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notice that there are two kinds of it, viz. high nonsense and low nonsense.
Low nonsense is the talent of a cold, phlegmatic temper, that, in a poor dispirited style, creeps along servilely through darkness and confusion. A writer of this complexion gropes his way softly amongst selfcontradictions, and grovels in absurdities.
l'ideri vult pauper, et est pauper. He has neither wit nor sense, and pretends to none.
On the contrary, your high nonsense blusters and makes a noise, it stalks upon hard words, and rattles through polysyllables. It is loud and sonorous, smooth and periodical. It has something in it like manliness and force, and makes one think of the name of Sir Hercules Nonsense in the play called the Nest of Fools. In a word, your high nonsense has a majestic appearance, and wears a most tremendous garb, like Esop's ass clothed in a lion's skin.
When Aristotle lay upon his death-bed, and was asked whom he would appoint for his successor in his school, two of his scholars being candidates for it; hę called for two different sorts of wine, and by the character which he gave of them, denoted the different qualities and perfections that showed themselves in the style and writing of each of the competitors. As rational writings have been represented by wine, I shall represent those kinds of writings we are now speaking of, by small beer.
Low nonsense is like that in the barrel, which is altogether flat, tasteless, and insipid. High nonsense is like that in the bottle, which has, in reality, no more strength and spirit than the other, but frets, and flies, and bounces, and, by the help of a little wind that is got into it, imitates the passions of a much nobler liquor,
We meet with a low groveling nonsense in every Grub Street production; but I think there are none of our present writers who have hit the sublime in non
sense, besides Dr. Selin divinity, and the author of this letter in politics; between whose characters in their respective professions there seems to be a very nice resemblance.
There is still another qualification in nonsense which I'must not pass over, being that which gives it the last finishing and perfection, and eminently discovers itself in the Letter to the Examiner:--This is when an author, without any meaning, seems to have it; and 'so imposes upon us by the sound and ranging of his words, that one is apt to fancy they signify something. Any one who reads this letter, as he goes through it, will lie under the så me delusion; but after having read it, let him consider what he has learnt from it, and he will immediately discover the deceit. I did not, indeed, at first imagine there was in it such a jargon of ideas, such an inconsistency of notions, such a confusion of particles, thạt rather puzzle than connect the sense, which, in some places, he seems to have aimed at, as I found upon my nearer perusal of it: nevertheless, as nobody writes a book without meaning something, though he may not have the faculty of writing consequentially, and expressing his meaning; I think I have, with a great deal of attention and difficulty, found out what this gentleman would say, had hé the gift of utterance. The system of his politics, when disembroiled and cleared of all those incoherences and independent matters that are woven into this motly,piece, will be as follows. The conduct of the late ministry is considered first of all in respect to foreign affairs, and, secondly, to domestic: As to the first, he tells us, that; "the motives which engaged Britain in the present war, were both wise and generous ;' so that the ministry is cleared as to that particular. "These motives he tells us, were to restore the Spanish monarchy to the House of Austria, and to regain a barrier for Holland. The last of these two motives, he says, " was effectually answered by the reduction of the Netherlands in the year 1706, or
might have been so by, the concessions which it is notorious that the enemy offered.' So that the ministry are here blamed for not contenting themselves with the barrier, they had gained in the year 1706, nor with the concessions, which the enemy then offered. The other motive of our entering into the war, viz. The restoring the Spanish monarchy to the House of Austria,' he tells us, ‘remained still in its full force; and we were told,' says, he that though the barrier of Holland was secured, the trade of Britain, and the balance of power in Europe, would be still precarious: Spain, therefore, must be conquered.” He then loses himself in matter foreign to his purpose: but what he endeavours, in the sequel of his discourse, is to show, that we have not taken the proper method to recover the Spanish monarchy; that the whole stress of the wan has been wantonly paid where France is best able to keep us at:haya that the French king has made it impossible for himself to give up Spain, and that the Duke of Anjou has made it as impossible for us to conquer it: nay, that, instead of regaining Spain, we shall find the Duke of Anjou in a condition to pay the debt of gratitude, and support the grand-father in his declining years, by whose arms; i įn the days of his infancy, he was upheld.” He then intimates to us, that the Dutch and the emperor will be so very well satisfied with what they have already conqueredz(that they may probably leave the House of Bourbon in the quiet possession of the Spanish monarchy. 1.';
This strange huddle of politics has been so fully answered by General Stanhope, that, if the author had delayed the publishing of his letter but a fortnight, the world would have been deprived of that elaborate production. Notwithstanding all that the Freneh king, or the Duke of Anjou have been able to do; notwithstanding the feeble efforts we have made in Spain, notwithstanding the little care the emperor takes to support king Charles,' notwithstanding the Dutch might have been contented with a larger and better coun
try than their own, already conquered for them,' that victorious general, at the head of English and Dutch forces, in conjunction with those of the emperor, has wrested Spain out of the hands of the House of Bourbon; and added the conquest of Navarre, Milan, Naples, Sicily, Majorca, Minorca, and Sardinia. Such a wonderful series of victories, and those astonishing returns of ingratitude, which they have met with, appear both of them rather like dreams than realities: they puzzle and confound the present age, and, it is to be hoped, they will not be believed by posterity. Will the trifling author of this letter say, that the ministry did not apply themselves to the reduction of Spain, when the whole kingdom was twice conquered in their administration? The letter-writer says, 'that the Dutch had gained a good barrier after the battle of Ramillies in the year 1706.' But I would fain ask him, whether he thinks Antwerp and Brussels
, Ghent and Bruges, could be thought a strong barrier, or that those important conquests did not want several towns and forts to cover them? But it seems our great general on that side has done more for us than we expected of him, and made the barrier too impregnable. But,' says the letter-writer, the stress of the war was laid in the wrong place :' but if the laying the stress of the war in the Low Countries drew thither the whole strength of France; if it weakened Spain, and left it exposed to an equal force; if France, without being pressed on this side, could have assisted the Duke of Anjou with a numerous army; and if, by the advantage of the situation, it could have sent and maintained in Spain ten regiments, with as little trouble and expence as England could two regiments; every impartial judge would think that the stress of the war has been laid in the right place.
The author of this confused dissertation on foreign affairs would fain make us believe, that England has gained nothing by these conquests, and put us out of humour with our chief allies, the emperor and the
Dutch. He tells us, they hoped England would have been taken care of, after having secured a barrier for Holand; as if England were not taken care of by this very securing a barrier for Holland, which has always been looked upon as our bulwark, 'or, as Mr. Waller expresses it, our 'outguard on the continent;" and which, if it had fallen into the hands of the French, would have made France more strong by sea than all Europe besides. Has not England been taken care of by gaining a new mart in Flanders, by opening our trade into the Levant, by securing ports for us in Gibraltar, Minorca, and Naples, and by that happy prospect we have of renewing that great branch of our commerce into Spain, which will be of more advántage to. England than any conquest we can make of towns and provinces? Not to mention the demolish ing of Dunkirk, swhich we were in a fair way of ob_ taining during the last parliament, and which we hever so much as proposed to ourselves at our first engaging in this wars 28 vniuos! My
13 As for this author's aspersions of the Dutch and G'ermans, I have sometimes wondered that he has not been complained ofiforlitito the secretary of státe. 1. Had hot he been lookedoupon as an insignificant scribbřer, he must have occasioned remonstrances and memorials: suchrinational injuries are not to be put up, but when the i affender is below resentment. This puts' me in mind of an honest Scotchman; who, as he was walking along the streets of London, heard one calling out after him, Scot, i Scot; and casting forth, in a clamorous maner, va great deal of opprobrious language against that ancient nation: Sawny turned about in a great passion, and found, to his surprise, that the person who abused him was a saucy parrot that hung up' not far from him in a cage; upon which he clapped his hand to his sword, and told him, were he'a man as he 'wàs a green goose, he would have run him through the wemb. ViThe next head our politician goes upon, relates to our domestic affairs; where I am extremely at a loss.