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Dialogue, that great and powerful art,
PLATO and LUCIAN are the best remains
Of all the wonders which this art contains.-Buckingham.
THE following Dialogues were first suggested by the opinions of Dr. Samuel Johnson, as set forth in "The Adventurer:"
"There are many modes of composition," says he, by which a moralist may deserve the name of an original writer:-he may familiarize his system by dialogues, after the manner of the ancients, or subtilize it into a series of syllogistic arguments; he may enforce his doctrine by seriousness and solemnity, or enliven it by sprightliness and gaiety; he may deliver his sentiments in naked precepts, or illustrate them by historical examples; he may detain the studious by the artful concatenation of a continued discourse, or relieve the busy by short strictures and unconnected essays.
"To excel in any of these forms of writing will require
a particular cultivation of the genius; whoever can attain to excellence will be certain to engage a set of readers whom no other method would have equally allured; and he that communicates truth with success must be numbered among the first benefactors of mankind."
This is undoubtedly true: and Johnson might have said of the dialogue writer, not only that he may enforce his sentiments "by seriousness and solemnity, or by sprightliness and gaiety," but that both these methods may be employed by him in one and the same production; and that, in so doing, he will be the more likely to compass what he had intended,—that is, at once to instruct and to please; and thus, instead of particular and partial commendation, obtain the suffrage, the approbation, of all.
It must not be imagined, from the title given to this work, that the writer is vain enough to think of placing himself on a level with LUCIAN. No, he is only ambitious to be considered a pupil, who has not studied in vain, in the school of so great and distinguished a
SCENE THE ELYSIAN Fields.
FREDERIC II. KING OF PRUSSIA, and MACHIAVEL (meeting).
Mac. HA! is it Frederic the Great, of Prussia, whom I thus fortunately meet?
Fred. The same: the man, who, ambitious as he acknowledges himself to have been, and justly pleased with the illustrious title "the Great," and which indeed particularly characterizes the hero, is yet infinitely prouder of the more honourable distinction of "the Good."
Mac. A pattern for princes, both as a statesman and a warrior; but it is in your legislative talents, in the rules and ordinances so wisely established for the happiness of your people, that you are particularly entitled to praise. It is there that you may be said to rise "above all Greek, above all Roman, fame.”...
Fred. This is a language I should not have expected from Machiavel. How greatly the sentiments change with a change of condition or of place!
Mac. This remark applies not to me; my sentiments were the same, when I had the unhappiness to herd among men.
Fred. You were then a great deceiver, if I am to
judge from your writings, and one of an extraordinary kind. A man has seldom the ambition to appear unamiable to be considered as cruel and perfidious, or attempt to render others so, when he is really and entirely the reverse. When atrocity is seen among princes, it is not, I believe, from precept or example that it usually proceeds.
Mac. What then is to be apprehended from my work? But you still are wandering by a false and illusive light. Your majesty's imagination, warmed by a love of human nature, serves but as a luminous vapour, to lead you from the beaten way: but this I had frequent occasion to remark, when I was so unfortunate as to be mingled with the living crew.
Fred. Again, an unqualified censure, a bitter invective against your fellows! a general reprobation of human kind!
Mac. I have, perhaps, been somewhat too general in my censure. Man, as he is formed by nature "noble in reason,-infinite in faculty," I must sincerely love; but man, as he is changed by education, "crafty and insidious, selfish and brutal," I must utterly despise. In a word, I am enchanted with mind, as it is an emanation of the Divinity, but loathe it as it is warped by policy and worldly desires. But you have said that I attempted to render men cruel and perfidious; and this you have pronounced of me, from a view of my writings; you were then of the common opinion, that I really meant to lay down instructions to monarchs, in attaining to wickedness; while I actually strove to deter then from it, by holding up a picture to the world, of all who had been the pests of their time.
Fred. Your performance, then, was a satire on princes: -was meant, under the masks of panegyric and seriousness, to expose to derision and contempt the men who had abused the power with which they were invested; and who, intoxicated by that power, had impiously set themselves up for gods.
Mac. I marvel that your najesty had not sufficient acuteness to discover this on the perusal of my work. I no more intended to teach a prince to become the scourge of human kind, than did the poet to recommend roguery, when he says
Be a rogue and prosper;
For he who acts with mankind on the square,
Fred. You express a surprise at my want of penetration in not discovering the drift of your performance. Voltaire, however, you may remember, conceived of it as I have done: he says, in his preface to the AntiMachiavel, "La Houssaie prétend que Machiavel haïssait la tyrannie: sans doute tout homme la déteste; mais il est bien lâche et bien affreux de la détester et de l'enseigner."
Mac. Voltaire, as the editor of your refutation of my "Prince," was under the necessity of talking thus, whatever his real sentiments on the matter might be; for unless he admitted that I was a teacher of tyranny, your majesty's labours were of no effect.
Fred. The dedication of your book to L. de Medicis has led to the belief that you wished to be the preceptor of princes, and establish their power. Your expression is somewhat remarkable: "If you read my performance with attention, you will find how desirous I am that you should become secure in that power, to which your great and shining qualities might well raise you."
Mac. The censure which has fallen on my performance, proceeded either from the having studied me by scraps and quotations only, or from a total misconception of my design. It has, indeed, been maintained by some, that I should not at any time have set forth the wickedness and tyranny of princes to view; as others, who might possibly be virtuously inclined, would, from a love of power, and from the successes of these princes, follow them in their blood-stained path, regardless of that which alone can lead to real and permanent glory; but this