« AnteriorContinuar »
regaling at his expense; but in the midst of this soliloquy, an officer of justice entered the house, and, in the form of legal citation, summoned Almamoulin to appear before the emperor. The guests stood a while aghast, then stole imperceptibly away, and he was led off without a single voice to witness his integrity. He now found one of his most frequent visitants accusing him of treason, in hopes of sharing bis confiscation; yet, unpatronized and unsupported, he cleared himself by the openness of innocence, and the consistence of truth; he was dismissed with honour, and his accuser perished in prison.
Almamoulin now perceived with how little reason he had hoped for justice or fidelity from those who live only to gratify their senses; and, being now weary with vain experiments upon life and fruitless researches after felicity, he had recourse to a sage, who, after spending his youth in travel and observation, had retired from all human cares, to a small habitation on the banks of Oxus, where he conversed only with such as solicited his counsel. Brother," said the philosopher, “ thou hast suffered thy reason
to be deluded by idle hopes, and fallacious ap
pearances. Having long looked with desire upon “ riches, thou hast taught thyself to think them more " valuable than nature designed them, and to expect “ from them, what experience has now taught thee, " that they cannot give. That they do not confer “ wisdom, thou mayest be convinced, by considering
at how dear a price they tempted thee, upon thy « first entrance into the world, to purchase the empty “ sound of vulgar acclamation. That they cannot “ bestow fortitude or magnanimity, that man may be
certain, “ certain, who stood trembling at Astracan, before
a being not naturally superiour to himself. That
they will not supply unexhausted pleasure, the re“ collection of"forsaken palaces, and neglected gardens, “ will easily inform thee. That they rarely purchase “ friends, thou didst soon discover, when thou wert “ left to stand thy trial uncountenanced and alone. 6 Yet think not riches useless ; there are purposes to “ which a wise man may be delighted to apply them ;
they may, by a rational distribution to those who “ want them, ease the pains of helpless disease, still “ the throbs of restless anxiety, relieve innocence “ from oppression, and raise imbecility to cheerful“ ness and vigour. This they will enable thee to per
form, and this will afford the only happiness or“ dained for our present state, the confidence of di« vine favour, and the hope of future rewards."
TUESDAY, May 14, 1751.
O imitatores, servum pecus !
HAVE been informed by a letter from one of
the universities, that among the youth from whom the next swarm of reasoners is to learn philosophy, and the next flight of beauties to hear elegies and sonnets, there are many, who, instead of endeavouring by books and meditation to form their own opinions, content themselves with the secondary knowledge, which a convenient bench in a coffee-house can supply; and, without any examination or distinction, adopt the criticisms and remarks, which happen to drop from those who have risen, by merit or fortune, to reputation and authority.
These humble retailers of knowledge my correspondent stigmatizes with the name of Echoes ; and seems desirous that they should be made ashamed of lazy submission, and animated to attempts after new discoveries, and original sentiments.
It is very natural for young men to be vehement, acrimonious, and severe. For, as they seldom comprehend at once all the consequences of a position, or perceive the difficulties by which cooler and more experienced reasoners are restrained from confidence, they form their conclusions with great precipitance. Seeing nothing that can darken or embarrass the question, they expect to find their own opinion uni
versally versally prevalent, and are inclined to impute uncertainty and hesitation to want of honesty, rather than of knowledge. I may, perhaps, therefore, be reproached by my lively correspondent, when it shall be found, that I have no inclination to persecute these collectors of fortuitous knowledge with the severity required ; yet, as I am now too old to be much pained by hasty censure, I shall not be afraid of taking into protection those whom I think condemned without a sufficient knowledge of their cause.
He that 'adopts the sentiments of another, whom he has reason to believe wiser than himself, is only to be blamed when he claims the honours which are not due but to the author, and endeavours to deceive the world into praise and veneration ; for, to learn, is the proper business of youth; and whether we increase our knowledge by books or by con versation, we are equally indebted to foreign assistance.
The greater part of students are not born with abilities to construct systems, or advance knowledge ; nor can have any hope beyond that of becoming intelligent hearers in the schools of art, of being able to comprehend what others discover, and to remember what others teach. Even those to whom Providence hath allotted greater strength of understanding, can expect only to improve a single science. · In every other part of learning, they must be content to follow opinions which they are not able to examine ; and, even in that which they claim as peculiarly their own, can seldom add more than some 1 small particle of knowledge to the hereditary stock VOL. V.
devolved to them from ancient times, the collective labour of a thousand intellects.
In science, which, being fixed and limited, admits of no other variety than such as arises from new methods of distribution, or new arts of illustration, the necessity of following the traces of our predecessors is indisputably evident; but there appears no reason why imagination should be subject to the same restraint. It might be conceived, that of those who profess to forsake the narrow paths of truth, every one may deviate towards a different point, since, though rectitude is uniform and fixed, obliquity may be infinitely diversified. The roads of science are narrow, so that they who travel them, must either follow or meet one another ; but in the boundless regions of possibility, which fiction claims for her dominion, there are surely a thousand recesses unexplored, a thousand flowers unplucked, a thousand fountains unexhausted, combinations of imagery yet unobserved, and races of ideal inhabitants not hitherto described.
Yet, whatever hope may persuade, or reason evince, experience can boast of very few additions to ancient fable. The wars of Troy, and the travels of Ulysses, have furnished almost all succeeding poets with incidents, characters, and sentiments. The Romans are confessed to have attempted little more than to display in their own tongue the inventions of the Greeks. There is, in all their writings, such a perpetual recurrence of allusions to the tales of the fabulous age, that they must be confessed often to want that power of giving pleasure which