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116. The Iliad of Homer described. Athenian history
117. Remarks upon the laws of Draco. Life and actions
118. The death and character of Solon.
119. Of the public library founded at Athens by Pisis-
tratus, and of the Alexandrian libraries.
120. Athenian subject continued.
Est genus hominum, qui esse primos se omnium rerum volunt,
Nec sunt. What a delightful thing it is to find one's self in a company, where tempers
harmonize and hearts are open ; where wit flows without any checks but what decency and good-nature impose, and humour indulges itself in those harmless freaks and caprices, that raise a laugh, by which no man's feelings are offended.
This can only happen to us in a land of freedom; it is in vain to hope for it in those arbitrary countries, where men must lock the doors against spies and informers, and must intrust their lives, whilst they impart their sentiments, to each other. In such circumstances, a mind enlightened by education is no longer a blessing: What is the advantage of discernment, and how is a man profited by his capacity of separating truth_from error, if be dare not exercise that faculty ? It were safer to be the blind dupe of superstition than the intuitive philosopher, if born within the jurisdiction of an inquisitorial tribunal. Can a man fecilitate himself
in the glow of genius and the gaiety of wit, when breathing the air of a country, where so dire an instrument is in force as a lettre de cachet? But
experience hath shewn us, that if arbitrary monarchs cannot keep their people in ignorance, they cannot retain them in slavery : if men read, they will meditate; if they travel, they will compare, and their minds must be as dark as the dungeons which im. prison their persons, if they do not rise with indignation against such monstrous maxims, as imprisonment at pleasure for undefined offences, self-accusations extorted by torments and secret trials, where the prisoner hath neither voice nor advocate. Let those princes, whose government is so admini. stered,' make darkness their pavilion,' and draw their very mountains down
them to shut out the light, or expect the period of their despotism: Illuminated minds will not be kept in slavery.
With a nation so free, so highly enlightened, and so eminent in letters as the English, we may well expect to find the social qualities in their best state; and it is but justice to the age we live in, to confess those expectations may be fully gratified. There are some perhaps who will not subscribe to this assertion, but probably those very people make the disappointments they complain of: If a man takes no pains to please his company, he is little likely to be pleased by his company. Liberty, though essential to good society, may in some of its effects operate against it, for as it makes men independent, independence will occasionally be found to make them arrogant, and none such can be good companions : yet let me say for the contemporaries I am living with, that within the period of my own acquaintance with the world, the reform in its social manners and habits has been gradual and increasing. The feudal haughtiness of our nobility has totally disappeared, and, in place of a proud distant reserve, a pleasing suavity and companionable ease have almost universally obtained amongst the higher orders : the pedantry of office is gone, and even the animosity of party is so far in the wain, that it serves rather to whet our wits than our swords against each other : the agitation of political opinions is no longer a subject fatal to the
peace of the table, but takes its turn with other topics, without any breach of good manners or good fellowship.
It were too much to say that there are no general causes still subsisting, which annoy our social com forts, and disgrace our tempers; they are still too many, and it is amongst the duties of an Observer to set a mark upon them, though by so doing I may run into repetition, for I am not conscious of having any thing to say upon the subject, which I have not said before; but if a beggar, who asks charity, because of his importunity shall at length be relieved, an author perhaps, who enforces his advice, shall in the end be listened to.
I must therefore again and again insist upon it, that there are two sides to every argument, and that it is the natural and unalienable right of man to be heard in support of his opinion, he having first lent a patient ear to the speaker, who maintains sentiments which oppose that opinion ; I do humbly apprehend that an overbearing voice and noisy volubility of tongue, are proofs of a very underbred fellow, and it is with regret I see society too frequently disturbed in its most delectable enjoyments by this odious character: I do not see that any man hath a right by obligation or otherwise, to lay me under a necessity of thinking exactly as he thinks : Though I admit that · from the fulness of the heart the tongue speaketh,' I do not admit ang superior pretensions it hath to be Sir Oracle from the fulness of the pocket. In the name of freedom, what claim hath any man to be the tyrant of the table? As well he may avail himself of the greater force of his fists as of his lungs. Doth sense consist in sound, or is truth only to be measured by the noise it makes ? Can it be a disgrace to be convinced, or doth any one lose by the exchange, who resigns his own opinion for a better? When I reflect upon the advantages of our public schools, where puerile tempers are corrected by collision ; upon the mathematical studies, and scholastic exercises of our universities, I am no less grieved than astonished to discover so few proficients in wellmannered controversy, so very few who seem to make truth the object of their investigation, or will spare a few patient moments from the eternal repetition of their own deafening jargon to the temperate reply of men, probably better qualified to speak than themselves.
There is another grievance not unfrequent though inferior to this abovementioned, which proceeds jointly from the mixt nature of society, and the ebullitions of freedom in this happy country, I mean that roar of mirth and uncontrouled flow of spirits, which hath more vulgarity in it than ease, more noise than gaiety: the stream of elegant festivity will never overflow its banks; the delicacy of sex, the dignity of rank, and the decorum of certain professions, should never be so overlooked, as to alarm the feelings of any person present, interested for their preservation. When the softer sex entrust themselves to our society, we should never forget the tender respect due to them even in our gayest hours. When the higher orders by descending, and the lower by ascending out of their sphere, meet upon the level of good fellowship, let not our