Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

the name of politeness ; though they are orders, Pliny durst not venture to repair the real offspring of barbarism, and the a bath, or to punish a fugitive slave, or effects of degeneracy both in taste and incorporate a company of masons, till be manners. In his political letters, all his had first consulted and obtained the leave maxims are drawn from an intimate know- of Trajan, ledge of men and things: he always His historical works are all lost: the touches the point on which the affair Commentaries of his Consulship in Greek; turns; foresees the danger, and foretells the the History of his own Affairs, to his remischief, which never failed to follow up- turn from exile, in Latin verse; and his on the neglect of his counsels ; of which Anecdotes ; as well as the pieces that he there were so many instances, that, as an published on Natural History, of which eminent writer of his own time observed Pliny quotes one upon the Wonders of to him, bis prudence seemed to be a kind Nature, and another on Perfumes. He of divination, which foretold every thing was meditating likewise a general History that afterwards happened, with the vera- of Rome, to which he was frequently city of a prophet. But none of his letters urged by his friends, as the only man cado him more credit than those of the re- pable of adding that glory also to his commendatory kind: the others shew his country, of excelling the Greeks in a spewit and his parts, these his benevolence cies of writing, which of all others was and his probity: he solicits the interest of at that time the least cultivated by the his friends, with all the warmth and force Romans. But he never found leisure to of words of which he was master; and execute so great a task; yet he has alleges generally some personal reason for sketched out a plan of it, which, short as his peculiar zeal in the cause, and that it is, seems to be the best that can be his own honour was concerned in the formed for the design of a perfect history. success of it.

He declares it to be « the first and But his letters are not more valuable on “ fundamental law of history, that it any account, than for their being the only “ should neither dare to say any thing that monuments of that sort, which remain to was false, or fear to say any thing that us from free Rome. They breathe the last was true, nor give any just suspicion eiwords of expiring liberty; a great part of

“ther of favour or disaffection; that in the them baving been written in the very “ relation of things, the writer should obcrisis of its ruin, to rouse up all the virtue serve the order of time, and add also that was left in the honest and the brave, “ the description of places: that in all to the defence of their country. The ad- great and memorable transactions, he vantage which they derive from this cir- “should first explain the counsels, then cumstance, will easily be observed by “the acts, lastly the events; that in councomparing them with the epistles of the “sels he should interpose his own judge best and greatest, who flourished after- “ment on the merit of them; in the acts, wards in Imperial Rome. Pliny's letters “should relate not only what was done, are justly admired by men of taste: they

“ but how it was done; in the events, shew the scholar, the wit, the fine gentle- “ should shew what share chance, or rashman; yet we cannot but observe a poverty ness, or prudence had in them; that in and barrenness through the whole, that regard to persons, he should describe betrays the awe of a master. All his stories “not only their particular actions, but the and reflections terminate in private life; “ lives and characters of all those who there is nothing important in politics; no “ bear an eminent part in the story; that great affairs explained; no account of the “ he should illustrate the whole in a clear, motives of public counsels; he had borne “easy, natural style, flowing with a perall the same offices with Cicero, whom in “petual smoothness and equability, free all points he affected to emulate ; yet his “ from the affectation of points and senhonours were in effect nominal, conferred tences, or the roughness of judicial by a superior power, and administered by “pleadings." a superior will; and with the old titles of Poetry was the amusement only, and consul and proconsul, we want still the relief of his other studies; eloquence statesman, the politician, and the magi- was his distinguished talent, his sovereign strate. In his provincial command, where attribute : to this he devoted all the faculCicero governed all things with supreme ties of his soul, and attained to a degree authority, and bad kings attendant on his of perfection in it, that no mortal ever

patrons of

[ocr errors]

surpassed ; so that, as a polite historian fastidious correctness, pointed sentences, observes, Rome bad but few orators be- short and concise periods, without a sylfore him, whom it could praise ; none lable to spare in them, as if the perfection whom it could admire. Demosthenes was of oratory consisted in a frugality of words, the pattern by which he formed himself; and in crowding our sentiments into the whom he emulated with such success, as nurrowest compass. The chief to merit what St. Jerome calls that beauti- this taste were M. Brutus, Licinius, Calful eloge: Demosthenes has snatched vus, Asinius, Pollio, and Sallust, whom from thee the glory of being the first; thou Seneca seems to treat as the author of the from Demosthenes, that of being the only obscure, abrupt, and sententious style. orator. The genius, the capacity, the style Cicero often ridicules these pretenders to and manner of them both, were much the attic elegance as judging of eloquence not same; their eloquence of that great, sub- by the force of the art, but their own lime, and comprehensive kind which dig- weakness; and resolving to decry what nified every subject, and gave it all the' they could not attain, and to admire noforce and beauty of which it was capable; thing but what they could imitate; and it was that roundness of speaking, as the though their way of speaking, he says, ancients call it, where there was nothing might please the ear of a critic or a scholar, either redundant or deficient; nothing ei. yet it was not of that sublime and sonorous ther to be added or retrenched : their per. kind, whose end was not only to instruct, fections were in all points so transcendant, but to move an audience; an eloquence, and yet so similar, that the critics are not born for the multitude; whose merit agreed on which side to give the pre- was always shewn by its effects of excitference. Quinctilian indeed, the most ju- ing admiration, and extorting shouts of apdicious of them, has given it on the whole plause; and on which there never was to Cicero; but if, as others have thought, any difference of judgment between the Cicero had not all the nerve, the energy, learned and the populace. or, as he himself calls it, the thunder of This was the genuine eloquence that Demosthenes, he excelled him in the co- prevailed in Rome as long as Cicero lived; piousness and elegance of his diction, the his were the only speeches that were revariety of his sentiments, and, above all, lished or admired by the city; while those in the vivacity of his wit, and smartness attic orators, as they called themselves, of his raillery. Demosthenes had nothing were generally despised, and frequently jocose or facetious in him; yet, by at- deserted by the audience, in the midst of tempting sometimes to jest, shewed, that their harangues. But after Cicero's death, the thing itself did not displease, but and the ruin of the republic, the Roman did not belong to him; for, as Longi- oratory sunk of course with its liberty, and nus says, wherever he affected to be plea- a false

species universally prevailed; when sant, he made himself ridiculous; and if instead of that elate, copious, and flowing he happened to raise a laugh, it was chief- eloquence, which launched out freely into ly upon himself. Whereas Cicero, from a every subject, there succeeded a guarded, perpetual fund of wit and ridicule, had dry, sententious kind, full of laboured ihe power always to please, when he turns and studied points; and proper only found himself unable to convince, and for the occasion on which it was employcould put his judges into good bumour, ed, the making panegyrics and servile when he had cause to be afraid of their compliments to their tyrants. This change severity; so that, by the opportunity of of style may be observed in all their wria well-timed joke, he is said to have pre- ters, from Cicero's time to the younger served many of his clients from manifest Pliny; who carried it to its utmost perfecruin.

tion, in his celebrated panegyric on the Yet in all this height and fame of his emperor Trajan ; which, as it is justly adeloquence, there was another set of orators mired for the elegance of diction, the at the same time in Rome, men of parts beauty of sentiments, and the delicacy of and learning, and of the first quality ; who its compliments, so it is become in a manwhile they acknowledged the superiority ner the standard of fine speaking to moof his genius, yet censured his diction, as dern times, wbere it is common to hear the not truly attic or classical ; some calling pretenders to criticism, descanting on the it loose and languid, others tumid and exu- tedious length and spiritless exuberance be rant. These men affected a minute and of the Ciceronian periods. But the superiority of Cicero's eloquence, as it was ac- daunted intrepidity to maintain it, abiliknowledged by the politest age of free ties both natural and acquired to defend Rome, so it has received the most authen- it, and unwearied industry to propagate tic confirmation that the nature of things it, are virtues which shine so conspicuously can admit, from the concurrent sense of in every part of his behaviour, that even nations; which, neglecting the productions bis enemies must allow him to have posof his rivals and contemporaries, have sessed them in an eminent degree. To preserved to us his inestimable remains, these may be added, with equal justice, as a specimen of the most perfect manner such purity, and even austerity of manners, of speaking, to which the language of as became one who assumed the character mortals can be exalted : so that, as Quince of a reformer; such sanctity of life as suited tilian declared of him even in that early the doctrine which he delivered; and such age, he has acquired such fame with pose persectdisinterestedness as affords no slight terity, that Cicero is not reckoned so presumption of his sincerity. Superior to much the name of a man, as of eloquence all sellish considerations, a stranger to the itself.

elegancies of life, and despising its plea

sures, he left the honours and emoluments $ 49. The Character of Martin LUTHER. of the church to his disciples; remaining

While appearances of danger daily in- satisfied himself in his original state of creased, and the tempest, which had been professor in the university, and pastor to so long a-gathering, was ready to break the town of Wittemberg, with the modeforth in all its violence against the pro- rate appointments annexed to these offices. testant church, Luther was saved, by a His extraordinary qualities were alloyed seasonable death, from feeling or beholding with no inconsiderable mixture of human its destructive rage. Having gone, though frailty, and human passions. These, howin a declining state of health, and during ever, were of such a nature, that they cana rigorous season, to his native city of Eisle. not be imputed to malevolence or corrupben, in order to compose, by his authority, tion of heart, but seem to have taken their a dissension among the counts of Mans rise from the same source with many of his field, he was seized with a violent inflam- virtues. His mind, forcible and vehement mation in his stomach, which in a few in all its operations, roused by great obdays put an end to his life, in the sixty. jects, or agitated by violent passions, broke third of his age.---As he was raised out, on many occasions, with an impetuup by providence to be the author of one osity which astonishes men of feebler spiof the greatest and most interesting revo- rits, or such as are placed in a more tranlutions recorded in history, there is not quil situation. By carrying some praiseany person, perhaps, whose character has worthy dispositions to excess, he bordered been drawn with such opposite colours. sometimes on what was culpable, and was In his own age, one party, struck with often betrayed into actions which exposed horror, and inflamed with rage, when they him to censure. His confidence that bis saw with what a daring hand he over- own opinions were well founded, apturned every thing which they held to be proached to arrogance; his courage in sacred, or valued as beneficial, imputed to asserting them, to rashness; his firmness him not only all the defects and vices of in adhering to them, to obstinacy; and his a man, but the qualities of a dæmon. The zeal in confuling his adversaries, to rage other, warmed with adıniration and grati- and scurrility. Accustomed himself to contude, which they thought he merited, as sider every thing as subordinate to truth, the restorer of light and liberty to the he expected the same deference for it from Christian church, ascribed to him perfec- other men; and, without making any altions above the condition of humanity, and lowances for their timidity or prejudices, viewed all his actions with a veneration he poured forth, against those who disapbordering on that which should be paid pointed him in this particular, a torrent only to those who are guided by the imme- of invective mingled with contempt. Rediate inspiration of Heaven. It is his own gardless of any distinction of rank or chaconduct, not the undistinguishing censure, racter, when his doctrines were attacked, nor the exaggerated praise of his contem- he chastised all his adversaries, indiscrimiporaries, which ought to regulate the opi- nately, with the same rough hand; neither nions of the present age concerning hiin.

the royal dig

of Henry VIII. nor the Zeal for what he regarded as truth, un- eminent learning and ability of Erasmus,

year

the age.

a

screened them from the same abuse with self-applause. He must have been inwhich he treated Tetzel or Eccius. deed more than man, if, upon contem

But these indecencies of which Luther plating all that he actually accomplished, was guilty, must not be imputed wholly he had never felt any sentiment of this to the violence of his temper. They ought kind rising in his breast. to be charged in part on the manners of Some time before his death he felt his

Among a rude people, unac. strength declining, his constitution being quainted with those maxims, which, by worn out by a prodigious multiplicity of putting continual restraint on the passions business, added to the labour of dischargof individuals, hiave polished society, and ing his ministerial function with unremitrendered it agreeable, disputes of every ting diligence, to the fatigue of constant kind were managed with heat, and strong study, besides the composition of works emotions were uttered in their natural lan- as voluminous as if he had enjoyed unguage, without reserve or delicacy. At interrupted leisure and retirement. His the same time, the works of learned men natural intrepidity did not forsake him at were all composed in Latin; and they were the approach of death : his last conversanot only authorized, by the example of tion with his friends was concerning the eminent writers in that language, to use happiness reserved for good men in a futheir antagonists with the most illiberal ture world, of which he spoke with the scurrility; but, in a dead tongue, indecen- fervour and delight natural to one who cies of every kind appear less shocking expected and wished to enter soon upon than in a living language, whose idioms the enjoyment of it. The account of and phrases seem gross, because they are his death filled the Roman Catholic party familiar.

with excessive as well as indecent joy, In passing judgment upon the characters and damped the spirits of all his followof men, we ought to try them by the prin- ers; neither party sufficiently considering ciples and maxims of iheir own age, not that his doctrines were now so firmly by those of another. For although virtue rooted, as to be in a condition to flourish, and vice are at all times the same, man- independent of the hand which first had ners and customs vary continually. Some planted them. His funeral was celeparts of Luther's behaviour, which to us brated, by order of the Elector of Saxappear most culpable, gave no disgust to ony, with extraordinary pomp. He left his contemporaries. It was even by some several children by his wife, Catharine of those qualities which we are now apt to Bore, who survived him: towards the blame, that he was fitted for accomplish- end of the last century, there were in ing the great work which he undertook. Saxony some of his descendants in de

Torouse mankind, when sunkin ignorance cent and honourable stations. or superstition, and to encounter the rage

Robertson. of bigotry, armed with power, required the utmost vehemence of zeal, and a tem

$ 50. Character of Alfred King of per daring to excess. A gentle call would

England. neither have reached, nor have excited The merit of this prince, both in prithose to whom it was addressed. A spi- vate and public life, may with advantage rit more amiable, but less vigorous than be set in opposition to that of any moLuther's, would have shrunk back from narch or citizen which the annals of any the dangers which he braved and sur- age or any nation can present to us. He mounted. Towards the close of Luther's seems indeed to be the complete model of life, though without a perceptible declen- that perfect character, which, under the sion of his zeal or abilities, the infirmi- denomination of a sage or wise man, the ties of his temper increased upon him, so philosophers have been fond of delithat he daily grew more peevish, more neating, rather as a fiction of their inairascible, and inore impatient of contra- gination, than in hopes of ever seeing it diction. Having lived to be witness of reduced to practice : so happily were all his own amazing success; to see a great his virtues tempered together, so justly part of Europe embrace his doctrines ; were they blended, and so powerfully and to shake the foundation of the Papal did each prevent the other from exceeding throne, before which the mightiest mo

bounds. He knew how to con. narcbs had trembled, he discovered, on ciliate the most enterprising spirit with some occasions, symptoms of vanity and the coolest moderation; the most obsti

its proper

nate perseverance with the easiest flexi

property as well as criminal indictinents; bility; the most severe justice with the but no regulation redounded more to his greatest lenity; the greatest rigour in honour and the advantage of his kinge command with the greatest affability of dom, than the measures he took to predeportment; the highest capacity and vent rapine, murder, and other outrages, inclination for science, with the most which had so long been committed with shining talents for action. His civil and impunity.

His civil and impunity. His attention stooped even his military virtues are almost equally the to the meanest circumstances of his peoobjects of our admiration, excepting only, ple's conveniency. He introduced the that the former being more rare among art of brick-making, and built his own princes, as well as more useful, seem houses of those materials, which being chiefly to challenge our applause. Na- inuch more durable and secure from acture also, as if desirous that so bright a cidents than timber, his example was folproduction of her skill should be set in lowed by his subjects in general. He the fairest light, had bestowed on him all was, doubtless, an object of most perfect bodily accomplishments, vigour of limbs, esteem and admiration ; for, exclusive dignity of shape and air, and a pleasant, of the qualities which distinguished him engaging, and open countenance. For as a warrior and legislator, his personal tune alone, by throwing him into that character was amiable in every respect. barbarous age, deprived him of histo- Died 897, aged 52.

Smollelt. rians worthy to transmit his fame to pos

§ 52. Character of William the Conterity; and we wish to see him delineated in more lively colours, and with

queror. more particular strokes, that we may at Few princes have been more fortunate least perceive some of those small specks than this great monarch, or were better and blemishes, from which, as a man, it is entitled to prosperity and grandeur, for impossible he could be entirely exempted. the abilities and vigour of mind which he

Hume. displayed in all his conduct. His spirit

was bold and enterprising, yet guided by 9 51. Another Character of ALFRED.

prudence. His ambition, which was exAlfred, that he might be the better able orbitant, and lay little under the reto extend his charity and munificence, re. straints of justice, and still less under gulated his finances with the most perfect those of humanity, ever submitted 10 the economy, and divided his revenues into

dictates of reason and sound policy. a certain number of parts, which he ap- Born in an age when the miods of mer propriated to the different expences of the were intractable and unacquainted with state, and the exercise of his own private submission, he was yet able to direct liberality and devotion; nor was he a less them to his purposes ; and, partly from economist in the distribution of his time, the ascendant of his vehement disposiwhich he divided into three equal por- tion, partly from art and dissimulation, tions, allotting one to sleep, meals, and to establish

an unlimited monarchy. exercise; and devoting the other two to Though not insensible to generosity, he writing, reading, business, and prayer. was hardened against compassion, and

, That this division might not be en- seemed equally ostentatious and ambitious croached upon inadvertently, he mea

of eclat in his clemency and his severity. sured them by tapers of an equal size,

The maxims of his administration were which he kept continually burning be- severe; but inight have been useful, had fore the shrines of relics. `Alfred seemed they been solely employed in preserving to be a genius self-taught, which con

order in an established government; they trived and comprehended every thing that were ill calculated for softening the ricould contribute to the security of his gours, which under the most gentle makingdom. He was author of that ines- nagement are inseparable from conquest. timable privilege peculiar to the subjects His attempt against England was the last of this nation, which consists in their enterprise of this kind, which, during the

, being tried by their peers; for he first course of seven hundred years, has fully instituted juries, or at least improved succeeded in Europe ; and the greatness upon an old institution, by specifying the of liis genius broke through those limits, number and qualifications of jurymen, which first the feudal institutions, then and extending their power to trials of the refined policy of princes, have fixed

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »