Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

gift of utterance, having talked above a twelvemonth, not so much for the benefit of my hearers, as of myself. But, since I have now gained the faculty I have been so long endeavouring after, I intend to make a right use of it, and shall think myself obliged for the future to speak always in truth and sincerity of heart. While a man is learning to fence, he practises both on friend and foe; but when he is a master in the art, he never exerts it but on what he thinks the right side.

· That this last allusion may not give my reader a wrong idea of my design in this paper, I must here inform him, that the author of it is of no faction; that he is a friend to no interests but those of truth and virtue; nor a foe to any but those of vice and folly. Though I make more noise in the world than I used to do, I am still resolved to act in it as an indifferent spectator. It is not my ambition to in crease the number either of whigs or tories, but of wise and good men; and I could heartily wish there were not faults common to both parties, which afford me sufficient matter to work upon, without descende ing to those which are peculiar to either.

If in a multitude of counsellors there is safety, we ought to think ourselves the securest nation in the world. Most of our garrets are inhabited by statesmen, who watch over the liberties of their country, and make a shift to keep themselves from starving by taking into their care the properties of their fellow-subjects.

As these politicians of both sides have already worked the nation into a most unnatural ferment, I shall be so far from endeavouring to raise it to a greater height, that, on the contrary, it shall be the chief tendency of my papers to inspire my countrymen with a mutual good-will and benevolence, Whatever faults either party may be guilty of, they

are rather inflamed than cured by those reproaches which they cast upon one another. The most likely method of rectifying any man's conduct is by recommending to him the principles of truth and honour, religion and virtue; and so long as he acts with an eye to these principles, whatever party he is of, he cannot fail of being a good Englishman, and a lover of his country.

As for the persons concerned in this work, the names of all of them, or at least of such as desire it, shall be published hereafter ; until which time I must entreat the courteous reader to suspend his curiosity, and rather to consider what is written than who they are that write it.

Having thus adjusted all necessary, preliminaries with my reader, I shall not trouble him with any more prefatory discourses, but proceed in my old method, and entertain him with speculations on every useful subject that falls in my way.

No. 557. MONDAY, JUNE 21, 1714.

Quippe domum timet ambiguam, Tyriosque bilingues.

Virg. Æn. i. 665. He fears the ambiguous race, and Tyrians double-tongued.

“THERE is nothing,' says Plato, ' so delightful as the hearing or the speaking of truth.' For this reason there is no conversation so agreeable as that of the man of integrity, who hears without any intention to betray, and speaks without any intention to deceive.

Among all the accounts which are given of Cato, I do not remember one that more redounds to his honour than the following passage related by Plutarch. As an advocate was pleading the cause of his client before one of the prætors, he could only produce a single witness in a point where the law required the testimony of two persons: upon which the advocate insisted on the integrity of that person whom he had produced; but the prætor told him, that where the law required two witnesses he would not accept of one, though it were Cato himself. Such a speech from a person who sat at the head of a court of justice, while Cato was still living, shows us, more than a thousand examples, the high reputation this great man had gained among his contemporaries upon the account of his sincerity. · When such an inflexible integrity is a little softened and qualified by the rules of conversation and good-breeding, there is not a more shining virtue in the whole catalogue of social duties. A man however ought to take great care not to polish himself out of his veracity, nor to refine his behaviour to the prejudice of his virtue.

This subject is exquisitely treated in the most elegant sermon of the great British preacher*. I shall beg leave to transcribe out of it two or three sentences, as a proper introduction to a very curious letter, which I shall make the chief entertainment of this speculation. . The old English plainness and sincerity, that generous integrity of nature, and honesty of dispoşition, which always argues true greatness of mind, and is usually accompanied with undaunted courage and resolution, is in a great measure lost among us.

The dialect of conversation is now-a-days so swelled with vanity and compliment, and so sur

• Archbishop Tillotson, vol. ü. Sermon i. p. 7. edit. in folio.

feited (as I may say) of expressions of kindness and respect, that if a man that lived an age or two ago should return into the world again, he would really want a dictionary to help him to understand his own language, and to know the true intrinsic value of the phrase in fashion; and would hardly at first believe at what a low rate the highest strains and expressions of kindness imaginable do commonly pass in current payment; and when he should come to understand it, it would be a great while before he could bring himself with a good countenance, and a good conscience, to converse with men upon equal terms, and in their own way

I have by me a letter which I look upon as a great curiosity, and which may serve as an exemplification to the foregoing passage, cited out of this most excellent prelate. It is said to have been written in king Charles the Second's reign by the ambassador of Bantam *, a little after his arrival in England. "MASTER,

• The people where I now am have tongues further from their hearts than from London to Bantam, and thou knowest the inhabitants of one of these places do not know what is done in the other. They call thee and thy subjects barbarians, because we speak what we mean; and account themselves a civilized people, because they speak one thing and mean another: truth they call barbarity, and falsehood politeness. Upon my first landing, one, who was sent from the king of this place to meet me, told me that he was extremely sorry for the storm I had met with just before my arrival. I was trou. bled to hear him grieve and afflict himself upon my account; but in less than a quarter of an hour he

• In 1682.

smiled, and was as merry as if nothing had happened. Another who came with him told me by my interpreter, he should be glad to do me any service that lay in his power. Upon which I desired him to carry one of my portmanteaus for me; but, instead of serving me according to his promise, he laughed, and bid another do it. I lodged the first week at the house of one who desired me to think myself at home, and to consider his house as my own. Accordingly, I the next morning began to knock down one of the walls of it, in order to let in the fresh air, and had packed up some of the household goods, of which I intended to have made thee a present ; but the false varlet no sooner saw me falling to work, but he sent word to desire me to give over, for that he would have no such doings in his house. I had not been long in this nation before I was told by one, for whom I had asked a certain favour from the chief of the king's servants, whom they here call the lord-treasurer, that I had eternally obliged him. I was so surprised at his gratitude that I could not forbear saying, “ What service is there which one man can do for another, that can oblige him to all eternity ?” However, I only asked him, for my reward, that he would lend me his eldest daughter during my stay in this country; but I quickly found that he was as treacherous as the rest of his countrymen.

* At my first going to court, one of the great men almost put me out of countenance, by asking ten thousand pardons of me for only treading by accident upon my toe. They call this kind of lie a compliment; for, when they are civil to a great man, they tell him untruths, for which thou wouldst order any of thy officers of state to receive a hundred blows upon his foot. I do not know how I shall negotiate any thing with this people, since

« AnteriorContinuar »