« PoprzedniaDalej »
Augustan age, and despises the fyftem of modern hufbandry.
Many poets, however, may be found, who have condescended to the cares of economy, and who have conducted their families with all the parfimony and regularity of an alderman of the last century; who have not superciliously disdained to enter into the concerns of common life, and to subscribe to and study certain neceffary dogmas of the vulgar, convinced of their utility and expediency, and well knowing that because they are vulgar, they are, therefore, both important and true.
If we look backwards on antiquity, or survey ages nearer our own, we shall find several of the greatest geniuses fo far from being funk in indigence, that many of them enjoyed splendor and honours, or at least were fecured against the anxieties of poverty, by a decent competence and plenty of the conveniences of life.
Indeed, to pursue riches farther, than to attain a decent competence, is too low and illiberal an occupation for a real genius to defcend to; and Horace wisely af-. cribes the manifeft inferiority of the Roman literature to the Grecian, to an immoderate love of money, which neceffarily contracts and ruits the mind, and disqualifies it for noble and generous undertakings.
Æschylus was an officer of no small rank in the Athenian army at the celebrated battle of Marathon; and Sophocles was an accomplished general, who commanded his countrymen in several most important expeditions : Theocritus was carressed and enriched by Ptolemy; and the gaiety of Anacreon was the result. of ease and plenty : Pindar was. better rewarded for many of his odes, than any other bard ancient or mo
dern, except perhaps Boileau for his celebrated piece of Alattery on the taking Namur : Virgil at last poffefr. ed a fine house at Rome, and a Villa at Naples : Ho
race,” lays Swift in one of his lectures on economy to Gay, “ I am sure kept his coach :" Lucan and Silius Italicus dwelt in marble palaces, and had their gardens adorned with the most exquifite capital ftatues of Greece: Milton was fond of a domestic life, and lived with exemplary frugality and order : Corneille and Racine were both admirable masters of their fami. lies, faithful husbands, and prudent economists : Boileau, by the liberalities of Lewis, was enabled to purchace a delightful privacy at Auteuil, was eminently skilled in the management of his finances, and despised that affectation which arrogantly aims to place itself above the necessary decorums and rules of civil life : in all which particulars they were equalled by Addisony Swift and Pope.
It ought not, therefore to be concluded from a few examples to the contrary, that poetry and prudence are incompatible; a conclusion that seems to have arisen in this kingdom, from the diffolute behaviour of the despicable debauchees, and disgraced the muses and the court of Charles the Second, by their lives and by their writings. Let those who are blest with geniusrecollect, that economy is the parent of integrity, of liberty, and of ease ; and the beauteous fister of temperance, of cheerfulness, and health : and that profuseness is a cruel and crafty demon, that gradually involves her followers in dependence and debts; that is, fetters them with “ ixons that enter into their souls." 2
No. LX. Saturday, June 2. 1753.
Jus est et ab boste doceri.
Our foes may teach ; the wife by foes are taught.
To have delayed the publication of the following let. ter would have been furely inexcusable : as it is subscribed by the name of a very great personage, who has been long celebrated for his superiority of genius and knowledge: and whose abilities will not appear to have been exaggerated by fervility of faction, when his genuine productions shall be better known. He has, indeed, been suspected of fome attempts against reveal. ed religion; but the letter which I have the honour to publish, will do justice to his character, and fet his principles a new light
your principle design is to revive the practice of virtue, by establishing the Christian Religion ; you will naturally conclude that your views and mine are directly opposite : and my attempt to fhew, that it is
your interest to admit my correspondence, will, there. fore, be considered as a proof of the contrary. You will, however, soon discover, that by promoting your interest, I seek my own; and when you have read my letter, you will be far from suspecting, than under a specious show of concurrence in your undertaking, I have concealed an attempt to render it ineffectual.
“ Never to give up the present for the future," is a maxim which I have always taught both by precept and example : I consider the now, as the whole of my existence; and therefore, to improve it, is the whole of my study. And, indeed, happiness, like virtue, confilts not in rest, but in action : it is found rather in the pursuit, than the attainment of an end : for though the death of the stag, is the purpose of the chace ; yet the moment this purpose is accomplished, the sport is at an end. Virtue and religion alone can afford me employment: without them, I must inevitably be idle ; and to be idle is to be wretched. I should, therefore, instead of attempting to destroy the principles upon which I was resisted, have been content to surmount them: for he who should hamstring the game, lest any of them should escape, would be justly diappointed of the pleasure of running them down. Such, indeed, is my present condition: and as it will at
once answer your purpose and mine, I shall exhibit an account of of my conduct, and shew how my disappointment was produced.
My principal business has always been to counterwork the effects of Revealed Religion: I have, therefore, had little to do, except among Jews and Christians. In the early ages of the world, when Revelation was frequently repeated with fenfible and miracu
lous circumstances, I was far from being idle ; and still think it an inconteftible proof of my abilities, that even then my labour was not always unsuccessful. I applied not so much to the understanding as to the senses, till after the promulgation of Christianity ; but I foon difcovered that Christianity afforded motives to virtue and piety, which were scarce to be overpowered by temptation : I was, therefore, obliged now to exert my power, not upon the senses but the understanding. As I could not suspend the force of these motives, I laboured to direct them towards other objects; and in the eighth century I had so far succeeded, as to produce a prevailing opinion, that “ the worship of
images was of more moment than moral rectitude :? It was decreed by a pope and council, that to speak of them with irreverence was a forfeit of salvation, and that the offender should, therefore, be excommunicated: those who opposed this decree, were perfecuted with fire and sword; and I had the satisfaction not only of supplanting virtue, but of propagating misery, by a zeal for religion. I must not, however, arrogate all the honour of an event which so much excceded my hopes; for many arguments in favour of images were drawn from a book, intitled Patrum Spirituale : in which it is affirmed, that having long tempted a hermit to incontinence, I offered to desist if he would cease to worship an image of the Virgin : and that the hermit having consulted an abbot, whether to accept or refuse the condition, was told, that it was more eligible to commit incontinence, than to neglect the worship of images: and I declare upon my honour, that the facts, as far as they relate to me, did never happen, but are wholly invented by the ingenious author. That falva