« PreviousContinue »
were too subtle and delicate to be felt by the generality of the audience, who expected only the gross diversion of laughing; so that at the fourth time of its being acted, the author was forced to add to it one of his coarsest farces : but Boileau, in the mean time, affirmed, that it was the capital work of their stage, and that the people would one time be induced to think so.
3. Unthought-of frailties cheat us in the wise. *
For who could inagine that LOCKE was fond of romances; that NEWTON once studied astrology; that Roger Ascham, and Dr. WHITBY, were devoted lovers of cock-fighting; that Dr. CLARKE valued himself for his agility, and frequently amused himself in a private 'room of his house, in leaping over the tables and chairs; and that our author himself was a great epicure? When he spent a summer with a certain nobleman, he was accustomed to lie whole days in bed on account of his head-achs, but would at any time rise with alacrity, when his servant informed him there were stewed lampreys for dinner. On
* Ver. 69.
the eve of an important battle, the Duke of MARLBOROUGH was heard chiding his servant for having been so extravagant as to light four candles in his tent when Prince Eugene came to confer with him! ELIZABETH was a coquette ; and Bacon received a bribe. Dr. BUSBY had a violent passion for the stage; it was excited in him by the applauses he received in acting the Royal Slave before the King at Christ-Church ; and he declared, that if the rebellion had not broke out, he had certainly engaged himself as an actor. Luther was so immoderately passionate, that he sometimes boxed MELANCTHON's ears; and MELANCThon himself was a believer in judicial astrology, and an interpreter of dreams. RichLIEU and MAZARIN were so superstitious as to employ and pension Morin, a pretender to astrology, who cast the nativities of these two able politicians. Nor was Tacitus himself, who
generally appears superior to superstition, untainted with this folly, as may appear from the twentysecond chapter of the sixth book of his annals. Men of great genius have been somewhere compared to the pillar of fire that conducted the
Israelites, which frequently turned a cloudy side towards the spectator.
4. See the same man, in vigour, in the gout;
Alone, in company, in place, or out;
The unexpected inequalities of our minds and tempers are here exhibited in a lively manner, and with a perfect knowledge of nature. not forbear placing before the reader, Tully's portrait of Catiline, whose inconsistencies and varieties of conduct are thus enumerated : “Utebatur hominibus improbis multis, et quidem optimis se viris deditum esse simulabat; erant apud illum illecebræ libidinum multæ : erant etiam industriæ quidam stimuli ac laboris; flagrabant libidinis vitia apud illum : vigebant etiam studia rei militaris : neque ego unquam fuisse tale monstrum in terris ullum puto, tam ex contrariis diversisque inter se pugnantibus naturæ studiis, cupiditatibus que conflatum. Quis clarioribus viris
* Ver. 71.
quodam tempore jucundior? Quis turpioribus conjunctior ? Quis civis meliorum partium aliquando ? Quis tetrior hostis huic civitati? Quis in voluptatibus inquinatior? Quis in laboribus patientior? Quis in rapacitate avarior? Quis in largitione effusior ?»**
5. What made, say Montaigne, or more sage Charron.t
One of the reasons that makes Montaigne so agreeable a writer, is, that he gives so strong a picture of the way of life of a country gentleman in the reign of Henry the Third. The descriptions of his castle, of his library, of his travels, of his entertainments, of his diet and dress, are particularly pleasing. Malebranche and Pascal have severely and justly censured his scepticism.
Peter Charron contracted a very strict friendship with him, insomuch that Montaigne permitted him, by his will, to bear his
In his book of Wisdom, which was published at Bourdeaux in the year one thousand six hundred and one, he has inserted a great
number of Montaigne's sentiments ; this treatise has been loudly blamed for its freedom by many writers of France, and particularly Garasse the Jesuit. Our Stanhope, though esteemed an orthodox divine, translated it. BAYLE has remarked, in opposition to these censurers, that of a hundred thousand readers, there are hardly three to be found in any age, who are well qualified to judge of a book, wherein the ideas of an exact and metaphysical reasoning are set in opposition to the most common opinions. POPE has borrowed many remarks from Charron, of which sensible writer Bolingbroke was particularly fond.
6. A godless regent tremble at a star.*
The duke of Orleans, here pointed at, was an infidel and libertine, and at the same time, as well as BOULANVILLIERS and CARDAN, who calculated the nativity of Jesus Christ, was a bigotted believer in judicial astrology: he was said to be the author (which, however, has been doubted) of many of those flimsy songs, nugæ
* Ver. 90.