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rible crimes ; but the pleasure of complaining of and exaggerating them is so great, that at the least scratch we say that the earth flows with blood. Have you been deceived ?-all men are perjured. A melancholy mind which has suffered injustice, sees the earth covered with damned people: as a young rake, supping with his lady, on coming from the opera, imagines that there are no unfortunates.
Some very subtle Greeks formerly consulted pope Honorius I, to know whether Jesus, when he was in the world, had one will or two, when he would sleep or watch, eat or repair to the water-closet, walk or sit ?
What signifies it to you? answered the very wise bishop of Rome, Honorius. He has certainly at present the will for you to be well-disposed people,-that should satisfy you; he has no will for you to be babbling sophists, to fight continually for the bishop's mitre and the ass's shadow. I advise you to live in peace, and not to lose in useless disputes the time which you might employ in good works.
Holy father, you have said well; this is the most important affair in the world. We have already set Europe, Asia, and Africa on fire, to know whether Jesus had two persons and one nature, or one nature and two persons, or rather two persons and two natures, or rather one person and one nature.
My dear brethren, you have acted wrongly; we should give broth to the sick and bread to the poor.
It is doubtless right to help the poor !—But is not the patriarch Sergius about to decide in a council at Constantinople, that Jesus had two natures and one will ? And the emperor, who knows nothing about it, is of this opinion.
Well, be it so;—but above all defend yourself from the Mahometany, who box your ears every day, and who have a very bad will towards you.
It is well said !—But behold the bishops of Tunis, Tripoli, Algiers, and Morocco, all declare firmly for
the two wills. We must have an opinion; what is
My opinion is, that you are madmen, who will lose the christian religion which we have established with so much trouble. You will do so much mischief with your folly, that Tunis, Tripoli, Algiers, and Morocco, of which you speak to me, will become mahometan, and there will not be a christian chapel in Africa. Meantime, I am for the emperor and the council, until you have another council and another emperor.
This does not satisfy us. Do you believe in two wills or one ?
Listen : if these two wills are alike, it is as if there was but one; if they are contrary, he who has two wills at once, will do two contrary things at once, which is absurd: consequently I am for a single will.
Ah, holy father, you are a monothelite! Heresy ! the devil! Excommunicate him; depose him! A council, quick! another council; another emperor ; another bishop of Rome; another patriarch !
My God! how mad these poor Greeks are with all their yain and interminable disputes. My successor will do well to dream of being powerful and rich.
Scarcely had Honorius uttered these words, when he learned that the emperor Heraclius was dead, after having been beaten by the Mahometans. His widow Martina poisoned her son-in-law; the senate caused Martina's tongue to be cut out, and the nose of another son of the emperor to be slit : all the Greek empire flowed in blood.
Would it not be better not to have disputed on the two wills ? And this pope Honorius, against whom the jansenists have written so much,—was he not a very sensible man?
WIT, SPIRIT, INTELLECT.* A man who had some knowledge of the human heart was consulted upon a tragedy which was to be represented; and he answered, there was so much wit in the
piece, that he doubted of its success.
will exclaim, is that a fault, at a time when every one is in search of wit-when each one writes but to show that he has it—when the public even applaud the falsest thoughts, if they are brilliant?-Yes, doubtless, they will applaud the first day, and be wearied the second.
What is called wit, is sometimes a new comparison, sometimes a subtle allusion; here, it is the abuse of a word, which is presented in one sense and left to be understood in another; there, a delicate relation be tween two ideas not very common. It is a singular. metaphor; it is the discovery of something in an object which does not at first strike the observation, but which is really in it; it is the art either of bringing together two things apparently remote, or of dividing two things which seem to be united, or of opposing them to each other. It is that of expressing only one half of what you think, and leaving the other to be guessed. In short, I would tell you of all the different ways of showing wit, if I had more; but all these
* The celebrated exposition of Dr. Barrow, in his sermon against foolish and idle talking and jesting, is possibly the most able and comprehensive that ever was elaborated :
“ It is indeed a thing so versatile and multiform, appearing in 80 many shapes, so many postures, so many garbs, so variously apprehended by several eyes and judgments, that it seemeth no less hard to settle a clear and certain notion thereof than to make a portrait of Proteus, or to define the figure of the fleeting air, Sometimes it lieth in pat allusions to a known story, or in seasonable application of a trivial saying, or in feigning an apposite tale sometimes it playeth in words and phrases, taking advantage from the ambiguity of their sense or the affinity of their sound; sometimes it is wrapped in a dress of humorous expression ; sometimes it lurketh under an odd similitude; sometimes it is lodged in a sly question, in a smart answer, in a quirkish reason, in a shrewd intimation, in cunningly diverting or cleverly retorting an objection: sometimes it is couched in a bold scheme of speech, in a tart irony, in a lusty hyperbole, in a startling metaphor, in a plausible reconciling of contradictions, or in acute nonsense: sometimes a scenical representation of persons or things, a counterfeit speech, a mimical" look or gesture passeth for it. Sometimes an affected simplicity, sometimes a presumptuous bluntness giveth it being. Sometimes it riseth only from a lucky hitting upon what is strange ; sometimes from a crafty wresting obvious matter to the purpose. Often it consisteth in one knows not what, and
gems (and I do not here include the counterfeits) are very rarely suited to a serious work,—to one which is to interest the reader. The reason is, that then the author appears, and the public desire to see only the hero; for the hero is constantly either in passion or in danger. Danger and the passions do not go in search of wit. Priam and Hecuba do not compose epigrams while their children are butchered in flaming Troy ; Dido does not sigh out her soul in madrigals, while rushing to the pile on which she is about to immolate herself; Demosthenes makes no display of pretty thoughts, while he is inciting the Athenians to war. If he had, he would be a rhetorician; whereas he is a statesman.
The art of the admirable Racine is far above what is called wit; but if Pyrrhus had always expressed himself in this style—
Vaincu, chargé de fers, de regrets consumé,
Alas ! my cruelty ne'er equalled yours ! -if Orestes had been continually saying that “the Scythians are less cruel than Herniione,” —these two personages would excite no emotion at all; it would be perceived that true passion rarely occupies itself with such comparisons; and that there is some disproportion between the real flames by which Troy was consumed and the flames of Pyrrhus's love,-between the Scythians immolating men, and Hermione not loving Orestes. Cinna says, speaking of Pompey
Le ciel choisit sa mort, pour servir dignement
Than Roman liberty. springeth up one can hardly tell how. Its ways are unaccount. able and inexplicable, being answerable to the numberless rovings of fancy and windings of language.”—T.
This thought is very brilliant; there is much wit in it, as also an air of imposing grandeur. I am sure that these lines, pronounced with all the enthusiasm and art of a great actor, will be applauded; but I am also sure that the play of Cinna, had it been written entirely in this taste, would never have been long played. Why indeed was heaven bound to do Pompey the honour of making the Romans slaves after his death? The contrary would be truer : the manes of Pompey should rather have obtained from heaven the everlasting maintenance of that liberty for which he is supposed to have fought and died.
What then would any work be which should be full of such far-fetched and questionable thoughts? How much superior to all these brilliant ideas are those simple and natural linesCinna, tu t'en souviens, et veux m'assassiner!
Cinna, act v. scene i.
Id. act v. scene iii.
Let Antiochus, in Rodogune, say of his mistress, who quits him, after disgracefully proposing to him to kill his mother
Elle fuit, mais en Parthe, en nous perçant le cour.
She flies, but, like the Parthian, flying wounds. Antiochus has wit; he makes an epigram against Rodogune; he ingeniously likens her last words in going away to the arrows which the Parthians used to discharge in their flight. But it is not because his mistress goes away, that the proposal to kill his mother is revolting : whether she goes or stays, the heart of Antiochus is equally wounded. The epigram therefore is false; and if Rodogune did not go away, this bad epigram could not be retained.
I select these examples expressly from the best authors, in order that they may be the more striking. I do not lay hold of those puns and plays upon words,