Imatges de pÓgina

the priesthood. Persecution is a tribute the great must ever pay for pre-eminence.

It is a little extraordinary, however, how Spain, whose genius is naturally fine, should be so much behind the rest of Europe in this particular; or why school divinity should hold its ground there for nearly six hundred years. The reason must be, that philosophical opinions, which are otherwise transient, acquire stability in proportion as they are connected with the laws of the country; and philosophy and law have no where been so closely united as here.

Sweden has of late made some attempts in polite learning in its own language. Count Tessin's instructions to the prince, his pupil, are no bad beginning.(1) If the Muses can fix their residence so far northward, perhaps no country bids so fair for their reception. They have, I am told, a language rude but energetic; if so, it will bear a polish. They have also a jealous sense of liberty, and that strength of thinking peculiar to northern climates, without its attendant ferocity. They will certainly in time produce somewhat great, if their intestine divisions do not unhappily prevent them.

The history of polite learning in Denmark may be comprised in the life of one single man: It rose and fell with the late famous Baron Holberg. (2) This was, perhaps, one of the most extraordinary personages that has done honour to the present century. His being the son of a private sentinel did not abate the ardour of his ambition, for he learned to read though without a master. Upon

(1) [Count Tessin was born at Stockholm in 1695, and died in Sudermania in 1770. A translation into English of his "Letters to a Young Prince from his Governor," appeared in 1759, in 3 vols. 12mo.]

(2) Baron Holberg died in 1754, while Goldsmith was at Leyden, and there is little doubt that his example was in the poet's eye, when he formed the resolution to travel, in defiance of the want of the necessary pecuniary means.]

the death of his father, being left entirely destitute, he was involved in all that distress which is common among the poor, and of which the great have scarcely any idea. However, though only a boy of nine years old, he still persisted in pursuing his studies, travelled about from school to school, and begged his learning and his bread. When at the age of seventeen, instead of applying himself to any of the lower occupations, which seem best adapted to such circumstances, he was resolved to travel for improvement from Norway, the place of his birth, to Copenhagen the capital city of Denmark. He lived there by teaching French, at the same time avoiding no opportunity of improvement that his scanty funds could permit. But his ambition was not to be restrained, or his thirst of knowledge satisfied, until he had seen the world. Without money, recommendations, or friends, he undertook to set out upon his travels, and make the tour of Europe on foot. A good voice, and a trifling skill in music, were the only finances he had to support an undertaking so extensive; so he travelled by day, and at night sung at the doors of peasants' houses to get himself a lodging. In this manner, while yet very young, Holberg passed through France, Germany, and Holland; and coming over to England, took up his residence for two years in the university of Oxford. Here he subsisted by teaching French and music, and wrote his Universal History, his earliest, but worst performance. Furnished with all the learning of Europe, he at last thought proper to return to Copenhagen, where his ingenious productions quickly gained him that favour he deserved. He composed not less than eighteen comedies. Those in his own language are said to excel, and those which are translated into French have peculiar merit. He was honoured with nobility, and enriched by the bounty of

the king; so that a life begun in contempt and penury, ended in opulence and esteem.

Thus we see in what a low state polite learning is in the countries I have mentioned; either past its prime, or not yet arrived at maturity. And though the sketch I have drawn be general, yet it was for the most part taken on the spot. I am sensible, however, of the impropriety of national reflection; and did not truth bias me more than inclination in this particular, I should, instead of the account already given, have presented the reader with a panegyric on many of the individuals of every country, whose merits deserve the warmest strains of praise. Apostol Zeno, Algarotti, Goldoni, Muratori, and Stay, in Italy; Haller, Klopstock, and Rabner, in Germany; Muschenbrook and Gaubius, in Holland; all deserve the highest applause.(1) Men like these, united by one bond, pursuing one design, spend their labour and their lives in making their fellowcreatures happy, and in repairing the breaches caused by ambition. In this light, the meanest philosopher, though all his possessions are his lamp or his cell, is more truly valuable than he whose name echoes to the shout of the million, and who stands in all the glare of admiration. In this light, though poverty and contemptuous neglect are all the wages of his good-will from mankind, yet the rectitude of his intention is an ample recompense; and selfapplause for the present, and the alluring prospect of fame for futurity, reward his labours. The perspective of life

(1) ["But it was my design, rather to give an idea of the spirit of learning in those countries, than a dry catalogue of author's names and writings. But, let me cease a moment from condemning this worthy, however erroneous, part of mankind, on that side alone in which they are exposed to censure, and survey them as the friends of man; while the great and the avaricious of this world are contriving means to aggravate national hatred; and, perhaps, fonder of satisfying vanity than justice, are willing to make the world uneasy, because themselves are so; these harmless instruments of peace united," &c.-First Edit.]

brightens upon us, when terminated by an object so charming. Every intermediate image of want, banishment, or sorrow, receives a lustre from its distant influence. With this in view, the patriot, philosopher, and poet, have often looked with calmness on disgrace and famine, and rested on their straw with cheerful serenity. Even the last terrors of departing nature abate of their severity, and look kindly on him who considers his sufferings as a passport to immortality, and lays his sorrows on the bed of fame.

[Here followed, in the first edition, a chapter, intituled—



"Whatever preference the vulgar of every nation may think due to their own in particular, the learned, who look beyond the bounds of national prejudice and are citizens of the world, seem unanimous in regarding the English and French as the principal literary supporters of the present age. Their emulation in learning as well as in power, have divided the wits not less than the armies of Europe. A niuno è nascosto,' says a modern writer, come la Francia e l'Inghilterra sono rivali nella politica, nel commercio, nella gloria delle arme e delle lettere.'

"This acknowledged superiority was, however, no easy conquest over that national pride with which every country is more or less tinctured. Every part of Europe was at one time or another candidates for this preeminence, which though they had not the good fortune to obtain, their attempts served in a subordinate degree to assist and refine the taste of their cotemporaries. Thus Spain exhibited fine examples of humour; Italy of delicacy; and Holland of freedom in enquiry. But to blend these excellencies, and arrive at perfection, seemed reserved for the poets and philosophers of England and France in the illustrious reigns of Queen Anne and Louis XIV. The writers of that period not only did honour to their respective countries, but even to human nature. Like stars lost in each other's brightness, though no single writer attracts our attention alone, yet their conjunction diffuses such brightness upon the age, as will give the minutest actions of those two reigns an importance which the revolutions of empire will want that were transacted in greater obscurity.

"Yet that excellence which now excites the admiration of Europe, served at that period of which I am speaking only to promote envy in the respective writers of those two countries. They both took every method to depreciate the merit of each other; the French seldom mentioned the English but with disrespect, put themselves foremost in every literary contest, and, to leave the English no colour of competition, placed the Italians in the

second rank. The English, on the other hand, regarded the French as triflers, accused the flimsy texture of their style, and the false brilliancy of their sentiments. Yet, while each thus loaded the other with contempt, it seemed as if done with a view of having their mutual plagiarism pass with less suspicion. In works of entertainment, we borrowed from the French unsparingly; and they plundered our serious performances with as little compunction. Europe, however, regarded the contest with impartiality, and the debate seems at last determined. Their writings are allowed to have more taste, ours more truth. We are allowed the honour of striking out sentiments, they of dressing them in the most pleasing form. If we have produced reasoners who have refined mankind, it is by means of French translations and abstracts that they are generally known in Europe. Their language has prevailed, and our philosophy.

"And this, indeed, is all the English had a right to expect in a contest of this nature, nor have they any just reason to regret not being chosen supreme in taste as well as truth; for if we only consider how different our manners are from those of every other nation on the continent; how little we are visited by travellers of discernment; how ignorant our neighbours are of our various absurdities and humours; if we consider this, it cannot be expected that our works of taste, which imitate our peculiar manners, can please those that are unacquainted with the originals themselves. Though our descriptions and characters are drawn from nature, yet they may appear exaggerated, or faintly copied, to those who, unacquainted with the peculiarities of our island, have no standard by which to make the comparison.

"The French are much more fortunate than us in this particular. An universal sameness of character appears to spread itself over the whole continent, particularly the fools and coxcombs of every country abroad seem almost cast in the same mould. The battered beau, who affects the boy at threescore, or the petit-maître, who would be a man at fifteen, are characters which may be seen in every coffee-house out of England. The French pictures, therefore, of life and manners are immediately allowed to be just, because foreigners are acquainted with the models from whence they are copied. The Marquis of Molière strikes all Europe. Sir John Falstaff, with all the merry men of Eastcheap, are entirely of England, and please the English alone.

"Let us then be satisfied, the world has allowed us superiority in the strength and justness of our sentiments, for it hath truth as a standard by which to compare them; we are placed inferior in regard to taste, for in this there is no standard to judge of our desert, our manners being unknown. Truth is a positive, taste a relative excellence. We may justly appeal from the sentence of our judges; though we must do them the justice to own that their verdict has been impartial.

"But it may be objected, that this is setting up a particular standard of taste in every country; this is removing that universal one which has hitherto united the armies and enforced the commands of criticism; by this reasoning the critics of one country will not be proper guides to the writers of another; Grecian or Roman rules will not be generally binding in France

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