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the Romans took to improve the minds of their youth in the latter times of the republic, must naturally give an additional merit and lustre to the great qualifications they otherwise possessed, by enabling them to excel alike in the field and at the bar; and to discharge the employments of the sword and gown with equal success.
Generals themselves sometimes, through want of application to learning, lessen the glory of their victories, by dry, faint, and lifeless relations; and support but ill with their pens the achievements of their swords. How different is this from Cesar, Polybius, Zenophon, and Thuycidides, who by their lively descriptions, carry the reader into the field of battle, lay before him the reason of the disposition of their troops, and the choice of their ground; point out to him the first onsets and progress of the battle, the inconveniences intervening, and the remedies applied; the inclining of victory to this, or that side, and its cause; and by these different steps lead him, as it were, by the hand to the event.
The same may be said of negotiations, magistracies, offices of civil jurisdiction, commissions, in a word, of all the employments which oblige us either to speak in public or private, to write, or give an account of our administration, to manage others, gain them over, or persuade them. And what employment is there, where almost all these are not necessary?
Nothing is more usual than to hear persons, who have been in the world, and taught by a long course of experience and serious reflection, bitterly complaining of the neglect of their educa,
tion, and their not being brought up to a taste of learning, the use and value of which, they begin too late to know. They own that this defect has kept them out of great employments, or left them unequal to those they have filled, or made them sink under their weight.
When, upon certain great occasions, and in places of distinction, we see a young magistrate, improved by learning, draw upon himself the applause of the public, what father would not rejoice to have such a son, and what son, of any tolerable understanding, would not be pleased with such success? All then agree to express their sense of the advantages of learning, and all perceive how capable it is of raising a man to a degree of superiority above his age, and often above his birth also.
But though this study were of no other use than the acquiring a habit of labour, the making application less troublesome, the attaining a steadiness of mind, and conquering our aversions to study, and a sedentary life, or whatever else seems to lay a restraint upon us, it would still be of very great advantage. In reality, it draws us off from idleness and intemperance, and usefully fills up the vacant hours which hang so heavy on many people's hands, and renders that leisure very agreeable, which, without the assistance of literature, is a kind of death, and, in a manner, the grave of a man alive. It enables us to pass a right judgment upon other men’s labours, to enter into society with men of understanding, to keep the best company, to have a share in the discourses of the most learned, to furnish out matter for
conversation, without which we must be silent, to render it more agreeable by intermixing facts with reflections, and setting off the one by the other.
OF THE ORIENTAL, THE LATIN, AND THE GREEK
WE Britons in our time have been remarkable borrowers, as our multiform language may sufficiently show. Our terms in polite literature prove, that this came from Greece; our terms in music and painting, that these came from Italy ; our phrases in cookery and war, that we learned these from the French; and our phrases in navi. gation, that we were taught by the Flemings and Low Dutch. These many and very different sources of our language may be the cause why it is so deficient in regularity and analogy. Yet we have this advantage to compensate the defect, that what we want in elegance, we gain in copiousness, in which last respect few languages will be found superior to our own.
Let us pass from ourselves to the nations of the east. The eastern world, from the earliest days, has been at all times the seat of enormous monarchy: on its natives, fair liberty never shed its genial influence. If at any time civil discords arose among them, (and arise there did innumerable) the contest was never about the form of their government (for this was an object of which the combatants had no conception;) it was all from the poor motive of, who should be their
master; wliether a Cyrus or an Artaxerxes, a Mahomet or a Mustapha.
Such was their condition ; and what was the consequence?—Their ideas became consonant to their servile state, and their words became consonant to their servile ideas. The great distinction for ever in their sight, was that of tyrant and slave; the most unnatural one conceivable, and the most susceptible of pomp and empty exaggeration. Hence they talked of kings as gods; and of themselves as the meanest and most abject reptiles. Nothing was either great or little in moderation, but every sentiment was heightened by incredible hyperbole. Thus, though they sometimes ascended into the great and magnificent, they as frequently degenerated into the tnmid and bombast. The Greeks too of Asia became infected by their neighbours, who were often, at times, not only their neighbours, but their masters; and hence that luxuriance of the Asiatic style, unknown to the chaste eloquence and purity of Athens. But of the Greeks we forbear to speak now, as we shall speak of them more fully, when we have first considered the nature or genius of the Romans.
And what sort of people may we pronounce the Romans ?-A nation engaged in wars and commotions, some foreign, some domestic, which for seven hundred years wholly engrossed their thoughts. Hence therefore their language became, like their ideas, copious in all terms expressive of things political, and well adapted to the purposes both of history and popular eloquence. But what was their philosophy ?-As a nation it was none, if we may credit their ablest writers. And hence the unfitness of their language to this subject; a defect which even Cicero is compelled to confess, and more fully makes appear, when he writes philosophy himself, from the number of terms wbich he is obliged to invent. Virgil seems to have judged the most truly of his countrymen, when, admitting their inferiority in the more elegant arts, he concludes at last with his usual majesty :
Tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento,
Parcere subjectis, et debellare super bos. From considering the Romans, let us pass to the Greeks. The Grecian commonwealths, while they maintained their liberty, were the most heroic confederacy that ever existed. They were the politest, the bravest, and the wisest of men. In the short space of little more than a century, they became such statesmen, warriors, orators, historians, physicians, poets, critics, painters, sculptors, architects, and, last of all, philosophers, that one can hardly help considering that golden period, as a providential event in honour of human nature, to show to what perfection the species might ascend.
Now the language of these Greeks was truly like themselves; it was conformable to their transcendant and universal genius. Where matter so abounded, words followed of course, and those exquisite in every kind, as the ideas for which they stood. And hence it followed, there was not a subject to be found which could not with propriety be expressed in Greek.