Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

I design therefore this speculation as an essay upon that subject, in which I shall consider virtue no farther than as it is in itself of an amiable nature, after having premised, that I understand by the word virtue such a general notion as is affixed to it by the writers of morality, and which by devout men geneFally goes under the name of religion, and by men of the world under the name of honour.

Hypocrisy itself does great honour, or rather justice to religion, and tacitly acknowledges it to be an ornament to human nature. The hypocrite would not be at so much pains to put on the appearance of virtue, if he did not know it was the most proper and effectual means to gain the love and esteem of mankind.

We learn from Hierocles, it was a common saying among the heathens, that the wise man hates no body, but only loves the virtuous.

Tully has a very beautiful gradation of thoughts to shew how amiable virtue is. We love a virtuous man,' says he, 'who lives in the remotest parts of the earth, though we are altogether out of ihe reach of his virtue, and can receive from it no manner of benefit. Nay, one who died several years ago, raises a secret fondness and benevolence for him in our minds, when we read his story. Nay, what is still more, one who has been the enemy of our country, provided his wars were regulated by justice and humanity, as in the instance of Pyrrhus, whom Tully mentions on this occasion in opposition to Hannibal. Such is the natural beauty and loveliness of virtue.

Stoicism, which was the pedantry of virtue, ascribes all good qualifications of what kind soever to the virtuous man. Accordingly Cato, in the character Tully has left of him, çarried matters su far, that he would not allow any one but a virtuous man

to be handsome. This indeed looks more like a' philosophical rant than the real opinion of a wise man; yet this was what Cato very seriously maintained. In short, the Stoics thought they could not sufficiently represent the excellence of virtue, if they did not comprehend in the notion of it all possible perfections; and therefore did not only suppose, that it was transcendently beautiful in itself, but that it made the very body amiable, and banished every kind of deformity from the person in whom it resided.

It is a common observation, that the most abandoned to all sense of goodness, are apt to wish those who are related to them of a different character : and it is very observable, that none are more struck with the charms of virtue in the fair sex, than those who by their very admiration of it are carried to a desire of ruining it.

A virtuous mind in a fair body is indeed a fine picture in a good light, and therefore it is no wonder that it makes the beautiful sex all over charms.

As virtue in general is of an amiable and lovely nature, there are some particular kinds of it which are more so than others, and these are such as dispose us to do good to mankind. Temperance and abstinence, faith and devotion, are in themselves perhaps as laudable as any other virtues; but those which make a man popular and beloved, are justice, charity, munificence, and in short, all the good qualities that render us beneficial to each other. For this reason even an extravagant man, who has nothing else to recommend him but a false generosity, is often more beloved and esteemed than a person of a much more finished character, who is detective in this particular.

The two great ornaments of virtue, which shew her in the most advantageous views, and make her

altogether lovely, are cheerfulness and good-nature. These generally go together, as a man cannot be agreeable to others who is not easy within himself. They are both very requisite in a virtuous mind, to keep out melancholy from the many serious thoughts it is engaged in, and to binder its natural hatred of vice from souring into severity and censoriousness.

If virtue is of this amiable nature, what can we think of those who can look upon it with an eye of hatred and ill-will, or can suffer their aversion for a party to blot out all the merit of the person who is engaged in it? A man must be excessively stupid, as well as uncharitable, who believes that there is no virtue but on his own side, and that there are not men as honest as himself who may differ from him in political principles. Men may oppose one another in some particulars, but ought not to carry their hatred to those qualities which are of so amiable a nature in themselves, and have nothing to do with the points in dispute. Men of virtue, though of different interests, ought to consider themselves as more nearly united with one another, than with the vicious part of mankind, who embark with them in the same civil concerns. We should bear the same love towards a man of honour who is a living antagonist, which Tully tells us in the forementioned passage, every one naturally does to an enemy that is dead. In short, we should esteem virtue though in a foe, and abhor vice though in a friend.

I speak this with an eye to those cruel treatments which men of all sides are apt to give the characters of those who do not agree with them. How many persons of undoubted probity and exemplary virtue, on either side, are blackened and defamed? How inany men of honour exposed to public obloquy and reproach? Those therefore who are either the in

struments or abettors in such infernal dealings, ought to be looked upon as persons who make use of religion to promote their cause, not of their cause to promote religion.

N° 244. MONDAY, DECEMBER 10, 1711.

--Judex et callidus uudis.

HOR. 2 Sat, vii. 101.
A judge of painting you, a connoisseur.

MR. SPECTATOR, Covent-Garden, Dec. 7. • I CANNOT, without a double injustice, forbear expressing to you the satisfaction which a whole clan of virtuosos have received from those hints which you have lately given the town on the cartoons of the inimitable Raphael. It should methinks be the business of a Spectator to improve the pleasures of sight, and there cannot be a more immediate way to it than recommending the study and observation of excellent drawings and pictures. When I first went to view those of Raphael which you have celebrated, I must confess I was but barely pleased; the next time I liked them better, but at last as I grew better acquainted with them, I fell deeply in love with them; like wise speeches, they sunk deep into my heart: for you know, Mr. Spectator, that a man of wit may extremely affect one for the present, but if he has no discretion, his merit soon vanishes away: while a wise man that has not so great a stock of wit, shall nevertheless give you a l'ar greater and more lasting satisfaction. Just so it is in a picture

VOL. IX.

that is smartly touched, but not well studied; one may call it a witty picture, though the painter in the mean time may be in danger of being called a fool. On the other hand, a picture that is thoroughly understood in the whole, and well per. formed in the particulars, that is begun on the foundation of geometry, carried on by the rules of perspective, architecture, and anatomy, and perfected by a good harmony, a just and natural colouring, and such passions and expressions of the mind as are almost peculiar to Raphael; this is what you may justly style a wise picture, and which seldom fails to strike us dumb, until we can assemble all our faculties to make but a tolerable judgment upon it. Other pictures are made for the eyes only, as rattles are made for children's ears; and certainly that picture that only pleases the eye, without representing some well-chosen part of nature or other, does but shew what fine colours are to be sold at the colour-shop, and mocks the works of the Crcator. If the best imitator of nature is not to be esteemed the best painter, but he that makes the greatest show and glare of colours; it will necessarily follow, that he who can array himself in the most gaudy draperies is best drest, and he that can speak loudest the best orator. Every man when he looks on a picture should examine it according to that share of reason he is master of, or he will be in danger of making a wrong judgment. If men when they walk abroad would make more frequent observations on those beauties of nature which every moment present themselves to their view, they would be better judges when they saw her well imitated at home. This would help to correct those errors which most pretenders fall into, who are over hasty in their judgments, and will not stay to let reason come in for a share in the decision. It is for want

« ZurückWeiter »