Obrázky stránek

larger, so as every day to double their former size. As they grow old, however, they do not still continue to increase, but their legs only continue to grow longer; and when a spider becomes entirely stiff with age and unable to seize its prey, it dies at length of hunger.


In every duty, in every science in which we would wish to arrive at perfection, we should propose for the object of our pursuit some certain station éven beyond our abilities; some imaginary excellence, which may amuse and serve to animate our inquiry. In deviating from others, in following an unbeaten road, though we perhaps may never arrive at the wished-for object, yet it is possible we may meet several discoveries by the way; and the certainty of small advantages, even while we travel with security, is not so amusing as the hopes of great rewards, which inspire the adventurer. Evenit nonnunquam, says Quintilian, ut aliquid grande inveniat qui semper quærit quod nimium est.

This enterprising spirit is, however, by no means the character of the present age; every person who should now leave received opinions, who should attempt to be more than a commentator upon philosophy, or an imitator in polite learning, might be regarded as a chimerical projector. Hundreds would be ready not only to point out his errors, but to load him with reproach. Our probable opinions are now regarded as certainties ; the difficulties hitherto undiscovered as utterly inscrutable; and the writers of the last age inimitable, and therefore the properest models of imitation.

One might be almost induced to deplore the philosophic spirit of the age, which, in proportion as it enlightens the mind, increases its timidity, and represses the vigour of every undertaking. Men are now content with being prudently in the right; which, though not the way to make new acquisitions, it must be owned, is the best method of securing what we have. Yet this is certain, that the writer who never deviates, who never hazards a new thought, or a new expression, though his friends may compliment him upon his sagacity, though criticism lifts her feeble voice in his praise, will seldom arrive at any degree of perfection. The way to acquire lasting esteem, is not by the fewness of a writer's faults, but the greatness of his beauties; and our noblest works are generally most replete with both.

An author who would be sublime, often runs his thought into burlesque; yet I can readily pardon his mistaking ten times for once succeeding. True genius walks along a line; and perhaps our greatest pleasure is in seeing it so often near falling, without being ever actually down.

Every science has its hitherto undiscovered mysteries, after which men should travel undiscouraged by the failure of former adventurers. Every new attempt serves perhaps to facilitate its future invention. We may not find the philosopher's stone, but we shall probably hit upon new inventions in pursuing it. We shall perhaps never be able to discover the longitude, yet perhaps we may arrive at new truths in the investigation.

Were any of those sagacious minds among us (and surely no nation, or no period, could ever compare with us in this particular); were any of those minds, I say, who now sit down contented with exploring the intricacies of another's system, bravely to shake off admiration, and, undazzled with the splendour of another's reputation, to


chalk out a path to fame for themselves, and boldly cultivate untried experiment, what might not be the result of their inquiries, should the same study that has made them wise make them enterprising also? What could not such qualities united produce? But such is not the character of the English : while our neighbours of the continent launch out into the ocean of science, without proper store for the voyage, we fear shipwreck in every breeze, and consume in port those

which might probably have weathered every storm.

Projectors in a state are generally rewarded above their deserts; projectors in the republic of letters, never. If wrong, every inferior dunce thinks himself entitled to laugh at their disappointment; if right, men of superiour talents think their honour engaged to oppose, since every new discovery is a tacit diminution of their own pre-emi

those powers


To aim at excellence, our reputation, our friends, and our all must be ventured; by aiming only at mediocrity, we run no risk, and we do little service. Prudence and greatness are ever persuading us to contrary pursuits. The one instructs us to be content with our station, and to find happiness in bounding every wish: the other impels us to superiority, and calls nothing happiness but rapture. The one directs to follow mankind, and to act and think with the rest of the world: the other drives us from the crowd, and exposes us as a mark to all the shafts of envy or ignorance.

Nec minus periculum ex magna fama quam ex mala

.. ТАСІт. .

[merged small][ocr errors]

In a

attending excellence generally paid in reversion. word, the little mind who loves itself, will write and think with the vulgar, but the great mind will be bravely eccentric, and scorn the beaten road, from universal benevolence.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

各 *

In this place our author introduces a paper, entitled a City Night Piece, with the following motto from Martial.

Ille dolet vere, qui sine teste dolet.

This beautiful Essay forms the 117th letter in the Citizen of the World; but Dr Goldsmith has there omitted the concluding paragraph, which, on account of its singular merit, we shall here preserve.

But let me turn from a scene of such distress to the sanctified hypocrite, who has been talking of virtue till the time of bed, and now steals out, to give a loose to his vices under the protection of midnight; vices more atrocious because he attempts to conceal them. See how he pants down the dark alley; and, with hastening steps, fears an acquaintance in every face. He has passed the whole day in company he hates, and now goes to prolong the night among company that as heartily hate him. May his vices be detected ! may the morning rise upon his shame! Yet I wish to no purpose; villany, when detected, never gives up, but boldly adds impudence to imposture.






FRUGALITY has ever been esteemed a virtue as well

among Pagans as Christians: there have been even heroes who have practised it. However, we must acknowledge, that it is too modest a virtue, or, if you will, too obscure a one, to be essential to heroism; few heroes have been able to attain to such a height. Frugality agrees much better with politics; it seems to be the base, the support, and, in a word, seems to be the inseparable companion of a just administration.

However this be, there is not perhaps in the world a people less fond of this virtue than the English; and of consequence, there is not a nation more restless, more exposed to the uneasiness of life, or less capable of

providing for particular happiness. We are taught to despise this virtue from our childhood, our education is improperly directed, and a man who has gone through the politest institutions, is generally the person who is least

« PředchozíPokračovat »