« ElőzőTovább »
acter still more atrocious, as it affected not only "What then is the fault with which this his personal but his clerical veracity. His in-worthy minister is charged? He has usurped dignation naturally rose in proportion to his no dominion over conscience. He has exerted honesty, and with all the fortitude of injured no authority in support of doubtful and controhonesty, he dared his calumniator in the church, verted opinions. He has not dragged into light and at once exonerated himself from censure, a bashful and corrigible sinner. His censure and rescued his flock from deception and from was directed against a breach of morality, against danger. The man whom he accuses pretends an act which no man justifies. The man who not to be innocent: or at least only pretends; appropriated this censure to himself, is evidentfor he declines a trial. The crime of which he ly and notoriously guilty. His consciousness of is accused has frequent opportunities and strong his own wickedness incited him to attack his temptations. It has already spread far, with faithful reprover with open insolence and printmuch depravation of private morals, and much ed accusations. Such an attack made defence injury to public happiness. To warn the people, necessary; and we hope it will be at last detherefore, against it, was not wanton and offi- cided that the means of defence were just and cious, but necessary and pastoral. lawful."
REVIEWS AND CRITICISMS.
LETTER ON DU HALDE'S HISTORY | easily to be explained, or defined; the latter has OF CHINA, 1738. its foundation in good sense and reflection, and evidently depends on the same principles with most human passions.
THERE are few nations in the world more talked of, or less known, than the Chinese. The confused and imperfect account which travellers have given of their grandeur, their sciences, and their policy, have hitherto excited admiration, but have not been sufficient to satisfy even a superficial curiosity. I therefore return you my thanks for having undertaken, at so great an expense, to convey to English readers the most copious and accurate account, yet published, of that remote and celebrated people, whose antiquity, magnificence, power, wisdom, peculiar customs, and excellent constitution, undoubtedly deserve the attention of the public.
As the satisfaction found in reading descriptions of distant countries arises from a comparison which every reader naturally makes, between the ideas which he receives from the relation, and those which were familiar to him before; or, in other words, between the countries with which he is acquainted, and that which the author displays to his imagination; so it varies according to the likeness or dissimilitude of the manners of the two nations. Any custom or law unheard and unthought of before, strikes us with that surprise which is the effect of novelty; but a practice conformable to our own pleases us, because it flatters our self-love, by showing us that our opinions are approved by the general concurrence of mankind. Of these two pleasures, the first is more violent, the other more lasting; the first seems to partake more of instinct than reason, and is not
An attentive reader will frequently feel each of these agreeable emotions in the perusal of Du Halde. He will find a calm, peaceful satisfaction, when he reads the moral precepts and wise instructions of the Chinese sages; he will find that virtue is in every place the same, and will look with new contempt on those wild reasoners, who affirm that morality is merely ideal, and that the distinctions between good and ill are wholly chimerical.
But he will enjoy all the pleasure that novelty can afford, when he becomes acquainted with the Chinese government and constitution; he will be amazed to find that there is a country where nobility and knowledge are the same, where men advance in rank as they advance in learning, and promotion is the effect of virtuous industry, where no man thinks ignorance a mark of greatness, or laziness the privilege of high birth.
His surprise will be still helghtened by the relations he will there meet with of honest ministers, who, however incredible it may seem, have been seen more than once in that monarchy, and have adventured to admonish the emperors of any deviation from the laws of their country, or any error in their conduct, that has endangered either their own safety, or the happiness of their people. He will read of emperors, who, when they have been addressed in this manner, have neither stormed, nor threatened, nor kicked their ministers, nor
thought it majestic to be obstinate in the wrong : it. The marquis very gracefully acknowledged but have, with a greatness of mind worthy of a the civility of the duke's expressions, and deChinese monarch, brought their actions willing-clared himself satisfied with his grace's conduct; ly to the test of reason, law, and morality, and scorned to exert their power in defence of that which they could not support by argument.
I must confess my wonder at these relations was very great, and had been much greater, had I not often entertained my imagination with an instance of the like conduct in a prince of England, on an occasion that happened not quite a century ago, and which I shall relate, that so remarkable an example of spirit and firmness in a subject, and of conviction and compliance in a prince, may not be forgotten. And I hope that you will look upon this letter as intended to do honour to my country, and not to serve your interest by promoting your undertaking.
but thought it inconsistent with his honour to accept the representation as a cession of the duke, or on any other terms than as his own acknowledged right. The prince ng informed of the whole conversation, and having upon inquiry found all the precedents on the marquis's side, thought it below his dignity to persist in an error, and restoring the marquis to his right upon his own conditions, continued him in his favour, believing that he might safely trust his affairs in the hands of a man, who had so nice a sense of honour, and so much spirit to assert it.
The prince, at the christening of his first son, had appointed a noble duke to stand as proxy for the father of the princess, without regard to the claim of a marquis, (heir apparent to a higher title,) to whom, as lord of the bed-chamber then in waiting, that honour properly belonged.— The marquis was wholly unacquainted with the affair, till he heard at dinner the duke's health drunk by the name of the prince he was that evening to represent. This he took an opportunity after dinner of inquiring the reason of, and was informed by the prince's treasurer of his highness's intention. The marquis immediately declared, that he thought his right invaded, and his honour injured, which he could not bear without requiring satisfaction from the usurper of his privileges; nor would he longer serve a prince who paid no regard to his lawful pretensions. The treasurer could not deny that the marquis's claim was incontestable, and by his permission acquainted the prince with his resolution. The prince thereupon sending for the marquis, demanded, with a resentful and imperious air, how he could dispute his commands, and by what authority he presumed to control him in the management of his own family, and the christening of his own son. The marquis answered that he did not encroach upon the prince's right, but only defended his own: that he thought his honour concerned, and, as he was a young man, would not enter the world with the loss of his reputation. The prince, exasperated to a very high degree, repeated his commands; but the marquis, with a spirit and firmness not to be depressed or shaken, persisted in his determination to assert his claim, and concluded with declaring that he would do himself the justice that was denied him, and that not the prince himself should trample on his characer. He was then ordered to withdraw, and the duke coming to him, assured him, that the honour was offered him unasked; that when he accepted it, he was not informed of his lordship's claim, and that now he very willingly resigned
REVIEW OF THE ACCOUNT OF THE CONDUCT OF THE DUTCHESS OF MARLBOROUGH.
FROM THE GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE, 1742.
THE universal regard which is paid by mankind to such accounts of public transactions as have been written by those who were engaged in them, may be, with great probability, ascribed to that ardent love of truth, which nature has kindled in the breast of man, and which remains even where every other laudable passion is extinguished. We cannot but read such narratives with uncommon curiosity, because we consider the writer as indubitably possessed of the ability to give us just representations, and do not always reflect, that, very often, proportionate to the opportunities of knowing the truth, are the temptations to disguise it.
Authors of this kind have at least an incontestable superiority over those whose passions are the same, and whose knowledge is less. It is evident that those who write in their own defence, discover often more impartiality, and less contempt of evidence, than the advocates which faction or interest have raised in their favour.
It is, however, to be remembered, that the parent of all Memoirs, is the ambition of being distinguished from the herd of mankind, and the fear of either infamy or oblivion, passions which cannot but have some degree of influence, and which may at least affect the writer's choice of facts, though they may not prevail upon him to advance known falsehoods. He may aggravate or extenuate particular circumstances, though he preserves the general transaction; as the general likeness may be preserved in painting, though a blemish is hid, or a beauty improved.
Every man that is solicitous about the esteem of others, is in a great degree desirous of his own, and makes by consequence his first apology
for his conduct to himself; and when he has once deceived his own heart, which is for the greatest part too easy a task, he propagates the deceit in the world without reluctance or consciousness of falsehood.
But to what purpose, it may be asked, are such reflections, except to produce a general incredulity, and to make history of no use? The man who knows not the truth cannot, and he who knows it will not, tell it; what then remains, but to distrust every relation, and live in perpetual negligence of past events; or what is still more disagreeable, in perpetual suspense?
That by such remarks some incredulity is indeed produced, cannot be denied, but distrust is a necessary qualification of a student in history. Distrust quickens his discernment of different degrees of probability, animates his search after evidence, and perhaps heightens his pleasure at the discovery of truth; for truth, though not always obvious, is generally discoverable, nor is it any where more likely to be found than in private memoirs, which are generally published at a time when any gross falsehood may be detected by living witnesses, and which always contain a thousand incidents, of which the writer could not have acquired a certain knowledge, and which he has no reason for disguising.
Such is the Account lately published by the Dutchess of Marlborough, of her own Conduct, by which those who are very little concerned about the character which it is principally intended to preserve or to retrieve, may be entertained and instructed. By the perusal of this account, the inquirer into human nature may obtain an intimate acquaintance with the characters of those whose names have crowded the latest histories, and discover the relation between their minds and their actions. The historian may trace the progress of great transactions, and discover the secret causes of important events. And, to mention one use more, the polite writer may learn an unaffected dignity of style, and an artful simplicity of narration.
The method of confirming her relation, by inserting at length the letters that every transaction occasioned, has not only set the greatest part of the work above the danger of confutation, but has added to the entertainment of the reader, who has now the satisfaction of forming to himself the characters of the actors, and judging now nearly such as have hitherto been given of them agree with those which they now give of themselves.
Even of those whose letters could not be made public, we have a more exact knowledge than can be expected from general histories, because we see them in their private apartments in their careless hours, and observe those actions in which they indulged their own inclinations, without any regard to censure or applause.
Thus it is that we are made acquainted with
the disposition of King William, of whom it may be collected from various instances that he was arbitrary, insolent, gloomy, rapacious, and brutal; that he was at all times disposed to play the tyrant; that he had neither in great things nor in small the manners of a gentleman; that he was capable of gaining money by mean artifices; and that he only regarded his promise when it was his interest to keep it.
There are doubtless great numbers who will be offended with this delineation of the mind of the immortal William, but they whose honesty or sense enables them to consider impartially the events of his reign, will now be enabled to discover the reason of the frequent oppositions which he encountered, and of the personal affronts which he was sometimes forced to endure. They will observe that it is not always sufficient to do right, and that it is often necessary to add gracefulness to virtue. They will recollect how vain it is to endeavour to gain men by great qualities, while our cursory behaviour is insolent and offensive: and that those may be disgusted by little things who can scarcely be pleased with great.
Charles the Second, by his affability and politeness, made himself the idol of the nation, which he betrayed and sold. William the Third was, for his insolence and brutality, hated by that people which he protected and enriched :had the best part of these two characters been united in one prince, the house of Bourbon had fallen before him.
It is not without pain that the reader observes a shade encroaching upon the light with which the memory of Queen Mary has been hitherto invested-the popular, the beneficent, the pious, the celestial Queen Mary, from whose presence none ever withdrew without an addition to his happiness. What can be charged upon this delight of human kind? Nothing less than that she wanted bowels, and was insolent with her power; that she was resentful, and pertinacions in her resentment; that she descended to mean acts of revenge, when heavier vengeance was not in her power; that she was desirous of controlling where she had no authority, and backward to forgive, even when she had no real in jury to complain of.
This is a character so different from all those that have been hitherto given of this cclebrated princess, that the reader stands in suspense, till he considers the inconsistencies in human conduct, remembers that no virtue is without its weakness, and considers that Queen Mary' character has hitherto had this great advantage, that it has only been compared with those of kings.
The greatest number of the letters inserted in this account were written by Queen Anne, of which it may be truly observed, that they will be equally useful for the confutation of those
who have exalted or depressed her character. | when he shall be told that Mr. Blackwell has neither digged in the ruins of any demolished city, nor found out the way to the library of Fez; nor had a single book in his hands, that has not been in the possession of every man that was inclined to read it, for years and ages; and that
They are written with great purity and correctness, without any forced expressions, affected phrases, or unnatural sentiments, and show uncommon clearness of understanding, tenderness of affection, and rectitude of intention; but discover at the same time, a temper timorous, anx-his book relates to a people who, above all others, ious, and impatient of misfortune, a tendency to have furnished employment to the studious, and burst into complaints, helpless dependance on amusements to the idle; who have scarcely left the affection of others, and a weak desire of behind them a coin or a stone, which has not moving compassion. There is indeed nothing been examined and explained a thousand times, insolent or overbearing, but then there is nothing and whose dress, and food, and household stuff, great, or firm, or regal; nothing that enforces it has been the pride of learning to understand. obedience and respect, or which does not rather invite opposition and petulance. She seems born for friendship, not for government; and to be unable to regulate the conduct of others, otherwise than by her own example.
That this character is just, appears from the occurrences in her reign, in which the nation was governed for many years by a party whose principles she detested, but whose influence she knew not how to obviate, and to whose schemes she was subservient against her inclination.
A man need not fear to incur the imputation of vicious diffidence or affected humility, who should have forborne to promise many novelties, when he perceived such multitudes of writers possessed of the same materials, and intent upon the same purpose. Mr. Blackwell knows well the opinion of Horace, concerning those that open their undertakings with magnificent promises; and he knows likewise the dictates of Common Sense and Common Honesty, names of greater authority than that of Horace, who direct that no man should promise what he cannot perform.
I do not mean to declare that this volume has nothing new, or that the labours of those who have gone before our author, have made his performance a useless addition to the burden of literature. New works may be constructed with old materials, the disposition of the parts may show contrivance, the ornaments interspersed may discover elegance.
It is not always without good effect that men of proper qualifications write in succession on the same subject, even when the latter add nothing to the information given by the former; for the same ideas may be delivered more intelligibly or more delightfully by one than by another, or with attractions that may lure minds of a different form. No writer pleases all, and every
The charge of tyrannising over her, which was made by turns against each party, proves that, in the opinion of both, she was easily to be governed; and though it may be supposed that the letters here published were selected with some regard to respect and ceremony, it appears plainly enough from them that she was what she has been represented, little more than the slave of the Marlborough family.
The inferior characters, as they are of less importance, are less accurately delineated; the picture of Harley is at least partially drawn, all the deformities are heightened, and the beauties, for beauties of mind he certainly had, are entirely omitted.
REVIEW OF MEMOIRS OF THE writer may please some.
But after all, to inherit is not to acquire; to decorate is not to make; and the man who had nothing to do but to read the ancient authors who mention the Roman affairs, and reduce
BY THOMAS BLACKWELL, J. U. D.
PRINCIPAL OF MARISCHAL COLLEGE IN THE UNI- them to common-places, ought not to boast himself as a great benefactor to the studious world.
VERSITY OF ABERDEEN.
THE first effect which this book has upon the reader, is that of disgusting him with the author's vanity. He endeavours to persuade the world, that here are some new treasures of literature spread before his eyes; that something is discovered, which to this happy day had been concealed in darkness; that by his diligence time has been robbed of some valuable monument which he was on the point of devouring; and that names and facts doomed to oblivion are now restored to fame.
After a preface of boast, and a letter of flattery, in which he seems to imitate the address of Horace in his vile patabis modicis Sabinum-he opens his book with telling us, that the "Roman republic, after the horrible proscription, was no more at bleeding Rome. The regal power of her consuls, the authority of her senate, and the majesty of her people, were now trampled under foot; these [for those] divine laws and hallowed customs, that had been the essence of her constitution-were set at nought, and her best How must the unlearned reader be surprised, friends were lying exposed in their blood."
These were surely very dismal times to those who suffered; but I know not why any one but a school-boy in his declamation should whine over the commonwealth of Rome, which grew great only by the misery of the rest of mankind. The Romans, like others, as soon as they grew rich grew corrupt, and, in their corruption, sold the lives and freedoms of themselves, and of one another.
"About this time Brutus had his patience put to the highest trial: he had been married to Clodia; but whether the family did not please him, or whether he was dissatisfied with the lady's behaviour during his absence, he soon entertained thoughts of a separation. This raised a good deal of talk, and the women of the Clodian family inveighed bitterly against Brutus-but he married Portia, who was worthy of such a father as M. Cato, and such a husband as M. Brutus. She had a soul capable of an exalted passion, and found a proper object to raise and give it a sanction; she did not only love but adored her husband: his worth, his truth, his every shining and heroic quality, made her gaze upon him like a god, while the endearing returns of esteem and tenderness she met with, brought her joy, her pride, her every wish to centre in her beloved Brutus."
We know not whether some apology may not be necessary for the distance [seven months] between the first account of this book, and its continuation. The truth is, that this work not being forced upon our attention by much public applause or censure, was sometimes neglected, and sometimes forgotten; nor would it, perhaps, have been now resumed, but that we might avoid to disappoint our readers by an abrupt desertion of any subject.
When the reader has been awakened by this rapturous preparation, he hears the whole story of Portia in the same luxuriant style, till she breathed out her last, a little before the bloody proscription, and "Brutus complained heavily of his friends at Rome, as not having paid due attention to his Lady in the declining state of her health.
It is not our design to criticise the facts of this bistory, but the style; not the veracity, but the address of the writer; for, an account of the ancient Romans, as it cannot nearly interest any present reader, and must be drawn from writings that have been long known, can owe its value only to the language in which it is delivered, and the reflections with which it is accompanied. Dr. Blackwell, however, seems to bave heated his imagination so as to be much affected with every event, and to believe that he can affect others. Enthusiasm is indeed sufficiently contagious; but I never found any of his readers much enamoured of the glorious Pompey, the patriot approved, or much incensed against the lawless Casar; whom this author probably stabs every day and night in his sleepating or waking dreams.
He is come too late into the world with his fury for freedom, with his Brutus and Cassius. We have all on this side of the Tweed long since settled our opinions; his zeal for Roman liberty and declamations against the violators of the republican constitution, only stand now in the reader's way, who wishes to proceed in the narrative without the interruption of epithets and exclamations. It is not easy to forbear laughter at a man so bold in fighting shadows, so busy in a dispute two thousand years past, and so zealous for the honour of a people, who while they were poor robbed mankind, and as soon as they became rich, robbed one another. Of these robberies our author seems to have no very quick sense, except when they are committed by Cæsar's party, for every act is sanctified by the name of a patriot.
If this author's skill in ancient literature were less generally acknowledged, one might some
He is a great lover of modern terms. His senators and their wives are Gentlemen and Ladies. In this review of Brutus's army, who was under the command of gallant men, not braver ficers than true patriots, he tells us, "that Sextus the Questor was Paymaster, Secretary War, and Commissary General, and that the sacred discipline of the Roman required the closest connection, like that of father and son, to subsist between the General of an army and his Questor. Cicero was General of the Cavalry, and the next general officer was Flavius, Master of the Artillery, the elder Lentulus was Admiral, and the younger rode in the Band of Volunteers: under these the tribunes, with many others too tedious to name." Lentulus, however, was but a subordinate officer; for we are informed afterwards, that the Romans had made Sextus Pompeius Lord High Admiral in all the seas of their dominions.
obey their lawful governors, and attempt not to make innovations for the sake of their favourite schemes, they may differ for ever without any just reproach from one another. But who can bear the hardy champion who ventures nothing? who in full security undertakes the defence of the assassination of Cæsar, and declares his resolution to speak plain? Yet let not just sentiments be overlooked: he has justly observed, that the greater part of mankind will be naturally prejudiced against Brutus, for all feel the benefits of private friendship: but few can discern the advantages of a well-constituted government.
Among other affectations of this writer is a furious and unnecessary zeal for liberty, or rather for one form of government as preferable to another. This indeed might be suffered, because political institution is a subject in which men have always differed, and if they continue to