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to inferior minds, and attend to the lessons of good sense and of Boileau.
The following is a singular instance of style, in a speech delivered at Versailles in 1745:Speech addressed to the King (Louis XV.) by M. Le
Camus, First President of the Court of Aids. “Sire,—The conquests of your majesty are so rapid, that it will be necessary to consult the power of belief on the part of posterity, and to soften their surprise at so many miracles, for fear that heroes should hold themselves dispensed from imitation, and people in general from believing them.
“But no, sire, it will be impossible for them to doubt it, when they shall read in history that your majesty has been at the head of your troops, recording them yourself in the field of Mars upon a drum. This is to engrave them eternally in the temple of Memory.
“ Ages the most distant will learn, that the English, that bold and audacious foe, that enemy so jealous of your glory, have been obliged to turn away from your victory; that their allies have been witnesses of their shame, and that all of them have hastened to the combat only to immortalise the glory of the conqueror.
“We venture to say to your majesty, relying ont he love that you bear to your people, that there is but one way of augmenting our happiness, which is to diminish your courage; as heaven would lavish its prodigies at too costly a rate, if they increased your dangers, or those of the young heroes who constitute our dearest hopes.
SOME years ago, an Englishman named Bacon Morris, a half-pay officer and a man of much intel
* Like all purely national absurdity, this singular instance of Gallic flourish has been translated with some difficulty. As addressed to that model of courage, heroism, and loftiness, Louis XV. it is extremely amusing.-T.
lect, came to see me at Paris. He was afflicted with a cruel malady, the cure of which he could scarcely hope for. After a certain number of visits, he one day came to me with a purse and a couple of papers in his hand. “ One of these papers,” says he to me,
my will, the other my epitaph; and this bag of money is intended to defray the expenses of my funeral ; I am resolved to try for fifteen days what can be effected by the regimen and the remedies prescribed, in order to render life less insupportable, and if I succeed not, I am determined to kill myself. You will bury me in what manner you please; my epitaph is short.” He made me read it; and it consisted only of the following two words from Petronius :--Valete, curæ.' Farewell care.
Fortunately for him, and myself who loved him, he was cured, and did not kill himself. If such had not been the case, he would certainly have done what he had proposed to do. I was informed, that before his arrival in France he had passed through Rome, at a time when it was feared, certainly without cause, that some attempt would be made by the English on an unfortunate prince.+ My friend Bacon was suspected of a visit to Rome with this intention. He had been there fifteen days, when the governor sent to inform him, that he must quit Rome in twenty-four hours. “ Oh," returned the Englishman, “I will depart instantly; for the air does not agree with a free man; but why send me away?"_“You are expected to take great care how you return again,” said the governor,
as it is feared that you will attempt the life of the pretender.”—“ We may combat, vanquish, and depose princes," rejoined the Englishman; " but we are not in general assassins. Now, Mr. Governor, how long do
you think I have been at Rome?”—“Fifteen days, returned the governor.
“ For fifteen days therefore I have had it in my power to kill the person to whom you allude, if I had come for that purpose; and be hold! I am ordered away. Had I been so inclined I would first have decorated an altar to Mutius Scævola; have struck the pretender the first blow between you and the pope, and have killed myself with the second; but we only kill men in battle; so, Mr. Governor, farewell.” So saying, he returned home, and quitted Rome.
* This anecdote is told in the article Cato, but with fewer particulars.-French Ed.
it The pretender.
At Rome, which however is the country of Mutius Scævola, his action would pass for a barbarous piece of ferocity; at Paris, for madness; and at London, for greatness of soul.
I shall make very few reflections in this place upon suicide; nor will I examine whether the late Mr. Creech was right, when he wrote in the margin of his Lucretius—« Nota Bene. When I have finished my translation of Lucretius, I must kill myself;" or whether he did right to fulfil this resolution. I will not dive into the motives of my ancient prefect father Bienasses, a jesuit, who bid us good night one evening, and the next morning, after saying mass and sealing some letters, threw himself down from the window of a third story. Everybody has some motives for his conduct.
All I will venture to assert with confideuce is, that there is no reason to apprehend that suicide will become an epidemic malady. Nature has provided too well for that. Hope and fear are too powerful as inducements, not to frequently stop the hands of a wretch about to terminate his own life.
Some persons have asserted the existence of a country in which a council was established, with the authority to allow citizens to kill themselves, when they could give sensible reasons for so doing. I reply, that either there has never been such a country, or that the magistrates of it had very little to do.
Why therefore did Cato, Brutus, Anthony, Otho, and so many others, kill themselves so resolutely, while our party leaders either allow themselves to be hanged, or languish out their miserable lives in a prison? Certain wits have observed, that these ancients did not possess genuine courage; that Cato killed him
self like a poltroon, and that he would have discovered more greatness of soul by cringing to Cæsar: an observation which may just pass in an ode, or as a figure of rhetoric. He is certainly not destitute of courage who can tranquilly prepare fora voluntary bloody death; some force must be necessary to master the most powerful instinct of nature; and such an action, at all events, rather implies ferocity than weakness. When a patient is in a frenzy, we must not say that he is not strong, but that his strength is that of a madman.
The pagan religion forbade suicide as well as the christian; it even appropriated particular places in Tartarus to self-destroyers.*
I have sometimes heard you say,-We are no longer superstitious; the reformation of the sixteenth century has made us more prudent; the Protestants have taught us better manners.
But what then is the blood of a St. Januarius, which you liquify every year by bringing it near his head? Would it not be better to make ten thousand beggars earn their bread, by employing them in useful tasks, than to boil the blood of a saint for their amusement? Think rather how to make their pots boil.
Why do you still, in Rome, bless the horses and mules at St. Mary's the Greater?
What mean those bands of flagellators in Italy and Spain, who go about singing and giving themselves the lash in the presence of ladies? Do they think there is no road to heaven but by flogging?
Are those pieces of the true cross, which would suffice to build a hundred-gun ship-are the many relics acknowledged to be false--are the many false miracles -so many monuments of an enlightened piety?
France boasts of being less superstitious than thre
* See, in the article Cato, certain laws against suicide,
neighbours of St. James of Compostello, or those of our Lady of Loretto. Yet how many sacristies are there where you still find pieces of the Virgin's gown, phials of her milk, and locks of her hair! And have you not still, in the church of Puy-en-Velay, her son's foreskin preciously preserved?
You all know the abominable farce that has been played, ever since the early part of the fourteenth century, in the chapel of St. Louis, in the Palais at Paris, every Maundy Thursday night. All the possessed in the kingdom then meet in this church. The convulsions at St. Médard fall far short of the horrible grimaces, the dreadful howlings, the violent contortions, made by these wretched people. A piece of the true cross is given them to kiss, enchased in three feet of gold, and adorned with precious stones. Then the cries and contortions are redoubled. The devil is then appeased by giving the demoniacs a few sous; but the better to restrain them, , fifty archers of the watch are placed in the church with fixed bayonets.
The same execrable farce is played at St. Maur. I could cite twenty such instances. Blush, and correct yourselves.
There are wise men who assert, that we should leave the people their superstitions, as we leave them their raree-shows, &c.
That the people have at all times been fond of prodigies, fortune-tellers, pilgrimages, and quack-doctors; that in the most remote antiquity they celebrated Bacchus delivered from the waves, wearing horns, making a fountain of wine issue from a rock by a stroke of his wand, passing the Red Sea on dry ground with all his people, stopping the sun and moon,
* Whoever, like the writer of this note, has witnessed a Methodist revival and similar fanatical operations on excess of what M. Voltaire elsewhere calls passive imagination, will be satisfied that Great Britain is not entirely free from similar disgraceful exhibitions. At the very moment of writing this, a remnant of the followers of Johanna Southcote have adopted circumcision, and murdered a child in the operation. Authority has nothing to do with these vagaries, to be sure ; which is an essential and creditable distinction.-T.