« PreviousContinue »
Help to English History' (1641), and History of the Reformation' (1661). As an historian, he displays too much of the spirit of a partisan and bigot, and stands among the defenders of civil and ecclesiastical tyranny. His works, though now almost forgotten, were much read in the seventeenth century, and portions of them may still be perused with pleasure. After the Restoration, his health suffered so much from disappointment at the neglect of his claims for preferment in the church, that he died soon after, in 1662. In a narrative which he published of a six weeks' tour to France in 1625, he gives the following humorous description of
The French. The present French is nothing but an old Gaul moulded into a new name: as rash he is, as head-strong, and as hare-brained. A nation whom you shall win with a feather, and lose with a straw ; upon the first sight of him, you shall have him as familiar as your sleep, or the necessity of breathing. In one hour's conference you may endear him to you, in the second unbutton him, the third pumps him dry of all his secrets, and he gives them you as faithfully as if you were his ghostly father, and bound to conceal them sub sigillo confessionis [. under the seal of confession 'i --when you have learned this, you may lay him aside, før he is no longer serviceable. If you have any humour in holding him in a further acquaintance-a favour which he confesseth, and I believe him, he is unworthy of-himself will make the first separation : he hath said over his lesson now unto you, and now must find out somebody else to whom to repeat it. Fare him well; he is a garment whom I would be loath to wear above two days together, for in that time he will be threadbare. Familiare est hominis omnia sibi remittere [' It is usual for men to overlook their own faults'l, saith Velleius of all; it holdeth most properly in this people. He is very kind-hearted to himself, and thinketh himself as free from wants as he is full : so much he hath in him the nature of a Chinese, that he thinketh all men blind but himself. In this private self-conceitedness he hateth the Spaniard, loveth not the English, and contemneth the German ; himself is the only courtier and complete gentleman, but it is his own glass which he seeth in. Out of this conceit of his own excellency, and partly out of a shallowness of brain, he is very liable to exceptions ; the least distaste that can be draweth his sword, and a minute's pause sheatheth it to your hand: afterwards, if you beat him into better manners, he shall take it kindly, and cry serviteur. In this one thing they are wonderfully like the devil; meekness or submission makes them insolent; a little resistance putteth them to their heels, or makes them your spaniels. In a word--for I have held him too long - he is a walking vanity in a new fashion.
I will give you now a taste of his table, which you shall find in a measure furnished-I speak not of the peasant-but not with so full a manner as with us. Their beef they cut out into such chops, that that which goeth there for a laudable dish, would be thought here a university commons, new served from the hatch. A loin of mutton serves amongst them for three roastings, besides the hazard of making pottage with the rump. Fowl, also, they have in good plenty, especially such as the king found in Scotland : to say truth, that which they have is sufficient for nature and a friend, were it not for the mistress or the kitchen wench. I have heard much fame of the French cooks, but their skill lieth not in the neat handling of beef and mutton. They have—as generally have all this nation-good fancies, and are special fellows for the making of puff-pastes, and the ordering of banquets. Their trade is not to feed the belly, but the palate. It is now time you were set down, where the first thing you must do is to say your grace: private graces are as ordinary there as private masses, and from thence I think they learned them. That done, fall to where you like best; they observe no method in their eating, and if you look for a carver, yon may rise fasting. When you are risen, if you can digest the sluttishness of the cookery, which is most abominable at first sight, I dare trust you in a garrison, Follow him to church, and there he will shew himself most irreligious and irreverent; I speak not of all, but the general. At a mass, in Cordeliers' church in Paris, I saw
two French papists, even when the most sacred mystery of their faith was celebrating, break out into such a blasphemous and atheistical laughter, that even an Ethnic would have hated it; it was well they were Catholics, otherwise some French hothead or other would have sent them laughing to Pluto. * The French language is, indeed, very sweet and delectable: it is cleared of all harshness, by the cutting and leaving out the consonants, which maketh it fall off the tongue very volubly; yet, in my opinion, it is rather elegant than copious; and, therefore, is much troubled for want of words to find out paraphrases. It expresseth very much of itself in the action; the head, body, and shoulders concur ail in the pronouncing of it; and he that hopeth to speak it with a good grace, must have something in him of the mimic. It is enriched with a full number of significant proverbs, which is a great help to the French humour in scoffing; and very full of courtship, which maketh all the people complimental. The poorest cobbler in the village hath his court cringes and his eau bénite de cour, his court holy-water, as perfectly as the Prince of Condé.
French Love of Dancing. At my being there, the sport was dancing, an exercise much used by the French, who do naturally affect it. And it seems this natural inclination is so strong and deep rooted, that neither age nor the absence of a smiling fortune can prevail against it. For on this dancing green there assembleth not only youth and gentry, but also age and beggary ; old wives, which could not set foot to ground without a crutch in the streets, had here taught their feet to amble; you would have thought, by the clearly conveyance and carriage of their bodies, that they had been troubled with the sciatica, and yet so eager in the sport, as if their dancing-days should never be done. Some there was so ragged, that a swift galliard would almost have shaken them into nakedness, and they, also, most violent to have their carcasses directed in a measure. To have attempted the staying of them at home, or the persuading of them to work when they heard the fiddle, had been a task too unwieldly for Hercules. In this mixture of age and condition, did we observe them at their pastime; the rags being so interwoven with the silks, and wrinkled brow's so interchangeably mingled with fresh beauties, that you would have thought it to have been a murinery of fortunes; as for those of both sexes which were altogether past action, they had caused themselves to be carried thither in their chairs, and trod the measures with their cyes.*
OWEN FELTHAM. OWEN FELTHAM or FELLTHAM (circa 1610–1678), the author of a work of great popularity in its day, entitled 'Resolves; Divine, Moral, and Political,' is a writer of whose personal history little is known, except that he was of a good Suffolk family, and lived for some years in the house of the Earl of Thomond. The first part of his Resolves' appeared in 1628; the second part in 1707, and in two years it had reached the twelfth edition. The work consists of essays moral and religious, in the sententious style of that period, and was perhaps suggested by Bacon's Essays. Mr. Hallam has characterised Feltham as one of our worst writers in point of style. He is, indeed, often affected and obscure, but his essays have a fine vein of moral observation and reflection, with occasional picturesqueness of expression.
* Goldsmith, a century and a quarter after this period, finely illustrated the same national peculiarity :
Alike all ages : dames of ancient days
Moderation in Grief. I like of Solon's course, in conforting his constant friend; when, taking him up to the top of a turret, over-looking all the piled buildings, he bids him think how many discontents there had been in those houses since their framing-how many are, and how many will be ; then, if he can, to leave the world's calamities, and mourn but for his own. To mourn for none else were hardness and injustice. To mourn for all were endless. The best way is to uncontract the brow, and let the world's mad spleen fret, for that we smile in woes.
Silence was a full answer in that philosopher, that being asked what he thought of human life, said nothing, turned him round, and vanished.
Limitation of Human Knowledge. Learning is like a river whose head being far in the land, is at first rising little, and easily viewed; but, still as you go, it gapeth with a wider bank, not without pleasure and delightful winding, while it is on both sides set with trees, and the beauties of various flowers. But still the further you follow it, the deeper and the broader 'tis; till at last, it inwaves itself in the unfathomed ocean; there you see more water, but no shore-no end of that liquid, fluid vastness. In many things we may sound Nature, in the shallows of her revelations. We may trace her to her second causes: but, beyond them, we meet with nothing but the puzzle of the soul, and the dazzle of the mind's dim eyes. While we speak of things that are, that we may dissect, and have power and means to find the causes, there is some pleasure, some certainty. But when we come to metaphysics, to long-buried antiquity, and unto unrevealed divinity, we are in a sea, which is deeper than the short reach of the line of man. Much may be gained by studious inquisition ; but more will ever rest, which man cannot discover.
Against Readiness to take Offence. We make ourselves more injuries than are offered us; they many times pass for wrongs in our own thoughts, that were never meant so by the heart of him that speaketh. The apprehension of wrong hurts more than the sharpest part of the wrong done. So, by falsely making ourselves patients of wrong, we become the true and first actors. It is not good, in matters of discourtesy, to dive into a man's mind, beyond his own comment; nor to stir upon a doubtful indignity without it, unless we have proofs that carry weight and conviction with them. Words do sometimes fly from the tongue that the heart did neither hatch nor harbour. While we think to revenge an injury, we many times begin one; and after that, repent our misconceptions. In things that may have a double sense, it is good to think the better was intended; so shall we still both keep our friends and quietness.
Against Detraction. In some dispositions there is such an envious kind of pride, that they cannot endure that any but themselves should be set forth as excellent; so that, when they hear one justly praised, they will either openly detract from his virtues, or, if those virtues be like a clear and shining light, eminent and distinguished, so that he cannot be safely traduced by the tongue, they will then raise a suspicion against him by a mysterious silence, as if there were something remaining to be told, which overclouded even his brightest glory. Surely, if we considered detraction to proceed, as it does, from envy, and to belong only to deficient minds, we should find that to applaud virtue would procure us far more honour, than underhandedly seeking to disparage her. The former would shew that we loved what we commended, while the latter tells the world we grudge that in others which we want in ourselves. It is one of the basest offices of man to make his tongue the lash of the worthy. Even if we do know of faults in others, I think we can scarcely shew ourselves more nobly virtuous than in having the charity to conceal them; so that we do not flatter or encourage them in their failings. But to relate anything we may know against our neighbour, in his absence, is most unbeseeming conduct. And who will not condemn him as a traitor to reputation and society, who tells the private fault of his friend to the public and ill-natured world? When two friends part, they should lock up one another's secrets, and exchange their keys. The honest man will rather be a grave to his neighbour's errors, than in any way expose them.
Of Neglect. There is the same difference between igence and neglect, that there is between à garden properly cultivated and the sluggard's field which fell under Solomon's view, when overgrown with nettles and thorns. The one is clothed with beauty, the other is unpleasant and disgusting to the sight. Negligence is the rust of the soul, that corrodes through all her best resolutions. What nature made for use, for strength, and ornament, neglect alone converts to trouble, weakness, and deformity. We need only sit still, and diseases will arise from the mere want of exercise.
How fair soever the soul may be, yet while connected with our fleshy nature, it requires continual care and vigilance to prevent its being soiled and discoloured. Take the weeders from the Floralium and a very little time will change it to a wilderness, and turn that which was before a recreation for men into a habitation for vermin. Our life is a warfare; and we ought not, while passing through it, to sleep without a sentinel, or march without a scout. He who neglects either of these precautions exposes himself to surprise, and to becoming a prey to the diligence and perseverance of his adversary.
The mounds of life and virtue, as well as those of pastures, will decay; and if we do not repair them, all the beasts of the field will enter, and tear up everything good which grows within them. With the religious and well-disposed, a slight deviation from wisdom's laws will disturb the mind's fair peace. Macarins did penance for only killing a goat in anger. Like the Jewish touch of things unclean, the least miscarriage requires purification. Man is like a watch ; if evening and morning he be not wound up with prayer and circumspection, he is unprofitable and false, or serves to mislead. If the instrument be not truly set, it will be harsh and out of tune; the diapason dies, when every string does not perform his part. Surely, without a union to God, we cannot be secure or well. Can he be happy who from happiness is divided ? To be united to God, we must be influenced by His goodness, and strive to imitate His perfections. Diligence alone is a good patrimony; but neglect will waste the fairest fortune. One preserves and gathers; the other, like death, is the dissolution of all, The industrious bee, by her sedulity in summer, lives on honey all the winter. But the drone is not only cast out from the hive, but beaten and punished.
No Man can be Good to All. I never yet knew any man so bad, but some have thought him honest and afforded him love; nor ever any so good, but some have thought him evil and hated him. Few are so stigmatical as that they are not honest to some; and few, again, are so just, as that they seem not to some unequal; either the ignorance, the envy, or the partiality of those that judge, do constitute a various man. Nor can a man in himself white of those that in domatevariand men No
:1 Pane always appear alike to all. In some, nature hath invested a disparity; in some, report hath fore-blinded judgment; and in some, accident is the cause of disposing us to love or hate. Or, if not these, the variation of the bodies' humours; or, perhaps, not any of these. The soul is often led by secret motions, and loves she knows not why. There are impulsive privacies which urge us to a liking, even against the parliamental acts of the two houses, reason and the common sense; as if there were some hidden beauty, of a more magnetic force than all that the eye can see; and this, too, more powerful at one time than another. Undiscovered influences please us now, with what we would sometimes contemn. I have come to the same man that hath now welcomed me with a free expression of love and courtesy, and another time hath left me unsaluted at all ; yet, knowing him well, I have been certain of his sound affection; and have found this not an intended neglect, but an indisposedness, or a mind seriously busied within. Occasion reins the motions of the stirring mind. Like men that walk in their sleep, we are led about, we neither know whither nor how.
Meditation. veditation is the soul's perspective glass; whereby, in her long remove, she discerneth God, as if he were nearer hand. I persuade no man to make it his whole life's business. We have bodies as well as souls; and even this world, while we are in it, ought somewhat to be cared for. As those states are likely to flourish where execution follows sound advisements, so is man when contemplation is seconded by action. Contemplation generates ; action propagates. Without the first, the latter
is defective; without the last, the first is bat abortive and embryous. St. Bernard compares contemplation to Rachel, which was the more fair; but action to Leah, which was the more fruitful. I will neither always be busy and doing, nor ever shut up in nothing but thought. Yet that which some would call idleness, I will call the sweetest part of my life, and that is, my thinking.
ABRAHAM COWLEY. COWLEY (1618–1667) holds a distinguished position among the prose writers of this age ; indeed, he has been placed at the head of those who cultivated that clear, easy, and natural style which was subsequently employed and improved by Dryden, Tillotson, Sir William Temple, and Addison. Johnson has pointed out as remarkable the contrast between the simplicity of Cowley's prose, and the stiff formality and affectation of his poetry. 'No author,' says he, ever kept his verse and his prose at a greater distance from each other. His thoughts are natural, and his style has a smooth and placid equability, which has never yet obtained its due commendation. Nothing is far-sought or hard-laboured; but all is easy without feebleness, and familiar without grossness. The prose works of Cowley extend to but sixty folio pages, and consist of 'Essays,' which treat of Liberty, Solitude, Obscurity, Agriculture, The Garden, Greatness, Avarice, The Dangers of an Honest Man in much Company, The Shortness of Life and Uncertainty of Riches, The Danger of Procrastination, Of Myself, &c. He wrote also a ‘Discourse, by way of Vision, concerning the Government of Oliver Cromwell,' and a Proposition for the Advancement of Experimental Philosophy.' In his Essays, Cowley's longing for peace and retirement is a frequently recurring theme. But he has also wit and humour, with an occasional touch of satire
Of Myself It is a hard and nice subject for a man to write of himself; it grates his own heart to say anything of disparagement, and the reader's ears to hear anything of praise from him. There is no danger from me of offending him in this kind; neither my mind, nor my body, nor my fortune allow me any materials for that vanity. It is sufficient for my own contentment, that they have preserved me from being scandalous, or remarkable on the defective side. But besides that, I shall here speak of myself only in relation to the subject of these precedent discourses, and shall be likelier thereby to fall into the contempt, than rise up to the estimation of most people. As far as my memory can return back into my past life, before I knew or was capable of guessing what the world, or glories, or business of it were, the natural affections of my soul gave a secret bent of aversion from them, as some plants are said to turn away from others, by an antipathy imperceptible to themselves, and inscrutable to man's understanding. Even when I was a very young boy at school, instead of running about on holidays, and playing with my fellows, I was wont to steal from them, and walk into the fields, either alone with a book, or with some one companion, if I could find any of the same temper. I was then, too, so much an eneiny to constraint, that my masters could never prevail on me, by any persuasions or encouragements, to learn, without book, the common rules of grammar, in which they dispensed with me alone, because they found I made a shift to do the usual exercise out of my own reading and observation. That I was then of the saine mind as I am now-which, I confess, I wonder at myself-may appear at the latter end of an ode which I made when I was but thirteen years old, and which was then printed, with many other verses. The beginning of it is boyish; but of this part which I here set down, if a very little were corrected, I should hardly now be much ashamed.