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MONG the chief beauties of a famous

Italian poem, is the following allegory, so just and ingenious in the opinion of a great philosopher, that he has borrowed it to illustrate and adorn a general principle in one of his more capital works Attached to the thread of every man's life, says the noble allegorist, is a little medal, whereon each man's name is inscribed, which TIME, waiting on the shears of FATE, catches ,up, 26 they fall from the inexorable steel, and bears to the river LETHE; into which, were it not for certain birds which keep flying about its banks, they would be immediately immerged. But these seize the medals ere they fall, and bear them for a while up and down in their beaks, with much noise and flutter; but careless of their charge, or unable to support it, they most B


'of them foon drop their shining prey one after another into the oblivious stream. Nevertheless among these heedless carriers of fame, are a few fwans, who, when they catch a medal, convey it carefully to the Temple of IMMORTALITY, where it is consecrated.

These swans, of later ages, have indeed been rarae aves : What innumerable names have becn dropped into the dark stream of oblivion, for one that has been consecrated in the brighť temple of immortality !

equal *

When it is considered that the faculties which men receive from Nature, are perhaps nearly

and that fo few distinguish themselves by the display of any superior talents, we are curious to become acquainted with the history of those, who by their merits have transmitted tlieir names to posterity; and are anxious to discover by what means they attained that degree of excellence, which immortalized their memories.

It would be too much to conclude with some systematical writers, that all men properly organized, are equally capable of the greatest efforts of genius : and that the inequality of talents is owing altogether to the difference of education. This is contradicted by daily experience. Education contributes mostly, but not wholly. Among youth, fome are found to receive instruction with uncommon quickness of perception; while others, under the fame preceptor, betray a slowness of apprehenfion, which evidently marks a constituiional difference between their mental faculties.

It is indeed difficult, to assign the reasons why talents equally promising, should, even under the like early cultivation, bear such unequal crops of fame. But if we attend minutely to the causes by which men have acquired renown, we shall find that perhaps the far greater part owed their reputation to adventitious circumstances, concurring to excite their emulation, and render application grateful.

Genius is not forward to endure the toil of persevering study. It is aspiring and impatient. Unless animated by the early dawn of enlivening hope, it will soon become torpid and supine: or at best only break forth by ludden and unequal starts. Praise and renown, are the rich rewards it covets. Praise, as Pope observes, is to a young wit, like rain to a tender flower: If it is not occasionally revived by refreshing showers of applause, it will shrink and wither.

The fruits of genius can only be matured by a conftant and affiduous culture * ; without it, excelling parts may now and then produce a momentary blaze, but will never diffuse that strong and steady splendor, which shines to latest pofterity.

* The display of genius seems to depend on the power of attention, which is greater or less according to the strength of the passion which excites it: and this again in a great measure depends on certain conftitutional, though unknown, differences in the structure of our minds.

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As such assiduity alone, can procure and eternize the glory of public applause, so it is the best title from whence we can derive the heartfelt pleasures of self-commendation. To be proud of the gifts of nature, is a preposterous vanity. Our improvements only, are what we can properly call our own, and which afford the most rational ground of inward approbation.

Various circumstances however frequently occur to check the habit of improvement. The same exquisite sensibility, and strong glow of fpirits, which warms the genius, fires the libertine; and opens to every mode of dissipation. The blandishments of beauty, the joys of feftivity, the attractions of pleasure, under all its alluring forms, conspire to withdraw the mind from great and noble pursuits. These allurements have greater or less ascendancy, in proportion as the objects of ambition are more or less distant. The habit of application will be vigorous or faint, as the reward proposed is great or small, near or remote.

When genius wanders without a friendly guide to direct its steps, and encourage its progress; when it views but a faint prospect of reaping the rich rewards to which it aspires, then it too often becomes despondent *; and resigns itself to the fatal in

We now and then, it is true, meet with a rare instance, where the passion which inspires a genius, is so strong and irresistible, as to rise superior to all discouragements and oppositions.


toxication of the softer pleasures. Thus in many, the latent powers of the mind remain unknown even to the possessor; and to these, among other reasons, it may be imputed that fo many stop short in the career of glory, and that their names never reach-posterity.

Among the few distinguished characters, however, whose names are rescued from oblivion, and enrolled in the bright annals of fame, they stand in the moft conspicuous line, who have reaped the harvest of glory, in the active scenes of life. The bulk of mankind, are more solicitous to learn the history of statesmen and warriors, than to be acquainted with the calm and tranquil pursuits of poets and philosophers.

The regular and uniform tenor of a studious life, affords little variety for the entertainment of those who are more amused by a fucceffion of glaring incidents, which gratify idle curiosity; than affected by a history, which might tend to enlarge the fund of useful knowledge.

It is nevertheless of more general importance to be acquainted with what, in some degree, concerns men of every rank, than with that which can only be interesting to a few, who move in the higher stations. It is more essential to reflect on the means by which an obfcure man made his way to fame, through the still paths of life, than to pry into the intrigues of ministers, or gape at the atchievements of heroes.


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