« 上一頁繼續 »
See heav'n its sparkling portals wide display,
No. 379. THURSDAY, MAY 15.
Scire tuum nihil est, nisi te scire hoc sciat alter.
Science is not science till revealed.
I HAVE often wondered at that ill-natured
poo sition which has been sometimes maintained in the schools, and is comprised in an old Latin verse, namely, that A man's knowledge is worth nothing, if he communicates what he knows to any one besides.' There is certainly no more sensible pleasure to a good natured man, than if he can by any means gratify or inform the mind of another. I might add, that this virtue naturally carries its own reward along with it, since it is almost impossible it should be exercised without the improvement of the person who
(a) Isaiah, chap. ix. 19, 20.
practises it. The reading of books, and the daily occurrences of life, are continually furnishing us with matter for thought and reflection. It is extremely natural for us to desire to see such our thoughts put into the dress of words, without which indeed we can scarce have a clear and distinct idea of them ourselves; when they are thus clothed in expressions, nothing so truly shows us whether they are just or false as those effects which they produce in the minds of others.
I am apt to flatter myself, that in the course of these my speculations, I have treated of several subjects, and laid down many such rules for the conduct of a man's life, which my readers were either wholly ignorant of before, or which at least those few who were acquainted with them, looked upon as so many secrets they have found out for the conduct of themselves, but were resolved never to have made public.
I am the more confirmed in this opinion, from my having received several letters, wherein I am censured for having prostituted learning to the embraces of the vulgar, and made her, as one of my correspondents phrases it, a common strumpet. I am charged by another with laying open the arcana or secrets of prudence, to the eyes of every
reader. The narrow spirit which appears in the letters of these my correspondents is the least surprising, as it has shown itself in all ages. There is still extant an epistle written by Alexander the Great to his tutor Aristotle, upon that philosopher's publishing some part of his writings, in which the prince complains of his having made known to all the world those secrets in learning which
he had before communicated to him in private lectures; concluding, that he had rather excel the rest of mankind in knowledge than in power.
Louisa de Padilla, a lady of great learning, and countess of Aranda, was in like manner angry with the famous Gratian, upon his publishing his treatise of the Discreto;* wherein she fancied that he had laid open those maxims to common readers, which ought only to have been reserved for the knowledge of the great.
These objections are thought by many of so much weight, that they
often defend the abovementioned authors by affirming they have affected such an obscurity in the style and manner of writing, that, though every one may read their works, there will be but very few who can comprehend their meaning.
Persius, the Latin satirist, affected obscurity for another reason: with which, however, Mr. Cowley is so offended, that writing to one of his friends, You,' says he, tell me, that you do not know whether Persius be a good poet or no, because you can not understand him; for which very reason I affirm that he is not so."
However, this art of writing unintelligibly has been very much improved, and followed by several of the moderns, who, observing the general inclination of mankind to dive into a secret, and the reputation many have acquired by concealing their meaning under obscure terms and phrases, resolve, that they may be still more abstruse, to write without any meaning at all. This art, as it is at present practised by many
* See No. 293, note; and No. 409.
eminent authors, consist in throwing so many words at a venture into different periods, and leaving the curious reader to find the meaning of them.
The Egyptians, who made use of hieroglyphics to signify several things, expressed a man who confined his knowledge and discoveries altogether within himself, by the figure of a dark lantern, closed on all sides, which, though it was illuminated within, afforded no manner of light or advantage to such as stood by it. For my own part, as I shall from time to time communicate to the public whatever discoveries I happen to make, 'I should much rather be compared to an ordinary lamp, which consumes and wastes itself for the benefit of every passenger.
I shall conclude this paper with the story of Rosicrusius's sepulchre. I suppose I need not inform my readers that this man was the author of the Rosicrusian sect, and that his disciples still pretend to new discoveries which they are never to communicate to the rest of mankind.
A certain person, having occasion to dig somewhat deep in the ground where this philosopher lay, interred, met with a small door having a wall on each side of it. His curiosity, and the hopes of finding some hidden treasure, soon prompted him to force open the door. He was immediately surprised by a sudden blaze of light, and discovered a very fair vault: at the upper end of it was a statue of a man in armour sitting by a table, and leaning on his left arm: he held a truncheon in his right hand, and had a lamp burning before him. The man had no sooner set one foot within the vault, than the statue erect
ed itself from its leaning posture, stood bolt upright, and upon the fellow's advancing another step, lifted up the truncheon in his right hand. The man still ventured a third step, when the statue with a furious blow broke the lamp into a thousand pieces, and left his guest in sudden darkness.
Upon the report of this adventure, the country people soon came with lights to the sepulchre, and discovered that the statue, which was made of brass, was nothing more than a piece of clockwork; that the floor of the vault was all loose, and underlaid with several springs, which, upon any man's entering, naturally produced that which had happened.
Rosicrucius, says his disciples, made use of this method to show the world that he had reinvented the ever-burning lamps of the ancients, though he was resolved no one should reap any advantage from the discovery.
No. 380. FRIDAY, MAY 16.
Rivalem patienter habe. OVID.
With patience bear a rival in thy love. SIR,
Thursday, May 8, 1712. • The character you have in the world of being the ladies' philosopher, and the pretty advice I have seen you give to others in your papers, make me address myself to you in this abrupt manner, and to desire your opinion what in this age a woman may call a lover. I have had lately