« ПретходнаНастави »
alterations that are as incessantly taking place in every thing around him.
" But, these alterations are often like the quantity in a regular cone, where, though there be a manifest difference in the diameter at remote distances, yet, in those parts which immediately touch one another, it is hardly discernible.” Need we seek farther, in order to account
for the endless variety we see in man, and the ever succeeding revolutions that take place in all human affairs ?
2. Honesty.--An entirely bonest man, in the severe sense of the word, exists no more than an entirely dishonest knave; the best and the worst are only approximations to those qualities. Who are those that never contradict themselves ? yet honesty never contradicts itself. Who are those that always contradict themselves ? yet knavery is mere self-contradiction. Thus the knowledge of man determines not the things themselves, but their proportions, the quantum of congruities and incongruities,
3. Humanity. There is something in our nature which engages us to take part in every accident to which man is subject, from what cause soever it may have happened; but in such calamities as a man has fallen into through mere misfortune, to be charged upon no fault or indiscretion of himself, there is something then so truly interesting, that, at the first sight, we generally make them our own, not altogether from a reflection that they might have been or may be so, but oftener from a certain generosity and tenderness of nature which disposes us to compassion, abstracted from all considerations of self. So that, without any observable act of the will, we suffer with the unfortunate, and feel a weight upon our spirits we know not why, on seeing the most common instances of their distress. But where the spectacle is uncommonly tragical, and complicated with many circumstances of misery, the mind is then taken captive at once, and, were it inclined to it, has no power to make resistance, but surrenders itself to all the tender emotions of pity and deep concern.
So that when one considers the friendly part of our nature without looking farther, one would think it impossilyle for man to look upon misery without finding himself in some measure attached to the interest of him who suffers it. I say, one would think it impossible; for, there are some tempers-How shall I describe them? formed either of such impenetrable matter, or wrought up by haþitual selfishness to such an utter insensibility of what becomes of the fortunes of their fellow-creatures, that they act as if they were not partakers of the same nature, or had not lot or connexion at all with the species.
That humanity is not inseparable from our nature I allow, from some reproachful instances of selfish tempers, which seemn to take part in nothing beyond themselves; yet I am persuaded, and affirm, it is so great and noþle a part of our nature, that a man must do great violence to himself, and suffer
many a painful conflict, before he has brought himself to a different disposition.-Maxims and Observatious.
4. I. Anecdotes of the Earl of Mansfield - A Catholic Priest was prosecuted in the court of King's Bench for having said mass. nesses appeared against him Lord Mansfield, who presided then in that court, said to the informer, the principal witness, “You are sure that this man is a popish priest, and that he said mass ?”—The man answered, “Yes." The judge replied, “ You know then what a mass is ?” The witness was confused and silent. Lord Mansfield, then addressing the jury, said, “ To find this man guilty, you must have full proof that he said mass; and it must be proved to you, that it was the mass which this man said, when the witnesses saw him performing acts, which they took to be the mass, You must judge for yourselves, whether your conscience is entirely satisfied on this point.” The jury asked the witnesses, and asked each other, what were the ceremonies which constituted a mass; and not being able to obtain a satisfactory answer, they acquitted the prisoner.
What a happiness to meet with so wise a judge! But it is an unfortunate circumstance, when a judge is obliged to be wiser and more humane than the law.
II. The following anecdote is more interesting still; for in exhibiting a new proof of the wisdom and superior intelligence of Lord Mansfield, it throws some light on the spirit of the multitude in general, and particularly on the character of the English people, when even in their passions they are spoken to in the name of the law.
This great magistrate being in one of the counties, on the circuit, a poor woman was indicted for witchcraft. The inhabitants of the place weré exasperated against her. Some witnesses deposed that they had seen her walk in the air, with her feet upwards and her head downwards. Lord Mansfield, heard the evidence with great tranquillity, and perceiving the temper of the people, whom it would not have been prudent to irritate, he thus addressed them: “I do not doubt that this woman has walked in the air, with her feet upwards, since you have all seen it; but she has the honor to be born in England, as well as you and I, and, consequently, cannot be judged but by the laws of the country, nor punished but in proportion as she has violated them. Now I know not one law that forbids walking in the air with the feet upwards. We have all a right to do it with impunity. I see no reason, therefore, for this prosecution; and this poor woman may return home when she pleases.” This speech had its proper effect. It appeased the auditory, and the woman retired from the court without mo: lestation.-Elegant Anecdotes, foc.
5. The Rich have just as much as they can use ; those who possess more, have in their custody what would make others rich.-Zimmerman.
6. Fare.When we meet with better fare than was expected, the disappointment is overlooked even by the scrupulous. When we meet with worse than was expected, philosophers alone know how to make it better.--Zimmerman.
7. One great Source of Vexation.--I have at length learnt, by my own experience, (for not one man in twenty profits by the experience of others,) that one great source of vexation proceeds from our indulging too sanguine hopes of enjoyment from the blessings we expect, and too mnch indifference for those we possess
We scorn a thousand sources of satisfaction we might have had in the interim ; and permit our comfort to be disturbed, and our time to pass unenjoyed, from impatience for some imagined pleasure at a distance, which we may, perhaps, never obtain, or which, when obtained, may change its nature, and be no longer pleasure.
Maxins and Obserations, fic.
8. Truth, Error.-Truth we apprehend to be the conformity of our ideas to the real nature of things, both intellectual and physical, expressed in such terms as we usually annex to those ideas: it is true for example, that a lion is, in many respects, unlike a serpent; that man recollects some past events; that time elapses; that a radius is less than the diameter; that two and two make four; that a square is not a circle, &c. We call this Truth, because it is the conformity of our ideas to the very being of things themselves.
The supposing things to be different from what they really are is error; but, which of our opinions are just, and which erroneons; or in other words, which conformable to truth, and which are founded in error, general and continual experience can alone determine. “ Error is not a fault of our knowledge, but a' mistake of our judgment, giving assent to that which is not true.”
9. The Fatalist.-The fatalist stands a good chance of being contented with his lot, unless 'tis ordained to the contrary.-Zimmerman.
10. Insipidity—A few insipid characters in high life, whose internal vacancy leads them to seek amusement in public places, and whose insensibil. ity prevents them from finding it, have probably brought the appearance of a want of aļl enjoyment into fashion. Those, who wish to be thought of what is called the ton, imitate the mawkish insipidity of their superiors in rank, and imagine it distinguishes them from the vulgar, to suppress all the natural expressions of pity, joy, or admiration, and to seeim, upon
all sions, in a state of complete apathy. These amiable creatures frequent public places, that it may be said of them, they are not as other men are ; you will see them occasionally at the play bouse, placed in the boxes like so many busts with unchanging features; and, while the rest of the audience yield to the emotions excited by the poet and the actors, these men of the ton preserve the most dignified serenity of countenance, and, except that they from time to time pronounce the words pshaw and stuff, one would think them the express representatives of the pagan.gods, who have eyes but do not see, and ears but do not hear.
Maxims and Observations,
11. Moral Truth, Falsehood -- Moral Truth, is the speaking of things according to the persuasion of our minds, though such persuasion agree not with the reality of things, or as we say is contrary to fact; e. g. the affirmation that such a man is good, may be true as far as regards the spen ker's veracity, being according to his belief, and yet be false in fact; for Falsehood is the uttering of words contrary to the persuasion of our minds. If a man would persuade another to receive for truth an unsound doctrine, which he himself believes to be sound, he unconsciously leads, or would lead him into error, but if he wish to impose upon him for Truth, the belief of that which he knows to be an error, he is in such case absolutely guilty of Falsehood.
“ Some for fear of want
Armstrong 13. Debt. There is nothing more to be dreaded than debt: when a person, whose principles are good, onhappily falls into this situation, adien to all peace and comfort. The reflection embitters every meal, and drives from the cye-lids refreshing sleep. It corrodes and cankers every cheerful idea ; and like a stern Cerberus, guards each avenue to the heart, --so that pleasure dares not approach. Happy! thrice happy! are those who are blest with an independent competence, and can confine their wants within the bounds of that competence, be it what it may. To such alone the bread of life is palatable and nourishing Sweet is the morsel that is acquired by an honest industry, the produce of which is permanent, or that flows from a source which will not fail. A subsistence, that is precarious or procured by an uncertain prospect of payment, carries neither wine nor oil with it. Let me, therefore, again repeat, that the person, who is deeply involved in debt, experiences on earth all the tortures the poets describe to be the lot of the wretched inhabitants of Tartarus.—Maxims and Observations.
14: Anecdotes of Henry IV. of France.—Henry read with pleasure every thing that was published concerning his operations; for under his reign, every one enjoyed free liberty of speaking, writing, and printing; and Truth, which he sought after every where, came in her turn, even to the throne to seek him. The greatest compliment which can be paid to kings, is to believe them worthy to attend to her voice. Unhappy must that reign be, where the history of it is obliged to conceal its author. L'Etoile relates, that Henry having read the book called the Anti-Soldier, asked his secretary of state, Villeroy, if he had seen this work, and upon his replying in the negative: "It is right you should see it," said he "for it is a book which takes me finely to task, but is still more severe on you.”
He was desired to punish an author who had written some free satires upon the court: “It would be against my conscience," said this good prince, “ to trouble an honest man for having told the truth.”
15. Visitors by profession. I have had occasion a thousand times, since I saw you, to wish myself in the land where all things are forgotten; at least, that I did not live in the memory of certain restless mortals who are visitors by profession. The misfortune is, no retirement is so remote, nor sanctuary sacred, as to afford a protection from their impertinence; and though we were to fly to the desart, and take refuge in the cells of saints and hermits, we should be alarmed with their unmeaning voice, crying even in the wilderness. They spread themselves, in truth, over the whole face of the land, and they waste the fairest hours of conversation. For my part, I look upon them not as paying visits, but visitations; and am never obliged to give audience to one of this species, that I do not consider myself as under a judgment for those numberless hours which I have spent in vain. If these sons and daughters of idleness and folly would be persuaded to enter into an exclusive society, the rest of the world might possess their moments unmolested; but nothing less will satisfy them, than opening a general commerce, and sailing into every port where choice or chance may drive them. Were we to live, indeed, in the years of the Antediluvians, one might afford to resign some part of one time in charitable relief of the insufferable weight of theirs; but since the days of man are shrunk into a few hasty revolutions of the sun, whole afternoons are much too considerable a sacrifice to be offered to tame civility. What heightens the contempt of this character is, that they who have so much of the force have always the least of the power of friendship; and though they will “ craze their chariot wheels," as Milton expresses it, to destroy your repose, they would not drive half the length of a street to assist your
distress. Fitzozborne's Letters.
16. Wisdom that is hid, and treasure that is hoarded up, what profit is in them both ? Better is he that hideth his folly, than a man that hideth his wisdom.--Ecclesiasticus,