網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

He feels too sensibly how much all the rest of mankind full short of the notions which he has entertained; and his affections being thus confined within a narrow circle, no wonder he carries them further than if they were more general and undistinguished. The gayety and frolic of a bottle companion improves with him into a solid friendship; and the ardors of a youthful appetite become an elegant passion.

ON SIMPLICITY AXD REFINEMENT.

It is a certain rule that wit and passion are entirely incompatible. When the affections are moved, there is no place for the imagination. The mind of man being naturally limited, it is impossible that all its faculties can operate at once; and the more any one predominates, the less room is there for the others to exert their vigor. For this reason a greater degree of simplicity is required in all compositions where men, and actions, and passions are painted, than in such as consist of reflections and observations. And, as the former species of writing is the more engaging and beautiful, one may safely, upon this account, give the preference to the extreme of simplicity above that of refinement.

We may also observe, that those compositions which we road the oftenest, and which every man of taste has got by heart, have the recommendation of simplicity, and have nothing surprising in the thought when divested of that elegance of expression and harmony of numbers with which it is clothed. If the merit of the composition lie in a point of wit, it may strike at first; but the mind anticipates the thought in the second perusal, and is no longer affected by it. When I read an epigram of Martial, the first line recalls the whole; and I have no pleasure in repeating to myself what I know already. But each line, each word in Catullus, has its merit; and I am never tired with the perusal of him. It is sufficient to run over Cowley once; but Parnell, after the fiftieth reading, is as fresh as the first. Besides, it is with books as with women, where a certain plainness of manner and of dress is more engaging than that glare of paint, and airs, and apparel, which may dazzle the eye, but reaches not the affections. Terence is a modest and bashful beauty, to whom we grant every thing, because he assumes nothing; and whose purity and nature make a durable though not a violent impression on us.

ON THE MIDDLE STATION OF LIFE.

The moral of the following fable will easily discover itself without my explaining it. One rivulet meeting another, with whom he had been long united in strictest amity, with noisy haughtiness and disdain thus bespoke him:—"What, brother' still in the same state! Still low and rreeping! Are you not ashamed ■vhen you behold me, who, though lately in a like condition with you, am now become a great river, and shall shortly be able to rival the Danube or the Rhine, provided those friendly rains continue which have favored my banks, but neglected yours!" "Very true," replies the humble rivulet, " you are now, indeed, swollen to a great size; but methinks you are become withal somewhat turbulent and muddy. I am contented with my low condition and my purity."

Instead of commenting upon this fable, I shall take occasion from it to compare the different stations of life, and to persuade such of my readers as are placed in the middle station to be satisfied with it, as the most eligible of all others. These form the most numerous rank of men that can be supposed susceptible of philosophy, and therefore all discourses of morality ought princi

in pleasure, and the poor too much occupied in providing for the necessities of life, to hearken to the calm voice of reason. The middle station, as it is most happy in many respects, so particularly in this, that a man placed in it can, with the greatest leisure, consider his own happiness, and reap a new enjoyment, from comparing his situation with that of persons above or below him.

Agur's prayer is sufficiently noted—" Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove faT from me vanity and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me, lest I be full and deny thee, and say, who is the Lord 1 or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain." The middle station is here justly recommended, as affording the fullest security for virtue; and I may also add, that it gives opportunity for the most ample exercise of it, and furnishes employment for every good quality which we can possibly be possessed of. Those who are placed among the lower ranks of men have little opportunity of exerting any other virtue besides those of patience, resignation, industry, and integrity. Those who are advanced into the higher stations, have full employment for their generosity, humanity, affability, and charity. When a man lies betwixt these two extremes, he can exert the former virtues towards his superiors, and the latter towards his inferiors. Every moral quality which the hurrian soul is susceptible of, may have its turn, and be called up to action; and a man may, after this manner, be much more certain of his progress in virtue, than where his good qualities lie dormant and without employment.

But there is another virtue that seems principally to lie among equals; and is, for that reason, chiefly calculated for the middle ftation of life. This virtue is friendship. I believe most men of

[graphic]

The great are too much immersed generous tempers are apt to envy the great, when they consider the large opportunities such persons have of doing good to their fellow-creatures, and of acquiring the friendship and esteem of men of merit. They make no advances in vain, and are not obliged to associate with those whom they have little kindness for, like people of inferior stations, who are subject to have theii proffers of friendship rejected even where they would be most fond of placing their affections. But though the great have more facility in acquiring friendships, they cannot be so certain of the sincerity of them as men of a lower rank, since the favors they bestow may acquire them flattery, instead of good-will and kindness. It has been very judiciously remarked, that we .attach ourselves more by the services we perform than by those we receive, and that a man is in danger of losing his friends by obliging them too far. I should therefore choose to lie in the middle way, and to have my commerce with my friend varied both by obligations given and received. I have too much pride to be willing that all the obligations should lie on my side, and should be afraid that, if they all lay on his, he would also have too much pride to be entirely easy under them, or have a perfect complacency in my company.

WILLIAM PITT, EARL OF CHATHAM. 1708—1778.

Of the eventual life of this illustrious statesman, it would be impossible here to give any adequate view. From the time that he delivered his maiden speech in parliament, on the 29th of April, 173fi, to the day when he fell senseless in the House of Lords, April 7, 1778, while, in his own fervid eloquence, he was addressing that body on the stale of the nation, his whole life is inseparably connected with every great event in his country's history. No single individual for forty years filled so large a space in the public eye.

It is deeply to be regretted that we have so few of his writings, and that no correct reports of his speeches in parliament have come down to us. The art of reporting with rapidity and accuracy, so familiar to us, of this day, was then not known. But from the encomiums which his speeches received from his contemporaries, without distinction of party, they must have been of tinhighest order of eloquence. Americans may well remember him with graii tude, for they had no abler defender of their rights in revolutionary times, op either side of the Atlantic. With that « abominable sentiment," oca Cockth« Bight Ob Wboxo, this great man had no sympathy; for he never hesitated to rebuke, in the severest terms, his own country, when he saw she was in the way of wrong-doing.

The most interesting relic that we have of this greatest of statesmen, is his "Letters to his Nephew, Thomas Pitt, (afterwards Lord Camelford,) then at Cumbridge." No volume of equal size contains more valuable instructions lor a young student than these letters. They exhibit "a preat orator, states, man, and patriot, in one of the most interesting relations of private society Not, as in the cabinet or the senate, enforcing by a vigorous ana commanding eloquence, those counsels to which his country owed her pre-eminence and glory; but implanting, with parental kindness into the mind of an ingenuous youth, seeds of wisdom and virtue, which ripened into full maturity in the diameter of a most accomplished man: directing him to the acquisition of unowledge, as the best instrument of action; teaching him, by die cultivation of his reason, to strengthen and establish in his heart those principles of moral rectitude which were congenial to it; and, above all, exhorting him to regulate the whole conduct of his life by the predominant influence of gratitude and obedience to God, as die only sure groundwork of every human duty/'

"What parent, anxious for the character and success of a son, would not, in all that related to his education, gladly have resorted to the advice of such a man? What youthful spirit, animated by any desire of future excellence, and looking for the gratification of that desire, in the pursuits of honorable ambition, or in the consciousness of an upright, active, and useful life, would not embrace with transport any opportunity of listening on such a subject to the lessons of Lord Chatham? They are here before him: not delivered with the authority of a preceptor, or a parent, but tempered by the affection of a friend towards a disposition and character well entitled to such regard."'

STUDY OF THE CLASSICS RECOMMENDED.

Bath, October 12, 1751.

Mr Deaii Nephew:

As I have been moving about from place to place, your letter reached me here, at Bath, but very lately, after making a considerable circuit to find me. I should have otherwise, my deal child, returned you thanks for the very great pleasure you have given me, long before now. The very good account you give me of your studies, and that delivered in very good Latin, for youi time, has filled me with the highest expectation of your future improvements: I see the foundations so well laid, that I do not make the least doubt but you will become a perfect good scholar; and have the pleasure and applause, that will attend the several advantages hereafter, in the future course of your life, that you can only acquire now by your emulation and noble labors -in the pursuit of learning, and of every acquirement that is to make you superior to other gentlemen. I rejoice to hear that you have begun Homer's Iliad; and have made so great a progress in Virgil. I hope you taste and love those authors particularly. You cannot read them too much: they are not only the two greatest poets, but they contain the finest lessons for your age to imbibe: lessons of honor, courage, disinterestedness, love of truth, command of temper, gentleness of behavior, humanity, and, in one word, virtue in its true signification. Go on, my dear nephew, and drink as deep as you can of these divine springs: the pleasure of the draught is equal at least to the prodigious advantages of it to the heart and morals.

1 Lord OrenvlUe'a Predion to tho Letters. Read nlso, Rev. Francis TliacVcray's "History oi tin Rt. Hon William Pitt," 2 vols. 4Lo.

I shall be highly pleased to heai from you, and to know what authors give you most pleasure. I desire my service to Mr. Leech: pray tell him I will write to him soon about your studies.

I am, with the greatest affection,
My dear child,

Your loving uncle.

GENERAL ADVICE TO THE YOUTHFUL STUDENT.

Bath, January 14, 1754.

Mi Dear Nephew:

You will hardly have read over one very long letter from me before you are troubled with a second. I intended to have writ soon, but I do it the sooner on account of your letter to your aunt, which she transmitted to me here. If any thing, my dear boy, could have happened to raise you higher in my esteem, and to endear you more to me, it is the amiable abhorrence you feel for the scene of vice and folly, (and of real misery and perdition, under the false notion of pleasure and spirit,) which has opened to you at your college, and at the same time, the manly, brave, generous, and wise resolution and true spirit, with which you resisted and repulsed the first attempts upon a mind and heart, I thank God, infinitely too firm and noble, as well as too elegant and enlightened, to be in any danger of yielding to such contemptible and wretched corruptions. You charm me with the description of Mr. Wheler,' and while you say you could adore him, I could adore you for the natural, genuine love of virtue, which speaks in all you feel, say, or do. As to your companions, let this be your rule. Cultivate the acquaintance with Mr. Wheler which you have so fortunately begun: and, in general, be sure to associate with men much older than yourself: scholars whenever you can: but always with men of decent and honorable lives. As their age and learning, superior both to your own, must necessarily, in good sense, and in the view of acquiring knowledge from them, entitle them to all deference, and submission of your own lights to theirs, you will particularly practise that first and greatest rule for pleasing in conversation, as well as for drawing instruction and improvement from the company of one's superiors in age and knowledge, namely, to be a patient, attentive, and well-bred hearer, and to answer with modesty: to deliver your own opinions sparingly and with proper diffidence ; and if you are forced to desire farther information or explanation upon a point, to do it with proper apologies for the trouble you give: or if obliged to differ, to do it with all possible candor, and an unprejudiced desire to find and

1 Tbe Rev. John Wheler, prebendary of Westminster. The friendship formed between this ^entlrman and Lord Cumelford at so early a period of their liven, was founded in mutual esteem, and nu Unued uninterrupted tut Lord Catuelford's death.

2 S ■'*»*

« 上一頁繼續 »