« VorigeDoorgaan »
their passions, and rendered incurable by their self-conceit and presumption, such kings are apt to imagine, and they conduct themselves so as to make many of their subjects imagine, that the king and the people in free governments are rival powers, who stand in competition with one another, who have different interests, and must of course have different views: that the rights and privileges of the people are so many spoils taken from the right and prerogative of the crown; and that the rules and laws, made for the exercise and security of the former, are so many diminutions of their dignity, and restraints on their power.
A patriot king will see all this in a far different and much truer light. The constitution will be considered by him as one law, consisting of two tables, containing the rule of his government, and the measure of his subjects' obedience; or as one system, composed of different parts and powers, but all duly proportioned to one another, and conspiring by their harmony to the perfection of the whole.
BISHOP BERKELEY. 1684-1753. (Manual, p. 299.)
191. LUXURY THE CAUSE OF NATIONAL RUIN.
Frugality of manners is the nourishment and strength of bodies politic. It is that by which they grow and subsist, until they are corrupted by luxury, the natural cause of their decay and ruin.. Of this we have examples in the Persians, Lacedæmonians, and Romans: not to mention many later governments which have sprung up, continued a while, and then perished by the same natural causes. But these are, it seems, of no use to us: and, in spite of them, we are in a fair way of becoming ourselves another useless example to future ages.
It is not to be believed, what influence public diversions have on the spirit and manners of a people. The Greeks wisely saw this, and made a very serious affair of their public sports. For the same reason, it will, perhaps, seem worthy the care of our legislature to regulate the public diversions, by an absolute prohibition of those which have a direct tendency to corrupt our morals, as well as by a reformation of the drama; which, when rightly managed, is such a noble entertainment, and gave those fine lessons of morality and good sense to the Athenians of old, and to our British gentry above a century ago; but for these last ninety years, hath entertained us, for the most part, with such wretched things as spoil, instead of improving the taste and manners of the audience. Those who are attentive to such propositions only as may fill their pockets, will probably slight these things as trifles below the care of the legislature. But I am sure, all honest, thinking men must lament to see their country run headlong into all those luxurious follies, which, it is evident, have been fatal to other nations, and will undoubtedly prove fatal to us also, if a timely stop be not put to them.
192. LADY MARY MONTAGU. 1690-1762. (Manual, p. 300.)
FROM HER Letters.
Vienna, October 1, O. S. 1716.
But now I am speaking of Vienna, I am sure you expect I should say something of the convents: they are of all sorts and sizes; but I am best pleased with that of St. Lawrence, where the ease and neatness they seem to live with, appears to be much more edifying than those stricter orders, where perpetual penance and nastiness must breed discontent and wretchedness. The nuns are all of quality. I think there are to the number of fifty. They have each of them a little cell perfectly clean, the walls of which are covered with pictures more or less fine, according to their quality. A long stone gallery runs by all of them, furnished with the pictures of exemplary sisters; the chapel is extremely neat, and richly adorned. Nothing can be more becoming than the dress of these nuns. It is a white robe, the sleeves of which are turned up with fine white calico, and their headdress the same, excepting a small veil of black crape that falls behind. They have a lower sort of serving nuns that wait on them as their chamber-maids. They receive all visits of women, and play at ombre in their chambers with permission of their abbess, which is very easy to be obtained. I never saw an old woman so good-natured; she is near fourscore, and yet shows very little signs of decay, being still lively and cheerful. She caressed me as if I had been her daughter, giving me some pretty things of her own work, and sweetmeats in abundance. The grate is not of the most rigid; it is not very hard to put a head through. The young Count of Salamis came to the grate, while I was there, and the abbess gave him her hand to kiss. But I was surprised to find here the only beautiful young woman I have seen at Vienna, and, not only beautiful, but genteel, witty, and agreeable, of a great family, and who had been the admiration of the town. I could not forbear showing my surprise at seeing a nún like her. She made me a thousand obliging compliments, and desired me to come often. "It would be an infinite pleasure to me," said she, sighing, "but I avoid, with the greatest care, seeing any of my former acquaintances; and, whenever they come to our convent, I lock myself in my cell.” I observed tears come into her eyes, which touched me extremely, and I began to talk to her in that strain of tender pity she inspired me with.
THE GREAT NOVELists.
193. DANIEL DEFOE. 1661-1731. (Manual, p. 306.)
FROM "THE GREAT PLAGUE IN LONDON."
Much about the same time I walked out into the fields towards Bow, for I had a great mind to see how things were managed in the river, and among the ships; and as I had some concern in shipping, I had a notion that it had been one of the best ways of securing one's self from the infection, to have retired into a ship; and musing how to satisfy my curiosity in that point, I turned away over the fields, from Bow to Bromley, and down to Blackwall, to the stairs that are there for landing or taking water.
Here I saw a poor man walking on the bank or sea-wall, as they call it, by himself. I walked a while also about, seeing the houses all shut up; at last I fell into some talk, at a distance, with this poor man. First I asked him how people did thereabouts? Alas! sir, says he, almost desolate; all dead or sick: here are very few families in this part, or in that village, pointing at Poplar, where half of them are not dead already, and the rest sick. Then pointing to one house, There they are all dead, said he, and the house stands open; nobody dares go into it. A poor thief, says he, ventured in to steal something, but he paid dear for his theft, for he was carried to the churchyard too, last night. Then he pointed to several other houses. There, says he, they are all dead, the man and his wife and five children. There, says he, they are shut up; you see a watchman at the door, and so of other houses. Why, said I, what do you do here all alone? Why, says he, I am a poor desolate man; it hath pleased God I am not yet visited, though my family is, and one of my children dead. How do you mean then, said I, that you are not visited? Why, says he, that is my house, pointing to a very little low boarded house, and there my poor wife and two children live, said he, if they may be said to live; for my wife and one of the children are visited, but I do not come at them. And with that word I saw the tears run very plentifully down his face; and so they did down mine too, I assure you.
But, said I, why do you not come at them? How can you abandon your own flesh and blood? O, sir, says he, the Lord forbid; I do
not abandon them; I work for them as much as I am able; and, blessed be the Lord, I keep them from want. And with that I observed he lifted up his eyes to heaven with a countenance that presently told me I had happened on a man that was no hypocrite, but a serious, religious, good man; and his ejaculation was an expression of thankfulness, that, in such a condition as he was in, he should be able to say his family did not want. Well, said I, honest man, that is a great mercy, as things go now with the poor. But how do you live then, and how are you kept from the dreadful calamity that is now upon us all? Why, sir, says he, I am a waterman, and there is my boat, says he, and the boat serves me for a house; I work in it in the day, and I sleep in it in the night, and what I get I lay it down upon that stone, says he, showing me a broad stone on the other side of the street, a good way from his house; and then, says he, I halloo and call to them till I make them hear, and they come and fetch it.
Well, friend, said I, but how can you get money as a waterman? Does anybody go by water these times? Yes, sir, says he, in the .way I am employed there does. Do you see there, says he, five ships lie at anchor? pointing down the river a good way below the town; and do you see, says he, eight or ten ships lie at the chain there, and at anchor yonder? pointing above the town. All those ships have families on board, of their merchants and owners, and such like, who have locked themselves up, and live on board, close shut in, for fear of the infection; and I tend on them to fetch things for them, carry letters, and do what is absolutely necessary, that they may not be obliged to come on shore; and every night I fasten my boat on board one of the ship's boats, and there I sleep by myself; and blessed be God, I am preserved hitherto.
Well, said I, friend, but will they let you come on board after you have been on shore here, when this has been such a terrible place, and so infected as it is?
Why, as to that, said he, I very seldom go up the ship-side, but deliver what I bring to their boat, or lie by the side, and they hoist it on board; if I did, I think they are in no danger from me, for I never go into any house on shore, or touch anybody, no, not of my own family; but I fetch provisions for them.
Nay, said I, but that may be worse, for you must have those provisions of somebody or other; and since all this part of the town is so infected, it is dangerous so much as to speak with anybody; for the village, said I, is, as it were, the beginning of London, though it be at some distance from it.
That is true, added he, but you do not understand me right. I do not buy provisions for them here; I row up to Greenwich, and buy fresh meat there, and sometimes I row down the river to Woolwich, and buy there; then I go to single farm-houses on the Kentish side, where I am known, and buy fowls, and eggs, and butter, and bring to the ships, as they direct me, sometimes one, sometimes the other. I
seldom come on shore here; and I came only now to call my wife, and hear how my little family do, and give them a little money which I received last night.
Poor man! said I, and how much hast thou gotten for them?
I have gotten four shillings, said he, which is a great sum, as things go now with poor men; but they have given me a bag of bread too, and a salt fish, and some flesh; so all helps out.
Well, said I, and have you given it them yet?
No, said he, but I have called, and my wife has answered that she cannot come out yet; but in half an hour she hopes to come, and I am waiting for her. Poor woman! says he, she is brought sadly down; she has had a swelling, and it is broke, and I hope she will recover, but I fear the child will die; but it is the Lord! Here he stopt, and wept very much.
Well, honest friend, said I, thou hast a sure comforter, if thou hast brought thyself to be resigned to the will of God; he is dealing with us all in judgment.
O, sir, says he, it is infinite mercy if any of us are spared; and who am I to repine!
194. HENRY FIELDING. 1707-1754. (Manual, p. 312.)
FROM "TOM JONES."
Being now provided with all the necessaries of life, I betook myself once again to study, and that with a more ordinate application than I had ever done formerly. The books which now employed my time solely were those, as well ancient as modern, which treat of true philosophy, a word which is by many thought to be the subject only of farce and ridicule. I now read over the works of Aristotle and Plato, with the rest of those inestimable treasures which ancient Greece hath bequeathed to the world.
To this I added another study, compared to which all the philosophy taught by the wisest heathens is little better than a dream, and is indeed as full of vanity as the silliest jester ever pleased to represent it. This is that divine wisdom which is alone to be found in the Holy Scriptures: for those impart to us the knowledge and assurance of things much more worthy our attention, than all which this world can offer to our acceptance; of things which Heaven itself hath condescended to reveal to us, and to the smallest knowledge of which the highest human wit unassisted could never ascend. I began now to think all the time I had spent with the best heathen writers was little more than labor lost: for however pleasant and delightful their lessons may be, or however adequate to the right regulation of our conduct with respect to this world only, yet, when compared with the glory revealed in Scripture, their highest documents will appear as trifling, and of as little consequence as the rules by which children regulate their childish little games and pastime. True it is, that