Слике страница
[ocr errors]

received with a general smile of approbation by all/what "countryman he was,” replied, that he was the company-all

, I mean, but your humble ser- "a citizen of the world.” How few are there to vant; who, endeavouring to keep my gravity as be found in modern times who can say the same, well as I could, and reclining my head upon my or whose conduct is consistent with such a proarm, continued for some time in a posture of affect- fession! We are now become so much Englished thoughtfulness, as if I had been musing on men, Frenchmen, Dutchmen, Spaniards, or Gersomething else, and did not seem to attend to the mans, that we are no longer citizens of the world; subject of conversation; hoping by these means to so much the natives of one particular spot, or avoid the disagreeable necessity of explaining my- members of one petty society, that we no longer self, and thereby depriving the gentleman of his consider ourselves as the general inhabitants of the imaginary happiness.

globe, or members of that grand society which comBut my pseudo-patriot had no‘mind to let me prehends the whole human kind. escape so easily. Not satisfied that his opinion Did these prejudices prevail only among the should pass without contradiction, he was deter- meanest and lowest of the people, perhaps they mined to have it ratified by the suffrage of every might be excused, as they have few, if any, opporone in the company; for which purpose, addressing tunities of correcting them by reading, travelling, himself to me with an air of inexpressible confi- or conversing with foreigners; but the misfortune dence, he asked me if I was not of the same way is, that they infect the minds, and influence the of thinking. As I am never forward in giving my conduct, even of our gentlemen; of those, I mean, opinion, especially when I have reason to believe who have every title to this appellation but an exthat it will not be agreeable ; so, when I am obliged emption from prejudice, which, however, in my to give it, I always hold it for a maxim to speak opinion, ought to be regarded as the characteristimy real sentiments. I therefore told him, that, forcal mark of a gentleman; for let a man's birth be my own part, I should not have ventured to talk ever so high, his station ever so exalted, or his forin such a peremptory strain, unless I had made the tune ever so large, yet if he is not free from nationtour of Europe, and examined the manners of these al and other přejudices, I should make bold to tell several nations with great care and accuracy; that him, that he had a low and vulgar mind, and had perhaps a more impartial judge would not scruple no just claim to the character of a gentleman. to affirm, that the Dutch were more frugal and in- And, in fact, you will always find that those are dustrious, the French more temperate and polite, most apt to boast of national merit, who have little the Germans more hardy and patient of labour and or no merit of their own to depend on; than which, fatigue, and the Spaniards more staid and sedate, to be sure, nothing is more natural: the slender than the English; who, though undoubtedly brave vine twists around the sturdy oak, for no other and generous, were at the same time rash, head- reason in the world but because it has not strength strong, and impetuous; too apt to be elated with sufficient to support itself. prosperity, and to despond in adversity.

Should it be alleged in defence of national preI could easily perceive, that all the company be-judice, that it is the natural and necessary growth gan to regard me with a jealous eye before I had of love to our country, and that therefore the formfinished my answer, which I had no sooner done, er can not be destroyed without hurting the latter, than the patriotic gentleman observed, with a con- I answer, that this is a gross fallacy and delusion. temptuous sneer, that he was greatly surprised how That it is the growth of love to our country, I will some people could have the conscience to live in a allow; but that it is the natural and necessary country which they did not love, and to enjoy the growth of it, I absolutely deny. Superstition and protection of a government, to which in their enthusiasm too are the growth of religion; but who hearts they were inveterate enemies. Finding that ever took it in his head to affirm, that they are the by this modest declaration of my sentiments I had necessary growth of this noble principle? They forfeited the good opinion of my companions, and are, if you will, the bastard sprouts of this heavenly given them occasion to call my political principles plant, but not its natural and genuine branches, in question, and well knowing that it was in vain and may safely enough be lopped off, without doto argue with men who were so very full of them- ing any harm to the parent stock: nay, perhaps, selves, I threw down my reckoning, and retired till once they are lopped off, this goodly tree can to my own lodgings, reflecting on the absurd and never flourish in perfect health and vigour. ridiculous nature of national prejudice and prepos- Is it not very possible that I may love my own session.

country, without hating the natives of other counAmong all the famous sayings of antiquity, tries? that I may exert the most heroic bravery, the there is none that does greater honour to the author, most undaunted resolution, in defending its laws or affords greater pleasure to the reader (at least if and liberty, without despising all the rest of the he be a person of a generous and benevolent heart), world as cowards and poltroons? Most certainly than that of the philosopher, who, being asked it is; and if it were not-But why need I suppose

what is absolutely impossible?—But if it were not, Nec rude quid possit video ingenium:alterius sés I must own, I should prefer the title of the ancient Altera poscit opem res, et conjurat amice.

Hor. Ara, Port philosopher, viz. a citizen of the world, to that of an Englishman, a Frenchman, a European, or to 'Tis long disputed, whether poets claim any other appellation whatever.

From art or nature their best right to fame;
But art if not enrich'd by nature's vein,
And a rude genius of uncultured strain,

Are useless both; but when in friendship join'd,
A mutual succour in each other find.

Francs Amidst the frivolous pursuits and pernicious dissipations of the present age, a respect for the

We have seen genius shine without the help of qualities of the understanding still prevails to such art, but taste must be cultivated by art, before it a degree, that almost every individual pretends to will produce agreeable fruit. This, however

, we • have a taste for the Belles Lettres. The spruce

must still inculcate with Quintilian, that study, 'prentice sets up for a critic, and the puny beau precept

, and observation, will nought avail

, without piques himself upon being a connoisseur. With the assistance of nature: Illud tamen imprimis out assigning causes for this universal presumption, testandum est, nihil præcepta atque arles valere, we shall proceed to observe, that if it was attended nisi adjuvante na:u'à. with no other inconvenience than that of exposing

Yet even though nature has done her part, by the pretender to the ridicule of those few who can implanting the seeds of taste, great pains must be sift his pretensions, it might be unnecessary to un- taken, and great skill exerted, in raising them to a deceive the public, or to endeavour at the reforma- proper pitch of vegetation. The judicious tutor tion of innocent folly, productive of no evil to the must gradually and tenderly unfold the mental commonwealth. But in reality this folly is pro- faculties of the youth committed to his charge. He ductive of manifold evils to the community. If the must cherish his delicate perception; store his reputation of taste can be acquired, without the mind with proper ideas; point out the different least assistance of literature, by reading modern channels of observation; teach him to compare ob poems, and seeing modern plays, what person will jects

, to establish the limits of right and wrong, of deny himself the pleasure of such an easy qualifi-truth and falsehood; to distinguish beauty from cation? Hence the youth of both sexes are de- tinsel, and grace from affectation; in a word, to bauched to diversion, and seduced from much more strengthen and improve by culture, experience, and profitable occupations into idle endeavours after instruction, those natural powers of feeling and saliterary fame; and a superficial false taste, founded gacity which constitute the faculty called taste

, and on ignorance and conceit

, takes possession of the enable the professor to enjoy the delights of the public. The acquisition of learning, the study of Belles Lettres. nature, is neglected as superfluous labour; and the We can not agree in opinion with those who best faculties of the mind remain unexercised, and imagine, that nature has been equally favourable indeed unopened, by the power of thought and re- to all men, in conferring upon them a fundamental flection. False taste will not only diffuse itself capacity, which may be improved to all the refinethrough all our amusements, but even influencement of taste and criticism. Every day's experience our moral and political conduct; for what is false convinces us of the contrary. Of two youths edutaste, but want of perception to discern propriety cated under the same preceptor, instructed with and distinguish beauty?

the same care, and cultivated with the same asIt has been often alleged, that taste is a natural siduity, one shall not only comprehend, but even talent, as independent of art as strong eyes, or a anticipate the lessons of his master, by dint of nadelicate sense of smelling; and, without all doubt, tural discernment, while the other toils in vain to the principal ingredient in the composition of taste imbibe the least tincture of instruction. Such inis a natural sensibility, without which it can not deed is the distinction between genius and stuexist; but it differs from the senses in this particu-pidity, which every man has an opportunity of seelar, that they are finished by nature, whereas taste ing among his friends and acquaintance. Not that can not be brought to perfection without proper we ought too hastily to decide upon the natural cacultivation ; for taste pretends to judge not only of pacities of children, before we have maturely connature but also of art ; and that judgment is found. sidered the peculiarity of disposition, and the bias ed upon observation and comparison.

by which genius may be strangely warped from What Horace has said of genius is still more the common path of education. A youth incaps. applicable to taste.

ble of retaining one rule of grammar, or of acquiring

the least knowledge of the classics, may nevertheNaturâ fieret laudabile carmen, an arte,

less make great progress in mathematics; nay, he Quæsitum est. Ego nec etudium sinc divite vena,

may have a strong genius for the matheniatics


without being able to comprehend a demon- | wary mind and young imagination are often fascistration of Euclid; because his mind conceives in nated. Nothing has been so often explained, and a peculiar manner, and is so intent upon contem- yet so little understood, as simplicity in writing. plating the object in one particular point of view, Simplicity in this acceptation has a larger signifithat it can not perceive it in any other. We have cation than either the áticor of the Greeks, or the known an instance of a boy, who, while his mas- simplex of the Latins; for it implies beauty. It ter complained that he had not capacity to com- is the ám 20cv xace ndur of Demetrius Phalereus, the prehend the properties of a right-angled triangle, simplex munditiis of Horace, and expressed by had actually, in private, by the power of his ge- one word, naiveté, in the French language. It is, nius, formed a mathematical system of his own, in fact, no other than beautiful nature, without af. discovered a series of curious theorems, and even fectation or extraneous ornament. In statuary, it applied his deductions to practical machines of is the Venus of Medicis; in architecture, the Pansurprising construction. Besides, in the education theon. It would be an endless task to enumerate of youth, we ought to remember, that some capa- all the instances of this natural simplicity that occities are like the pyra præcocia ; they soon blow, cur in poetry and painting, among the ancients and soon attain to all that degree of maturity and moderns. We shall only mention two examwhich they are capable of acquiring; while, on ples of it, the beauty of which consists in the pathe other hand, there are geniuses of slow growth, thetic. that are late in bursting the bud, and long in ri- Anaxagoras the philosopher, and preceptor of pening. Yet the first shall yield a faint blossom Pericles, being told that both his sons were dead, and insipid fruit; whereas the produce of the laid his hand upon his heart, and after a short other shall be distinguished and admired for its pause, consoled himself with a reflection couched well-concocted juice and excellent flavour. We in three words, ndu JunTous Jezervnxws, "I knew have known a boy of five years of age sur- they were mortal.” The other instance we select prise every body by playing on the violin in such from the tragedy of Macbeth. The gallant Maca manner as seemed to promise a prodigy in mu- duff

, being informed that his wife and children sic. He had all the assistance that art could were murdered by order of the tyrant, pulls his afford; by the age of ten his genius was at the hat over his eyes, and his internal agony bursts out acme: yet, after that period, notwithstanding the into an exclamation of four words, the most exmost intense application, he never gave the least pressive perhaps that ever weré uttered: “He has signs of improvement. At six he was admired as no children." This is the energetic language of a miracle of music; at six-and-twenty he was simple nature, which is now grown into disrepute. neglected as an ordinary fiddler. The celebrated By the present mode of education, we are forciDean Swift was a remarkable instance in the other bly warped from the bias of nature, and all simextreme. He was long considered as an incor- plicity in manners is rejected. We are taught to rigible dunce, and did not obtain his degree at the disguise and distort our sentiments, until the University but ex speciali gratia ; yet, when his faculty of thinking is diverted into an unnatural powers began to unfold, he signalized himself by channel; and we not only relinquish and forget, a very remarkable superiority of genius. When but also become incapable of our original disposia youth, therefore, appears dull of apprehension, tions. We are totally changed into creatures of and seems to derive no advantage from study and art and affectation. Our perception is abused, and instruction, the tutor must exercise his sagacity in even our senses are perverted. Our minds lose discovering whether the soil be absolutely barren, their native force and flavour. The imagination, or sown with seed repugnant to its nature, or of sweated by artificial fire, produces nought but vapid such a quality as requires repeated culture and bloom. The genius, instead of growing like a length of time to set its juices in fermentation. vigorous tree, extending its branches on every side, These observations, however, relate to capacity in and bearing delicious fruit, resembles a stunted general, which we ought carefully to distinguish yew, tortured into some wretched form, projecting from taste. Capacity implies the power of retain- no shade, displaying no flower, diffusing no fraging what is received; taste is the power of relish- rance, yielding no fruit, and affording nothing but ing or rejecting whatever is offered for the enter- a barren conceit for the amusement of the idle tainment of the imagination. A man may have spectator. capacity to acquire what is called learning and Thus debauched from nature, how can we relphilosophy; but he must have also sensibility, be ish her genuine productions? As well might a fore he feels those emotions with which taste re. man distinguish objects through a prism, that preceives the impressions of beauty.

sents nothing but a variety of colours to the eye ; Natural taste is apt to be seduced and debauched or a maid pining in the green sickness prefer a by vicious precept and bad example. There is a biscuit to a cinder. It has been often alleged, that dangerous tinsel in false taste, by which the un- the passions can never be wholly deposited; and

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

that, by appealing to these, a good writer will al- consolidated by free air and exercise. In such a ways be able to force himself into the hearts of his total perversion of the senses, the ideas must be readers: but even the strongest passions are weak- misrepresented; the powers of the imagination ened, nay, sometimes totally extinguished, by mu- disordered; and the judgment, of consequence, untual opposition, dissipation and acquired insensi- sound. The discase is attended with a false appe. bility. How often at the theatre is the tear of tite, which the natural food of the mind will not sympathy and the burst of laughter repressed by satisfy. It will prefer Ovid to Tibullus, and the a ridiculous species of pride, refusing approbation rant of Lee, to the tenderness of Otway. The to the author and actor, and renouncing society soul sinks into a kind of sleepy idiotism, and is diwith the audience! This seeming insensibility is verted by toys and baubles, which can only be not owing to any original defect. Nature has pleasing to the most superficial curiosity. It is enstretched the string, though it has long ceased to livened by a quick succession of trivial objects, that vibrate. It may have been displaced and distract- glisten and dance before the eye; and, like an ined by the violence of pride ; it may have lost its fant, is kept awake and inspirited by the sound of tone through long disuse; or be so twisted or a rattle. It must not only be dazzled and aroused, overstrained as to produce the most jarring dis- but also cheated, hurried, and perplexed, by the cords.

artifice of deception, business, intricacy, and inIf so little regard is paid to nature when she trigue; a kind of low juggle, which may be termed knocks so powerfully at the breast, she must be al- the legerdemain of genius.

gether neglected and despised in her calmer mood). In this state of depravity the mind can not enjoy, of serene tranquillity, when nothing appears to nor indeed distinguish the charms of natural and recommend her but simplicity, propriety, and in- moral beauty and decorum. The ingenuous blush

A person must have delicate feelings of native innocence, the plain language of ancient that can taste the celebrated repartee in Terence : faith and sincerity, the cheerful resignation to the Homo sum; nihil humani a me alienum puto: will of Heaven, the mutual affection of the chari"I am a man ; therefore think I have an interest ties, the voluntary respect paid to superior dignity in every thing that concerns humanity." A clear or station, the virtue of beneficence, extended even blue sky, spangled with stars, will prove an insipid to the brute creation, nay the very crimson glow object to eyes accustomed to the glare of torches of health, and swelling lines of beauty, are de and tapers, gilding and glitter; eyes that will turn spised, detested, scorned, and ridiculed, as ignorance, with disgust from the green mantle of the spring, rudeness, rusticity, and superstition. Thus we so gorgeously adorned with buds and foliage, flow- see how moral and natural beauty are connected; ers and blossoms, to contemplate a gaudy silken and of what importance it is, even to the forma: robe, striped and intersected with unfriendly tinţs, tion of taste, that the manners should be severely that fritter the masses of light, and distract the vi- superintended. This is a task which ought to sion, pinked into the most fantastic forms, flounced, take the lead of science; for we will venture to and furbelowed, and fringed with all the littleness say, that virtue is the foundation of taste; or of art unknown to elegance.

rather, that virtue and taste are buile upon the same Those ears that are offended by the notes of the foundation of sensibility, and can not be disjoined thrush, the blackbird, and the nightingale, will be without offering violence to both. But virtue must regaled and ravished by the squeaking fiddle touch- be informed, and taste instructed, otherwise they ed by a musician, who has no other genius than will both remain imperfect and ineffectual: that which lies in his fingers; they will even be entertained with the rattling of coaches, and the Qui didicit patriæ quid debeat, et quid amicis, alarming knock, by which the doors of fashionable

Quo sit amore parens, quo frater amandus, et hospes,

Quod sit Conscripti, quod judicis officium, quæ people are so loudly distinguished. The sense of

Partes in bellum missi ducis; ille prifecto smelling, that delights in the scent of excrementi- Reddere personæ scit convenientia cuique. tious animal juices, such as musk, civet, and uri

Horace nous salts, will loath the fragrance of new-mown

The critic, who with nice discernment knows, hay, the sweet-brier, the honey-suckle, and the What to his country and his friends he owes; rose. The organs that are gratified with the taste How various nature warms the human breast, of sickly veal bled into a palsy, crammed fowls,

To love the parent, brother, friend, or guest; and dropsical brawn, peas without substance,

What the great functions of our judges are,

Of senators, and generals sent to war; peaches without taste, and pine-apples without fla

He can distinguish, with unerting art, vour, will certainly nauseate the native, genuine, The strokes peculiar to each different part. and salutary taste of Welsh beef, Banstead mutton, and barn-door fowls, whose juices are con- Thus we see taste is composed of nature imcocted by a natural digestion, and whose flesh is proved by art; of feeling tutored by instruction.

mired for science, renowned for unextinguishable ESSAY XIII.

love of freedom, nothing can be more affecting than Having explained what we conceive to be true

this instance of generous magnanimity of the Rotaste, and in some measure accounted for the pre- fruition of those liberties which they had so un

man people, in restoring them unasked to the full valence of vitiated taste, we should proceed to point out the most effectual manner, in which a natural fortunately lost. capacity may be improved into a delicacy of judg

The mind of sensibility is equally struck by the ment, and an intimate acquaintance with the Bel-generous confidence of Alexander, who drinks les Lettres. We shall take it for granted, that without hesitation the potion presented by his phy. proper means have been used to form the

sician Philip, even after he had received intima

manners, and attach the mind to virtue. The heart, culti-tion that poison was contained in the cup; a noble vated by precept and warmed by example, improves

and pathetic scene ! which hath acquired new dig. in sensibility, which is the foundation of taste. By nity and expression under the inimitable pencil of distinguishing the influence and scope of morality,

a Le Sueur. Humanity is melted into tears of and cherishing the ideas of benevolence, it acquires tender admiration, by the deportment of Henry a habit of sympathy, which tenderly feels respon

IV. of France, while his rebellious subjects comsive, like the vibration of unisons, every touch of pelled him to form the blockade of his capital. In moral beauty. Hence it is that a man of a social chastising his enemies, he could not but rememheart, entendered by the practice of virtue, is ber they were his people ; and knowing they were awakened to the most pathetic emotions by every

reduced to the extremity of famine, he generously uncommon instance of generosity, compassion, and connived at the methods practised to supply them greatness of soul. Is there any man so dead to with provision. . Chancing one day to meet two sentiment, so lost to humanity, as to read unmov- peasants, who had been detected in these practices, ed the generous behaviour of the Romans to the as they were led to execution they implored his states of Greece, as it is recounted by Livy, or em

clemency, declaring in the sight of Heaven, they bellished by Thomson in his poem of Liberty ? had no other way to procure subsistence for their Speaking of Greece in the decline of her power,

wives and children; he pardoned them on the spot, when her freedom no longer existed, he says:

and giving them all the money that was in his

purse, "Henry of Bearne is poor,'' said he, "had As at her Isthmian games, a fading pomp!

he more money to afford, you should have it go
Her full assembled youth innumerous swarmd, home to your families in peace; and remember
On a tribunal raised Flaminius' sat;
A victor he from the deep phalanx pierced

your duty to God, and your allegiance to your soveof iron-coated Macedon, and back

reign." Innumerable examples of the same kind The Grecian tyrant to his bounds repellid:

may be selected from history, both ancient and In the high thoughtless gaiety of game,

modern, the study of which we would therefore While sport alone their unambitious hearts

strenuously recommend.
Possess'd; the sudden trumpet sounding hoarse,

Historical knowledge indeed becomes necessary
Bade silence o'er the bright assembly reign.
Then thus a herald-"To the states of Greece

on many other accounts, which in its place we will The Roman people, unconfined, restore

explain ; but as the formation of the heart is of Their countries, cities, liberties, and laws;

the first consequence, and should precede the culTaxes remit, and garrisons withdraw."!

tivation of the understanding, such striking inThe crowd, astonish'd half, and half inform'd,

stances of superior virtue ought to be culled for the Stared dubious round, some question'd, some exclaim'd (Like one who, dreaming between hope and fear,

perusal of the young pupil, who will read them Ls lost in anxious joy) “Be that again

with eagerness, and revolve them with pleasure. --- Be that again proclaim'd distinct and loud! Thus the young mind becomes enamoured of moral Loud and distinct it was again proclaim'd;

beauty, and the passions are listed on the side of And still as midnight in the rural shade, When the gale slumbers, they the words devour'd.

humanity. Meanwhile knowledge of a different Awhile severe amazement held them mute,

species will go hand in hand with the advances of Then bursting broad, the boundless shout to heaven morality, and the understanding be gradually exFrom many a thousand hearts ecstatic sprung! tended. Virtue and sentiment reciprocally assist On every hand rebellowed to them joy;

each other, and both conduce to the improvement The swelling sea, the rocks and vocal hills-Like Bacchanals they flew,

of perception. While the scholar's chief attention Each other straining in a strict embrace,

is employed in learning the Latin and Greek lanNor strain'd a slave; and loud exclaims, till night, guages, and this is generally the task of childhood Round the proconsul's tent repeated rung.

and early youth, it is even then the business of To one acquainted with the genius of Greece, the the preceptor to give his mind a turn for observa character and disposition of that polished people, ad- tion, to direct his powers of discernment

, to point out the distinguishing marks of character, and * His real name was Quintus Flaminius. dwell upon the charms of moral and intellectual

« ПретходнаНастави »