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such great souls- -If so, why is she yet exhausted in nothing else, but in reasonable men? None of her other works are degenerated, and how comes it then to pass that mankind is degenerated alone?

Mont. That they are degenerated is matter of fact it appears to me as if nature had sometimes shown such great men to the world, as patterns of what she could produce if she pleased, and after that formed all the rest with negligence enough.

Socr. Take care you are not deceived; antiquity is an object of a peculiar kind; its distance magnifies it: had you but known Aristides, Phocion, Pericles, and myself, (since you are pleased to place me in the number) you would certainly have found some to match us in your own age. That which commonly possesses people so in favour of antiquity, is their being out of humour with their own times, and antiquity takes advantage of their spleen; they cry up the ancients, in spite to their cotemporaries. Thus when we lived, we esteemed our ancestors more than they deserved; and, in requital, our posterity esteem us at present more than we deserve. But yet our ancestors, and we, and our posterity, are all upon the level; and, I believe, the prospect of the world would be very dull and tiresome to any one, that should view it in a true light, because it is always the same.

Mont. I should have thought the world was always in motion, that every thing changed, and that ages, like men, had their different characters: and, in effect, do we not see that some ages are learned, and others illiterate; some barbarous,

others polite; some serious, others whimsical › some ingenious, and others stupid?

Socr. True.

Mont. And consequently are not some more virtuous, and others more wicked.

Socr. That does not follow. Men change their habits, but not the form of their bodies. Politeness, barbarism, learning or ignorance, more or less plainness, the grave genius or the buffoon; all these are no more than the dress, the outside of mankind; and these indeed are changed. But the heart, whichis the man himself,does not change at all. People are ignorant in one age, but learning may come into fashion in the next. People are interested, but disinterest will never be the mode. Among the prodigious number of men irrational enough, that are born in a hundred years, nature produces,it may be, thirty or forty rational ; and these, like a prudent administratix, she is obliged to disperse through all the earth; and I leave you to judge, if they are likely to be found in any place in numbers sufficient to bring virtue and integrity into fashion.

Mont. But is this distribution of rational men made with equality? Some ages, in all probability have been better used in the dividend than others.

Socr. Nature, without question, acts always with exact regularity, but we have not the skill to judge as she acts. Fontenelle.



Plato. WELCOME to Elysium, O thou, the most pure, the most gentle, the most refined disciple of philosophy, that the world, in modern times, has produced! Sage Fenelon, welcome!-I need not name myself to you. Our souls by sympathy must know one another.

Fen. I know you to be Plato, the most amiable of all the disciples of Socrates, and the philosopher of all antiquity whom I most desired to resemble.

Plato. Homer and Orpheus are impatient to see you in that region of these happy fields, which their shades inhabit. They both acknowledge you to be a great poet, though you have written no verses. And they are now busy in composing for you unfading wreaths of all the finest and sweetest Elysian flowers. But I will lead you from them to the sacred grove of philosophy, on the highest hill of Elysium, where the air is most pure and most serene. I will conduct you to the fountain of Wisdom, in which you will see, as in your own writings, the fair image of Virtue perpetually reflected. It will raise in you more love than was felt by Narcissus, when he contemplated the beauty of his own face in the unruffled spring. But you shall not pine, as he did, for a shadow. The goddess herself will affectionately meet your embraces, and mingle with your soul.

Fen. I find you retain the allegorical and poetical style, of which you were so fond in many of your writings. Mine also ran sometimes into poe

try; particularly in my Telemachus, which I meant to make a kind of epic composition. But I dare not rank myself among the great poets, nor pretend to any equality in oratory with you, the most eloquent of philosophers, on whose lips the attic bees distilled all their honey.

Plat. The French language is not so harmonious as the Greek yet you have given a sweetness to it, which equally charms the ear and heart. When one reads your compositions, one thinks that one hears Apollo's lyre, strung by the hands of the Graces, and tuned by the Muses. The idea of a perfect king, which you have exhibited in your Telemachus, far excels, in my own judgment, my imaginary republic. Your Dialogues breathe the pure spirit of virtue, of unaffected good sense, of just criticism, of fine taste. They are in general as superior to your countryman Fontenelle's, as reason is to false wit, or truth to affectation. The greatest fault of them, I think is, that some are too short.

Fen. It has been objected to them, and I am sensible of it myself, that most of them are too full of common-place morals. But I wrote them for the instruction of a young prince: and one cannot too forcibly imprint on the minds of those whe are born to empire the most simple truths: because, as they grow up, the flattery of a court will try to disguise and conceal from them those truths, and to eradicate from their hearts the love of their duty, if it has not taken there a very deep root.

Plato. It is indeed the peculiar misfortune of princes, that they are often instructed with great care in the refinements of policy; and not taught

the first principles of moral obligations, or taught so superficially, that the virtuous map is soon lost in the corrupt politician. But the lessons of virtue you gave your royal pupil are so graced by the charms of your eloquence, that the oldest and wisest men may attend to them with pleasure. All your writings are embellished with a sublime and agreeable imagination, which gives elegance to simplicity, and dignity to the most vulgar and obvious truths. I have heard, indeed, that your countrymen are less sensible of the beauty of your genius and style than any of their neighbours. What has so much depraved their taste?

Fen. That which depraved the taste of the Romans after the age of Augustus; an immoderate love of wit, of paradox, of refinement. The works of their writers, like the faces of their women, must be painted and adorned with artificial embellishments, to attract their regards. And thus the natural beauty of both is lost. But it is no wonder if few of them esteem my Telemachus; as the maxims I have principally inculcated there are thought by many inconsistent with the grandeur of their monarchy, and with the splendour of a refined and opulent nation. They seem generally to be falling into opinions, that the chief end of society is to procure the pleasures of luxury; that a nice and elegant taste of voluptuous enjoyments is the perfection of merit; and that a king, who is gallant, magnificent, liberal, who builds a fine palace, who furnishes it well with good statues and pictures, who encourages the fine arts, and makes them subservient to every modish vice, who has a restless ambition, a perfidious policy, and a spirit of con

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