Billeder på siden

now on the instability of their opinions and the transitory life of their productions. On this kind of credit the modern institutors open their schools. They write for youth, and it is sufficient if the instruction “ lasts as long as a present love, -or as “ the painted silks and cottons of the season.

The doctrines in this work are applied, for their standard, with great exactness, to the shortest possible periods both of conception and duration. The title is “Some Remarks on the Apparent circum

stances of the War in the fourth Week of October “ 1795.” The time is critically chosen. A month or so earlier would have made it the anniversary of a bloody Parisian September, when the French massacre one another. A day or two later would have carried it into a London November, the gloomy month, in which it is said by a pleasant author, that Englishmen hang and drown themselves. In truth, this work has a tendency to alarm us with symptoms of publick suicide. However, there is one comfort to be taken even from the gloomy time of year. It is a rotting season. If what is brought to market is not good, it is not likely to keep long. Even buildings run up in haste with untempered mortar in that humid weather, if they are ill-contrived tenements, do not threaten long to encumber the earth. The Author tells us (and I believe he is the very first Author that ever told such a thing to his readers) " that the entire fabrick of his speculations might

B 2

so be

“ be overset by unforeseen vicissitudes;" and what is far more extraordinary, “ that even the whole “consideration might be varied whilst he was writing those pages.” Truly, in my poor judgment, this circumstance formed a very substantial motive for his not publishing those ill-considered considerations at all. He ought to have followed the good advice of his motto; Que faire encore dans une telle nuit? Attendre le jour. He ought to have waited till he had got a little more day-light on this subject. Night itself is hardly darker than the fogs of that time.

Finding the last week in October so particularly referred to, and not perceiving any particular event relative to the War, which happened on any of the days in that week, I thought it possible, that they were marked by some astrological superstition, to which the greatest politicians have been subject. I therefore had recourse to my Rider's Almanack. There I found indeed something, that characterized the work, and that gave directions concerning the sudden political and natural variations, and for eschewing the maladies, that are most prevalent in that aguish intermittent season, “the last week of “ October.” On that week the sagacious astrologer, Rider, in his note on the third column of the calendar side, teaches us to expect “variable and cold " weather;" but instead of encouraging us to trust Qurselves to the haze and mist and doubtful lights of


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

that changeable week, on the answerable part of the opposite page, he gives us a salutary caution (indeed it is very nearly in the words of the author's motto): Avoid (says he) being out late at night, and in foggy weather, for a cold now caught may last the

whole winter *. This ingenious author, who disdained the prudence of the almanack, walked out in the very fog he complains of, and has led us to a very unseasonable airing at that time. Whilst this noble writer, by the vigour of an excellent constitution, formed for the violent changes he prognosticates, may shake off the importunate rheum and malignant influenza of this disagreeable week, a whole Parliament may go on spitting and snivelling, and wheezing and coughing, during a whole session. All this froin listening to variable, hebdomedal politicians, who run away from their opinions without giving us a month's warning; and for not listening to the wise and friendly admonitions of Dr. Cardanus Rider, who never apprehends he may change his opinions before his pen is out of his hand, but always enables us to lay in, at least, a year's stock of useful information.

At first I took comfort. I said to myself, that if I should, as I fear I must, oppose the doctrines of

* Here I haye fallen into an unintentional mistake, Rider's Almanack for 1794 lay before me; and, in truth, I then had no other. For variety that sage astrologer has made some small changes on the weather side of 1795; but the caution is the same on the opposite page of instruction.


B 3

the last week of October, it is probable that, by this time, they are no longer those of the eminent writer, to whom they are attributed. He gives us hopes, that long before this he may have embraced the direct contrary sentiments. If I am found in a conflict with those of the last week of October, I may be in full agreement with those of the last week in December, or the first week in January 1796. But a second edition, and a French translation (for the benefit, I must suppose, of the new Regicide Directory) have let down a little of these flattering hopes. We and the Directory know, that the author, whatever changes his works seemed made to indicate, like a weather-cock grown rusty, remains just where he was in the last week of last October. It is true, that his protest against binding him to his opinions, and his reservation of a right to whatever opinions he pleases, remain in their full force. This variability is pleasant, and shows a fertility of fancy;"

Qualis in æthereo felix Vertumnus Olympo

Mille habet ornatus, mille decenter habet. Yet, doing all justice to the sportive variability of these weekly, daily, or hourly speculators, shallI be pardoned, if I attempt a word on the part of us simple country folk? It is not good for us, however it may be so for great statesmen, that we should be treated with variable politicks. I consider different relations as prescribing a different


conduct.' I allow, that, in transactions with an enemy, a Minister may, and often must, vary his demands with the day, possibly with the hour. With an enemy, a fixed plan, variable arrangements. This is the rule the nature of the transaction prescribes. But all this belongs to treaty. All these shiftings and changes are a sort of secret amongst the parties, till a definite settlement is brought about. Such is the spirit of the proceedings in the doubtful and transitory state of things between enmity and friendship. In this change the subjects of the transformation are by nature carefully wrapt up in their coccoons.

The gay ornament of summer is not seemly in his aurelia state. This mutability is allowed to a foreign negotiator; but when a great politician condescends publickly to instruct his own countrymen on a matter, which may fix their fate for ever, his opinions ought not to be diurnal, or even weekly. These ephemerides of politicks are not made for our slow and coarse understandings. Our appetite demands a piece of resistance. We require some food, that will stick to the ribs. We call for sentiments, to which we can attach ourselves; sentiments, in which we can take an interest ; sentiments, on which we can warm, on which we can ground some confidence in ourselves or in others. We do not want a largess of inconstancy. Poor souls, we have enough of that sort of poverty at home. There is a difference

B 4


« ForrigeFortsæt »