« AnteriorContinuar »
more self-satisfaction go on in a course, which as a whole is but a waste of time, of talents, and of character. The other owes it perhaps to his keen disgust that he is not swallowed
up in the gulf of dissipation, that trifling and unimportant attentions are not over-rated by him, do not debauch his mind, nor lead him to the borders, if not into the open field, of vice. There is certainly an extreme in the judgement of each; but with which extreme the just estimate of character and dignified enjoyment is most likely to be found, might have been left to the Genevan philosopher to calculate.
In fine, learning and politeness may be cotemporaneous events in the history of man, and they may each be derived from their proper source; but they are neither of them the parent of the other, nor do they kindly mix in any relationship or affinity. To derive politeness from learning, and charge to her, account the vices of the former, whatever these vices be, merely because learning and politeness may be coexistent,
is one of those sophisms, which logicians class under the name of non causa
causâ. If the error proceed from design, it is criminal; if it proceed from ignorance, and a confused understanding, it is contemptible in one who pretends to the character of a philosopher, and a censor of the follies of
Learning and civility appear both to be derived from the same circumstances in the condition of man; but if civility be a vice, learning is not to be accused on this account. The field produces the grain and the weed. Is the salutary plant accused, because the useless or even the noxious plant vegetates by its side? As man betters his external condition, multiplies the conveniences of life, his views enlarge, he connects himself more closely with fellow man, he widens his connections and dependencies, and, to accomplish this, his intellect and ingenuity are provoked; his manners also become more insinuating; he courts his fellow by courtesy as well as by kindness; and thus science,
the arts, urbanity and the agreeable in form, address and intercourse, advance with a step proportionate to the growing interests, utilities and conveniences of life. This
appears to me to be the true origin of learning and civility, considered in a general view, and to account for their cotemporaneous existence in every instance, whenever they have been found to enter into the human character. But learning and civility, though issuing from the same source, and always in some degree accompanying each other in their progress, may vary in their respective character from other circumstances; and therefore it may require the aid of some other cause to account for the peculiar politeness of later Europe, which is the very object of Rousseau's invective. To discriminate the urbanity of Greece and Rome from the politeness of the present century, and to account for whatever is peculiar to and characteristic of the latter, may not therefore be impertinent to the object of the present essay; especially if it shall ap
pear that learning is as innocent of the guilt, which may be imputed to modern, as to antient manners.
Accurately to define the characters of antient urbanity and modern politeness may be no easy task; nor is this difficulty pecu. liar to the present subject, as there are many instances, in which we cannot define what we strongly feel. Cicero has given a definition of urbanity, which may apply to the çivility of any day, as it is a mere definition of the abstract principle. Had he illustrated it with a familiar instance in the manner of his day, we should have been better able to estimate the standard of Roman urbanity. We have not a history of the private life of the Romans; but from some incidental facts which are recorded, we may decide that their manners were not so dressed and elegant and delicately finished as those of modern Europe. Yet we must allow to Greece and Rome all that polish which answers to their high condition of prosperity and cultivation. The wants of nature are common
idea of a grace
to all, but a richer possession of the external conveniences and accommodations of life cannot fail to awaken an artificial taste, the
may be superadded to every enjoyment. All of the polite and elegant which the collision of man with man can be expected to accomplish, may be ascribed to the higher personages of these antient days : but the influence of woman on manners could not be experienced by them, because woman held not the same rank in society as in these later times; and therefore this must constitute one characteristic feature in which the politeness of the most accomplished periods of Greece and Rome could bear no resemblance to that of modern days. Commerce, wealth, science, arts, and urbanity have made a rapid progress in western Europe, and independent of any other cause must have produced their effects; but the state of woman, which is absolutely novel in the history of man, has given an appropriate character to our manpers; it preceded every other cause; it