Imágenes de páginas

that lie at a great distance from one another in the original history

Let us now give some few sketches of what is improving in the book.

The very introduction is worth while to be mention'd; the author therein makes judicious and fine reflections on history and historical Wri


Historical knowledge, says he, with a good heart, a clear head, and some acquaintance with the present state of things, fits a man out for the world. It lets him far into the oeconomy of providence, teaches him fubmission to her dispensations, and warms his breast with the most generous passions for his fellow creatures. It clears his mind of the rubbish thrown into it from craft and superstition, and strengthens and adorns it with abundance of sound and beautiful ideas. It gives him a full view of human nature, and a very distinct one of himself. It fortifies with caution, furnishes address, and makes him an artist in the business of life. A man who takes every thing by the right handle, and bears himself gracefully in the midst even of his miffortunes : Such a man difcerns the genius of every Nation, and the compass of reasoning and action allotted to each. Such a man fees the whole scale of human nature from her lowest to her highest virtues and vices ; from ignorance and the glimmerings of sense, to all the fplendors of wit and learning. Such a man fees the Phantasms of happiness with which mankind and every humour is bewitch’d. Such a man fees distinctly the Furies in those passions and excefles that shatter and distract the world. Such a man fees that Viciffitude is a Law of human nature ; that it extends to every nation, to every


family, and to every individual person: That vice and ignorance have very often the benefit of Virtue and Knowledge, and that the evil is not always dispens'd either in favour of sense or Virtue. Such a man has his cure for every scene of life, and for every genius and temper he meets with. Such a man once more, fees human nature through and through, and the vanity of earthly fruitions.

These are the advantages that our Author juftly ascribes to those, who with a good talent and reflection, are well read in the history of the world.

But to this he opposes the Ignes Fatui, cali'd Lies, which ever present themselves in our pursuit of Historical Truth, and ever, without the cautions of experience in the chase, lead a man a long round-about dance over hedge and ditch, and betray him into a thousand dangers before he perceives the delusion.

These Meteors, as he calls them, flow from the Ignorance, the Knavery, and the Constitutio ons of writers. There is, adds hé, as much wantonness and malice, as much falfhood and design, as much ignorance and ill-breeding in history, as in ordinary conversation ; and men generally bring their conftitutions equally into the one and the other.

Upon the Ignorance and Knavery of writers he passes by, as a truth known to every one ; but he enlarges upon the Constitutions of authors, which constitutions he divides into the Melancholick, the Phlegmatick, the Cholerick, and the Sanguine tempers.

His manner of proving according to these four heads, how truth may be injur'd, being a


D 3

sort of a new discovery, it will not be amiss to speak of it, and thus he argues :

'Tis no difficult matter to fhew, that the constitution of a man frequently betrays him into a falfhood. The man of a Melancholick temperament, for example, frequently takes and reports shadows for substances, and airy fufpicions for the best grounded truths in the world.

The Sanguine makes every thing he likes appear infinitely better than it is :

While the Cholerick makes every thing he likes not, appear infinitely worse. The Phlegmatick is indeed excellent at the outside of things, but good for nothing at the inside. He gives you a most exact account of Falt, but is strangely short-lighted at the Reason of it, and sees but little of the Good or Evil of any thing.

He must never set up for discernment, who has liv'd any considerable time in the world, and not discovered his variations from himself merely by virtue of alterations in his fluids. Every man who reflects thoroughly on himself, finds that his ideas of persons and things often alter, without the intervention of the smallest reason concerning them. His idea of a thing at noon, he often finds to be unlike his idea of it in the morning; and his idea of it at night, to be unlike 'em both; and this merely by the force of his alter'd fluids. Vexatious apprehensions are often remov'd by a generous meal ; and dangers become contemptible after a bottle, that appear'd terrible before it: Hence fome make it a rule, and 'tis methinks a very good one, never to ask a favour in a morning, if they can have an opportunity of doing it immediately after dinner. A good repast sweetens all nature in a man, lets in the fun as it were upon his facul


ties ; his heart is enlarg'd; his ideas are brighten’d, and then or never he is in a disposition to confer a favour.

I cannot help thinking that Solon in his fam’d saying, Tvægi ogautóv, Know thy self, had his eye in a particular manner upon the temperament of the body, without the knowledge of which, I cannot see how any man can properly be said to know himself. The influence of the body upon the mind can hardly be suppos’d to have escap'd that discerning philosopher : And if he saw it, he saw too that a great part of the human happiness depended upon the good government of the body. The constitution of a man, before he knows and has learned to manage it, I may venture to say, is his greate'l deceiver: It clouds his mind when he has occasion for her utmost brightness: It betrays himn into false ideas of men and things: It makes him feel pain where there is no disease, and see terrors where there are no dangers : This we call the Spleen. In a moist air, or in rainy weather, his humours rise, and his spirits sink, his mind languishes, his ideas fade, and he falls into an opinion, that those persons and things, which gave him but now perhaps a most reasonable delight. have little or nothing delightful or agreeable in ’em. When the sun shines out, and drys up the vapours in the air, his fpirits are disincumber'd, his ideas revive, he banishes his whimsies contracted in the rain, and enjoys his former opinions. In rainy weather, dangers that were few, become numerous in his eyes; difficulties that were small, become unsurmountable ; things that displease him give redoubled offence, and things that fright him, as much terror. The cafe

[ocr errors]

is the same after a debauch ; and for this I appeal to every man's experience.

Where the Melancholick humour, or, as the physicians term it, the Atra Bilis was the ascendent, the mind is involv'd in darkness and terror ; while the imagination of a Sanguine man may be said to resemble a spacious area open to all the beams of the fun. The imagination of the Melancholick can be compared to nothing perhaps so properly, as a dismal cell from which the day is for ever excluded, and where burns only a single taper. Sir Theod. Mayerne fays, Melancholiam, Sedem, Balneum & Regnum Diaboli effe, sat scio, atque Principem istum Tenebrarum, sub atri humoris densa Caligine latitantem se se variis morbis naturalibus immiscere, & fævas excitare turbas in diversis subječtis, experientia multiplici compertum habeo. That is, I am satisfied that melancholy is the seat, the bath, and the kingdom of the devil; and have found by manifold experience, that that prince of darkness, concealing himself under the thick mist of the melancholick humour, has a band in various natural difeases, and stirs ap cruel disorders on sundry occafions. I know nothing of the devil's having any thing to do with the melancholick bumour ; but this I know, that the melancholick humour, where it abounds, makes, if my reader will pardon me the expression, the devil of an historian. He deals in omens, apparitions, and haunted houses, in battel, murder, and sudden death. His pages fwell with fins, judgments, and catastrophes. His stile is the plaintive, thick set with interjections, as Ab! the Alas! and the Ob me! He dwells for ever on the dark side of things, and knows not how to exhibit them on the bright. He mourns for evils that never were. He finds

« AnteriorContinuar »