Imágenes de páginas

services to his lord,-avows that he cannot | in tolerable order by his discretion, now, when give an opinion about the essay on "Heroic he had long lived in seclusion, and had become Virtue," because he cannot read it without accustomed to regard himself as by far the first man of his circle, rendered him blind to his skipping;-a circumstance which strikes us as peculiarly strange, when we consider how own deficiencies. In an evil hour he publong Mr. Courtenay was at the India Board, lished an "Essay on Ancient and Modern and how many thousand paragraphs of the Learning." The style of this treatise is very copious official eloquence of the East he must good-the matter ludicrous and contemptible to the last degree. There we read how Lycur have perused. gus travelled into India, and brought the Spartan laws from that country-how Orpheus and Museus made voyages in search of knowledge, and how Orpheus attained to a depth of learning which has made him renowned in all succeeding ages-how Pythagoras passed twentytwo years in Egypt, and, after graduating there, spent twelve years more at Babylon, where the Magi admitted him ad eundem-how the ancient Brahmins lived two hundred years-how the earliest Greek philosophers foretold earth. quakes and plagues, and put down riots by magic-and how mucn Ninus surpassed in abilities any of his successors on the throne of Assyria. The moderns, ne owns, have found cut the circulation of the blood; but, on the other hand, they have quite lost the art of magic; nor can any modern fiddler enchant fishes, fowls, and serpents by his performance. He tells us that "Thales, Pythagoras, Democritus, Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Epicurus made greater progresses in the several empires of science than any of their successors have since been able to reach;" which is as much as if he had said that the greatest names in British science are Merlin, Michael Scott, Dr. Sydenham, and Lord Bacon. Indeed, the manner in which he mixes the historical and the fabulous reminds us of those classical dictionaries, intended for the use of schools, in which Narcissus, the lover of himself, and Narcissus, the freedman of Claudius-Pollux, the son of Jupiter and Leda, and Pollux, the author of the Onomasticon-are ranged under the same heading, and treated as personages equally real. The effect of this arrangement resembles that which would be produced by a dictionary of modern names, consisting of such articles as the following:-"Jones, William, an emi nent Orientalist, and one of the Judges of the Supreme Court of Judicature in Bengal-Davy, a fiend who destroys ships-Thomas, a foundling, brought up by Mr. Allworthy.” It is from such sources as these that Temple seems to have learned all that he knew about the an cients. He puts the story of Orpheus between the Olympic games and the battle of Arbela; as if we had exactly as much reason for be lieving that Orpheus led beasts with his lyre, as we have for believing that there were races at Pisa, or that Alexander conquered' Darius.

He manages little better when he comes to the moderns. He gives us a catalogue of those whom he regards as the greatest wits of later times. It is sufficient to say that, in his list of Italians, he has omitted Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto, and Tasso; in his list of Spaniards, Lope and Calderon; in his list of French, Pascal, Bossuet, Molière, Corneille, Racine, and Boileau; and in his list of English, Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton

One of Sir William's pieces, however, deserves notice, not, indeed, on account of its intrinsic merit, but on account of the light which it throws on some curious weaknesses of his character; and on account of the extraordinary effect which it produced on the republic of letters.

A most idle and contemptible controversy had arisen in France touching the comparative merit of the ancient and modern writers. It was certainly not to be expected that, in that age, the question would be tried according to those large and philosophical principles of criticism which guided the judgments of LesBut it might have been sing and of Herder. expected, that those who undertook to decide the point would at least take the trouble to read and understand the authors on whose merits they were to pronounce. Now, it is no exaggeration to say that, among the disputants who clamoured, some for the ancients, and some for the moderns, very few were decently acquainted with either ancient or modern literature, and not a single one was well acquainted with both. In Racine's amusing preface to the "Iphigénie," the reader may find noticed a most ridiculous mistake, into which one of the champions of the moderns fell about a passage in the Alcestis of Euripides. Another writer blames Homer for mixing the four Greek dialects-Doric, Ionic, Eolic, and Attic -just, says he, as if a French poet were to put Gascon phrases and Picard phrases into the On the midst of his pure Parisian writing. other hand, it is no exaggeration to say that the defenders of the ancients were entirely unacquainted with the greatest productions of later times; nor, indeed, were the defenders of the moderns better informed. The parallels which were instituted in the course of this dispute are inexpressibly ridiculous. Balzac was selected as the rival of Cicero. Corneille was declared to unite the merits of Eschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. We should like to see a "Prometheus" after Corneille's fashion. The "Provincial Letters," masterpieces undoubtedly of reasoning, wit, and eloquence, were pronounced to be superior to all the writings of Plato, Cicero, and Lucian together, -particularly in the art of dialogue-an art in which, as it happens, Plato far excelled all men, and in which Pascal, great and admirable in other respects, is notoriously deficient.


This childish controversy spread to England; and some mischievous demon suggested Temple the thought of undertaking the defence of the ancients. As to his qualifications for the task, it is sufficient to say, that he knew Dot a word of Greek. But his vanity, which, when he was engaged in the conflicts of active fe, and surrounded by rivals, had been kept

In the midst of all this vast riass of absurdity |ness had been increased by many years of se one paragraph stands out pre-eminent. The clusion and flattery,-was moved to the most doctrine of Temple-not a very comfortable violent resentment; complained, very unjustone-is, that the human race is constantly de- ly, of Bentley's foul-mouthed raillery, and degenerating; and that the oldest books in every clared that he had commenced an answer, but kind are the best. In confirmation of this doc- had laid it aside, "having no mind to enter the trine, he remarks that the Fables of Esop are lists with such a mean, dull, unmannerly pe the best fables, and the letters of Phalaris the dant." Whatever may be thought of the tembest letters in the world. On the merit of the per which Sir William showed on this occaletters of Phalaris he dwells with great warmth sion, we cannot too highly applaud his discreand with extraordinary felicity of language. tion in not finishing and publishing his answer, Indeed, we could hardly select a more favour- which would certainly have been a most exable specimen of the graceful and easy ma- traordinary performance. jesty to which his style sometimes rises than this unlucky passage. He knows, he says, that some learned men, or men who pass for learned, such as Politian, have doubted the genuineness of these letters. But of these doubts he speaks with the greatest contempt. Now it is perfectly certain, first, that the letters are very bad; secondly, that they are spurious; and thirdly, that, whether they be bad or good, spurious or genuine, Temple could know nothing of the matter; inasmuch as he was no mor able to construe a line of them than to decipher an Egyptian obelisk.

This Essay, silly as it is, was exceedingly well received, both in England and on the Continent. And the reason is evident. The classical scholars, who saw its absurdity, were generally on the side of the ancients, and were inclined rather to veil than to expose the blunders of an ally; the champions of the moderns were generally as ignorant as Temple himself; and the multitude were charmed by his flowing and melodious diction. He was doomed, however, to smart, as he well served, for his vanity and folly.

Christchurch was up in arms; and though that college seems then to have been almost destitute of severe and accurate learning, no academical society could show a greater array of orators, wits, politicians,-bustling adventurers, who united the superficial accomplishments of the scholar with the manners and arts of the man of the world, and this formidable body resolved to try how far smart repartees, well turned sentences, confidence, puffing, and intrigue could, on the question hether a Greek book were or were not genuine, supply the place of a little knowledge of Greek.

Out came the reply to Bentley, bearing the de-name of Boyle, but in truth written by Atterbury, with the assistance of Smalridge and Christchurch at Oxford was then widely and others. A most remarkable book it is, and justly celebrated as a place where the lighter often reminds us of Goldsmith's observation, parts of classical learning were cultivated that the French would be the best cooks in the with success. With the deeper mysteries of world if they had any butcher's meat, for that philology neither the instructors nor the pupils they can make ten dishes out of a nettle top. had the smallest acquaintance. They fancied It really deserves the praise, whatever that themselves Scaligers, as Bentley scornfully praise may be worth, of being the best book said, as soon as they could write a copy of ever written by any man on the wrong side of Latin verses with only two or three small a question of which he was profoundly ignofaults. From this college proceeded a new rant. The learning of the confederacy is that edition of the Letters of Phalaris, which were of a schoolboy, and not of an extraordinary rare, and had been in request since the appear-schoolboy; but it is used with the skill and ance of Temple's Essay. The nominal editor address of most able, artful, and experienced was Charles Boyle, a young man of noblemen; it is beaten out to the very thinnest leaf, family and promising parts; but some older and is disposed in such a way as to seem ten members of the society lent their assistance. times larger than it is. The dexterity with While this work was in preparation, an idle which they avoid grappling with those parts quarrel, occasioned, it should seem, by the of the subject with which they know themnegligence and misrepresentations of a book-selves to be incompetent to deal is quite wonseller, arose between Boyle and the king's derful. Now and then, indeed, they commit librarian, Richard Bentley. Boyle, in the pre- disgraceful blunders, for which old Busby, unface to his edition, inserted a bitter reflection der whom they had studied, would have whipon Bentley. Bentley revenged himself by ped them all round. But this circumstance proving that the Epistles of Phalaris were for only raises our opinion of the talents which geries; and in his remarks on this subject made such a fight with such scanty means. treated Temple, not indecently, but with no Let our readers, who are not acquainted with great reverence. the controversy, imagine a Frenchman who had acquired just English enough to read the Spectator with a dictionary, coming forward to defend the genuineness of "Rowley s Poems" against Percy and Farmer; and they will have some notion of the feat which Atterbury had

Temple, who was quite unaccustomed to any but the most respectful usage, who, even while engaged in politics, had always shrunk from all rude collision, and had generally succeeded in avoiding it, and whose sensitive

He was not, however, without defenders. Like Hector, when struck down prostrate by Ajax, he was in an instant covered by a thick crowd of shields

64 ουτις εδυνήσατο ποιμένα λαων Ουτασαι ουδε βαλειν· πριν γαρ περιβησαν αριστοι, Πουλυδάμας τε, και Αινείας, και διος ̓Αγήνωρ, Σαρπηδων τ' αρχος Λυκίων, και Γλαυκος αμυμων."

This description is surely by no means ap. plicable to a statesman who had, through the whole course of his life, carefully avoided exposing himself in seasons of trouble: who had repeatedly refused, in the most critical con junctures, to be Secretary of State; and who now, in the midst of revolutions, plots, foreign and domestic wars, was quietly writing non sense about the visits of Lycurgus to the Brah mins, and the tunes which Arion played to the Dolphin.

We must not omit to mention that, while the controversy about Phalaris was raging, Swift, in order to show his zeal and attachment, wrote the "Battle of the Books ;"-the earliest piece in which his peculiar talents are discernible. We may observe, that the bitter dislike of Bentley, bequeathed by Temple to Swift, seems to have been communicated by Swift to Pope, to Arbuthnot, and to others who continued to tease the great critic, long after he had shaken hands very cordially both with Boyle and Atterbury.

Sir William Temple died at Moor Park in January, 1699. He appeared to have suffered no intellectual decay. His heart was buried under a sun-dial which still stands in his fa vourite garden. His body was laid in Westminster Abbey by the side of his wife; and a place hard by was set apart for Lady Giffard, who long survived him. Swift was his literary executor, and superintended the publication of his Letters and Memoirs, not without some acrimonious contests with the family.

Of Temple's character little more rema: to be said. Burnet accuses him of nolding irreligious opinions, and corrupting everybody who came near him. But the vague assertion of so rash and partial a writer as Burnet, about a man with whom, as far as we know, he never exchanged a word, is of very little weight. It is, indeed, by no means improbable that Temple may have been a free-thinker. The Osbornes thought him so when he was a very young man. And it is certain that a large proportion of the gentlemen of rank and al-fashion who made their entrance into society while the Puritan party was at the height of Temple did not live to witness the utter and power, and while the memory of the reign of irreparable defeat of his champions. He died, that party was still recent, conceived a strong indeed, at a fortunate moment, just after the disgust for all religion. The imputation was appearance of Boyle's book, and while all common between Temple and all the most disEngland was laughing at the way in which the tinguished courtiers of the age. Rochester Christchurch men had handled the pedant. In and Buckingham were open scoffers, and MulBoyle's book, Temple was praised in the high-grave very little better. Shaftesbury, though est terms, and compared to Memmius-not a more guarded, was supposed to agree with very happy comparison; for the only particu- them in opinion. All the three noblemen who lar information which we have about Mem- were Temple's colleagues during the short mius is, that in agitated times he thought it time of his continuance in the cabinet, were his duty to attend exclusively to politics; and of very indifferent repute as to orthodoxy that his friends could not venture, except when Halifax, indeed, was generally considered as the republic was quiet and prosperous, to in- an atheist, but he solemnly denied the charge; trude on him with their philosophical and and, indeed, the truth seems to be, that he was poetical productions. It is on this account, more religiously disposed than most of the that Lucretius puts up the exquisitely beauti-statesmen of that age; though two impulses ful prayer for peace with which his poem opens:

the audacity to undertake, and which, for a time, it was really thought that he had performed.

The illusion was soon dispelled. Bentley's answer forever settled the question, and established his claim to the first place amongst classical scholars. Nor do those do him justice who represent the controversy as a battle between wit and learning. For, though there is a lamentable deficiency of learning on the side of Boyle, there is no want of wit on the side of Bentley. Other qualities too, as valuable as either wit or learning, appear conspieuously in Bentley's book;-a rare sagacity, an unrivalled power of combination, a perfect mastery of all the weapons of logic. He was greatly indebted to the furious outcry which the misrepresentations, sarcasms, and intrigues of his opponents had raised against him;-an outcry in which fashionable and political circles joined, and which was re-echoed by thousands who did not know whether Phalaris ruled in Sicily or in Siam. His spirit, daring even to rashness-self-confident, even to negligence and proud, even to insolent ferocity, -was awed for the first and for the last time -awed, not into meanness or cowardice, but into wariness and sobriety. For once he ran no risks; he left no crevice unguarded; he wantoned in no paradoxes; above all, he returned no railing for the railing of his enemies. In almost every thing that he has written we can discover proofs of genius and learning. But it is only here that his genius and earning appear to have been constantly under the guidance of good sense and good temper. Here we find none of that besotted reliance on his own powers and on his own luck, which he showed when he undertook to edite Milton; none of that perverted ingenuity which deforms so many of his notes on Horace; none of that disdainful carelessness by which he laid himself open to the keen and dexterous thrusts of Middleton; none of that extravagant vaunting and savage scurrility by which he afterwards dishonoured his studies and his profession, and degraded himself most to the level of De Paucs.

"Nam neque nos agere hoc patriæ tempore iniquo Possumus æque animo, nec Memmii clara propago Talibus in rebus communi deesse saluti.”

which were unusually strong in him, a pas sion for ludicrous images, and a passion for subtle speculations,-sometimes prompted him to talk on serious subjects in a manner which gave great and just offence. It is not even

unlikely that Temple, who seldom went below | he seems to us to have been excessively self the surface of any question, may have been ish, but very sober, wary, and far-sighted in infected with the prevailing skepticism. All his selfishness;-to have known better than that we can say on the subject is, that there is most people know what he really wanted in no trace of impiety in his works; and that the life; and to have pursued what he wanted with. ease with which he carried his election for a much more than ordinary steadiness and sauniversity, where the majority of the voters gacity;-never suffering himself to be drawn were clergymen, though it proves nothing as aside either by bad or by good feelings. It to his opinions, must, we think, be considered was his constitution to dread failure more than as proving that he was not, as Burnet seems he desired success,-to prefer security, com to insinuate, in the habit of talking atheism to fort, repose, leisure, to the turmoil and anxiety all who came near him. which are inseparable from greatness ;--and this natural languor of mind, when contrasted with the malignant energy of the keen and restless spirits among whom his lot was cast, sometimes appears to resemble the moderation of virtue. But we must own, that he seems to us to sink into littleness and meanness when we compare him--we do not say with any high ideal standard of morality,--but with many of those frail men who, aiming at noble ends, but often drawn from the right path by strong pas. sions and strong temptations, have left to pos terity a doubtful and checkered fame

Temple, however, will scarcely carry with him any great accession of authority to the side either of religion or of infidelity. He was no profound thinker. He was merely a man of lively parts and quick observation, -a man of the world amongst men of letters, a man of letters amongst men of the world. Mere scholars were dazzled by the ambassador and cabinet councillor; mere politicians by the essayist and historian. But neither as a writer nor as a statesman can we allot to him any very high place. As a man,





We are much pleased, without any reference to the soundness or unsoundness of Mr. Gladstone's theories, to see a grave and elaborate treatise on an important part of the philosophy of governinent proceed from the pen of a young man who is rising to eminence in the House of Commons. There is little danger that people engaged in the conflicts of active life will be too much addicted to general speculation. The opposite vice is that which most easily besets them. The times and tides of business and debate tarry for no man. A politician must often talk and act before he has thought and read. He may be very ill-informed respecting a quest; all his notions about it may be vague and inaccurate; but speak he must; and if he is a man of talents, of tact, and of intrepidity, ne soon finds that, even under such circumstances, it is possible to speak successfully. He finds that there is a great difference between the effect of written words, which are perused and reperused in the stillness of the closet, and the effect of spoken words, which, set off by the graces of utterance and gesture, vibrate for a single moment on the ear. He finds that he may blunder without much chance of being detected, that he may reason sophistically, and escape unrefuted. He finds that, even on knotty questions of trade and legislation, he can, without reading ten pages, or thinking ten minutes, draw forth loud plaudits, and sit down with the credit of having made an excellent speech. Lysias, says Plutarch, wrote a defence for a man who was to be tried before one of the Athenian tri- | the Hebrides, than from a statesman who, ever bunals. Long before the defendant had learn- since he was one-and-twenty, had been a dised the speech by heart, he became so much tinguished debater in the House of Commons. dissatisfied with it, that he went in great distress to the author. "I was delighted with your speech the first time I read it; but I liked

THE author of this volume is a young man | it less the second time, and still less the third of unblemished character and of distinguished time; and now it seems to me to be no defence parliamentary talents, the rising hope of those at all." 'My good friend." said Lysias, “you stern and unbending Tories, who follow, re- quite forget that the judges are to hear it only luctantly and mutinously, a leader, whose ex- once." The case is the same in the English perience and eloquence are indispensable to Parliament. It would be as idle in an orator them, but whose cautious temper and moderate to waste deep meditation and long research on opinions they abhor. It would not be at all his speeches, as it would be in the manager of strange if Mr. Gladstone were one of the most a theatre to adorn all the crowd of courtiers unpopular men in England. But we believe and ladies who cross over the stage in a prothat we do him no more than justice when we cession with real pearls and diamonds. It is say, that his abilities and his demeanour have not by accuracy or profundity that men become obtained for him the respect and good-will of the masters of great assemblies. And why be all parties. His first appearance in the cha- at the charge of providing logic of the best racter of an author is therefore an interesting quality, when a very inferior article will be event; and it is natural that the gentle wishes equally acceptable? Why go as deep into a of the public should go with him to his trial. question as Burke, only in order to be, like Burke, coughed down, or left speaking to green benches and red boxes? This has long appeared to us to be the most serious of the evils which are to be set off against the many blessings of popular government. It is a fine and true saying of Bacon, that reading makes a full man, talking a ready man, and writing an exact man. The tendency of institutions like those of England is to encourage readiness in public men, at the expense both of fulness and of exactness. The keenest and most vigorous minds of every generation, minds often admirably fitted for the investigation of truth, are habitually employed in producing arguments, such as no man of sense would ever put into a treatise intended for publication,--arguments which are just good enough to be used once, when aided by fluent delivery and pointed language. The habit of discussing questions in this way necessarily reacts on the intelligence of our ablest men, particularly of those who are introduced into Parliament at a very early age, before their minds have expanded to full maturity. The talent for debate is developed in such men to a degree which, to the multitude, seems as marvellous as the performances of an Italian improvisatore. But they are fortunate, indeed, if they retain unimpaired the faculties which are required for close reason ing or for enlarged speculation. Indeed, we should sooner expect a great original work on political science--such a work, for example, as the "Wealth of Nations”—from an apothecary in a country town, or from a minister in

We therefore hail with pleasure, though assuredly not with unmixed pleasure, the appearance of this work. That a young politician should, in the intervals afforded by his parlia mentary avocations, have constructed and pro

The State in its relations with the Church. By W. E. pounded, with much study and mental toil, an

GLADSTONE, Esq., Student of Christchurch, and M. P. for Newark 8vo. Second Edition. London. 1839.

original theory on a great problem in politics,

« AnteriorContinuar »