Imágenes de páginas

are no more shocked at vice and folly, than men of slower capacities. There is no greater monster in being, than a very ill man of great parts. He lives like a man in a palsy, with one side of him dead. While perhaps he enjoys the satisfaction of luxury, of wealth, of ambition, 5 he has lost the taste of good will, of friendship, of innocence. Scarecrow, the beggar in Lincoln's-inn-fields, who disabled himself in his right leg, and asks alms all day to get himself a warm supper at night, is not half so despicable a wretch, as such a man of sense. The 10 beggar has no relish above sensations; he finds rest more agreeable than motion; and while he has a warm fire, never reflects that he deserves to be whipped. Every man who terminates his satisfactions and enjoyments within the supply of his own necessities and pas- 15 sions is, says Sir Roger, in my eye as poor a rogue as Scarecrow. "But," continued he, "for the loss of public and private virtue we are beholden to your men of fine parts forsooth; it is with them no matter what is done, so it be done with an air. But to me who am so whim- 20 sical in a corrupt age as to act according to nature and reason, a selfish man in the most shining circumstance and equipage, appears in the same condition with the fellow above mentioned, but more contemptible in proportion to what more he robs the public of and enjoys 25 above him. I lay it down therefore for a rule, that the whole man is to move together; that every action of any importance, is to have a prospect of public good: and that the general tendency of our indifferent actions ought to be agreeable to the dictates of reason, of religion, of 30 good breeding; without this, a man, as I have before

hinted, is hopping instead of walking, he is not in his entire and proper motion."

While the honest knight was thus bewildering himself in good starts, I looked intentively upon him, which made 5 him, I thought, collect his mind a little. "What I aim at," says he, “is, to represent, that I am of opinion, to polish our understandings and neglect our manners is of all things the most inexcusable. Reason should govern passion, but instead of that, you see, it is often subserviIo ent to it; and, as unaccountable as one would think it, a wise man is not always a good man." This degeneracy is not only the guilt of particular persons, but also at some times of a whole people: and perhaps it may appear upon examination, that the most polite ages are the 15 least virtuous. This may be attributed to the folly of admitting wit and learning as merit in themselves, without considering the application of them. By this means. it becomes a rule, not so much to regard what we do, as how we do it. But this false beauty will not pass 20 upon men of honest minds and true taste. Sir Richard Blackmore says, with as much good sense as virtue, “It is a mighty dishonour and shame to employ excellent faculties and abundance of wit, to humour and please men in their vices and follies. The great enemy of 25 mankind, notwithstanding his wit and angelic faculties, is the most odious being in the whole creation." He goes on soon after to say, very generously, that he undertook the writing of his poem 66 to rescue the Muses out of the hands of ravishers, to restore them to their sweet 30 and chaste mansions, and to engage them in an employment suitable to their dignity." This certainly ought

to be the purpose of every man who appears in public, and whoever does not proceed upon that foundation, injures his country as fast as he succeeds in his studies. When modesty ceases to be the chief ornament of one sex, and integrity of the other, society is upon a wrong 5 basis, and we shall be ever after without rules to guide our judgment in what is really becoming and ornamental. Nature and reason direct one thing, passion and humour another. To follow the dictates of these two latter, is going into a road that is both endless and intricate; 10 when we pursue the other, our passage is delightful, and what we aim at easily attainable.

I do not doubt but England is at present as polite a nation as any in the world; but any man who thinks can easily see, that the affectation of being gay and in fash- 15 ion, has very near eaten up our good sense and our religion. Is there anything so just as that mode and gallantry should be built upon exerting ourselves in what is proper and agreeable to the institutions of justice and piety among us? And yet is there anything more common, 20 than that we run in perfect contradiction to them? All which is supported by no other pretension, than that it is done with what we call a good grace.

Nothing ought to be held laudable or becoming, but what nature itself should prompt us to think so. Respect 25 to all kinds of superiors is founded, methinks, upon instinct; and yet what is so ridiculous as age? I make this abrupt transition to the mention of this vice, more than any other, in order to introduce a little story, which I think a pretty instance that the most polite age is in 30 danger of being the most vicious.


"It happened at Athens, during a public representation of some play exhibited in honour of the commonwealth, that an old gentleman came too late for a place suitable to his age and quality. Many of the young 5 gentlemen, who observed the difficulty and confusion. he was in, made signs to him that they would accommodate him if he came where they sat. The good man bustled through the crowd accordingly; but when he came to the seats to which he was invited, the jest was Io to sit close and expose him, as he stood out of countenance, to the whole audience. The frolic went round all the Athenian benches. But on those occasions there were also particular places assigned for foreigners. When the good man skulked towards the boxes appointed 15 for the Lacedæmonians, that honest people, more virtuous than polite, rose up all to a man, and with the greatest respect received him among them. The Athenians being suddenly touched with a sense of the Spartan virtue and their own degeneracy, gave a thunder 20 of applause; and the old man cried out, 'The Athenians understand what is good, but the Lacedæmonians practise it.""



No. 34.- MONDAY, APRIL 9, 1711.

- parcit

Cognatis maculis similis fera. — JUV. SAT. xv. 159.

FROM Spotted skins the leopard does refrain. — TATE.

THE club of which I am a member, is very luckily composed of such persons as are engaged in different ways of life, and deputed as it were out of the most conspicuous classes of mankind: by this means I am furnished with the greatest variety of hints and materials, and know 5 everything that passes in the different quarters and divisions, not only of this great city, but of the whole kingdom. My readers too have the satisfaction to find that there is no rank or degree among them who have not their representative in this club, and that there is always 10 somebody present who will take care of their respective interests, that nothing may be written or published to the prejudice or infringement of their just rights and privileges.

I last night sate very late in company with this select 15 body of friends, who entertained me with several remarks which they and others had made upon these my speculations, as also with the various success which they had

« AnteriorContinuar »