it be good or bad, just or not, is that arising from sensation; but this does not prevent its being applied to things that are intellectual, the knowledge of which gives such pleasure to the soul, that by some philosophers it was considered as the only felicity. The soul understands by its ideas, and by its sensations; it receives pleasure by those ideas and those sensations: for though we oppose idea to sensation, yet while it sees a thing, it feels it; and there are no objects so intellectual, that it does not see, or believs it sees, and consequently that are not felt.
Among the faculties of the mind are genius, good sense, discernment, justness, capacity, and taste.
The existence of these faculties consists in having the organs well constituted relatively to the things to which these faculties are applied. If this disposition of mind is very particular, it is named a talent or capacity for any thing; if it has an intimate connection with certain delicate pleasures, it is called taste; if it is a disposition or turn peculiar to a people, it is called their spirit; as the art of war and agriculture among the Romans, hunting among the savages, &c.
The soul is made to think, that is, to perceive; now such a being must have curiosity; for as all things are in a chain, where every idea precedes one, and is followed by another, we cannot like to see one thing, without desiring to see another; and if we had no desire for this, we could have no pleasure in that. Thus, when a part of a picture is shewed us, we wish to see the part that is concealed from us, in proportion to the pleasure which that part we have seen has given us.
It is then the pleasure which one object gives us that incites us to follow another; it is on this account that the soul is always in pursuit of novelty, and is never at rest.
Thus, we shall always be certain of pleasing the mind, by making it see a great many things, or more than it had hoped to see.
By this we may explain the reason why we behold with pleasure a very regular garden, and at the same time are pleased when we view a rural uncultivated scene: it is the same cause which produces these effects.
As we love to see a great many objects, we wish to extend our view, to be in different places and to enlarge our prospects; in short, the mind stretches beyond all bounds, and wishes, if I may use the expression, to extend the sphere of its presence: hence arises the pleasure of viewing distant objects. But how is this to be done? in cities our prospect is confined by houses; and in the country, by a thousand obstacles; scarce can we see a few trees. But here art comes to our assistance, and discovers nature who seeks to be concealed; hence we are in love with art, and admire her more than nature, that is, than nature concealed from our sight: but when we find beautiful situations, when the eye, left at liberty, can range far over the meadows, the rivulets, the hills, and those dispositions of nature, which are in a manner created on purpose to captivate the eye, we are quite otherwise enchanted than when we view the gardens of Le Notre; because nature is always an original, and art only copies her. Thus in painting we are better pleased with a rural landskip, than with the most beautiful garden upon earth; because painting chuses nature only where she is most beautiful, where the eye can extend its view as far as it can reach, and where she may be seen with most pleasure.
That which commonly constitutes a great idea, is, when something is said, that makes us perceive a great many others, and discovers to us all at once what we could not have expected but after a great deal of reading.
Florus, in a few words, represents to us all Hanibal’s faults; “When he might, says he, have made use of his victory, he chose rather to enjoy it:” Cum victoria posset uti, frui maluit.
He gives us an idea of the whole Macedonian war, when he says, “To have entered into it was victory:” Introisse victoria fuit.
He gives us a view of the whole life of Scipio, when, speaking of his youth, he says, “This will be that Scipio, who grows up for the destruction of Africa:” Hic erit Scipio qui in exitium Africæ crescit. You think you see a child who increases and grows up like a giant.
In a word, he makes us see the great character of Hanibal, the state of the world, and all the grandeur of the Roman people, when he says, “Hanibal, a fugitive from Africa, sought over all the world an enemy to the Roman people.” Qui profugus ex Africa, hostem populo Romano quærebat.
It is not enough to present a great many objects to the soul; they must be presented with order: for then we remember what we have seen, and we begin to imagine what we shall see; our mind congratulates itself on its own extent and penetration: but in a work where there is no order, the mind, every moment, finds that order, into which it wishes to put things, quite embroiled. The series which the author has formed, and that which we make to ourselves, clash together; the mind retains nothing, foresees nothing: it is mortified by the confusion of its ideas, by the ignorance in which it remains; it is in vain fatigued, and can enjoy no pleasure: on which account, when the design is not to express or shew confusion, they always put a sort of order in confusion itself: thus painters make a group of their figures; thus those who paint battles, place, upon the most conspicuous place of the picture, those objects which the eye ought to distinguish, and what is disordered and confused in the most remote and least obvious place.
But if order in objects is necessary, variety is so also: without this the soul grows languid; for objects, which resemble each other, appear to it to be the same; and if one part of a picture, which is shewn us, should resemble another which we have seen, this object would be new without appearing to be so, and would afford us no pleasure. And, as the beauties of the works of art consist in the pleasures which they afford us, they ought to be made as fit as possible to vary those pleasures; the mind ought to be shewn objects which it has not seen; the sentiment it is inspired with ought to be different from that which it had before.
It is thus that histories please us by the variety of relations; romances, by the variety of prodigies; theatrical pieces, by the variety of passions; and that they, who know properly how instruct us, vary, as much as they can, the uniform strain of instruction.
A long uniformity renders any thing insupportable; the same order of periods a great while continued, quite fatigues us in an oration; the same numbers, and the same cadences, make a long poem extremely tiresome. If it be true that they have finished the famous road from Moscow to Petersburg, the traveller must be tired to death, shut up between the two rows of that alley; and one, who should travel a long time upon the Alps, would come down from them disgusted with situations most agreeable, and points of view the most charming.
The soul loves variety; but it does not love it, as we have said, but because it is formed to know and to see: it must then be possible for it to see, and the variety must permit it to do so; that is to say, an object must be simple enough to be perceived, and varied enough to be perceived with pleasure.
There are some things which appear varied, and are not so; and others which appear uniform, and are much varied.
The Gothic architecture appears extremely varied, but the confusion of its ornaments fatigues us by their smallness; which makes it impossible for us to distinguish them from each other, and their number prevents the eye from fixing upon any one of them; so that it disgusts us by those very parts which were intended to render it agreeable.
A building of the Gothic order is a kind of riddle to the eye which beholds it; and the mind is embarassed in the same way as when an obscure poem is presented to it.
The Grecian architecture, on the contrary, appears uniform, but as it has as many divisions as it ought, and as are proper to make the Mind see precisely as much as it can without being fatigued, and at the same time enough to give it employment, has that Variety which makes it be beheld with pleasure.
Great objects ought to have great parts; large men have large arms, great trees have great branches, huge mountains are divided into other mountains bigger and less in proportion; ’tis the nature of things which does this.
The Grecian architecture, which has few divisions and grand ones, imitates the nature of things; the Soul is struck with a certain majesty, which every where abounds in it.
’Tis thus that painting divides, into groupes of three or four figures, what it represents in a picture; it imitates Nature; a numerous troop is always divided into platoons; ’tis thus too that the painter makes grand divisions of his light and shade.
I have said that the mind loves variety: however, in most things, it loves to see a certain symmetry. This seems to imply a sort of contradiction: I thus explain it.
One of the principal causes of the pleasure of our Soul, when it perceives objects, is the facility with which it perceives them; and the reason that makes proportion please the Mind, is, that it saves it trouble, that it gives it ease, and that, so to speak, it cuts the work into halves.
From this a general rule is derived; every where that symmetry is useful to the soul, and can assist its functions, it is agreeable to it; but wherever it is useless to it, it is insipid because it takes away variety. Now those things which we see in succession ought to have variety, for our mind has no difficulty to perceive them; those, on the contrary, which we perceive all at once, ought to have symmetry. Thus, as we perceive with one glance of our eye the front of a building, a parterre, a temple, they are with propriety proportioned; which pleases the Mind by that facility which it gives it of embracing all at once the whole object.
As it is necessary that an object, which we ought to see all at once, should be simple, it is necessary too that it be one, and that all its parts have a relation to the principal object: it is for this reason also that we love symmetry, it makes an united whole.
It is according to Nature, that a whole be compleat, and the Mind, which sees this whole, wishes that it may have no part imperfect. It is on this account also that we love symmetry; there must be a sort of poising or balancing; and a building with one wing, or one wing shorter than another, is as unfinished, as a body with one arm, or one arm too short.
The soul loves symmetry, it also loves contrasts; this requires to be a good deal explained. For example; if Nature requires of painters and sculptors to proportion the parts of their figures, it requires also that they contrast their different attitudes. One foot placed like another, one member extended like another, are insupportable; the reason of it is, because this symmetry makes the attitudes be almost always the same; which we may observe in Gothic figures, which by this almost always resemble each other; thus there is no more variety in the works of Art. Besides, Nature has not made us thus, and, as she has given us motion, she has not formed us in our actions and manners like pagods; and if men thus stiff and constrained are intolerable, what must it be in the productions of art.
The attitudes must then be contrasted, especially in works of sculpture, which, naturally languid, cannot be animated but by the force of contrast and situation.
But, as we said that the variety which they have endeavoured to give the Gothic, has made it quite uniform; it has often happened, that that variety, which they have endeavoured to give us by the means of contrasts, has become a vicious symmetry and uniformity.
This is not perceived in certain works of painting and sculpture only, but also in the style of some writers, who, in every phrase, contrast the beginning with the end by perpetual antitheses; such as St. Augustine and other authors of the low Latin, and some of our moderns, as St. Evremont. The turn of the phrase always the same, and always uniform, displeases extremely; this perpetual contrast becomes Symmetry, and this opposition always studiously sought for becomes uniformity.
The mind finds so little variety in it, that when you have seen one part of the phrase, you guess at the other: you see words opposed to each other, but opposed always in the same manner: you see a turn of phrase, but it is always the same.
Many painters have fallen into this fault, of putting contrasts every where, and without art: so that when one sees one figure the disposition of those next it can easily be divined: this continual diversity becomes something of a resemblance. Besides, Nature, which places every thing in disorder, never discovers an affectation of a perpetual contrast; without adding further, that she does not put all bodies in motion, and in a forced motion; she is more various than to do this; she places some in rest, and gives to others different kinds of movement.
If the intelligent part of the soul loves variety, the sensitive part of it is no less fond of it; for the soul cannot long bear the same situation, because it is joined to a body, which cannot endure it. That our soul may be excited, the spirits must flow in the nerves: but there are in this two things, a lassitude in the nerves, and an intermission of spirits which flow no more, or are dissipated from those places where they run.
Thus at length every thing fatigues us, especially great pleasures: we quit them always with as much pleasure as we began them; for the fibres, which were the organs of them, have need of rest; we must make use of others more proper to be of service to us, and, so to speak, make a proper division of our toil.
Our Soul grows tired with enjoyment; not to perceive any pleasure at all is to fall into a state of lifeless insensibility, which quite oppresses it. We find a remedy for all this by varying its modifications: it feels, and it does not grow tired.
This disposition of the Soul, which carries it always to different objects, makes it relish all the Pleasures which flow from Surprize; a sentiment which pleases the Soul by the object which it beholds, and by the suddeness of the action; for it perceives or feels something which it does not expect, or in a manner which it did not expect.
A thing may surprize us as wonderful, and, at the same time, as new, and also as unexpected; and, in these last cases, the principal sentiment is united to this accessory one, that the thing is new or unexpected.
It is by this that games of hazard interest us; they present us with a continued series of unexpected events: ’tis by this that social games please us; they too are a set of unforeseen events, brought about by address joined to chance.
It is by this also that we are pleased with theatrical pieces; they are unravelled by degrees, the events are concealed till they happen, new subjects of surprize are always prepared for us, and they often afford us a sensible pleasure, by shewing the events to be such as we ought to have foreseen they would be. In a word, works of genius, are commonly read for no other reason but because they procure an agreeable surprize, and make amends for the insipidity of conversations that have not this effect.
Surprize may be produced either by the object, or by the manner of producing it: for we see an object greater or less than it is in fact, or different from what it is; or we see the same object, but with an additional idea which surprises us. Such, in any thing, is the accessory idea of the difficulty of making it, or the person who made it, or the time when it was made, or the manner how it was made, or some other circumstance connected with it.
Suetonius describes the crimes of Nero with a coolness of blood which surprises us, by making us almost believe that he does not feel sufficient horror for what he describes; but he suddenly changes his style, and says, “The universe having suffered such a monster fourteen years, at last abandoned him:” Tale monstrum per quatuordecim annus perpessus terarum orbis tandem destituit. This produces in the mind different kinds of surprize: we are surprised at the author’s change of style; at the discovery of his different manner of thinking; at his method of relating in so few words one of the greatest revolutions that ever happened: thus the soul finds a vast number of different sensations that concur to move it, and to inspire it with Pleasure.
We ought carefully to observe, that one Sensation has commonly more than one cause in the mind. It is, if I dare venture to make use of the term, a certain dose produced by Force and Variety. Genius consists in knowing how to strike several organs at once; and if we examine different writers, we shall perhaps perceive, that the best of them, and those who have pleased most, are those who have excited in our Mind most Sensations at one time.
Pray observe the multiplicity of Causes. We like to view a garden finely laid out, better than a confusion of trees. 1. Because our prospect, which would be confined, is not so. 2. Every walk is one, and forms one grand object; whereas, amidst confusion, every tree is one object, and a little one. 3. We see an arrangement which we were not accustomed to see. 4. We are pleased with the pains which have been taken. 5. We admire the care they take perpetually to resist Nature, which by spontaneous productions would put every thing in confusion. This is so true, that a garden quite neglected is intolerable. Sometimes the difficulty of a work, sometimes the easiness of it, pleases us; and, as in a magnificent garden we admire the grandeur and expence of its owner, we observe sometimes with delight, that they have had the art to please us with small expence and labour.
Gaming pleases us, because it satisfies our avarice, that is, our hope of possessing more: it flatters our vanity by an idea of that preference which fortune gives us, and the notice which others take of our luck: it satisfies our curiosity by presenting a sort of show to us. In a word, it gives us all the different pleasures of surprize.
Dancing pleases us by its nimble activity; by a certain grace; by the beauty and variety of attitudes; by its harmony with the music; the person who dances being, as it were, an instrument which accompanies it: but, above all, it pleases us by a particular disposition of our brain, by which it is so constituted that it refers and associates the idea of all the motions to certain other motions, and the greatest part of the attitudes, to other attitudes.
Things almost always please and displease us in different respects. For example, Italian eunuchs ought to give us little pleasure. 1. Because it is not surprising that, trimmed as they are, they should sing well; they are like an instrument from which the workman has cut off wood, to make it produce sounds. 2. Because the passions which they act are too much suspected of being false. 3. Because they are neither of the sex we love, nor of that which we esteem. On the other hand, they may please us, because they preserve a long time the air of youth; and also because they have a voice extremely flexible, and which is peculiar to themselves. Thus every thing gives us a feeling which is composed of a great many others, which sometimes weaken and counteract each other.
The soul often forms reasons to itself of its pleasure: and it succeeds in this principally by those associations of ideas which it connects with certain objects. Thus, any thing which has pleased us, pleases us still for that very reason that it has pleased us, because we join the new to the old idea: thus, an actress who has pleased us on the stage, pleases us too in a private room; her voice, her action, the remembrance of having seen her admired, what do I say? — the idea of the princess joined to that of herself; all this makes a sort of composition, which forms and produces a pleasure. We are all full of accessory ideas: a lady who should happen to have a great character, and a trifling defect, might make this be regarded as a beauty, and bring it into fashion. The greatest part of those ladies whom we love, have nothing for them but the prepossession of their birth or their fortune, the honours or esteem of certain people.
People of delicacy are those who, to every idea or to every taste, join a great many accessory Ideas and tastes. Indelicate people have only one idea; their mind can neither compound nor diminish; they neither add nor take away from what Nature has given: while people of delicacy when in love form to themselves the greatest part of the pleasures of love.
Polyxena and Apicius brought to table a great many sensations unknown to us vulgar eaters; and those who judge with taste of the works of wit have, and have formed to themselves an infinite number of sensations which other men have not.
There is sometimes in persons and things a certain invisible charm, a natural grace, which cannot be defined, and which we have been obliged to call the I don’t know what. It appears to me, that it is an effect principally derived from surprize. We are struck with this, that a person pleases us more, than it appeared to us at first that she ought to have done, and we are agreeably surprised that she has known how to overcome those defects which our eyes pointed out to us, and which the heart no more believes she had: you see the reason why ordinary women have very often graces, and the handsome ones seldom have them; for a beautiful person commonly produces the contrary effect from that which we expected of her; she becomes less lovely in our eyes, after having surprised us with what is fine, she surprises us with what is not so; but the impression of what is good is old, that of what is bad is new; thus handsome people rarely produce strong passions, which are almost constantly reserved for those who have graces, that is to say, charms which we did not expect, and which we had no reason to expect. Rich dresses are seldom graceful, those of shepherdesses often are so. We admire the majesty of the draperies of Paul Veronese; but we are touched with the simplicity of Raphael, and the purity of Corregio. Paul Veronese promises us a great deal, and pays what he promised: Raphael and Corregio promise little, and pay a great deal; and this pleases us more.
Graces are more commonly found in the mind, than the countenance: for a beautiful face appears immediately, and conceals nothing; but the mind does not shew itself but by little and little, when it chuses it, and as much as it chuses; it can conceal itself to appear again, and produce that sort of surprize which constitutes grace.
Grace is seldomer found in the face than in the manner; for our manner is produced every moment, and can create surprise: in a word, a woman can be beautiful but one way, she can be graceful a thousand.
The law of the two sexes has established, among civilized and savage nations, that men should ask, and women only grant: hence it happens, that Grace is more peculiarly attached to the women. As they have all to defend, they have all to conceal; the least word, the least gesture, every thing which, without shocking the first of duties, shews itself in them, every thing which appears at liberty becomes a grace; and such is the Wisdom of Nature, that that which would be nothing without the law of modesty, becomes of infinite value after that happy law which constitutes the felicity of society.
As constraint and affectation cannot surprise us, grace is neither found in constrained nor affected manners, but in a certain freedom or ease which is between the two extremes, and the mind is agreeably surprised to perceive, that they have kept clear of two rocks.
It would seem that our natural manners ought to be the most easy, they are the least so of any: for education, which constrains us, makes us always lose our natural manner; we are then charmed to see it return.
Nothing pleases us so much in dress, as when it appears in that negligence, or even in that disorder, which conceals from us those pains which neatness does not require, and which vanity alone could have made us take; and one’s wit is never graceful, but when what is said appears to be hit off, and not studied.
When you say things which have cost you pains, you may indeed shew that you have wit, but not a graceful wit. To make this appear, you must not seem to perceive it yourself; that others, who from something naturally unaffected and simple in you, did not expect it of you, may be agreeably surprised by perceiving it.
Thus Graces are not acquired; to have them, one must be simple and unaffected; but how can one study to be so?
One of the most beautiful fictions of Homer is that of the girdle, which gave Venus the power of pleasing. Nothing is more proper to make us conceive that magic and power of the Graces, which seem to be given to a person by an invisible power, and are distinguished from beauty itself. Now this girdle could not be given but to Venus; it could not agree with the majestic beauty of Juno; for majesty requires a certain gravity, that is, a constraint opposite to the simplicity of the Graces: it could not agree with the proud beauty of Pallas; for pride is contrary to the sweetness of the Graces, and may often be suspected of affectation.
That which constitutes great beauties, is, when a thing is such, that the surprize at first is inconsiderable, that it supports itself, increases, and at last leads us to admiration. The works of Raphael strike little at first sight; he imitates Nature so well, that one is no more at first surprized than when one sees the object itself, which would cause no surprize at all: but an uncommon expression, the strong colouring or odd attitudes of an inferior painter strike us at first, because we have not been accustomed to see them elsewhere. We may compare Raphael to Virgil; and the Venetian painters, with their constrained attitudes, to Lucan. Virgil, more natural, strikes us at first less, to strike us more afterwards: Lucan strikes immediately, to strike us afterwards less.
The exact proportion of the famous church of St. Peter makes it appear at first not so great as it is; for we do not know immediately where to begin to judge of its greatness. If it had been narrower, we would have been struck with its length; if it had not been so long, we would have been struck with its breadth. But, in proportion as we examine it, the eye perceives it grow larger, our astonishment increases. We may compare it to the Pyrenees, where the eye, which at first thought it could measure them, discovers mountains beyond mountains, and always loses itself more and more.
It often happens that our mind feels a pleasure from a sentiment which it cannot quite explain; and when a thing appears to it to be absolutely different from what it knows it to be, this gives it a sentiment of surprize out of which it cannot extricate itself. For example: the dome of St. Peter’s is immense; ’tis known, that Michael Angelo, viewing the Pantheon, which was the largest temple of Rome, said, that he would make one like it, but that he would situate it in the air. He made then after this model the dome of St. Peter’s; but he made the pillars so strong, that this dome, which is like a mountain over our heads, appears light to the eye which observes it. The mind remains uncertain between what it sees, and what it knows to be the case, and is astonished to see a mass so enormous, and so light at the same time.
The mind is often surprised, because it cannot reconcile what it sees with what it has seen. There is in Italy a great lake which they call the Greater Lake; it is a little sea, the banks of which shew nothing but what is wild. Fifteen miles in the lake there are two islands, a quarter of a mile in circumference, which they call the Borromees, which is, in my opinion, the most enchanting abode in the world. The mind is astonished at the romantic contrast, and recalls with pleasure the wonders of romance, where, after having passed over rocks and barren countries, you find yourself in fairy land.
All contrasts strike us, because the opposite objects heighten each other. Thus, when a little man is near a tall one, the little one makes the other appear taller, and the great one makes the other seem less.
These kinds of surprizes constitute the pleasure which we find in all beauties of opposition, in antitheses, and such figures. When Florus says, “Sora and Algidum, who would believe it! were formidable to us; Satricum and Corniculum were provinces; we undervalue the Boritians, the Verulians, yet we gloried in triumphing over them; Præneste, where our pleasure-houses now are, was the subject of vows which we went to make at the capitol:” this author, I say, points out to us, at the same time, the grandeur of the Romans and the smallness of their beginnings, and our astonishment is raised by both these.
We may remark here how great a difference there is between antitheses of ideas and antitheses of expression. The antithesis of expression is not concealed; that of ideas is so: the one always assumes the same appearance; the other changes it as it pleases; the one is varied; the other not.
The same Florus, speaking of the Samnites, says, “That their cities were destroyed in such a way that it was difficult to find out at present what could have been the subject of so many triumphs;” Ut non facile appareat materia quatuor & viginti triumphorum: and by the same words which point out to us the destruction of this people, he makes us perceive the greatness and obstinacy of their courage.
When we want to hinder ourselves from laughing, our laughter increases, on account of that Contrast which is between the situation in which we find ourselves, and that in which we ought to be: in the same way as when we perceive in a face a very great fault, as, for example, a very large nose, we laugh because we see a contrast with the other features of the face, which ought not to be. Thus contrasts are the cause of faults, as well as beauties. When we perceive that they are without any reason, that they heighten or discover another fault, they are the great causes of ugliness, which, when it strikes us suddenly, can excite a certain joy in our soul, and make us laugh. If our mind views it as a misfortune in the person who possesses it, it can excite pity: if it views it with the idea of what may hurt us, and with an idea of comparison with what used to move us and excite our desires, it views it with a sentiment of aversion.
In the same way, our thoughts, when they contain an opposition contrary to good sense, when this opposition is common and easily found out, do not please us, and are faults, because they occasion no surprise; and if, on the contrary, they are too much studied, they do not please us neither. In a work, we ought to be struck with them because they are there, and not because the writer has laboured to shew them; for then we are only surprised at the folly of the author.
One of the things which pleases us most is the simple; but it is also the most difficult style to acquire; the reason of which is, because it is precisely betwixt the noble and the low, and it is very difficult to be always going by it without falling into it.
Musicians have acknowledged, that the music, which is easiest sung, is most difficult to compose; a certain proof that our pleasures, and that art which supplies us with them, have certain limits.
To read the pompous verses of Corneille, and the easy natural ones of Racine, who would imagine that Corneille composed with ease, and Racine with a great deal of trouble.
What is low, is the sublime of the vulgar, who are pleased to see a thing made for them, and adapted to their capacity.
The ideas which occur to those who are well educated, and have great minds, are either simple, or noble, or sublime.
When a thing is pointed out to us with circumstances which add to its grandeur, this appears noble to us: this is especially perceived in comparisons, where the mind ought always to gain, and never to lose: for they ought always to add somewhat to make the thing appear greater, or, if grandeur be not the object, finer and more delicate; but particular care must be taken not to point out any connection it may have with what is low; for the mind would have concealed this if it had discovered it.
As the aim is to represent things in a delicate way, the mind likes better to compare a manner to a manner, an action to an action, than a thing to a thing, as a hero to a lion, a woman to a star, a swift man to a stag.
Michael Angelo is the greatest master for giving a nobleness to all his subjects. In his famous Bacchus he does not do like the Flemish painters, who represents to us a figure almost falling, and, so to speak, in the air. This would be unworthy of the majesty of a God. He paints him firm upon his legs, but he so happily gives him the gay air of one who is drunk, and such a pleasure in viewing the liquor, which he pours into his cup, that there is nothing so admirable.
In that picture of the Passion which is in the gallery of Florence, he has painted the Virgin standing, who beholds her crucified son, without grief, without pity, without regret, without tears. He supposes her instructed in this great mystery, and by that makes her bear with grandeur the view of his death.
There are none of Michael Angelo’s works in which he has not put something noble. We find even the Great in his sketches, as in those verses which Virgil has not finished.
Julio Romano, in the chamber of Giants at Mantua, where he has represented Jupiter thundring, makes all the Gods appear terrified; but Juno is near Jupiter, she points out to him, with an undaunted air, a giant at whom he should dart his thunder: by this he gives her an air of grandeur which the other deities have not: the nearer they are to Jove, the bolder they are, and this is very natural; for in a battle, fear ceases near him who has the advantage * * * * * * * *
—Non murmura vestra, columbæ,
Brachia non bederæ, non vincant oscula conchæ.
Fragment of an Epithalamium of the EmperorGallienus.
AN ambassador of France at the Ottoman Porte, known by his taste for literature, having purchased many Greek manuscripts, brought them to France; and, some of them falling into my hands, I found among them the work of which I here give a translation.
Few of the Greek authors have been handed down to us: they have either perished in the ruin of libraries, or by the negligence of the families who have had them in their possession.
We, however, receive from time to time some pieces of these treasures. We have found works even in the tombs of their authors; and, what is much the same, this was discovered among the books of a Greek Bishop.
We know neither the name of the author, nor the time in which he lived. All that we can say of him is, that he was not anterior to Sappho, since he quotes her in his work.
As to my translation, it is a faithful one. The beauties that were not in my author, I supposed, did not deserve the name of beauties; and I have often chosen a less lively manner of expression, in order the better to express his thought.
I have been encouraged to undertake this translation by the success which has attended that of Tasso. He who performed it will not be offended at my having followed his example. He has there distinguished himself in such a manner, as to be under no apprehensions from those whom he has inspired with the warmest spirit of emulation.
This little romance is a kind of picture in which are selected the most agreeable objects. The public will here find smiling images, magnificent descriptions, and ingenuous sentiments.
It has the marks of an original; which has made the critics demand, after what model it was formed. This must greatly inhance its merit, especially as the work is, in other respects, far from being despicable.
Some of the learned have not discovered in it what they term art; and they alledge, that it is not written according to the rules: but if the work has pleased, it is a proof that the heart has not communicated to them all its rules.
A man who attempts a translation, cannot patiently bear that others should not esteem his author as much as he does himself; and I confess that these gentlemen have often filled me with a furious resentment: but I desire them to leave the young men to judge of a book, which, in whatsoever language it was written, was certainly wrote for their use. I intreat them, therefore, not to trouble themselves with their decisions; for none but the heads that are well curled and powdered, can know all the merit of the Temple of Gnidus.
With respect to the fair sex, to whom I owe the few happy moments I can reckon in my life, I heartily wish that this work may please them. I admire them still; and their not being more the subject of my assiduities is a source of regret.
If men of gravity should desire from me a less trifling work, I am able to satisfy them. These thirty years have I laboured at a book of no more than twelve pages, which is to contain all we know of metaphysics, politics, and morality, and all that very great authors have forgotten in the volumes they have published on those sciences.
VENUS chuses to reside at Gnidus, rather than at Paphos and Amathus, and never descends from Olympus without visiting the Gnidians. So much has she accustomed these happy people to her sight, that they no longer feel that sacred horror inspired by the presence of the Gods. Sometimes she covers herself with a cloud, and is known by the divine odour that flows from her hair perfumed with ambrosia.
The city is in the midst of a country on which the Gods have lavished their favours with a liberal hand. The inhabitants enjoy an eternal spring; the earth, happily fertile, prevents all their wishes; their flocks feed without number; the birds incessantly sing, so that you would think the woods were vocal: rivulets murmur in the plains; a gentle heat renders every thing blooming; and the air the people breathe inspires only pleasure.
Near the city is the palace of Venus, the foundations of which were laid by Vulcan; who laboured for his faithless spouse while he strove to make her forget the cruel affront he had given her before the Gods.
It would be impossible for me to give an idea of the beauties of this palace; for none but the Graces can describe what they have performed. Gold, azure, rubies, diamonds, shine on all sides; but here I paint only riches, and not beauty.
The gardens are inchanting; they are under the care of Flora and Pomona, and are cultivated by the nymphs. Fruits spring up under the hand that plucks them; and blossoms succeed the fruit. When Venus walks in them surrounded by her Gnidians, you would think that in their wanton sports they would destroy these delightful gardens; but by a secret virtue every thing is instantly repaired.
Venus loves to see the sprightly dances of the girls of Gnidus. Her nymphs mingle with them; the Goddess herself bears a part in their sports; she strips herself of her majesty, sits in the midst of them, and sees joy and innocence reign in their hearts.
At a distance is discovered a spacious meadow enamelled with flowers. The shepherd comes to gather them, with his shepherdess; but that which she finds is always the most beautiful, and it is believed that this happens by the express design of Flora.
The Cephisus waters this meadow, and runs through it with a thousand turnings. The River God stops the fugitive shepherdesses, and will oblige them to give him the tender kiss they had promised him.
When the nymphs approach his banks, he stops, and the waves which fly find those that are incapable of flying. But when one of them bathes, he is still more amorous; his waters wind about her limbs; he sometimes rises, the better to give her his embraces; he lifts her up; he flies; he takes her with him. Her timid companions begin to weep: but he supports her upon his waves, and charmed with the precious burden, leads her over his liquid plain: at length loth to part with her, he conducts her slowly to the bank, and restores comfort to her companions.
On the side of the meadow is a myrtle grove, where the paths make a variety of turnings. The lovers there come to recount their pains; and Love, who amuses them, always conducts them through the most secret paths.
Not far from thence is an antient and sacred wood, thro’ which the light can with difficulty enter. Oaks, that seem immortal, bear up their heads to the heavens, which conceal them from our view. We there feel a religious fear; you would say that this was the abode of the Gods, ere man had sprung from the earth.
On coming to an opening where the day breaks in, the people ascend a little hill, on which is the temple of Venus, than which the universe has nothing more sacred.
In this temple Venus first saw her Adonis, and the poison thrilled through the heart of the Goddess. What! said she, do I then love a mortal? Alas! I find I adore him. Let them no more address their vows to me; Adonis is the only deity at Gnidus.
It was in this place that she assembled the Loves, when piqued with a rash distrust, she consulted them. She was in doubt whether she should expose herself naked to the view of the Trojan shepherd. She concealed her girdle under her hair; her nymphs sprinkled her with perfumes; she mounted her chariot drawn by swans, and arrived in Phrygia. The shepherd hesitated between Juno and Pallas; he saw her, and his looks were fixed and dying: the golden apple fell at the feet of the Goddess; he attempted to speak, and his disorder decided the dispute.
It was to this temple that the young Psyche came with her mother, when Cupid, who flew about the golden ceiling, was himself surprised by one of her glances, and felt the pain he made others suffer. Thus do I wound, said he; I can neither support my bow nor my arrows. He then sunk down on the breast of Psyche, and cried, Oh! I now begin to feel that I am the God of pleasure.
When the people enter this temple, they perceive their hearts possessed by a secret charm: the soul is filled with that ravishing delight, which the Gods themselves never feel, but when they are in their celestial abodes.
Whatever is most smiling in nature, is joined to every thing that art can invent as most noble, and most worthy of the Gods.
A hand, which was doubtless immortal, has every where adorned the place with paintings that seem to breathe. We there see the birth of Venus; the rapture of the Gods who saw her; her embarassment at appearing naked, and that modesty which is the first of the Graces.
We there see the amours of Mars and that Goddess. The painter has represented the God of War in his chariot, in which he appears fierce, and even terrible: Fame flies before him; Fear and Death march, followed by his horses covered with foam; he enters the throng, and a thick dust begins to hide him from our view. In another place we see him laid languishingly on a bed of roses, smiling on Venus; and you would not know him, were it not for some traces of the divinity which still remain. The Pleasures are employed in making wreaths and garlands, with which they bind the two lovers; their eyes melt in softness; they sigh, and, only attentive to each other, are regardless of the little Cupids that play about them.
There is a separate apartment, where the painter has represented the marriage of Vulcan and Venus: all the celestial court are there assembled: the God appears less gloomy, but as pensive as usual. The Goddess looks with an air of coldness on the common joy; she negligently gives him a hand which she seems unwilling to resign: she casts another way looks expressive of pain, and turns towards the Graces.
In another picture we see Juno performing the marriage-ceremony. Venus takes the cup to swear an eternal fidelity to Vulcan: the Gods smile, and Vulcan hears her with pleasure.
On the other side we see the impatient God drawing along his divine Spouse, who makes such resistance, that one would imagine her to be the daughter of Ceres, whom Pluto is going to ravish, if the eye that had seen Venus could ever be deceived.
At some distance, we see her carried away towards the nuptial bed. The Gods follow in crowds; the Goddess disputes, and endeavours to escape from the arms of those who hold her. Her robe flies from her knees; the linen flutters: but Vulcan repairs this beautiful disorder, and is more attentive to conceal than ardent to seize.
In short, we see her just laid on the bed prepared by Hymen; Vulcan draws the curtains, and thinks of keeping her there for ever. The importunate throng retire; and he rejoices at seeing them go. The Goddesses play together: but the Gods appear dejected; and Mars’s melancholy has something gloomy, like the pangs of jealousy.
Charmed with the magnificence of her temple, the Goddess herself has established the worship performed there: she has regulated its ceremonies, instituted festivals, and is at the same time the delty and the priestess.
The worship paid her almost over the whole earth, is rather a profanation than a religion. She has temples, in which all the maids in other cities prostitute themselves to her honour, and acquire a portion from the profits of prostitution. She has others where every married woman goes once in her life to give up herself to him who has singled her out, and where she throws into the sanctuary the money she has received. There are others again, where the courtezans of all countries, more honoured than the matrons, go to make their offerings. There is, in short, another, where the men render themselves eunuchs, and dress themselves like women, in order to serve in the sanctuary, consecrating themselves to the Goddess, and those of her sex.
But she resolved, that the people of Gnidus should have a purer worship, and render her honours more worthy her acceptance. Her sacrifices there are sighs, and her offerings a tender heart. Every lover addresses his vows to his mistress, and Venus receives them for her.
Wherever beauty is found, they pay it the same adoration as to Venus; for beauty, like her, is divine.
With hearts inflamed with love they enter the Temple, and embrace at the altars of Fidelity and Constancy.
Those who are treated with cruelty come there to vent their sighs: they feel their torments diminish, and find their hearts filled with flattering hope.
Jealousy is a passion that may be felt, though it ought to be concealed. A man there adores in secret the caprices of his mistress, as they adore the decrees of the Gods, which become more just when we presume to utter our complaints.
Among the divine favours are reckoned the fire, the transports of love, and even all its fury: for the less a person is master of his own heart, the more is he devoted to the Goddess.
Those who have not lost their hearts are the profane, who are not admitted into her Temple. They at a distance address their vows to the Goddess, and beg to be delivered from that liberty which is nothing more than the incapacity of forming desires.
The Goddess inspires the girls with modesty; and that virtue has such charms as to set an additional value on all the treasures they conceal.
But never in these fortunate places do they blush at a sincere passion, an ingenuous sentiment, a tender acknowledgment.
The heart becomes fixed from the moment it has surrendered: but it is a profanation to surrender without love.
Cupid is at entive to the felicity of the Gnidians; he chuses the arrows with which he wounds them. When he sees an afflicted lover, whose passion meets with an unkind return, he takes an arrow dipped in the water of forgetfulness. When he sees two lovers who begin to feel the tender passion, he incessantly lets fly against them fresh arrows: and on seeing one whose love has declined, he makes it suddenly revive or expire; for he shortens the duration of a languishing passion, and will not suffer them to feel disgust before they cease to love. Thus enraptured by the sweets of a greater felicity, they forget the less.
Cupid took from his quiver the cruel arrows with which he wounded Phedra and Ariadne; they were mixed with love and hatred, and served to shew his power, as thunder makes known the empire of Jupiter.
In proportion as the God gives the pleasure of loving, Venus adds the happiness of pleasing.
The girls every day enter the sanctuary to offer their prayers to Venus. They there express the genuine sentiments of their hearts. Queen of Amathus, said one of them, my flame for Thyrsis is extinguished; I do not intreat to have my love revived, but only that Ixiphiles may love me.
Another softly says, Powerful Goddess! give me the power to conceal for some time my love to my shepherd, in order to inhance the value of the confession I intend to make to him.
Goddess of Cythera! says another, I seek solitude; the sports of my companions no longer please me: perhaps I love. But if I am indeed in love, let it be with none but Daphnis.
At their festivals the young men and maids go to repeat hymns in honour of Venus: and often do they celebrate her praisein singing their own amours.
A young Gnidian taking his mistress by the hand, sung thus: Cupid, when first Psyche appeared to thy view, thou doubtless woundedst her with the same arrow as that with which thou hast wounded my heart. Thy happiness was not different from mine; for thou feltest my flames, and I feel thy pleasures.
For my part, I have seen what I describe. I have been at Gnidus: I have seen Themira, and I have loved: I saw her again, and I loved her still more. With her I will spend my life at Gnidus, and I shall be the most happy of all mortals.
We will visit the Temple; and never shall a more faithful lover enter its walls. We will go to the palace of Venus, and I will imagine it to be the palace of my Themira. I will walk to the meadow, and gather flowers, which I will place in her bosom. Perhaps I may conduct her to the grove where so many paths meet, and when she shall have strayed—But Cupid, by whom I am inspired, forbids my revealing his mysteries.
THERE is at Gnidus another sacred grove inhabited by the nymphs, where the Goddess delivers her oracles. The earth sends forth no hollow sound under your feet; the hair is not raised erect upon the head; and there is no priestess as at Delphos, where Apollo fills with convulsive agitations the trembling Pythia: but Venus herself lends an ear to the requests of mortals, without sporting with their hopes or fears.
A coquette of the isle of Crete came to Gnidus; she was surrounded by all the young Gnidians; she smiled at one, whispered to another, threw her arm upon a third, and called to two others to follow her. She was beautiful, and adorned with art, and the sound of her voice was as deceitful as her eyes. O heavens! how were the faithful, the tender lovers, among the fair, alarmed! She presented herself before the Oracle with as much confidence as a Goddess: but suddenly we heard a voice proceed from the sanctuary: Perfidious wretch! how darest thou carry thy artifices even into the places where I reign with candour and sincerity? Severely shalt thou be punished: I will take away thy charms; but leave thy heart as it is: thou shalt call about thee all the men thou seest; but they shall fly from thee as from a plaintive ghost, and thou shalt die rejected, and loaded with contempt.
At length came a courtezan of Nocretis, shining with the spoils of her lovers. Go, said the Goddess, thou deceivest thyself in believing that thou hast added to the glory of my empire. Thy beauty proclaims that thou hast pleasure to bestow; but none does it give: thy heart is like iron, and though thou shouldest see my son himself, thou couldest not love him. Go, bestow thy favours on the base men who demand them, and whom they fill with disgust: go, shew them charms which shall suddenly vanish, and be lost for ever. Thou art only fit to render my power despised.
Some time after came a rich man, who collected tribute for the king of Lydia. Thou askest, said the Goddess, one thing which I cannot perform, though I am the Goddess of Love. Thou askest for beauties, that if thou mayest taste the raptures of love; but thou lovest them not because thou hast bought them: thy treasures are not useless; they serve to fill thee with disgust against every thing most charming in nature.
A young man of Doris, named Aristeus, at length presented himself. He had seen at Gnidus the charming Camilla, and was fallen desperately in love with her. He perceived the excess of his passion, and came to ask Venus that he might love her still more.
I know thine heart, said the goddess; thou art sensible of the power of love. I have found Camilla worthy of thee. I could have given her to the greatest king upon earth; but kings have less merit than shepherds.
I at last appeared with Themira; when the goddess said: There is not in all my empire a mortal who knows how to submit himself to my power better than thee; but what wouldest thou have me do for thee? I cannot render thee more in love, nor Themira more charming. O great goddess, said I, I have a thousand favours to ask: May Themira think only of me; may she see none but me; may she awake dreaming of me: may she fear to lose me when I am present; hope for me in my absence; and always charmed with seeing me, still regret every moment she passes without me.
AT Gnidus there are sacred games which are renewed every year, and there women come from all parts to dispute the prize of beauty; when shepherdesses are confounded with the daughters of kings, for there beauty alone is the mark of empire. Venus herself presides over them; she decides without hesitation, and knows well the happy mortal whom she has most favoured.
Helen several times gained the prize: she triumphed when she was stolen by Theseus; she triumphed when she was carried away by the son of Priam; in fine, she triumphed when the gods restored her to Menelaus, after his hopes had been kept alive for ten years: that prince therefore, in the opinion of Venus herself, found as much happiness in being her husband, as Theseus and Paris in being her lovers.
There came thirty girls of Corinth, whose hair fell in large ringlets on their shoulders. There came ten from Salamis who had not yet seen thirteen times the annual course of the sun. There came fifteen from the isle of Lesbos, who said to each other, I am quite charmed, I never saw any thing so beautiful as you; if Venus saw you with the same eyes as I do, she would crown you amidst all the beauties of the universe.
There came fifty women of Miletus, who excelled in the whiteness of their complexion, and the regularity of their features; every thing shewed, or gave room to imagine, that their persons were lovely, and that the gods, who had formed them, would have made nothing so beautiful as they, had they sought to obtain valuable perfections rather than external graces.
An hundred women came from the island of Cyprus. We have passed our youth, said they, in the temple of Venus; to her we have consecrated our virginity, and our modesty itself. We do not blush at our charms; our manners, sometimes bold, and always free, ought to give us the advantage over a modesty that is continually creating fresh alarms.
I saw the daughters of proud Sparta: their robes were open at the sides from the girdle, in the most indecent manner: and yet they behaved like prudes, and maintained, that they would never violate the laws of modesty, except for the love of their country.
O sea, famous for so many shipwrecks, thou preservest the treasures committed to thy care. Thou becamest calm, when the ship Argo, laden with the golden fleece, sailed on thy liquid plain; and when fifty beauties departed from Colchis, and trusted themselves on thy waves, thou didst bow under them.
I also saw Oriana, like a goddess: all the beauties of Lydia surrounded their queen. She had sent before her an hundred girls, who had presented to Venus an offering of two hundred talents. Candaules came himself, and was more distinguished by his love, than by the royal purple. He passed his days and nights in devouring with his looks the charms of Oriana; his eyes wandered over her beautiful form, and were never weary. I am happy, said he; but alas! this is known only to Venus and myself; my felicity would be much heightened, did it but inspire envy! Lovely queen, quit these vain ornaments; drop that troublesome vail, and shew thyself to the universe; leave the prize of beauty, and demand altars raised to thine honour.
Afterwards came twenty Babylonians, dressed in purple robes embroidered with gold: they imagined, that the richness of their apparel inhanced their value. Some carried, as a proof of their beauty, the riches it had enabled them to acquire.
Then came an hundred Egyptian women whose eyes and whose hair were black: their husbands were with them, and said, The laws render us subject to you in honour of Isis; but your beauty has a more powerful empire over us, than that of the laws: we obey you with the same pleasure as we obey the gods, and are the most happy slaves in the universe. Duty secures our fidelity to you; but only love can render you faithful to us. Be less sensible of the glory you acquire at Gnidus, than of the homage you may find in your own house from a tranquil husband; who, while you are employed in affairs abroad, ought to wait in the family for the heart you bring him.
There came women from that powerful city which sends vessels to the ends of the universe: their heads were loaden with superfluous ornaments, and all the parts of the earth seemed to have contributed to form their dress.
Ten beauties came from the place where the day begins to dawn; they were the daughters of Aurora, and in order to see her, rose daily before that goddess. They complained of the sun, that he made their mother disappear; and they complained of their mother, that she did not shew herself to them, as she did to other mortals.
I saw under a tent a queen of India surrounded by her virgins, who already gave hopes of their having the charms of their mothers: she was served by eunuchs, whose eyes were fixed on the earth; for since their breathing the air of Gnidus, they had felt the gloom of melancholy redoubled.
The women of Cadiz, which is at the extremity of the earth, likewise disputed for the prize. There is no country upon earth where beauty does not receive homage; but nothing less than the highest homage can satisfy the ambition of the fair.
The girls of Gnidus at length appeared: beautiful without ornament, they had graces instead of pearls and rubies. Nothing was seen on their heads but the presents of Flora; which were there more worthy of the embraces of Zephyrus. Their robes had no other merit besides that of exhibiting the fineness of their shape, and of being spun with their own fingers.
Among all these beauties one could not see the young Camilla; who had said, I will not dispute the prize of beauty, it is sufficient that my dear Aristeus thinks me fair.
Diana rendered these games celebrated by her presence. She did not come to dispute the prize; for the Goddesses do not compare themselves to mortals. I saw her alone, and she seemed as beautiful as Venus: I saw her with Venus, and she was only Diana.
There never was so great a concourse: nations were separated from nations; the eye wandered from country to country, from the setting of the sun to the rising of Aurora. It seemed as if Gnidus comprehended the whole universe.
The Gods have divided beauty among the nations, as nature has divided it among the goddesses. There we see the proud beauty of Pallas; here the grandeur and majesty of Juno; farther still, the simplicity of Diana, the delicacy of Thetis, the charms of the Graces, and sometimes the smile of Venus.
It seemed as if each nation had a particular manner of expressing modesty, and yet that every woman was resolved to attract every eye. Some discovered the neck, and concealed the shoulders; others shewed their shoulders, and concealed their necks; those who concealed the foot paid you with other charms; and here they blushed at what was there called decency.
The Gods are so charmed with Themira, that they never look at her without smiling at their work. Of all the Goddesses, there is none but Venus who sees her with pleasure, and whom the Gods do not rally with having a little jealousy.
As we observe a rose in the midst of the flowers that spring in the grass, Themira was distinguished among so many beauties. They had not time to become her rivals; they were vanquished before they feared her. She no sooner appeared, than the eyes of Venus were fixed on her; and calling the Graces, Go, said she, and crown her, for of all the beauties I see, she alone resembles you.
WHILE Themira was employed with her companions in the worship of the goddess, I entered a solitary wood, and there I found the tender Aristeus. We had seen each other on the day when we went to consult the oracle; and our meeting was sufficient to engage us to enter into conversation: for Venus places in the heart, on our seeing an inhabitant of Gnidus, the secret charm felt by two friends, when, after a long absence, they press in their arms the dear object of their inquietudes.
Transported with each other, we found that we had resigned our hearts: if appeared as if a tender friendship had descended from heaven in order to unite us. We related a thousand passages of our lives, and this is, nearly, what I said to him.
I was born at Sybaris, where Antilochus, my father, was the priest of Venus. In that city they make no difference between luxuries and necessities; all the arts are banished that are capable of disturbing a tranquil sleep: prizes are given at the public expence to those who discover new sources of voluptuousness: and the citizens remember only the buffoons that have afforded them diversion, while they lose all remembrance of the magistrates who have governed them with wisdom.
The people there take advantage of the fertility of the soil, which produces an eternal plenty; and the favours bestowed by the Gods on Sybaris serve only to encourage softness and luxury.
To such a degree are the men sunk in offeminacy, that their dress is so like that of the women, they take such care of their complexions, they curl their hair with such art, and employ so much time in adorning themselves at the glass, that there seems to be only one sex in all the city.
The women abandon themselves, instead of surrendering, and the desires and hopes of the day are finished at its conclusion. They know not what it is to love, and to taste the pleasure of being beloved, and are solely employed about what is falsely called enjoyment.
What with us are termed favours are there nothing less than their proper realities; and all those circumstances which so happily accompany them; all those nothings that are of such great value; all those trifles that are of such worth; every thing that prepares the way for the happy moment; so many conquests instead of one; so many enjoyments before the last; are all unknown at Sybaris.
Yet, had they the least modesty, a small appearance of that virtue would please: but they have it not; their eyes are accustomed to see, and their ears to hear every thing.
So far is the multiplicity of pleasures from giving the Sybarites more delicacy, that they cannot distinguish one sentiment from another.
They pass life in a joy merely exterior; quitting one pleasure that displeases them, for another that is still more displeasing; while every change affords a new subject of disgust.
Their souls, incapable of relishing pleasure, seem to have no delicacy but for pain. Thus, a citizen was fatigued a whole night by the leaf of a role folded in his bed.
Ease and softness have so weakened their bodies, that they cannot remove the least burden, and can soarce support themselves on their feet. They faint away in the most easy carriages; and when at a feast their stomachs continually fail them.
They pass their lives reclined on sophas, on which they are obliged to repose the whole day, without any relief from their fatigue; they are bruised if they attempt to languish out life in any other manner.
Incapable of bearing the weight of arms; timorous before their fellow citizens, and dastardly in the presence of strangers, they are slaves ready to submit to the first master.
I was no sooner capable of thinking, than I was filled with contempt for the unhappy Sybarites. I love virtue, and have always feared the immortal Gods. I will no longer, said I, breathe this infectious air; all these slaves of softness and indolence are made to live in their native country, and I to leave it.
I then went for the last time to the temple; and approaching the altars, where my father had so often sacrificed; Great Goddess! said I with a loud voice, I abandon thy temple, but not thy worship; in what part of the earth soever I am, I will offer incense to thee; but it shall be purer than that offered at Sybaris.
I departed, and arrived in Crete, an island filled with monuments of the extravagance of love. There were seen the brazen cow, the work of Dædalus, to deceive, or to gratify the lust of Pasiphæ; the labyrinths, whose intricacies love only could elude; the tomb of Phædra, which astonished the Sun, as it had done his mother; and the temple of Ariadne; who, deserted in the desarts, and abandoned by an ungrateful wretch, did not repent of her having followed him.
I there saw the palace of Idomeneus, whose return from the siege of Troy was not more happy than that of the other Greek captains: for those who escaped the dangers of a resentful element, found in their own houses those that were still more fatal. Venus, exasperated against them, gave them to the embraces of their perfidious wives, and they died by the hand they held most dear.
I quitted that isle, so odious to a goddess who was one day to give felicity to my life.
I re-embarked; and a tempest cast me on shore at Lesbos, an island but little beloved by Venus, who has taken modesty from the countenances of the women, weakness from their bodies, and timidity from their souls. Great Venus! suffer the women of Lesbos to burn with a lawful flame; and may human nature no longer suffer such disgrace.
At Mytelene, the capital of Lesbos, resided the tender Sappho, who, immortal as the Muses, burnt with a fire which she could not extinguish. Odious to herself, and disgusted with her charms, she hated, and yet courted her own sex. How, said she, can a flame so vain become so cruel! Cupid, how much more formidable art thou when in sport, than when enraged!
At length I quitted Lesbos, and my fate led me to an island still more profane; and that was Lemnos. Venus has there no temple: never do the Lemnians address their vows to her. We reject, say they, a worship that softens the heart. The goddess has often punished them; but they bear the punishment, without making an expiation for their crime, and are always more impious in proportion as they are afflicted.
I again put to sea in search of a country beloved by the gods; and the winds conducted me to Delos. I staid some time in that sacred isle. But, whether the gods sometimes previously inform us of what is to happen; or whether the soul retains from the emanations of the divinity, with which it is enlightened, some knowledge of futurity; I perceived that my destiny, and that my happiness itself, called me to another country.
One night when I was in that state of tranquility, in which the soul, being more itself, seems delivered from that chain wherewith it is bound; there appeared before me a female form, and I was at first at a loss to know whether she was a mortal or a goddess. A secret charm was spread over her whole person: she was not so beautiful as Venus, but was as ravishing as that Goddess: all her features were not regular; but, together, they were full of charms: her hair fell negligently on her shoulders; but that negligence had a happy effect: her shape and stature were charming: she had that air which nature alone bestows, and which she hides from the painters. She saw my astonishment: she smiled. Ye gods! what a smile! I am, said she, one of the Graces: Venus, who sent me, would render thee happy; but thou must go, and adore her in the Temple of Gnidus. She vanished: I stretched out my arms to hold her; my sleep fled with her: and there only remained a sweet regret at my no longer seeing her, mixed with the pleasure of having beheld her.
I then quitted the isle of Delos, and arrived at Gnidus. I may say, that I instantly breathed love. I felt—I cannot express what I felt. I was not yet in love, but sought to love. My heart was inflamed, as if I had been in the presence of some celestial beauty. I advanced, and saw at a distance several young girls playing in a meadow. I was immediately drawn towards them. Senseless as I am, said I, I feel without love, all the disturbances of the lover: my heart slies already towards objects unknown, and those objects fill it with inquietude, I approached; I saw the charming Themira. We were doubtless made for each other. I looked at none but her, and believe that I should have died with grief, had she not turned her eyes, and cast some looks at me. Great Venus, cried I, since thou art to render me happy, may it be with this shepherdess: I renounce all other beauties; she alone can fulfil thy promises, and all the vows I shall for ever make.
I CONTINUED talking to the young Aristeus of my tender passion, which made him sigh for his own, when I endeavoured to ease his heart by intreating him to disburden it to me: and this is what he said. I shall forget nothing; for I am inspired by the same God that made him speak.
In all my story you will find nothing but what is extremely simple: my adventures are only the sentiments of a tender heart: these are my pleasures, and these my pains; for as my love for Camilla forms the happiness, it also forms the history, of my life.
Camilla is the daughter of one of the principal inhabitants of Gnidus; she is beautiful, and has a countenance that makes an impression on all hearts. The women who form desires demand of the Gods the graces of Camilla: the men who see her would see her always, or fear longer to see her.
She is of a graceful stature; and has a noble, but modest air; her eyes are lively, and susceptible of tenderness; her features are expressly made for each other, and have charms adapted to give her a conquest over the heart.
Camilla does not seek to adorn herself: but she is better adorned than other women.
She has that wit which nature almost constantly refuses to the fair, and is equally capable of seriousness and gaiety. If you chuse it, she will join in a sensible conversation; or she will jest like the Graces.
The more wit a person has, the more will he find in Camilla. Her thoughts are so natural, that she seems to speak the language of the heart. Every thing she says, every thing she does, has the charm of simplicity; and you always find her a native shepherdess. Graces so easy, so refined, so delicate, are always observed; but are better felt than described.
With all these advantages, Camilla loves me; she is transported at seeing me; she is sorry when I leave her; and, as if I could live without her, makes me promise to return. I continually tell her that I love her, she believes me: I tell her that I adore her, she knows it; but is as delighted as if she knew it not. When I tell her that she constitutes the felicity of my life, she tells me that I am the happiness of hers. In short, she loves me so much, that she almost makes me believe that I am worchy of her love.
For a month did I see Camilla, without daring to tell her that I loved, and almost without daring to tell it myself. The more amiable I found her, the less were my hopes of meeting with a return. O Camilla! thought I, thy charms captivate my soul; but they let me know, that I am unworthy of thee. I sought to forget her; I would have effaced her image from my heart. How happy was I that I could not succeed! That image has remained there, and will never be obliterated.
I said to Camilla: I once loved the bustle and noise of life: but now I seek solitude: I had views of ambition; but I desire nothing but thy presence: I was desirous of visiting distant climates; but my heart is now only a citizen of the places where thou breathest. Every thing but thee has vanished from before my eyes.
When Camilla speaks of her tenderness, she has always something to say to me, and she fancies she has forgot what she has protested a thousand times. I am so charmed at hearing her, that I sometimes pretend not to believe her, in order to hear her still flatter my heart. Sometimes we both preserve that sweet silence, which is the most tender language of lovers.
When I have been absent from Camilla, I have endeavoured to give her an account of what I have heard or seen. With what dost thou entertain me, says she? talk to me of our love; or if thou hast not thought of it, if thou hast nothing to say to me, O cruel Aristeus, suffer me to speak.
Sometimes, embracing me, she says, Thou art melancholy. ’Tis true, I reply; but the melancholy of lovers is delightful: I feel my tears flow, and know not for why; for thou lovest me: I have no cause of complaint; and yet I complain. Deliver me not from the languor of my mind; suffer me to sigh out at the same time my pains and my pleasures.
In the transports of love my soul is too strongly agitated; it is drawn towards its happiness without enjoying it: but now I relish even melancholy itself. Dry not up my tears: what signifies my shedding them, while I am happy.
Sometimes Camilla says: Dost thou love me? Yes, I love thee. But how dost thou love me? I love, I reply, as I have loved: for I can only compare the affection I have for thee, by that which I have felt for the same transporting object.
I hear Camilla praised by all who know her: these praises affect me as if they were made to myself, and I am more delighted with them, than she.
When we have company, she talks with such wit, that I am charmed with her least words: but I am still better pleased, when she is silent.
When she contracts a friendship, I would be that friend; and suddenly I reflect that I shall not be beloved.
O Camilla, take care of the deceits of lovers. They tell thee that they love; and they speak truth: they tell thee, that they love thee more than I; but I swear by the Gods, that I love thee still more.
When I perceive her at a distance, my soul flies to her; she approaches, and my heart is agitated; I come up to her, and my soul seems as if it would leave me to enter Camilla’s breast, and that hers is going to animate mine.
Sometimes, when I would steal from her one favour, she refuses me, and instantly grants me another. This is not artifice. Divided between modesty and love, she would refuse me every thing; and yet she wishes that she might deny me nothing.
She says, is it not sufficient that I love you? What can you desire more, after having had my heart? I desire, say I, that thou wouldst for me commit a fault that is in the power of love, and which the greatness of love can justify.
If I ever cease to love thee, my Camilla, may the destinies be mistaken, and take that for the last of my days! May they cut off the remainder of a life, which I should find deplorable when I recollected the pleasure I had found in loving.
Aristeus sighed, and was silent; and I plainly saw, that he only ceased to talk of Camilla, in order to enjoy the pleasure of thinking of her charms.
WHILE we were talking of our amours, we rambled out of our way; and having strayed for a long time, entered a large meadow, where we were conducted by a flowery path to the foot of a frightful rock. We there saw an obscure den, which we entered, thinking it the abode of some mortal. Ye Gods! who could have imagined that this place was so fatal! Scarce had I set my foot in it, when my whole body trembled, and my hair stood erect on my head! An invisible hand drew me into this fatal abode, and in proportion as my heart was agitated, its agitations increased. Friend, cried I, let us enter farther still, let us see if we shall increase our pain. I advanced to the place where the sun had never entered, and where the winds had never breathed. There I saw Jealousy, whose aspect appeared more gloomy than terrible: Paleness, Melancholy, and Silence surrounded her; and about her flew Sorrow and Disquietude. She breathed upon us; she placed her hand upon our hearts; she struck us upon the head; and our sight and imagination could perceive nothing but monsters.
Enter still further, unhappy mortals, said she; go, find a Goddess more powerful than I. We obeyed; and soon saw a frightful Deity, by the light of the inflamed tongues of the serpents that hissed about her head. This was Rage. She loosened one of her serpents, and threw it at me. I strove to catch it, and in an instant it imperceptibly slid into my heart. I stood for a moment stupid; but the poison had no sooner diffused itself into my veins, than I imagined myself in the midst of hell. My soul was set on fire. I could scarce contain myself; and was in such agitations, that I seemed tormented by the whips of the Furies. We abandoned ourselves to our transports, and an hundred times encompassed this dreadful cavern: we went from Jealousy to Rage, and from Rage to Jealousy. We called upon Themira; we called upon Camilla: but if Themira and Camilla had been there, we should have torn them in pieces with our own hands.
At length we returned to the light of day, which then appeared troublesome, and we almost regretted our having quitted the frightful cavern: we sunk down with lassitude, and even this repose appeared insupportable. Our eyes refused to shed tears, and our hearts could no longer form a sigh.
I however enjoyed a moment’s tranquillity: Sleep began to shed on me her sweet poppies. But, ye Gods! this sleep itself became cruel. I saw images that appeared more terrible to me, than the pale shades I had seen when awake. I every instant awoke at the infidelity of Themira. I saw her—I dare not yet express what I saw. What I before beheld only in imagination, I found realized in the horrors of this frightful sleep.
I must then, said I rising, fly equally darkness and light. Themira, the cruel Themira, torments me like the Furies! Who could have imagined, that in order to be happy I must forget her for ever?
Seized by a fit of madness, I cried, Friend, arise, let us destroy the flocks that feed in this meadow; let us pursue the shepherds who enjoy their loves in peace. No, I see at a distance a temple; it is, perhaps, that of Cupid: let us go and destroy it; let us break his statue, and render our rage formidable. We ran, and it seemed as if our ardour for committing a crime gave us new strength. We crossed the woods, the meadows, and the fields, and did not stop for a moment: a hill arose in vain; we ascended it, and entered the temple, which was consecrated to Bacchus.—How great is the power of the Gods! Our rage was immediately calmed. We looked at each other, and saw with surprize the extravagance of our conduct.
Great God! I cried, I return thee my thanks, not so much for having appeased my fury, as for having saved me from guilt. Then approaching the priestess; We are beloved by the God whom you serve, said I; he has just calmed the agitations of our minds; scarce did we enter this sacred place, than we were sensible of his favourable presence; we would therefore offer a sacrifice to him. Condescend, divine priestess, to offer it for us. I will go and seek a victim, and bring it to your feet.
While the priestess was preparing to give the mortal blow, Aristeus pronounced these words: Divine Bacchus, thou lovest to see joy diffused over the countenance of man; our pleasure is a worship paid to thee; and thou wilt be adored by none but the most happy of mortals.
Sometimes thou givest a sweet disorder to our reason: but when some cruel Deity has taken it from us, thou alone canst restore it.
Black Jealousy holds Love in bondage: but thou takest away the empire she assumes over our hearts, and sendest her back to her dismal abode.
After the sacrifice was ended, all the people assembled about us: and I related to the priestess, how we had been tormented in the habitation of Jealousy. Suddenly we heard a great noise, and a confused mixture of voices and musical instruments: upon which leaving the temple, we saw a troop of Bacchanals, who striking the earth with their thyrses, cried with a loud voice, Evoboe. Old Silenus followed, mounted on an ass: his head seemed to seek the ground, and whenever it seemed ready to fall from his shoulders, he balanced himself up with his body. The troop had their faces smeared with the lees of wine. Pan at length appeared with his pipe; and the Satyrs surrounded their King. Joy reigned in the midst of disorder; an amiable folly was mixed with their sports, their raillery, their dances, and their songs. At length came Bacchus in a chariot drawn by tygers; such as was seen at the river Ganges, at the end of the universe, bearing joy and victory.
By his side was the beautiful Ariadne. Lovely Princess, you still wept for the infidelity of Theseus, when the God took your crown, and placed it in the heavens. Had you not dried up your tears, you would have rendered a God more unhappy than yourself, who are a mortal. Love me, said he, Theseus is fled; bear no remembrance of his love; and even forget his perfidy: I will render you immortal, that I may love you for ever.
I saw Bacchus descend from his chariot; and I saw Ariadne also descend: when entering the temple, Amiable God, cried she, let us stay in this place, and here sigh our loves. Let eternal joy dwell in this delightful climate. Near this place the queen of hearts has fixed her empire: may the God of Joy reign near her, and increase the happiness of these people already so fortunate.
As for me, great God, I already perceive that my love is increased; and it is possible that thou mayst one day appear even more amiable! None but the immortals can love to excess, and with a constant growing affection; none but they can obtain more than they hope for; they alone are more limited when they desire, than when they enjoy. Here we will perform our eternal loves: for in the heavens the Gods are filled with their glory; and it is only on the earth, and in rural retreats, that they give way to love. While this troop therefore abandon themselves to extravagant transports, my joy, and my sighs shall incessantly proclaim my affection.
Bacchus smiled at Ariadne, and instantly led her into the sanctuary. Mean while joy took possession of our hearts; we felt a divine emotion: when being seized with the extravagance of old Silenus, and by the transports of the Bacchanals, we each took a thyrses, and mingled in the dances and concerts.
ON our quitting the places consecrated to Bacchus, we soon felt that our evils had been only suspended. ’Tis true, we had not the madness with which we had before been agitated; but a gloomy melancholy had seized our souls, and we were racked by suspicions and inquietudes.
It seemed to us, that the cruel Goddesses had tormented us, in order to give us a foresight of the misfortunes to which we were destined.
Sometimes we regretted our having left the temple of Bacchus; and soon after we were induced to approach that of Gnidus: we were desirous of seeing Themira and Camilla, the powerful objects of our love and jealousy.
But we had none of that sweetness people are accustomed to feel, when on the point of seeing those they love, when the soul is already ravished, and tastes beforehand the promised happiness.
Perhaps, said Aristeus, I shall find Lycas the shepherd with Camilla. How do I know that he is not talking to her this very moment? Ye Gods! the traitress takes pleasure in hearing him.
It was said the other day, cried I, that Thyrsis, who has been so in love with Themira, was to arrive at Gnidus. He has loved her, and doubtless loves her still; I must dispute with him a heart I believed intirely my own.
I remember that one day Lycas sung to my Camilla. Insensible wretch that I was, I was delighted at hearing him praise her.
I remember that Thyrsis brought my Themira some fresh-blown flowers. Unhappy that I am, she placed them in her bosom, saying, It is a present from Thyrsis. Oh! I should have snatched them, and have trampled them under my feet.
Not long since I went with Camilla to make an offering to Venus of two young turtles; but they escaped from me, and flew away.
I had inscribed my name with that of Themira on the trees; I had written also the story of our love: I read them, and read them again without ceasing; but one morning I found them effaced.
Camilla, drive not to despair an unhappy wretch who loves thee; for love, when provoked, has all the effects of hatred.
The first Gnidian that shall look at my Themira, I will pursue even into the Temple, and punish him, though at the feet of Venus.
While we were holding these discourses, we arrived within sight of the sacred grove where the Goddess delivers her oracles. The people were in crowds that moved like the waves of the sea agitated by the wind. Some came to hear, and others to receive an answer.
We entered the crowd, and I lost the happy Aristeus. Already had he embraced his Camilla; and I was still in search of my Themira.
I at length found her. I felt my jealousy redoubled at her sight, and began to resume my former madness. But she looked at me, and I was filled with tranquillity. Thus do the Gods send back the Furies, when they escape out of hell.
Oh! what tears, cried she, hast thou cost me! Three times has the sun run his course, and I feared that I had lost thee for ever. I have been to consult the Oracle. I did not ask whether thou lovedst me. I only desired to know if thou wast still alive. But Venus has just answered, that thou wilt love me for ever.
Excuse, said I, an unfortunate wretch, who would have hated thee had he been capable of it. The Gods, in whose hands I am, may take away my reason; but they cannot, Themira, deprive me of my love.
I have been agitated by the most dreadful jealousy, and have endured the tortures inflicted in Tartarus on the ghosts of criminals. But this advantage have I drawn from it, I am more sensible of the happiness of being beloved by thee, after the dreadful situation of fearing to lose thee.
Come then with me; retire into this solitary grove. We ought by love to expiate the crimes I have committed. It is a great crime, Themira, to believe thee unfaithful.
Never were the Elysian bowers, made by the Gods for the tranquillity of the souls they love; never were the forests of Dodona, where the trees spoke, and revealed to man his future felicity; never were the gardens of the Hesperides, whose boughs bent under the weight of their golden fruit, more charming than this grove adorned with the inchanting presence of Themira.
I remember, a Satyr who pursued a nymph, that fled from him all in tears, saw us; and stopping, cried, Happy lovers! your eyes know how to answer and reply to your passion; and your sighs are repaid by sighs! But I spend my life in following a cruel shepherdess; unhappy while I pursue; but more unhappy still when I have caught her.
A young nymph, who was wandering alone thro’ the grove, perceived us; and sighing cried, It is only to augment my torments, that cruel Cupid brings before me so tender a lover.
We found Apollo seated near a fountain. That God had followed Diana, whom a timorous deer had led into these woods. I knew him again by his fair hair, and the immortal troop that surrounded him. He struck his lyre; it drew the woods, the trees moved, and the lions remained immoveable. But we entered farther into the forest, and were in vain invited by that divine harmony.
Where do you imagine that I found the God of Love. I found him on the lips of Themira. I afterwards discovered him on her bosom: he saved himself at her feet; I found him still: he then hid himself under her knees; I followed him, and should have continued to follow him, if the weeping, the angry Themira had not stopped me. He was at his last retreat, and she was so charming, that he could not leave her. Thus, a tender linnet, detained by fear and love, covers her little ones with her wings, and remains immoveable under the hand that approaches her, and cannot consent to abandon them.
Unhappy as I am, Themira heard my complaints, and was not foftened: she listened to my intreaties, and became more severe. In short, I grew rash: she was enraged, and I trembled: she appeared sorry; and I shed tears: she repulsed me; and I fell at her feet. I then perceived, that the sighs I uttered would have been my last, had not Themira laid her hand on my heart, and recalled me to life.
I am not so cruel as thou, said she, for I have never thought of killing thee; and yet thou wouldest draw me into the darkness of the grave. Open those dying eyes, if thou wouldst not have mine shut for ever.
She embraced me, and I received my pardon; but alas! it was without the hope of again becoming guilty.
As the following piece appears to be written by the same author, I have also translated it from the Greek, and placed it here.
ONE day being in the Idalian grove with the young Cephisa, I found Cupid asleep hid under the flowers, and sheltered by some branches of myrtle, which gently yielded to the breath of the Zephyrs. The Sports and Laughter, who always follow him, were playing at some distance, and he was alone. Cupid was then in my power: his bow and quiver lay by his side; and, if I had pleased, I could have stole the arms of the God of Love.
Cephisa however took the bow, drew an arrow, and, without my perceiving her, let it fly at me. On which I smiling said, Take a second, give me another wound, for this is too sweet. She resolved to let fly another arrow, but it fell at her feet; and she softly cried, This was the heaviest arrow in the quiver of Love. She then taking it up, shot; and striking me, I bowed, crying, O Cephisa, wouldst thou then bring me to my grave?
She then approached nearer to Cupid. He is in a profound sleep, said she; he is fatigued with shooting his arrows; let us gather some flowers, in order to bind his hands and feet. Oh! I can never consent to it, I returned; for he has always favoured us. I will go, then, said she, take his arms, and let fly an arrow at him with all my strength. But he will awake, said I. Well, let him, said she; what can he do but wound us more? No, no, I returned, do not disturb his repose; we will remain near him, and shall by that means be more inflamed.
Cephisa then took the leaves of myrtle and roses, and cried, I am resolved to cover Cupid with them. The Sports and Laughter sought him, but could not find them, when she threw them upon him, and laughed to see the little God almost buried. But what am I amusing myself about, said she? I must cut his wings, that there may be no more inconstant men upon earth; for this God flies from heart to heart, carrying inconstancy with him. She then took her scissars, sat down, and held in her hand the ends of his golden pinions. I felt my heart struck with fear, and cried, Stop, Cephisa! But she heard me not, and having cut the tip of his wings, left her sciffars, and fled.
When Cupid awoke, he endeavoured to fly; but felt an unaccustomed weight; on seeing the clippings of the feathers scattered among the flowers, he began to weep. But Jupiter perceiving him from high Olympus, sent him a cloud that carried him to the Temple of Gnidus, and laid him on the bosom of Venus. Mother, said he, I beat upon your breast with my wings; they are cut, and what will become of me? Son, said the lovely Cypria, do not weep; stay in my bosom, and do not stir; the warmth you will find there will make them grow again. Do you not see that they are already larger? Embrace me; they grow; you will soon find them as before; I already see the tips of the golden feathers; in another moment—’tis enough, fly, fly, my son. Yes, said he, I am going to venture. He flew; he rested himself near the Goddess; and instantly returned to her bosom. He thence took a second flight; rested at a greater distance; and again returned to the bosom of Venus. He kissed it, she smiled; he kissed it again, and played with her: and at length arose into the air, where he reigns over all nature.
Cupid, to be revenged on Cephisa, has rendered her the most volatile of all the fair; and has caused her to burn every day with a fresh flame. She has loved me; she has loved Daphnis; and she still loves Cleon. Cruel Cupid! it is me whom you punish. I would gladly bear the pain inflicted for her crime: but hast thou not other torments for me to suffer?
WHEN Alexander had destroyed the Persian Empire, heresolved to raise a belief, that he was the son of Jupiter. The Macedonians were vexed at seeing that Prince blush at having Philip for his father: their discontent encreased, when they beheld him assume the manners, the customs, and the dress of the Persians; and they reproached themselves for having done so much for a man who began to despise them. But the murmurs of the army did not break out into words.
A philosopher, named Callisthenes, had followed the king in his expedition. One day he saluted him after the manner of the Greeks: on which Alexander cried, “Whence comes it that thou dost not adore me?” “My Lord, said Callisthenes, thou art the chief of two nations: the one were slaves before they had submitted to thee, and are not less so since thou hast conquered them; the other free before they assisted thee in gaining so many victories, and are so still since thou hast obtained them. I am a Greek, my Lord; and that name thou hast raised so high, that we cannot degrade it without injuring thee.”
The vices of Alexander were as extraordinary as his virtues. He was terrible in his anger; it rendered him cruel. He caused the feet, nose, and ears of Callisthenes to be cut off; ordered that he should be shut up in an iron cage, and this carried in the train of his army.
I loved Callisthenes; and whenever business would allow me some hours of leisure, I was used to employ them in listening to him: and if I have any love for virtue, I owe it to the impressions I have received from his discourses. I went to visit him. “I salute thee, said I, illustrious but unhappy Callisthenes, whom I see, like a wild beast, kept in a cage of iron, for having been the only man in the army.”
“Lysimachus, said he, when I see myself in a situation that demands courage and fortitude, I seem to be almost in my proper situation. Indeed, had the Gods placed me upon earth, only to lead here a life of pleasure, I believe they would have given me in vain a great and immortal soul. To enjoy the pleasures of sense, is a thing of which all men are easily capable; and if the Gods have made us only for that, they have made a work more perfect than they intended, and have executed more than they designed. Not, added he, that I am insensible. Thou let’st me too plainly see that I am not. When I saw thee coming, I felt a sudden pleasure at seeing thee perform so courageous an action. But I conjure thee, in the name of the Gods, to let this be the last time. Leave me to support my misfortunes; and be not so cruel as to add to them the weight of thine.”
“Callisthenes, said I, I will visit thee every day. If the king sees thee abandoned by virtuous men, he will no longer feel the least remorse; he will begin to believe that thou art guilty. I hope he will never enjoy the pleasure of seeing, that his chastisements have made me abandon a friend.”
One day Callisthenes said to me, “The immortal Gods have given me consolation; and ever since I feel within me something divine, that has taken away the sensibility of my pains. I have seen in a dream the great Jupiter. Thou wast near him; thou hadst a sceptre in thine hand, and a royal circlet on thy forehead. He shewed thee to me, and said, He will render thee more happy. The emotions I felt awaked me from sleep. I found my hands lifted up towards heaven, and was making an effort to say, Great Jupiter, if Lysimachus is to reign, grant that he may reign with justice. Lysimachus, thou shalt reign: believe a man who must be pleasing to the Gods, since he suffers in the cause of virtue.”
In the mean while Alexander being informed, that I shewed respect to the misery of Callisthenes, that I went to visit him, and even presumed to complain of his treatment, was filled with a fresh transport of rage. “Go, said he, and fight with lions, unhappy wretch, that takest delight in living with wild beasts.” My punishment was, however, deferred, that it might serve as a spectacle to a great number of men.
The day which preceded it I wrote these words to Callisthenes: “I am going to die. All the ideas thou hast given me of my future grandeur are vanished from my mind. I could have wished to alleviate the sufferings of a man like thee.”
Prexapes, in whom I confided, brought this answer: “Lysimachus, if the Gods have resolved that thou shalt reign, Alexander cannot take away thy life; for men have it not in their power to oppose the will of the Gods.”
From this letter I received encouragement: and reflecting, that the happiest and most unhappy of mankind are equal surrounded by the divine hand, I resolved to conduct myself, not by my hopes, but by my courage, and to defend to the last a life on which depended such great promises.
They led me to the circus, where I was surrounded by an immense number of people, who came to be witness of my courage or my fear. A lion was let loose upon me. I wrapped my cloak about my arm: I presented it to him: he would have devoured it: I thrust it far into his mouth, seized his tongue by the roots, tore it out, and threw it at my feet.
Alexander was naturally fond of courageous actions. He admired my resolution; and at that moment the greatness of his soul returned.
He gave orders for my being called to him; and holding out his hand to me, “Lysimachus, said he, I return thee my friendship, return me thine: my anger has only served to make thee perform an action that was wanting in the life of Alexander.”
I received the king’s favour, adored the decrees of the Gods, and waited for their promises, without seeking or flying from them. Alexander died; and all the nations were without a master. The king’s sons were in their infancy: his brother Arideus had not yet come into Persia: Olympias had only the boldness of weak minds, and cruelty was to her courage. Roxana, Eurydice, Statyra, were lost in grief. Every body in the palace gave vent to their groans, and nobody thought of reigning. Alexander’s captains then raised their eyes up to the throne; but the ambition of each was checked by the ambition of all. We divided the empire; and each of us believed that he had shared the price of his fatigues.
It was my lot to be made King of Asia; and now, when I can do whatever I please, I am more in need than ever of the lessons of Callisthenes. His joy informs me that I have done a good action, and his sighs tell me that I have some evil to repair. I find him between my people and me.
I am King of a people who love me. The fathers of families hope for the length of my life, as for that of their children. The young fear to lose me, as they fear to lose a father. My subjects are happy, and I am so too.
THE greatest part of men of letters who have mentioned the Spirit of Laws, having rather endeavoured to criticise it than to give a just idea of it; we shall endeavour to supply what they ought to have done, and to explain its plan, its nature, and its object. Those who may think this Analysis too long, will perhaps be of opinion, after having read it, that there was no other method but this alone of making the author’s method properly understood. Besides, it ought to be remembered, that the history of celebrated writers is no more than that of their thoughts and their works; and that this part of their history is the most essential, and most useful.
Men in the state of nature, abstracting from all religion, in those disputes which they may have, knowing no other law but that of all animals, the right of the strongest, the establishment of society ought to be regarded as a kind of treaty against this unjust title; a treaty destined to establish a sort of balance between the different divisions of the human race.
But it happens in the moral, as in the physical equilibrium; it is seldom perfect and durable, and the treaties of mankind are, like treaties among our princes, a perpetual source of disputes. Interest, necessity, and pleasure, made men associate together. The same motives push them continually to want to enjoy the advantages of society without bearing the burdens of it; and it is in this sense that we may say with our author, That men, from the time they enter into society, are in a state of war. For war supposes in those who make it, if not an equality of strength, at least an opinion of this equality; whence arise the mutual desire and hope of conquest. Now, in a state of society, if the balance among men is never perfect, neither is it, on the other hand, too unequal. On the contrary, they would either have nothing to dispute about in the state of nature; or if necessity obliged them to it, nothing would be seen but weakness flying before force, oppressors meeting with no resistance, and those who were oppressed, tamely submitting.
Behold then men, united and armed at the same time, embracing each other on one side, if we may speak so; and endeavouring on the other mutually to wound each other. Laws are the chains, more or less efficacious, which are destined to suspend or to restrain their blows. But the prodigious excent of the globe which we inhabit, the different nature of the regions of the earth, and of the people who are spread over it, not permitting that all mankind should live under one and the same government, the human race was obliged to divide itself into a certain number of states, distinguished by the difference of those laws to which they are subjected. One single government would have made the human kind to have been no more than one extenuated and languishing body, extended without vigour over the surface of the earth. The different governments are so many robust and active bodies, which, by mutually assisting each other, form one whole, and whose reciprocal action maintains and keeps up motion and life every where.
We may distinguish three sorts of governments, the republican, the monarchical, the despotic. In the republican, the people in a body possess the sovereign power. In the monarchical, one single person governs by fundamental laws. In the despotic, no other law is known but the will of a master, or rather of a tyrant. This is not to say, that there are in the universe only these three kinds of government; it is not even to say, that there are states which belong only and strictly to some one of these forms; the greatest part of them are mixed or shaded the one with the other. Here, monarchy inclines to despotism; there, the monarchical government is combined with the republican; elsewhere, it is not the whole people, it is only a part of them, which make the laws. But the preceding division is not on that account the less just and exact. The three kinds of government which it includes, are so distinguished that they have properly nothing in common; and besides, all the governments which we know participate the one of the other. It was then necessary to form particular classes of these three kinds, and afterwards to determine the laws which are proper for each; it will be easy afterwards to adapt those laws to any particular government, according as it may belong more or less to those different forms.
In different states, the laws ought to be relative to their nature, that is to say, to that which constitutes them; and to their principle, that is to say, to that which supports them, and puts them in motion: an important distinction, the key of an infinite number of laws, and from which the author draws many consequences.
The principal laws relative to the nature of democracy are; That the people be in some respects the monarch, and in others the subject; that it elect and judge its magistrates, and that the magistrates on certain occasions decide. The nature of monarchy requires, That there be between the monarch and the people one body to whom the laws are entrusted, and which ought to be a mediator between the subject and the prince. The nature of despotism requires, That the tyrant exercise his authority, either by himself alone, or by one who represents him.
As to the principle of the three governments; that of democracy is the love of the republic, that is, of equality. In monarchies where one single person is the dispenser of distinctions and rewards, and where they are accustomed to confound the state with this single man, the principle is honour, that is, ambition, and the love of esteem. Lastly, under despotism, it is fear. The more vigorous these principles are, the more fixed the government is; the more these are altered and corrupted, the more it tends to its destruction. When the author speaks of equality in democracy, he does not mean an extreme, absolute, and consequently chimerical equality. He means that happy equilibrium which renders all the citizens equally subject to the laws, and equally interested to observe them.
In every government the laws of education ought to be relative to its principle. We understand here by education that which they receive when they are entering upon the world; and not that of parents and of school-masters, which is often contrary to it, especially in some states. In monarchies, education ought to have for its object politeness and reciprocal civilities: in despotic states, terror, and the debasing the spirits of men. In republics they have occasion for all the force of education: it ought to inspire a sentiment which is noble, but hard to be attained, that disregard to our own interest from whence the love of our country arises.
The laws which the legislator makes ought to be conformable to the principle of each government: in a republic, to maintain equality and frugality; in monarchy, to support the nobility without ruining the people; in a despotic government, to silence and equally to keep under subjection those of every condition. M. de Montesquieu ought not to be accused of having pointed out to sovereigns the principles of arbitrary power, the very name of which is so odious to just princes, and still more so to a wise and virtuous citizen. It is to labour to destroy it, to point out what is necessary to maintain it: the perfection of this government is its ruin, and an exact system of the laws of tyranny, such as our author describes it to us, is at the same time a satire upon, and the most formidable scourge of tyrants. With respect to other governments, they have each their advantages: the republican is more proper to small, the monarchical to great states; the republican is more subjected to excesses, the monarchical to abuses; the republican executes the laws after more mature deliberation, the monarchical with more promptitude.
The difference of the principles of the three governments must produce many differences in the number and object of laws, in the forms of judgments, and the nature of punishments. The constitution of monarchies, being invariable and fundamental, requires more civil laws and tribunals, that justice may be administered in the most uniform and least arbitrary manner. In moderate governments, be they monarchical or republican, there cannot be too many formalities in criminal laws. Punishments ought not only to be in proportion to the crime, but also as gentle as possible, especially in a democracy: the opinion attached to punishments will often have more effect than their severity. In republics, judgment must be given according to law, because no individual has the power to alter it. In monarchies, the clemency of the sovereign can sometimes soften the law: but crimes ought never to be judged there but by magistrates expresly intrusted with that office. In a word, ’tis principally in democracies that the laws ought to be severe against luxury, looseness of morals, and debauching of women. Their very softness and weakness render them fit enough to govern in monarchies; and history proves, that they have often wore a crown with glory.
M. de Montesquieu having thus run over each government in particular, afterwards examines them in the relation which they may have with each other, but only in the most general point of view, that is to say, under that which is only relative to their nature and their principle. Viewed in this light, states can have no relations, but that of defending themselves, or of attacking. Republics by their nature, supposing their state to be small, cannot defend themselves without alliances; but it is with republics that they ought to ally themselves. The defensive force of monarchy consists principally in having frontiers secured from insults. States, like men, have a right to attack for their own preservation: from the right of war that of conquest is derived; a right necessary, lawful, calamitous, which always lays an immense debt upon us, if we would discharge what on that account becomes due from us to human nature, and the general law of which is to do as little harm as possible to the conquered. Republics can conquer less than monarchies: immense conquests suppose despotism already in a state, or render its approach certain. One of the great principles of the spirit of conquest ought to be, to render the condition of the conquered as much better as possible: this is to fulfil, at once, the law of nature, and a maxim of state. Nothing is more noble than that treaty of peace which Gelo made with the Carthaginians, by which he forbad them to sacrifice for the future their own children. The Spaniards, when they conquered Peru, ought in the same way to have obliged the inhabitants no more to have sacrificed men to their Gods; but they thought it more advantageous to sacrifice these people themselves. There remained nothing to them as a conquest but a vast desert, they were obliged to depopulate their own country, and for ever weakened it by their own conquest. It may sometimes be necessary to change the laws of the conquered people; it can never be so to deprive them of their manners, or even of their customs, which are often all they have for manners. But the surest way of preserving a conquest, is to put, if it is possible, the conquered on a level with the conquerors, to grant them the same rights and the same privileges: this the Romans often did, and thus especially Cæsar acted with respect to the Gauls.
Hitherto, when considering government, as well in itself as in its relation to others, we have neither taken notice of what ought to be common to them, nor of those particular circumstances which arise either from the nature of the country, or from the genius of the people. It is this which we must now explain.
That political liberty which every citizen ought to enjoy, is the common law of all governments, at least moderate governments, and consequently just ones. This liberty is not an absurd licence of doing every thing we wish to do, but the power of doing every thing that the laws permit. It may be considered either in its relation to the constitution, or in its relation to the citizen. There are in the constitution of every state two sorts of powers, the legislative and the executive; and this last has two objects, the internal police, and its relation to foreign interests. It is from the legitimate distribution and proper subdivision of these different powers, that the greatest perfection of political liberty with relation to the constitution depends. M. de Montesquieu brings as a proof of this the constitution of the Roman republic, and that of England. He finds the principle of the last in that fundamental law of the government of the ancient Germans, that affairs of small importance were determined by the chiefs, and that great affairs were brought before the tribunal of the nation, after they had been first debated by them. M. de Montesquieu does not examine whether the English enjoy actually or not that high political liberty which their constitution gives them; it is enough for him that it is established by their laws. He is still farther from writing a satire upon other states: he believes on the contrary, that an excess even of good is not always desirable; that extreme liberty, like extreme slavery, has its inconveniences; and that in general human nature is most adapted to a middling state of freedom.
Political liberty, considered with relation to a citizen, consists in that security in which he lives under shelter of the laws; or at least in an opinion of this security which makes no one citizen entertain any fear of another. It is principally by the nature and proportion of punishments, that this liberty is established or destroyed. Crimes against religion ought to be punished by a privation of those advantages which religion procures; crimes against morality, by shame; crimes against the public tranquillity, by imprisonment or banishment; crimes against its security, by more grievous punishments. Writings ought to be less punished than actions; simple thoughts ought never to be so. Accusations which are not according to the forms of law, spies, anonymous letters, all those resources of tyranny which are equally disgraceful to such as are the instruments of them, and to those who make use of them, ought to be proscribed in every good monarchical government. No body ought to be permitted to accuse but in face of the law, which always punishes either the accused person or the calumniator. In every other case, those who govern ought to say, with the Emperor Constantius: We cannot suspect a man against whom no accuser appeared, when at the same time he did not want an enemy. It is a very fine institution by which a public officer charges himself, in name of the state, with the prosecution of crimes; as this answers all the good purposes of informers without being exposed to those sordid interests, those inconveniences, and that infamy, which attend them.
The greatness of taxes ought to be in a direct proportion with public liberty. Thus, in democracies they may be greater than elsewhere, without being burdensome; because every citizen looks upon them as a tribute which he pays to himself, and which secures the tranquillity and fortune of every member of it. Besides, in a democratical state, an unjust application of the public revenue is more difficult; because it is easier to find it out, and to punish it, he who is intrusted with it being obliged to give an account of it, so to speak, to the first citizen who requires it of him.
In every government, of whatever sort, the least burdensome kind of tax is that which is laid upon merchandize; because the citizen pays without perceiving it. An excessive number of troops in time of peace is only a pretence to load the people with taxes, a means of enervating the state, and an instrument of slavery.
That administration of the revenues which makes the whole produce of it enter into the public treasury is beyond comparison least chargeable to the people, and consequently more advantageous when it can take place than the farming out of these taxes, which always leaves in the hands of private persons part of the revenue of the state. But above all, every thing is ruined (these are the author’s own words) when the profession of a farmer of the revenues becomes honourable; and it becomes so, when luxury is at a great height. To permit some men to acquire vast fortunes out of what belongs to the public, to plunder them in their turn, as was formerly practised in certain states, is to repair one injustice by another, and to commit two ills instead of one.
Let us now come, with M. de Montesquieu, to those particular circumstances which are independent of the nature of government, and to which laws ought to be adapted. The circumstances which arise from the nature of the country, are of two sorts; the one has a relation to the climate, the other to the soil. No body doubts but that the climate has an influence upon the habitual disposition of the bodies, and consequently upon the characters of men; on which account laws ought to be framed agreeable to the nature of the clime in indifferent things, and, on the contrary, to resist its bad effects. Thus, in countries where the use of wine is hurtful, that law which forbids it is a very good one: in countries where the heat of the climate inclines people to laziness, that law which encourages labour is a very proper one. The government can then correct the effects of the climate; and this is enough to obviate that reproach which has been thrown upon the Spirit of Laws, as if it attributed every thing to cold and heat: for, besides that heat and cold are not the only circumstances by which climates are distinguished, it would be as absurd to deny certain effects of climate, as to attribute every thing to it.
The practice of having slaves, established in the warm countries of Asia and America, and rejected in the temperate climates of Europe, affords our author an opportunity of treating of slavery in a state. Men having no more right over the liberty, than over the lives of each other, it follows that slavery, generally speaking, is against the law of nature. In effect, the right of slavery cannot arise from war, because it could not then be founded on any thing but the redemption of one’s life, and no body has a right over the life of one who no longer attacks him; nor from that sale which a man may make of himself to another, since every citizen, being accountable for his life to the state, is still more so for his liberty, and consequently has no title to sell it. Besides, what could be a proper price for such a sale? It cannot be the money given to the seller, because the moment he sells himself every thing that belongs to him becomes the property of his master: now a sale without a price is as chimerical, as a contract without a condition. There could never be but one just law in favour of slavery; this was that Roman law which made a debtor become the slave of a creditor: and even this law, to be equitable, ought to limit the slavery, both with respect to its degree, and time of duration. Slavery can only be tolerated in despotic states, where freemen, too weak against the government, endeavour to become, by their usefulness, the slaves of those who tyrannise over the state; or in those climates, where heat so enervate the body and weakens the courage, that men cannot be incited to a laborious task but by the fear of punishment. Near to civil slavery may be placed domestic slavery, that is, that in which women are kept in certain countries. This can take place in those countries of Asia where they are in a condition to live with men before they can make use of their reason; marriageable by the law of the climate, children by that of nature. This subjection becomes still more necessary in those countries where polygamy is established: a custom which M. de Montesquieu does not pretend to justify, in so far as it is contrary to religion; but which, in places where it is received, and, only speaking politically, may have a foundation to a certain degree, either from the nature of the climate, or the relation which the number of women bears to that of men. M. de Montesquieu speaks upon this occasion of repudiation and divorce; and he shows, from good reasons, that repudiation once admitted ought to be permitted to women as well as to men.
If the climate has so much influence on domestic and civil slavery, it has no less on political slavery; that is, upon what subjects one nation to another. The people in the north are stronger and more courageous than those of the south: these must then in general be conquered, those conquerors; these slaves, those free. And history confirms this: Asia has been eleven times conquered by the people of the north; Europe has suffered many fewer revolutions.
With respect to laws relative to the nature of the foil, it is plain, that democracy agrees better than monarchy to barren countries, where the earth has occasion for all the industry of men. Liberty, besides, in this case, is a sort of recompence for the difficulty of labour. More laws are necessary for a people which follows agriculture, than for one which tends flocks; for this, than for a hunting people; for a people which makes use of money, than for one that does not: in a word, the particular genius of a nation ought to be attended to. Vanity, which augments objects, is a good spring for government; pride, which undervalues them, is a dangerous one. The legislator ought to respect, to a certain degree, prejudices, passions, abuses. He ought to imitate Solon, who gave the Athenians not those laws which were best in themselves, but the best which they were capable of receiving: the gay character of this people required gentle, the austere character of the Lacedemonians, severe laws. Laws are a bad method of changing the manners and customs; ’tis by rewards and example that we ought to endeavour to bring that about. It is however true at the same time, that the laws of a people, when they do not grossly and directly affect to shock its manners, must insensibly have an influence upon them, either to confirm or change them.
After having in this manner deeply considered the Nature and Spirit of Laws with relation to different kinds of climates and people, our author returns again to consider states in that relation which they bear to each other. At first, when comparing them in a general manner, he could only view them with respect to the prejudice which they can do each other: here he considers them with respect to those mutual succours which they can give. Now these succours are principally founded on commerce. If the spirit of commerce naturally produces a spirit of interest, which is different from the sublimity of moral virtues, it also renders the people naturally just, and averse to idleness and living on plunder. Free people who live under moderate governments, must be more given to it, than enslaved nations. No nation ought ever to exclude from its commerce another nation without great reasons. Besides, liberty in this way is not an absolute privilege granted to merchants to do what they will; a power which would be oft prejudicial to them. It consists in laying no restraints on merchants but for the advantage of commerce. In a monarchy, the nobility ought not to apply to it, and still less the prince. In a word, there are some nations to which commerce is disadvantageous; but they are not such as stand in need of nothing, but such as stand in need of every thing; a paradox which our author renders intelligible by the example of Poland, which wants every thing except corn, and which, by that commerce which it carries on with it, deprives the common people of the necessaries of life, to gratify the luxury of the nobility. M. de Montesquieu takes occasion, when treating of those laws which commerce requires, to give us an history of its different revolutions: and this part of his Book is neither the least interesting, nor the least curious. He compares the impoverishment of Spain by the discovery of America, to the fate of that weak prince in the fable, ready to perish for hunger, because he had asked the Gods that every thing that he touched should be turned into gold. The use of money being one considerable part of the object of commerce, and its principal instrument, he was of opinion that he ought, in consequence of this, to treat of the different operations with respect to money, of exchange, of the payment of public debts, of lending out money for interest, the rules and limits of which he fixes, and which he distinguishes accurately from that excess so justly condemned as usury.
Population and the number of inhabitants have an immediate connexion with commerce; and marriages, having population as their object, under this article de M. Montesquieu goes to the bottom of this important subject. That which favours propagation most is general chastity: experience proves, that illicit amours contribute very little, and even sometimes are prejudicial to it. The consent of fathers has with justice been required in marriages: nevertheless some restrictions ought to be added; for the law ought in general to favour marriage. That law which forbids the marriage of mothers with their sons, is, independently of the precepts of religion, a very good civil law; for, without mentioning several other reasons, the parties being of very different ages, these sort of marriages can rarely have propagation as their object. That law which forbids the marriage of a father with a daughter is founded upon very different reasons. However (only speaking in a political sense) it is not so indispensably necessary to the object of population as the other, because the power of propagating continues much longer in men; and the other custom has, besides, been established among certain nations which the light of christianity had not enlightened. As nature of herself prompts to marriage, that must be a bad government which is obliged to encourage it. Liberty, security, moderate taxes, banishing of luxury, are the true principles and supports of populousness. However laws may, with success, be made to encourage marriage, when, in spite of corruption, there is still something remaining in the people which attaches them to the love of their country. Nothing is finer than the laws of Augustus, to promote the propagation of the species. Unfortunately he made those laws in the decline, or rather after the downfal of the republic; and the dispirited citizens must have foreseen, that they would no longer propagate any thing but slaves: and indeed the execution of those laws was very faint during all the time of the Pagan Emperors. At last Constantine abolished them when he became a Christian; as if christianity had had in view to dispeople the world when it recommended the perfection of celibacy to a small number.
The establishment of hospitals, according to the different spirit of these foundations, may be hurtful or favourable to population. There may, and indeed there ought to be, hospitals in a state where the most part of the citizens are maintained by their industry; because this industry may sometimes be unsuccessful; but that relief which those hospitals give ought to be only temporary, not to encourage beggary and idleness. The people are first to be made rich, and then hospitals to be built for unforeseen and pressing occasions. Unhappy are those countries where the multitude of hospitals and of monasteries, which are only a kind of perpetual hospitals, makes all the world live at ease but those who work!
M. de Montesquieu has hitherto only spoke of human laws; he now proceeds to those of religion, which, in almost all states, compose so essential an object of government. Every where he breaks forth into praises of christianity; he points out its advantages and its grandeur; he endeavours to make it be loved; he maintains that it is not impossible, as Bayle has pretended, that a society of perfect christians should actually form a durable state. But he also thought that he might be permitted to examine what different religions, humanly speaking, might have suitable or unsuitable to the genius and situation of those people which profess them. It is in this point of view that we must read all that he has wrote upon this article, and which has been the subject of so many unjust declamations. It is especially surprising that, in an age which presumes to call so many others barbarous, what he has said of toleration should be objected to him as a crime; as if approving and tolerating a religion were the same; as if the gospel itself did not forbid every other way of propagating it, but that of meekness and persuasion. Those in whose heart superstition has not extinguished every sentiment of compassion and justice, will not be able to read, without being moved, the Remonstrance to the Inquisitors, that odious tribunal, which outrageously affronts religion when it appears to avenge it.
In a word, after having treated in particular of the different kind of laws which men can have, there remains nothing more than to compare them all together, and to examine them in their relation with those things concerning which they prescribe rules.
Men are governed by different kinds of laws; by natural law, common to each individual; by the divine law, which is that of religion; by the ecclesiastical law, which is that of the policy of religion; by the civil law, which is that of the members of the same society; by the political law, which is that of the government of that society; by the law of nations, which is that of societies with respect to each other. These laws have each their distinct objects, which are carefully not to be confounded. That which belongs to the one ought never to be regulated by the other, lest disorder and injustice should be introduced into the principles which govern men. In a word, those principles which prescribe the nature of the laws, and which determine their objects, ought to prevail also in the manner of composing them. A spirit of moderation ought, as much as possible, to dictate all their different dispositions. Laws that are properly made will be conformed to the intention of the legislator, even when they appear to be in opposition to it. Such was the famous law of Solon, by which all who should not take some part in the public tumults were declared infamous. It prevented seditions, or rendered them useful by forcing all the members of the republic to attend to its true interests. Even the ostracism was a good law; for, on one hand it was honourable to the citizen who was the object of it, and prevented on the other, the effects of ambition: besides a great number of suffrages was necessary, and they could only banish every fifth year. Laws, which appear the same, have often neither the same motive, nor the same effect, nor the same equity. The form of government, different conjunctures, and the genius of the people, quite change them. In a word, the style of laws ought to be simple and grave. They may dispense with giving reasons, because the reason is supposed to exist in the mind of the legislator; but when they give reasons, they ought to be built upon evident principles: they ought not to resemble that law which, prohibiting blind people to plead, gives this as a reason, because they cannot see the ornaments of magistracy.
M. de Montesquieu, to point out by examples the application of his principles, has chosen two different people, the most celebrated in the world, and those whose history most interests us; the Romans and the French. He does not dwell but upon one point of the jurisprudence of the first, that which regards succession. With regard to the French, he enters into a greater detail, concerning the origin and revolutions of their civil laws, and the different usages abolished or still subsisting, which have been the consequences of them. He principally enlarges upon the feudal laws, that kind of government unknown to all antiquity, which will perhaps for ever be so to future ages, and which has done so much good and so much ill. He especially considers these laws in the relation which they have with the establishment and revolution of the French monarchy. He proves, against the Abbé du Bos, that the Franks actually entered as conquerors among the Gauls; and that it is not true, as this author pretends, that they had been called by the people to succeed to the rights of the Roman Emperors who oppressed them: a detail profound, exact and curious, but in which it is impossible for us to follow him.
Such is the general analysis, but a very imperfect one, of M. de Montesquieu’s work.
THIS Defence is divided into three parts. In the first are answered the general reproaches that have been cast on the Author of the Spirit of Laws. In the second, a reply is made to particular reproaches: And the third contains reflexions on the manner in which he has been treated. The Public will soon be acquainted with the state of the case; and to its judgment the Author refers.
THOUGH the Spirit of Laws is intirely a work relating to politics and civil law, the Author has had frequent occasion, in the course of that work, to mention the Christian religion. He has done it in such a manner, as fully to shew its dignity; and though he has had no view of endeavouring to prove it to be true, he has sought to render it beloved.
However, in two periodical pieces that have successively followed each other , the most dreadful imputations have been cast upon him. The inquiry is no less, than whether the author be a Spinosist and a Deist: And though these accusations are in their own nature contradictory, the critic incessantly returns from one to the other.
Both being incompatible cannot render him more guilty than one alone; but both may render him more odious.
He is a Spinosist, who in the first article of his book has distinguished between the material world and spiritual intelligences.
He is a Spinosist, who in the second article has attacked Atheism. “Those who assert, that a blind fatality produced the various effects we behold in this world, are guilty of a very great absurdity: For can any thing be more absurd, than to pretend that a blind fatality could produce intelligent beings.”
He is a Spinosist who continues to say, “God is related to the universe as creator and preserver ; the laws by which he has created all things, are those by which he preserves them. He acts according to these rules because he knows them: He knows them, because he has made them: And he made them because they are relative to his wisdom and power.”
He is a Spinosist who has added: “As we see that the world, though formed by the motion of matter, and void of understanding, continues to subsist, &c. ”
He is a Spinosist who has shewn, against Hobbre and Spinosa, That “before laws were made, the were relations of possible justice .”
He is a Spinosist who, in the beginning of the second chapter has said: “The law which, imprinting in our minds the idea of a Creator, inclines us to him, is the first, in its importance, of natural laws.”
He is a Spinosist who has attacked with all his power a paradox asserted by Bayle, “That it is better to be an atheist than an idolater;” a paradox from which the atheists draw the most dangerous consequences.
What do they alledge after such express passages? Natural equity demands that the degree of proof should be proportionable to the greatness of the accusation.
The Author falls at the very first step. “The Laws, in their most general signification, says he, are the necessary relations derived from the nature of things.” The laws of relations—What can he mean by this? The Author has not however deviated from the ordinary definition of Laws without design. What end had he then in view? This it is. According to the new system, there is, between all beings which form what Pope calls the universal whole, a chain so necessary, that the least disorder will produce confusion even up to the throne of the First Cause. This has made Pope say, that things can be no otherwise than they are, and that whatever is, is right. This being considered, we understand the signification of this new language, that the laws are the necessary relations derived from the nature of things. To which it is added, in this sense, “All beings have their Laws; the Deity has his Laws; the material world its Laws; the intelligencies superior to man their Laws; the beasts their Laws; man his Laws.”
Darkness itself is not more obscure than this passage. The Critic has heard that Spinosa maintained, that the universe is governed by a blind and necessary principle; and there needed no more. As soon as he found the word necessary, this must be Spinosism. The Author has asserted, that the Laws are necessary relations: here therefore is Spinosism, because here is the term necessary. And what appears surprising is, that the Author, in the opinion of the Critic, is found to be a Spinosist by this article, though it expressly opposes such dangerous systems. The Author was attempting to overthrow Hobbes’s system; a system the most terrible, it making all the virtues and vices depend on human establishments: and by endeavouring to prove, that all mankind are born in a state of war, and that the first natural Law, is that all should make war against all, he, like Spinosa, overthrows both all religion, and all morality. In answer to this, the Author has established, in the first place, that there were laws of justice and equity before the establishment of positive Laws: he has proved, that all beings have Laws; that, even before their creation, they had possible Laws; that God himself has Laws, that is, Laws which he himself has made. He has proved, that the assertion, That man is born in a state of war, is false . He has shewn, that a state of war did not commence till after the establishment of societies, and on this subject has advanced very clear principles. Whence it evidently follows: That the Author has attacked the errors of Hobbes, and the consequences of those of Spinosa; and that hence it has happened, that so little has he been understood, that his objections against Spinosism have been taken for the opinions of Spinosa. Before a person enters into a dispute, he ought to begin with making himself master of the state of the question; and with knowing whether he whom he attacks is a friend or an enemy.
The Critic continues: On which the Author cites Plutarch, who says, that Law is the Queen of Gods and men. But is it from a Pagan, &c?
It is true, the Author has quoted Plutarch, who says, that Law is the Queen of Gods and men.
The Author has said, That “the creation, which seems to be an arbitrary act, supposes Laws as invariable as the fatality of the atheists.” From these words the Critic concludes, that the Author admits the fatality of the atheists.
A little before he has destroyed this fatality, by saying, “Those who assert that a blind fatality produced the various effects we behold in the world, are guilty of a very great absurdity: for can any thing be more absurd than to pretend, that a blind fatality can produce intelligent beings.” Moreover, in the passage censured, the Author cannot be made to speak of any other subject but that he is treating of. He is not treating of causes, nor does he compare causes: but he treats of effects, and compares effects. The whole article, that which precedes it, and that which follows, shew that he is here only treating of the rules of motion, which the Author asserts are established by God. He says, that these rules are invariable; and all natural philosophy says so too. They are invariable, because God has resolved that they should be so, and because he has determined to preserve the world. He says neither more nor less than this.
I must always maintain, that the Critic never understands the sense of things, and that he applies his attention only to words. When the Author says, That the creation, which seems to be an arbitrary act, supposes rules as invariable as the fatality of the atheists, it cannot be understood as if he had said, the creation was as necessary an act as the fatality of the atheists, since he had already shewn the absurdity of that fatality. Moreover, the two members of a comparison ought to have a relation to each other: therefore it is absolutely necessary that the sentence should run thus: The creation, which seems at first to have produced Laws of variable motion, has those as invariable as the fatality of the atheists. The Critic, once more, has neither seen, nor does see, any thing but words.
THERE is then no Spinosism in The Spirit of Laws. Let us pass to another accusation; and see if it be true, That the Author does not acknowledge the truth of revealed religion. The Author, at the end of the first chapter, speaking of man as a finite being, subject to ignorance and error, has said: “Such a being might every instant forget his Creator; God has therefore reminded him of his duty by the Laws of religion.”
He has said, in the first chapter of the twenty-fourth book: “I shall examine the several religions in the world, in relation only to the good they produce in civil society, whether I speak of that which has its root in heaven, or of those which spring from the earth.
“A person of the least degree of impartiality must see, that I have never pretended to make the interests of religion submit to those of a political nature, but rather to unite them: now in order to unite, it is necessary that we should know them. The Christian religion, which ordains that men should love each other, would without doubt have every nation blest with the best civil, the best political Laws; because these, next to this religion, are the greatest good that men can give and receive.”
And in the second chapter of the same book: “A Prince who loves and fears religion is a lion, who stoops to the hand that strokes, or the voice that appeases him. He who fears and hates religion, is like the savage beast, that growls, and bites the chain which prevents his flying on the passenger. He who has no religion at all, is that terrible animal, who perceives his liberty only when he tears in pieces and devours.”
In the third chapter of the same book: “While the Mahometan Princes incessantly give or receive death, the religion of the Christians renders their Princes less timid, and consequently less cruel. The Prince confides in his subjects; and the subjects in the Prince. How admirable the religion which, while it seems only to have in view the felicity of the other life, constitutes the happiness of this!”
In the fourth chapter of the same book: “From the characters of the Christian and Mahometan religions we ought, without any further examination, to embrace the one, and reject the other.” To proceed:
In the sixth chapter: “Mr. Bayle, after having abused all religions, endeavours to sully Christianity: he boldly asserts, that true Christians cannot form a government of any duration. Why not? Citizens of this profession, being infinitely enlightened, with respect to the various duties of life, and having the warmest zeal to fulfil them, must be perfectly sensible of the rights of natural defence. The more they believed themselves indebted to religion, the more they would think due to their country. The principles of Christianity, deeply engraven on the heart, would be infinitely more powerful than the false honour of monarchies, the human virtues of republics, or the servile fear of despotic states.
“It is astonishing, that this great man should not be able to distinguish between the orders for the establishment of Christianity, and Christianity itself; and that he should be liable to be charged with not knowing the spirit of his own religion. When the legislator, instead of laws, has given counsels, this is because he knew, that if these counsels were ordained as laws, they would be contrary to the spirit of the laws themselves.”
In the tenth chapter: “Could I for a moment cease to think that I am a Christian, I should not be able to hinder myself from ranking the destruction of the sect of Zeno among the misfortunes that have befallen the human race, &c. Laying aside for a moment revealed truths, let us search through all nature, and we shall not find a nobler object than the Antoninuses, &c.”
In the thirteenth chapter: “The Pagan religion indeed, that prohibited only some of the grosser crimes, that stopped the hand, but meddled not with the heart, might have crimes that were inexpiable: but a religion which bridles all the passions; which is not more jealous of actions, than of thoughts and desires; which holds us not by a few chains, but by an infinite number of threads; which, laying human justice aside, establishes another kind of justice; which is so ordered as to lead us continually from repentance to love, and from love to repentance; which puts between the judge and the criminal a great mediator; between the just and the mediator a great judge: a religion like this ought not to have crimes in themselves inexpiable. But though it gives fear and hope to all, it makes us sufficiently sensible, that there is no crime in its own nature inexpiable, though a whole criminal life may be so; that it is extremely dangerous to affront mercy by new crimes and new expiations; that an uneasiness on account of ancient debts, from which we are never free, ought to make us afraid of contracting new ones, of filling up the measure, and going to that point where paternal goodness is limited.”
In the conclusion of the nineteenth chapter, the Author, after having shewn an abuse that has arisen in several Pagan religions with respect to their opinion of the state of souls in another life, says: “It is not enough for religion to establish a doctrine; it must also direct its influence. This the Christian religion performs in the most admirable manner, particularly with regard to the doctrines of which we have been speaking. It makes us hope for a state that is the object of our belief; not for a state we have already experienced or known. Thus every article, even the resurrection of the body, leads us to spiritual ideas.”
And at the conclusion of the twenty-sixth chapter: “It follows from hence, that it is almost always proper for a religion to have particular doctrines, and a general worship. In Laws concerning the practice of religious worship, there ought to be but few particulars: for instance, they should command mortification in general, and not a certain kind of mortification. Christianity is full of good sense: abstinence is of divine institution; but a particular kind of abstinence is ordained by a political Law, and therefore may be changed.”
In the last chapter of the twenty-fifth book: “But it does not follow, that a religion brought from a far distant country, and quite different in climate, laws, manners, and customs, will have all the success to which its holiness ought to intitle it.”
In the third chapter of the twenty-fourth book: “It is the Christian religion that, in spite of the empire and the influence of the climate, has hindered despotic power from being established in Æthiopia, and has carried into the midst of Africa the manners and Laws of Europe, &c. Not far from thence may be seen the Mahometan shutting up the children of the King of Sennao; at whose death the council sends to murder them, in favour of the Prince who mounts the throne.
“Let us set before our eyes, on the one hand, the continual massacres of the Kings and Generals of the Greeks and Romans; and, on the other, the destruction of people and cities by the commanders Thimur and Gengis-Kan, who ravaged Asia; and we shall see that we owe to Christianity, in government, a certain political Law, and, in war, a certain Law of nations; benefits which human nature can never sufficiently acknowledge.” The Reader is desired to peruse the whole chapter.
In the eighth chapter of the twenty-fourth book: “In a country so unfortunate as to have a religion which God has not revealed, it is always necessary that it should be agreeable to morality, because even a false religion is the best security we can have of the probity of men.”
These passages are very explicit. We here see a writer, who not only believes the Christian religion, but who loves it. What has the Critic said to prove the contrary? Let it be once more observed, that the proofs ought to be proportionable to the accusation: and as that accusation is not of a frivolous nature, neither ought the proofs to be so. But as these proofs are always given in a pretty extraordinary form, they being a mixture of half proof and half abuse, and in a manner concealed in the train of a very vague discourse; I am going to search for them.
The Author has praised the Stoics, who admitted a blind fatality, a necessary chain, &c. . This is the foundation of natural religion.
Suppose for a moment that this false manner of reasoning is just. Has the Author praised the natural philosophy and metaphysics of the Stoics? He has praised their morals; he has said, that the people obtained great advantages from them: he has said this, and he has said no more.—I am mistaken; he has said more: for, in the first page of the book, he has attacked the fatality of the Stoics: he did not then praise it, when he praised the Stoics.
The Author has praised Bayle in calling him a great man .
I will here too suppose for a moment, that in general this manner of reasoning is just: but, at least, it is not so in this case. It is true, the Author has called Bayle a great man; but he has censured his opinions. If he has censured them, he does not admit them: and since he has attacked his opinions, he does not call him a great man on their account. Every body knows, that Bayle had a great capacity; of which he has made an ill use: but that capacity which he misused, he had. The Author has, therefore, attacked his sophisms, and complained of his errors. I do not love the men who overthrow the laws of their country; but I should find it difficult to believe, that Cæsar and Cromwell were men of mean capacities. I am not fond of conquerors; but it would not be an easy matter to persuade me, that Alexander and Gengis-Kan were men of a common genius. It would not, indeed, have required any great abilities in the Author to have called Bayle an abominable man: but whether he owes this disposition to nature, or whether it is an effect of his education, it appears that he is not fond of using abusive language. I have reason to believe that, was he to take up the pen, he would not treat in that manner even those who have endeavoured to do him one of the greatest injuries that one man can do to another, by labouring to render him odious to all those who do not know him, and suspected by all who do.
Besides, I have remarked, that the declamations of angry men make little impression on those who are not themselves angry. Most readers are men of moderation, who seldom take a book but in cool blood. Reasonable men love reason; and if the Author had uttered against Bayle a thousand abusive expressions, it would not have followed from thence, that Bayle had reasoned either well, or ill: all that could have been concluded from it would have been, that the Author knew how to be abusive.
Is drawn from the Author’s not having treated, in his first chapter, of original sin .
I ask every sensible man, whether that chapter be a treatise on theology? Had the Author treated of original sin, he might in the same manner have been charged with not having mentioned the redemption of mankind; and thus they might have proceeded, from article to article, to infinity.
Is drawn from the Author’s having begun his work in a very different manner from Mr. Domat; who has first treated of revelation.
It is true Mr. Domat has begun his work in a different manner from the Author, and has first treated of revelation.
The Author has followed Pope’s system in his Essay on Man.
Throughout the whole work he has not one word of Pope’s system.
The Author says, That the law which prescribes to Man his duty towards God, is the most important; but be denies that it is the first; he pretends, that the first Law of nature is peace; that men begin with being afraid of each other, &c. But every child knows, that the first Law is to love God; and that the second is to love his neighbour.
These are the Author’s words: “The Law which, imprinting in our minds the idea of a Creator, inclines us to him, is the first of the natural laws in its importance, though not in its order. Man, in a state of nature, would have the power of knowing before he had acquired knowledge. It is evident that his first ideas would be far from being of a speculative nature; he would think of the preservation of his being before he would investigate its origin. Such a man would at first feel nothing in himself but impotency. His fears and apprehensions would be excessive; as appears from instances (were there any necessity of proving it) of savages found in forests, ever trembling, and flying from every shadow .” The Author has then said, that the Law which, imprinting in us the idea of a Creator, inclines us to him, is the first of the natural Laws. It is not unlawful for him, any more than for other philosophers and writers on the Law of nature, to consider man under various situations. He has therefore taken the liberty to suppose a man as if dropped from the clouds, lest to himself, and without education, before the establishment of society. Well, the Author has said, that the first, the most important, and consequently the capital Law of nature, would be for him, as well as for all other men, to be inclined towards his Creator. It is also allowable for the Author to enquire what would be the first impression made on this man, and to examine the order in which these impressions would be traced in his brain: And he has believed, that he would have sensations before he made reflexions; that the first, in the order of time, would be fear; afterwards the want of food, &c. The Author has said, that the law which, impressing on our minds the idea of a Creator, leads us to him, is the first of the natural Laws: the Critic says, that the first Law of nature is to love God: they are therefore only divided by abuse.
Is drawn from the first chapter of the first book; where the Author having said that man is a limited being, has added: “Such a being might every instant forget his Creator: God has therefore reminded him of his duty by the laws of religion.” Now, says the Critic, What is the religion to which the Author here alludes? He doubtless speaks of natural religion; he then only believes natural religion.
Let us suppose again, that this manner of reasoning is just; and that when the Author speaks only of the religion of nature, we may conclude from thence that he only believes in that religion, and that he excludes revealed religion: Yet, in this place I maintain, that he has spoken of revealed religion, and not of the religion of nature; for if he had meant the religion of nature, he must have been an ideot. It would have been as if he had said: Such a being might easily forget his Creator, that is, the religion of nature; God has therefore reminded him of his duty by the Laws of natural religion: so that God had given him the religion of nature, to perfect him in the religion of nature. Thus, to prepare himself for casting invectives on the Author, he begins by taking from his words their most evident sense, in order to give them the most evident absurdity; and to obtain the advantage over him, he deprives him of common sense.
The Author speaking of man, has said: “Such a being might every instant forget his creator; God has therefore reminded him of his duty by the Laws of religion: such a being is liable every moment to forget himself; philosophy has provided against this by the Laws of morality: formed to live in society, he might forget his fellow creatures; legislators have therefore, by political and civil Laws, confined him to his duty .” Therefore, says the Critic, according to the Author, the government is divided between God, the philosophers, and the legislators, &c. Where have the philosophers learned the Laws of morality? Where have legislators seen what they ought to prescribe, in order to govern societies with equity?
It is very easy to reply to this. They have taken it from revelation, if they have been so happy as to be favoured with it: otherwise, they have taken it from that Law which, impressing on our minds the idea of a Creator, leads us towards him. Has the Author of the Spirit of Laws said with Virgil, Cæsar shares the empire with Jupiter? Has not God, the governor of the universe, given to certain men greater intellectual abilities, and to others greater power? You would maintain that the Author has said, that because God has been pleased to ordain that men should be governed by men, he is not willing that they should obey him, and that he has divested himself of the authority he had over them, &c. To such absurdities are those reduced, who are extremely weak at reasoning, but have great strength at declamation.
The Critic continues: It is also observable that the Author, who finds that God cannot govern free beings as well as others, because, being free, they are allowed the liberty of acting for themselves (I shall observe by the way, that the Author does not make use of the expression, God cannot) remedies this disorder no otherwise than by the Law, which shews men what they ought to do, but gives them not the power to do it. Thus, according to the Author’s system, God has created beings whose irregularities he can neither hinder nor repair. Blind mortal! who does not see that God does what he requires from them, and that they can do nothing but what he pleases.
The Critic had before reproached the Author with not having mentioned original sin. He again returns to the charge, and censures him for not having spoken of grace. It is an unhappy thing to have to do with a man who censures all the articles of a book, and has only one predominant idea. He is not unlike the curate of the village, to whom some astronomers shewing the moon through a telescope, he could see nothing but a steeple.
The Author of The Spirit of Laws thought he ought to begin with giving some idea of Laws in general, and of the Law of nature and nations. The subject was immense; and yet he has included it in two chapters: he was therefore obliged to omit a great number of things that belonged to his subject; and with much better reason has he omitted those which had no relation to it.
The Author has said, that in England self-murder is the effect of a disease, and that they can no more punish it than they can punish the effects of madness. A follower of the religion of nature cannot forget that England is the cradle of his sect. He wipes a spunge over all the crimes he perceives there.
The Author does not know, that England is the cradle of the religion of nature. But he knows, that England is not his cradle, on account of his having mentioned a physical effect, which he himself observed in England. His sentiments of religion are no more like those of the English, than those of an Englishman, who treats of the physical effects that have happened in France, are like those of a Frenchman. The Author of The Spirit of Laws is not a follower of natural religion; but he would be glad to have his Critic a follower of natural logic.
I believe I have already made the terrible arms used by the Critic drop from his hand: and I am now going to give an idea of his exordium; which is such, that I am afraid my mentioning it here will be thought to be done by way of derision.
He says at first, and these are his words: That the book of the Spirit of Laws is one of those irregular productions, that were never so numerous till after the arrival of the bull Unigenitus. Is it not enough to make one laugh, to suppose that the arrival of The Spirit of Laws is caused by the arrival of the constitution Unigenitus? The bull Unigenitus is not the occasional cause of the book of The Spirit of Laws; but the bull Unigenitus, and the book of The Spirit of Laws, have been the occasional causes of the Critic’s having made so shrewd a remark.
The Critic continues: The Author says that he has often begun, and as often laid aside his work. However, when he threw his first productions into the fire, he was less distant from the truth, than when he began to be satisfied with his labours. How does he know that? He adds: If the Author had been willing to follow a beaten path, his work would have cost him less pains. How again does he know that? He afterwards pronounces this oracle: It does not require much penetration to perceive, that The Spirit of Laws is founded on the system of natural religion. It has been shewn in the letters against Pope’s Essay on Man, that the system of natural religion is connected with that of Spinosa: this is enough to inspire a Christian with horror at the new book of which we are here giving an account.
I reply, that this is not only enough, but even too much. But I have just proved, that the Author’s system is not that of the religion of nature; and supposing that natural religion is connected with Spinosa’s system, the Author’s system is not that of Spinosa, since it is not that of the religion of nature.
He would then inspire us with horror, before he has proved that we ought to be filled with horror.
These are the two forms of reasoning diffused through the two pieces I have undertaken to answer. The Author of the Spirit of Laws is a follower of natural religion: we must then explain what he says there by the principles of natural religion: therefore, if what he says there is founded on the principles of natural religion, he is a follower of natural religion.
The other form of reasoning is this: The Author of the Spirit of Laws is a follower of the religion of nature: what he then says in his book in favour of revelation is only to conceal his being a follower of the religion of nature: therefore, if he thus conceals himself, he is a follower of the religion of nature.
Before I conclude this first part, I shall be tempted to make an objection to him that has made so many. He has so terrified our ears with the phrase, follower of the religion of nature, that I, who defend the Author, scarcely dare to pronounce the word. I will however take courage. Do not these two pieces require more explication than that I defend? Does he do well, when he is treating of natural religion and revelation, to throw himself perpetually on one side, and to cause all traces of the other to be intirely lost? Does he do well never to distinguish those who acknowledge only the religion of nature, from those who acknowledge both natural and revealed religion? Does he do well to be frightened whenever the Author considers man in a state of nature, and when he explains any thing on the principles of natural religion? Does he do well to confound the religion of nature with atheism? Have I not always heard, that all of us have the religion of nature? Have I not heard, that Christianity is the perfection of natural religion? Have I not heard, that people make use of arguments drawn from the religion of nature, in proof of a revelation, against the Deists; and that we employ the same natural religion, to prove the existence of God against the atheists? He says that the Stoics were the followers of natural religion: and I, that they were atheists ; since they believed that the universe was governed by a blind fatality, and that, from natural religion, we ought to oppose the opinion of the Stoics. He says, that the system of natural religion is connected with that of Spinosa : and I, that they are contradictory, and that it is by natural religion we overthrow Spinosa’s system. I say, that to confound the religion of nature with atheism, is to confound the proof with the thing we would prove, and the objection against the error with the error itself; and that it is to deprive us of the powerful arms of which we are possessed against that error. God forbid that I should impute any ill design to the Critic, or take advantage of the consequences that might be drawn from his principles. Though he has treated the Author with very little indulgence, I would shew some to him. I only say, that the metaphysical ideas in his brain are very confused; that he has not the least power of separating them; that he is incapable of forming a good judgment, because among the various things he might see, he never sees but one. In this I have no design of making him reproaches, but merely of destroying those he has made.
I HAVE already cleared the Author of The Spirit of Laws from the two general reproaches that have been cast upon him: but there are still some particular imputations, to which it is necessary for me to reply. But to throw the greater light on what I have said, and on what will be hereafter added, I shall explain what has given room, or served as a pretence for making invectives.
Men of the best sense in the several countries of Europe, men of the greatest learning, and most distinguished for their wisdom, have considered The Spirit of Laws as an useful work: they have thought that the morals, in which it abounds, are pure; that the principles it contains are just, and that it is proper to form worthy members of society; that the Author there destroys pernicious opinions, and encourages those that are good.
On the other hand, here is a man who treats it as a dangerous book, and makes it the subject of the most outrageous invectives. This requires some explications.
So far from having understood the particular passages on which he has spent his criticism, he has not even discovered what is the subject of which the Author treats. Thus vainly beating the air, and fighting against the wind, he has gained triumphs of the same kind: he has wrote a good criticism on the book he had in his head; but has not wrote a critique on that of the Author. But how was it possible for him thus to mistake both the subject and design of a book placed before his eyes? Persons of sense see at the first glance, that the objects of this work are the Laws, the various customs, and manners, of all the nations on earth. It may be said, that the subject is of prodigious extent, as it comprehends all the institutions received among mankind; as these institutions are distinguished by the Author, who examines those that are most agreeable to society in general, and to each society in particular; and as he searches into their origin, discovers their physical and moral causes; examines those which have any intrinsic goodness, and those that have none; of two pernicious practices, he enquires which is most, and which least pernicious; and treats of those that in some respects may have a good effect, and a bad one in others. He has imagined that these researches would be useful, because judgment and good sense consist in knowing the shades of things.
Now in a subject of such extent, it became necessary to treat of religion: for there being but one true religion, and an infinite number of others that are false; one religion sent from heaven, and an infinity of others that had their birth on this globe: he could regard the false religions only as human institutions; and therefore was obliged to examine them, as well as all the other institutions of human origin. But as to the Christian religion, he had nothing to do but to pay it his adorations as being divine. He did not think himself obliged to treat of that religion: because he considered it, as in its own nature not subject to his examination, so that when he has mentioned it, it has never been done to introduce it into the plan of his work, but only to pay it the tribute of respect and love due to it from all Christians; and that in the comparisons he might draw between that religion and the others, he might make it triumph over them all. This is visible throughout the whole work: but the Author has particularly explained himself at the beginning of book xxiv. the first of the two books that treat of religion. He begins thus: “As amidst the several degrees of darkness, we may form a judgment of those which are the least thick, and, among precipices, which are the least deep; so we may search among false religions for those that are most conformable to the welfare of the society; for those which, though they have not the effect of leading men to the felicity of the other life, may contribute most to their happiness in this.
“I shall therefore only examine the several religions in the world, in relation to the good they produce in civil society; whether I speak of that which has its root in heaven, or of those which spring from the earth.”
The Author therefore, regarding human religions only as human institutions, was in the right to treat of them, because they necessarily entered into his plan. He did not go out of his way to seek for them; but they came in search of him. And as to the Christian religion, he has only mentioned it occasionally; because, in its own nature, it could not be modified, mitigated, and corrected, and therefore did not enter into the plan he had proposed.
What has he done then to give so full a scope to declamation, and to open so wide a door to invective? The Author has been considered as if, after the example of M. Abbadie, he had resolved to write a treatise on the Christian religion; he has been attacked, as if his two books on religion were two treatises on Christian divinity. He has been charged, as if speaking of any religion whatsoever that had no relation to the Christian, it had been his business to examine it according to the doctrines and precepts of Christianity. He has been judged, as if he had undertaken, in his two books, to form an establishment in behalf of the Christians, and to preach the doctrines of Christianity to Mahometans and Idolaters. Whenever he has mentioned religion in general, whenever he has used the word religion, it is said, This is the Christian religion. Whenever he has compared the religious rites of any nation whatsoever, and has said, that some of these rites were more conformable to the political government of the country, than others; it is said, You then approve them, and abandon the Christian faith. When he has mentioned any people who have not embraced Christianity, or who lived before the coming of Christ, it is said, You then do not acknowledge the Christian moral. When he has examined, in a political writer, any custom whatsoever, it is said, Was this the doctrine of Christianity you ought to have inculcated? You say, that you are a Civilian; and I will make you a Divine in spite of yourself. You in some places say some very fine things in favour of the Christian religion; but you only say them to conceal yourself: for I know your heart, and read your thoughts. It is true, I do not understand your book; it is of no consequence whether I have penetrated rightly, or not, into the view with which it was written: but I dive to the bottom of your thoughts. I do not know a word you say: but I understand very well what you think. Let us enter now into the subject.
The Author, in the book on religion, has attacked the errors of Bayle. These are his words : “Mr. Bayle, after having abused all religions, endeavours to sully Christianity. He boldly asserts, that true Christians cannot form a government of any duration. Why not? Citizens of this profession, being infinitely enlightened with respect to the various duties of life, and having the warmest zeal to fulfil them, must be perfectly sensible of the rights of natural desence. The more they believed themselves indebted to religion, the more they would think due to their country. The principles of Christianity, deeply engraven on the heart, would be infinitely more powerful than the false honour of monarchies, the humane virtues of republics, or the servile fear of despotic states.
“It is astonishing that this great man should not be able to distinguish between the orders for the establishment of Christianity, and Christianity itself: and that he should be liable to be charged with not knowing the spirit of his own religion. When the legislator instead of Laws gave counsels, it was because he knew, that if those counsels were ordained as Laws, they would be contrary to the spirit of the Laws themselves.”
What has the Critic done to deprive the Author of the honour of having thus attacked one of Bayle’s errors? He has taken the following chapter, which has nothing to do with Bayle . “Human Laws made to direct the will, it is there said, ought to give precepts, and not counsels: religion, which is formed to influence the heart, ought to give many counsels, and few precepts.” Whence it is concluded, that the Author considers all the precepts of the Gospel only as counsels. He in return, might also say, that he who made this criticism considers all the counsels of the gospel as precepts: but this is not his manner of reasoning, and still less is it his manner of acting. Let us come to the point. It will here be proper to lengthen out a little what the Author has represented in a manner extremely concise. Mr. Bayle had maintained, that a society of Christians could not subsist; and alledged as the reason the order of the Gospel, When thou art smote on one cheek, turn the other also; the command to leave the world to retire into desarts, &c. The Author says, that Bayle took for precepts what were only counsels; for general rules what were only particular ones. In this the Author has defended religion. But what has this occasioned? It is laid down as the first article of his creed, that all the books of the Gospel contain only counsels.
Other articles have likewise furnished commodious subjects of declamation. Polygamy afforded an excellent one. The Author has wrote a chapter expresly upon it; in which he has censured it. It is as follows:
“Of Polygamy considered in itself.
“With regard to polygamy in general, independently of the circumstances that may render it tolerated, it is not of the least service to mankind, nor to either of the two sexes, whether it be that which abuses, or that which is abused. Neither is it of service to the children; for one of its greatest inconveniences is, that the father and mother cannot have the same affection for their offspring; a father cannot love twenty children with the same tenderness that a mother can love two. It is much worse when a wife has many husbands; for then paternal love is only held by this opinion, that a father may believe if he will, or that others may believe, that certain children belong to him.
“May I not say that a plurality of wives leads to that passion which nature disallows? for one depravation always draws on another, &c.
“Besides, the possession of many wives does not always prevent their entertaining desires for those of others. It is with lust as with avarice, where the thirst is increased by the acquisition of treasures.
“In the reign of Justinian, many philosophers, displeased with the restraints of Christianity, retired into Persia, What there struck them most, says Agathias, was that polygamy was permitted amongst men who did not even abstain from adultery.”
The Author has then maintained, that polygamy is in its own nature, and considered in itself, pernicious. It was necessary to overlook this chapter; and therefore no notice is taken of it. The Author has, besides, made a philosophical examination, in what country, in what climate, and in what circumstances, its effects are least pernicious; he compares climate with climate, and country with country; and has found those where its effects are less prejudicial than in others: because, according to the accounts that have been published, the number of men and women not being equal in all countries, it is evident that, if there are places where the women are much more numerous than the men, polygamy, though bad in itself, is less so there than in other countries. The Author has discussed this point in the fourth chapter of the same book. But the title of this chapter consisting of these words, That the Law of Polygamy is an affair that depends on calculations, the Critic has seized hold of this title. However, as the title of a chapter relates to the chapter itself, and can say neither more nor less than the chapter, let us see it.
“According to the calculations made in several parts of Europe, there are here born more boys than girls: on the contrary, the accounts we have of Asia inform us, there are born in that part of the world more girls than boys. The Law which in Europe allows only one wife, and that in Asia which permits many, have then a certain relation to the climate.
“In the cold climates in Asia there are born, as in Europe, more males than females; and from hence, say the Lamas, is derived the reason of that Law which, amongst them, permits a woman to have many husbands.
“But it is difficult for me to believe, that there are many countries where the disproportion can be great enough for any exigency to justify the introducing either the Law in favour of many wives, or that of many husbands. This would only imply that a majority of women, or even a majority of men, is more conformable to nature in certain countries, than in others.
“I confess that, if what history tells us be true, that at Bantam there are ten women to one man, this must be a case particularly favourable to polygamy.
“In all this I only give their reasons, but do not justify their customs.”
Let us now return to the title: Polygamy is an affair of calculation. Yes, it is, when we would know if it be more or less pernicious in certain climates, in certain countries, and in certain circumstances, than in others. It is not an affair of calculation, when we are to determine whether it be good or bad in itself.
It is not an affair of calculation, when we reason on its nature; it may be an affair of calculation, when we combine its effects. In short, it is never an affair of calculation, when we examine the end of marriage; and it is much less so, when we consider marriage as established, or confirmed, by Jesus Christ.
I shall here add, that what has happened by mere accident, is of great service to the Author. He doubtless did not foresee, that the Critic would overlook a whole chapter expressed in the plainest terms, in order to give an equivocal sense to another; and yet he had the happiness to conclude this other with these words: “In all this, I only give their reasons; but do not justify their customs.”
The Author had just said, that he did not believe that there could be climates where the number of the women could so greatly exceed that of the men, or the number of the men that of the women, as to justify polygamy in any country; and has added, “This would only imply that a majority of women, or even of men, is more conformable to nature, in certain countries, than in others .” The Critic has seized the word, is more conformable to nature, in order to charge the Author with approving polygamy. But if I say, that I had rather have a fever than the scurvy, Will that be a declaration that I am fond of a fever; or only that the scurvy is less disagreeable to me than a fever?
Here follows, word for word, a very extraordinary objection.
The polygamy of one woman who has many husbands, is a monstrous disorder, which was never permitted in any case, and which the Author does not at all distinguish from the polygamy of a man who has several wives . This language, from a sectary of natural religion, needs no comment.
I beg that attention may be paid to the connexion of the Critic’s ideas. According to him it follows that, as the Author is a sectary of the religion of nature, he did not mention what he had no business to mention; or that the Author has not mentioned what he had no business to mention, because he is a follower of natural religion. These two methods of reasoning are of the same kind, and the consequences drawn from them are equally found in the premisses. The usual manner is to criticise upon what a person writes; but here the criticism is bestowed upon what he does not write.
I say this, supposing with the Critic that the Author has not distinguished the polygamy of a woman who has several husbands from that of a husband who has several wives: but if the Author has distinguished them, what will he say? And what will he say, if the Author has shewn, that the abuse in the first case is much the greatest? I desire the reader to peruse the sixth chapter of book xvi. repeated above. The Critic has treated him with invectives for keeping silence with respect to this article; nothing remains but to make them for not keeping silence.
But here is what I cannot comprehend. The Critic says, in the second of his pieces, page 166. The Author has told us, that religion ought to permit polygamy in hot countries, and not in those that are cold. But the Author has no where said this. This is a question that does not turn upon the false reasoning of the Critic against the Author, but on a matter of fact: and as the Author has never said, that religion ought to permit polygamy in hot, and not in cold countries, the imputation is in its own nature both false and cruel; and therefore I desire the Critic to pass judgment on himself.
This is not the only passage of which the Author has had reason to complain: for, in page 163. of the first piece, the Critic says: The fourth chapter has for its title, That the Law of polygamy is an affair of calculation: that is, in places where there are born more boys than girls, as in Europe, we ought to have but one wife; and in those where there are born more girls than boys, polygamy ought to be introduced. Thus when the Author explains customs, or gives the reasons of their being founded, those reasons are turned into maxims, and, what is more barbarous still, into maxims of religion: and as he has mentioned an infinite number of customs and practices, throughout all the countries upon earth, he may, by a parity of reason, be charged with all the errors, and even all the abominations of the universe. The Critic says, at the end of his first piece, that God has given him some zeal; to which I reply, that God has not given him this.
What the Author has said on the effects of different Climates is also another excellent topic of rhetoric. But all effects whatsoever have their causes: the climate and the other physical causes produce an infinite number of effects; and if the Author had said otherwise, he would have been considered as extremely stupid. The question is reduced to this: Whether, in countries placed at a great distance from each other, or whether in different climates, there are the marks of a national spirit. Now that there are such differences, is established by almost the universal consent of writers. As the impressions of this national spirit have a considerable influence on the dispositions of the heart, it cannot be at all questioned that certain dispositions of heart are more frequent in one country than another; and in proof of this, we have also the testimony of an infinite number of writers in all times and places. As these things are merely human, the Author has treated them in that light. He might indeed have added to them many questions debated in the schools, with respect to the humane and christian virtues; but it is not usual to croud these questions into books of natural philosophy, politics, and civil law. In a word, the climate may be the physical cause of producing various dispositions of mind; these dispositions may have an influence on human actions: but how does this give a shock to the throne of him who has created, or to the merits of him who has bought us?
If the Author has inquired what the magistrates of various countries might do, in order to conduct their several nations in a manner most proper, and most suitable to their respective characters, what harm has he done in this?
One may also reason on the local customs of religion. The Author had no business to consider them as either good or bad: he has only said, that there are climates where certain religious customs were more easily received, that is, the people in those climates were more easily accustomed to them, than the people in others. Of this it would be unnecessary to give examples; there are an hundred thousand.
I am very sensible, that religion is, in its own nature, independent of any physical effects whatsoever: that what is good in one country is good in another: and that it cannot be bad in one country, without being bad in all. But, as it is practised by men, and for men, there are places where a particular religion is more easily practised, either in part, or in the whole, in one certain country than in others, and in certain circumstances than in others. And whoever asserts the contrary must divest himself of common sense.
The Author has remarked, that the climate of the Indies has produced there a certain sweetness of manners. But, says the Critic, The women there burn themselves at the death of their husbands. There is but little philosophy in this objection. Is the Critic ignorant of the contradictions of the human mind, and how readily it can separate things the most closely united, and unite those that are the most widely separated. See the Author’s reflexions on this subject in book xiv. chap. 3.
All the Author has said on toleration relates to this proposition in book xxv. chap. 9. “We are here politicians, and not divines: but the divines themselves must allow, that there is a great difference between tolerating, and approving a religion.
When legislators have believed it their duty to permit the exercise of many religions, they are also under the obligation of inforcing a toleration amongst these religions themselves.” The reader is desired to peruse the whole chapter.
A great outcry has been raised against the Author for having added in the next chapter: “This is then a fundamental principle of the political Laws of religion, That when a state is at liberty to receive or reject a new religion, it ought to be rejected; when it is received, it ought to be tolerated.”
It is here objected to the Author, that he is going to inform idolatrous Princes, that they ought to shut Christianity out of their states. Really it is a secret that it was ever whispered to the King of Cochin-China. As this argument has furnished matter for much declamation, I shall give two answers. The first is, That the Author has excepted it by name in his book on religion. He has said in book xxiv. chap. 1. “The Christian religion, which ordains that men should love each other, would doubtless have every nation blest with the best civil, the best political Laws; because these, next to this religion, are the greatest good that men can give and receive.” If then the Christian religion is the first and principal good, and political and civil Laws the second, there are no political or civil Laws in a state that can or ought to hinder the entrance of the Christian religion.
My second answer is, That the religion sent from heaven is not established by the same methods as the religions of the earth. Read the history of the church, and you will see the wonders of the Christian religion. Has she resolved to enter a country?—she knows how to open its gates, and all instruments are proper for that purpose: sometimes God makes use of a few fishermen; at others, he places an Emperor on the throne, and makes him bend his neck under the yoke of the gospel. Is Christianity concealed in caverns, and subterraneous abodes? stay a moment, and you will see the Imperial Majesty speak in her behalf. She, whenever she pleases, crosses the seas, rivers, and mountains; and no obstacles here below can stop her progress. Place repugnance in the mind; she will make it fly before her: establish customs, form habits, publish edicts, make Laws; she will triumph over the climate, the laws that result from it, and the legislators who made them. God, according to decrees concealed from us, extends or contracts the limits of his religion as he pleases.
We are told: That this is as if you went to the Kings of the East, and told them they ought not to receive the Christian religion among them. How carnal is it to talk in this manner! Is the Messiah a man like Herod? It seems as if Jesus Christ was considered as a King who conceals his stratagems and intelligences. Let us do ourselves justice: Is the manner in which we conduct ourselves in human affairs so pure, as to allow us to think of employing it in the conversion of nations?
We now come to the article of celibacy. All that the Author has said of it relates to this proposition, which is found in book xxv. chap. 4. “I shall not here treat of the consequences of the Law of celibacy: it is evident it may become hurtful, in proportion as the body of the clergy may be too numerous; and, in consequence of this, that of the laity too small.” It is evident, that the Author here speaks only of the greater or less extension that ought to be allowed to celibacy, with respect to the greater or less number of those who embrace it: and, as the Author says in another place, that Law of perfection cannot be made for all mankind. Besides, we know, that the Law of celibacy, as it now subsists, is only a law of discipline. The Spirit of Laws has no where considered the nature of celibacy, or the degree of its goodness; and that is not a subject that ought to enter at all into a book of political and civil Laws. The Critic, however, would never allow the Author to treat his own subject: he is continually for having him treat of his; and because he is always a divine, he will not suffer him, even in a book of Laws, to be a civilian. However we shall soon see that, with respect to celibacy, he is of the same opinion as the divines; that is, that he acknowledges its goodness. It must be observed, that in book xxiii. where he treats of Laws in relation to the number of inhabitants, the Author has given a theory of what the political and civil Laws of different people have done in this respect. He has shewn, by examining the histories of the several nations of the earth, that there have been particular circumstances in which these Laws were more necessary, than others, people who had more need of them, and certain times when these people had still more need of them: and, as it is thought that the Romans were the wisest people upon earth, and that they had more need of these Laws to repair their losses, he has collected with great exactness the Laws they made for that purpose; he has pointed out, with great precision, in what circumstances they were made, and in what other circumstances they were taken away. There is no divinity in all this; and there is no need of any. The Author has however thought proper to add a little. These are his words: “God forbid that I should here speak against celibacy, as adopted by religion: but who can be silent, when this is built on libertinism; when the two sexes corrupting each other even by the natural sensations themselves, fly from an union which ought to render them better, to live in that which always renders them worse.
“It is a rule drawn from nature, that the more the number of marriages is diminished, the more corrupt those are rendered that are entered into that state. The fewer married people there are, the less fidelity is there in marriage; as, when there are more thieves, there are more thefts .”
The Author has not then disapproved the celibacy practised, on a religous motive; and no complaint can be raised against him for censuring the celibacy introduced by libertinism. He is offended, that a prodigious number of rich and voluptuous men fly the yoke of marriage, that they may the more conveniently pursue the gratification of their licentious appetites. They give themselves up to delight and voluptuous pleasure, and leave trouble and care to the miserable. We cannot, I say, complain that he has censured these. But the Critic, after having cited what the Author has said, pronounces these words: We here perceive the malignity of the Author, who would throw upon the Christian religion the disorders it detests. It might look illnatured, were I to accuse the Critic of not being willing to understand the Author: I shall therefore only say, that he has not understood him; and that he has made him say against religion, what he said against libertinism. He ought to be very sorry for it.
One would be ready to believe, that the Critic has sworn never to form a right judgment of the state of the question, and never to understand a single passage he attacks. The whole second chapter of the twenty-fifth book turns upon the motives, more or less powerful, by which manking are attached to the preservation of their religion. Here the Critic finds another chapter which contains the motives that oblige men to change their religion. The first subject implies a passive state; the second a state of action: but applying to one subject what the Author has said on the other, he indulges himself in false reasoning intirely at his ease.
The Author has said, in the second chapter of the twenty-fifth book, “We are extremely addicted to idolatry; and yet have no great inclination to the religion of idolaters. We are not very fond of spiritual ideas; and yet are most attached to those religions that teach us to adore a spiritual being. This proceeds from the satisfaction we find in ourselves at having been so intelligent as to chuse a religion that raises the Deity from that baseness in which he had been placed by others.” The Author had certainly no other motive, than to explain why the Jews and Mahometans are as invincibly attached to their religion as we ourselves, though they have not the advantages with which we are possessed: and that they are, we know from experience: but the Critic understands it otherwise: Mens passing from idolatry to the belief of one God is here, says he, attributed to pride . But no mention is made, either here, or through the whole chapter, of passing from one religion to another: and if a Christian feels a high satisfaction, arising from the idea of the glory and grandeur of the Divine Majesty, and this is what he calls pride, it is a very good pride.
Here is another uncommon objection. The Author has two chapters in the twenty-third book; one intitled “Of Men and Animals with respect to the Propagation of their Species;” and the other, “Of Marriage.” In the first he has these words: “The females of brutes have an almost constant fecundity; but, in the human species, the manner of thinking, the character, the passions, the humour, the caprice, the idea of preserving beauty, the pain of child-bearing, and the fatigue of a too-numerous family, obstruct propagation a thousand different ways.” And in the other he says, “The natural obligation of the father to provide for his children has established marriage; which makes known the person who ought to fulfil this obligation.”
Upon this the Critic says, A Christian would refer the institution of marriage to God himself, who gave a companion to Adam, and united the first man to the first woman by an indissoluble bond, before they had children to provide for: but the Author avoids whatever is mentioned in the Holy Scriptures. He might reply, that he is a Christian; but not a natural: that he venerates these truths; but did not chuse to insert at random, and without propriety, all the truths that are the objects of his faith. The Emperor Justinian was a Christian, as was also his compilator: yet in their books of Laws, which are still taught to youth in the schools, they define marriage, the union of one man and woman, who form a society of individual life . It never entered into the head of any person, to reproach them for not having here mentioned revelation.
We are now come to the subject of usury. I am afraid the reader will be tired with hearing me repeat, that the Critic never understands the point in question, and never takes the sense of the passages he censures. He says, that here the Author finds nothing unjust in maritime usury: these are his words. Indeed The Spirit of Laws has a very sad interpreter. The Author has treated of maritime usury in the twentieth chapter of the twenty-second book: he must therefore have said in that chapter, that maritime usury is just. Let us see what he says.
“The greatness of maritime usury is founded on two things: the danger of the sea, which makes it proper that those who expose their specie, should not do it without considerable advantage; and the ease with which the borrower, by the means of commerce, speedily accomplishes a variety of great affairs. But usury, with respect to landsmen, being founded on neither of these two reasons, is either prohibited by the legislators, or, what is more rational, reduced to proper bounds.”
I ask every sensible man, whether the Author has here determined that maritime usury is just; or whether he has simply said, that the greatness of maritime usury is less repugnant to natural equity, than the greatness of Usury at land. The Critic is acquainted with none but positive and absolute qualities, and does not know the meaning of those terms, more or less. If one was to tell him that a mulatto woman was not so black as a negro, this would signify, according to him, that she is as white as snow: if one was to tell him that she was blacker than an European, he would then think she was as black as a coal. But to proceed.
In the twenty-second book of The Spirit of Laws there are four chapters on usury. In the two first, which are the nineteenth and that the reader has just perused, the Author examines usury in the relation it bears to the commerce of different nations, and the several governments of the world; and to this these two chapters solely relate. The two following only explain the variations of usury among the Romans. But here the Author is suddenly raised to be a casuist, a canonist, and divine; for no other reason but because the Critic is a casuist, a canonist, and divine, or that he is two of the three, or one of the three, or, perhaps at bottom, none of the three. The Author is sensible, that the consideration of lending at interest, as connected with Christianity, is a subject attended with endless distinctions and limitations. He is sensible that the civilians, and a multitude of courts of justice, do not always agree with the casuists and canonists; that some of these admit certain limitations of the general principle of never asking interest, and others admit still greater. Though all these questions had belonged to his subject, which they do not, how would he have been able to have treated of them? We find it difficult to know thoroughly what we have well studied; but much more difficult is it to know what we have never studied at all. However, those very chapters that are employed against him, sufficiently prove, that he is only an historian and civilian. Let us read chap. 19 .
“Specie is the sign of value. It is evident, that he who has occasion for this sign ought to pay for the use of it, as well as for every thing else that he has occasion for. All the difference is, that other things may be either hired or bought; whilst money, which is the price of things, can only be hired, and not bought.
“To lend money without interest, is certainly an action laudable and extremely good; but this is perhaps only a counsel of religion, and not a civil law.
“In order that trade may be successfully carried on, it is necessary that a price be fixed on the use of specie; but this price should be very inconsiderable. If it be too high, the merchant, who finds that it will cost him more in interest than he can gain by commerce, will undertake nothing. If there is no consideration to be paid for the use of specie, no body will lend it; and here too the merchant will undertake nothing.
“I am mistaken when I say that nobody will lend; the affairs of society must ever make it necessary. Usury will be established, but with all the disorders with which it has been constantly attended.
“The Laws of Mahomet confound usury with lending upon interest. Usury increases in Mahometan countries, in proportion to the severity of the prohibition. The lender indemnifies himself for the danger he undergoes of suffering the penalty.
“In those eastern countries the greatest part of the people are secure of nothing. There is hardly any connexion between the actual possession of a sum, and the hope of receiving it again after having lent it. Usury then must be raised in proportion to the danger of insolvency.”
Afterwards comes the chapter on maritime usury mentioned above; and the twenty-first chapter, which treats of lending by contract, and of usury amongst the Romans, which is as follows:
“Besides the loans made for the advantage of commerce, there is still a kind of lending by a civil contract, from whence results interest or usury.
“As the people of Rome daily increased in power, the magistrates sought to insinuate themselves into their favour by enacting such Laws as were most agreeable to them. They retrenched capitals; first lowered, and at length prohibited interest; and took away the power of confining the debtor’s body. In fine, the abolition of debts was contended for, whenever a tribune was disposed to render himself popular.
“These continual changes, whether made by the Laws, or by the plebiscita, naturalized usury at Rome: for the creditors seeing the people their debtor, their legislator, and their judge, had no longer any confidence in agreements with them. The people, like a debtor who has lost his credit, could only tempt them to lend by allowing an exorbitant interest; for if the Laws did not from time to time remedy the evil, the complaints of the people became continual, and constantly intimidated the creditors. This was the cause that all honest means of borrowing and lending were abolished at Rome, and that the most monstrous usury, constantly blasted by the thunders of the state, and constantly revived, became established in that city.
“Cicero tells us, that in his time interest at Rome was at thirty-four per cent. and in the provinces at forty-eight. This evil was a consequence of the severity of the Laws against usury. Laws excessively good are the source of excessive evil. The borrower found himself under the necessity of paying for the interest of the money, and for the danger the creditor underwent of suffering the penalty of the Law.”
The Author has then treated of interest only in relation to the commerce of various nations, and to the civil Laws of the Romans; and this is so true, that he has distinguished, in the second paragraph of the nineteenth chapter, the establishments of the religious, from those of the political legislators. Had he mentioned by name the Christian religion, he would have treated the subject in other terms, and have pointed out what that religion ordains, and what it counsels; he would, with the divines, have distinguished, the several cases; he would have laid down all the limitations set by the Christian religion to that general Law, sometimes established among the Romans, and always among the Mahometans, That we ought, in no case, and in no circumstance, to receive interest for money. The Author had not this subject to treat of; but that a general, unlimited, indistinct defence of it, without any restrictions, made the Mahometans lose their commerce, and was near destroying the Roman republic: whence it follows, that the Christians, on account of their not living under these rigid Laws, still enjoy their commerce, and there is not found in their states that monstrous usury required by the Mahometans, and that was formerly extorted by the Romans.
The Author has employed the twenty-first and twenty-second chapters in examining what were the Laws of the Romans on the subject of lending by contracts, in the different times of their republic. But here his Critic quits for a moment the banks of theology, to turn to the side of erudition. But we shall soon see, that he is also deceived in his erudition, and that he cannot even for once understand the state of the question he endeavours to examine. Let us read a passage in the twenty-second chapter .
“Tacitus says, that the Law of the Twelve Tables fixed the interest at one per cent. per annum. It is evident that he was mistaken, and that he took another Law, of which I am going to speak, for the Law of the Twelve Tables. If this had been regulated in the Law of the Twelve Tables, why did they not make use of its authority in the disputes which afterwards arose between the creditors and debtors? We find not any vestige of this Law upon lending at interest; and, let us have but ever so little knowledge of the history of Rome, we shall see that a Law like this could never be the work of the Decemvirs.” And a little after the Author adds: “In the year of Rome 398, the Tribunes Duellius and Menenius caused a Law to be passed, which reduced interest to one per cent. per annum. It is this Law which Tacitus confounds with the Law of the Twelve Tables; and this was the first ever made by the Romans to fix the rate of interest,” &c.
Here the Author says, that Tacitus is mistaken in saying that the Law of the Twelve Tables had fixed the rate of interest among the Romans. He has said, that Tacitus has taken for the Law of the Twelve Tables, a Law made by Duellius and Menenius about eighty-five years after the Law of the Twelve Tables; and that this Law was the first that fixed the rate of interest at Rome. What does the Critic say to this? He replies, that Tacitus was not mistaken, but spoke of usury at one per cent. per mensem, and not of usury at one cent. per annum. But the question is not here of the rate of usury; it is to know, whether the Law of the Twelve Tables has made any regulation whatsoever in relation to usury. The Author says, that Tacitus is mistaken in saying that the Decemvirs had made a regulation in the Law of the Twelve Tables, to fix the rate of usury; and upon this the Critic says, he was not mistaken, because he spoke of usury at one per cent. by the month, and not at one per cent. for a year. I had reason then for saying that the Critic did not know the state of the question.
It now remains to inquire, whether the Law mentioned by Tacitus, whatever it is, fixes usury, according to the Author, at one per cent. by the year, or, according to the Critic, at one per cent. for the month. Prudence required that he should not enter into a dispute with the Author on the Roman Laws, without knowing them; that he should not deny a fact with which he was unacquainted, and of which he was ignorant of the means of obtaining information. The question is, what Tacitus meant by these words, unciarium fœnus . He needed but to have opened the dictionaries, and he would have found in that of Calvinus or Kahl , that it was one per cent. by the year, and not by the month. Had he consulted the learned Salmasius, he would have told him the same thing .
While the Romans had no laws that fixed the rate of usury, the most common custom was for the usurer to take twelve ounces of copper for the loan of an hundred ounces; that is, twelve per cent. per annum: and an as being the value of twelve ounces of copper, the usurer received annually an as for an hundred ounces. It being frequently necessary to reckon usury by the month, the interest for six months was called semis, or the half of the as; the usury for four months was named triens, or the third of the as; the usury for three months was called quadrans, or the fourth of the as; and, in short, the usury for one month was called unciaria, or the twelfth of the as: so that as they raised an ounce every month on every hundred ounces lent, this usury by the ounce, or one per cent. per mensem, was called centesimal usury. The Critic had acquired the knowledge of this signification of the centesimal usury, but has applied it very ill.
We see, that all this was nothing more than a method or form of regulating the accounts between debtor and creditor in relation to usury, on a supposition that it was at twelve per cent. per annum, which was the common and usual rate; but if a person borrowed at eighteen per cent. per annum, they made use of the same method, only increasing one third of the interest for each month; so that the unciarium fænus was then an ounce and a half per month.
When the Romans made Laws on usury, they did not concern themselves about this method, which had been used, and was so still, between the debtors and creditors, for the division of the time, and the convenience of paying their interest. The legislator had a public regulation to make; the business here was not to divide usury by the month, but to fix it; and this was done by the year. They, however, continued to make use of the terms derived from the division of the as, without applying the same ideas to them. Thus the unciarium fænus signified one per cent. per annum; the usury ex quadrante signified three per cent. per annum; the usury ex triente, four per cent. per annum; the usury semis, six per cent. per annum. And if the usury unciaria had signified one per cent. per mensem, the Law which fixed the ex quadrante, ex triente, ex semisse, would have established usury at three per cent. at four per cent. at six per cent. by the month; which would have been absurd, because the Laws made to suppress usury would have been more cruel than the usurers.
The Critic has then confounded the species of things. But I ought here to give his very words, in order that the reader may be fully convinced, that the confidence with which he writes ought not to impose on any one. Tacitus, says he , is not mistaken; he speaks of interest at one per cent. by the month, and the Author has imagined that he speaks of one per cent. per annum. Every body knows, that the hundredth part was paid to the usurer every month. Ought a man, who has written two quarto volumes on the laws, to be ignorant of this?
Whether this man was, or was not ignorant of the centesimal, is of no consequence: but he was not ignorant of it, since he has mentioned it in three places. But how has he mentioned it, and where has he spoken of it ? I may defy the Critic to guess, as he cannot find the words and expressions he is acquainted with.
The question here is not, whether the Author is, or is not a man of learning, but to defend his altars . However, it was necessary to shew the public, that the Critic has assumed so decisive a tone on things about which he was intirely ignorant, and had so little doubt that he did not even open a dictionary to confirm his opinion; that, tho’ ignorant himself, he accuses others of not having his own errors, and therefore can no longer merit the least confidence with respect to his other accusations. Would not one have been apt to believe, that the haughty and insolent manner he assumes must have proceeded from his never being in the wrong? that when he chafes and blusters, this is a proof of his not being in an error? that when he anathematizes the Author with his phrases of impious mortal and follower of natural religion, we may still believe that he is not mistaken? Who would have thought that it is necessary to keep a guard over ourselves, to prevent our receiving those impressions that put his spirits in motion, and give impetuosity to his style? that in his two pieces it is highly proper to separate his reasons from his abuse, and that afterwards setting aside those reasons that are bad, nothing will remain.
The Author, in the chapters on lending at interest, and of usury among the Romans; a subject doubtless the most important in their history, since it is so closely connected with the constitution of Rome, that a thousand times it was near subverting it; after treating of the Laws they made from despair; of those dictated by prudence; of such regulations as were only temporary; and of those that were designed to last for ever, says at the end of the twenty-second chapter, “In the year of Rome 398, the tribunes Duellius and Menenius caused a Law to be passed, which reduced interest to one per cent. per annum.—Ten years after this usury was reduced one half, and in the end it was intirely abolished.
“It fared with this Law as with all those in which the legislator carries things to excess; an infinite number of ways were found to elude it. They enacted, therefore, many others to confirm, correct, and temper it. Sometimes they quitted the Laws, to follow the common practice; at others, the common practice to follow the Laws; but in this case custom easily prevailed. When a man wanted to borrow, he found an obstacle in the very Law made in his favour; this Law must be evaded by the person it was made to succour, and by him it was made to condemn. Sempronius Asellus the Prætor, having permitted the debtors to act in conformity to the Laws, was slain by the creditors, for attempting to revive the memory of a severity that could no longer be supported.
“Under Sylla, Lucius Valerius Flaccus made a Law which suffered interest to be at three per cent. per annum. This Law, the most moderate, the most equitable ever made on this account by the Romans, is disapproved by Paterculus. But if this Law was necessary for the advantage of the republic, if it was of service to every individual, if it formed an easy communication between the debtor and creditor, it could not be unjust.
“He pays least, says Ulpian, who pays latest. This decides the question, whether interest be lawful, that is, whether the creditor can sell time, and the debtor buy it.”
Let us see how the Critic reasons on this last passage, which refers only to the Law of Flaccus, and to the political dispositions of the Romans. The Author, says he, on resuming all he had said on usury, maintains that a creditor is permitted to sell time. The Critic here seems to insinuate, that the Author had been writing a treatise on theology, or Canon Law, and that he had at length resumed it; tho’ it is evident that he is only treating of the political regulations of the Romans; of a Law of Flaccus, and the opinion of Paterculus: so that this Law of Flaccus, Paterculus’s opinion, the reflexion of Ulpian, and that of the Author, are closely connected, and cannot be separated from each other.
I have still many things to say; but I chuse rather to refer the reader to the pieces themselves. Believe me, my dear Piso, they have formed a work which, like the dreams of the sick, exhibit nothing but vain phantoms .
WE have seen in the two first parts, all that results from so many bitter criticisms is, That the Author of The Spirit of Laws has not performed his work according to the plan and views of his Critics; and that if his Critics had wrote a work on the same subject, they would have thrown in a great many things which they know. It also follows from thence, that they are divines, and that the Author is a civilian; that they think themselves qualified to do his business, and that he has not the presumption to believe himself fit for theirs. In fine, it follows from thence, that, instead of attacking him with such acrimony, they had better have made themselves sensible of the value of what he has said in favour of religion, which he has with equal ardour respected and defended. I shall now make some reflexions.
That manner of reasoning is not good, which, being employed against any good book whatsoever, may make it appear as bad as any bad book whatsoever; and which, being used against any bad book whatsoever, may make it appear as good as any good book whatsoever.
That manner of reasoning is not just, which, to the subject in debate, calls in others that have no relation to it, and confounds the several sciences, and the ideas belonging to each.
We ought not to dispute, on a work wrote on any of the sciences, with reasons that may attack the science itself.
When a person writes a criticism on a work, and on a work of considerable extent and importance, he ought to endeavour to procure a particular knowledge of the science which is the subject of that work, and carefully to read the approved authors who have already wrote upon it; in order to see, whether the Author has deviated from the usual received manner of treating the subject.
When an Author explains himself by word of mouth, or by his writings, which are the images of those words, it is contrary to reason to quit the exterior signs of his thoughts, to run in search of his thoughts themselves; because none but himself is capable of knowing his thoughts. It is much worse, when his thoughts are good, and bad ones are attributed to him.
When a person writes against an Author, and becomes exasperated against him, he ought to prove the character he gives him by what he says, and not what he says by the character he gives him.
When we see that an author’s intention is in general good, we shall be seldomer mistaken if, in certain places which we think equivocal, we judge according to the general intention, than if we allow him a particular bad intention.
In books wrote for amusement, three or four pages give an idea of the style, and the charms of the work: but, in books of reasoning, we retain nothing if we do not retain the whole chain.
As it is very difficult to write a good work, and very easy to write a critique upon it, because the Author has all his defiles to guard, and the Critic has only one of them to force; the latter ought not to fail: but if it happens that he has continually failed, he must be inexcusable.
Besides, as the Critic may be chargeable with an ostentation of his superiority over others, and as the usual effect of the criticism is giving some delicious moments to human pride; those who give themselves up to it deserve to be treated with strict justice, but very seldom with indulgence.
And as, of all the different kinds of writing, it is that in which it is most difficult to shew a good temper, we ought to take care not to increase, by the bitterness of words, this unhappiness in the subject.
When we write on grand and noble subjects, it is not sufficient for us to consult our zeal; we ought also to consult our abilities, and if heaven has not blessed us with great talents, we may supply the want of them by distrust of ourselves, exactness, labour, and reflexion.
The art of finding, in what has naturally a good sense, all the bad senses which a person by false reasoning is capable of giving it, is of no use to mankind; and those who practise it are like the ravens that fly from living bodies, and hover on all sides in search of carcases.
A like manner of criticising produces two grand inconveniencies. The first is, That it hurts the mind of the reader, by exhibiting a mixture of truth and falshood, of good and evil: he is accustomed to seek for a bad sense in things that have naturally a good one; whence he is easily led to the disposition of searching for a good sense in things that have naturally a bad one: it thus make him lose the faculty of reasoning justly, and throws him into all the subtilties of a false logic. The second inconvenience is, That, in rendering, by this manner of reasoning, good books suspected, we have no arms left with which we can attack those that are bad: so that the public has no rule whereby to distinguish them. If those are treated as Spinosists and Deists who are not, what shall be said to those who are?
Though we ought readily to think, that those who write against us on subjects in which all mankind are interested, are prompted to do this only by the impulses of Christian charity; yet, as it is the nature of that virtue rarely to conceal itself, as it will shine in spite of ourselves, and sparkle and blaze on all sides, if it happens that, in two pieces wrote one after another against the same person, no trace can be found of that amiable virtue, that it does not appear in any phrase, in any turn, in any word, or expression, he who has written such works must have just cause to fear that he was not led to it by Christian charity.
And as virtues merely human are, in us, the effect of what is called a good disposition; if it be impossible to discover any vestige of this good disposition, the public may conclude from thence, that these pieces are not even the effect of the human virtues.
In the judgment of mankind, it is easier to see the actions, than to be convinced of the sincerity of the motives; and it is more easy to believe, that the action of uttering atrocious abuse is an evil, than it is to be persuaded, that the motive which prompted to it is good.
When a man is fixed in a state intended to render religion respected, and which religion itself renders respectable, and attacks before the men of the world one of that body, it is essentially necessary that he should maintain, by his manner of acting, the superiority of his character. The world is very corrupt: but there are certain passions found there that are kept under great restraint: because there are others more favoured that forbid their appearance. Consider the men of the world in their behaviour to each other; there is nothing so timid; pride durst not reveal its secrets, and, in the regard it has for others, it quits itself only to gain new strength. Christianity gives us the habit of subduing this pride; the world gives us the habit of concealing it. With the little virtue we have, what would become of us, if our whole souls were set at liberty, and if we were not attentive to the least word, to the least signs, the least gestures? Now when men, venerable and respectable by their characters, shew passions which the men of the world durst not suffer to break out to public view, these begin to think themselves better than they really are; and this is a great evil.
We men of the world are also so weak, that we ought to be treated with the utmost care and precaution. Therefore when a priest lets us see all the external marks of violent passions, what would he have us think of what passes within his breast? Can he hope that we, rash as we are in judging, will not judge accordingly?
It is observable that, in the conversations and disputes of men of a harsh and obstinate temper, as they strive not to inform and assist each other, but to obtain a victory, they fly from truth, not in proportion to the greatness or littleness of their minds, but according to the greater or less caprice and inflexibility of their dispositions. The contrary happens to those to whom nature or education has given candour and ingenuity. As their disputes are mutual succours, they have the same object in view; they think differently only that they may think alike, and find and acknowledge the force of truth in proportion to the strength of evidence: this is the reward of a good disposition.
When a man writes on religious subjects, he ought not to depend so much on the credulity of those who read, as to say things contrary to good sense; because, by increasing his credit with those who have more piety than understanding, he loses his credit with others who have more understanding than piety.
And as religion best defends itself, it suffers greater prejudice by being badly defended, than if it was not defended at all.
If it should happen that a man, after having lost his readers, should attack a person of some reputation, and thus obtain the means of being read; one might suspect that, under the pretence of sacrificing this victim to religion, he sacrificed him to his own self-love.
The manner of criticising of which we are treating, is the only thing in the world most capable of limiting the extent, and diminishing, if I may use the term, the sum-total of national genius. Theology has its bounds and its forms; because, the truths it teaches being known, men are not allowed to deviate from them. Here then genius cannot take her flight, she being in a manner circumscribed in a circle. But, to pretend to place the same inclosure about those who treat of human sciences, is mocking the world. The principles of geometry are very true; but if we apply them to things of taste, we shall make reason itself talk unreasonably. Nothing stifles knowledge more, than covering every thing with a doctor’s robe; and the men who would be for ever teaching, are great hindrances to learning. There is no genius that is not contracted by being inveloped by a million of vain scruples. Have you the best intention in the world, they will force you yourself to doubt of it. You can no longer employ your endeavour to speak or write with propriety, when you are perplexed with the fear of expressing yourself ill; and when, instead of pursuing your thought, you are only busied about chusing such terms as may escape the subtilty of the critics. They come to put a biggin on your head, each saying at every word, Take care of falling; you would speak like yourself, but I would have you speak like me. Do you endeavour to soar aloft? They stop you by pulling your sleeve. Have you life and strength? They deprive you of it in an instant. Do you rise a little? they take their rule, and, lifting up their heads, call you to come down that they may measure you. Do you run your course? They would have you examine all the stones the ants have thrown up in your way. No science nor literature is proof against this pedantry. The present age has formed academies; but they would make us re-enter the schools of the darker ages. Descartes, however, may give assurance to those who, with a genius infinitely beneath his, have the same good intentions. That great man was incessantly charged with atheism; and yet there are not now employed against the Atheists stronger arguments than his.
We ought to regard criticisms as personal only, in the cases where those who made them have been willing to render them so. It is certainly very allowable to criticise the works presented to the public; because it would be ridiculous for those who are willing to inlighten others, to be averse to be inlightened themselves. Those who give us information are the companions of our labours. If the Critic and the Author are both in search of truth, they have the same interest; for truth is a blessing designed for allmankind: they are then confederates, and not enemies.
It is with great pleasure that I now lay down the pen. I should have continued to have kept silence, if, in keeping it, many persons had not concluded that I had been reduced to it.
SOME persons have made this objection: In The Spirit of Laws, honour or fear, and not virtue, is represented as the principle upon which certain governments are founded, and virtue is represented as the principle of only a few others: whence it follows, that the christian virtues are not required in most governments.
To this it is answered, that the Author has placed this note in the fifth chapter of the third book: “I speak here of political virtue, which is a moral virtue as directed to the general advantage; very little of private moral virtue, and not at all of that virtue which has a relation to revealed truths.” In the following chapter is another note that refers to this, and to the second and third chapters of the fifth book. This virtue the Author has defined the love of our country; and the love of our country he has defined the love of equality and frugality. The whole fifth book rests on these principles. When a writer has defined a word in his work, when he has given, if I may use the expression, his dictionary, ought not his words to be understood according to the signification he has given them?
The word Virtue, like most of the words in all languages, is taken in several acceptations: sometimes it signifies the christian virtues; sometimes the pagan virtues; and often, a certain christian virtue, or a particular pagan virtue; it likewise sometimes signifies fortitude; and in some languages it means a certain capacity for an art, or for certain arts. It is what precedes, or what follows the word, that fixes its signification: but here the Author has done more—he has several times given his definition. This objection has therefore been only made on account of the work being read with too much rapidity.
THE Author has said in the third chapter of the second book, “The best aristocracy is that in which the part of the people who have no share in the legislature is so small and inconsiderable, that the governing party have no interest in oppressing them. Thus, when Antipater made a Law at Athens, that whosoever was not worth two thousand drachms should be excluded from the right of suffrage , he formed by this means the best aristocracy possible; because this was so small a sum, that it excluded very few, and not one of any rank or consideration in the city. Aristocratical families ought therefore, as much as possible, to level themselves in appearance with the people. The more an aristocracy borders on democracy, the nearer it approaches to perfection; and it is the more imperfect, in proportion as it draws towards monarchy.”
In a letter inserted in the Journal de Travaux for the month of April 1749, this quotation is objected against the Author. The writer says, that he has open before him the place quoted, and there finds, that there were only nine thousand persons who had the sum prescribed by Antipater; and that there were twenty-two thousand who wanted it: whence it is concluded that the Author has misapplied his quotations, the small number having the sum required, and the large number being excluded for the want of it.
It were to be wished, that he who has made this critical remark had paid greater attention to what both the Author and Diodorus have said.
1. There were not twenty-two thousand who wanted this sum in Antipater’s republic. The twenty-two thousand persons mentioned by Diodorus were sent away and established in Thrace; and there only remained to form this republic, the nine thousand citizens who had the sum, and those of the lower people who would not set out for Thrace. The reader may consult Diodorus.
2. Though there had remained twenty-two thousand persons at Athens, who wanted the above sum, the objection would not be the less unjust. The words great and small are relative. Nine thousand Sovereigns in a state are an immense number; and twenty-two thousand subjects in the same state, is a number extremely small.