Слике страница

eyes, and acknowledged the severity of her former treatment. She bestowed her first care in providing them all the necessary supplies, and acknowledged them as the most deserving heirs of her fortune. From this moment, Sabinus enjoyed an uninterrupted happiness with Olinda, and both were happy in the friendship and assistance of Ariana ; who, dying soon after, left them in possession of a large estate, and in her last moments confessed, that virtue was the only path to true glory, and that, however innocence may for a time be depressed, a steady perseverance will, in time, lead it to a certain victory.



Nothing is so uncommon among the English, as that easy affability, that instant method of acquaintance, or that cheerfulness of disposition, which make in France the charm of every society. Yet, in this gloomy reserve they seem to pride themselves, and think themselves less happy, if obliged to be more social. One may assert, without wronging them, that they do not study the method of going through life with pleasure and tranquillity, like the French. Might not this be a proof that they are not so much philosophers as they imagine? Philosophy is no more than the art of making ourselves happy; that is, of seeking pleasure in regularity, and reconciling what we owe to society with what is due to ourselves.

This cheerfulness, which is the characteristic of our nation, in the eye of an Englishman passes almost for folly. But is their gloominess a greater mark of their wisdom ? and, folly against folly, is not the most cheerful sort the best. If our gaiety makes them sad, they ought not to find it strange if their seriousness makes us laugh.

As this disposition to levity is not familiar to them, and as they look on every thing as a fault which they do not find at home, the English, who live among us, are hurt by it. Se veral of their authors reproach us with it as a vice, or at least as a ridicule.

Mr. Addison styles us a comic nation. In my opinion it is not acting the philosopher on this point, to regard as a fault that quality, which contributes most to the pleasure of society and happiness of life. Plato, convinced that whatever makes men happier, makes them better, advises to neglect nothing that may excite and convert to an early habit, this sense of joy in children. Seneca places it in the first rank of good things. Certain it is, at least, that gaiety may be a concomitant of all sorts of virtue, but that there are some vices with which it is incompatible.

As to him who laughs at every thing, and him who laughs at nothing, neither of them has sound judgment. All the difference I find between them is, that the last is constantly the most unhappy. Those who speak against cheerfulness, prove nothing else, but that they were born melancholic, and that in their hearts they rather envy than condemn that levity they affect to despise.

The Spectator, whose constant object was the good of mankind in general, and of his own nation in particular, should, according to his own principles, place cheerfulness among the most desirable qualities; and probably, whenever he contradicts himself in this particular, it is only to conform to the tempers of the people whom he addresses. He asserts, that gaiety is one great obstacle to the prudent conduct of

But are those of a melancholic temper, as the Eng. lish women generally are, less subject to the foibles of love? I am acquainted with some doctors in this science, to whose judgment I would more willingly refer than to his. And perhaps in reality, persons naturally of a gay temper are too



easily taken off by different objects, to give themselves up to all the excesses of this passion.

Mr. Hobbes, a celebrated philosopher of his nation, maintains that laughing proceeds from our pride alone.(1) This is only a paradox if asserted of laughing in general, and only argues that misanthropical disposition for which he was remarkable.

To bring the causes he assigns for laughing under suspicion, it is sufficient to remark, that proud people are commonly those who laugh least. Gravity is the inseparable companion of pride. To say that a man is vain because the humour of a writer, or the buffooneries of a harlequin, excite his laughter, would be advancing a great absurdity. We should distinguish between laughter inspired by joy, and that which arises from mockery. The malicious sneer is improperly called laughter. It must be owned, that pride is the parent of such laughter as this ; but this is in itself vicious ; whereas, the other sort has nothing in its principles or effects that deserves condemnation. We find this amiable in others; and is it unhappiness to feel a disposition towards it in ourselves ?

When I see an Englishman laugh, I fancy I rather see him hunting after joy, than having caught it; and this is more particularly remarkable in their women, whose tempers are inclined to melancholy. A laugh leaves no more traces on their countenance, than a flash of lightning on the face of the heavens. The most laughing air is instantly succeeded by the most gloomy. One would be apt to think that their souls open with difficulty to joy, or at least that joy is not pleased with its habitation there.

In regard to fine raillery, it must be allowed that it is not (1) (“ The passion of laughter is nothing else but sudden glory, arising from some sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves, by comparison with the infirmity of others, or with our own formerly."Discourse of Human Nature.]


natural to the English, and therefore those who endeavour at it make but an ill-figure. Some of their authors have candidly confessed, that pleasantry is quite foreign to their character ; but according to the reason they give, they lose nothing by this confession. Bishop Sprat gives the following one: “The English," says he, “have too much bravery to be derided, and too much virtue and honour to mock others."

[ocr errors]




Deceit and falsehood have ever been an over-match for truth, and followed and admired by the majority of mankind. If we inquire after the reason of this, we shall find it in our own imaginations, which are amused and entertained with the perpetual novelty and variety that fiction affords, but find no manner of delight in the uniform simplicity of homely truth, which still sues them under the same appearance.

He, therefore, that would gain our hearts must make his court to our fancy; which being sovereign comptroller of the passions, lets them loose, and inflames them more or less, in proportion to the force and efficacy of the first cause, which is ever the more powerful the more new it is. Thus, in mathematical demonstrations themselves, though they seem to aim at pure truth and instruction, and to be addressed to our reason alone, yet I think it is pretty plain, that our understanding is only made a drudge to gratify our invention and curiosity, and we are pleased not so much because our discoveries are certain, as because they are new.

I do not deny but the world is still pleased with things

that pleased it many ages ago; but it should at the same time be considered, that man is naturally so much of a logician, as to distinguish between matters that are plain and easy, and others that are hard and inconceivable. What we understand, we overlook and despise, and what we know nothing of, we hug and delight in. Thus, there are such things as perpetual novelties; for we are pleased no longer than we are amazed, and nothing so much contents us as that which confounds us.

This weakness in human nature gave occasion to a party of men to make such gainful markets as they have done of our credulity. All objects and facts whatever, now ceased to be what they had been for ever before, and received what make and meaning it was found convenient to put upon them : what people eat, and drank, and saw, was not what they eat, and drank, and saw, but something farther, which they were fond of, because they were ignorant of it. In short, nothing was itself, but something beyond itself; and by these artifices and amusements the heads of the world were so turned and intoxicated, that, at last, there was scarcely a sound set of brains left in it.

In this state of giddiness and infatuation it was no very hard task to persuade the already deluded, that there was an actual society and communion between human creatures and spiritual dæmons. And when they had thus put people into the power and clutches of the devil, none but they alone could have either skill or strength to bring the prisoners back again.

But, so far did they carry this dreadful drollery, and so fond were they of it, that to maintain it and themselves in profitable repute, they literally sacrificed for it, and made impious victims of, numberless old women and other miserable persons, who either through ignorance could not say what they were bid to say, or through madness said what they should not have said. Fear and stupidity made them inca

« ПретходнаНастави »