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stage of life; a class of men, who generally in the very outset abandon all virtuous restraint, or in the prosecution of their views perceive a kind of necessity of quitting so confined a path; and, if they have happiness in view, seek it where God and nature never meant it to be found. Who is competent to estimate the quantum of virtue or of quiet enjoyment of a hundred million of subjects of the Roman empire from the history of Tiberius, Caligula, or Nero?: Are their profusion, their libertinism, their cru: elties, or those of their parasites and informa ers, or of the whole' patrician and eques. trian orders, or of the Roman armies, the standard of character through the extent of that yast empire? And how impotent even of mischief must their vices be, great ias these vices: were, when we contemplate the millions whom all their wantonness of rule could but lightly approach, whose very: obscurity was their preservative at once from being corrupted from their example, and crushed by their oppression? Be pleased to
recollect what I before observed, that virtue is naturally modest and retired, while vice is impudent and obtruding; it is of the character of the latter, therefore, to seize almost the whole field of prominent and ambitious action to itself; and to this field history almost wholly confines herself, while she either knows not, or deigns not to notice, the quiet life of the unambitious many, with whom, however, both virtue and happiness are more likely to be found.
No mistake is more common, though none more injurious both to religion and morals, than the false idea of happiness, which the proud display of wealth and power before our eyes, and the exhibition of hardly any thing else in history, occasion. Yet the only happiness, which deserves the name, is within the reach of the many, as well as the few; it is derived from the temper of the soul, more than from the external condition of life, and finds a field of exercise suited to this temper, in the calm enjoyments of domestic, friendly, and social intercourse. But
to this indubitable truth the historian pays no attention, and therefore affords no assistance to the common reader, whereby he may correct his false estimate of things, and separate the showy parade of triumphant crime from sincere enjoyment. It must in deed be admitted, that in some rare instances a moralizing historian will let
into the secret, which the pride of successful wickedness would hide from the world. If scrutinizing pictures of that internal wretchedness, which, like the vulture of Prometheus, gnaws at the heart of conscious.crime, were oftener exhibited by historians, like to that of Tiberius in his retreat at Caprea, and of Charles the Ninth of France, and of that monster Herod, called the Great, in the decline of their health and life, history would be more useful, a retributive justice as the issue of conduct would appear to have more place in the world than the first face of things countenances, the moral principles of the reader would be less endangered, and few, methinks, would barter the peaceful
innocence even of a cottage for the titled grandeur of many of the heroes of history, if therewith must be incurred the penalty of their misery.
It is also another consideration, and which no philosophical essayist ought ever to be ashamed of bringing forward, in any place, or before any audience, that if there be a truth in that theology, which considers this life as the trial of virtue, the next as its reward; the historian suggests no such instruction, nor is it by him that the reader will be guarded against conclusions, which are alike reproachful to man and to the Maker of man; it is not from the historian, that he will imbibe those more extended and sublimer views, which are consolatory to himself, and gloriously vindicate the
ways of God to man.
There is this further disadvantage to be apprehended from the perusal of history; that whereas we meet with certain characters in which good and bad qualities are so intimately blended, that it is difficult to dis
criminate between them; and though we are sensible that all is not sound, yet what is attractive so insinuates its colour into the whole, and the union of magnanimity and grandeur with all so captivates us, that we come insensibly to interest ourselves in their success; and as their history is more expanded, our admiration is more and more excited; we imbibe their views, sympathize with them in their difficulties and dangers, triumph with them in their success; and become at length so dazzled with the splendour of their exploits, and the elevation to which they rise, that if we are not absolutely enamoured with their very vices, yet they are in a great measure lost to our view.
“They have no faults, or we no faults can spy;"
we acquire a false notion of heroism uncon- ; nected with virtue ; and the detestation of crime, perhaps even of the most horrid magnitude, is so lessened by the lustre of successful greatness, as to plead for its excuse, and dispose us to consider it as the necessary