Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

mind to try) and recommend them privately to the particular observation of his first minister. He generally found himself neglected by his new acquaintance as soon as they had hopes of growing great ; and used on such occasions to remark, that it was a great injustice to tax princes of forgetting themselves in their high fortunes, when there were so few that could with constancy bear the favour of their very creatures.” My author in these loose hints has one passage that gives us a very lively idea of the uncommon genius of Pharamond. He met with one man whom he had put to all the usual proofs he had made of those he had a mind to know thoroughly, and found him for his purpose. In discourse with him one day, he gave him an opportunity of saying how much would satisfy all his wishes. The prince immediately revealed himself, doubled the sum, and spoke to him in this manner : 'Sir, you have twice what you desired, by the favour of Pharamond; but look to it, that you are satisfied with it, for it is the last you shall ever receive. I from this moment consider you as mine; and to make you truly so, I give you my royal word you shall never be greater or less than you are at present. Answer me not (concluded the prince smiling), but enjoy the fortune I have put you in, which is above my own condition; for you have hereafter nothing to hope or to fear.'

His majesty having thus well chosen and bought a friend and companion, he enjoyed alternately all the pleasures of an agreeable private man, and a great and powerful monarch. He gave himself, with his companion, the name of the merry tyrant ; for he punished his courtiers for their insolence and folly, not by any act of public disfavour, but by humorously practising upon their imaginations. If he observed a inan untractable to his inferiors, he would find an opportunity to take some favourable notice of him, and render him insupportable. He knew all his own looks, words, and actions had their interpretations; and his friend Monsieur Eucrate (for so he was called) having a great soul without ambition, he could communicate all his thoughts to him, and fear no artful use would be made of that freedom. It was no small delight when they were in private, to reflect upon all which had passed in public.

Pharamond would often, to satisfy a vain fool of power in his country, talk to him in a full court, and with one whisper make him despise all his old friends and acquaintance. He was come to that knowledge of men by long observation, that he would profess altering the whole mass of blood in some tempers, by thrice speaking to them. As fortune was in his power, he gave

himself constant entertainment in managing the mere followers of it with the treatment they deserved. He would, by a skilful cast of his eye, and half a smile, make two fellows who hated, embrace, and fall upon each other's necks with as much eagerness, as if they fol. lowed their real inclinations, and intended to stifle one another. When he was in high good humour, he would lay the scene with Eucrate, and on a public night exercise the passions of his whole court. He was pleased to see an haughty beauty watch the looks of the man she had long despised, from observation of his being taken notice of by Pharamond; and the lover conceive higher hopes, than to follow the woman he was dying for the day before. In a court, where men speak affection in the strongest terms, and dislike in the faintest, it was a comical mixture of incidents to see disguises thrown aside in one case, and increased on the other, according as favour or disgrace attended the respec,

tive objects of men's approbation or disesteem. Pharamond, in his mirth upon the meanness of mankind, used to say, “As he could take away a man's five senses, he could give him an hundred. The man in disgrace shall immediately lose all his natural endowments, and he that finds favour have the attributes of an angel.' He would carry it so far as to say, 'It should not be only so in the opinion of the lower part of his court, but the men themselves shall think thus meanly or greatly of themselves, as they are out, or in the good graces of a court.'

A monarch who had wit and humour like Pharamond, must have pleasures which no man else can ever have opportunity of enjoying. He gave fortune to none but those whom he knew could receive it without transport. He made a noble and generous use of his observations, and did not regard his ministers as they were agreeable to himself, but as they were useful to his kingdom. By this means, the king appeared in every officer of state; and no man had a participation of the power, who had not a similitude of the virtue of Pharamond.

R.

77. TUESDAY, MAY 29, 1711.

Non convivere licet, nec urbe tota
Quisquam est iam prope tam proculque nobis.

MART. Epig. i. 87.
What correspondence can I hold with you,
Who are so near, and yet so distant too?

My friend Will Honeycomb is one of those sort of men who are very often absent in conversation, and what the French call a reveur and a distrait.

A little before our club-time last night, we were walking together in Somerset-gardens, where Will had picked up a small pebble of so odd a make, that he said he would present it to a friend of his, an eminent virtuoso. After we had walked some time, I made a full stop with my face towards the west, which will knowing to be my usual method of asking what's o'clock, in an afternoon, immediately pulled out his watch, and told me we had seven minutes good. We took a turn or two more, when to my great surprise, I saw him squir away his watch a considerable way into the Thames, and with great sedateness in his looks put up the pebble, he had before found, in his fob. As I have naturally an aversion to much speaking, and do not love to be the messenger of ill news, especially when it comes too late to be useful, I left him to be convinced of his mistake in due time, and continued my walk, reflecting on these little absences and distracţions in mankind, and resolving to make them the subject of a future speculation.

I was the more confirmed in my design, when I coủsidered that they were very often blemishes in the characters of men of excellent sense; and helped to keep up the reputation of that Latin proverb, which Mr. Dryden has translated in the following lines :

Great wit to madness sure is near ally'd,

And thin partitions do their bounds divide*, My reader does, I hope, perceive, that I distinguish a man who is absent, because he thinks of something else, from one who is absent, because he thinks of nothing at all. The latter is too innocent a creature to he taken notice of; but the distrac

* Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiæ.-Seneca De Tranquil. Anim, cap. xv.

tions of the former may, I believe, be generally accounted for from one of these reasons.

Either their minds are wholly fixed on some particular science, which is often the case of mathematicians and other learned men ; or are wholly taken up with some violent passion, such as anger, fear, or love, which ties the mind to some distant object; or, lastly, these distractions proceed from a certain vivacity and fickleness in a man's temper, which while it raises up infinite numbers of ideas in the mind, is continually pushing it on, without allowing it to rest on any particular image.

Nothing there fore is more unnatural than the thoughts and conceptions of such a man, which are seldom occasioned either by the company he is in, or any of those objects which are placed before him. While you fancy he is admiring a beautiful woman, it is an even wager that he is solving a position in Euclid; and while you may imagine he is reading the Paris Gazette, it is far from being impossible, that he is pulling down and rebuilding the front of his country-house.

At the same time that I am endeavouring to expose this weakness in others, I shall readily confess that I once laboured under the same infirmity myself. The method I took to conquer it was a firm resolution to learn something from whatever I was obliged to see, or hear. There is a way of thinking, if a man can attain to it, by which he may

strike somewhat out of any thing. I can at present observe those starts of good sense, and struggles of unimproved reason in the conversation of a clown, with as much satisfaction as the most shining periods of the most finished orator; and can make a shift to command my attention at a puppet-show or an opera, as well as at Hamlet or Othello. I always make one of the company I am in; for though I

« AnteriorContinuar »