« AnteriorContinuar »
bis life away
his own honour. Were this motive as strong in every thing that regards the public, as it is in this our private case, no man would pass without having distinguished himself by some gallant instance of his zeal towards it in the respective incidents of his life and profession. But it is so far otherwise, that there cannot at present be a more ridiculous animal, than one who seems to regard the good of others. He, in civil life, whose thoughts turn upon schemes which may be of general benefit, without further reflection, is called a projector; and the man whose mind seems intent upon glorious achievements, a knight-errant. The ridicule among us runs strong against laudable actions ; pay, in the ordinary course of things, and the common regards of life, negligence of the public is an epidemic vice. The brewer in his excise, the merchant in his customs, and, for aught we know, the soldier in his muster-rolls, think never the worse of themselves for being guilty of their respective frauds towards the public. This evil is come to such a fantastical height, that he is a man of a public spirit, and heroically affected to his country, who can go so far as even to turn usurer with all he has in her funds. There is not a citizen in whose imagination such a one does not appear in the same light of glory, as Codrus, Scævola, or any other great name in old Rome. Were it not for the heroes of so much per cent, as have regard enough for themselves and their nation to trade with her with their wealth, the very notion of public love would long before now have vanished from among us. But however general custom may hurry us away in the stream of a common error, ihere is no evil, no crime, so great as that of being cold in matters which relate to the common good. This is in nothing more conspicuous than in a certain willingness
to receive any thing that tends to the diminution of such as have been conspicuous instruments in our service. Such inclinations proceed from the most low and vile corruption, of which the soul of man is capable. This effaces not only the practice, but the very approbation of honour and virtue; and has had such an effect, that, to speak freely, the very sense of public good has no longer a part even of our conversations. Can then the most generous motive of life, the good of others, be so easily banished the breast of mán? Is it possible to draw all our passions inward ? Shall the boiling heat of youth be sunk in pleasures, the ambition of man. hood in selfish intrigues? Shall all that is glorious, all that is worth the pursuit of great minds, be so easily rooted out? When the universal bent of a people seems diverted from the sense of their common good, and common glory, it looks like a fatality, and crisis of impending misfortune.
The generous nations we just now mentioned understood this so very well, that there was hardly an oration ever made, which did not turn upon this general sense, “ That the love of their country was the first and most essential quality in an honest mind." Demosthenes, in a cause wherein his fame, reputation, and fortune, were embarked, puts his all upon this issue; • Let the Athenians,” says he,
be benevolent to me, as they think I have been zealous for them.” This great and discerning orator knew, there was nothing else in nature could bear him up against his adversaries, but this one quality of having shown himself willing or able to serve his country. This certainly is the test of merit; and the first foundation for deserving good-will is, having it yourself. The adversary of this orator at that time was Æschines, a man of wily arts and skill in the world, who could, as occasion served, fall-in with a national start of passion, or sullenness of humour, which a whole nation is sometimes taken with as well as a private man; and by that means divert them from their common sense, into an aversion for receiving any thing in its true light. But when Demosthenes had awakened his audience with that one hint of judging by the general tenor of his life towards them, his services bore down his opponent before him, who fed to the covert of his mean arts, until some more favourable occasion should offer against the superior merit of Demosthenes,
It were to be wished, that love of their country were the first principle of action in men of business, even for their own sakes; for when the world begins to examine into their conduct, the generality, who have no share in, or hopes of any part in power or riches, but what is the effect of their own labour or property, will judge of them by no other method, than that of how profitable their administration has been to the whole. They who are out of the influence of men's fortune or favour, will let them stand or fall by this one only rule; and men who can bear being tried by it, are always popular in their fall. Those who cannot suffer such a scruținy, are contemptible in their advancement.
But I am here running into shreds of maxims from reading Tacitus this morning, that has driven
from my recommendation of public spirit, which was the intended purpose of this Lucubration. There is not a more glorious instance of it, than in the character of Regulus. The same Regulus was taken prisoner by the Carthaginians, and was sent by them to Rome, in order to demand some Punic noblemen, who were prisoners, in exchange for himself; and was bound by an oath that he would return to Carthage, if he failed in his commission.
He proposes this to the senate, who were in suspense upon it, which Regulus observing, without having the least notion of putting the care of his own life in competition with the public good, desired them to consider that he was old, and almost useless; that those demanded in exchange were men of daring tempers, and great merit in military affairs; and wondered they would make any doubt of permitting him to go back to the short tortures prepared for him at Carthage, where he should have the advantage of ending a long life both glorious and usefully. This generous advice was consented to; and he took his leave of his country and his weeping friends, to go to certain death, with that cheerful composure, as a man, after the fatigue of business in a court or a city, retires to the next village for the air.
N° 184. TUESDAY, JUNE 13, 1710.
HOR. 2 Od. ii. 33.
Una de multis face nuptiali
From my own Apartment, June 12. THERE are certain occasions of life which give propitious omens of the future good conduct of it, as well as others which explain our present inward state, according to our behaviour in them. Of the latter
sort are funerals ; of the former, weddings. The manner of our carriage when we lose a friend shews very much our temper, in the humility of our words and actions, and a general sense of our destitute condition, which runs through all our deportment. This gives a solemn testimony of the generous affection we bore our friends, when we seem to disrelish every thing, now we can no more enjoy them, or see them partake in our enjoyments. It is very proper and humane to put ourselves, as it were, in their livery after their decease, and wear a habit unsuitable to prosperity, while those we loved and honoured are mouldering in the grave. As this is laudable on the sorrowful side, so on the other, incidents of success may no less justly be represented and acknowledged in our outward figure and carriage. Of all such occasions, that great
change of a single life into marriage is the most important; as it is the source of all relations, and from whence all other friendship and commerce do principally arise. The general intent of both sexes is to dispose of themselves happily and honourably in this state ; and, as all the good qualities we have are exerted to make our way into it, so the best appearance, with regard to their minds, their persons, and their fortunes, at the first entrance into it, is a due to each other in the married pair, as well as a compliment to the rest of the world. It was an instruction of a wise law-giver, that unmarried women should wear such loose habits, which, in the flowing of their garb, should incite their beholders to a desire of their persons; and that the ordinary motion of their bodies might display the figure and shape of their limbs in such a manner, as at once to preserve the strictest decency, and raise the warmest inclinations.
This was the economy of the legislature for the increase of people, and at the same time for the pre