« AnteriorContinuar »
he lost the ability to perform, just when the great oCcasion called for all his efforts to engage.
The same ambition that prompted him to be a politician, actuated him as a philosopher. His aims were equally great and extensive in both capacities: unwilling to submit to any in the one, or any authority in the other, he entered the fields of science with a thorough contempt of all that had been established before him, and seemed willing to think every thing wrong, that he might shew his faculty in the reformation. It might have been better for his quiet as a man, if he had been content to act a subordinate character in the state; and it had certainly been better for his memory as a writer, if he had aimed at doing less than he attempted. Wisdom in morals, like every other art or science, is an accumulation that numbers have contributed to increase; and it is not for one single man to pretend, that he can add more to the heap, than the thousands that have gone before him. Such innovations more frequently retard, than promote knowledge; their maxims are more agreeable to the reader, by having the gloss of novelty to recommend them, than those which are trite, only because they are true. Such men are therefore followed at first with avidity, nor is it till some time that their disciples begin to find their error. They often, though too late, perceive that they have been following a speculative enquiry, while they have been leaving a practical good; and while they have been practising the arts of doubting, they have been losing all firmness of principle, which might tend to establish the rectitude of their private conduct. As a moralist therefore Lord Bolingbroke, by having endeavoured at too much, seems to have done nothing: but as a political writer few can equal and none can exceed him. As he was a practical politician,
his writings are less filled with those speculative illusions, which are the result of solitude and seclusion. He wrote them with a certainty of their being opposed, sifted, examined, and reviled; he therefore took care to build them up of such materials, as could not be easily overthrown; they prevailed at the times in which they were written, they still continue to the admiration of the present age, and will probably last for ever.
NEW AND ACCURATE SYSTEM OF
PUBLISHED IN THE YEAR 1763,