Page images
[blocks in formation]

This servant was stupid, and that servant perverse. Every incident was productive of errour, and every errour of regret. Characters were pecked to pieces, like the jack-daw in Esop, and reputations dispersed as lightly as feathers. It was hinted, that such a lady was addicted to cordials, and that hoops were in fashion with some folks for more reasons than one ; that the complexion of the Miss Maythorns were purchased at the colourman's, and that the teeth of the Ivories never grew in their heads. Buther strictures concluded not here. The whole line of my ancestry next passed in review. My great grandsires and grandams found little grace in her sight, and my uncles and aunts were disparaged by pairs. I was cautioned, from the fate of my parents, to learn wisdom in time, and instructed that the downfal of our house had proceeded frominattention and pride. Her method of determining the merits of characters was Peremptory and expeditious; for she listened to no counsel for the accused, and her decisions were removed above the reach of amend

ment. Dinner, generally conducing to cheerfulness and content, I conceived that her ladyship might presently relapse, and that a little good-humour would yet lighten the scene. But the sequel of my visit brought nothing but gloom. The repast, instead of operating in the way of an emollient, only aggrawated her disorder to a fiercer excess. Every thing again, as before, supplied a cause for complaint, and I found, that it was equally as impracticable to stop her mouth with a feast, as to affect her obstimacy with an argument. Thóroughly exhausted by this time with the entertainment I had witnessed, I anxiously awaited an opportunity to retire, and immediately upon the removal of the cloth. and the circulation of the glass pretended an appointment and escaped the concern. As the dwelling of my entertainer retreated behind me, the countenances of objects regathered their smiles, and, comparing the scene I had left with the evening around me, I fervently reflected, that harmony was the worship of angels and discord the diversion of devils. Such are the tempers that unnaturally contribute to the disaster of society; who tend at the sources of pleasure to make turbid their streams ; and, not satisfied with sipping the cup of bitterness alone, infuse the draught of their neighbours with disappointment and dregs. But far from these and their influence be the fortunes of my friends ; may their cups ever flow with the juice of Anacreon, and their brows ever beam with a wreath of his clusters.


To the Editors of the Anthology.


I present through you to the publick an essay, translated from the Decade Philosophique- 'the subject is interesting ; the original is elegant in composition, and the version is worthy of the original. These considerations should induce every one to devote an half hour, to reading it slowly, and examining seriously the truth of its reflections. But if such reasons will not excite attention, particularly from your fair friends; I may excite their curious diligence by hinting, naivement, that their sex is mere interested in the pleasure they will receive, than perhaps they might otherwise imagine. As an honourable cavalier, however, secrecy is a knight's duty in matters of trust. were I even authorized to tell all that I know, I would not, from mo" tives of policy, make use of the extent of my powers; and should I be continually importuned to make a full declaration, I shall speak darkly, as in a parable of the East, that when the nymphs of Hindostan were requested to adorn with the most beautiful shrubs the publick gardens in Delhi, one of the lovely virgins of the city, having done her part of the duty in the soft, early twilight, charged the birds of the morning not to carol the name of her, who had

planted the wild rose from the woods of Arabia in the flower walk of Hafiz, the mest beauti" ful quarter in the metropolis of India.


AS I was strolling last summer in the valley on the north of Montmartre, I saw, under a cluster of elms, planted on the declivity of a hill, at the side of a fountain, a young man, whose melancholy and serious aspect announced an afflicted or jealous lover. He had a book, which he opened, shut, open£d and shut again, alternately. Passing near enough to perceive that he was reading poetry, and, decyphering at the head of the Page, Marcissus, I doubted not but this was the poem of the unfortunate Malfilâtre, and imagined, that the reader might well be a poet, who took a lesson from the work of a man with whom he appeared to sympathise in misery.

I left him and continued my ramble, An hour after, I passed by the same spot : the young man was no longer there ; but I perceived a paper in the place where I had met him. Let us see, said I to myself; it is perhaps a loveletter from his mistress, or some rffusion of his muse. It was neither, but a letter from a friend.

I read it ; it appeared to me less the work of a man of wit, which

now might be neither extraordinary nor original, than of a man of sense, which is more rare and more useful. It contained wise counsels, applicable to many young men, who believe themselves capable of every thing, because they have their heads crammed with phrases; and I believe I shall do them a service in publishing this letter, from which they may derive considerable advantage. * I answer, my young misanthrope, to the epistolary declamation, which you have addressed to me against those who have not done justice to your love and your talents for the belles lettres. You call those people barbarians: they have said nothing but what is reasonable, I think I see your brow contract at these words; but calm yourself and listen. “If you were guided by the imperious genius, which estranged Malfilâtre and Gilbert from a useful and modest profession, and caused the first to die of hunger, and the second in a hospital, I should pity you for having been born under a star so inauspicious, and I should not attempt to oppose an irresistible inclination, by counsels, of which I should feel the impotence ; but I think there is yet time to make you listen to teason. * If any one knows you well, it is myself, who have been with you from early life. You have been occupied with useful studies, nature has endowed you with talents, you write poetry agreeably, your prose is easy, you have taste and learning, and your imagination is brilliant ; you are, at five and twenty, an interesting young man, and of distinguished merit. But permit me to say, that I see not in you the real essence of genius ; it is genius, however, that you flatter yourself you possess, and you mistake for it ebullition and transports of fancy. * Bold ideas, which shed a brilliant light on a whole generation; great conceptions, which command the admiration of contemporaries and of posterity ; creations, in short, of the beautiful and true, are not within your dominion ; you cultivate with success known plants, but you have never discovered new ones. You write, I allow it, an easy letter, a tender and amusing romance, an agreeable comedy, perhaps even some interesting scenes in a tragedy ; I grant you also the talent of embellishing an article of politicks or philosophy, and sometimes of interspersing it with strokes of vigorous eloquence; but on nothing do you stamp that charm of novelty, or of profound learning, which gives interest to every writing, and arrests the attention and remembrance of readers. Writings of this kind are works of massy gold, and yours are only glittering tinsel. * Your talents are of a nature to procure you the applause of brilJiant companies and superficial so

cieties; but never will they give you a reputation, which is wafted beyond your country or the age in which you live. It is only for a reputation of this kind that one ought to devote himself exclusively to letters. Glory then takes the place of fortune. But to lose fortune, without acquiring glory, is too complete a deprivation. You run this risk, my dear friend, by your literary infatuation, which makes you regard simple and useful occupations with disdain and aversion. ‘You are enraged against men in office, who have little confidence in the capacity of those who make a trade of authorship. You will not suffer the talents of a man of letters to be regarded as excluding those of a man of business. In your fury against such a heresy, you had nearly gone back to the deluge to seek facts which might refute it. You cite Moses, who made laws and canticles ; David, who knew how to reign and compose odes ; Solomon, who was the wisest of kings and the most wanton of poets ; Xenophon, Demosthenes, Cicero, Seneca, Machiavel, Bocace, Bacon, and in France de Thou, who drew up decrees and composed history; Richlieu, who overthrew tyranny, cannonaded Rochelle, and wrote tragedies in secret ; Bemis, who was a minister and a love-sick poet ; Turgot, who abandoned the dryness of calculation for pretty verses ; Necker, who formed an alliance between eloquence and arithmetick ; Calonne, who wrote like a literary man, and governed like a statesman ; Mirabeau, who united in the highest degree the magick of oratory to the depth of political investigation. “Do not these men, you exclaim, after this multitude of quotations, do not these men directly confute those savages, who maintain the incompatibility between the cultivation of letters and the honourary professions in society : Do you believe, that a man, who can compose a book, cannot also write an official dispatch 2

* Yes, my friend; Thomas, who was a writer of a certain rank, was unable, when he was secretary to M. de Praslin, to write a tolerable letter of business. There is some difference between an academy and a statesman’s office. Academick speakers know not how to reason witn simplicity ; they make fine phrases, as a dancing master displays beautiful steps. Literature with men of business is an excellent accessory to the education, which is necessary for them; but it ought not to be the principal part of it. We ought to be able to express ourselves with elegance and purity ; but we ought not to apply this talent to things of a friv. olous or uninteresting nature. If, for example, you direct your abilities towards objects of positive and substantial utility ; if, instead of inventing romantick scenes, and of abandoning yourself to metaphysical delusions, you seize hold of an abstruse question, and unfolding its difficulties you shew it in a clear point of view, which facilitates the decision of it, you will make a profitable use of your knowledge and your pen. Noisy acclamation will not strike your ear, but you will gain the approbation and esteem of men of sound understanding,

* These are the men, whose suf.

frage and support a young man ought to seek. I am not surprised at your distress, and the despair which results from it. To what cnd are your verses, your romances, your comedies, or your moral and philosophical essays : These

are blossoms, which yield no fruit. It is wheat, that is most necessary for you. Cultivate it then in your ground. * Employ your talents only for solid acquisitions ; a field of corn is more valuable than a parterre. Determine upon a profession ; it is by a profession that one takes his station in society. I would not wish you to make an absolute divorce from your Muse, but I advise you to treat her as a friend, whom one visits when he has nothing of more importance to do. * A woman, who is amiable and artless, affectionate to her husband and children, is preferable to the nine nymphs of Parnassus. Endeavour to merit such a treasure ; but, I repeat it, you will not obtain her unless you fix upon a profession. An unsettled man is a supernumerary in the world. A man of letters, who, with subordinate talents, seeks for glory, is a false Jason,who attempts with a wretched skiff the conquest of the golden fleece. He is a sleep-walker, who wanders in the region of dreams; rouse yourself, my friend, depart from this airy region, and enter into that of realities, where the man, who rears and supports a family, is considered of importance by his fellow creatures.’ I embrace you, L. F. The lessons contained in this letter are not new, but it may not be amiss to repeat them. If they were observed, there would be fewer follies, and literature would number as her sons only those who are born to honour her. It would not be disgraced by those libellers of party, who, not being able to obtain a reputation by their own merit, endeavour to obtain it by attacking that of others. These weak and brittle minds imagine they lessen the admiration of contemporaries for this enlightened

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

-Augustus. Augustus, who loved Virgil and Horace, used to place himself between the two poets at table. Virgil was asthmatick, and Horace had weak eyes. The emperour used to say, jestingly, “Ego sum inter suspiria et lacrymas ;” I am between sighs and tears.

.A blind mdn’s idea of light. M. Rohault wished to communicate the idea of light to a blind pupil ; after a long and elaborate discourse, when he hoped he had in some measure succeeded, he was asked this question by the blind man, “Is not light made of

the same materials as sugar 3"

How to be hafifty.

How much it would conduce to our happiness to be select in our friends and books; to choose them both for their good sense and knowledge; to be contented with a small but certain income ; to have no master and few servants; to be without ambition, envy, avarice, or a law-suit ; to preserve our health by exercise, instead of medicine ; to love and hate only on just grounds; and to enjoy life without effort.

Musicians. Professed musicians are generally ignorant, imprudent, and fool


ish people away from their instruments ; a musician, aster a concert, should be treated like his instrument, put into a case and carried home.

Pedants. “I hate,” says Montaigne, “ those scholars who can do nothing without their books.” In fact, those men have no knowledge, but can tell you where some may be found. They serve as indexes to good authors. They will tell you, that in such a chapter of Cicero or Quintilian there is a good thought. Science is a sceptre in the hands of some men, and a bauble in those of others. Philosophers and poets sport with the follies of mankind, tradesmen make an advantage of them, and players both sport with them and profit by them.

Folly. Of all the definitions of folly, that given by M. Bailli has not the least merit. “ Folly is the tyranny that visible objects exercise upon our imaginations.”

- Life. The progress of it may be compared to a play. Act 1. State of innocence. Act 2. The passions,

Act 3. Love of study. Act 4. Am-

bition. Act 5, Devotion and quiet.

« PreviousContinue »