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THE IDLE SQUIRE.
No. 123. The idle young squire; reflections.
Doctrina sed vim promovet insitam.
Rectique cultus pectora roborant;
Dedecorant bene nata culpæ. HOR. Od. iv. 4.
As I was yesterday taking the air with my friend Sir Roger, we were met by a fresh-coloured ruddy young man, who rid by us full speed, with a couple of servants behind him. Upon my inquiry who he was, Sir Roger told me that he was a young gentleman of a considerable estate, who had been educated by a tender mother that lived not many miles from the place where we were. She is a very good lady, says my friend, but took so much care of her son's health, that she has made him good for nothing. She quickly found that reading was bad for his eyes, and that writing 10 made his head ake. He was let loose among the woods as soon as he was able to ride on horseback, or to carry a gun upon his shoulder. To be brief, I found, by my friend's account of him, that he had got a great stock of health, but nothing else; and that if it were a man's business only to live, there would not be a more accomplished young fellow in the whole country.
The truth of it is, since my residing in these parts I have seen and heard innumerable instances of young heirs and elder brothers, who either from their own reflecting upon the estates they are born to, and therefore thinking all other accomplish20 ments unnecessary, or from hearing these notions frequently inculcated to them by the flattery of their servants and domestics, or from the same foolish thought prevailing in those who have the care of their education, are of no manner of use but to keep up their families, and transmit their lands and houses in a line to posterity.
No. 125. Amusing anecdote told by Sir Roger, leading to strictures on the evils of party spirit.
Ne pueri, ne tanta animis assuescite bella:
VIRG. Æn. vi. 832.
Embrace again, my sons, be foes no more,
My worthy friend Sir Roger, when we are talking of the malice of parties, very frequently tells us an accident that happened
to him when he was a school-boy, which was at a time when the feuds ran high between the round-heads and cavaliers. This worthy knight, being then but a stripling, had occasion to inquire which was the way to St. Anne's lane; upon which the person whom he spoke to, instead of answering his question, called him a young Popish cur, and asked him who had made Anne a saint! The boy, being in some confusion, inquired of the next he met, which was the way to Anne's lane; but was called a prick-eared cur for his pains, and instead of being shewn 10 the way, was told, that she had been a saint before he was born, and would be one after he was hanged. Upon this, says Sir Roger, I did not think fit to repeat the former question, but going into every lane of the neighbourhood, asked what they called the name of that lane. By which ingenious artifice he found out the place he inquired after, without giving offence to any party. Sir Roger generally closes this narrative with reflexions on the mischief that parties do in the country; how they spoil good neighbourhood, and make honest gentlemen hate one another; besides that they manifestly tend to the 20 prejudice of the land-tax, and the destruction of the game.
There cannot a greater judgment befal a country than such a dreadful spirit of division as rends a government into two distinct people, and makes them greater strangers and more averse to one another, than if they were actually two different nations. The effects of such a division are pernicious to the last degree, not only with regard to those advantages which they give the common enemy, but to those private evils which they produce in the heart of almost every particular person. This influence is very fatal both to men's morals and their under30 standings; it sinks the virtue of a nation, and not only so, but destroys even common sense.
A furious party-spirit, when it rages in its full violence, exerts itself in civil war and bloodshed; and, when it is under its greatest restraints, naturally breaks out in falsehood, detraction, calumny, and a partial administration of justice. In a word, it fills a nation with spleen and rancour, and extinguishes all the seeds of good-nature, compassion, and humanity.
Plutarch says very finely, that a man should not allow himself to hate even his enemies, because, says he, ‘if you indulge this 40 passion on some occasions, it will rise of itself in others; if you
hate your enemies, you will contract such a vicious habit of mind, as by degrees will break out upon those who are your friends, or those who are indifferent to you".' I might here observe how admirably this precept of morality (which derives the malignity of hatred from the passion itself, and not from its object) answers to that great rule which was dictated to the world about an hundred years before this philosopher wrote; but instead of that, I shall only take notice, with a real grief of heart, that the minds of many good men among us appear soured 10 with party-principles, and alienated from one another in such a manner, as seems to me altogether inconsistent with the dictates either of reason or religion. Zeal for a public cause is apt to breed passions in the hearts of virtuous persons, to which the regard of their own private interest would never have betrayed them.
If this party-spirit has so ill an effect on our morals, it has likewise very great one upon our judgments. We often hear a poor insipid paper or pamphlet cried up, and sometimes a noble piece depreciated, by those who are of a different principle from 20 the author. One who is actuated by this spirit is almost under an incapacity of discerning either real blemishes or beauties. A man of merit in a different principle, is like an object seen in two different mediums, that appears crooked or broken, however straight and entire it may be in itself. For this reason there is scarce a person of any figure in England who does not go by two contrary characters, as opposite to one another as light and darkness. Knowledge and learning suffer in a particular manner from this strange prejudice, which at present prevails amongst all ranks and degrees in the British nation. As men formerly 30 became eminent in learned societies by their parts and acquisitions, they now distinguish themselves by the warmth and violence with which they espouse their respective parties. Books are valued upon the like considerations: an abusive scurrilous stile passes for satire, and a dull scheme of party notions is called fine writing.
There is one piece of sophistry practised by both sides, and that is the taking any scandalous story, that has been ever whispered or invented of a private man, for a known undoubted truth, and raising suitable speculations upon it. Calumnies that have been never proved, or have been often refuted, are the
ordinary postulatums of these infamous scribblers, upon which they proceed as upon first principles granted by all men, though in their hearts they know they are false, or at best very doubtful. When they have laid these foundations of scurrility, it is no wonder that their superstructure is every way answerable to them. If this shameless practice of the present age endures much longer, praise and reproach will cease to be motives of action in good men.
There are certain periods of time in all governments when 10 this inhuman spirit prevails. Italy was long torn in pieces by the Guelfes and Gibellines", and France by those who were for and against the League: but it is very unhappy for a man to be born in such a stormy and tempestuous season. It is the restless ambition of artful men, that thus breaks a people into factions, and draws several well-meaning persons to their interest by a specious concern for their country. How many honest minds are filled with uncharitable and barbarous notions, out of their zeal for the public good? What cruelties and outrages would they not commit against men of an adverse party, whom they 20 would honour and esteem, if instead of considering them as they are represented, they knew them as they are? Thus are persons of the greatest probity seduced into shameful errors and prejudices, and made bad men even by that noblest of principles, the love of their country. I cannot here forbear mentioning the famous Spanish proverb, If there were neither fools nor knaves in the world all people would be of one mind.
For my own part, I could heartily wish that all honest men would enter into an association, for the support of one another against the endeavours of those whom they ought to look upon 30 as their common enemies, whatsoever side they may belong to. Were there such an honest body of neutral forces, we should never see the worst of men in great figures of life, because they are useful to a party; nor the best unregarded, because they are above practising those methods which would be grateful to their faction. We should then single every criminal out of the herd, and hunt him down, however formidable and overgrown he might appear: on the contrary, we should shelter distressed innocence, and defend virtue, however beset with contempt or ridicule, envy or defamation. In short, we should not any 40 longer regard our fellow-subjects as Whigs or Tories, but should
make the man of merit our friend, and the villain our enemy.-C.
No. 126. Strictures on party-spirit continued; illustrations taken from the Spectator's experience among the county people, Sir Roger's neighbours.
Tros Rutulusve fuat, nullo discrimine habebo.
VIRG. Æn. x. 108.
Rutulians, Trojans, are the same to me.
In my yesterday's paper I proposed, that the honest men of all parties should enter into a kind of association for the defence of one another, and the confusion of their common enemies. As it is designed this neutral body should act with a regard to nothing but truth and equity, and divest themselves of the little heats and prepossessions that cleave to parties of all kinds, I have prepared for them the following form of an association, which 10 may express their intentions in the most plain and simple
We whose names are hereunto subscribed, do solemnly declare, that we do in our consciences believe two and two make four; and that we shall adjudge any man whatsoever to be our enemy who endeavours to persuade us to the contrary. We are likewise ready to maintain with the hazard of all that is near and dear to us, that six is less than seven in all times and all places; and that ten will not be more three years hence than it is at present. We do also firmly declare, that it is our resolution as long as we live to call black black, 20 and white white. And we shall upon all occasions oppose such persons that upon any day of the year shall call black white, or white black, with the utmost peril of our lives and fortunes.
Were there such a combination of honest men, who without any regard to places would endeavour to extirpate all such furious zealots as would sacrifice one half of their country to the passion and interest of the other; as also such infamous hypocrites, that are for promoting their own advantage under colour of the public good; with all the profligate immoral retainers to each side, that have nothing to recommend them but an implicit 30 submission to their leaders; we should soon see that furious party-spirit extinguished, which may in time expose us to the derision and contempt of all the nations about us.