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"But it is of no importance to read much, except you be regular in your reading. If it be interrupted for any confiderable time, it can never be attended with proper improvement. There are some who study for one day with intense application, and repose themselves for ten days after. But wifdom is a coquet, and muft be courted with unabating affiduity.
"It was a faying of the ancients, that a man never opens a book, without reaping some advantage by it: I say with them, that every book can serve to make us more expert, except romances, and these are no better than inftruments of debauchery. They are dangerous fictions, where love is the ruling paffion.
"The most indecent ftrokes there pass for turns of wit; intrigue and criminal liberties for gallantry and politenefs; affignations, and even villany, are put in fuch ftrong lights, as may inspire, even grown men, with the strongest paffion; how much more, therefore, ought the youth of either sex to dread them, whose reason is so weak, and whofe hearts are fo fufceptible of paffion!
"To flip in by a back-door, or leap a wall, are accomplishments, that, when handsomely set off, enchant a young heart. It is true the plot is commonly wound up by a marriage, concluded with the confent of parents, and adjusted by every ceremony prescribed by law. But as in the body of the work, there are many passages that offend good morals, overthrow laudable customs, violate the laws, and deftroy the duties moft effential to fociety, virtue is thereby exposed to the most dangerous attacks.
"But, fays fome, the authors of these romances have nothing in view, but to represent vice punished, and
virtue rewarded. Granted. But will the greater number of readers take notice of these punishments and rewards? Are not their minds carried to fomething else? Can it be imagined, that the art with which the author infpires the love of virtue can overcome that crowd of thoughts which sway them to licentioufnefs? To be able to inculcate virtue by fo leaky a vehicle, the author must be a philofopher of the first rank. But in our age we can find but few first rate philosophers.
"Avoid fuch performances, where vice affumes the face of virtue; seek wisdom and knowledge without ever thinking you have found them. A man is wife while he continues in the pursuit of wisdom; but when he once fancies that he has found the object of his inquiry, he then becomes a fool. Learn to purfue virtue from the man that is blind, who never makes a step without first examining the ground with his staff.
"The world is like a vaft fea, mankind like a veffel failing on its tempeftuous bofom. Our prudence is its fails, the sciences ferve us for oars, good or bad fortune are the favourable or contrary winds, and judgment is the rudder; without this laft, the veffel is toffed by every billow, and will find shipwreck in every breeze. In a word, obfcurity and indigence are the parents of vigilance and œconomy; vigilance and economy, of riches and honour; riches and honour, of pride and luxury; pride and luxury, of impurity and idleness; and impurity and idleness again produce indigence and obfcurity. Such are the revolutions of life." Adieu.
FROM LIEN CHI ALTANGI, TO FUM HOAM, FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE CEREMONIAL ACADEMY AT PEKIN, IN CHINA.
Fancy the character of a poet is in every country the fame, fond of enjoying the prefent, careless of the future; his conversation that of a man of sense, his actions thofe of a fool? of fortitude able to stand unmoved at the bursting of an earthquake, yet of sensibility to be affected by the breaking of a tea cup; such is his character, which, confidered in every light, is the very oppofite of that which leads to riches.
The poets of the Weft are as remarkable for their indigence as their genius, and yet among the numerous hospitals defigned to relieve the poor, I have heard of but one erected for the benefit of decayed authors. This was founded by Pope Urban VIII. and called the retreat of the incurables, intimating, that it was equally impoffible to reclaim the patients, who fued for reception, from poverty, or from poetry. To be fincere, were I to fend you an account of the lives of the western poets, either ancient or modern, I fancy you would think me employed in collecting materials for an history of human wretchedness.
Homer is the first poet and beggar of note among the ancients; he was blind, and fung his ballads about the ftreets; but it is obferved, that his mouth was more frequently filled with verfes than with bread. Platus, the
comic poet, was better off; he had two trades; he was a poet for his diverfion, and helped to turn a mill, in order to gain a livelihood. Terence was a slave, and Boethius died in a jail.
Among the Italians, Paulo Borghese, almost as good a poet as Taffo, knew fourteen different trades, and yet died because he could get employment in none. Taffo himself, who had the most amiable character of all poets, has often been obliged to borrow a crown from some friend, in order to pay for a month's fubfiftence. He has left us a pretty fonnet, addressed to his cat, in which he begs the light of her eyes to write by, being too poor to afford himself a candle. But Bentivoglio, poor Bentivoglio! chiefly demands our pity. His comedies will laft with the Italian language; he diffipated a noble for. tune in acts of charity and benevolence; but falling into mifery in his old age, was refused admittance into an hospital which he himself had erected.
In Spain it is faid the great Cervantes died of hunger; and it is certain that the famous Camoens ended his days in an hofpital.
If we turn to France, we shall there find stronger inftances of the ingratitude of the public. Vaugelas, one of the politeft writers, and one of the honefteft men of his time, was furnamed the owl, from his being obliged to keep within all day, and venture out only by night, through fear of his creditors. His laft will is very remarkable; after having bequeathed all his worldly substance to the discharging his debts, he goes on thus :"but as there may still remain fome creditors unpaid, even after all that I have fhall be difpofed of; in such
a cafe, it is my laft will, that my body fhould be fold to the furgeons to the best advantage, and that the purchase should go to the discharging those debts which I owe to fociety; so that if I could not, while living, at leaft when dead, I may be useful.”
Caffander was one of the greatest geniuses of his time, yet all his merit could not procure him a bare fubfiftance. Being by degrees driven into an hatred of all mankind, from the little pity he found amongst them, he even ventured at laft, ungratefully, to impute his calamities to Providence. In his laft agonies, when the priest entreated him to rely on the justice of Heaven, and afk mercy from him that made him; "if God" replies he, "has fhewn me no justice here, what reason have I to expect any from him hereafter?" But being answered, that a fufpenfion of juftice was no argument that should induce us to doubt of its reality; let me entreat you, continued his confeffor, by all that is dear, to be reconciled to God, your father, your maker, and friend." No! (replied the exafperated wretch,) you know the manner in which he left me to live, (and pointing to the ftraw on which he was ftretched,) and you fee the manner in which he leaves me to die."
But the fufferings of the poet in other countries are nothing, when compared to his diftreffes here; the names of Spencer and Otway, Butler and Dryden, are every day mentioned as a national reproach; fome of them lived in a ftate of precarious indigence, and others literally died of hunger.
At prefent, the few poets of England no longer depend on the great for fubfiftence, they have now no other patrons but the public, and the public, collectively confi