Page images
PDF
EPUB

(or morning) orgies of the gamesters at BROOKS's. What a subject for the severity of his satire ! Perhaps we might have seen men

Safe from the bar, the pulpit, and the throne,
Yet touch'd and sham'd by ridicule alone !

For surely that vice deserves the keenest invective, which, more than any other, has a natural and invincible tendency to narrow and to harden the heart, by impressing and keeping up habits of selfishness. “ I foresee (said MONTESQUIEU to a friend visiting him at La Brede) that gaming will, one day, be the ruin of Europe. During play, the body is in a state of indolence, and the mind in a state of vicious activity.”

19. Damn’d to the mines, an equal fate betides

The slave that digs it, and the slave that hides.*

† This is plainly taken from the causes of the decay of Christian Piety. “ It has always been

held

* Ver. 109.

+ See the Adventurer, No. 63, published 1753. The re. flection with which CHARTRES's epitaph, in this epistle, concludes, is from LA BRUYERE.

held (says this excellent writer) the severest treatment of slaves and malefactors, damnare ad metalla, to force them to dig in the mines : now this is the covetous man's lot, from which he is never to expect a release.” And the character of Helluo, the glutton, who exclaimed, even in his last agonies, (at the end of the first of these epistles)

then bring the jowl!

is clearly borrowed from the conclusion of one of the tales of LA FONTAINE :

Puis qu'il faut que je meure
Sans faire tant de façon,
Qu'on m'apporte tout à l'heure
Le reste de mon poisson.

So true is that candid acknowledgment which our author makes in his sensible preface, “I fairly confess that I have served myself all I could by reading." But the noble passage I shall next quote, he has not borrowed from any writer. . It is intended to illustrate the usefulness, in the hands of a gracious Providence, that results from

the

the extremes of avarice and profusion; and it recurs to the leading principle of our author's philosophy, namely, that contrarieties, and varieties, and excesses, in the moral as well as the natural world, by counter-poising and counterworking each other, contribute ultimately to the benefit and beauty of the whole.

Hear then the truth : “ 'tis Heav'n each passion sends,
And different men directs to different ends;
Extremes in nature equal good produce,
Extremes in man concur to gen’ral use.
Ask we what makes one keep, and one bestow?
That Pow'r who bids the ocean ebb and flow;

: ;
Bids seed-time, harvest, equal course maintain,
Thro' reconcil'd extremes of drought and rain ;
Builds life on death, on change duration founds,
And gives th' eternal wheels to know their rounds."

VOLTAIRE has, in many parts of his works, besides his Candide, and his Philosophical Dictionary, exerted the utmost efforts of his wit and argument, to depreciate and destroy the doctrine of Optimism, and the idea that

Th' eternal art educes good from ill.

He

* Ver. 159.

He imagines, absurdly enough, that the only solid method of accounting for the origin of evil, consistently with the other attributes of God, is not to allow his omnipotence. * Sa puissance est très grande; mais qui nous a dit qu'elle est infinie, quand ses ouvrages nous montrent le contraire ? Quand la seule ressource qui nous reste pour le disculper est d'avouer que son pou. voir n'a pu triompher du mal physique & moral? Certes, j'aime mieux l'adorer borné que mechant. Peutêtre dans la vaste machine de la nature, le bien l' a-t-il emporté necessairement sur le mal, & l'eternel artisan a été forcé dans ses moyens, en faisant encore (malgré tant de maux) ce qu'il avait de mieux.t

VOLTAIRE, after having run the full career of infidelity and scepticism, seems to have sunk at last into absolute fatalism. The sentiments are, iņdeed, put into the mouth of MEMMIUS, the

friend

* See also Hume's Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, 8vo. 1779.

+ Questions sur l'Encyclopedie, 9 partie, p. 348. So in. conclusive and unphilosophical an assertion, deserves no seri. ous confutation.

friend and patron of Lucretius, and addressed to Cicero; this being the method the French philosopher took to acquaint us with his own thoughts.

Je suis donc ramené malgré moi à cette ancienne idée que je vois étre la base de tous les systémes, dans laquelle tous les philosophes retombent aprés mille détours, & qui m'est démon. trée par toutes les actions des hommes, par les miennes, par tous les événemens que j'ai lus, que j'ai vus, & auxquels j'ai eu part; c'est le fatalisme, c'est la nécessité dont je vous ai déjà parlé.*

20. Like some lone Chartreux stands the good old hall,

Silence without, and fasts within the wall;
No rafter'd roofs with dance and tabor sound,
No noontide bell invites the country round:
Tenants with sighs the smoakless tow'rs-survey,
And turn th' unwilling steeds another way:
Benighted wanderers, the forest p'er,
Curse the sav'd candle, and unop'ning door ;

While

*" He must have a very good stomach (says Mr. Gray) that can digest the Crambe recocta of Voltaire. Atheism is a vile dish, though all the cooks of France combine to make new Rauces for it.” Letters, quarto, page 385.

I

« PreviousContinue »