« PoprzedniaDalej »
The means I have taken to facilitate the understanding of the originals, have undoubtedly made them lose somewhat of their force and beauty: but, I dare promise, enough of these is left to render them pleasing and profitable to children. And I thought it would be doing no injury, to the intention of the illustrious dead, whose works are designed for posterity^ if in favour of tender years, which are to be taught betimes to reap advantage from the lessons they have set, and to apply the remedies (as one of them expresses it*) which they have prepared for all mankind, I diminished somewhat of their majesty and ornaments. These will disclose themselves to their young disciples in all their brightness, and in all their charms, as soon as they shall be capable of understanding them.
With all the facility we have endeavoured to give this little piece, we may now and then have left in it places somewhat difficult to children. It is not therefore to be expected, that they who have but a slender knowledge of the first rudiments of the Latin tongue, should with ease understand it without the help of a master. It will be with this, as with the easiest classic authors, to understand which every one at first has need of un interpreter and guide. The advantage that it has above them, which yet we are far from intending to banish out of schools, is, that it unites, and places, as it were, in one point of view, a great number of maxims and examples, which may not only by their variety gain the attention of youth, but also contribute to the forming of their manners; the greatest advantage that can be drawn from reading Heathen authors.
We shall there see, that these Heathens, even in the midst of the darkness of idolatry, teach us, that the Providence of God is not only watchful over all men in general, but over every individual: That he knows our most secret thoughts: and that it is he who inspires us with good ones, as well as condemns and punishes the evil: that the true worship due to him consists in purity
* Postcrorum negotium ago. Illis aliqua, qua fiossint flrodesse, co7iscribc. Salutares admoniliones, velut medicamentorum viilium comfwsitiones, Uteris mando. Senec. Epist. yiii.
xf heart; and that unlawful desires are no more permitted than criminal actions: that he proves good men by afflictions, and gives them strength to bear them: that the happiness of man consists neither in pleasures, nor ho'nours, nor opulence; but in virtue: that we ought not to indulge the body with any thing further than what is necessary for its support: that it is our duty to suffer injuries, not to render evil for evil; but to do good to all mankind, even our very enemies: that there is no such thing as true friendship, but what has virtue for its foundation and end: That it is better to lose our quiet, our liberty, our life, than to be wanting to our duty, Sec.
Good examples, generally of greater force than pre-cept, especially on the minds of young people, here present themselves in great variety, and render virtue more lovely and respectful. Sometimes we see generals of armies, whether Greeks or Romans, who having gone through the greatest employments of the state, and enriched their country with the spoils of their enemies, died so very poor,' as not to leave enough to defray their funeral expences. Sometimes, fathers renouncing the tenderest sentiments of nature, to secure the public liberty, and maintain the discipline of the army: or children inspired with courage by filial piety, and rendered ingenious to preserve the lives of those from whom they received their own. The richest bribes were not able to tempt the noble disinterested spirit of Curii, the Fabricii, ths Phocions, or that of Xenocrates. Nor the roughest threats, prison, exile, or death, to shake the constancy
. of the Cato's, the Marelli, the Regulli. Ill usage by them is borne with patience, is dissembled, forgot, pardoned. With them friendship is sacred, religions, sincere ; liberty, prudent and industrious: a frugal table, and plainness in dress, in furniture and house, is equally the taste of great generals and philosophers. Judges and magistrates are clear, just, disinterested. Kings have the bowels of fathers for their subjects. Virtue is practised through love of duty, without any view of re
. comptnee; and nothing appears interesting that is not entirely agreeable to justice. In a word, the reader has here an assemblage of several strokes of morality and history, many of which may serve as rules and models for different conditions of life, and at the same time gire some pleasure by the diversity of matter which they treat of; so that this little work, though designed for children, will not, perhaps, displease persons of more advanced years, who will here find summed up, what they formerly read dispersed up and down in various authors.
If, amid so many examples of different virtues, we have mixed some of contrary vices, it was only to show the deformity of the latter, and to make them the more detested. We know what Livy has said of history in general*, That it furnisheth examples of every kind: some of which are patterns to be imitated, and others are admonitions in regard to what we ought to shun.
The examples I have chosen, are sometimes a little diffuse and circumstantial, and the precepts of moralitymore largely explained. Often, on the other hand, both are concise, and no more than the answer of some great general or philosopher. The latter have this advantage, that they are the more easily retained. They are a sort of lively strokes, that penetrate deep: agreeable to the observation of Senecaf, who tells us, in his time, they made children learn moral maxims comprised in few words. And QuintilianJ likewise advises to teach them, by way of diversion, the wise sayings of great men, and certain verses selected out of the poets.
As I found it necessary to mix precepts with examples, as Cicero has done, that they might illustrate and enforce each other; I thought I could not do better than dispose this great field of matter agreeably to the method he has followed in his first Book of Offices, and
* Hoc Mud est firxcifiue in cognitione rerum salubre uc frugiferuvi, omnis te exempli documenta in illustri fiosita monumento intucri: hide tibi tuaque reifiublica, quod imitere, capias; inda foedum inceptu, jbedum exitu,quod vites. 1. i. in prsef.
t Facilius singula firxcepta incidunt circumscrifita, et carminis modo inclusa. Ideb fiueris et sententias cdiscendas damus: quia comfilecti eas fiuerilis animus fiotest. Sencc. Epist. 33. Vide et Epist. 38. 94.
\ litiam dicta clarorum virorum discere inter lusuin hcet; et electat ex fio'e'tis maxime locos. Quinctil. 1. i. c. 2. to reduce to a certain order, precepts and facts .which are so diversified, that it would be difficult to retain them without such help, Cicero, every one knows, reduces his whole subject to Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance, 1 have followed that division, being the plainest and the best known, dividing into four books what I had to say upon these Four Virtues; and have prefixed a very short one concerning God, Religion, and the Nature of Man. That which follows it upon Prudence is short likewise; because I straitened myself with respect to the sciences, and to what relates to them.
The title of each chapter is generally a maxim proper to be remembered ; because it contains in a few words the chief subject of the chapter.
The Arabic figures that occur in almost all the chapters serve to distinguish the different sections.
All that is contained in a chapter has not always a necessary connexion with the title. I thought it sufficient if it had a relation to the same subject.
I did not think myself obliged to make all the chapters of equal length: but was generally ruled by the copiousness and importance of the subject.
Nor have I been in any pain, through a scrupulous exactness, to bring into the several chapters a certain number of examples, and a certain quantity of morality. I sometimes give more, sometimes less. There are even some that contain nothing else but moral precepts. I am persuaded, that the uniformity, which some, perhaps, would desire, would be less pleasing to children.
As there is a sort of connexion between all the virtues, and often one great action, according to the different lights in which we view it, may be considered, for instance, as an act of prudence, or justice; I have placed sometimes under one title what might be as well placed under another. It would be needless to say what determined me to this way, or that, because whatever occurs in a collection like this, has its advantage, and if so, of what consequence is it that it be placed under one head rather than another?
I haie made use of all the ancient profane authors'* Greek as well as Latin, which T thought might contribute to the execution of my design. I have sometimes even, blended them, as it were, together upon the same fact or the same maxim, to make the object I proposed to the r-cader the more visible, and to avoid repetition. I have .generally preferred, as I ought, the Latins to the Greeks; and have been exact in my references to both, that those who would, might with ease have recourse to the originals.
If I have often abridged historical facts, and precepts of morality, it was to retrench what appeared less agreeable to my plan, or to prevent my work from growings too large.
I have not engaged myself in reconciling historians with one another, in relation to the truth of a fact, or its circumstances. I cite my authority; that ought to be my warrant, and it is enough for me.
I scarce any where pass my judgment, or make reflections upon the passages I have produced in this work from the ancients, leaving that care to the masters, who will do it by word of mouth to more advantage than I could by writing.*
Seneca, the philosopher, abounds with maxims and examples, many of which I have thought proper to make use of: and the rather, because this author is usually not read in schools, and remains unknown to scholars the rest of their lives. It is true, he betrays almost always an affectation in his style; but his expression is short, and his thoughts lively; and he embellishes his discourse with natural comparisons and images, which entertain the imagination: so that with the alterauons-l have taken the liberty of making in what I have borrowed from him, I hope he will be able to please, and be intelligible to children, without any prejudice to them. I do not imagine I shall lie under any censure for having turned to a more favourable sense, certain passages of this author, and perhaps of some others likewise, with a view to render them proper for children. We meet in this philosopher, as well as in all the Heathen writers,
* I/13C firacefitor illiquid, imo multa quotidie ilicat, qux disci/iuli secu:n audita referant. Licit enim satis etrrirf:lorum ad imitandiun eai lectione sufifieditit, lamen viva i.'':t, ut dicitur, X'otc alii filenius, firacifiuique firacefitoris, quem discifiuli, si modi recti si:it institttti, el aman', ci veremux. Quinctil. 1. it. c. 2.