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render homage, aids, reliefs, and all, were the defenders of the moderns better other customary services to his lord, informed. The parallels which were avows that he cannot give an opinion instituted in the course of this dispute about the essay on Heroic Virtue, be- are inexpressibly ridiculous. Balzac cause he cannot read it without skip- was selected as the rival of Cicero. ping; a circumstance which strikes us Corneille was said to unite the merits as peculiarly strange, when we con- of Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripisider how long Mr. Courtenay was at des. We should like to see a Promethe India Board, and how many thou- theus after Corneille's fashion. The sand paragraphs of the copious official Provincial Letters, masterpieces uneloquence of the East he must have doubtedly of reasoning, wit, and eloperused.
quence, were pronounced to be supeOne of Sir William's pieces, however, rior to all the writings of Plato, Cicero, deserves notice, not, indeed, on account and Lucian together, particularly in the of its intrinsic merit, but on account of art of dialogue, an art in which, as it the light which it throws on some cu- happens, Plato far excelled all men, rious weaknesses of his character, and and in which Pascal, great and admion account of the extraordinary effects rable in other respects, is notoriously which it produced in the republic of very deficient. letters. A most idle and contemptible This childish controversy spread to controversy had arisen in France touch. England; and some mischievous dæmon ing the comparative merit of the an- suggested to Temple the thought of cient and modern writers. It was cer- undertaking the defence of the antainly not to be expected that, in that cients. As to his qualifications for age, the question would be tried ac- the task, it is sufficient to say, that cording to those large and philosophi- he knew not a word of Greek. cal principles of criticism which guided But his vanity, which, when he was the judgments of Lessing and of Her- engaged in the conflicts of active der. But it might have been expected life and surrounded by rivals, had that those who undertook to decide the been kept in tolerable order by his dispoint would at least take the trouble cretion, now, when he had long lived to read and understand the authors on in seclusion, and had become accuswhose merits they were to pronounce. tomed to regard himself as by far the Now, it is no exaggeration to say that, first man of his circle, rendered him among the disputants who clamoured, blind to his own deficiencies. In an some for the ancients and some for the evil hour he published an Essay on moderns, very few were decently ac- Ancient and Modern Learning. The quainted with either ancient or modern style of this treatise is very good, the literature, and hardly one was well matter ludicrous and contemptible to acquainted with both. In Racine's the last degree. There we read how amusing preface to the Iphigénie the Lycurgus travelled into India, and reader may find noticed a most ridicu- brought the Spartan laws from that lous mistake into which one of the country; how Orpheus made voyages champions of the moderns fell about a in search of knowledge, and attained passage in the Alcestis of Euripides. to a depth of learning which has made Another writer is so inconceivably ig- him renowned in all succeeding ages; norant as to blame Homer for mixing how Pythagoras passed twenty-two the four Greek dialects, Doric, Ionic, years in Egypt, and, after graduating Æolic, and Attic, just, says he, as if a there, spent twelve years more at French poet were to put Gascon phrases Babylon, where the Magi admitted him and Picard phrases into the midst of ad eundem; how the ancient Brahmins his pure Parisian writing. On the other lived two hundred years; how the hand, it is no exaggeration to say that earliest Greek philosophers foretold the defenders of the ancients were en- earthquakes and plagues, and put down tirely unacquainted with the greatest riots by magic; and how much Ninus productions of later times; nor, indeed, surpassed in abilities any of his succes
sors on the throne of Assyria. The leau; and in his list of English, Chaucer, moderns, Sir William owns, have found Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton. out the circulation of the blood; but, In the midst of all this vast mass of on the other hand, they have quite lost absurdity one paragraph stands out the art of conjuring; nor can any pre-eminent. The doctrine of Temple, modern fiddler enchant fishes, fowls, not a very comfortable doctrine, is that and serpents by his performance. He the human race is constantly degentells us that " Thales, Pythagoras, De-erating, and that the oldest books in mocritus, Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle, every kind are the best. In confirmaand Epicurus made greater progresses tion of this notion, he remarks that in the several empires of science than the Fables of Æsop are the best Fables, any of their successors have since been and the Letters of Phalaris the best able to reach;” which is just as absurd Letters in the world. On the merit as if he had said that the greatest of the Letters of Phalaris he dwells with names in British science are Merlin, great warmth and with extraordinary Michael Scott, Dr. Sydenham, and felicity of language. Indeed we could Lord Bacon. Indeed, the manner in hardly select a more favourable speciwhich Temple mixes the historical and men of the graceful and easy majesty the fabulous reminds us of those classi- to which his style sometimes rises than cal dictionaries, intended for the use of this unlucky passage. He knows, he schools, in which Narcissus the lover says, that some learned men, or men of himself and Narcissus the freedman who pass for learned, such as Politian, of Claudius, Pollux the son of Jupiter have doubted the genuineness of these and Leda and Pollux the author of the letters; but of such doubts he speaks Onomasticon, are ranged under the with the greatest contempt. Now same headings, and treated as person- it is perfectly certain, first, that the ages equally real. The effect of this letters are very bad; secondly, that arrangement resembles that which they are spurious ; and thirdly, that, would be produced by a dictionary of whether they be bad or good, spurious modern names, consisting of such ar- or genuine, Temple could know ticles as the following:-“ Jones, Wil- nothing of the matter; inasmuch as he liam, an eminent Orientalist, and one was no more able to construe a line of the Judges of the Supreme Court of of them than to decipher an Egyptian Judicature in Bengal-Davy, a fiend, obelisk. who destroys ships—Thomas, a found. This Essay, silly as it is, was exceedling, brought up by Mr. Allworthy." ingly well received, both in England It is from such sources as these that and on the Continent. And the reaTemple seems to have learned all that son is evident. The classical scholars he knew about the ancients. He puts who saw its absurdity were generally the story of Orpheus between the on the side of the ancients, and were Olympic games and the battle of Ar- inclined rather to veil than to expose bela; as if we had exactly the same the blunders of an ally; the champions reasons for believing that Orpheus led of the moderns were generally as ignobeasts with his lyre, which we have for rant as Temple himself; and the multibelieving that there were races at Pisa, tude was charmed by his flowing and or that Alexander conquered Darius. melodious diction. He was doomed,
He manages little better when he however, to smart, as he well deserved, comes to the moderns. He gives us a for his vanity and folly. catalogue of those whom he regards as Christchurch at Oxford was then the greatest writers of later times. It widely and justly celebrated as a place is sufficient to say that, in his list of where the lighter parts of classical Italians, he has omitted Dante, Pe-learning were cultivated with success. trarch, Ariosto, and Tasso; in his list with the deeper mysteries of philoof Spaniards, Lope and Calderon; in logy neither the instructors nor the his list of French, Pascal, Bossuet, pupils had the smallest acquaintance. Molière, Corneille, Racine, and Boi- | They fancied themselves Scaligers, as Bentley scornfully said, if they could though that College seems then to have write a copy of Latin verses with only been almost destitute of severe and two or three small faults. From this accurate learning, no academical society College proceeded a new edition of the could show a greater array of orators, Letters of Phalaris, which were rare, wits, politicians, bustling adventurers and had been in request since the who united the superficial accomplishappearance of Temple's Essay. The ments of the scholar with the manners nominal editor was Charles Boyle, a and arts of the man of the world; and young man of noble family and pro- this formidable body resolved to try mising parts; but some older members how far smart repartees, well-turned of the society lent their assistance. sentences, confidence, puffing, and inWhile this work was in preparation, trigue could, on the question whether an idle quarrel, occasioned, it should a Greek book were or were not seem, by the negligence and misrepre- genuine, supply the place of a little sentations of a bookseller, arose be- knowledge of Greek. tween Boyle and the King's Librarian, Out came the Reply to Bentley, bearRichard Bentley. Boyle, in the preface ing the name of Boyle, but in truth to his edition, inserted a bitter reflec- written by Atterbury with the assisttion on Bentley Bentley revenged ance of Smalridge and others. A himself by proving that the Epistles of most remarkable book it is, and often Phalaris were forgeries, and in his reminds us of Goldsmith's observation, remarks on this subject treated Temple, that the French would be the best not indecently, but with no great reve cooks in the world if they had any rence.
butcher's meat, for that they can make Temple, who was quite unaccus ten dishes out of a nettle-top. It tomed to any but the most respectful really deserves the praise, whatever usage, who, even while engaged in that praise may be worth, of being the politics, had always shrunk from all best book ever written by any man on rude collision and had generally suc- the wrong side of a question of which ceed in avoiding it, and whose sensitive- he was profoundly ignorant. The ness had been increased by many years learning of the confederacy is that of of seclusion and flattery, was moved a schoolboy, and not of an extraordito most violent resentment, complained, nary schoolboy; but it is used with very unjustly, of Bentley's foul-mouthed the skill and address of most able, raillery, and declared that he had com- artful, and experienced men; it is menced an answer, but had laid it beaten out to the very thinnest leaf, aside, “having no mind to enter the and is disposed in such a way as to lists with such a mean, dull, unman- seem ten times larger than it is. The nerly pedant.” Whatever may be dexterity with which the confederates thought of the temper which Sir Wil- avoid grappling with those parts of liam showed on this occasion, we can. the subject with which they know not too highly applaud his discretion themselves to be incompetent to deal in not finishing and publishing his is quite wonderful. Now and then, answer, which would certainly have indeed, they commit disgraceful blunbeen a most extraordinary performance. ders, for which old Busby, under whom
He was not, however, without de- they had studied, would have whipped fenders. Like Hector, when struck them all round. But this circumstance down prostrate by Ajax, he was in an only raises our opinion of the talents instant covered by a thick crowd of which made such a fight with such shields.
scanty means. Let readers who are Ούτις εδυνήσατο ποιμένα λαών not acquainted with the controversy Oirágai, oud Badsīvi spiv yap sepiendav imagine a Frenchman, who has ac
quired just English enough to read Laetnoáv po Sexos Auxiwy, kai lakos the Spectator with a dictionary, coming αμύμων.
forward to defend the genuineness of Christchurch was up in arms; and Ireland's Vortigern against Malone ; and they will have some notion of the honoured his studies and his profeat which Atterbury had the audacity fession, and degraded himself alniost to undertake, and which, for a time, to the level of De Pauw. it was really thought that he had per- Temple did not live to witness the formed.
utter and irreparable defeat of his The illusion was soon dispelled. champions. He died, indeed, at a Bentley's answer for ever settled the fortunate moment, just after the apquestion, and established his claim to pearance of Boyle's book, and while all the first place amongst classical scho- England was laughing at the way lars. Nor do those do him justice in which the Christchurch men had who represent the controversy as a handled the pedant. In Boyle's book, battle between wit and learning. For Temple was praised in the highest though there is a lamentable deficiency terms, and compared to Memmius : not of learning on the side of Boyle, there a very happy comparison ; for alis no want of wit on the side of Bent- most the only particular information ley. Other qualities, too, as valuable which we have about Memmius is as either wit or learning, appear con- that, in agitated times, he thought it spicuously in Bentley's book, a rare his duty to attend exclusively to polisagacity, an unrivalled power of com- tics, and that his friends could not bination, a perfect mastery of all the venture, except when the Republic weapons of logic. He was greatly in- was quiet and prosperous, to intrude debted to the furious outcry which the on him with their philosophical and misrepresentations, sarcasms, and in- poetical productions. It is on this trigues of his opponents had raised account that Lucretius puts up the against him, an outcry in which fashion-exquisitely beautiful prayer for peace able and political circles joined, and with which his poem opens : which was echoed by thousands who did not know whether Phalaris ruled
“Nam neque nos agere hoc patrias tempore
iniquo in Sicily or in Siam. His spirit, Possumus æquo animo, nec Memmi clara daring even to rashness, self-confident propago even to negligence, and proud even to
Talibus in rebus communi deesse saluti.” insolent ferocity, was awed for the This description is surely by no first and for the last time, awed, not means applicable to a statesman who into meanness or cowardice, but into had, through the whole course of his wariness and sobriety. For once he ran life, carefully avoided exposing himself no risks; he left no crevice unguarded; in seasons of trouble; who had rehe wantoned in no paradoxes; above peatedly refused, in most critical conall, he returned no railing for the rail-junctures, to be Secretary of State; and ing of his enemies. In almost every who now, in the midst of revolutions, thing that he has written we can dis- plots, foreign and domestic wars, was cover proofs of genius and learning. quietly writing nonsense about the But it is only here that his genius and visits of Lycurgus to the Brahmins learning appear to have been con- and the tunes which Arion played to stantly under the guidance of good the Dolphin. sense and good temper. . Here, we We must not omit to mention that, find none of that besotted reliance on while the controversy about Phalaris was his own powers and on his own luck, raging, Swift, in order to show his zeal which he showed when he undertook and attachment, wrote the Battle of the to edite Milton; none of that perverted Books, the earliest piece in which his ingenuity which deforms so many of peculiar talents are discernible. We his notes on Horace; none of that dis- may observe that the bitter dislike of dainful carelessness by which he laid Bentley, bequeathed by Temple to himself open to the keen and dex- Swift, seems to have been communicated terous thrust of Middleton; none of by Swift to Pope, to Arbuthnot, and to that extravagant vaunting and savage others, who continued to tease the scurrility by which he afterwards dis- great critic, long after he had shaken
hands very cordially both with Boyle subtle speculations, sometimes prompted and with Atterbury.
| him to talk on serious subjects in a Sir William Temple died at Moor manner which gave great and just Park in January, 1699. He appears offence. It is not unlikely that Temple, to have suffered no intellectual decay. who seldom went below the surface of His heart was buried under a sun-dial any question, may have been infected which still stands in his favourite with the prevailing scepticism. All garden. His body was laid in West- that we can say on the subject is, that minster Abbey by the side of his wife; there is no trace of impiety in his and a place hard by was set apart for works, and that the ease with which he Lady Giffard, who long survived him. carried his election for an university, Swift was his literary executor, super- where the majority of the voters were intended the publication of his Letters clergymen, though it proves nothing and Memoirs, and, in the performance as to his opinions, must, we think, be of this office, had some acrimonious considered as proving that he was not, contests with the family.
as Burnet seems to insinuate, in the Of Temple's character little more re- habit of talking atheism to all who mains to be said. Burnet accuses him came near him. of holding irreligious opinions, and Temple, however, will scarcely carry corrupting every body who came near with him any great accession of auhim. But the vague assertion of so thority to the side either of religion or rash and partial a writer as Burnet, of infidelity. He was no profound about a man with whom, as far as we thinker. He was merely a man of lively know, he never exchanged a word, is parts and quick observation, a man of of little weight. It is, indeed, by no the world among men of letters, a man means improbable that Temple may of letters among men of the world. have been a freethinker. The Osbornes Mere scholars were dazzled by the thought him so when he was a very Ambassador and Cabinet counsellor; young man. And it is certain that a mere politicians by the Essayist and large proportion of the gentlemen of Historian. But neither as a writer nor rank and fashion who made their as a statesman can we allot to him any entrance into society while the Puritan very high place. As a man, he seems party was at the height of power, and to us to have been excessively selfish, while the memory of the reign of that but very sober, wary, and far-sighted party was still recent, conceived a in his selfishness; to have known better strong disgust for all religion. The than most people what he really wanted imputation was common between in life; and to have pursued what he Temple and all the most distinguished wanted with much more than ordinary courtiers of the age. Rochester and steadiness and sagacity, nerer suffering Buckingham were open scoffers, and himself to be drawn aside either by bad Mulgrave very little better. Shaftes- or by good feelings. It was his conbury, though more guarded, was sup-stitution to dread failure more than he posed to agree with them in opinion. desired success, to prefer security, All the three noblemen who were comfort, repose, leisure, to the turmoil Temple's colleagues during the short and anxiety which are inseparable from time of his sitting in the Cabinet were greatness; and this natural languor of of very indifferent repute as to ortho- mind, when contrasted with the maligdoxy. Halifax, indeed, was generally nant energy of the keen and restless considered as an atheist; but he spirits among whom his lot was cast, solemnly denied the charge; and, in- sometimes appears to resemble the modeed, the truth seems to be that he deration of virtue. But we must own was more religiously disposed than that he seems to us to sink into littlemost of the statesmen of that age, ness and meanness when we compare though two impulses which were un- him, we do not say with any high ideal usually strong in him, a passion for standard of morality, but with many of ludicrous images, and a passion for those frail men who, aiming at noble