Page images

were interspersed and intermingled throughout all the extent of Greece, the Lesser Asia, Sicily, Italy, and the islands of the Ægean Sea. The Athenians were the only Ionians that ever had any reputation for valour or military achievements, though even these were deemed inferior to the Lacedemonians, the bravest of the Dorians.

The only observation with regard to the difference of men in different climates, on which we can rest any weight, is the vulyar one, that people in the northern regions have a greater inclination to strong liquors, and those in the southern to love and women. One can assign a very probable physical cause for this difference. Wine and distilled waters warm the frozen blood in the colder climates, and fortify men against the injuries of the weather; as the genial heat of the sun, in the countries exposed to his beams, inflames the blood and exalts the passion between the sexes.

[blocks in formation]

But supposing the fact true, that nature, by physical principles, has regularly distributed these two passions, the one to the northern, the other to the southern regions, we can only infer that the climate may affect the grosser and more bodily organs of our frame, not that it can work upon those finer organs on which the operations of the mind and understanding depend. And this is agreeable to the analogy of nature. The races of animals never degenerate when carefully attended to; and horses, in particular, always show their blood in their shape, spirit, and swiftness. But a coxcomb may beget a philosopher, as a man of virtue may leave a worthless progeny.

I shall conclude this subject with observing, that though the passion for liquor be more brutal and debasing than love, which, when properly managed, is the source of all politeness and refinement, yet this gives not so great an advantage to the southern climates as we may be apt, at first sight, to imagine. When love goes beyond a certain pitch, it renders men jealous, and cuts off the free intercourse between the sexes, on which the politeness of a nation will commonly much depend. And if we would subtilize and refine upon this point, we might observe, that the people in very temperate climates are the most likely to attain all sorts of improvement, their blood not being so inflamed as to render them jealous, and yet being warm enough to make them set a due value on the charms and endowments of the fair sex.



Whoever has passed an evening with serious, melancholy people, and has observed how suddenly the conversation was animated, and what sprightliness diffused itself over the countenance, discourse, and behaviour of every one, on the accession of a good-humoured, lively companion ; such a one will easily allow that cheerfulness carries great merit with it, and naturally conciliates the good-will of mankind. No quality, indeed, more readily communicates itself to all around; because no one has a greater propensity to display itself in jovial talk and pleasant entertainment. The flame spreads through the whole circle; and the most sullen and morose are often caught by it. That the melancholy hate the merry, even though 'Horace says it, I have some difficulty to allow; because I have always observed, that, where the jollity is moderate and decent, serious people are so much the more delighted, as it dissipates the gloom with which they are commonly oppressed, and gives them an unusual enjoyment.

From this influence of cheerfulness, both to communicate itself and to engage approbation, we may perceive that there is another set of mental qualities, which, without any utility or any tendency to further good, either of the community or of the possessor,

diffuse a satisfaction in the beholders, and procure friendship and regard. Their immediate sensation to the person possessed of them is agreeable: others enter into the same humour, and catch the sentiment, by a contagion or natural sympathy: and as we cannot forbear loving whatever pleases, a kindly emotion arises towards the person who communicates so much satisfaction. He is a more animating

spectacle: his presence diffuses over us more serene complacency and enjoyment: our imagination, entering into his feelings and disposition, is affected in a more agreeable manner, than if a melancholy, dejected, sullen, anxious temper were presented to us. Hence the affection and approbation which attend the former; the aversion and disgust with which we regard the latter. Few men

would envy the character which Caesar gives of Cassius :

“lle loves 110 play,
As thou do'st, Antony: he hears no music:
Seldom he smiles; and smiles in such a sort,
As if he mocked himself, and scorned his spirit,
That could be moved to smile at anything."

Not only such men, as Cæsar adds, are commonly dangerous, but also, having little enjoyment within themselves, they can never become agreeable to others, or contribute to social entertainment. In all polite nations and ages, a relish for pleasure, if accompanied with temperance and decency, is esteemed a considerable merit, even in the greatest men; and becomes still more requisite in those of inferior rank and character. It is an agreeable representation which a French writer gives of the situation of his own mind in this particular: “Virtue I love,” says he, “ without austerity, pleasure without effeminacy, and life without fearing its end.” 2

Who is not struck with any signal instance of greatness of mind or dignity of character; with elevation of sentiment, disdain of slavery, and with that noble pride and spirit which arises from conscious virtue ? The sublime, says Longinus, is often nothing but the echo or image of magnanimity: and where this quality appears in any one, even though a syllable be not uttered, it excites our applause and admiration; as may be observed of the famous silence of Ajax in the Odyssey, which expresses more noble disdain and resolute indignation than any language can convey.

“Were I Alexander,” said Parmenio, “I would accept of these offer's made by Darius.”—“So would I too,” replied Alexander, "were I Parmenio.” This saying is admirable, says Longinus, from a like principle.



[ocr errors]

Go !” cries the same hero to his soldiers, when they refused to follow him to the Indies, “go, tell your countrymen that you left Alexander completing the conquest of the world.”—“Alexander," said the Prince of Condé, who always admired this passage, “abandoned by his soldiers among barbarians, not yet fully subdued, felt in himself such dignity and right of empire, that he could not believe it possible that any one would refuse to obey him. Whether in Europe or in Asia, among Greeks or Persians, all was indifferent to him: wherever he found men, he fancied he should find subjects."

The confidante of Medea in the tragedy recommends caution and submission; and enumerating all the distresses of that unfortunate heroine, asks her what she has to support her against her numerous and implacable enemies? “Myself,” replies she, “myself, I say; and it is enough!" Boileau justly recommends this passage as an instance of true sublime. 4

When Phocion, the modest and gentle Phocion, was led to execution, he turned to one of his fellow-sufferers, who was lamenting his own hard fate: “Is it not glory enough for you,” says he, “that you die with Phocion ?

Place in opposition the picture which Tacitus draws of Vitellius, fallen from empire, prolonging his ignominy from a wretched love of life, delivered over to the merciless rabble; tossed, buffeted, and kicked about; constrained, by their holding a poniard under his chin, to raise his head and expose himself to every contumely. What abject infamy! What low humiliation! Yet even here, says the historian, he discovered some symptoms of a mind not wholly degenerate. To a tribune who insulted him, he replied, “I am still your emperor.

We never excuse the absolute want of spirit and dignity of character, or a proper sense of what is due to one's self in society, and the common intercourse of life. This vice constitutes what we properly call meanness, when a man can submit to the basest slavery, in order to gain his ends, fawn upon those who abuse him, and degrade himself by intimacies and familiarities with undeserving



inferiors. A certain degree of generous pride or self-value is so requisite, that the absence of it in the mind displeases, after the same manner as the want of a nose, eye, or any of the most material features of the face, or members of the body.

The utility of courage, both to the public and to the person possessed of it, is an obvious foundation of merit. But to any one who duly considers of the matter, it will appear that this quality has a peculiar lustre, which it derives wholly from itself, and from that noble elevation inseparable from it. Its figure, drawn by painters and by poets, displays, in each feature, a sublimity and daring confidence, which catches the eye, engages the affections, and diffuses, by sympathy, a like sublimity of sentiment over every spectator.

Under what shining colours does Demosthenes represent Philip, where the orator apologizes for his own administration, and justifies that pertinacious love of liberty with which he had inspired the Athenians! “I beheld Philip,” says he, “he with whom was your contest, resolutely, while in pursuit of empire and dominion, exposing himself to every wound ; his eye gored, his neck wrested, his arm, his thigh pierced ; whatever part of his body fortune should seize on, that cheerfully relinquishing, provided that, with what remained, he might live in honour and renown. And shall it be said that he, born in Pella, a place heretofore mean and ignoble, should be inspired with so high an ambition and thirst of fame; while you, Athenians," 6 &c. These praises excite the most lively admiration;

but the views presented by the orator carry us not, we see, beyond the hero himself, nor ever regard the future advantageous consequences of his valour.

The martial témper of the Romans, inflamed by continual wars, had raised their esteem of courage so high, that in their language it was called virtue, by way of excellence, and of distinction from all other moral qualities. “The Suevi,” in the opinion of Tacitus.? "dressed their hair with a laudable intent: not for the purpose of loving or being loved : they adorned themselves only for their enemies, and in order to appear more terrible ;”—a sentiment of the (147)


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »