« PreviousContinue »
services to his lord,-avows that he cannot in tolerable order by his discretion, now, when give an opinion about the essay on “Heroic he had long lived in seclusion, and had become Virtue,” because he cannot read it without accustomed to regard himself as by far the first skipping ;-a circumstance which strikes us man of his circle, rendered him blind to his as peculiarly strange, when we consider how own deficiencies. In an evil hour he publong Mr. Courtenay was at the India Board, lished an “Essay on Ancient and Modern and how many thousand paragraphs of the Learning.” The style of this treatise is very copious official eloquence of the East he must good-the matter ludicrous and contemptible have perused.
to the last degree. There we read how Lycure One of Sir William's pieces, however, iegus travelled into India, and brought the Sparserves notice, not, indeed, on account of its tan laws from that country-how Orpheus and intrir.sic merit, but on account of the light Musæus made voyages in search of knowledge, which it throws on some curious weaknesses and how Orpheus attained to a depth of learnof his character; and on account of the extra- ing which has made him renowned in all suc. ordinary effect which it produced on the re- ceeding ageshow Pythagoras passed twenty. public of letters.
two years in Egypt, and, after graduating there, A most idle and contemptible controversy spent twelve years more at Babylon, where the had arisen in France touching the comparative Magi admitted him ad eundem-how the ancient merit of the ancient and modern writers. It Brahmins lived two hundred years how the was certainly not to be expected that, in that earliest Greek philosophers foretold earth age, the question would be tried according to quakes and plagues, and put down riots by those large and philosophical principles of magic-and how much Ninus surpassed in criticism which guided the judgments of Les- abilities any of his successors on the throne of sing and of Herder. But it might have been Assyria. The moderns, ne owns, have found expected, that those who undertook to decide cut the circulation of the blood; but, on the the point would at least take the trouble to other hand, they have quite lost the art of maread and understand the authors on whose gic; nor can any modern fiddler enchant fishes, merits they were to pronounce. Now, it is no fowls, and serpents by his performance. He exaggeration to say that, among the disputants tells us that “Thales, Pythagoras, Democritus, who clamoured, some for the ancients, and Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Epicurus some for the moderns, very few were decently made greater progresses in the several empires acquainted with either ancient or modern of science than any of their successors have literature, and not a single one was well ac- since been able to reach;” which is as much quainted with both. In Racine's amusing pre- as if he had said that the greatest names in face to the “Iphigénie,” the reader may find British science are Merlin, Michael Scott, Dr. noticed a most ridiculous mistake, into which Sydenham, and Lord Bacon. Indeed, the manone of the champions of the moderns fell about ner in which he mixes the historical and the a passage in the Alcestis of Euripides. An- fabulous reminds us of those classical dictionother writer blames Homer for mixing the four aries, intended for the use of schools, in which Greek dialects-Doric, Ionic, Æolic, and Attic Narcissus, the lover of himself, and Narcissus, --just, says he, as if a French poet were to put the freedman of Claudius–Pollux, the son of Gascon phrases and Picard phrases into the Jupiter and Leda, and Pollux, the author of the midst of his pure Parisian writing. On the Onomasticon-are ranged under the same other hand, it is no exaggeration to say that the heading, and treated as personages equally defenders of the ancients were entirely unac-real. The effect of this arrangement resembles quainted with the greatest productions of later that which would be produced by a dictionary times; nor, indeed, were the defenders of the of modern names, consisting of such articles moderns better informed. The parallels which as the following:—“Jones, William, an emi were instituted in the course of this dispute nent Orientalist, and one of the Judges of the are inexpressibly ridiculous. Balzac was se- Supreme Court of Judicature in Bengal-Davy, lected as the rival of Cicero. Corneille was a fiend who destroys ships-Thomas, a founddeclared to unite the merits of Æschylus, ling, brought up by Mr. Allworthy.” It is from Sophocles, and Euripides. We should like to such sources as these that Temple seems to see a “ Prometheus” after Corneille's fashion. have learned all that he knew about the an. The “Provincial Letters," masterpieces un- cients. He puts the story of Orpheus between doubtedly of reasoning, wit, and eloquence, the Olympic games and the battle of Arbela ; were pronounced to be superior to all the as if we had exactly as much reason for bewritings of Plato, Cicero, and Lucian together, lieving that Orpheus led beasts with his lyre, --articularly in the art of dialogue-an art in as we have for believing that there were races which, as it happens, Plato far excelled all at Pisa, or that Alexander conquered Darius. men, and in which Pascal, great and admira He manages little better when he comes to ble in other respects, is notoriously deficient. the moderns. He gives us a catalogue of those
This childish controversy spread to Eng. whom he regards as the greatest wits of later land; and some mischievous demon suggested times. It is sufficient to say that, in his list of w Temple the thought of undertaking the de- Italians, he has omitted Dante, Petrarch, Ari. fence of the ancients. As to his qualifications osto, and Tasso; in his list of Spaniards, Lope for the task, it is sufficient to say, that he knew and Calderon; in his list of French, Pascal, pot a word of Greek. But his vanity, which, Bossuet, Molière, Corneille, Racine, and Boiwhere he was engaged in the conflicts of active leau; and in his list of English, Chaucer, wife, and surrounded by rivals, had been kept Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton
In the midst of all this vast riass of absurdity ness had been increased by many years ci so one paragraph stands out pra-eminent. The clusion and flattery,--was moved to the most doctrine of Temple-not a very comfortable violent resentment; complained, very unjustone-is, that the human race is constantly de- ly, of Bentley's foul-mouthed raillery, and de generating; and that the oldest books in every clared that he had commenced an answer, but kind are the best. In confirmation of this doc- had laid it aside, “having no mind to enter the trine, he remarks that the Fables of Æsop are lists with such a mean, dull, unmannerly pe. the best fables, and the letters of Phalaris the dant.” Whatever may be thought of the tem. best letters in the world. On the merit of the per which Sir William showed on this occa. letters of Phalaris he dwells with great warmth sion, we cannot too highly applaud his discreand with extraordinary felicity of language. tion in not finishing and publishing his answer, Indeed, we could hardly select a more favour- which would certainly have been a most ex. able specimen of the graceful and easy ma- traordinary performance. jesty to which his style sometimes rises than He was not, however, without defenders. this unlucky passage. He knows, he says, Like Hector, when struck down prostrate by that some learned men, or men who pass for Ajax, he was in an instant covered by a thick learned, such as Politian, have doubted the crowd of shieldsgenuineness of these letters. But of these
«συτις εδυνησατο ποιμενα λαων doubts he speaks with the greatest contempt. Ουτασαι ουδε βαλειν' πριν γαρ περιβησαν αριστοι, , Now it is perfectly certain, first, that the letters
Πουλυδαμας τε, και Αινειας, και διος 'Αγγνωρ, are very bad; secondly, that they are spuri Σαρπηδων τ' αρχος Λυκιων, και Γλαυκος αμυμων." ous; and thirdly, that, whether they be bad or good, spurious or genuine, Temple could know Christchurch was up in arms; and though nothing of the matter; inasmuch as he was no that college seems then to have been almost mors able to construe a line of them than to destitute of severe and accurate learning, no decipher an Egyptian obelisk.
academical society could show a greater array This Essay, silly as it is, was exceedingly of orators, wits, politicians,-bustling advenwell received, both in England and on the turers, who united the superficial accomplishContinent. And the reason is evident. The ments of the scholar with the manners and arts classical scholars, who saw its absurdity, of the man of the world, and this formidable were generally on the side of the ancients, body resolved to try how far smart repartees, and were inclined rather to veil than to expose well turned sentences, confidence, puffing, and the blunders of an ally; the champions of the intrigue could, on the question whether a moderns were generally as ignorant as Temple Greek book were or were not genuine, supply himself; and the multitude were charmed by the place of a little knowledge of Greek. his flowing and melodious diction. He was Out came the reply to Bentley, bearing the docmed, however, to smart, as he well de- name of Boyle, but in truth written by Atter. served, for his vanity and folly.
bury, with the assistance of Smalridge and Christchurch at Oxford was then widely and others. A most remarkable book it is, and justly celebrated as a place where the lighter often reminds us of Goldsmith's observation, parts of classical learning were cultivated that the French would be the best cooks in the with success. With the deeper mysteries of world if they had any butcher's meat, for that philology neither the instructors nor the pupils they can make ten dishes out of a nettle top. had the smallest acquaintance. They fancied It really deserves the praise, whatever that themselves Scaligers, as Bentley scornfully praise may be worth, of being the best book said, as soon as they could write a copy of ever written by any man on the wrong side of Latin verses with only two or three small a question of which he was profoundly ignofaults. From this college proceeded a new rant. The learning of the confederacy is that edition of the Letters of Phalaris, which were of a schoolboy, and not of an extraordinary rare, and had been in request since the appear-schoolboy; but it is used with the skill and ance of Temple's Essay. The nominal editor address of most able, artful, and experienced was Charles Boyle, a young man of noble men; it is beaten out to the very thinnest leaf, family and promising parts; but some older and is disposed in such a way as to seem ten members of the society lent their assistance. times larger than it is. The dexterity with While this work was in preparation, an idle which they avoid grappling with those parts quarrel, occasioned, it should seem, by the of the subject with which they know themnegligence and misrepresentations of a book- selves to be incompetent to deal is quite won. seller, arose between Boyle and the king's derful. Now and then, indeed, they commit librarian, Richard Bentley. Boyle, in the pre- disgraceful blunders, for which old Busby, unface to his edition, inserted a bitter reflection der whom they had studied, would have whip. on Bentley Bentley revenged himself by ped them all round. But this circumstance proving that the Epistles of Phalaris were for- only raises our opinion of the talents which geries; and in his remarks on this subject made such a fight with such scanty means. Feated Temple, not indecently, but with no Let our readers, who are not acyuainted with great reverence.
the controversy, imagine a Frenchman who Temple, who was quite unaccustomed to had acquired just English enough I read the any but the most respectful usage, who, even Spectator with a dictionary, coining forward to while engaged in politics, had always shrunk defend the genuineness of “Rowley s Poems" from all rude collision, and had generally against Percy and Farmer; and they will hava succeeded in avoiding it, and whose sensitive some notion of the feat which Atterbury had
the audacity to undertake, and which, for a This description is surely by no means áp. time, it was really thought that he had per- plicable to a statesman who had, through the formed.
whole course of his life, carefully avoided ex. The illusion was soon dispelled. Bentley's posing himself in seasons of trouble: who had answer forever settled the question, and es- repeatedly refused, in the most critical con tablished his claim to the first place amongst junctures, to be Secretary of State; and who classical scholars. Nor do those do him jus- now, in the midst of revolutions, plots, foreign tice who represent the controversy as a battle and domestic wars, was quietly writing non between wit and learning. For, though there sense about the visits of Lycurgus to the Brah is lamentable deficiency of learning on the mins, and the tunes which Arion played to the side of Boyle, there is no want of wit on the Dolphin. side of Bentley. Other qualities too, as valua We must not omit to mention that, while the ble as either wit or learning, appear conspi- controversy about Phalaris was raging, Swift, cuously in Bentley's book ;-a rare sagacity, in order to show his zeal and attachment, an unrivalled power of combination, a perfect wrote the “Battle of the Books;"—the earliest mastery of all the weapons of logic. He was piece in which his peculiar talents are discern. greatly indebted to the furious outcry which ible. We may observe, that the bitter dislike the misrepresentations, sarcasms, and intrigues of Bentley, bequeathed by Temple to Swift, of his opponents had raised against him ;-an seems to have been communicated by Swift to outcry in which fashionable and political cir- Pope, to Arbuthnot, and to others who continued cles joined, and which was re-echoed by thou- to tease the great critic, long after he had sands who did not know whether Phalaris shaken hands very cordially both with Boyle ruled in Sicily or in Siam. His spirit, daring and Atterbury. even to rashness-self-confident, even to neg Sir William Temple died at Moor Park in ligence-and proud, even to insolent ferocity, January, 1699. He appeared to have suffered -was awed for the first and for the last time no intellectual decay. His heart was buried
awed, not into meanness or cowardice, under a sun-dial which still stands in his fa but into wariness and sobriety. For once he vourite garden. His body was laid in Westran no risks; he left no crevice unguarded; minster Abbey by the side of his wife ; and a he wantoned in no paradoxes ; above all, he place hard by was set apart for Lady Giffard, returned no railing for the railing of his ene- who long survived him. Swift was his literary mies. In almost every thing that he has writ- executor, and superintended the publication of ten we can discover proofs of genius and his Letters and Memoirs, not without some learning. But it is only here that his genius acrimonious contests with the family. and .earning appear to have been constantly Of Temple's character little more remai: under the guidance of good sense and good to be said." Burnet aconecs hin ví nolding is. temper. Here we find none of that besotted religious opinions, and corrupting everybody reliance on his own powers and on his own who came near him. But the vague assertion luck, which he showed when he undertook to of so rash and partial a writer as Burnet, about edite Milton; none of that perverted ingenuity a man with whom, as far as we know, he which deforms so many of his notes on Ho- never exchanged a word, is of very little race; none of that disdainful carelessness by weight. It is, indeed, by no means improbable which he laid himself open to the keen and that Temple may have been a free-thinker. dexterous thrusts of Middleton ; none of that The Osbornes thought him so when he was a extravagant vaunting and savage scurrility by very young man. And it is certain that a which he afterwards dishonoured his studies large proportion of the gentlemen of rank and and his profession, and degraded himself al- fashion who made their entrance into society most to the level of De Paucs.
while the Puritan party was at the height of Temple did not live to witness the utter and power, and while the memory of the reign of irreparable defeat of his champions. He died, that party was still recent, conceived a strong indeed, at a fortunate moment, just after the disgust for all religion. The imputation was appearance of Boyle's book, and while all common between Temple and all the most disEngland was laughing at the way in which the tinguished courtiers of the age. Rochester Christchurch men had handled the pedant. In and Buckingham were open scoffers, and MulBoyle's book, Temple was praised in the high-grave very little better. Shaftesbury, though est terms, and compared to Memmius-not a more guarded, was supposed to agree with very happy comparison ; for the only particu- them in opinion. All the three noblemen who lar information which we have about Mem- were Temple's colleagues during the short mius is, that in agitated times he thought it time of his continuance in the cabinet, were his duty to attend exclusively to politics; and of very indifferent repute as to orthodoxy that his friends could not venture, except when Halifax, indeed, was generally considered as the republic was quiet and prosperous, to in- an atheist; but he solemnly denied the charge; trude on him with their philosophical and and, indeed, the truth seems to be, that he was poetical productions. It is on this account, more religiously disposed than most of the ihat Lucretius puts up the exquisitely beauti- statesmen of that age; though two impulses ful prayer for peace with which his poem which were unusually strong in him,-a pasopens :
sion for ludicrous images, and a passion for
subtle speculations,—sometimes prompted him "Xam neque nos agere hoc patris tempore iniquo Possumus æque animo, nec Memmii clara propago
to talk on serious subjects in a manner which Talibus in rebus communi deesse saluti."
gave great and just offence. It is not even
anlikely that Temple, who seldom went below he seems to us to have been excessively self the surface of any question, may have been ish, but very sober, wary, and far-sighted in infected with the prevailing skepticism. All his selfishness ;-to have known better than that we can say un the subject is, that there is most people know what he really wanted in no trace of impiety in his works; and that the life; and to have pursued what he wanted with ease with which he carried his election for a much more than ordinary steadiness and sauniversity, where the majority of the voters gacity ;-never suffering himself to be drawn were clergymen, though it proves nothing as aside either by bad or by good feelings. It to his opinions, must
, we think, be considered was his constitution to dread failure more than as proving that he was not, as Burnet seems he desired success,--to prefer security, com to insinuate, in the habit of talking atheism to fort, repose, leisure, to the turmoil and anxiety all who came near him.
which are inseparable from greatness ;--and Temple, however, will scarcely carry with this natural languor of mind, when contrasted him any great accession of authority to the with the malignant energy of the keen and side either of religion or of infidelity. He restless spirits among whom his lot was cast, vas no profound thinker. He was merely a sometimes appears to resemble the moderation man of lively parts and quick observation, of virtue. But we must own, that he seems -a man of the world amongst men of let- to us to sink into littleness and meanness when ters,-a man of letters amongst men of the we compare him-we do not say with any high world. Mere scholars were dazzled by the ideal standard of morality,--but with many of ambassador and cabinet councillor; mere po- those frail men who, aiming at noble ends, but liticians by the essayist and historian. But often drawn from the right path by strong pas. neither as a writer nor as a statesman can we sions and strong temptations, have left to ros allot to him any very high place. As a man, terity a doubtful and checkered fame
CHURCH AND STATE..
[EDINBURGH REVIEW FOR APRIL, 1839.]
The author of this volume is a young man it less the second time, and still less the third of unblemished character and of distinguished time; and now it seems to me to be nc defence parliamentary talents, the rising hope of those at all.” My good friend,” said Lysias, “ you stern and unbending Tories, who follow, re- quite forget that the judges are to hear it only luctantiy and mutinously, a leader, whose ex- once." The case is the same in the English perience and eloquence are indispensable to Parliament. It would be as idle in an orator them, but whose cautious temper and moderate to waste deep meditation and long research on opinions they abhor. It would not be at all his speeches, as it would be in the manager of strange if Mr. Gladstone were one of the most a theatre to adorn all the crowd of courtiers anpopular men in England. But we believe and ladies who cross over the stage in a prothat we do him no more than justice when we cession with real pearls and diamonds. It is say, that his abilities and his demeanour have not by accuracy or profundity that men become obtained for him the respect and good-will of the masters of great assemblies. And why be all parties. His first appearance in the cha. at the charge of providing logic of the best racter of an author is therefore an interesting quality, when a very inferior article will be event; and it is natural that the gentle wishes equally acceptable? Why go as deep into a of the public should go with him to his trial. question as Burke, only in order to be, like
We are much pleased, without any reference Burke, coughed down, or eft speaking to green to the soundness or unsoundness of Mr. Glad benches and red boxes? This has long apstone's theories, to see a grave and elaborate peared to us to be the most serious of the evils treatise on an important part of the philosophy which are to be set off against the many blessof government proceed from the pen of a ings of popular government. It is a fine and young man who is rising to eminence in the true saying of Bacon, that reading makes a House of Commons. There is little danger full man, talking a ready man, and writing an that people engaged in the conflicts of active exact man. The tendency of institutions like life will be too much addicted to general spe- those of England is to encourage readiness in culation. The opposite vice is that which public men, at the expense boih of fulness and most easily hesets them. The times and tides of exactness. The keenest and most vigorous of business and debate tarry for no man. A minds of every generation, minds often admi. politician must often talk and act before he has rably fitted for the investigation of truth, are thought and read. He may be very ill-informed habitually employed in producing arguments, respecting a question; all his notions about it such as no man of sense would ever put into a may be vague and inaccurate ; but speak he treatise intended for publication,-arguments must; and if he is a man of talents, of tact, which are just good enough to be used once, and of intrepidity, ne soon finds that, even when aided by fluent delivery and pointed lanunder such circumstances, it is possible to guage. The habit of discussing questions in speak successfully. He finds that there is a this way necessarily reacts on the intelligence great difference between the effect of written of our ablest men, particularly of those who words, which are perused and reperused in the are introduced into Parliament at a very early stillness of the closet, and the effect of spoken age, before their minds have expanded to full words, which, set off by the graces of utterance maturity. The talent for debate is developed and gesture, vibrate for a single moment on the in such men to a degree which, to the multi
He finds that he may blunder without tude, seems as marvellous as the performmuch chance of being detected, that he may ances of an Italian improvisatore. But they are reason sophistically, and escape unrefuted. fortunate, indeed, if they retain unimpaired the He finds that, even on knotty questions of faculties which are required for close reasontrade and legislation, he can, without reading ing or for enlarged speculation. Indeed, we ten pages, or thinking ten minutes, draw forth should sooner expect a great original work on loud plaudits, and sit down with the credit of political science--such a work, for example, having made an excellent speech. Lysias, as the “Wealth of Nations”-from an apothe says Plutarch, wrote a defence for a man who cary in a country town, or from a minister in was to be tried before one of the Athenian tri- the Hebrides, than from a statesman who, ever bunals. Long before the defendant had learn- since he was one-and-twenty, had been a dised the speech by heart, he became so much tinguished debater in the House of Commons. dissatisfied with it, that he went in great dis We therefore hail with pleasure, though as. tress to the author. “I was delighted with suredly not with unmixed pleasure, the appear. your speech the first time I read it; but I liked ance of this work. That a young politician
should, in the intervals afforded by his parlia
mentary avocations, have constructed and pro• The State in its relations with the Church. By W. E pounded, with much study and mental toil, an GLADSTONE, Esq., Student of Christchurch, and M. P. for Newark 8vo. Second Edition. London. 1839. original theory on a great problem in politics,