« ForrigeFortsæt »
dropt after a few unsuccessful essays. It puts me in mind of a story which was lately told me1 by a pleasant friend of mine, who has a very fine hand on the violin. His maidservant seeing his instrument lying upon the table, and being sensible there was music in it, if she knew how to fetch it out, drew the bow over every part of the strings, and at last told her master she had tried the fiddle all over, but could not for her heart find whereabout the tune lay.
But though the whole burden of such a paper is only fit to rest on the shoulders of a Bickerstaffe or an Ironside, there are several who can acquit themselves of a single day's labour in it with suitable abilities. These are gentlemen whom I have often invited to this trial of wit, and who have several of them acquitted themselves to my private emolument, as well as to their own reputation. My paper among the republic of letters is the Ulysses his bow,2 in which every man of wit or learning may try his strength. One who does not care to write a book without being sure of his abilities, may see by this means if his parts and talents are to the public taste.
This I take to be of great advantage to men of the best sense, who are always diffident of their private judgment, till it receives a sanction from the public. Provoco ad popu
superbiam: but the boast is so true, that it stands uncontradicted to our days; when the list of competitors, here given in, has been prodigiously increased, and is still increasing; and yet, this way of writing is as much the family-secret as ever. But how should it be otherwise? He, who invents a species of polite composition, must needs be inimitable, unless he have the disadvantage of living in a barbarous age, or unless his rivals be very much his superiors in ability; neither of which exceptions can be pleaded in the present case. For, otherwise, the very consideration of originality decides the question in favour of the inventor; of whom, besides, it may be presumed, that he had a genius singularly turned to the cultivation of what he first conceived.
This modern story is, in fact, the old Lesbian fable of Lucian, concerning the lyre of Orpheus; but finely varied and improved.—Mr. Addison, I have observed from many passages in his works, was a great reader and admirer of Lucian; and very naturally so: because, of all the ancients, he is the only one that had any considerable tincture of that elegant humour which our countryman so highly relished, and so perfectly possessed. In other respects, the writings of that ingenious libertine must have been peculiarly offensive to our author, and are, indeed, the very re
verse of his own.
Ulysses his bow."-See what Dr. Wallis has said against this use of his.-De Adjectivis, c. 5.
lum, I appeal to the people, was the usual saying of a very excellent dramatic poet, when he had any disputes with particular persons about the justness and regularity of his productions. It is but a melancholy comfort for an author to be satisfied that he has written up to the rules of art, when he finds he has no admirers in the world besides himself. Common modesty should, on this occasion, make a man suspect his own judgment, and that he misapplies the rules1 of his art, when he finds himself singular in the applause which he bestows upon his own writings.
The public is always even with an author who has not a just deference for them. The contempt is reciprocal. I laugh at every one, said an old cynic, who laughs at me. Do you so? replied the philosopher; then let me tell you, you live the merriest life of any man in Athens.
It is not, therefore, the least use of this my paper, that it gives a timorous writer, and such is every good one, an opportunity of putting his abilities to the proof, and of sounding the public before he launches into it. For this reason I look upon my paper as a kind of nursery for authors, and question not but some, who have made a good figure here, will hereafter flourish under their own names in more long and elaborate works.
After having thus far enlarged upon this particular, I have one favour to beg of the candid and courteous reader, that when he meets with anything in this paper which may appear a little dull or heavy,2 (though I hope this will not be often,) he will believe it is the work of some other person, and not of Nestor Ironside.
I have, I know not how, been drawn into tattle of myself, more majorum, almost the length of a whole Guardian. I shall therefore fill up the remaining part of it with what still relates to my own person, and my correspondents. Now I would have them all know, that on the twentieth instant it
1 Suspect his own judgment, and that he misapplies the rules.] This way of making a substantive, and a whole sentence, depend on the same verb, is not accurate, because it does violence to the mind, in turning the attention suddenly two different ways. He might have said-" suspect his own judgment, and conclude that he misapplies,"-or, what I think bettersuspect his judgment and the application of his own rules."
2 Pleasantly said; but with a secret reference, I make no doubt, to certain papers in this collection by his coadjutor, though bearing the name of Nestor Ironside,
my intention to erect a lion's head in imitation of those I have described in Venice, through which all the private intelligence of that commonwealth is said to pass.
This head is to open a most wide and voracious mouth, which shall take in such letters and papers as are conveyed to me by my correspondents, it being my resolution to have a particular regard to all such matters as come to my hands through the mouth of the lion. There will be under it a box, of which the key will be in my own custody, to receive such papers as are dropped into it. Whatever the lion swallows I shall digest for the use of the public. This head requires some time to finish, the workman being resolved to give it several masterly touches, and to represent it as ravenous as possible. It will be set up in Button's coffee-house in Covent Garden, who is directed to show the way to the lion's-head, and to instruct any young author how to convey his works into the mouth of it with safety and secrecy.1
THERE is no virtue so truly great and godlike as justice. Most of the other virtues are the virtues of created beings, or accommodated to our nature as we are men. Justice is that which is practised by God himself, and to be practised
1 This whole paper is excellent. But the project of the lion, so finely introduced by No. 71, is above all to be admired. This highly humorous idea came very seasonably to the relief of Nestor Ironside, who was almost, as we may say, at his wit's end, when his friend started this new object for him. Lady Lizard and her tea-table was grown a stale joke; and if the lion had not roared in the nick of time, the public was in imminent danger of falling asleep; and then the Guardian had shared the fate of so many other projects, which are said to have dropped after a few unsuccessful essays. The reader will own the obligation he has to the lion when he feels, as he goes along, how much the humour of this paper, henceforth, depends upon him.
in its perfection by none but him. Omniscience and Omnipotence are requisite for the full exertion of it. The one to discover every degree of uprightness or iniquity in thoughts, words, and actions. The other, to measure out and impart suitable rewards and punishments.
As to be perfectly just is an attribute in the Divine nature, to be so to the utmost of our abilities is the glory of a man. Such an one who has the public administration in his hands, acts like the representative of his Maker, in recompensing the virtuous, and punishing the offender. By the extirpating of a criminal, he averts the judgments of heaven, when ready to fall upon an impious people; or, as my friend Cato expresses it much better in a sentiment conformable to his character,
When by just vengeance impious mortals perish,
When a nation once loses its regard to justice;1 when they do not look upon it as something venerable, holy, and inviolable; when any of them dare presume to lessen, affront, or terrify those who have the distribution of it in their hands; when a judge is capable of being influenced by anything but law, or a cause may be recommended by anything that is foreign to its own merits; we may venture to pronounce that such a nation is hastening to its ruin.
For this reason the best law that has ever past in our days, is that which continues our judges in their posts during their good behaviour, without leaving them to the mercy of such who in ill times might, by an undue influence over them, trouble and pervert the course of justice. I dare say the extraordinary person who is now posted2 in the chief station of the law, would have been the same had that act never past; but it is a great satisfaction to all honest men, that while we see the greatest_ornament of the profession in its highest post, we are sure he cannot hurt himself by that assiduous, regular, and impartial administration of justice, for which he is so universally celebrated by the whole kingdom. Such men are to be reckoned among the greatest national
1 Though this paper be drawn in very general terms, it might possibly glance at certain partialities, then felt or apprehended in the judicature of the nation, when the rage of party so much prevailed. 2 Posted-see the note in No. 48 of the Freeholder.
blessings, and should have that honour paid them whilst they are yet living, which will not fail to crown their memory when dead.
I always rejoice when I see a tribunal filled with a man of an upright and inflexible temper, who, in the execution of his country's laws, can overcome all private fear, resentment, solicitation, and even pity itself. Whatever passion enters into a sentence or decision, so far will there be in it a tincture of injustice. In short, justice discards party, friendship, kindred, and is therefore always represented as blind, that we may suppose her thoughts are wholly intent on the equity of a cause, without being diverted or prejudiced by objects foreign to it.
I shall conclude this paper with a Persian story which is very suitable to my present subject. It will not a little please the reader, if he has the same taste of it which I myself have.
As one of the sultans lay encamped on the plains of Avala, a certain great man of the army entered by force into a peasant's house, and finding his wife very handsome, turned the good man out of his dwelling, and went to bed to her. The peasant complained the next morning to the sultan, and desired redress; but was not able to point out the criminal. The emperor, who was very much incensed at the injury done to the poor man, told him that probably the offender might give his wife another visit, and if he did, commanded him immediately to repair to his tent and acquaint him with it. Accordingly, within two or three days, the officer entered again the peasant's house, and turned the owner out of doors; who thereupon applied himself to the imperial tent, as he was ordered. The sultan went in person, with his guards, to the poor man's house, where he arrived about midnight. As the attendants carried each of them a flambeau in their hands, the sultan, after having ordered all the lights to be put out, gave the word to enter the house, find out the criminal, and put him to death. This was immediately executed, and the corpse laid out upon the floor by the emperor's command. He then bid every one light his flambeau, and stand about the dead body. The sultan approaching it looked upon the face, and immediately fell upon his knees in prayer. Upon his rising up he ordered the peasant to set before him whatever food he had in the