Imágenes de páginas

in, and another exbibited in its room, which seldom holds its station long; for the mob are ever pleased with variety.

I must own I have such an indifferent opinion of the vulgar, that I am ever led to suspect that merit which raises their shout; at least I am certain to find those great and sometimes good men, who find satisfaction in such acclamations, made worse by it; and history has too frequently taught me, that the head which has grown this day giddy with the roar of the million, has the very next been fixed upon a pole.

As Alexander VI. was entering a little town in the neighborhood of Rome, which had been just evacuated by the enemy, he perceived the townsmen busy in the market-place in pulling down from a gibbet a figure, which had been designed to represent himself. There were also some knocking down a neighboring statue of one of the Orsint family, with whom he was at war, in order to put Alexander's effigy, when taken down, in its place. It is possible a man who knew less of the world would have condemned the adulation of those barefaced flatterers; but Alexander seemed pleased at their zeal, and turning to Borgia his son, said with a smile, Vides, mi fili, quam leve discrimen palibulum inter et statuum. “ You see, my son, the small difference between a gibbet and a statue.” If the great could be taught any lesson, this might serve to teach them upon how weak a foundation their glory stands, which is built upon popular applause; for as such praise what seems like merit, they as quickly condemn what has only the appearance of guilt.

Popular glory is a perfect coquette; her lovers must toil, feel every inquietude, indulge every caprice, and perhaps at last be jilted into the bargain. True glory, on the other hand, resembles a woman of sense; her admirers must play no tricks; they feel no great anxiety, for they are sure in the end of being rewarded in proportion to their merit. When Swift used to appear in

public, he generally had the mob shouting in his train. “P-X take these fools," he would say; “ how much joy might all this bawling give my Lord Mayor !"

We have seen those virtues which have, while living, retired from the public eye, generally transmitted to posterity, as the truest objects of admiration and praise. Perhaps the character of the late Duke of Marlborough* may one day be set up, even above that of his more talked-of predecessor; since an assemblage of all the mild and amiable virtues is far superior to those vulgarly called the great ones. I must be pardoned for this short tribute to the memory of a man, who, while living, would as much detest to receive any thing that wore the appearance of flattery, as I should to offer it.

I know not how to turn so trite a subject out of the beaten road of commonplace, except by illustrating it, rather by the assistance of my memory than my judgment, and instead of making reflections, by telling a story.

A Chinese, who had long studied the works of Confucius, who knew the characters of fourteen thousand words, and could read a great part of every book that came in his way, once took it into his head to travel into Europe, and observe the customs of a people whom he thought not very much inferior even to his own coun. trymen, in the arts of refining upon every pleasure. Upon his arriving at Amsterdam, his passion for letters naturally led him to a bookseller's shop; and as he could speak a little Dutch, he cirilly asked the bookseller for the works of the immortal Ilixofou. The bookseller assured him, he had never heard the book men. tioned before. “What, have you never heard of that immortal poet," returned the other much surprised," that light of the eyes, that favorite of kings, that rose of perfection! I suppose you

Charles, second duke of Marlborough, died at Munster, in Westphalia, October 1758

know nothing of the immortal Fipsihihi, second cousin to the moon ?” “Nothing at all, indeed, sir," returned the other. “ Alas !" cries our traveller, “to what purpose, then, has one of these fasted to death, and the other offered himself up as a sacrifice to the Tartarean enemy, to gain a renown which has never travelled beyond the precincts of China !"

There is scarcely a village in Europe, and not one university, that is not thus furnished with its little great men. The head of a petty corporation, who opposes the designs of a prince, who would tyrannically force his subjects to save their best clothes for Sundays; the puny pedant, who finds one undiscovered property in the polype, describes an unheeded process in the skeleton of a mole, and whose mind, like his microscope, perceives nature only in detail; the rhymer, who makes smooth verses, and paints to our imagination when he should only speak to our hearts; all equally fancy themselves walking forward to immortality, and desire the crowd behind them to look on. The crowd takes them at their word. Patriot, philosopher, and poet, are shouted in their train. Where was there ever so much merit seen; no times so important as our own; ages yet unborn shall gaze with wonder and applause ! To such music the important pigmy moves forward, bustling and swelling, and aptly compared to a puddle in a storm.

I have lived to see generals, who once had crowds hallooing after them wherever they went, who were bepraised by newspapers and magazines, those echoes of the voice of the vulgar; and yet they have long sunk into merited obscurity, with scarcely even an epitaph left to flatter. A few years ago the herring fishery employed all Grub-street ; 'it was the topic in every coffeehouse, and the burthen of every ballad. We were to drag up oceans of gold from the bottom of the sea ; we were to supply all Europe with herrings upon our own terms. At present, we hear no more of all this. We have fished up very little gold that I can learn ; nor do we furnish the world with herrings, as was expected. Let us but wait a few years longer, and we shall find all our expectations a herring fishery!


There is not, perhaps, a country in Europe, in which learning is so fast upon the decline as in Italy; yet not one in which there · are such a number of academies instituted for its support. There is scarcely a considerable town in the whole country, which has not one or two institutions of this nature, where the learned, as they are pleased to call themselves, meet to harangue, to compliment each other, and praise the utility of their institution.

Jarchius has taken the trouble to give us a list of those clubs, or academies, which amount to five hundred and fifty, each distinguished by somewhat whimsical in the name. The academies of Bologna, for instance, are divided into the Abbandonati, the Ansiosi, the Oziosi, Arcadi, Confusi, Dubbiosi, &c. There are few of these who have not published their transactions, and scarcely a member who is not looked upon as the most famous man in the world, at home.

Of all those societies I know of none, whose works are worth being known out of the precincts of the city in which they were written, except the Cicalata Academia —or, as we might express it; the tickling society—of Florence. I have just now before me i manuscript oration, spoken by the late Tomaso Crudeli at that society, which will at once serve to give a better picture of the manner in which men of wit amuse themselves in that country, than any thing I could say upon the occasion. The oration is this : The younger the nymph, my dear companions, the more

happy the lover. From fourteen to seventeen, you are sure of finding love for love; from seventeen to twenty-one, there is always a mixture of interest and affection. But when that period is past, no longer expect to receive, but to buy: no longer expect a nymph who gives, but who sells her favors. At this age, every glance is taught its duty; not a look, not a sigh, without design; the lady, like a skilful warrior, aims at the heart of another, while she shields her own from danger.

“ On the contrary, at fifteen you may expect nothing but simplicity, innocence, and nature. The passions are then sincere; the soul seems seated in the lips; the dear object feels present happiness, without being anxious for the future; her eyes brighten if her lover approaches; her smiles are borrowed from the Graces, and her very mistakes seem to complete her desires.

“ Lucretia was just sixteen. The rose and lily took possession of her face, and her bosom, by its hue and its coldness, seemed covered with snow. So much beauty, and so much virtie seldom want admirers. Orlandino, a youth of sense and merit, was among

the number He had long languished for an opportunity of declaring his passion, when Cupid, as if willing to indulge his happiness, brought the charming young couple by a mere accident, to an arbor, where every prying eye but love was absent. Orlandino talked of the sincerity of his passion, and mixed flattery with his addresses; but it was all in vain. The nymph was pre-engaged, and had long devoted to heaven those charms for which he sued. My dear Orlandino,' said she, you know I have long been dedicated to St. Catharine, and to her belongs all that lies below my girdle; all that is above, you may freely possess, but farther I cannot, must not comply. The vow is passed; I wish it were undone, but now it is impossible.' You may conceive, my companions, the embarrassment our young lovers felt upon this occasion. They kneeled to St. Catharine, and

« AnteriorContinuar »