are great imperfections. Morally speaking, the science of cheating is neither good nor bad; but physically speaking, it is a very good quality, an advantage, a perfection. The simplicity of a man who can neither cheat others, nor avoid being cheated, is, physically speaking, an imperfection, and a bad quality. If the art of cheating be reduced into practice, it becomes, morally speaking, a very ill thing, and a crime fit to be punished; but when some robbers are broken upon the wheel, whose industry and other natural qualities had attained to the highest degree of perfection in their kind, we admire for all that, the physical good that was in them; and we abhor only the ill use they made of it. We may therefore say in general that the art of growing rich, either in the finances or by trading is a good thing, and a natural advantage, which deserves to be esteemed, when separated from the ill use men may make of it. The same ought to be said of a man's industry, who grows rich by the productions of his pen, and by the art of dealing in epistles dedicatory and books which he sends up and down. It cannot be denied that such a man has a sort of wit, and a kind of sagacity and discerning, which is a natural perfection, that may be admired in some respects, though it ought to be despised and condemned, by reason of its abuses and its ill consequences. Equitable men do not equally censure that sort of authors; they do not pour all the satirical strokes, which Furetiere collected in his “Somme Dedicatoire," upon those who, having a great family and no estate or pension upon the public, cannot maintain themselves any

other way

than with the help of their pen. This serves to excuse the multitude of their dedications, and it is not so much a wonder that their works should be divided into cated to so many different persons, and that the second editions should be dedicated to a new Mæcenas, as it is that they should be able to maintain honourably

many tomes, dedi* Pelisson, ours sur les Euvres de M m. 39 et 40.

their wives and children with their pen, and that the subsistence of a large family should depend altogether upon it. A very ingenious man has laid down a rule in vindication of those who apply themselves to trifling things, which reaches the authors whom I am speaking of. These are his words : “ besides, it is well known that we have sometimes very solid reasons to apply ourselves to some works that do not appear to be solid, and that a private and unknown duty prevails often without any injustice upon a public and notorious one. That man whom you blame, has perhaps good reason to believe that, in order to recover his health which is very much impaired, to secure himself from poverty, to maintain his family, whose only support he is, it is better for him to compose songs, than moral and political treatises. If it be so, I make bold to say that he is obliged to write songs out of a moral and political principle, and it is a great piece of injustice to blame the occupations of other men, without knowing their motives and circumstances."*

Rangouze was endowed with his good quality. Costar supplies me with the proof of it. “ I am far from intending to make a comparison with the Sieur de Rangouze, whose eloquence has procured him fifteen or sixteen hundred pistoles within these eight months, and who may be styled the Cherilus of oar age in prose.—Cherilus incultis qui versibus et male natis Retulit acceptos regale numisma Philippos. According to the Gospel - a tree is good that bears so good fruit.' The tree of the garden of the Hesperides, so much talked of by the poets, was not so valuable, since, according to a Greek scholiast of great authority, 'it bore golden apples only in its season, and not all the year.' Here is another witness, to wit, Madame de Scuderi. She speaks of an author," who had three dedicatory epistles ready made for the same book, for three persons very different in quality and merit; being resolved to use that which would turn to the best account, and employing a third person to manage the business, and accordingly, he dedicated the book to him who paid most for it, though he was a man of less merit than the other two." She says afterwards,“

arrazin, pag.

" than an author who is dead, having prepared an epistle, which might be looked upon as a great panegyric, suppressed it, when he heard that the person, to whom he intended to dedicate his book, was out of favour.” She adds, " that a man of Dauphiné having made a panegyric upon cardinal Richelieu, and finding him dead at his arrival, turned it into a panegyric upon the

queenmother, Anne of Austria. I have also been informed, that an author who had very much, and very justly praised a man that was alive, deprived him of all the praises he had bestowed upon him, though that man had done nothing that deserved it, except that he died without being able to reward the author according to his expectation. All these instances are very singular. But I have been told a pleasant story ofone Rangouze, who made a collection of letters, and caused them to be printed, without numbering the pages. So that the bookbinder placed at the beginning of the book such a letter as the author thought fit, and by that means, all those whom he presented with his book, finding their names at the beginning of it, thought themselves the more obliged to him for it. This seems to be a very neat contrivance, and that man was as fond of dedicating books as an eminent physician of Italy, who, having written upon the aphorisms of Hippocrates, dedicated each book of his Commentaries to one of his friends, and the Index to another.” Now let us see what Sorel says: Rangouze's letters may very well be called golden letters, since he hoasted to write none for less than twenty or thirty pistoles ; for he seldom made any but for persons of the highest quality, and who were able to pay well for them. They were all a kind of short encomium upon those to whom they were directed, containing an account of their best qualities and most remarkable actions, and several compliments for those who afforded him but little matter to enlarge upon. We have seen some ingenious people wonder how that man, who was no scholar, had been able to write so many different letters upon praises that were almost alike. I scruple not to take notice of him, because his books may serve to inform those who are ignorant of the characters and fortunes of the great men of the kingdom."*-Art. RANGOUZE.

QUIETISM. The Indian Bramins have very odd opinions about non-entity, and their morality has a great affinity with the visions of our Quietists. They assert that the world is but an illusion, a dream, a deceit, and that bodies, to exist truly, must cease to be in themselves, and be confounded with nothingness, which by its simplicity makes the perfection of all beings.” Their morality is yet more overstrained than that of our Stoics ; for they carry the apathia, or indifferency, to which they refer all holiness, so far, that a man must become a stone or a statue to acquire the perfection of it. They do not only teach that a wise man ought to have no passions, but also that he ought not to have any desire. So that he ought continually to apply himself to desire nothing, to think on nothing, to feel nothing, and to remove all thoughts of virtue and sanctity so far from his mind, that there remains nothing in him contrary to the perfect quiet of the soul. "It is," say they, “ that profound drowsiness of the mind, that quiet of all the powers, that continual suspension of the senses, which makes the happiness of man: in that state he is no more subject to change; there is no more any transmigration for him, any vicissitude, any fear of things to come; because, properly speaking, he is nothing, or, if he be any thing, he is wise, perfect, happy; in a word, he is God, and perfectly like the god Fo, which certainly comes somewhat near to folly. It is against this ridiculous doctrine that the Chinese philosophers display all the strength of their eloquence. They look upon a perfect indifferency as a monster in morality, and as the overturning of the civil society."*

* Sorel, Bibl. Franc. pag. m. 110

I omit the solid and short refutation that follows in father Gobien; but I desire you to observe that this monster of indifferency is the darling doctrine of the quietists, and that, according to them, one's true felicity consists in nothingness. " Then in the threefold silence of words, thoughts, and desires, finding ourselves in a spiritual sleep, in a mystical drunkenness, or rather in a mystical death, all the suspended powers are recalled from the circumferences to the center. God, who is that center, makes the soul feel him by divine touches, by a taste, by illapses, by unspeakable suavities. Its affections being thus moved, it lets them rest quietly and finds a delicious repose which sets it above all delights and extasies, above the finest manifestations, and divine notions and speculations; we cannot tell what we feel, nor what we are.”+ Do not imagine that M. La Bruyere has made any amplification : you will see his book supported with proofs. You will find this

of Molino's in it. “ It is then that the Divine Spouse, suspending its faculties, lulls it in a sweet and calm sleep; it is in that drowsiness that it enjoys with an inconceivable calm, without knowing wherein its en


* Father Charles Le Gobien, in his Preface to the Histoire de l'Edit. de l'Emp. de la Chine.

+ La Bruyere Dialogue 2, sur le Quietisme, pag. 33, et seq.

[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »