Слике страница

at one, that is taken in, and another exhibited in its room, which seldom holds its station long; for the mob are ever pleased with variety.

I must own, I have such an indifferent opinion of the vulgar, that I am ever led to suspect that merit which raises their shout; at least, I am certain to find those great, and sometimes good men, who find satisfaction in such acclamations, made worse by it; and history has too frequently taught me, that the head which has grown this day giddy with the roar of the million, has the very next been fixed upon a pole.

As Alexander VI. was entering a little town in the neighbourhood of Rome, which had been just eva. cuated by the enemy, he perceived the townsmen busy in the market-place in pulling down from a gib. bet a figure which had been designed to represent himself. There were also some knocking down a neighbouring statue of one of the Orsini family, with whom he was at war, in order to put Alexander's effigy in its place. It is possible a man who knew less of the world would have condemned the adulation of those bare-faced flatterers ; but Alexander seemed pleased at their zeal, and turning to Borgia, his son, said with a smile, · Vides, mi fili, quàm leve discrimen patibulum inter et statuam :-You see, my

the small difference between a gibbet and a statue. If the great could be taught any lesson, this might serve to teach them upon how weak a foundation their glory stands, which is built upon popular


applause ; for as such praise what seems like merit, they as quickly condemn what has only the appearance of guilt.

Popular glory is a perfect coquet; her lovers must toil, feel every inquietude, indulge every caprice; and, perhaps, at last, be jilted into the bargain. True glory, on the other hand, resembles a woman of sense : her admirers must play no tricks; they feel no great anxiety, for they are sure, in the end, of being rewarded in proportion to their merit. When Swift used to appear in public, he generally had the mob shouting in his train. Pox take these fools,' he would say; how much joy might all this bawling give my lord-mayor!'

We have seen those virtues which have, while liv. ing, retired from the public eye, generally transmitted to posterity, as the truest objects of admiration and praise. Perhaps the character of the late Duke of Marlborough may one day be set up, even above that of his more talked of predecessor; since an asseinblage of all the mild and amiable virtues are far superior to those vulgarly called the great ones. I must be pardoned for this short tribute to the memory of a man, who, while living, would as much detest to receive any thing that wore the appearance of flattery, as I should to offer it.

I koow not how to turn so trite a subject out of the beaten road of common-place, except by illustrating it rather by the assistance of my memory than judgment; and, instead of making reflections, by telling a story.


A Chinese, who had long studied the works of Confucius, who knew the characters of fourteen thousand words, and could read a great part of every book that came in his way, once took it into his head to travel into Europe, and observe the customs of a people whom he thought not very much inferior, even to his own countrymen, in the arts of refining upon every pleasure. Upon his arrival at Amsterdam, his passion for letters naturally led him to a bookseller's shop: and, as he could speak a little Dutch, he civilly asked the bookseller for the works of the immortal Xixofou. The book seller assured him he had never heard the book mentioned before. What! have you never heard of that immortal poet ?' returned the other, much surprised ; " that light of the eyes, that favourite of kings, that rose of perfection ! I suppose you know nothing of the immortal Fipsihihi, second cousin to the moon?" "Nothing at all, indeed, sir,' returned the other. "Alas! cries our traveller, 'to what purpose, then, has one of these fasted to death, and the other offered himself up as a sacrifice to the Tartar enemy, to gain a renown which has never travelled beyond the precincts of China ?'

There is scarce a village in Europe, and got one university, that is not thus furnished with its little great men. The head of a petty corporation, who opposes the designs of a prince who would tyrannically force his subjects to save their best clothes for Sundays; the puny pedant who finds one undiscovered property in the polype, or describes an un

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

heeded process in the skeleton of a mole, and whose mind, like his microscope, perceives nature only in detail; the rhymer, who makes smooth verses, and paints to our imagination, when he should only speak to our hearts; all equally fancy themselves wa forward to immortality, and desire the crowd behind them to look on. The crowd takes them at their word. Patriot, philosopher, and poet, are shouted in their train. - Where was there ever so much merit seen? No times so important as our own; ages, yet unborn, shall gaze with wonder and applause!' To such music, the important pigmy moves forward, bustling and swelling, and aptly compared to a puddle in a storm.

I have lived to see generals who once had crowds hallooing after them wherever they went, who were be-praised by newspapers and magazines, those echoes of the voice of the vulgar, and yet they have long sunk into merited obscurity, with scarce even an epitaph left to flatter. A few years ago the herring-fishery employed all Grub-street; it was the topic in every coffee-house, and the burden of every ballad. We were to drag up oceans of gold from the bottom of the sea; we were to supply all Europe with herrings upon our own terms. At present we hear no more of this. We have fished up very little gold, that I can learn ; nor do we furnish the world with herrings, as was expected. Let us wait for a few years longer, and we shall find all our expectations a herring-fishery.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

Though naturally pensive, yet I am fond of gay company, and take every opportunity of thus dismissing the mind from duty. From this motive I am often found in the centre of a crowd; and wherever pleasure is to be sold, am always a purchaser. In those places, without being remarked by any, I join in whatever goes forward, work my passions into a si. militude of frivolous earnestness, shout as they shout, and condemn as they happen to disapprove. A mind thus sunk for a while below its natural standard, is qualified for stronger flights, as those first retire who would spring forward with greater vigour.

Attracted by the serenity of the evening, a friend and I lately went to gaze upon the company in one of the public walks near the city. Here we saun. tered together for some time, either praising the beauty of such as were handsome, or the dresses of such as had nothing else to recominend them. We bad gone thus deliberately forward for some time, when my friend, stopping on a sudden, caught me by the elbow, and led me out of the public walk. I could perceive by the quickness of his pace, and by his frequently looking behind, that he was attempting to avoid somebody who followed: we now turned to the right, then to the left; as we went forward, he still went faster, but in vain ; the person whom he attempted to escape, hunted us through every dou

« ПретходнаНастави »