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such as have great places under princes, and execute their places with sufficiency.1 There is an honour, likewise, which may be ranked amongst the greatest, which happeneth rarely; that is, of such as sacrifice themselves2 to death or danger for the good of their country; as was M. Regulus, and the two Decii.
Bacon does not advert to the circumstance, that one man often gete the credit which is due to another; one being the ostensible, and another principally the real author of something remarkable; according to the proverb, that'little dogs find the hare, but the big ones catch it.' And sometimes, again, the thing itself that is the most difficult and the most important will be overlooked, while much admiration is bestowed on something else which was an easy, natural, and almost inevitable result of it.
There cannot be a more striking example of this than the vast importance attached to the invention of printing, and the controversies as to who was the inventor; when, in fact, it was the invention of a cheap paper that was the really important step, and which could not but be speedily followed by the use of printing. I say the use, because, when introduced, it could hardly be called a new invention. The loaves of bread found at Pompeii and Herculaneum were stamped with the baker's name. And, in fact, the seals used by the ancients were a stamp of the name, which was wetted with ink, and impressed on the parchment; so that signing and sealing were one and the same. Now all this is, substantially, of the character of printing. Whether we use fixed types, like the Chinese, or moveable, is a mere matter of detail.
But the only cause why this was not applied by the ancients to books, handbills, &c., was the costliness of papyrus and parchment. This limited the sale to so small a number of copies, that printing would have cost more than transcribing. As soon as a cheap material for books was invented, it was likely to occur, and probably did occur, to many, that a lower price, and a wider sale, would be secured by some kind of stamp.
1 Sufficiency. Ability. See page 294. 'Sacrifice themselves. Devote themselves.
Then, as to the real performers of some great feat, or originators of some measure or institution, History would furnish many instances of mistakes that have prevailed. A poem has come down to us celebrating Harmodius and Aristogeiton as having slain the tyrant of Athens, and restored liberty to their country. And Thucydides, who lived among the grandchildren of those who remembered the transaction, complains that such was the prevalent belief in his own day; though Hipparchus, whom those men assassinated, was not the tyrant, but was brother of Hippias, the actual sovereign, and who continued to reign some years longer.
In our own day, three of the most important measures were brought about, ostensibly, by ministers who, so far from being the real authors of them, were, in their own judgment and inclination, decidedly opposed to them—the repeal of the Roman-catholic disabilities, the abolition of slavery, and the introduction of free trade in corn. The ministries of the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel are well known to have been hostile to what was called Roman-catholic emancipation, and advocates of the corn laws, and to have been driven by necessity to take the steps they did. Yet it is possible that they may go down to posterity as the authors of those two great changes. It is not so generally known that Lord Melbourne, then one of the ministers, on going out of the House of Lords on the night that the bill passed for abolishing slavery, remarked to an acquaintance that if he could have had Ms own way in that matter, he would have left it quite alone.
It is remarkable that Bacon has said nothing about men's solicitude concerning posthumous reputation,—that delusion of the imagination (for it surely is such) of which there is perhaps no one quite destitute,—and which is often found peculiarly strong in those who disbelieve a Future State, and deride the believers. Yet granting that these latter are mistaken, and aru only grasping at a shadow, still they are hoping for what they at least believe to be real. They expect—whether erroneously or not—to have an actual consciousness of the enjoyment they look forward to. The others are aware that, when they shall have attained the prize of posthumous glory, they shall have no perception of it. They know that it is a shade they are grasping at. Yet Hume had this solicitude about his posthumous fame. 'Knowing,' says the Edinburgh Review,1 'from Pope what is meant by a ruling passion, it is a poor thing to set it on the die of literary fame. In one way, he made the most of it; for his prescience of his growing reputation certainly soothed him in his last illness.2 This was something; but it is surely singular. Delusion for delusion, the manes fabulaque of another world are at least an improvement on the after-life of posthumous renown. Immortality on earth fades away before the light of immortality in a future state. On the other hand, what is to be said but 'vanity of vanities!' when a philosopher who has no expectation of a future state, and who is contemplating annihilation with complacency, is found, notwithstanding this, busied on his death-bed about his posthumous fame? —careful what men may be saying of his essays and his histories, after he himself is sleeping in the grave, where all things are forgotten!'
But however fanciful and illusory any one may account the desire of posthumous fame, the desire of posthumous utility stands on a different footing; because the proper and primary object of pure benevolence, is, not the perception of the welfare of others (desirable and gratifying as this is to the benevolent), but the actual existence of that welfare, as an ultimate end, and irrespective of our knowledge of it .
'. . . Which sort of men are commonly much talked of.'
'A sort of man' that is not only much talked of, but commonly admired, is a man who, along with a considerable degree of cleverness and plausible fluency, is what is called puzzlebeaded :—destitute of sound, clear, cautious judgment. This puzzle-headedness conduces much to a very sudden and rapid rise to a (short-lived) celebrity.
1 Seo an article on David Hume, Edinburgh Review, No. clxii. January, 1847.
2 There is a rumour afloat, which it is said has been traced up to the nurse who attended him in his last illness, that the cheerful calmness with which he is recorded to have awaited death, was only assumed in the presence of his old associates, to keep up his ori'dit with them to the last, and that inwardly he was a prey to the most gloomy tellings, which were manifested when those friendb were absent.
The truth or falsity of this account can never be fully ascertained in this world. It certainly is not at all intrinsically improbable.
Such was the description once given of an author, who was at that time more talked about than almost any individual in the empire, and whom many admired as a surpassing genius, who had fully confuted the doctrines of Malthus, and made prodigious discoveries in political science. One of the company took up the speaker very sharply; observing that it was strange to speak disparagingly of a man who, without wealth, birth, or high connexions, had so very rapidly acquired great celebrity. The other replied by making the observation just above given. For, men do not, said he, give up their prejudices, and adopt new views, very readily; and consequently, one who refutes prevailing errors, and brings to light new or forgotten truths, will at first, and for a good while, find favour with but few. He will therefore have to wait (as was the case with Malthus) many years, and perhaps to his life's end, before he is appreciated. His credit will be lasting, but slow of growth. But the way to rise to sudden popularity, is to be a plausible advocate of prevailing doctrines, and to defend, with some appearance of originality, something which men like to believe, but have no good reason for believing.
Now this will never be done so well by the most skilful dissembler, as by one who is himself the sincere dupe of his own fallacies, and brings them forward accordingly with an air of simple earnestness. And this implies his being—with whatever ingenuity and eloquence—puzzle-headed.
There seemed to the company to be something in this; but they were as loth to admit it, as (according to the remark just above) men usually are in such a matter. 'What do you say,' they replied, 'to Mr. Pitt? He was an admired statesman at the age of twenty-three; and was he a puzzle-headed man?'
'Why, not generally such,' was the answer; 'but he was such in reference to the partieular point which mainly contributed to obtain him that very early and speedy popularity. Look at the portraits of him at that time, and you will see a paper in his hand, or on his table, inscribed 'Smking Fund.' It was his eloquent advocacy of that delusion (as all, now, admit it to have been) which brought him such sudden renown. And he could not have so ably recommended—nor indeed would he probably have adopted, that juggle of Dr. Price's, if he had not been himself the dupe of his fallacy; as Lord Grenville also was; who afterwards published a pamphlet in which he frankly exposed the delusion.'
This could not be denied to be a confirmation of the paradox. And then another case,—the converse of the above—was adduced on the same side: a case in which the whole British nation were, in one particular, manifestly puzzle-headed, except one man: who was accordingly derided by all. In the dispute between Great Britain and her American colonies, though there were great differences of opinion—some being for, and others against taxing them; some for force, and some for conciliation—all agreed that the loss of them—the dismemberment of the Empire —would be a heavy calamity; and how to keep them was the problem to be solved. But Dean Tucker, standing quite alone, wrote a pamphlet to show that the separation would be NO loss at all, and that we had best give them the independence they coveted, at once, and in a friendly way. Some thought he was writing in jest: the rest despised him as too absurd to be worth answering. But now (and for above half a century) every one admits that he was quite right, and regrets that his view was not adopted. He might well have used the description of Thucydides applied to his own work; tcriifia e? ael fiaWov, fj ilyiovio-fjia e? To irapayjrqfija, aicoveiv, f i/y/cetTot.1
By the bye, it is remarkable that Professor Smyth, who gives him due praise for this view, remarks, at the same time, on his strange absurdity in saying, that it would be very easy (though not at all worth while) to subdue the American insurgents; and that a hastily raised, disorderly militia could have no chance against a well disciplined and well commanded regular army.
But from the documents brought forward in an admirable article in the Edinburgh Review (January, 1846), on European and American State-Confederacies, it appears that Dean Tucker was right there also—that the game was in our hands, and
1 It is composed Bo as to be regarded as a possession for ever, rather than as a prize declamation, intended only for the present.