Imatges de pÓgina
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§ 120. The Character of EPAMINONDAS. Epaminondas was born and educated in that honest poverty which those less corrupted ages accounted the glorious mark of integrity and virtue. The instructions of a Pythagorean philosopher, to whom he was entrusted in his earliest years formed him to all the temperance and severity peculiar to that sect, and were received with a docility and plea sure which bespoke an ingenuous mind. Music, dancing, and all those arts which were accounted honourable distinctions at Thebes, he received from the greatest masters. In the athletic exercises he became conspicuous, but soon learned to apply particularly to those which might prepare him for the labours and occasions of a military life. His modesty and gravity rendered him ready to hear and receive instruction; and his genius enabled him to learn and improve. A love of truth, a love of virtue, tenderness, and humanity, and an exalted patriotism, he had learned and soon displayed. To these glorious qualities he added penetration and sagacity, a happiness in improving every incident, a consummate skill in war, an unconquerable patience of toil and distress, a boldness in enterprize, vigour, and magnanimity. Thus did he become great and terrible in war; nor was he less distinguished by the gentler virtues of peace and retirement. He had a soul capable of the most exalted and disinterested friendship. The warmth of his benevolence supplied the deficiencies of his fortune; his credit and good offices frequently were employed to gain that relief for the necessities of others, which his own circumstances could not grant them: within the narrow sphere of these were his desires regularly confined; no temptations could corrupt him; no prospects of advantage could shake his integrity; to the public he appeared unalterably and solely devoted; nor could neglect or injuries abate his zeal for Thebes. All these illustrious qualities he adorned with that eloquence which was then in such

repute, and appeared in council equally eminent, equally useful to his country as in action. By him Thebes first rose to sovereign power, and with him she lost her greatness. Leland.

§ 121. A Comparison of the political Principles and Conduct of CATO, ATTICUS and CICERO.

The three sects which chiefly engrossed the philosophical part of Rome were, the Stoic, the Epicurean, and the Academic; and the chief ornaments of each were, Cato, Atticus, and Cicero; who lived together in strict friendship, and a mutual esteem of each other's virtue: but the different behaviour of these three will shew by fact and example, the different merit of their several principles, and which of them was the best adapted to promote the good of society.

The Stoics were the bigots or enthusiasts in philosophy; who held none to be truly wise or good but themselves; placed perfect happiness in virtue, though stripped of every other good; affirmed all sins to be equal, all deviations from right equally wicked; to kill a dunghill-cock without reason, the same crime as to kill a parent; that a wise man could never forgive; never be moved by anger, favour or pity; never be deceived; never repent; never change his mind. With these principles Cato entered into public life; and acted in it as Cicero says, as if he had lived in the polity of Plato, not in the dregs of Romulus.' He made no distinction of times or things; no allowance for the weakness of the republic, and the power of those who oppressed it: it was his maxim to combat all power not built upon the laws, or to defy it at least, if he could not controul it: he knew no way to his end; but the direct; and whatever obstructions he met with, resolved still to rush on, and either to surmount them, or perish in the attempt; taking it for a baseness, and confession of being conquered, to decline a tittle from the true road. In an age, therefore, of the utmost libertinisin, when the public discipline was lost, and the government itself tottering, he struggled with the same zeal against all corruption, and waged a perpetual war with a superior force; whilst the rigour of his principles tended rather to alienate his friends, than reconcile enemies; and by provoking the power that he could not subdue, help to hasten

that ruin which he was striving to avert; so that after a perpetual course of disappointments and repulses, finding himself unable to pursue his old way any further, instead of taking a new one, he was driven by his philosophy to put an end to his life.

But as the Stoics exalted human nature too high, so the Epicureans depressed it too low; as those raised it to the heroic, these debased it to the brutal state; they held pleasure to be the chief good of man, death the extinction of his being; and placed their happiness, consequently, in the secure enjoyment of a pleasurable life; esteeming virtue on no other account than as it was a handmaid to pleasure, and helped to ensure the possession of it; by preserving health and conciliating friends. Their wise man, therefore, had no other duty, but to provide for his own ease, to decline all struggles, to retire from public affairs, and to imitate the life of their gods, by passing his days in a calm, contemplative, undisturbed repose, in the midst of rural shades and pleasant gardens. This was the scheme that Atticus followed: he had all the talents that could qualify a man to be useful to society; great parts, learning, judgment, candour, benevolence, generosity, the same love of his country, and the same sentiments in politics, with Cicero; whom he was always advising and urging to act, yet determined never to act himself; or never, at least, so far as to disturb his ease, or endanger his safety. For though he was so strictly united with Cicero, and valued him above all men, yet he managed an interest all the while with the opposite faction, and a friendship even with his mortal ene mies Clodius and Antony; that he might secure, against all events, the grand point which he had in view, the peace and tranquillity of his life. Thus two excellent men, by their mistaken notions of virtue, drawn from their principles of philosophy, were made useless in a manner to their country, each in a different extreme of life; the one always acting and exposing himself to dangers, without the prospect of doing good; the other, without attempting to do any, resolving never

to act at all.

Cicero chose the middle way, between the obstinacy of Cato, and the indolence of Atticus; he preferred always the readiest road to what was right, if it lay open to him; if not, he took the next that

seemed likely to bring him to the same
end; and in politics, as in morality, when
he could not arrive at the true, contented
himself with the probable. He often com-
pares the statesman to the pilot, whose
art consists in managing every turn of the
winds, and applying even the most per-
verse of the progress to his voyage; so as,
by changing his course, and enlarging his
circuit of sailing, to arrive with safety,
though later, at his destined port. He
mentions likewise an observation, which
long experience had confirmed to him,
that none of the popular and ambitious,
who aspired to extraordinary commands,
and to be leaders in the republic, ever
chose to obtain their ends from the peo-
ple, till they had first been repulsed by
This was verified by all their
the senate.
civil dissensions, from the Gracchi down
to Cæsar: so that when he saw men of
this spirit at the head of the government,
who, by the splendour of their lives and
actions, had acquired an ascendant over
the populace, it was his constant advice
to the senate, to gain them by gentle com-
pliances, and to gratify their thirst of
power by voluntary grants of it, as the
best way to moderate their ambition, and
reclaim them from desperate councils. He
declared contention to be no longer pru-
dent than while it either did service, or
at least no hurt; but when faction was
grown too strong to be withstood, that
it was time to give over fighting; and
nothing left but to extract some good out
of the ill, by mitigating that power by pa-
tience, which they could not reduce by
force, and conciliating it if possible, to the
interest of the state. This was what he
had advised, and what he practised; for
it will account, in a great measure, and
those parts of his conduct which are the
most liable to exception on the account
of that complaisance which he is supposed
to have paid, at different times, to the se-
veral usurpers of illegal power.

Middleton.

§ 122. The Character of Lord Town

SHEND.

Lord Townshend by very long experience, and unwearied application, was certainly an able man of business, which was his only passion. His parts were neither above nor below it; they were rather slow, a defect of the safer side. He required time to form his opinion; but when formed, he adhered to it with in

vincible firmness, not to say obstinacy, whether right or wrong, and was impatient of contradiction.

He was a most ungraceful and confused speaker in the house of lords, inelegant in his language, perplexed in his arguments, but always near the stress of the question.

His manners were coarse, rustic, and seemingly brutal; but his nature was by no means so; for he was a kind husband to both his wives, a most indulgent father to all his children, and a benevolent maзter to his servants; sure tests of real goodnature, for no man can long together simulate or dissimulate at home.

He was a warm friend, and a warm enemy; defects, if defects they are, inseparable in human nature, and often accompanying the most generous minds.

Never minister had cleaner hands than he had. Mere domestic economy was his only care as to money; for he did not add one acre to his estate, and left his younger children very moderately provided for, though he had been in considerable and lucrative employments near thirty years.

As he only loved power for the sake of in order to preserve it, he was power, obliged to have a most unwarrantable complaisance for the interests and even dictates of the electorate, which was the only way by which a British minister could hold either favour or power during the reigns of king George the First and Second.

The coarseness and imperiousness of his manners, made him disagreeable to queen Caroline.

Lord Townshend was not of a temper to act a second part, after having acted a first, as he did during the reign of king George the First. He resolved, therefore, to make one convulsive struggle to revive his expiring power, or, if that did not succeed, to retire from busi

ness.

He tried the experiment upon the king, with whom he had a personal interest. The experiment failed, as he might easily, and ought to have foreseen. He retired to his seat in the country, and, in a few years, died of an apoplexy.

Having thus mentioned the slight defects, as well as the many valuable parts of his character, I must declare, that I owed the former to truth, and the latter to gratitude and friendship as well as to truth, since, for some years before he re

tired from business, we lived in the strictest intimacy that the difference of our age and situations could admit, during which time he gave me many unasked and unequivocal proofs of his friendship. Chesterfield.

$123. The Character of Mr. Pope.

Pope, in conversation, was below himself; he was seldom easy and natural, and seemed afraid that the man should degrade the poet, which made him always attempt wit and humour, often unsuccessfully, I have and too often unseasonably. been with him a week at a time at his house at Twickenham, where I necessarily saw his mind in its undress, when he was both an agreeable and instructive companion.

His moral character has been warmly attacked, and but weakly defended; the natural consequence of his shining turn to satire, of which many felt, and all fearIt must be owned that he ed the smart. was the most irritable of all the genus irritabile vatum, offended with trifles, and never forgetting or forgiving them; but in this I really think that the poet was more He was as great in fault than the man. an instance as any he quotes, of the contrarieties and inconsistencies of human nature; for notwithstanding the malignancy of his satires, and some blameable passages of his life, he was charitable to his power, active in doing good offices, and piously attentive to an old bed-ridden mother, who died but a little time before him. His poor, crazy, deformed body was a mere Pandora's box, containing all the physical ills that ever afflicted humanity. This, perhaps, whetted the edge of his satire, and may in some degree excuse it.

I will say nothing of his works, they speak sufficiently for themselves; they will live as long as letters and taste shall remain in this country, and be more and more admired as envy and resentment shall subside. But I will venture this piece of classical blasphemy, which is, that however he may be supposed to be obliged to Horace, Horace is more obliged to him. Ibid.

$124. Character of Lord BOLING

BROKE.

It is impossible to find lights and shades strong enough to paint the character of Lord Bolingbroke, who was a most mor

tifying instance of the violence of human passions, and of the most improved and exalted human reason. His virtues and his vices, his reason and his passions, did not blend themselves by a gradation of tints, but formed a shining and sudden

contrast.

Here the darkest, there the most splendid colours, and both rendered more striking from their proximity. Impetuosity, excess, and almost extravagancy, characterised not only his passions, but even his senses. His youth was distinguished by all the tumult and storm of pleasures, in which he licentiously triumphed, disdaining all decorum. His fine imagination was often heated and exhausted with his body, in celebrating and deifying the prostitute of the night; and his convivial joys were pushed to all the extravagancy of frantic bacchanals. These passions were never interrupted but by a stronger The former impaired both his constitution and his character; but the latter destroyed both his fortune and his reputation.

ambition.

He engaged young, and distinguished himself in business. His penetration was almost intuition, and he adorned whatever subject he either spoke or wrote upon, by the most splendid eloquence; not a studied or laboured eloquence, but by such a flowing happiness of diction, which (from care, perhaps, at first) was become so habitual to him, that even his most familiar conversations, if taken down in writing, would have borne the press, without the least correction, either as to method or style. He had noble and generous sentiments, rather than fixed reflected principles of good-nature and friendship; but they were more violent than lasting, and suddenly and often varied to their opposite extremes, with regard even to the same persons. He received the common attention of civility as obligations, which he returned with interest and resented with passion the little inadvertencies of human nature, which he repaid with interest too. Even a difference of opinion upon a philosophical subject, would provoke and prove him no practical philosopher at least.

Notwithstanding the dissipation of his youth, and the tumultuous agitation of his middle age, he had an infinite fund of various and almost universal knowledge, which, from the clearest and quickest conception, and the happiest memory that ever man was blessed with, he always

carried about him. It was his pocketmoney, and he never had occasion to draw upon a book for any sum. He excelled more particularly in history, as his historical works plainly prove. The relative political, and commercial interests of every country in Europe, particularly of his own, were better known to him than perhaps to any man in it; but how steadily he pursued the latter in his public conduct, his enemies of all parties and denominations tell with pleasure.

During his long exile in France, he applied himself to study with his characteristical ardour; and there he formed, and chiefly executed, the plan of his great philosophical work. The common bounds of human knowledge were too narrow for his warm and aspiring imagination; he must go extra flammantia mania mundi, and explore the unknown and unknowable regions of metaphysics, which open an unbounded field for the excursions of an ardent imagination; where endless conjectures supply the defects of unattainable knowledge, and too often usurp both its name and its influ

ence.

He had a very handsome person, with a most engaging address in his air and manners; he had all the dignity and good-breeding which a man of quality should or can have, and which so few, in this country at least, really have.

He professed himself a deist, believing in a general Providence, but doubted of, though by no means rejecting, (as is commonly supposed) the immortality of the soul, and a future state.

He died of a cruel and shocking distemper, a cancer in his face, which he endured with firmness. A week before he died, I took my last leave of him with grief; and he returned me his last farewell with tenderness, and said, " God, who

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placed me here, will do what he pleases "with me hereafter; and he knows best "what to do. May he bless you!"

Upon the whole of this extraordinary character, what can we say, but, alas! poor human nature! Chesterfield.

§ 125. Character of Mr. PULTeney.

Mr. Pulteney was formed by nature for social and convivial pleasures. Resentment made him engage in business. He had thought himself slighted by Sir Robert Walpole, to whom he publicly avowed not only revenge, but utter de

struction. He had lively and shining parts, a surprising quickness of wit, and a happy turn to the most amusing and entertaining kinds of poetry, as epigrams, ballads, odes, &c.; in all which he had an uncommon facility. His compositions in that way were sometimes satirical, often licentious, but always full of wit.

He had a quick and clear conception of business; could equally detect and practise sophistry. He could state and explain the most intricate matters, even in figures, with the utmost perspicuity. His parts were rather above business; and the warmth of his imagination, joined to the impetuosity and restlessness of his temper, made him incapable of conducting it long together with prudence and steadiness.

He was a most complete orator and debater in the house of commons; eloquent, entertaining, persuasive, strong, and pathetic, as occasion required; for he had arguments, wit, and tears, at his command. His breast was the seat of all those passions which degrade our nature and disturb our reason. There they raged in perpetual conflict; but avarice, the meanest of them all, generally triumphed, ruled absolutely, and in many instances, which I forbear to mention, most scandalously.

His sudden passion was outrageous, but supported by great personal courage. Nothing exceeded his ambition, but his avarice; they often accompany, and are frequently and reciprocally the causes and the effects of each other; but the latter is always a clog upon the former. He affected good-nature and compassion; and perhaps his heart might feel the misfortunes and distresses of his fellow-creatures, but his hand was seldom or never stretched out to relieve them. Though he was an able actor of truth and sincerity, he could occasionally lay them aside, to serve the purposes of his ambition or

avarice.

He was once in the greatest point of view that ever I saw any subject in. When the opposition, of which he was the leader in the house of commons, prevailed at last against Sir Robert Walpole, he became the arbiter between the crown and the people; the former imploring his protection, the latter his support. In that critical moment his various jarring passions were in the highest fer

ment, and for a while suspended his ruling one. Sense of shame made him hesitate at turning courtier on a sudden, after having acted the patriot so long, and with so much applause; and his pride made him declare, that he would accept of no place; vainly imagining, that he could, by such a simulated and temporary self-denial, preserve his popularity with the public, and his power at court. He was mistaken in both. The king hated him almost as much for what he might have done, as for what he had done; and a motley ministry was formed, which by no means desired his company. The nation looked upon him as a deserter, and he shrunk into insignificancy and an earldom.

He made several attempts afterwards to retrieve the opportunity he had lost, but in vain; his situation would not allow it. He was fixed in the house of lords, that hospital of incurables; and his retreat to popularity was cut off: for the confidence of the public, when once great, and once lost, is never to be regained. He lived afterwards in retirement, with the wretched comfort of Horace's miser:

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I much question whether an impartial character of Sir Robert Walpole will or can be transmitted to posterity; for he governed this kingdom so long, that the various passions of mankind mingled, and in a manner incorporated themselves, with every thing that was said or written concerning him. Never was man more flattered, nor more abused; and his long power was probably the chief cause of both. I was much acquainted with him, both in his public and his private life. I mean to do impartial justice to his character; and therefore my picture of him will, perhaps, be more like him than it

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