Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

contents in any degree corresponded with the inviting sound of many of the appellations chosen to distinguish their pretensions, it is greatly to be regretted that time has not spared them. "Some of these," says Gellius, "were called 'The Muses,' others 'Sylvæ:' one man calls his book 'Minerva's Robe,' another, The Horn of Amalthea.' One is termed Honey-combs,' another Pas tures,' another My own Readings,' another "Ancient Readings,' another Flowrets,' another 'Inventions.' This man names his work 'Lights," that Tapestries,' others are called Pandects,' Helicon,' Problems,' Manuals,' • Small Arms;' some also are stiled Memorials,'' Practical Hints,' Leisure Amusements,' and Lessons.' We meet also with Natural History,' Various History,' The Parterre,' The Orchard,' and Common Places; many have called their books, Miscellanies; nay, some have been stiled Moral Epistles,' others Epistolary or Mixed Questions,' with various other appellations." To these we may add the "Attic Nights" of the author of the catalogue just given; which, though sometimes too philological and abstruse for general readers, yet abound with instruction, entertainment, and curious enquiry. The latter part of his preface may with propriety be addressed to

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

* Beloe's Aulus Gellius, Author's Preface, p. 4.


their go


all who not only attempt the perusal of the Attic
Nights, but who approach, without due qualifica-
tion of head and heart, any effusions of genius and
"It will be far better," he remarks, "for
such as have neither enjoyed pleasure nor be-
stowed pains in reading and writing, but who are
immersed in scenes of riot, or the cares of busi-
ness, to
from these Nights, and seek
out for themselves other amusements. It is an old
proverb, 'A jay has no concern with music, nor
a hog with perfumes;' but that the ill-humour
and invidiousness of certain ill-taught people may
be still more exasperated, I shall borrow a few
verses from a chorus of Aristophanes; and what
he, a man of most exquisite humour, proposed as
a law to the spectators of his play, I also recom-
mend to the readers of this volume, that the vul
gar and unhallowed herd, who are averse to the
sports of the muses, may not touch, nor even ap
proach it.---The verses are these:

Silent be they, and far from hence remove,
By scenes like ours not likely to improve,
Who never paid the honour'd muse her rights,
Who senseless live in wild impure delights;
I bid them once, I bid them twice begone,
I bid them thrice, in still a louder tone:
Far hence depart, whilst ye with dance and song
Our solemn feast, our tuneful nights prolong.'

* Beloe's Translation, Preface, p. 8.

Italy at an early period produced two writers who acquired great and deserved celebrity by pointing out the path to elegance and urbanity in manners, conversation, and conduct, and by teaching, therefore, how to avoid that barbarity in behaviour and rudeness in language which, probably, more than heavier afflictions, interrupt the felicity of life. "Il Cortigiano," "The Courtier" of BALDASSAR CASTIGLIONE was published in 1528, and was intended to display the politeness which reigned among the higher ranks of society, to render familiar the etiquette of courts, and unfold those arts, those useful and agreeable attentions, so necessary to the companions of princes. Its maxims, reflections, erudition, and beauty of style rendered it a great favourite with the public, and the Italians emphatically term it the "golden book.”

To this Court Manual of Castiglione succeeded in a few years a still more useful production, the Galateo of JOHN DE LA CASA. This elegant volume had for its object a general system of politeness, or the art of living in the world, and consequently became interesting to every individual. It was soon established as a code throughout Europe, and was naturalized in various languages.

France in the same century gave birth to the celebrated MICHAEL DE MONTAIGNE, whose works have been remarkable favourites, and held in high

esteem. His essays were published in 1580, and certainly exhibit great knowledge of mankind. There is likewise a simplicity and naïvete in his style, which shed over all his compositions a peculiar charm, and which strongly attract and interest the reader. He is, however, too much of an egotist, and is too frequently unguarded and indecent in his expressions.

Rather better than a century after the appearance of Montaigne, LA BRUYERE conferred fresh honour on his country. “The Characters or Manners of this Age,” perhaps once the most popular work among the French, were printed in 1687. They are confessedly an imitation of Theophrastus, whose sketches occupy the prior part of the volume, but exceed their prototype in shrewdness of remark and vivid delineation of character. "Bruyere," observes Dr. Aikin, "had the honour of participating with Moliere in the correction of more follies and indecorums than perhaps any other moralists, ancient or modern. He drew with a bold and strong, and at the same time a fine and delicate, pencil."*


England has to boast of three very valuable writers on Ethics and Morality who preceded our periodical classics. In 1597 the great BACON published his "Essays or Counsels," a collection which displays an intimate knowledge of the human heart,

• Aikin's Biographical Dictionary, vol. ii. p. 341.

and evinces the same sagacity and penetration in developing the varied modifications of character and manners which had already astonished the world, by fathoming the profoundest depths of philosophy and science. Though the style of this small volume be not polished, the diction being too often quaint and careless, yet as its subjects, to use the author's own expression, came home to men's business and bosoms," the circulation was soon great, and it acquired a popularity which no other production of this truly wonderful man ever obtained in his native country.

[ocr errors]

Though inferior in solidity of remark and comprehension of character and manners to the essays of Bacon, the Miscellanea of TEMPLE, which were first printed in 1672, still attract numerous readers. Their style, which at the æra of their publication could claim the merit of simplicity combined with considerable elegance, has, notwithstanding the progress of refinement and grammatical accuracy, many charms unfaded. Pleasing illustrations on literary, and the utmost suavity of manner and purity of precept on moral, topics, conspire to render these compositions yet favourites with judges of taste and lovers of simplicity.

With a character, I regret to say, very different from the amiable author of the Miscellanea appears our next essayist. In principle bigotted and intolerant, coarse in style, and vehement in

« AnteriorContinuar »