« AnteriorContinuar »
ceeded. With thine own will thou separatest thyself from God's willing, and with thine own seeing thou seest only in thy willing. And thy willing stoppeth thine hearing with the obstinate concupiscence of earthly, natural things, and leadeth thee into a pit, and overshadoweth thee with that which thou desirest, so that thou canst not attain to the supernatural, and supersensual.
The Disciple said: Seeing I am in nature, how can I pass through nature into the supersensual deep, without destroying nature?
The Master said: To that end three things are requisite. The first is, that thou shouldst surrender thy will unto God and let thyself down into the deeps of his mercy. The second is, that thou shouldst hate thine own will, and not do that whereunto thy will impelleth thee. The third is, that thou shouldst bring thyself into subjection to the Cross, that thou mayest be able to bear the assaults of nature and creature. If thou doest this, God will in-speak into thee, and will lead thy passive will into himself,- into the supernatural deep, and thou shalt hear what the Lord speaketh in thee.
The Disciple said: It were necessary that I should quit the world and my life, in order to do this.
The Master said: If thou leave the world, thou wilt come into that whereof the world is made. And if thou losest thy life, and comest into impotence of thine own faculty, then shall thy life be in that, for the sake of which thou didst leave thy life,- that is in God, whence it came into the body.
The Disciple said: God has created man in the life of nature, that he may have dominion over all creatures upon the earth, and be lord of everything in this world. Therefore, surely, he ought to possess it for his own.
The Master said: If, in the outward alone, thou governest all animals, then thou art with thy will and thy government accord. ing to the manner of beasts, and exercisest only a symbolical and perishable dominion, and bringest thy desire into the beastly Essence wherewith thou wilt become infected and entangled, and acquire the nature of a beast. But if thou hast left the symbolical way, thou shalt stand in the supersymbolical and shalt reign over all creatures, in the ground out of which they were created. And then nothing upon earth shall harm thee, for thou wilt have relations with all things, and nothing will be foreign from thee.
(HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE)
HENRY ST. JOHN, first Viscount Bolingbroke, was born in Lon
don, October ist, 1678. His father, Sir Henry St. John, set
him an example of dissipated living and in his earlier life he followed it at the expense of remarkable talents which might otherwise have given him the first place in the literature of his age. He was the intimate of Dryden and the friend of Swift and Pope. His prose style has many of the merits of the best masters of the time of Queen Anne, but lacks the simplicity of Addison. He was greatly celebrated in his generation as an orator, but none of his speeches were reported, and all are now hopelessly lost. When he entered Parliament in 1701 it was as a Tory, and he soon became a leader of his party, serving as Secretary of War and of State. He was created Viscount Bolingbroke in 1714. After the death of Queen Anne he opposed the succession of the House of Hanover and fled to France, where he joined the Pretender. In 1724 he was allowed to return to England where he co-operated with Wyndham and Pulteney against the Walpole ministry. His essays in the Craftsman gave it a circulation exceeding that of the Spectator, but they were on subjects of less general interest and the Craftsman is now forgotten.
Bolingbroke died in London, December 12th, 1751, and his works were so much out of fashion with the succeeding generation that it was asked, “Who now reads Bolingbroke ?» The nineteenth century has been more just, however, and his best works have been repeatedly republished in popular editions. His “Letters on the Study of History” are among the best and most useful of his essays.
ON THE STUDY OF HISTORY My Lord:
HAVE considered formerly, with a good deal of attention, the I subject on which you command me to communicate my
thoughts to you; and I practiced in those days, as much as business and pleasure allowed me time to do, the rules that seemed to me necessary to be observed in the study of history. They were very different from those which writers on the same subject have recommended, and which are commonly practiced. But I confess to your lordship that this neither gave me then, nor has given me since, any distrust of them. I do not affect singularity. On the contrary, I think that a due deference is to be paid to received opinions, and that a due compliance with received customs is to be held; though both the one and the other should be, what they often are, absurd or ridiculous. But this servitude is outward only, and abridges in no sort the liberty of private judgment. The obligations of submitting to it likewise, even outwardly, extend no further than to those opinions and customs which cannot be opposed; or from which we cannot deviate without doing hurt, or giving offense, to society. In all these cases, our speculations ought to be free; in all other cases, our practice may be so. Without any regard, therefore, to the opinion and practice even of the learned world, I am very willing to tell you mine. But as it is hard to recover a thread of thought long ago laid aside, and impossible to prove some things and explain others, without the assistance of many books which I have not here, your lordship must be content with such an imperfect sketch as I am able to send you in this letter.
The motives that carry men to the study of history are different. Some intend, if such as they may be said to study, nothing more than amusement, and read the life of Aristides or Phocion, of Epaminondas or Scipio, Alexander or Cæsar, just as they play a game at cards, or as they would read the story of the seven champions.
Others there are whose motive to this study is nothing better, and who have the further disadvantage of becoming a nuisance very often to society, in proportion to the progress they make. The former do not improve their reading to any good purpose; the latter pervert it to a very bad one, and grow in impertinence as they increase in learning. I think I have known most of the first kind in England, and most of the last in France. The persons I mean are those who read to talk, to shine in conversation, and to impose in company; who, having few ideas to vend of their own growth, store their minds with crude unruminated facts and sentences, and hope to supply by bare memory the want of imagination and judgment.
But these are in the two lowest forms. The next I shall mention are in one a little higher; in the form of those who grow neither wiser nor better by study themselves, but who enable others to study with greater ease, and to purposes more useful; who make fair copies of foul manuscripts, give the signification of hard words, and take a great deal of other grammatical pains. The obligation to these men would be great indeed, if they were in general able to do anything better, and submitted to this drudgery for the sake of the public; as some of them, it must be owned with gratitude, have done, but not later, I think, than about the time of the resurrection of letters. When works of importance are pressing, generals themselves may take up the pickax and the spade; but in the ordinary course of things, when that pressing necessity is over, such tools are left in the hands destined to use them, the hands of common soldiers and peasants. I approve, therefore, very much the devotion of a studious man at Christ Church, who was overheard in his oratory entering into a detail with God, acknowledging the divine goodness in furnishing the world with makers of dictionaries! These men court fame, as well as their betters, by such means as God has given them to acquire it; and Littleton exerted all the genius he had when he made a dictionary, though Stephens did not. They deserve encouragement, however, whilst they continue to compile, and neither affect wit, nor presume to reason.
There is a fourth class, of much less use than these, but of much greater name. Men of the first rank in learning, and to whom the whole tribe of scholars bow with reverence. A man must be as indifferent as I am to common censure or approbation, to avow a thorough contempt for the whole business of these learned lives; for all the researches into antiquity, for all the systems of chronology and history, that we owe to the immense labors of a Scaliger, a Bochart, a Petavius, an Usher, and even a Marsham. The same materials are common to them all; but these materials are few, and there is a moral impossibility that they should ever have more. They have combined these into every form that can be given to them; they have supposed, they have guessed, they have joined disjointed passages of different authors, and broken traditions of uncertain originals, of various people, and of centuries remote from one another as well as from ours. In short, that they might leave no liberty untaken, even a wild fantastical similitude of sounds has served to prop up a system. As the materials they have are few, so are the very best and such as pass for authentic extremely precarious, as learned persons themselves confess.
Julius Africanus, Eusebius, and George the Monk opened the principal sources of all this science; but they corrupted the waters. Their point of view was to make profane history and chronology agree with sacred. For this purpose, the ancient monuments that these writers conveyed to posterity were digested by them according to the system they were to maintain; and none of these monuments were delivered down in their original form and genuine purity. The dynasties of Manetho, for instance, are broken to pieces by Eusebius, and such fragments of them as suited his design are stuck into his work. We have, we know, no more of them. The “Codex Alexandrinus” we owe to George the Monk. We have no other authority for it; and one cannot see without amazement such a man as Sir John Marsham undervaluing this authority in one page, and building his system upon it in the next. He seems even by the lightness of his expressions, if I remember well, for it is long since I looked into his canon, not to be much concerned what foundation his system had, so he showed his skill in forming one, and in reducing the immense antiquity of the Egyptians within the limits of the Hebraic calculation. In short, my lord, all these systems are so many enchanted castles: they appear to be something, they are nothing but appearances; like them too, dissolve the charm, and they vanish from the sight. To dissolve the charm, we must begin at the beginning of them; the expression may be odd, but it is significant. We must examine scrupulously and indifferently the foundations on which they lean; and when we find these either faintly probable, or grossly improbable, it would be foolish to expect anything better in the superstructure. This science is one of those that are a limine salutandæ. To do thus much may be necessary, that grave authority may not impose on our ignorance; to do more would be to assist this very authority in imposing false science upon us. I had rather take the Darius whom Alexander conquered for the son of Hystaspes, and make as many anachronisms as a Jewish chronologer, than sacrifice half my life to collect all the learned lumber that fills the head of an antiquary.
Complete. Introductory letter «On the
Study of History:»