Page images
PDF
EPUB

tion being, as it were, extinguished, there is diffused around me nothing but darkness, or darkness mingled and streaked with an ashy brown. Yet the darkness in which I am perpetually immersed, seems always, both by night and day, to approach nearer to white than black; and when the eye is rolling in its socket, it admits a little particle of light, as through a chink. And though your physician may kindle a small ray of hope, yet I make up my mind to the malady as quite incurable; and I often reflect, that as the wise man admonishes, days of darkness are destined to each of us, the darkness which I experience, less oppressive than that of the tomb, is, owing to, the singular goodness of the Deity, passed amid the pursuits of literature and the cheering salutations of friendship. But if, as is written, "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God," why may not any one acquiesce in the privation of his sight, when God has so amply furnished his mind and his conscience with eyes? While he so tenderly provides for me, while he so graciously leads me by the hand, and conducts me on the way, I will, since it is his pleasure, rather rejoice than repine at being blind. And, my dear Philaras, whatever may be the event, I wish you adieu with no less courage and composure than if I had the eyes of a lynx.

WESTMINSTER, September 28, 1654.

[ocr errors]

TO THE ILLUSTRIOUS LORD HENRY De Bras.

I

SEE, my Lord, that you, unlike most of our modern youth who pass through foreign countries, wisely travel, like the ancient philosophers, for the sake of completing your juvenile studies, and of picking up knowledge wherever it may be found. Though as often as I consider the excellence of what you write, you appear to me to have gone among foreigners, not so much for the sake of procuring erudition yourself, as of imparting it to others, and rather to exchange than to purchase a stock of literature. I wish it were as easy for me in every way to promote the increase of your knowledge and the improvement of your intellect, as it is pleasing and flattering to me to have that assistance requested by talents and genius like yours. I have never attempted, and I should never dare to attempt, to solve those difficulties as you request, which seem to have cast a cloud over the writers of history for so many ages. Of Sallust I will speak, as you desire, without any hesitation or reserve. I prefer him to any of the Latin historians; which was also the general opinion of the ancients. Your favorite Tacitus deserves his meed of praise; but his highest praise, in my opinion, consists in his having imitated Sallust with all his might. By my conversation with you on this subject I seem, as far as I can guess from your letter, to have inspired you with sentiments very

similar to my own, concerning that most energetic and animated writer. As he in the beginning of his Catilinarian war asserted that there was the greatest difficulty in historical composition, because the style should correspond with the nature of the narrative, you ask me how a writer of history may best attain that excellence. My opinion is that he who would describe actions and events in a way suited to their dignity and importance, ought to write with a mind endued with a spirit, and enlarged by an experience, as extensive as the actors in the scene, that he may have a capacity properly to comprehend and to estimate the most momentous affairs, and to relate them, when comprehended, with energy and distinctness, with purity and perspicuity of diction. The decorations of style I do not greatly heed: for I require an historian, and not a rhetorician. I do not want frequent interspersions of sentiment, or prolix dissertations on transactions, which interrupt the series of events, and cause the historian to intrench on the office of the politician, who, if, in explaining counsels and explaining facts, he follows truth rather than his own partialities and conjectures, excites the disgust or the aversion of his party. I will add a remark of Sallust, and which was one of the excellences he himself commends in Cato, that he should be able to say much in a few words; a perfection which I think no one can attain without the most discriminating judgment and a peculiar degree of modera

tion. There are many in whom you have not to regret either elegance of diction or copiousness of narrative, who have yet united copiousness with brevity. And among these Sallust is, in my opinion, the chief of the Latin writers. Such are the virtues which I think every historian ought to possess who would proportion his style to the facts which he records. But why do I mention this to you, when such is your genius that you need not my advice, and when such is your proficiency, that if it goes on increasing you will soon not be able to consult any one more learned than yourself? To the increase of that proficiency, though no exhortations can be necessary to stimulate your exertions, yet, that I may not seem entirely to frustrate your expectations, I will beseech you, with all my affection, all my authority, and all my zeal, to let nothing relax your diligence, or chill the ardor of your pursuit. Adieu! and may you ever successfully labor in the path of wisdom and of virtue !

WESTMINSTER, July 15, 1657.

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

To the most Illustrious and Noble Senators, SCULTEts, LanDAM, and Senators of the Evangelic Cantons of SWITZERLAND, ZURICK, BERN, GLARIS, BALE, SCHAFFHUSEN, APPENZEL, also the Confederates of the same Religion in the country of the GRISONS, of Geneva, St. GALL, MALHAUSEN, and BIENNE, our dearest friends.

OUR letters, most illustrious lords and dearest confederates, dated December twenty-four, full of civility, good will, and singular affection towards us and our republic, and what ought always to be greater and more sacred to us, breathing fraternal and truly Christian charity, we have received. And in the first place, we return thanks to Almighty God, who has raised and established both you and so many noble cities, not so much intrenched and fortified with those enclosures of mountains, as with your innate fortitude, piety, most prudent and just administration of government, and the faith of mutual confederacies, to be a firm and inaccessible shelter for all the truly

18*

A A

« PreviousContinue »