The histories of all our former wars are transmitted to us in our vernacular idiom, to use the phrase of a great modern critic *. I do not find in


of our chronicles, that Edward the third ever reconnoitred the enemy, though he often discovered the posture of the French, and as often vanquished them in battle. The black Prince passed many a river without the help of pontoons, and filled a ditch with faggots as successfully as the generals of our tiines do it with fascines. Our commanders lose half their praise, and our people half their joy, by means of those hard words and dark expressions in which our news-papers do so much abound.

I have seen many a prudent citizen, after having read every article, inquire of his next neighbour what news the mail had brought.

I remember, in that remarkable year when our · country was delivered from the greatest fears and apprehensions, and raised to the greatest height of gladness it had ever felt since it was a nation, I mean the year of Blenheim ř, I had the copy of a letter sent me out of the country, which was written from a young gentleman in the army to his father, a man of good estate and plain sense. As the letter was very modishly chequered with this modern military eloquence, I shall present my reader with a.copy

of it.

[ocr errors]

SIR, • UPON the junction of the French and Bavarian armies they took post behind a great morass which they thought impracticable 16 reconnoitre" them

. day sent à party of horse to froin a little « hauteur," at abont a quarter of an hour's distance from the army, who returned again

* The Rev. Dr. Richard Pertley. * The battle of Hochstet, or Blenheim, fought August 2, 1704, ben. tween the Confederates, under prince Eugene and the duke of Marlborough, and the French and Bavarians, under the elector of Bavaria and marshal Tallard. The Marshal, with 13,000 inen were made prisoners, and near 20,000 killed, wounded, or drowned in the Danube, The Alies lost 15,000 men.

to the camp unobserved through sererat “ defiles," in one of which they met with a party of French that had been “ marauding," and made them all prisoners at discretion. The day after a Drum arrived at our camp, with a message which he would communicate to none but the general; he was followed by a Trumpet, who they say behaved himself very saucily, with a message from the duke of Bavaria. The next morning our army being divided into two.“ corps," made a movement towards the enemy. You will hear in the public prints how ke treated them, with the other circumstances of that glorious day. I had the good fortune to be in that regiment that pushed the “gens d'armes.”

" Several French battalions, wlo some say were a “ corps de reserve," made a shew of resistance; but it only proved a “gasconade,” for upon our preparing to fill up a little “ fosse,” in order to attack them, they beat the “ chamade," and sent us - carte blanche.”. Their « commandant,” with a great many other general officers, and troops withont number, are made prisoners of war, and will i believe give you a visit įn England, the “ cartel” not being yet settled. Not questioning but these particulars will be very welcome to you, I congra

I tulate you upon them, and am your most dutiful


[ocr errors]

son, &c.


'The father of the young gentleman upon the re

ኮ vusal of the letter found it contained great news, but could not guess what it was. He immediately com- . zmunicated it to the curate of the parish, who upon the reading of it, being vexed to see any thing he could not understand, fell into a kind of a passion, and told him, that his son had sent him a letter that was neither fish, flesh, nor good red-herring. 'I wish,' says he,' the captain may be compos mentís,' he talks of a saucy Trumpet, and a Drum that carries messages; then who is this ? carte blanche He must either banter us, or he is out of his senses." The father, who always looked upon the curate as

[ocr errors]

a learned mån, began to fret inwardly at his son's usage, and producing a letter which he had written to him about three posts before, 'You see here:? says he, when he writes for money he knows how to speak intelligibly enough; there is no man in England can express himself clearer, when he wants a new furniture for his horse.' In short, the old man was so puzzled upon the point, that it might have fared ill with his son, had he not seen all ihe prints about three days after filled with the same terms of art, and that Charles only writ like other

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

N° 166. MONDAY; SEPTEMBER 10, 1711. .

-Quod nec Jovis ira, nec ignis,
Nec poterit ferrum, nec edar abolere vetustas. ::

OVID. Met. XV. ver. 871. - Which nor dreads the

Of tempests, fire, or war, or wasting age.


Aristotle tells us, that the world is a copy or transcript of those ideas which are in the mind of the first Being, and that those ideas which are in the mind of man, are a transcript of the world. To this we may add, that words are the transcript of those ideas which are in the mind of man, and that writing or printing are the transcript of words.

As the Supreme Being has expressed, and as it were printed his ideas in the creation, men express their ideas in books, which by this great invention of these latter ages may last as long as the sun and moon, and perish only in the general wreck of na

Thus Cowley in his poem on the Resurrection, mentioning the destruction of the universe, has those admirable lines;

• Now all the wide extended sky, And all th' harmonious worlds on high, And Virgil's sacred work shall die.'



There is no other method of fixing those thoughts which arise and disappear in the mind of man, and transmitting them to the last periods of time; no other method of giving a permanency to our ideas, and preserving the knowledge of any particular person, when his body is mixed with the common mass of matter, and his soul retired into the world of spirits. Books are the legacies that a great genius leaves to mankind, which are delivered down from generation to generation, as presents to the posterity of those who are yet unborn.

All other arts of perpetuating our ideas continue but a short time. Statues can last but a few thousands of years, edifices fewer, and colours still fewer than edifices. Michael Angelo, Fontana, and Raphael, will hereafter be what Phidias, Vitruvius, and Apelles are at present; the names of great statuaries, architects, and painters, whose works are lost. The several arts are expressed in mouldering materials. Nature sinks under, them, and is not able to support the ideas which are imprest upon it.

The circumstance which gives authors an advantage above all these great nasters, is this, that they can multiply their originals ; or rather can make copies of their works, to what number they please, which shall be as valuable as the originals themselves. This gives a great author something like a prospect of eternity, but at the same time deprives him of those other advantages which artists meet with. The artist finds greater returns in profit, as the author in fame. What an inestimable price would a Virgil or a Homer, a Cicero or an Aristotle, bear, were their works, like a 'statue, a building, or a picture, to be confined only in one place, and made the property of a single person !

If writings are thus durable, and may pass from age to age throughout the whole course of time, how careful should an author be of committing any thing to print that may corrupt posterity, and poison the minds of men with vice and error! Writers of great talents, who employ their parts in propa

[ocr errors]

gating immorality, and seasoning vicious sentiments with wit and humour, are to be looked upon as the pests of society, and the enemies of mankind. They leave books behind them (as it is said of those who die in distempers which breed an ill will towards their own species) to scatter infection and destroy their posterity. They act the counterparts of a Confucius' or a Socrates; and seein to have been sent into the'world to deprave human nature, and sink it into the condition of brutality.

I have seen some Roman-catholic authors who • tell us that vicious writers continue iu purgatory so long as the influence of their writings continues upon posterity : for purgatory,' say they,“ is nothing else but a cleansing us of our sins, which cannot be said to be done away; so long as they continue to operate, and corrupt mankind.' The vicious author, say they, sins after death; and so long as he continues to sin, so long must he expect to be punished."" Though the Roman-catholic notion of purgatory be indeed very ridiculous,' one cannot but think that if the soul after death has any knowledge of what passes in this world, that of an immoral writer would receive much more regret from the sense of corrupting, than satisfaction from the thought of pleasing the surviving admirers."

To take off from the severity of this speculation, I shall conclude this paper with a story of an atheistical author* ; ivho at a time when he lay dangerously sick, and had desired the assistance of a neighbouring curate, confessed to him with great contrition, that nothing sat more heavy at his heart than the sense of his having seduced the age by his writings, and that their evil'influence was likely to continue even after his death. The curate uponi farther examination finding the penitent in the utmost agonies of despair, and being himself a man of learning, told him, that he hoped his case was not so desperate as he apprehended, since he found that

* Supposed to be Mr. John Toland, a man of uncommon abilitics, and perhaps the most learned of all the infidel writers.

« VorigeDoorgaan »