Page images

obvious reason-because they can be more easily remembered. In the application too of new facts, something may be fairly left to the ingenuity of the student.

The political principles of Hobbes unfortunately lead to despotism; and may be thus summarily stated:-The first object of civil society is security; security can be enjoyed only where there is peace; peace cannot be maintained without dominion; dominion cannot be supported without arms; and even arms will prove a weak defence, unless wielded by a single arm; which, nevertheless, will be impotent to restrain discord in those who are actuated by the dread of an evil greater than death itself.

A very admissible excuse, however, may be found for him in the circumstances of his condition, both personal and political. Hobbes was timid by nature; and he lived in the time. of the civil wars, when all was tumult and uproar. From his studious habits, as well as from his constitutional temperament, he was fond of calmness and of peace, for which he thought we could never pay too dear. Besides, notwithstanding his natural timidity, he well knew

[blocks in formation]

that he had broached opinions bold, far be yond the average sentiments of the age. He was aware, too, that the clergy had not quite forgotten their old games of fire and faggot, and that they might one day make a bonfire of him; and he would very wisely have chosen to turn Turk rather than martyr, and have submitted to the sacred rite of circumcision in preference to being burnt alive. His terror was so great and so habitual, that he would never suffer himself to be left alone in the house of the earl of Devonshire; but when the family moved, would always go with them. He was thus removed on his deathbed, from Chatsworth to Hardwick.

Hobbes, it is said, was never a great reader. If we consider his intellectual superiority, and the great age to which he lived, he had read little. On this subject he was accustomed to say, "If I had read as much as other people, I should have been as ignorant as they."

On account of the freedom of his creed, the memory of Hobbes has been much traduced and blackened by the malicious misrepresentations of bigotry. In respect of theology, he

acknowledged a belief in a supreme intelligence; but said, that he thought too reverendly of him to believe his nature could be comprehended by human understanding. After establishing a due reverence for this great being, whose mysterious operation pervades, directs, and animates all nature, he thought that men may be much better employed in discharging their social and civil duties, than in idle speculations on subjects which have no relation to this life. Of this conduct he himself furnished an example. He had a warm interest in the welfare of his country, was conscientiously faithful in his friendships, beneficent to his kindred, and benevolent to all. He had, however, his faults as well as other


He was so tenacious of his opinions, particularly at last, when indeed it was most venial, that he could not easily brook contradiction. Whenever any persons, curious of seeing him, were introduced by the earl, he stipulated as a preliminary, that they should not contradict the old man. His moral character, as given by lord Clarendon, ought not to be omitted. Mr. Hobbes (says he) is one of the most ancient acquaintance I have in

the world; and of whom I have always had a great esteem, as a man, who besides his emi, nent parts, learning, and knowledge, hath been always looked upon as a man of probity, and of a life free from scandal,"


THOMAS MAY, poèt and historian, was descended of an ancient family at Mayfield, in Sussex, and born in 1595. Having received his juvenile education near home, he afterwards entered at Sidney College, Cambridge, where he proceeded batchelor of arts in 1612. About three years after, he became a member of Gray's Inn; and was soon introduced to the acquaintance of some of the principal courtiers and wits of his time as sir Kenelm Digby, sir Richard Fanshaw, sir John Suckling, sir Aston Cokaine, Thomas Carew, Endymion Porter, Ben Jonson, and others of higher quality for he was countenanced by Charles and his queen.

He subsequently conceived a disgust at the court, however, probably from a disappoint

« PreviousContinue »