Page images
PDF
EPUB

of envy the clamour and abuse by which he is assailed, is but the sign and accompaniment of his success in doing service to the Public . And if he is a truly wise man, he will take no more notice of it than the moon does of the howling of the dogs. Her only answer to them is ' to shine on.'

'This public envy seemeth to bear chiefly upon principal officers or ministers, rather than upon kings.'

Tin's is a very just remark, and it might have suggested an important argument (touched on in the Lessons on the British Constitution') in favour of hereditary Royalty. It is surely a good thing that there should be some feeling of loyalty unalloyed by envy, towards something in the Government. And this feeling concentrates itself among us upon the Sovereign. But in a pure Republic, the abstract idea of the State—the Commonwealth itself—is too vague for the vulgar mind to take hold of with any loyal affection. The President, and every one of the public officers, has been raised from the ranks; and the very circumstance of their having been so raised on the score of supposed fitness, makes them (as was observed above) the more obnoxious to envy, because their elevation is felt as an affront to their rivals.

An hereditary Sovereign, on the other hand, if believed to possess personal merit, is regarded as a Godsend; but he does not hold his place by that tenure.

In Aristotle's Mhetoric, there is a Dissertation on Envy, Emulation, and Indignation (Nemesis), well worthy of Bacon; who certainly was carried away into an undue neglect and disparagement of Aristotle by the absurd idolatry of which he had been made the object .

'Conculcatur enim cupidc nimia ante metutum.'

See Introductory Lessons on Oie British Constitution, lesson i

ESSAY X. OF LOVE.

THE stage is more beholding' to love than the life of man; for as to the stage, love is ever matter of comedies, and now and then of tragedies; but in life it doth much mischief, sometimes like a syren, sometimes like a fury. -You may observe, that amongst all the great and worthy persons (whereof the memory remaineth, either ancient or recent), there is not one that hath been transported to the mad degree of love; which shows that great spirits and great business do keep out this weak passion. You must except, nevertheless, Marcus Antonius, the half-partner of the empire of Borne, and Appius Claudius, the decemvir and lawgiver; whereof the former was indeed a voluptuous man, and inordinate, but the latter was an austere and wise man: and therefore it seems (though rarely) that love can find entrance, not only in an open heart, but also into a heart well fortified, if watch be not well kept. It is a poor saying of Epicurus,' Satis magnum alter alteri theatrum sumus,'2 —as if a Man, made for the contemplation of heaven, and all noble objects, should do nothing but kneel before a little idol, and make himself a subject, though not of the mouth (as beasts are), yet of the eye, which was given him for higher purposes.

It is a strange thing to note the excess of this passion, and how it braves3 the nature and value of things, by this, that the speaking in a perpetual hyperbole is comely in nothing but in love; neither is it merely in the phrase; for whereas it hath been well said, 'That the arch flatterer, with whom all the petty flatterers have intelligence, is a man's self:' certainly the lover is more; for there was never a proud man thought so absurdly well of himself as the lover doth of the person loved; and therefore it was well said, 'That it is impossible to love and be wise.' * Neither doth this weakness appear to others only, and not to the party loved, but to the loved most of all, except the love be reciprocal; for it is a true rule, that love is ever rewarded either with the reciprocal, or with an inward or secret contempt; by how much more then, men ought to beware of this passion, which loseth not only other things, but itself. As for the other losses, the poet's relation doth well figure them: 'That he that preferreth Helena, quitted the gifts of Juno and Pallas:' for whosoever esteemeth too much of amorous affection, quitteth both riches and wisdom. This passion hath its floods in the very times of weakness, which are great prosperity and great adversity; though this latter has been less observed; both which times kindle love, and make it more fervent, and therefore show it to be the child of folly. They do best, who, if they cannot but admit love, yet make it keep quarter,1 and sever it wholly from their serious affairs and actions of life; for if it check2 once with business, it troubleth men's fortunes, and inaketk men that they can no ways3 be true to their own ends. I know not how, but martial men are given to love: I think it is, but as they are given to wine; for perils commonly ask to be paid in pleasures.4 There is in Man's nature a secret inclination and motion towards love of others, which, if it be not spent upon some one or a few, doth naturally spread itself towards many, and maketh men become humane and charitable, as it is seen sometimes in friars. Nuptial love maketh mankind; friendly love perfecteth it; but wanton love corrupteth and embaseth5 it.

1 Beholding. Beholden.

2 'We are a sufficiently prreat spectacle to each other.'

3 Braves. Decorates ami extoln.

1 'Amare et sapere vix Deo conceditur.'—Puh. Syr. Sent. 15.

1 Quarter. Proper place 'rarely used in the singular).

'Swift to their several quarters hasted then The cumbrous elements.'—Milton. 8 Cheek with. To interfere with; to clash with. 'It was not comely or fitting that in prayers we should make a God or Saviour of any Saint in heaven; neither was it fitting to make them check with our Saviour.'—Strijpe, 1535.

3 No ways. In any wise; by no means. 'And being no ways a match for the fleet, we set sail to Athens.'—Swift.

* It is remarked by Aristotle in his Politics that warlike nations are those who pay the highest regard to women. And this he suggests may have given rise to the fable of the love of Mars and Venus.

* Embase. Degrade.

'Love did embase him
Into a kitchen-drudge.'—Old Ballad, 13 th century.

ANNOTATIONS.

'The Stage is more beholding to Love than the life of Man.'

If Bacon had lived in our day, he would probably have appealed, in confirmation of his views, to our modern use of the words 'fond,' and ' doting,' which originally meant 'foolish,' and are now applied to the passion of Love.

'Men ought to beware of this passion, which loseth not only other things, but itself . . . . 'Whosoever esteemeth too much of amorous affection, quitteth both riches and wisdom.'

The following passage is extracted from an article on Miss Austen's novels, in the Quarterly Review (No. 24, p. 374) which was reprinted—through a mistake—in the Remains of Sir YV. Scott, though it was not written by him.

'Bacon, in these days would hardly have needed to urge so strongly the dethronement of the God of Love. The prevailing fault is not now, whatever it may have been, to sacrifice all for

love:—

• Venit enim magnum donandi parca juventus.
Nee tautum Veneris quantum studiosa culines.'

Mischievous as is the extreme of sentimental enthusiasm, and a romantic and uncalculating extravagance of passion, it is not the one into which the young folks of the present day are the most likely to run. Prudential calculations are not indeed to be excluded in marriage: to disregard the advice of sober-minded friends on an important point of conduct is an imprudence we would by no means recommend; indeed, it is a species of selfishness, if, in listening only to the dictates of passion, a man saerifices to its gratification the happiness of those most dear to him as well as his own; though it is not now-a-days the most prevalent form of selfishness. But it is no commendation of a sentiment to say, that it becomes blameable when it interferes with dnty, and is uncontrolled by conscience. The desire of riches, power, or distinction,—the taste for ease and comfort,—

1

are to be condemned when they transgress these bounds; and love, if it keep within them, even though it be somewhat tinged with enthusiasm, and a little at variance with what the worldly call prudence,—that is, regard for pecuniary advantage,—may afford a better moral discipline to the mind than most other passions. It will not, at least, be denied, that it has often proved a powerful stimulus to exertion, where others have failed, and has called forth talents unknown before, even to the possessor. What though the pursuit may be fruitless, and the hopes visionary? The result may be a real and substantial benefit, though of another kind; the vineyard may have been cultivated by digging in it for the treasure which is never to be found. What though the perfections with which imagination has decorated the beloved object, may, in fact, exist but in a slender degree? Still they are believed in and admired as real; if not, the love is such as does not merit the name; and it is proverbially true that men become assimilated to the character (that is, what they think the character) of the being they fervently adore. Thus (as in the noblest exhibitions of the stage), though that which is contemplated be but a fiction, it may be realized in the mind of the beholder; and, though grasping at a cloud, he may become worthy of possessing a real goddess. Many a generous sentiment, and many a virtuous resolution, have been called forth and matured by admiration of one, who may herself, perhaps, have been incapable of either. It matters not what the object is that a man aspires to be worthy of, and proposes as a model of imitation, if he does hut believe it to be excellent . Moreover, all doubts of success (and they are seldom, if ever, entirely wanting) must either produce or exercise humility; and the endeavour to study another's interests and inclinations, and prefer them to one's own, may promote a habit of general benevolence which may outlast the present occasion. Everything, in short, which tends to abstract a man in any degree, or in any way, from self—from selfadmiration and self-interest,—has, so far at least, a beneficial influence on character.'

The effect of mere familiar intercourse in dispelling the illusions of a fancy-founded love, is well described by Crabbe in one of the Tales of the Hall, the 'Natural Death of Love.'

« PreviousContinue »