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conceive, be the product of blind chance; arise from fortuitous jumblings of matter; be effected without exceeding great wisdom, without most deep counsel and design? Might not the most excellent pieces of human artifice, the fairest structures, the finest pictures, the most useful engines, such as we are wont so much to admire and praise, much more easily happen to be without any skill or contrivance? If we cannot allow these rude and gross imitations of nature to come of themselves, but will presently, so soon as we see them, acknowledge them the products of art, though we know not the artist, nor did see him work; how much more reasonable is it that we believe the works of nature, so much more fine and accurate, to proceed from the like cause, though invisible to us, and performing its workmanship by a secret hand?
WHAT IS WIT? To the question what the thing we speak of is, or what this facetiousness doth import? I might reply as Democritus did to him that asked the definition of a Man, 'Tis that which we all see and know : any one better apprehends what it is by acquaintance than I can inform him by description. It is indeed a thing so versatile and multiform, appearing in so many shapes, so many postures, so many garbs, so variously apprehended by several eyes and judgments, that it seemeth no less hard to settle a clear and certain notion thereof, than to make a portrait of Proteus, or to define the figure of a fleeting air. Sometimes it lieth in pat allusion to a known story, or in seasonable application of a trivial say, ing, or in forging an apposite tale: sometimes it playeth in words and phrases, taking advantage from the ambiguity of their sense, or the affinity of their sound: sometimes it is wrapped in a dress of humorous expression: sometimes it lurketh under an odd similitude: sometimes it is lodged in a sly question, in a smart answer, in a quirkish reason, in a shrewd imitation, in cunningly diverting, or cleverly retorting an objection: sometimes it is couched in a bold scheme of speech, in a tart irony, in a lusty hyperbole, in a startling metaphor, in a plausible reconciling of contradictions, or in acute nonsense: sometimes a scenical representation of persons or things, a counterfeit speech, a mimical look or gesture passeth for it: sometimes an affected simplicity, sometimes a presumptuous bluntness, giveth it being : sometimes it riseth from a lucky hitting upon what is strange, sometimes from a crafty wresting obvious matter to the purpose : often it consisteth in one knows not what, and springeth up one can hardly tell how. Its ways are unaccountable and inexplicable, being answerable to the num: berless rovings of fancy and windings of language. It is, in short, a manner of speaking out of the simple and plain way, (such as reason teacheth and proveth things by,) which, ly a pretty sur
prising uncouthness in conceit or expression, doth affect and amuse the fancy, stirring in it some wonder, and breeding some delight thereto.
KNOWLEDGE A SOURCE OF DELIGHT. Wisdom of itself is delectable and satisfactory, as it implies a revelation of truth and a detection of error to us. 'Tis like light, pleasant to behold, casting a sprightly lustre, and diffusing a benign influence all about; presenting a goodly prospect of things to the eyes of our minds ; displaying objects in their due shapes, postures, magnitudes, and colors; quickening our spirits with a comfortable warmth, and disposing our minds to a cheerful activity ; dispelling the darkness of ignorance, scattering the mists of doubt; driving away the spectres of delusive fancy ; mitigating the cold of sullen melancholy; discovering obstacles, securing progress, and making the passages of life clear, open, and pleasant. We are all naturally endowed with a strong appetite to know, to see, to pursue truth; and with a bashful abhorrency from being deceived and entangled in mistake. And as success in inquiry after truth affords matter of joy and triumph; so being conscious of error and miscarriage therein, is attended with shame and sor
These desires wisdom in the most perfect manner satisfies, not by entertaining us with dry, empty, fruitless theories upon mean and vulgar subjects; but by enriching our minds with excellent and useful knowledge, directed to the noblest objects, and serviceable to the highest ends.1
ANDREW MARVELL. 1620-1678. Few men deserve more to be remembered with admiration than Andrew Marvell; not so much for his intellectual powers and mental attainments, great though they were, as for his high moral qualities. Indeed, a character in all respects, private, literary, and patriotic, so uncommonly excellent and noble, is rarely to be met with in the annals of history. He was born at Kingston-upon-Hull
, in Yorkshire, in 1620, and at the age of fifteen entered Cambridge. After leaving the university he travelled many years in Europe,
1 Bacon, in enumerating the advantages of knowledge, says, 1. It relieves man's afflictions. 2. It promotes public virtue and order. 3. It promotes private virtues, by humanizing, humbling, nullifying vain admiration, improving. 4. It is power. 5. The pleasure of knowledge far exceedeth all other pleasures: for, shall the pleasures of the affections so exceed the senses, as much as the obtaining of desire or victory exceedeth a song or a dinner; and must not, of consequence, the pleasures of the intellect or understanding exceed the pleasures of the affections ! We see in all other pleasures there is satiety, and after they be used, their verdure departeth; which showeth well they be but deceits of pleasure, and not pleasures; and that it was the novelty which pleased, and not the quality: and therefore we see that voluptuous men turn friars, and ambitious princes turn melancholy. But of knowledge there is no satiety, but satisfaction and appetite are perpetually interchangeable; and therefore appeareth to be good in itself simply, without fallacy or accident.
and on his return he became assistant Latin secretary to Milton, to whom he ever proved a most faithful friend, defending his reputation and shielding him from danger after the Restoration.
In 1660 he was elected to parliament by the city of Hull, and was reelected as long as he lived. In his parliamentary duties he exhibited a zeal and faithfulness that were never surpassed; constantly corresponding with his constituents, and earnestly contending for their public rights and local interests. He always voted on the popular side, and so great was his influence, that the court determined, if possible, to bribe him to their interests. Accord. ingly they sent his old school-fellow, the lord-treasurer Danby, to him, with an order for £1000 on the treasury. He found him in a garret, writing to his constituents. After some conversation, as he was going out, he slipped the order into Marvell's hand, who, without looking at it, accompanied him to his coach. As he was about driving off, Marvell, having opened the paper, and seen what it was, called him back, and they returned to the garret. lord,” said Marvell, pointing to a small shoulder-bone of mutton, “ Andrew Marvell's dinner is provided for; there is your piece of paper; I want it not. I know the sort of kindness you intend, but I live here to serve my constituents; the ministry may seek men for their purpose ; I am not one.” How refreshing it is to the eye to look upon a character of such unsullied purity, especially if it be in the midst of political life, that perilous arena, from which so few return without some spots to disfigure their moral vestments.
Marvell, from the stern integrity of his character, rendered himself more and more obnoxious to a corrupt court. His personal satire against the king himself, his tracts against popery and the ministry, and his desperate literary battles with Bishop Parker, “ that venal apostate to bigotry,” (as Campbell calls him,) repeatedly endangered his life. Among other anonymous letters sent to him, was the following: “If thou darest to print or publish any lie or libel against Dr. Parker, by the Eternal God I will cut thy throat.” But all this was to no purpose.
He pursued the path of duty, unfaltering, and stood like a rock amid the foaming ocean. He, at last, died suddenly, on the 29th of July, 1678, while attending a public meeting at Hull: many supposed that he was poisoned.
In his prose writings Marvell defended the principles of freedom with great vigor of eloquence and liveliness of humor He mingled a playful exuberance of fancy and figure not unlike that of Burke, with a keenness of sarcastic wit not surpassed even by Swift.
The following spirited irony, taken from one of his answers to Parker, is on the
DOLEFUL EVILS" OF THE PRESS.? For the press hath owed him a shame a long time, and is but now beginning to pay off the debt,—the press, (that villanous engine,) invented about the same time with the Reformation, that hath done more mischief to the discipline of our church, than all the doctrine can make amends for. 'Twas a happy time when
| Burke and Wilberforce in England, and John Quincy Adams in our own country, are eminent exceptions to the general rule.
2 Two well-written articles on Marvell may be found in the 10th and 11th vols. of the Retrospective Review. Read, also, an admirable sfe in Hartley Coleridge's “Lives of Distinguished Northerns."
all learning was in manuscripts, and some little officer, like our author, did keep the keys of the library; when the clergy needed no more knowledge than to read the Liturgy; and the laity no more clerkship than to save them from hanging. But now, since printing came into the world, such is the mischief, that a man cannot write a book, but presently he is answered! Could the press at once be conjured to obey only an Imprimatur, our author might not disdain, perhaps, to be one of its most zealous patrons. There have been ways found out to banish ministers, to fine not only the people, but even the grounds and fields where they assembled in conventicles. But no art yet could prevent these seditious meetings of letters. Two or three brawny fellows in a corner, with mere ink and elbow-grease, do more harm than a hundred systematical divines, with their sweaty preaching. And, which is a strange thing, the very sponges, which one would think should rather deface and blot out the whole book, and were anciently used for that purpose, are now become the instruments to make things legible. Their ugly printing-letters, that look but like so many rotten teeth,--how oft have they been pulled out by the public tooth-drawers ! And yet these rascally operators of the press have got a trick to fasten them again in a few minutes, that they grow as firm a set, and as biting and talkative as ever. 0 Printing! how hast thou disturbed the peace of mankind ! That lead, when moulded into bullets, is not so mortal, as when founded into letters. There was a mistake, sure, in the story of Cadmus; and the serpent's teeth, which he sowed, were nothing else but the letters which he invented. The first
that was made towards this art was in single characters upon iron, wherewith of old they stigmatized slaves and remarkable offenders; and it was of good use sometimes to brand a schismatic. But a bulky Dutchman diverted it quite from its first institution, and contrived those innumerable syntagmes of alphabets. One would have thought, in reason, that a Dutchman at least might have contented himself only with the wine-press. The following is a cutting
PARODY ON THE SPEECHES OF CHARLES II. My lords and gentlemen,
I told you, at our last meeting, the Winter was the fittest time for business, and truly I thought so, till my lord-treasurer assured me the Spring was the best season for salads and subsidies. I hope, therefore, that April will not prove so unnatural a month, as not to afford some kind showers on my parched exchequer, which gapes for want of them. Some of you, perhaps, will think it dangerous to make me too rich; but I do not fear it; for I promise you faithfully, whatever you give me I will always want; and although in other things my word may be thought a slender authority, yet in that, you may rely on me, I will never break it.
1 How unspeakably important is it, considering the mighty influence of the press, that it should be, in all its departments, the guardian of morals—the handmaid of virtue: and yet, how many publishers seem utterly reckless of the character of the books they publish, provided they will sell :" and how few are the editors of our newspapers who do not appear to consider the triumphs of party paramount to the triumphs of truth and justice.
My lords and gentlemen,
lord-treasurer does protest to me, that the revenue, as it now stands, will not serve him and me too. One of us must pinch for it, if you do not help me. I must speak freely to you; I am under bad circumstances. Here is my lord-treasurer can tell, that all the money designed for next Summer's guards must of necessity be applied to the next year's cradles and swaddling clothes. What shall we do for ships then? I hint this only to you, it being your business, not mine. I know, by experience, I can live without ships. I lived ten years abroad without, and never had my health better in my life; but how you will be without, I leave to yourselves to judge, and therefore hint this only by the bye: I do not insist upon it. There is another thing I must press more earnestly, and that is this: it seems a good part of my revenue will expire in two or three years, except you will be pleased to continue it. I have to say for it; pray, why did you give me so much as you have done, unless you resolve to give on as fast as I call for it? The nation hates you already for giving so much, and I will hate you too, if you do not give me more. So that, if you stick not to me, you must not have a friend in England. On the other hand, if you will give me the revenue I desire, I shall be able to do those things for your religion and liberty, that I have had long in my thoughts, but cannot effect them without a little more money to carry me through. Therefore look to't, and take notice, that if you do not make me rich enough to undo you, it shall lie at your doors. For my part, I wash my hands on it. If
you desire more instances of my zeal, I have them for you. For example, I have converted my sons from popery, and I may say, without vanity, it was my own work. 'Twould do one's heart good to hear how prettily George can read already in the psalter. They are all fine children, God bless 'em, and so like me in their understandings !
I must now acquaint you, that, by my lord-treasurer's advice, I have made a considerable retrenchment upon my expenses in candles and charcoal, and do not intend to stop, but will, with your help, look into the late embezzlements of my dripping-pans and kitchen-stuff.
The friendship between Milton and Marvell is one of the most interesting subjects in the biography of two of the most noble characters of England.