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An old maiden gentlewoman, whom I shall conceal under the name of Nemesis, is the greatest discoverer of judgments that I have met with. She can tell you what sin it was that set such a man's house on fire, or blew down his barns. Talk to her of an unfortunate young lady that lost her beauty by the small-pox, she fetches a deep sigh, and tells you, that when she had a fine face she was always looking on it in her glass. Tell her of a piece of good fortune that has befallen one of her acquaintance, and she wishes it may prosper with her, but her mother used one of her nieces very barbarously. Her usual remarks turn upon people who had great estates, but never enjoyed them by reason of some flaw in their own or their father's behaviour. She can give you the reason why such a one died childless; why such a one was cut off in the flower of his youth; why such a one was unhappy in her marriage; why one broke his leg on such a particular spot of ground; and why another was killed with a back-sword, rather than with any other kind of weapon. She has a crime for every misfortune that can befal any of her acquaintance; and when she hears of a robbery that has been made, or a murder that has been committed, enlarges more on the guilt of the suffering person, than on that of the thief, or the assassin. In short, she is so good a Christian, that whatever happens to herself is a trial, and whatever happens to her neighbours is a judgment.
The very description of this folly, in ordinary life, is sufficient to expose it: but, when it appears in a pomp and dignity of style, it is very apt to amuse and terrify the mind of the reader.' Herodotus and Plutarch very often apply their judgments as impertinently as the old woman I have before mentioned, though their manner of relating them makes the folly itself appear venerable. Indeed, most historians, as well Christian as Pagan, have fallen into this idle superstition, and spoken of ill success, unforeseen disasters, and terrible events, as if they had been let into the secrets of Providence, and made acquainted with that private conduct by which the world is governed. One would think several of our own historians in particular had many revelations of this kind made to them. Our old English monks seldom let any of their kings depart in
peace, who had endeavoured to diminish the power or
wealth of which the ecclesiastics were in those times possessed. William the Conqueror's race generally found their judgments in the New Forest, where their father had pulled down churches and monasteries. In short, read one of the chronicles written by an author of this frame of mind, and you would think you were reading a history of the kings of Israel or Judah, where the historians were actually inspired, and where, hy a particular scheme of Providence, the kings were distinguished by judgments, or blessings, according as they promoted idolatry, or the worship of the true God.
I cannot but look upon this manner of judging upon misfortunes, not only to be very uncharitable in regard to the person on whom they fall, but very presumptuous in regard to him who is supposed to inflict them. It is a strong argument for a state of retribution hereafter, that in this world virtuous persons are very often unfortunate, and vicious persons prosperous ; which is wholly repugnant to the nature of a Being who appears infinitely wise and good in all his works, unless we may suppose that such a promiscuous and undistinguishing distribution of good and evil, which was necessary for carrying on the designs of Providence in this life, will be rectified, and made amends for, in another. We are not therefore to expect that fire should fall from heaven in the ordinary course of Providence; nor, when we see triumphant guilt or depressed virtue in particular persons, that Omnipotence will make bare his holy arm in the defence of the one, or punishment of the other. It is sufficient that there is a day set apart for the hearing and requiting of both, according to their respective merits.
The folly of ascribing temporal judgments to any particular crimes, may appear from several considerations. I shall only mention two. First, that, generally speaking, there is no calamity or affliction, which is supposed to have happened as a judgment to a vicious man, which does not sometimes happen to men of approved religion and virtue. When Diagoras the atheist was on board one of the Athenian ships, there arose a very violent tempest: upon which, the mariners told him, that it was a just judgment upon them for having taken so impious a man on board. Diagoras begged them to look upon the rest
of the ships that were in the same distress, and asked them whether or no Diagoras was on board every vessel in the fleet. We are all involved in the same calamities, and subject to the same accidents; and, when we see any one of the species under any particular oppression, we should look
upon it as arising from the common lot of human nature, rather than from the guilt of the person who suffers.
Another consideration, that may check our presumption in putting such a construction upon a misfortune, is this, that it is impossible for us to know what are calamities and what are blessings. How many accidents have passed for misfortunes, which have turned to the welfare and prosperity of the persons to whose lot they have fallen ! How many disappointments have, in their consequences, saved a man from ruin! If we could look into the effects of every thing, we might be allowed to pronounce boldly upon blessings and judgments; but for a man to give his opinion of what he sees but in part, and in its beginnings, is an unjustifiable piece of rashness and folly. The story of Biton and Clitobus, which was in great reputation among the heathens (for we see it quoted by all the ancient authors, both Greek and Latin, who have written upon the immortality of the soul), may teach us a caution in this matter. These two brothers being the sons of a lady who was priestess to Juno, drew their mother's chariot to the temple at the time of a great solemnity, the persons being absent who, by their office, were to have drawn her chariot on that occasion. The mother was so transported with this instance of filial duty, that she petitioned her goddess to bestow upon them the greatest gift that could be given to men; upon which they were both cast into a deep sleep, and the next morning found dead in the temple. This was such an event as would have been construed into a judgment, had it happened to the two brothers after an act of disobedience, and would doubtless have been represented as such by any ancient historian who had given us an account of it,
N° 484. MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 1712. Neque cuiquam tam statim clarum ingenium est, ut possit emergere ;
nisi illi materia, occasio, fautor etiam, commendatorque contingat.
-Plin. Epist. Nor has any one so bright a genius as to become illustrious instanta
neously, unless it fortunately meets with occasion and employment, with patronage too, and commendation.
“ MR. SPECTATOR,
through any profession, none seem to have so good a title to the protection of the men of eminence in it, as the modest man; not so much because his modesty is a certain indication of his merit, as because it is a certain obstacle to the producing of it. Now, as of all professions this virtue is thought to be more particularly unnecessary in that of the law than in any other, I shall only apply myself to the relief of such who follow this profession with this disadvantage. What aggravates the matter is, that those persons who, the better to prepare themselves for this study, have made some progress in others, have, by addicting themselves to letters, increased their natural modesty, and consequently heightened the obstruction to this sort of preferment; so that every one of these may emphatically be said to be such a one as “laboureth and taketh pains, and is still the more behind.' It
may matter worth discussing, then, why that which made a youth so amiable to the ancients, should make him appear so ridiculous to the moderns ? and why, in our days, there should be neglect, and even oppression, of young beginners, instead of that protection which was the pride of theirs ? In the profession spoken of, it is obvious to every one whose attendance is required at Westminster-hall, with what difficulty a youth of any modesty has been permitted to make an observation, that could in no wise detract from the merit of his elders, and is absolutely necessary for the advancing his own.
I have often seen one of these not only molested in his utterance of something very pertinent, but even plundered of his question, and by a strong serjeant shouldered out of his rank, which
he has recovered with much difficulty and confusion. Now, as great part of the business of this profession might be dispatched by one that perhaps
Abest virtute diserti
Hor. Ars Poet. 370.
And is less read than deep Cascellius : -ROSCOMMON. so I cannot conceive the injustice done to the public, if the men of reputation in this calling would introduce such of the young ones into business, whose application to this study will let them into the secrets of it, as much as their modesty will hinder them from the practice: I say, it would be laying an everlasting obligation upon a young man, to be introduced at first only as a mute, till by this countenance, and a resolution to support the good opinion conceived of him in his betters, his complexion shall be so well settled, that the litigious of this island may be secure of his obstreperous aid. If I might be indulged to speak in the style of a lawyer, I would say, that any one about thirty years of age might make a common motion to the court with as much elegance and propriety as the most aged advocates in the hall.
“ I cannot advance the merit of modesty by any argument of my own so powerfully, as by inquiring into the sentiments the greatest among the ancients of different ages entertained
this virtue. If we go back to the days of Solomon, we shall find favour a necessary consequence to a shamefaced man. Pliny, the greatest lawyer and most elegant writer of the age he lived in, in several of his epistles is very solicitous in recommending to the public some young men of his own profession, and very often undertakes to become an advocate, upon condition that some one of these his favourites might be joined with him, in order to produce the merit of such, whose modesty otherwise would have suppressed it. It may seem very marvellous to a saucy modern, that multum sanguinis, multum verecundiæ, multum sollicitudinis in ore; to have the • face first full of blood, then the countenance dashed with modesty, and then the whole aspect as of one dying with fear, when a man begins to speak;' should be esteemed