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dations, or friends, he undertook to set who stands in all the glare of admiration. out upon his travels, and make the tour In this light, though poverty and contempof Europe on foot. A good voice and tuous neglect are all the wages of his good a trifling skill in music, were the only will from mankind, yet the rectitude of his finances he had to support an undertaking intention is an ample recompense; and so extensive; so he travelled by day, and self-applause for the present, and the at night sung at the doors of peasants' alluring prospect of fame for futurity, houses to get himself a lodging. In this reward his labours. The perspective of manner, while yet very young, Holberg life brightens upon us, when terminated passed through France, Germany, and by an object so charming. Every interHolland; and coming over to England, mediate image of want, banishment, or took up his residence for two years in the sorrow, receives a lustre from its distant university of Oxford. Here he subsisted influence. With this in view, the patriot, by teaching French and music, and wrote philosopher, and poet have often looked his universal history, his earliest, but worst, with calmness on disgrace and famine, performance. Furnished with all the learn and rested on their straw with cheerful ing of Europe, he at last thought proper serenity. Even the last terrors of departto return to Copenhagen, where his inge- ing nature abate of their severity, and look nious productions quickly gained him that kindly on him who considers' his sufferfavour he deserved. He composed not ings as a passport to immortality, and lays less than eighteen comedies. Those in his his sorrows on the bed of fame. own language are said to excel, and those which are translated into French have

CHAPTER VI. peculiar merit. He was honoured with nobility, and enriched by the bounty of

Of Polite Learning in France. the king; so that a life begun in contempt We have hitherto seen, that wherever the and penury ended in opulence and esteem. poet was permitted to begin by improv

Thus we see in what a low state polite ing his native language, polite learning learning is in the countries I have men- flourished; but where the critic undertook tioned, -either past its prime, or not yet the same task, it has never risen to any arrived at maturity. And though the degree of perfection. Let us now examine sketch I have drawn be general, yet it the merits of modern learning in France was for the most part taken on the spot. and England; where, though it may be I am sensible, however, of the impropriety on the decline, yet it is still capable of of national reflection; and did not truth retrieving much of its former splendour. bias me more than inclination in this par- In other places learning has not yet been ticular, I should, instead of the account planted, or has suffered a total decay. To already given, have presented the reader attempt amendment there would be only with a panegyric on many of the indivi- like the application of remedies to an duals of every country whose merits deserve insensible or a mortified part; but here the warmest strains of praise. Apostol there is still life, and there is hope. And Zeno, Algarotti, Goldoni, Muratori, and indeed the French themselves are so far Stay, in Italy-Haller, Klopstock, and from giving in to any despondence of this Rabner, in Germany-Muschenbrook and kind that, on the contrary, they admire Gaubius, in Holland, -all deserve the the progress they are daily making in every highest applause. Men like these, united science. That levity for which we are by one bond, pursuing one design, spend apt to despise this nation is probably the their labour and their lives in making their principal source of their happiness. An fellow-creatures happy, and in repairing agreeable oblivion of past pleasures, a freethe breaches caused by ambition. In this dom from solicitude about future ones, and light, the meanest philosopher, though all a poignant zest of every present enjoyment, his possessions are his lamp or his cell, is if they be not philosophy, are at least more truly valuable than he whose name excellent substitutes. By this they are echoes to the shout of the million, and taught to regard the period in which they live with admiration. The present man. But such treatment must naturally be ners and the present conversation surpass ' expected from Englishmen, whose national all that preceded. A similar enthusiasm character it is to be slow and cautious in as strongly tinctures their learning and their making friends, but violent in friendships taste. While we, with a despondence once contracted. The English nobility, characteristic of our nature, are for remov. in short, are often known to give greater ing back British excellence to the reign of rewards to genius than the French, who, Queen Elizabeth, our most happy rivals however, are much more judicious in the of the Continent cry up the writers of the application of their empty favours. present times with rapture, and regard the The fair sex in France have also not a age of Louis XV, as the true Augustan little contributed to prevent the decline age of France.

of taste and literature, by expecting such The truth is, their present writers have qualifications in their admirers. A man not fallen so far short of the merits of their of fashion at Paris, however contemptible ancestors as ours have done. That self- we may think him here, must be acquainted sufficiency now mentioned may have been with the reigning modes of philosophy as of service to them in this particular. By well as of dress, to be able to entertain fancying themselves superior to their ances- his mistress agreeably. The sprightly tors, they have been encouraged to enter pedants are not to be caught by dumb the lists with confidence; and by not being show, by the squeeze of the hand, or the dazzled at the splendour of another's repu- ogling of a broad eye; but must be purtation, have sometimes had sagacity to sued at once through all the labyrinths of mark out an unbeaten path to fame for the Newtonian system or the metaphysics themselves.

of Locke. I have seen as bright a circle Other causes also may be assigned, that of beauty at the chemical lectures of their second growth of genius is still more Rouelle as gracing the court of Versailles. vigorous than ours. Their encouragements And indeed wisdom never appears so to merit are more skilfully directed; the charming, as when graced and protected link of patronage and learning still con- by beauty. tinues unbroken. The French nobility To these advantages may be added the have certainly a most pleasing way of reception of their language in the different satisfying the vanity of an author, without courts of Europe. An author who excels indulging his avarice. A man of literary is sure of having all the polite for admirers, merit is sure of being caressed by the great, and is encouraged to write by the pleasing though seldom enriched. His pension expectation of universal fame. Add to from the crown just supplies half a com- this, that those countries who can make petence, and the sale of his labours makes nothing good from their own language some small addition to his circumstances. have lately begun to write in this, some Thus the author leads a life of splendid of whose productions contribute to support poverty, and seldom becomes wealthy or the present literary reputation of France. indolent enough to discontinue an exertion There are, therefore, many among the of those abilities by which he rose. With French who do honour to the present age, the English it is different. Our writers and whose writings will be transmitted of rising merit are generally neglected, to posterity with an ample share of while the few of an established reputation fame. Some of the most celebrated are are overpaid by luxurious affluence. The as follow :young encounter every hardship which Voltaire, whose voluminous yet spirited generally attends upon aspiring indigence; productions are too well known to require the old enjoy the vulgar, and perhaps the an eulogy. Does he not resemble the more prudent, satisfaction of putting riches champion mentioned by Xenophon, of in competition with fame. Those are often great reputation in all the gymnastic exerseen to spend their youth in want and cises united, but inferior to each champion obscurity; these are sometimes found to singly, who excels only in one? lead an old age of indolence and avarice. Montesquieu, a name equally deserving

fame with the former. The Spirit of Diderot is an elegant writer and subtile Laws is an instance how much genius is reasoner. He is the supposed author of able to lead learning. His system has the famous Thesis which the Abbé Prade been adopted by the literati; and yet, sustained before the doctors of the Soris it not possible for opinions equally bonne. It was levelled against Chrisplausible to be formed upon opposite tianity, and the Sorbonne too hastily principles, if a genius like his could be gave it their sanction. They perceived found to attempt such an undertaking? its purport, however, when it was too He seems more a poet than a philosopher. late. The college was brought into some

Rousseau of Geneva, a professed man- contempt, and the Abbé obliged to take hater, or, more properly speaking, a phi- refuge at the co of erlin. losopher enraged with one half of mankind, The Marquis D'Argens attempts to because they unavoidably make the other add the character of a philosopher to half unhappy. Such sentiments are gene. the vices of a debauchee. rally the result of much good-nature and The catalogue might be increased with little experience.

several other authors of merit, such as Piron, an author possessed of as much Marivaux, Le Franc, Saint Foix, Deswit as any man alive, yet with as little touches, and Modonville; but let it suffice prudence to turn it to his own advantage. to say, that by these the character of A comedy of his, called La Metromanie, the present age is tolerably supported. is the best theatrical production that has Though their poets seldom rise to tine enappeared of late in Europe. But I know thusiasm, they never sink into absurdity; not whether I should most commend his though they fail to astonish, they are genius or censure his obscenity. His Ode generally possessed of talents to please. à Priape has justly excluded him from a The age of Louis XIV., notwithstanding place in the academy of Belles Lettres. these respectable names, is still vastly suHowever, the good-natured Montesquieu, perior. For, beside the general tendency by his interest, procured the starving bard of critical corruption, which shall bespoken a trifling pension. His own epitaph was of by and by, there are other symptoms all the revenge he took upon the academy which indicate a decline. There is, for for being repulsed :

instance, a fondness of scepticism, which

runs through the works of some of their Cy git Piron; qui ne fut jamais rien,

most applauded writers, and which the

numerous class of their imitators have Crébillon, junior, a writer of real merit, contributed to diffuse. Nothing can be but guilty of the same indelicate faults a more certain sign that genius is in the with the former. Wit employed in dress wane, than its being obliged to fly to ing up obscenity is like the art used in paradox for support, and attempting to painting a corpse: it may be thus ren- be erroneously agreeable. A man who, dered tolerable to one sense, but fails not with all the impotence of wit, and all the quickly to offend some other.

eager desires of infidelity, writes against Gresset, agreeable and easy. His co- the religion of his country, may raise medy called the Méchant, and a humorous doubts, but will never give conviction; poem entitled Vert-Vert, have original all he can do is to render society less merit. He was bred a Jesuit; but his happy than he found it. It was a good wit procured his dismission from the manner which the father of the late poet society. This last work particularly could Saint Foix took to reclaim his son from expect no pardon from the Convent, being this juvenile error. The young poet had a satire against nunneries.

shut himself up for some time in his study; D'Alembert has united an extensive and his father, willing to know what had skill in scientifical learning with the most engaged his attention so closely, upon refined taste for the polite arts. His ex. entering, found him busied in drawing up cellence in both has procured him a seat a new system of religion, and endeavour. in each academy.

ing to show the absurdity of that already

Pas même Academicien.

established. The old man knew by ex- able falsehoods, extremely pleasing till perience that it was useless to endeavour they are detected. to convince a vain young man by right I must still add another fault, of a reason, so only desired his company up nature somewhat similar to the former. stairs. When come into the father's As those above mentioned are for conapartment, he takes his son by the hand, tracting a single science into system, so and, drawing back a curtain at one end those I am going to speak of are for of the room, discovered a crucifix exqui- drawing up a system of all the sciences sitely painted. “My son,” says he, “you united. Such undertakings as these are desire to change the religion of your carried on by different writers cemented country, -behold the fate of a reformer !” into one body, and concurring in the The truth is, vanity is more apt to mis- same design by the mediation of a bookguide men than false reasoning. As some seller. From these inauspicious combiwould rather be conspicuous in a mob, nations proceed those monsters of learning, than unnoticed even in a privy-council, the Trevoux, Encyclopédies, and Bibli. so others choose rather to be foremost in othèques of the age. In making these, the retinue of error, than follow in the men of every rank in literature are emtrain of truth. What influence the con- ployed, wits and dunces contribute their duct of such writers may have on the share, and Diderot, as well as Desmaretz, morals of a people is not my business are candidates for oblivion. The genius here to determine. Certain I am, that it of the first supplies the gale of favour, and has a manifest tendency to subvert the the latter adds the useful ballast of stuliterary merits of the country in view. pidity. By such means the enormous The change of religion in every nation mass heavily makes its way among the has hitherto produced barbarism and igno- public, and, to borrow a bookseller's rance; and such will be probably its phrase, the whole impression moves off. consequences in every future period. For These great collections of learning may when the laws and opinions of society are serve to make us inwardly repine at our made to clash, harmony is dissolved, and own ignorance; may serve, when gilt and all the parts of peace unavoidably crushed lettered, to adorn the lower shelves of a in the encounter.

regular library; but woe to the reader The writers of this country have also who, not daunted at the immense distance of late fallen into a method of considering between one great pasteboard and the every part of art and science as arising other, opens the volume, and explores his from simple principles. The success of way through a region so extensive, but Montesquieu and one or two more has barren of entertainment. No unexpected induced all the subordinate ranks of genius landscape there to delight the imagination; into vicious imitation. To this end they no diversity of prospect to cheat the turn to our view that side of the subject painful journey. He sees the wide ex. which contributes to support their hypo- tended desert lie before him : what is past thesis, while the objections are generally only increases his terror of what is to passed over in silence. Thus an universal

His course is not half finished; system rises from a partial representation he looks behind him with affright, and of the question, a whole is concluded from forward with despair. Perseverance is at a part, a book appears entirely new, and last overcome, and a night of oblivion the fancy-built fabric is styled for a short lends its friendly aid to terminate the time very ingenious. In this manner we perplexity. have seen of late almost every subject in

CHAPTER VII. morals, natural history, politics, economy, and commerce treated. Subjects naturally

Of Learning in Great Britain. proceeding on many principles, and some To acquire a character for learning among even opposite to each other, are all taught the English at present it is necessary to to proceed along the line of systematic know much more than is either important simplicity, and continue, like other agree- or useful. It seems the spirit of the times


for men here to exhaust their natural except our filling a chasm in the registers sagacity in exploring the intricacies of of time, or having served to continue the another man's thought, and thus never species. to have leisure to think for themselves.

CHAPTER VIII. Others have carried on learning from that stage, where the good sense of our ancestors

Of rewarding Genius in England. have thought it too minute, or too specu- THERE is nothing authors are more apt lative, to instruct or amuse. By the in- to lament, than want of encouragement dustry of such, the sciences, which in from the age. Whatever their differences themselves are easy of access, affright in other respects, they are all ready to the learner with the severity of their ap- unite in this complaint, and each indirectly pearance. He sees them surrounded with offers himself as an instance of the truth speculation and subtlety, placed there by of his assertion. their professors as if with a view of deter- The beneficed divine, whose wants are ring his approach. Hence it happens only imaginary, expostulates as bitterly as that the generality of readers fly from the the poorest author. Should interest or scholar to the compiler, who offers them good fortune advance the divine to a a more safe and speedy conveyance. bishopric, or the poor son of Parnassus

From this fault also arises that mutual into that place which the other has recontempt between the scholar and the signed, both are authors no longer: the man of the world, of which every day's one goes to prayers once a day, kneels experience furnisheth instances.

upon cushions of velvet, and thanks graThe man of taste, however, stands cious Heaven for having made the cirneutral in this controversy. He seems cumstances of all mankind so extremely placed in a middle station, between the happy; the other battens on all the deli. world and the cell, between learning and cacies of life, enjoys his wife and his easy

He teaches the vulgar chair, and sometimes, for the sake of on what part of a character to lay the conversation, deplores the luxury of these emphasis of praise, and the scholar where degenerate days. to point his application so as to deserve All encouragements to merit are thereit. By his means even the philosopher fore misapplied which make the author acquires popular applause, and all that too rich to continue his profession. There are truly great the admiration of posterity. can be nothing more just than the old By means of polite learning alone the observation, that authors, like running patriot and the hero, the man who praiseth horses, should be fed, but not fattened. virtue and he who practises it, who fights If we would continue them in our service, successfully for his country or who dies in we should reward them with a little money its defence, becomes immortal. But this and a great deal of praise, still keeping taste now seems cultivated with less ardour their avarice subservient to their ambition. than formerly, and consequently the public Not that I think a writer incapable of must one day expect to see the advantages filling an employment with dignity: I arising from it

, and the exquisite pleasures would only insinuate, that when made a it affords our leisure, entirely annihilated. bishop or statesman he will continue to For if, as it should seem, the rewards of please us as a writer no longer; as, to genius are improperly directed; if those resume a former allusion, the running who are capable of supporting the honour horse, when fattened, will still be fit for of the times by their writings prefer opu- very useful purposes, though unqualified lence to fame; if the stage should be shut for a courser. to writers of merit, and open only to inte- No nation gives greater encouragements rest or intrigue; if such should happen to to learning than we do ; yet, at the same be the vile complexion of the times (and time, none are so injudicious in the appli. that it is nearly so we shall shortly see), cation. We seem to confer them with the very virtue of the age will be forgotten the same view that statesmen have been by posterity, and nothing remembered, known to grant employments at court,

common sense.


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