Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

has at all times all he desires. He can never want a subject fit to exercise him in his proper calling; and that with this happy motive to the constancy of his endeavours, that, the crosser, the harsher, the more untoward the events, the greater his praise, the more illustrious his reputation.'

'All this,' said I, 'is true, and cannot be denied. But one circumstance there appears, where your simile seems to fail. The praise indeed of the pilot we allow to be in his conduct; but it is in the success of that conduct, where we look for his happiness. If a storm arise, and the ship be lost, we call him not happy, how well soever he may have conducted it. It is then only we congratulate him, when he has reached the desired haven. Your distinction,' said he, 'is just. And it is here lies the noble prerogative of moral artists, above all others. But yet I know not how to explain myself, I fear my doctrine will appear so strange. You may proceed,' said I, 'safely, since you advance it but as an hypothesis.'

'Thus then,' continued he- the end, in other arts, is ever distant and removed. It consists not in the mere conduct, much less in a single energy; but is the just result of many energies, each of which is essential to it. Hence, by obstacles, unavoidable, it may often be retarded: nay more, may be so embarrassed, as never possibly to be attained. But in the moral art of life, the very conduct is the end; the very conduct, I say, itself, throughout every its minutest energy; because each of these, however minute, partake as truly of rectitude, as the largest combination of them, when

considered collectively. Hence, of all arts this is the only one perpetually complete in every instant, because it needs not, like other arts, time to arrive at that perfection, at which in every instant it is arrived already. Hence by duration it is not rendered either more or less perfect; completion, like truth, admitting of no degrees, and being in no sense capable of either intention or remission. And hence too by necessary connection, (which is a greater paradox than all) even that happiness or sovereign good, the end of this moral art, is itself too, in every instant, consummate and complete; is neither heightened nor diminished by the quantity of its duration, but is the same to its enjoyers, for a moment or a century.'

Upon this I smiled.-He asked me the reason.'It is only to observe,' said I, ‘the course of our inquiries. A new hypothesis has been advanced : appearing somewhat strange, it is desired to be explained. You comply with the request, and in pursuit of the explanation, make it ten times more obscure and unintelligible, than before. It is but too often the fate,' said he, 'of us commentators. But you know in such cases what is usually done. When the comment will not explain the text, we try whether the text will not explain itself. The method, it is possible, may assist us here. The hypothesis, which we would have illustrated, was no more than this: That the sovereign good lay in rectitude of conduct; and that this good corresponded to all our pre-conceptions. Let us examine then, whether, upon trial, this correspondence will appear to hold; and, for all that

we have advanced since, suffer it to pass, and not perplex us.'-' Agreed,' said I, 'willingly, for now I hope to comprehend you.'

'Recollect then,' said he. 'Do you not remember that one pre-conception of the sovereign good was, to be accommodated to all times and places?'"I remember it.'-"And is there any time, or any place, whence rectitude of conduct may be excluded? Is there not a right action in prosperity, a right action in adversity? May there not be a decent, generous, and laudable behaviour, not only in peace, in power, and in health; but in war, in oppression, in sickness, and in death?'-'There may.'

And what shall we say to those other pre-conceptions; to being durable, self-derived, and indeprivable? Can there be any good so durable, as the power of always doing right? Is there any good conceivable, so entirely beyond the power of others? Or, if you hesitate, and are doubtful, I would willingly be informed, into what circumstances may fortune throw a brave and honest man, where it shall not be in his power to act bravely and honestly? If there be no such, the rectitude of conduct, if a good, is a good indeprivable.'—' I confess,' said I, 'it appears so.'

6

'But further,' said he, another pre-conception of the sovereign good was, to be agreeable to nature. It was. And can any thing be more agreeable to a rational and social animal, than rational and social conduct?'-'Nothing.'-' But rectitude of conduct is with us rational and social conduct.'-' It is.'

[ocr errors]

Once more, continued he, another pre-can

ception of this good was, to be conducive not to mere-being, but to well-being.'-'Admit it.'— 'And can any thing, believe you, conduce so probably to the well-being of a rational, social animal, as the right exercise of that reason, and of those social affections ? Nothing.'-' And what is this same exercise, but the highest rectitude of conduct? Certainly.' Harris.

ON CRITICISM.

'AND how did Garrick speak the soliloquy last night? Oh, against all rule, my lord, most ungrammatically! betwixt the substantive and the adjective, which should agree together in number, case, and gender, he made a breach thus,-stopping as if the point wanted settling ;-and betwixt the nominative case, which your lordship knows should govern the verb, he suspended his voice in the epilogue a dozen times, three seconds and three fifths by a stop-watch, my lord, each time.' Admirable grammarian! - But in suspending his voice was the sense suspended likewise? did no expression of attitude or countenance fill up the chasm? Was the eye silent? Did you narrowly look?'-'I look'd only at the stop-watch, my lord.'-Excellent observer!

'And what of this new book the whole world makes such a rout about?-Oh! 'tis out of all plumb, my lord,-quite an irregular thing! not one of the angles at the four corners was a right angle. I had my rule and compasses, my lord, in my pocket.'-Excellent critic!

-And for the epic poem your lordship bid me look at;-upon taking the length, breadth, height, and depth of it, and trying them at home upon an exact scale of Bossu's-'tis out, my lord, in every one of its dimensions.'-Admirable connoisseur !

[ocr errors]

And did you step in, to take a look at the grand picture in your way back ?' 'Tis a melancholy daub! my lord; not one principle of the pyramid in any one group!--and what a price!

-for there is nothing of the colouring of Titian -the expression of Rubens-- -the grace of Ra phael—the purity of Dominichino-the corregiescity of Corregio

-the learning of Poussin -the airs of Guido-the taste of the Carrachisor the grand contour of Angelo.'

Grant me patience, just Heaven!-Of all the cants which are canted in this canting world-→→ though the cant of hypocrites may be the worstthe cant of criticism is the most tormenting!

I would go fifty miles on foot, to kiss the hand of that man, whose generous heart will give up the reigns of his imagination into his author's handsbe pleased he knows not why, and cares not wherefore. Sterne.

ON NEGROES.

WHEN Tom, an' please your honour, got to. the shop, there was nobody in it, but a poor negro girl, with a bunch of white feathers slightly tied to the end of a long cane, flapping away flies-not killingthem.'Tis a pretty picture!' said my uncle Toby-she had suffered persecution, Trim, and had learnt mercy'—

She was good, an' please your honour,

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »