Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

(1) Marcus Aurelius was still more averse to every thing that had the air of pomp and luxury. He lay upon the bare ground; at twelve years old he took the habit of a philosopher; he forbore the use of guards, the imperial ornaments, and the ensigns of honour, which were carried before the Cæsars and the Augusti

. Nor was this conduct owing to the ignorance of what was grand and beautiful, but to the juster and purer taste he had of both, and to an intimate persuasion that the greatest glory, and principal duty of man, especially it in power, and eminently conspicuous, is so far to imitate the Deity, as to throw himself into a condition of wanting as little as may be for himself

, and doing all the good to others he is capable of.

[m] Arnold d'Ossat, who is so famous for his wonderful abilities in negotiation, though his furniture fell far short of the dignity of a cardinal, refused to accept of the money, the chariot and horses, and the damask bed, which the cardinal de Joyeuse sent him as a present three weeks after his promotion. For, [n]says he, though I have not all that is requisite to support this dignity, yet I will not for that reason renounce the abstinence and modesty I have always observed. Such a disposition is far more extraordinary and valuable, thana magnificentequipage, and richfurniture.

[0] The tribune of the people, who became an advocate for the Roman ladies against the severity of Cato, and pleaded for the restoring to them, after the second Punic war, the right of wearing gold and silver in their apparel, scens to insinuate, that dress or ornament were in a manner their natural province; and that as they could not aspire to any preferments, to the priesthood, or the honour of a triumph, it would not only be cruel, but unjust, to refuse them a consolation, which the sole necessity of the times had taken from them. This reason might affect the

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

[?] M. Aur. Vit. Dio. Julian, Cas.

[m] Vie du Card. d'Ossat.

[n] Lett. 181.
10] Liv. lib. 34, n. 74:

people,

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

men.

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

people, but was not very honourable to the sex, as it taxes them with weakness and meanness, in representing them as fond of trifles. Virorum hoc animos vulnerare posset, quid muliercularum censetis, quas etiam parva movent?

Yet we learn from history, that the Roman ladies generously stripped themselves of all their jewels, and presented all their gold and silver, [p] at one time to enable the republic to discharge'a vow made to Apollo, for which they had honourable distinctions granted them; [9] and at another, to redeem Rome from the Gauls

, which procured them the right and privilege of being praised in funeral orations, as well as the

[r] In the second Punic war the widows in like manner brought their gold and silver into the public treasury, to assist the state in the extreme necessity under which it groaned.

The famous Cornelia, daughter to the great Scipio, and mother to the Gracchi, is universally known. Her extraction was the noblest in Rome, and her family the richest. [s] A lady of Campania, coming to make her a visit, and lodging in her house, displayed with

pomp whatever was then most fashionable and valuable for the toilet, gold and silver, jewels, diamonds, bracelets, pendants, and all the apparatus which the ancients calledinunden muliebrem. Sheexpected to find somewhat still finer in the house of a person of her quality, and desired very importunately to see her toilette. Cornelia artfully prolonged the conversation till such time as her children came home, who were then gone to the public schools, and pointing to them as they entered, “See here, says she, are

my jewels.” Et hæc, inquit, ornamenta mea sunt. We need only examine our own thoughts in relation to those two ladies, to find out how far superior the noble simplicity of the one was to the vain magnificence of the other. And indeed what merit or ability is there in buying up a large collection of precious [P] Liv. lib. 5. n. 25.

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

[r] Ib. lib. 24. n. 28. 19] Ib. n. so.

[s] Valer. Max. lib. 4. C. 4.

stones

ophy

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

stones and jewels, in being vain of them, or in not knowing how to talk of any thing else? And on the other hand, how truly worthy is it in a person of the first quality to be above such trifles, to place her honour and glory in the good education of her children, in sparing no expence towards the bringing it about, and in shewing that nobleness and greatness of soul do equally belong to both sexes?.

[i] De Beaunes, archbishop of Bourges, in the ora"tion he made to the states of Blois against luxury, “ and principally with respect to coaches, which se“ veral persons of mean condition began to make use

of, highly comiends the modesty of the premier “president du Thou's lady, who, to set an example “ to other ladies of quality, was always content to be “ carried behind another on horseback, when she “ made her visits in the town.” What merits praise in this little story, is not the visiting on horseback, (such were the customs of those times) but the noble greatness of soul in this lady, who thought, that the giving others an example of modesty and simplicity was the best manner of supporting the dignity of her station, and becoming in reality a premier president

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

IV. OF LUXURY IN EATING AND DRINKING.

for In

"

cessors.

[ocr errors]

This was carried in the declension of the republic to an almost incredible excess, and under the einperors they still rose upon the gluttony of their prede

[u] Lucullus, who in other respects was a man of excellent qualities, upon his return from the war, attempted to substitute the glory of magnificence to that of his arms and battles, and turned all his studies that way. He laid out immense sunis upon his houses and gardens, and was still more expensive at his table. He required it every day to be served up in the same sumptuous manner, though nobody was to dine with him. As his steward was one day excusing the meanness of

Po

(t) Opuiss. de Leysel.

[u] Plut. in Luculli.

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

his dinner, because there was no company,“ Did you
“ not know,” says

he, " that Lucullus was to eat at
* Lucullus's house to-day.”. Tully and Pompey not
giving credit to the reports of his ordinary magnifi-
cence, were resolved one day to surprise him, and be
satisfied whether it was so or not. And meeting him
in public, they invited themselves, and would not al-
low him to give any directions to his domestics about
their entertainment. He therefore barely ordered that
dinner should be served up in the hall of Apollo. The
entertainment was got ready with so much celerity
and opulence, as surprised and astonished his guests.
They did not know that the hall of Apollo was a
watch-word, and signified that the feast should a-
mount to [x'] fifty thousand drachms.

If good eating and drinking were capable of procuring solid glory, Lucullus was the greatest man of his age. But who sees not, how pitiful and silly it was to place his honour and reputation in making the world believe, that he every day squandered enormous and senseless expences for the gratification of his own private appetite? I question whether his guests, who mightily commended and adınired, no doubt, such prodigious magnificence, were much wiser than he. For it was they supported his folly and distemper. [y] Irritamentum est omnium, in qua insanimus, admirator & conscius. “ To admire the folly of a madman " is to promote his folly." And the same may be said of all that outward magnificence, by which men strive to make themselves considerable, large apartments, valuable furniture, and rich garments. [z] It is all for shew, and not for ease; for the spectators, and not for the inaster. Place hiin in solitude, and you make himn frugal and modest, and all this vanity is at an end.

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

[x] 2500 livres.

derant: sanabis ista, si absconde-
[y] Senec. Ep. 94.

ris. Id. Ep. 94.
[zj Quid miraris? Quid stupes ? Assuescamus à nobis removerc
Pompa est. Ostenduntur istä res, pompam, & usus rerum non orna.
non possidentur. Senec. Ep. 110. menta metiri. Id. de Tranquil.
Ambitio & luxuria scenam desic Animæ, c. 9.

But

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

But to give a different instance of this folly. [a] A person, entering Anthony's kitchen, was surprised to see eight wild boars roasting at the same time. He judged there was like to be a great deal of company, but was mistaken. Whilst Anthony was at Alexandria there was always a magnificent entertainment ready to be served up about supper-time, that whenever Anthony was pleased to call for it, he might have his table covered with the most exquisite meats.

I forbear to mention such extravagant and wild expences, as a dish made up of the tongues of the scarcest birds in the universe, or several pearls of iminense price infused and dissolved in a certain liquor, for the pleasure of swallowing down a million at a draught.

To these monsters of lusury, who are a disgrace to mankind, let us oppose the modesty and frugality of a Cato, the honour of his age and commonwealth; I mean the elder, who is usually sirnamed the Censor. [b] He boasted that he had never drank any

other wine, but such as was drunk by his workmen and domestics, never bought a supper which exceeded thirty sestertia, * nor ever wore a garment which cost above an hundred drachms of silver. He learnt to live thus, he said, from the example of the famous Curius, that great man who drove Pyrrhus out of Italy, and had ihrice the honour of a triumph. The house he had lived in, in the country of the Sabines, was near to Cato's, and for this reason he looked upon it as a model the more venerable from being in his neighbourhood. It was this Curius the embassadors of the Samnites found in a poor little cottage, sitting in the chimney-corner boiling of roots, who rejected their presents with disdain, telling them, that whoever could be content with such a supper did not want gold; and that for his part he thought it more honourable to command over those who had riches, than to have them himself.

[a] Plut. in Vit. Anton. [b] Plut. in Vit. Cat. Cens,
About three shillings.

These

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

191

« AnteriorContinuar »