Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

But whatever high notions I myself may have of L. B. I am not so vain to think my readers must needs subscribe to them. They may, Sir, for aught I know, believe you and him to be the same. And then, I am half afraid, even his character, great as it is, will not secure him from their censure. Are the laws of friendship then so weak (may some of them be apt to say) are its bonds so slight, that one imprudent action committed against the humour of a friend, (in a mistaken fondness for his glory, which came near to adoration) that one shall obliterate the whole merit of a life of service, though flowing from the warmest heart that the passion of friendship ever took possession of? Obliterate, will they say, nay pursue, with inexorable vengeance, the poor delinquent to the foot of the most merciless tribunal; that PUBLIC, one part of which he had much offended by a vigorous war upon the general profligacy of manners; another, 'much more offended by the insufferable splendor of his talents; and no small nor inconsiderable part, by his over-zealous attachment to his very ACCUSER? Unhappy Poet! will they say, who has received the only wound to his honour from the hand of that friend, whose reputation, for many years, he had singly supported against an almost universal prejudice. But more unhappy FRIENDSHIP, if these be thy iniquitous conditions! Who after this shall seek, in thee, a solace for the cares of private life; or believe thee to be, what thou hast been so often boasted, the purest and largest source of public virtue? Never, after this, wilt thou be thought deserving of a fairer or better progeny than MODERN PATRIOTISM. Where true love of our country is, there friendship wears a different face. At such time it has been known, that when real and repeated injuries had torn in sunder a well-united friendship, the death of one has buried every past resentment, and revived, in the bosom of the other, all his ancient tenderness: as if the refined and defecated passions of him, who had shaken off mortality, had, by that divine syinpathy of affections which lives in friendship, communicated of their virtue to the survivor. Nay, I have heard, some where or other, of a man, who, when his dying friend (at the instigation, and to quiet the impotent passions, of F 2

another;

1

another; for what generous mind has not been hurt by ill-placed friendships :) had inserted an unkind clause against him in his last Will, took no other revenge for an injury so unprovoked, than by doubling the legacy his deceased friend had left to an old faithful servant, because the survivor deemed it to be too little.

But the greatest have their weaknesses. A French author, I have some time read, who has given us a history of the Hermetic Philosophy, brings almost every great name into the number of his alchemists. He gives them all their due, but concludes every various eulogium alike

now his folly was in hoping to ertract gold from baser metals.And may we not, after all the good that

may be said of our illustrious Poet (and there are few of whom so much can be justly said) lament, that the folly which ran through his whole life was, in trying to extract friendship from politics ? " However, Sir, let the world think as it

may.

I must still persist in believing, that that noble Person had no hand in your Advertisement. On this principle, perhaps, it will be said, I might have left it to its own fortune, as not at all likely to mislead posterity; while it represents Mr. P. as njean, low, interested, and perfidious, whose nature, if I were to define it, I should do it by the word FRIENDSHIP; so pure and so warın was the ray

of that sacred passion, which animated and governed all his faculties. But when I consider how light a matter very often subjects the best established characters to the suspicions of posterity, posterity, often as malignant to virtue, as the age that saw it was envious of its glory; and how ready a remote age is to catch at a low revived slander, which the times that brought it forth saw despised and forgotten almost in its birth, I cannot but think it a matter that deserves attention. These Letters, Sir, of your publishing, afford us an indignant instance. The chastity of the first Scipio Africanus, in the case of the Spanish captive, was as celebrated, and as notorious as Mr. P's friendship for L. B. But one Vulerius Antias (for calumny and history, the Oldmiron of Rome) " scruple to assert, that, far from restoring the fair

Spaniard

[ocr errors]

66 made no

u Spaniard to her family, he debauched and kept her.” One would have hoped so mean a slander might have slept forgotten in the dirty corner of a poor pedant's cominon-place. And yet we see it quoted as a fact t, by an instructor of kings. Who knows, but that at some happy time or other, when a writer wants to prove, that real friendship becomes a great man no more than real chastity I, this Advertisement of yours may be advanced to the same dignity of credit with the calumny of Valerius Antias? If it should, I would not undertake to dispute the fact, on which such an inference might be made; for I remember Tully, a great statesman himself, long ago observed, “ Veræ amicitiæ difficiliiine reperiuntur in iis,

qui in republica versantur.”

A. Gellius.

“ Now the reputation of the first Scipio was not so clear and “ uncontroverted in private as in public life; nor was he allowed “ by all to be a man of such severe virtue as lie affected, and as " that age required. Nærius was thought to mean him in soine

verses Gellius nas preserved. And VALERIUS ANTIAS nade no

scruple to assert, that, far from restoring the fair Spuniard to “ her family, le debauched and kept her. Notwithstanding this, " wh-t authority did he not maintain ? in what esteem and venera“ tion did he not live and die?” p. 40.4, of The Idea of a Putriot King.

The words of Nærius are these,
“ Etiam qui res magnas manu sæpe gessit gloriose,
Cujus facta viva nunc vigent; qui apud gentes solus

“ Præstat: eum suus pater cum pallio uno ab amica abduxit.” These obscure verses were, in Gellius's opinion, the sole foundation of Antias's calumny, against the universal concurrence of Historians. His ego versibus credo adductum Valerium Antiatem adversum ceteros omnes scriptores de Scipionis moribus sensisse, L. vi. c. 8. And what he thought of this historian's modesty and truth, we inay collect from what he tells us of him in another place, where, having quoted two tribunicial decrees, which he says he transcribed from Records {er annalium monumentis] he adds, that Valerius Antius made no scruple to give the lie to them in public, " Valerius autem

Antias, contra hanc decretorum memoriam contraque auctoritates

veterum annalium”-dixit, &e. L. vii. c. 19. And Livy in his xxxvi B. quoting this Antias for the particulars of a victory, subjoins, concerning the number slain, “scriptori parum fidei sit, quia * in eo augendo non alius intemperantior est.” And he that will amplify on one occasion, will diminish on another; for it is the same intemperate passion that carries him indifferently to either. See p. 201, of “ The Idea of a Patriot King."

In conclusion, what we may learn from the moral of the tale is this, That excess, though in the social passions, lays us more open to popular censure than even the total want of them : because such excesses often produce effects that low minds cannot understand; or if they could, they would still want hearts warm enough to teel the value of them.

I am, Sir, &c.

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

In which his whole System of Infidelity and Naturalism

is exposed and confuted:

1754.

WITII

AN APOLOGY

FOR THE TWO FIRST LETTERS,

PREFIXED:

1755.

Lettre du feu President MONTESQUIEU à l'Auteur.
Translation of ditto.
APOLOGY for the two first Leiters.
LETTERS I. II. III. IV. of the View, &c. addressed to

Ralph Allen, Esq.

F 4

« ForrigeFortsæt »