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six hundred years. The reason must be, that philor sophical opinions, which are otherwise transient, acquire stability in proportion as they are connected with the laws of the country, and philosophy and law have been no where so closely united as here.
Sweden has of late made some attempts in polite learning in its own language. Count Tessin's instructions to the prince, his pupil, are no bad beginning. If the Muses can fix their residence so far northward, perhaps no country bids so fair for their reception. They have, I am told, a language rude, but energetic; if so, it will bear a polish : they have also a jealous sense of liberty, and that strength of thinking peculiar to northern climates, without its attendant ferocity. They will certainly in time produce somewhat great, if their intestine divisions do not unhappily prevent them.
The history of polite learning in Denmark may be comprised in the life of one single man ; it rose and fell with the late famous Baron Holberg. This was, perhaps, one of the most extraordinary personages that has done honour to the present century. His being the son of a private sentinel did not abate the ardour of his ambition: for he learned to read, though without a master. Upon the death of his fa. ther, being left entirely destitute, he was involved in all that distress which is common among the poor, and of which the great have scarcely any idea. However, though only a boy of nine years old, he still
persisted in pursuing his studies, travelled about from school to school, and begged his learning and his bread. When at the age of seventeen, instead of applying himself to any of the lower occupations, which seem best adapted to such circumstances, he was resolved to travel for improvement, from Norway, the place of his birth, to Copenhagen, the capital city of VOL. I.
Denmark. He lived there by teaching French, at the same time avoiding no opportunity of improvement that his scanty funds could permit. But his ambition was not to be restrained, or his thirst of knowledge satisfied, until he had seen the world. Without money, recommendations, or friends, he undertook to set out upon
his travels, and make the tour of Europe on foot. A good voice, and a trifling skill in music, were the only finances he had to support an undertaking so extensive ; so he travelled by day, and at night sung at the doors of peasants' houses to get himself a lodging. In this manner, while yet very young, Holberg passed through France, Germany, and Holland, and coming over to England, took up his residence for two years in the university of Oxford. Here he subsisted by teaching French and music, and wrote his Universal History, his earliest, but worst performance. Furnished with all the learning of Europe, he at last thought proper to return to Copenhagen, where his ingenious productions quickly gained him that favour he deserved. He composed not less than eighteen comedies; those in his own language are said to excel, and those which are translated into French have peculiar merit. He was honoured with nobility, and enriched by the bounty of the king; so that a life begun in contempt and penury, ended in opulence and esteem.
Thus we see in what a low state polite learning is in the countries I have menti ned, either past its prime or not yet arrived at maturity. And though the sketch I have drawn, be general, yet it was for the most part taken upon the spot. I am sensible, however, of the impropriety of national reflection ; and did not truth bias me more than inclination in this particular, I should, instead of the account already given, have presented the reader with a pane
gyric on many of the individuals of every country, whose merits deserve the warmest strains of praise. . Apostol Zeno, Algarotti, Goldoni, Muratori, and Stay, in Italy; Haller, Klopstock, and Rabner, in Germany; Muschenbrook, and Gaubius, in Holland ; all deserve the highest applause. Men like these, united by one bond, pursuing one design, spend their labour and their lives in making their fellow-creatures happy, and in repairing the breaches caused by ambition. In this light, the meanest philosopher, though all his possessions are his lamp or his cell, is more truly valuable, than he whose name echoes to the shout of the million, and who stands in all the glare of admiration, In this light, though poverty and contemptuous neglect, are all the wages of his good will from man. kind, yet the rectitude of his intention, is an ample recompense; and self-applause for the present, and the alluring prospect of fame for futurity, reward his labours. The perspective of life brightens upon us, when terminated by an object so charming. Every intermediate image of want, banishment, or sorrow, receives a lustre from its distant influence. With this in view, the patriot, philosopher, and poet, have often looked with calmness on disgrace and famine, and rested on their straw, with cheerful serenity, Even the last terrors of departing nature abate of their severity, and look kindly on him, who considers his sufferings as a passport to immortality, and lays his sorrows on the bed of fame.
Of Polite Learning in France.
E have hitherto seen, that wherever the poet was permitted to begin by improving his native language, polite learning flourished; but where the critic undertook the same task, it has never risen to any degree of perfection. Let us now examine the merits of modern learning in France and England; where, though it may be on the decline, yet it is still capable of retrieving much of its former splendour. In other places, learning has not yet been planted, or has suffered a total decay. To attempt amendment there, would be only like the application of remedies to an insensible or a mortified part; but here there is still life, and there is hope. And indeed, the French themselves are so far from giving into any despondence of this kind, that on the contrary, they admire the progress they are daily making in every science ; that levity, for which we are apt to despise this nation, is probably the principal source of their happiness. An agreeable oblivion of past pleasures, a freedom from solicitude about future ones, and a poignant zest of every present enjoyment, if they be not philosophy, are at least excellent substitutes. By this they are taught to regard the period in which they live, with admiration. The present manners, and the present conversation, surpass all that preceded. A similar enthusi. asm as strongly tinctures their learning and their taste, While we, with a despondence characteristic of our nation, are for removing back British excellence to
the reign of Queen Elizabeth, our more happy rivals of the continent cry up the writers of the present times with rapture, and regard the age of Lewis XV. as the true Augustan age of France.
The truth is, their present writers have not fallen so far short of the merits of their ancestors as ours have done. That self-sufficiency now mentioned may have been of service to them in this particular. By fancying themselves superior to their ancestors, they have been encouraged to enter the lists with confidence; and by not being dazzled at the splendour of another's reputation, have sometimes had sagacity to mark out an unbeaten path to fame for themselves.
Other causes also may be assigned, that their second growth of genius is still more vigorous than ours Their encouragements to merit, are more skilfully directed, the link of patronage and learning, still continues unbroken, The French nobility have certainly a most pleasing way of satisfying the vanity of an author, without indulging his avarice. A man of literary merit, is sure of being caressed by the great, though seldom enriched. His pension from the crown, just supplies half a competence, and the sale of his labours makes some small addition to his circumstances; thus the author leads a life of splendid poverty, and seldom becomes wealthy or indolent enough, to discontinue an exertion of those abilities, by which he rose. With the English it is different; our writers of rising merit, are generally neglected; while the few of an established reputation, are overpaid by luxurious affluence. The young encounter every hardship, which generally attends upon aspiring indigence; the old enjoy the vulgar, and perhaps the more prudent satisfaction, of putting riches in competition with fame. Those are often seen to spend their youth in want and obscurity; these are some