« ZurückWeiter »
the body, must perpetually exhibit the same appearances; and though by the continued industry of successive inquirers, new movements will be from time to time discovered, they can affect only the minuter parts, and are commonly of more curiosity than importance.
It will now be natural to inquire, by what arts are the writers of the present and future ages to attract the notice and favour of mankind. They are to observe the alterations which time is always making in the modes of life, that they may gratify every generation with a picture of themselves. Thus love is uniform, but courtship is perpetually varying: the different arts of gallantry, which beauty has inspired, would of themselves be sufficient to fill a volume; sometimes balls and serenades, sometimes tournaments and adventures, have been employed to melt the hearts of ladies, who in another century have been sensible of scarce any other merit than that of riches, and listened only to jointures. and pin-money. Thus the ambitious man has at all times been eager of wealth and power; but these hopes have been gratified in some countries by supplicating the people, and in others by flattering the prince: honour in some states has been only the reward of military atchievements, in others it has been gained by noisy turbulence and popular clamours. Avarice has worn a different form, as she actuated the usurer of Rome, and the stockjobber of England; and idleness itself, how little soever inclined to the trouble of invention, has been forced from time to time to change its amuseVol. IX.
ments, and contrive different methods of wearing out the day.
Here there is the fund, from which those who ftudy mankind may fill their compositions with an inexhaustible variety of images and allusions : and he must be confefied to look with little attention upon icenes thus perpetually changing, who cannot catch some of the figures before they are made vulgar by reiterated descriptions.
It has been discovered by Sir Isaac Netton, that the distinct and primogenial colours are only seven; but every eye can witness, that from various mixtures, in various proportions, infinite diversifications of tints may be produced. In like manner, the pallions of the mind, which put the world in motion, and produce all the bustle and eagerness of the buly crowds that swarın upon the earth ; the pillions, from whence arise all the pleasures and pains that we fee and hear of, if we analyse the mind of man, are very few; but those few agitated and coinbined, as esternal causes shall happen to operate, and modified by prevailing opinions and accidental caprices, make such frequent alterations on the surface of life, that the show, while we are bulied in delineating it, vanishes from the view; and a new set of objects fucceed, doomed to the fame shortness of duration with the former: thus curiosity may always find employment, and the busy part of mankind will furnih the contemplative with the materials of speculation to the end of time.
The coinplaint, therefore, that all topicks aré preoccupied, is nothing more than the murmur of 6
ignorance or idleness, by which fome discourage others and some themfelves; the mutability of mankind will always furnish writers with new images, and the luxuriance of fancy may always embellish them with new decorations.
NUMB. 99. TUESDAY, October 16, 1753.
Magnis tamen excidit aufis.
But in the glorious enterprize he dy'd.
T has always been the practice of mankind, to
judge of actions by the event. The same attempts, conducted in the same manner, but terminated by different success, produce different judgments: they who attain their wishes, never want celebrators of their wisdom and their virtue ; and they that miscarry, are quickly discovered to have been defective not only in mental but in moral qualities. The world will never be long without some good reason to hate the unhappy : their real faults are immediately detected; and if those are not sufficient to fink them into infamy, an additional weight of calumny will be superadded : he that fails in his endeavours after wealth or power, will not long retain either honesty or courage.
This fpecies of injustice has so long prevailed in universal practice, that it seems likewise to have in
fected speculation : fo few minds are able to separate the ideas of greatness and prosperity, that even Sir IVilliam Temple has determined, “ that he who can “ deserve the name of a hero, must not only be vir“tuous but fortunate,"
By this unreasonable distribution of praise and blame, none have suffered oftner than projectors, whose rapidity of imagination and vastness of de: sign raise such envy in their fellow-mortals, that every eye watches for their fall, and every. heart exuits at their distresses : yet even a projector may gain favour by success; and the tongue that was prepared to hiss, then endeavours to excel others in loudness of applause.
When Coriolanus, in Shakespeare, deserted to Au. fidiis, the Volscian fervants at first insulted him, even while he stood under the protection of the household gods; but when they saw that the project took effect, and the stranger was feated at the head of the table, one of them very judiciously observes, " that he always thought there was more in him " than he could think."
Machiavel has justly animadverted on the diffcrent notice taken by all succeeding times, of the two great projectors Catiline and Cæfar. Both formed the same project, and intended to raise themselves to power, by fubverting the commonwealth: they pursued their design, perhaps, with equal abilities, and with equal virtue; but Catiline perished in the field, and Cafar returned from Pharjalia with unlimited authority: and from that time, every monarch of the earth has thought himself honoured by a comparison with Casar; and Catiline has been never mentioned, but that his name might be applied to traitors and incendiaries.
In an age more remote, Xerxes projected the conquest of Greece, and brought down the power of Afia against it: but after the world had been filled with expectation and terror, his army was beaten, his feet was destroyed, and Xerxes has been never mentioned without contempt.
A few years afterwards, Greece likewise had her turn of giving birth to a projector; who invading Aha with a sinall army, went forward in search of adventures, and by his escape from one danger, gained only more rashness to rush into another: he ftormed city after city, over-ran kingdom after kingdom, fought battles only for barren victory, and invaded nations only that he might make his way through them to new invasions : but having been fortunate in the execution of his projects, he died with the name of Alexander the Great.
These are, indeed, events of ancient times; but human nature is always the same, and every age will afford us instances of publick censures influenced by events. The great business of the middle centuries, was the holy war; which undoubtedly was a noble project, and was for a long time prosecuted with a spirit equal to that with which it had been contrived: but the ardour of the European heroes only hurried them to destruction ; for a long time they could not gain the territories for which they fought, and, when at last gained, they could not keep them : their expeditions, therefore, have been the scoff of idleness and ignorance, their understanding and their virtue have been equally vili