Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

a

a

and horror of vice, though clothed in purple, surrounded with splendor, and placed on a throne.

But to confine' myself to my own part of the subject, I look upon Élistory as the first master to be given to children, equally serviceable to entertain and instruct them, to forin their hearts and understandings, and to enrich their memories with facts as agreeable as useful. [K] It may likewise be of great service, by means of the pleasure inseparable from it, towards exciting the curiosity of that age, which is ever desirous of being informed, and inspiring a taste for study. Thus in point of education, it is a fundamental principle, and constantly observed in all times, that the study of History should precede all the rest, and prepare the way for them. Plutarch tells us, that Cato the elder, the famous censor, whose name and virtue brought so much honour to the Roman commonwealth, took upon himself a peculiar care in the education of his son, without trusting to the care of masters, and drew up a collection of historical facts expressly for his use, and wrote them over in large characters with his own hands, that the child, he said, might be able from his infancy, without going from home, to become acquainted with the great men of his own country, and form himself upon those ancient models of probity and virtue.

It is by no means necessary that I should dwell any longer upon proving the usefulness of History; it is a point generally enough agreed on, and which few people call in question. It is of most concern to know what is necessary to be observed in order to render the study of it useful, and reaping the benefits to be expected from it. And this I shall now attempt to lay down.

That I may throw what I have to say upon History into some order, I shall divide this discourse into three

[4] Fatendum in ipsis rebus, quæ cognoscendumque moveamur. Cic. discuntur & cognoscuntur invita. lib. s. de fin. bon. & mal. n. 2. menca inesse, quibus ad discendum PS

parts.

[ocr errors]

parts. The first shall treat of the taste for solid glory and real greatness, and serve to caution youth against the false ideas which the study of History itself may raise in them upon this subject. The second shall be upon sacred History. The third upon profane. And in the last I shall say something of fable, of the study of the Greek and Roman antiquities, the authors from whence we are to borrow our knowledge of History, and the order wherein they are to be read.

I make no mention here of the History of France, as it is but natural that ancient History should precede the modern; and I scarce think it possible for boys to find time whilst they are at school, to apply themselves to that of France. But I am far froin looking upon it as an indifferent study, and I am concerned to see it so much neglected as it is by abundance of persons, to whom it might notwithstanding be very useful, not to say necessary. In talking thus, I first of all blame myself; for, I own I have not applied myself to it in the manner it deserveş; and I am ashamed to be in some measure a stranger in my own country, after having travelled through so many others. „And yet our History'supplies us with great examples of virtue, and abundance of beautiful actions, which remain for the most part buried in obscurity, either through the badness of our historit ans [?] who have wanted the talents for treating them according to their dignity, like the Greeks and Romans: or in consequence of a bad taste, which in clines to admire highly what passes at a distance from our own age and country, whilst we remain cold and indifferent to such actions as pass before our eyes and in the age we live. But though we have not time to teach youth the History of France, we ought at least to cultivate a taste in them for it, by quoting such passages out of it from time to time, as may induce them to a farther application to it, when they shall have leisure.

[?] Quia provenere ibi magna orbem (veterum) facta maximis scriptorum ingenia, per terrarum celebraneur. Sallust. in Bel. Catil.

PART

pro

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

OF THE TASTE FOR SOLID GLORY AND REAL

GREATNESS.

1

ALL the world agrees, that one of the first cares in training up youth to the study of polite learning, is previously to lay down such rules and principles of good taste, as may...serve to guide and direct them in the reading of authors. It is the more necessary to give them this assistance in the case of Hise tory, which may be regarded as the study of morality and virtue; as it is of far more inportance to pass a right judgment upon virtue than eloquence, and less shameful and dangerous to be mistaken in the rules of discourse, than in those of morality.

Our age, and our nation in particular, stand in need of being undeceived concerning a great number of mistakes and false prejudices, which daily prevail more and more, upon the points of poverty and riches; modesty and presumption; simplicity of buildings and furniture ; costliness and magnificence; frugality and delicacy in diet; in a word, upon almost every thing that is the object either of the contempt or admiration of mankind. In matters of this nature the [m] public taste becomes a rule to youth. They look upon that as valuable, which they see every body set a value upon; and are guided, not by reason, but custom [n]. One single bad example shall suffice to corrupt the minds of youth, which are susceptible of every impression : What then have we

[m] Recti apud nos locum tenet riæ, aut avaritiæ, multum mali error, ubi publicus factus est. Sen. facit ... quid tu accidere his moriEp. 123.

bus credis, in quos publicè factus -Nulla res nos majoribus malis est impetus ? ... adeo nemo nos. implicat, quàm quòd ad rumorem trum ferre impetum vitiorum tam componimur; optima rati ea, quae magno comitatu venientium potest. magno assensu recepta sunt ... nec

Id. Ep. 7. ad rationem, sed ad similitudinem Definit esse remedio locus, ubi vivimus. Id. lib.de Vit.Beat.cap.i. quæ fuerant vitia, mores sunt. Id. [n] Unum exemplum, aut luxu. Ep. 39.

not to apprehend for them, at a time when every kind of vice is the common practice, and [0] the grossest passions perpetually busy in extinguishing all sentiments of honour and probity?

How necessary then is this science to them [p], whose principal effect is to remove the false prejudices, which seduce, because they please us; whose office is to cure, and deliver us from the popular errors we have sucked in with our milk; to teach us how to discern betwixt true and false, good and evil, solid greatness and vain ostentation; [9] and to prevent the contagion of bad examples and vicious customs from infecting the minds of youth, and stifling in them the happy seeds of virtue and probity, which we observe nature to have implanted there [>] ? It is in this science, which consists in judging of things, not by common opinion, but by truth, not by a specious outside, but by real merit, that Socrates has placed all the wisdom of man.

I have therefore thought it my duty to begin this treatise of history with laying down principles and rules how to pass a sound judgment upon great and good actions; to discern wherein solid Glory and real Greatness consist; and to distinguish expressly what is worthy of esteem and admiration from what merits only indifference or contempt:

Without these rules and precautions, young persons, who have no other guides than their own inclinations, or the popular opinions, may form themselves upon models entirely agreeable to these false ideas, and give into the passions and vices of those, whose actions make a figure

[o] Certatur ingenti quodam ne- verum placentia exstirpet ; quæ nos quitiæ certamine : major quotidie à populo, cui nimis credimus, sepeccandi cupiditas, minor verecun- paret, ac sinceris opinionibus reddiæ est. Sen. lib. 2. de Ira, c. 8. dat. Ep. 94.

() Sapientia animi magistra [9] Tanta est corruptela malz est... Quæ sint mala, quæ vide- consuetudinis, ut ab ea tanquana antur ostendit. Vanitatem exuit igniculi extinguantur à naturâ dati, mentibus, dat magnitudinem soli- exorianturque & confirmentur vitia dam; nec ignorari sinit, inter mag- contraria. Cic. lib. i. de Leg. n. 33. na quid intersit & tumida. Ep. 90. [r] Socrates hanc summam dixit

Inducenda est in occupatum lo- esse sapientiam, bona malaque dicum virtus, quæ mendacia contra stinguere. Sen. Ep.71.

in history indeed, but are not always virtuous or estimable.

Properly speaking, the gospel only and the word of God can prescribe sure and infallible rules to direct us in judging rightly of all things ; and it seems my duty to borrow solely from so rich a source the instructions I undertake to give youth on so important a subject. But to make them the better comprehend, how blameable the errors are which I oppose, and how contrary even to right reason, I shall extract my principles only from heathen writers, who will teach us, that what renders a man truly great and worthy of admiration, is neither riches, i'magnificent buildings, costly habits or sumptuous furniture, neither a luxurious table, great employments or high birth, neither reputation, famous exploits, such as victories and conquests, nor even the most valuable endowments of the mind [s] ; but that a man owes his real worth to the heart, and that the more truly great and generous he is in that respect, the more he will despise what seems great in the eyes of the rest of mankind. At first my examples were taken only from ancient history; but certain persons of ability and understanding have since advised me to add others from modern history, and especially that of France, and have been pleased to supply me with several themselves, for which I take this opportunity of making iny acknowledgments.

But though I have taken all my principles, and most of my examples, from heathen writers, and have avoided using those of the many illustrious saints Christianity might supply for all states and conditions, it does not follow that my design has been only to recommend virtues purely pagan. One

may consider things in an human way, without considering the last end and prime inducements for pursuing them. And thus by degrees we may rise to a purer and more

[s] Cugita in te, præter animum, cui omne bonum in animo est ... nihil esse mirabile, cui magno nihil illum erectum, & excelsum, & magnum est. Sen. Ep. 8. mirabilia calcantem, Id. Ep. 45 Noc nos doce, beatum esse illum,

per

« ForrigeFortsæt »