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considering it might be said, without much extravagance, that every breath that blew, that every wave that rolled to our shores, brought with it some accession to our knowledge, which was engrafted on the national genius.
What also gave an unusual impetus to the mind of men at this period was the discovery of the New World, and the reading of voyages and travels. Green islands and golden sands seemed to arise, as by enchantment, out of the bosom of the watery waste, and invite the cupidity, or wing the imagination of the dreaming speculator. Fairy land was realized in new and unknown worlds. “Fortunate fields, and groves, and flowery vales, thrice happy isles,” were found floating, “like those Hesperian gardens famed of old,” beyond Atlantic seas, as dropt from the zenith. The people, the soil, the clime, every thing gave unlimited scope to the curiosity of the traveller and reader. Other manners might be said to enlarge the bounds of knowledge, and new mines of wealth were tumbled at our feet. It is from a voyage to the Straits of Magellan that Shakespear has taken the hint of Prospero's Enchanted Island, and of the savage Caliban with his god Setebos. Spenser seems to have had the same feeling in his mind in the production of his Faery Queen.
MACHIAVELLI. [NicoLo MACHIAVELLI was born at Florence in 1469. He died in 1527. We are accustomed to hear people talk and write of Machiavellian policy, by which they mean something most abominably tyrannical and dishonest, and hence infer that Machiavelli had the unenvi. able distinction of being the systematic propagator of such principles. His active life was wholly occupied with missions connected with the politics of the Florentine Republic. His numerous writings are chiefly upon subjects which we may describe as political philosophy. An eminent critic has said that, although it is “scarcely possible for any person not well ac. quainted with the history and literature of Italy to read without horror and amazement, the celebrated treatise (* The Prince') which has brought so much obloquy on the name of Machiavelli;" yet, “ few writings exhibit so much elevation of sentiment, so pure and warm A zeal for the public good, or so just a view of the duties and rights of citizens as those of Machiavelli." To those who would rightly understand the nature and causes of the contradictions which are so perplexing in the writings of Machiavelli, we would recommend an article of Mr. Macaulay's, in the “Edinburgh Review,' reprinted in his · Critical and Historical Essays. The following specimen, which we give from the Discourses of this celebrated writer, is entitled, “How he that would succeed must accommodate to the times." There are several translations of Machiavelli: our extract is from the folio of 1680.]
I have many times considered with myself that the occasion of every man's good or bad fortune consists in his correspondence and accommodation with the times. We see some people acting furiously, and with an impetus ; others with more slowness and caution; and because both in the one and the other they are immoderate, and do not observe their just terms, therefore both of them do err ; but their error and misfortune is least, whose customs suit and correspond with the times ; and who comports himself in his designs according to the impulse of his own nature. Every one can tell how Fabius Maximus conducted his army, and with what carefulness and caution he proceeded, contrary to the ancient heat and boldness of the Romans, and it happened that grave way was more conformable to those times ; for Hannibal, coming young and brisk into Italy, and being elated with his good fortune, as having twice defeated the armies of the Romans, that commonwealth having lost most of her best soldiers, and remaining in great fear and confusion, nothing could have happened more seasonably to them, than to have such a general who, by his caution and cunctation, could keep the enemy at bay. Nor could any times have been more fortunate to his way of proceeding; for that that slow and deliberate way was natural in Fabius, and not affected, appeared afterwards, when Scipio, being desirous to pass his army into Africa to give the finishing blow to the war, Fabius opposed it most earnestly, as one who could not force or dissemble his nature, which was rather to support wisely against the difficulties that were upon him, than to search out for new. So that had Fabius directed, Hannibal had continued in Italy, and the reason was because he did not consider the times were altered and the method of the war was to be changed with them. And if Fabius at that time had been king of Rome, he might well have been worsted in the war, as not knowing how to frame his counsels according to the variation of the times. But there being in that commonwealth so many brave men, and excellent commanders, of all sorts of tempers and humours, fortune would have it, that as Fabius was ready, in hard and difficult times, to sustain the enemy and continue the war ; so afterwards, when affairs were in a better posture, Scipio was presented to finish and conclude it. And hence it is that an aristocracy or free state is longer lived, and generally more fortunate, than a principality, because in the first they are more flexible, and can frame themselves better to the diversity of the times : for a prince, being accustomed to one way, is hardly to be got out of it, though perhaps the variation of the times require it very much. Piero Soderino (whom I have mentioned before) proceeded with great gentleness and humanity in all his actions ; and he and his country prospered whilst the times were according ; but when the times changed, and there was a necessity of laying aside that meekness and humility, Piero was at a loss, and he and his country were both ruined.
Pope Julius XI., during the whole time of his papacy, carried himself with great vigour and vehemence; and because the times were agrecable, he prospered in every thing ; but had the times altered, and required other counsels, he had certainly been ruined, because he could never have complied. And the reason why we cannot change so easily with the times, is twofold ; first, because we cannot readily oppose ourselves against what we naturally desire ; and next, because when we have often tried one way, and have always been prosperous, we can never persuade ourselves we could do so well any other ; and this is the true cause why a prince's fortune varies so strangely, because she varies the times, but he does not alter the way of his administration. And it is the same in a commonwealth ; if the variation of the times be not observed, and their laws and customs altered accordingly, many mischiefs must follow, and the government be ruined, as we have largely demonstrated before ;
but those alterations of their laws are more slow in a commonwealth, because they are not so easily changed, and there is a necessity of such times as may shake the whole state, to which one man will not be sufficient, let him change his proceedings, and take new measures as he pleases.
136.-HAPPINESS IN SOLITUDE.
J.J. ROUSSEAU (Who can attempt, in a few lines, to give the least adequate notion of the character of Jean Jacques Rousseau, the watch-maker's son of Geneva, who, during the last thirty years of an unsettled, and, to all ordinary perceptions, an unhappy life, poured forth a stream of thought which, sometimes fertilizing and sometimes destructive, produced greater changes in the European mind than the published opinions of any other man of his age? Jean Jacques may be neglected, but he can never be forgotten. His follies, his meannesses, his insane vanity, his causeless jealousies, disqualify him for the respect of the generations who have succeeded him; but these very circumstances perhaps add to the interest which we take in the individual man, and are utterly forgotten when we are under the enchantment of his impassioned eloqnence. Jean Jacques was born in 1712; he died in 1778. The following
description of his happiness in solitude, which we have translated from a letter addressed by him in 1762 to the President de Malesherbes, forms one of four letters in which he undertakes to present a true picture of his character, and the real motives of all his conduct.]
I can hardly tell you, sir, how concerned I have been to see that you consider me the most miserable of men. The world, no doubt, thinks as you do, and that also distresses me. Oh! why is not the existence I have enjoyed known to the whole universe ! every one would wish to procure for himself a similar lot, peace would reign upon the earth, man would no longer think of injuring his fellows, and the wicked would no longer be found, for none would have an interest in being wicked. But what then did I enjoy when I was alone ? Myself; the entire universe ; all that is ; all that can be ; all that is beautiful in the world of sense ; all that is imaginable in the world of intellect. I gathered around me all that could delight my heart ; my desires were the limit of my pleasures. No, never have the most voluptuous known such enjoyments; and I have derived a hundred times more happiness from my chimeras than they from realities.
When my sufferings make me measure sadly the length of the night, and the agitation of fever prevents me from enjoying a single instant of sleep, I often divert my mind from my present state, in thinking of the various events of my life ; and repentance, sweet recollections, regrets, emotions, help to make me for some moments forget my sufferings. What period do you think, sir, I recall most frequently and most willingly in my dreams ? Not the pleasures of my youth, they were too rare, too much mingled with bitterness, and are now too distant. I recall the period of my seclusion, of my solitary walks, of the fleeting but delicious days that I have passed entirely by myself, with my good and simple housekeeper, with my beloved dog, my old cat, with the birds of the field, the hinds of the forest, with all nature, and her inconceivable Author. In getting up before the sun to contemplate its rising from my garden, when a beautiful day was commencing, my first wish was that no letters or visits might come to disturb the charm. After having devoted the morning to various duties that I fulfilled with pleasure, because I could have put them off to another time, I hastened to dine, that I might escape from importunate people, and ensure a longer afternoon. Before one o'clock, even on the hottest days, I started in the heat of the sun with my faithful Achates, hastening my steps in the fear that some one would take possession of me before I could escape ; but when once I could turn a certain corner, with what a beating heart, with what a flutter of joy, I began to breathe, as I felt that I was safe ; and I said, Here now am I my own master for the rest of the day! I went on then at a more tranquil pace to seek some wild spot in the forest, some desert place, where nothing indicating the hand of man announced slavery and power-some refuge to which I could believe I was the first to penetrate, and where no wearying third could step in to interpose between Nature and me. It was there that she seemed to display before my eyes an over new magnificence. The gold of the broom, and the purple of the heath struok my sight with a splendour that touched my heart. The majesty of the trees that covered me with their shadow, the delicaoy of the shrubs that flourished around me, the astonishing variety of the herbs and flowers that I crushed beneath my feet, kept my mind in a continued alternation of observing and of admiring. This assemblage of so many interesting objects contending for my attention, attracting me incessantly from one to the other, fostered my dreamy and idle humour, and often made me repeat to myself, No, “even Solomon ip all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
The spot thus adorned could not long remain a desert to my imagination. I soon peopled it with beings after my own heart; and dismissing opinion, prejudice, and all factitious passions, I brought to these sanctuaries of nature men worthy of inhabiting them. I formed with these a charming society of which I did not feel myself unworthy. I made a golden age according to my fancy, and filling up these bright days with all the scenes of my life that had left the tenderest recollections, and with all that my heart still longed for, I affected myself to tears over the true pleasures of humanity ; pleasures so delicious—so pure and yet so far from men! Oh, if in these moments any ideas of Paris, of the age, and of my little authorvanity, disturbed my reveries, with what contempt I drove them instantly away, to give myself up entirely to the exquisite sentiments with which my soul was filled Yet, in the midst of all this, I confess the nothingness of my chimeras would some times appear, and saddened me in a moment. If all my dreams had turned to reality, they would not have sufficed—I should still have imagined, dreamed, desired I discovered in myself an inexplicable void that nothing could have filled a certain yearning of my heart towards another kind of happiness, of which I had no definite idea, but of which I felt the want. Ah, sir, this even was an enjoyment, for I was filled with a lively sense of what it was, and with a delightful sadness of which I should not have wished to be deprived.
From the surface of the earth I soon raised my thoughts to all the beings of Nature, to the universal system of things, to the incomprehensible Being who enters into all. Then, as my mind was lost in this immensity, I did not think, I did not reason, I did not philosophize. I felt, with a kind of voluptuousness, as if bowed down by the weight of this universe ; I gave myself up with rapture to this confusion of grand ideas. I delighted in imagination to lose myself in space ; my heart, confined within the limits of the mortal, found not room : I was stifled in the universe; I would have sprung into the infinite. I think that, could I have unveiled all the mysteries of nature, my sensations would have been less delicious than was this bewildering ecstasy, to which my mind abandoned itself without control, and which, in the excitement of my transports, made me sometimes exclaim, “Oh, Great Being ! oh, Great Being !" without being able to say or think more.
Thus glided on in a continued rapture the most charming days that ever human creature passed ; and when the setting sun made me think of returning, astonished at the flight of time, I thought I had not taken sufficient advantage of my day; I fancied I might have enjoyed it more ; and, to regain the lost time, I said I will come back to-morrow.
I returned slowly home, my head a little fatigued, but my heart content. I reposed agreeably on my return, abandoning myself to the impression of objects, but without thinking, without imagining, without doing anything beyond feeling the calm and the happiness of my situation. I found the cloth laid upon the terrace ; I supped with a good appetite, amidst my little household. No feeling of servitude or dependence disturbed the good will that united us all. My dog himself was my friend, not my slave. We had always the same wish ; but he never obeyed me. My gaiety during the whole evening testified to my having been alone the whole day. I was very different when I had seen company. Then I was rarely contented with others, and never with myself. In the evening I was cross and taciturn. This remark was made by my housekeeper ; and since she has told me so I have always found it true, when I watched myself. Lastly, after having again taken in the eve
, ning a few turns in my garden, or sung an air to my spinnet, I found in my bed repose of body and soul a hundred times sweeter than sleep itself.
These were the days that have made the true happiness of my life—a happiness without bitterness, without weariness, without regret, and to which I would willingly have limited my existence. Yes, sir, let such days as these fill up my eternity ; I do not ask for others, nor imagine that I am much less happy in these exquisite
contemplations than the heavenly spirits. But a suffering body deprives the mind of its liberty; henceforth I am not alone : I have a guest who importunes me; I must free myself of it to be mysclf. The trial that I have made of these sweet enjoyments serves only to make me with less alarm await the time when I shall tasto them without interruption.
137.—THE COTTER'S SATURDAY NIGHT.
BURNS. [ROBERT BURNS was born on the 25th of January, 1759, in the district of Kyle, within two miles of the town of Ayr. His father, William Burns, or Burness, was a peasant-one of those strong, independent, pious minds that are especially the growth of Scotland. In the following poem Robert Burns has drawn a noble character of such a man. His brother Gilbert, in a letter dated 1800, says, “ Although the Cotter, in the Saturday Night, is an exact copy of my father in his manners, his family devotion, and exhortations, yet the other parts of the description do not apply to our family. None of us were ever .at service out among the neebors round.'” William Burns tried to mend his fortune by farming; but his life was one continued struggle, although he contrived to give his children a tolerable education. Toil and privation were familiar to them from their infancy. At fifteen, Robert was the principal labourer on the little farm. The father, bowed down by an accumulation of difficulties, died in 1784. In the meantime Robert had been cherishing his poetical faculty,
“Following his plough along the mountain-side.” In 1786 he printed a volume of his Poems. The admiration which they excited was, in some degree, the ruin of his happiness. He became the wonder of the polite circles of Edinburgh; and the most eminent for station or acquirements gathered round the marvellous ploughman, whose conversation was as brilliant as his writings were original. A second edition of his Poems made him the master of five hundred pounds. He took a farm in Ellisland, in Dumfries-shire. He had legalized his union with the mother of his children. In an evil hour he obtained a situation in the excise, at Dumfries. His duties were, of course, uncongenial. He sought the excitement of festive companions, he yielded to habits of inebriety. Ill health, habitual dejection, occasional bitterness of soul approaching to madness, came over him. He died on the 21st of July, 1796, in his thirty-seventh year. From the first publication of his volume of Poems, Scotland felt that a great spirit had arisen to shed a new lustre on the popular language and literature. It has been a reproach to the contemporaries of Burns that they were unworthy of his genius—that they offered him the unsubstantial incense of flattery, and left him to starve. The reproach appears to us signally unjust. It is difficult to imagine how, with the unfortunate habits which Burns had acquired, and with his high-spirited but repulsive independence, his fute could have been other than it was. With such examples of the unhappiness of genius, we still cannot regret that there are no asylums where poets may be watched over like caged nightingales.]
My loved, my honour'd, much-respected friend
No mercenary bard his homage pays;
My dearest meed, a friend's esteem and praise.
The lowly train in life's sequester'd scene ;
What Aiken in a cottage would have been ;
The short’ning winter-day is near a close ;