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left those gloomy mansions of sorrow. The gener- which I led the way, all gravity had quite forsaken ous baronet ordered forty pounds to be distributed them, and I was often tempted to turn back in inamong the prisoners, and Mr. Wilmot, induced by dignation. In church a new dilemma arose, which his example, gave half that sum. We were re- promised no easy solution. This was, which couple ceived below by the shouts of the villagers, and I should be married first. My son's bride warmly saw and shook by the hand two or three of my insisted that Lady Thornhill (that was to be) honest parishioners, who were among the number. should take the lead: but this the other refused They attended us to our inn, where a sumptuous with equal ardour, protesting she would not be entertainment was provided, and coarser provisions guilty of such rudeness for the world. The argu were distributed in great quantities among the ment was supported for some time between both populace. with equal obstinacy and good-breeding. But as After supper, as my spirits were exhausted by I stood all this time with my book ready, I was at the alternation of pleasure and pain which they had last quite tired of the contest; and shutting it, "1 sustained during the day, I asked permission to perceive," cried I, "that none of you have a mind withdraw; and leaving the company in the midst to be married, and I think we had as good go back of their mirth, as soon as I found myself alone, I poured out my heart in gratitude to the Giver of joy as well as of sorrow, and then slept undisturbed till morning.
again; for I suppose there will be no business done here to-day."-This at once reduced them to reaThe baronet and his lady were first married, and then my son and his lovely partner.
I had previously that morning given orders that a coach should be sent for my honest neighbour Flamborough and his family; by which means, upon our return to the inn, we had the pleasure of finding the two Miss Flamboroughs alighted before us. Mr. Jenkinson gave his hand to the eld
THE next morning as soon as I awaked, I found est and my son Moses led up the other (and I my eldest son sitting by my bed-side, who came to have since found that he has taken a real liking to increase my joy with another turn of fortune in my the girl, and my consent and bounty he shall have, favour. First having released me from the settle-whenever he thinks proper to demand them.) We ment that I had made the day before in his favour, were no sooner returned to the inn, but numbers he let me know that my merchant who had failed of my parishioners, hearing of my success, came to in town was arrested at Antwerp, and there had congratulate me: but among the rest were those given up effects to a much greater amount than who rose to rescue me, and whom I formerly rewhat was due to his creditors. My boy's generosi-buked with such sharpness. I told the story to ty pleased me almost as much as this unlooked-for Sir William, my son-in-law, who went out and regood fortune; but I had some doubts whether I proved them with great severity; but finding them ought in justice to accept his offer. While I was quite disheartened by his harsh reproof, he gave pondering upon this, Sir William entered the room, them half a guinea a-piece to drink his health, and to whom I communicated my doubts. His opinion raise their dejected spirits. was, that as my son was already possessed of a very Soon after this we were called to a very genteel affluent fortune by his marriage, I might accept his entertainment, which was dressed by Mr. Thornoffer without any hesitation. His business, how-hill's cook. And it may not be improper to observe, ever, was to inform me, that as he had the night with respect to that gentleman, that he now resides, before sent for the licenses, and expected them in quality of companion, at a relation's house, beevery hour, he hoped that I would not refuse my ing very well liked, and seldom sitting at the sideassistance in making all the company happy that table, except when there is no room at the other; morning. A footman entered while we were speak- for they make no stranger of him. His time is ing, to tell us that the messenger was returned; and pretty much taken up in keeping his relation, who as I was by this time ready, I went down, where I is a little melancholy, in spirits, and in learning to found the whole company as merry as affluence blow the French horn. My eldest daughter, howand innocence could make them. However, as ever, still remembers him with regret ; and she has they were now preparing for a very solemn cere- even told me, though I make a secret of it, that mony, their laughter entirely displeased me. I told when he reforms she may be brought to relent.— them of the grave, becoming, and sublime deport-But to return, for I am not apt to digress thus; ment they should assume upon this mystical occa- when we were to sit down to dinner our ceremosion, and read them two homilies, and a thesis of nies were going to be renewed. The question was, my own composing, in order to prepare them. Yet whether my eldest daughter, as being a matron, they still seemed perfectly refractory and ungovern- should not sit above the two young brides; but the able. Even as we were going along to church, to debate was cut short by my son George, who pro
posed that the company should sit indiscriminately, the old gentleman, winking upon the rest of the every gentleman by his lady. This was received company, observed, that he was thinking of his with great approbation by all, excepting my wife, mistress: at which jest I thought the two Miss who, I could perceive, was not perfectly satisfied, Flamboroughs would have died with laughing. As as she expected to have had the pleasure of sitting soon as dinner was over, according to my old cusat the head of the table, and carving the meat for tom, I requested that the table might be taken away, all the company. But, notwithstanding this, it is to have the pleasure of seeing all my family assemimpossible to describe our good-humour. I can't bled once more by a cheerful fire-side. My two say whether we had more wit among us now than little ones sat upon each knee, the rest of the comusual; but I am certain we had more laughing, pany by their partners. I had nothing now on this which answered the end as well. One jest I par- side of the grave to wish for; all my cares were ticularly remember: old Mr. Wilmot drinking to over; my pleasure was unspeakable. It now only Moses, whose head was turned another way, my remained, that my gratitude in good fortune should son replied, "Madam, I thank you." Upon which exceed my former submission in adversity.
The Present State of Polite Learning.*
Έμοι προς φιλόσοφους εστι φίλια προς μεν το σοφιστας η γραμματιστας·
ούσε νυν εστι φιλια μητε υστερο
Tolerabile si Edificia nostra diruerent Edificandi capaces.
conveys no instruction; all it teaches is, that the writer dislikes an age by which he is probably disregarded. The manner of being useful on the
vestigate the causes, and direct to the remedies of the approaching decay. This is a subject hitherto unattempted in criticism,—perhaps it is the only subject in which criticism can be useful.
It has been so long the practice to represent lit-subject, would be, to point out the symptoms, to inerature as declining, that every renewal of this complaint now comes with diminished influence. The public has been so often excited by a false alarm, that at present the nearer we approach the threatened period of decay, the more our security increases.
It will now probably be said, that, taking the decay of genius for granted, as I do, argues either resentment or partiality. The writer possessed of fame, it may be asserted, is willing to enjoy it without a rival, by lessening every competitor; or, if unsuccessful, he is desirous to turn upon others the contempt which is levelled at himself; and being convicted at the bar of literary justice, hopes for pardon by accusing every brother of the same profession.
Sensible of this, I am at a loss where to find an apology for persisting to arraign the merit of the age; for joining in a cry which the judicious have long since left to be kept up by the vulgar; and for adopting the sentiments of the multitude, in a performance that at best can please only a few.
How far the writer is equal to such an undertaking the reader must determine; yet perhaps his observations may be just, though his manner of expressing them should only serve as an example of the errors he undertakes to reprove.
Novelty, however, is not permitted to usurp the place of reason; it may attend, but it shall not conduct the inquiry. But it should be observed, that the more original any performance is, the more it is liable to deviate; for cautious stupidity is always in the right.
The Causes which contribute to the Decline of Learning. If we consider the revolutions which have happensed in the commonwealth of letters, survey the Complaints of our degeneracy in literature, as rapid progress of learning in one period of antiquiwell as in morals, I own, have been frequently ex-ty, or its amazing decline in another, we shall be hibited of late, but seem to be enforced more with almost induced to accuse nature of partiality; as the ardour of devious declamation than the calm-if she had exhausted all her efforts in adorning one ness of deliberate inquiry. The dullest critic, who age, while she left the succeeding entirely neglectstrives at a reputation for delicacy, by showing heed. It is not to nature, however, but to ourselves can not be pleased, may pathetically assure us, that alone, that this partiality must be ascribed: the seeds our taste is upon the decline; may consign every of excellence are sown in every age, and it is wholly modern performance to oblivion, and bequeath no- owing to a wrong direction in the passions or purthing to posterity, except the labours of our ances-suits of mankind, that they have not received the tors, or his own. Such general invective, however, proper cultivation.
The first edition of this work appeared in 1759, and the cond was printed in 1774.
As, in the best regulated societies, the very laws which at first give the government solidity, may in
the end contribute to its dissolution, so the efforts of former adventurers. All this may be performed which might have promoted learning in its feeble in a society of long continuance, but if the kingdom commencement, may, if continued, retard its pro-be but of short duration, as was the case of Arabia, gress. The paths of science, which were at first learning seems coeval, sympathizes with its politiintricate because untrodden, may at last grow toil-cal struggles, and is annihilated in its dissolution. some, because too much frequented. As learning But permanence in a state is not alone sufficient; advances, the candidates for its honours become it is requisite also for this end that it should be free. more numerous, and the acquisition of fame more Naturalists assure us, that all animals are sagaciuncertain: the modest may despair of attaining it, ous in proportion as they are removed from the and the opulent think it too precarious to pursue. tyranny of others. In native liberty, the elephant Thus the task of supporting the honour of the is a citizen, and the beaver an architect; but whentimes may at last devolve on indigence and effron-ever the tyrant man intrudes upon their communitery, while learning must partake of the contempt ty, their spirit is broken, they seem anxious only of its professors. for safety, and their intellects suffer an equal dimi
To illustrate these assertions, it may be proper nution with their prosperity. The parallel will hold to take a slight review of the decline of ancient with regard to mankind. Fear naturally represses learning; to consider how far its depravation was invention; benevolence, ambition: for in a nation owing to the impossibility of supporting continued of slaves, as in the despotic governments of the perfection; in what respects it proceeded from vol- East, to labour after fame is to be a candidate for untary corruption; and how far it was hastened on danger. by accident. If modern learning be compared with To attain literary excellence also, it is requisite ancient, in these different lights, a parallel between that the soil and climate should, as much as possiboth, which has hitherto produced only vain dis-ble, conduce to happiness. The earth must suppute, may contribute to amusement, perhaps to in-ply man with the necessaries of life, before he has struction. We shall thus be enabled to perceive leisure or inclination to pursue more refined enjoywhat period of antiquity the present age most re- ments. The climate also must be equally indulgent; sembles, whether we are making advances towards for in too warm a region the mind is relaxed into excellence, or retiring again to primeval obscurity; languor, and by the opposite excess is chilled into we shall thus be taught to acquiesce in those de- torpid inactivity. fects which it is impossible to prevent, and reject all faulty innovations, though offered under the specious titles of improvement.
These are the principal advantages which tend to the improvement of learning; and all these were united in the states of Greece and Rome.
We must now examine what hastens, or pre
Learning, when planted in any country, is transient and fading, nor does it flourish till slow gra-vents its decline. dations of improvement have naturalized it to the Those who behold the phenomena of nature, soil. It makes feeble advances, begins among the and content themselves with the view without invulgar, and rises into reputation among the great. quiring into their causes, are perhaps wiser than is It can not be established in a state at once, by intro- generally imagined. In this manner our rude anduring the learned of other countries; these may cestors were acquainted with facts; and poetry, grace a court, but seldom enlighten a kingdom. which helped the imagination and the memory, was Ptolemy Philadelphus, Constantine Porphyroge- thought the most proper vehicle for conveying their neta, Alfred, or Charlemagne, might have invited knowledge to posterity. It was the poet who harkarned foreigners into their dominions, but could monized the ungrateful accents of his native dianot establish learning. While in the radiance of lect, who lifted it above common conversation, and royal favour, every art and science seemed to flour-shaped its rude combinations into order. From ish; but when that was withdrawn, they quickly him the orator formed a style: and though poetry felt the rigours of a strange climate, and with exo- first rose out of prose, in turn it gave birth to every tic constitutions perished by neglect.
prosaic excellence. Musical period, concise expression, and delicacy of sentiment, were all excellencies derived from the poet; in short, he not only preceded but formed the orator, philosopher, and historian.
As the arts and sciences are slow in coming to maturity, it is requisite, in order to their perfection, that the state should be permanent which gives them reception. There are numberless attempts without success, and experiments without conclu- When the observations of past ages were colsion, between the first rudiments of an art, and its lected, philosophy next began to examine their utmost perfection; between the outlines of a sha- causes. She had numberless facts from which to dow, and the picture of an Apelles. Leisure is re- draw proper inferences, and poetry had taught her quired to go through the tedious interval, to join the strongest expression to enforce them. Thus the experience of predecessors to our own, or en- the Greek philosophers, for instance, exerted all large our views, by building on the ruined attempts their happy talents in the investigation of truth,
and the production of beauty. They saw, that ly give us still fainter resemblances of original beauthere was more excellence in captivating the judg- ty. It might still suggest, that explained wit makes ment, than in raising a momentary astonishment. but a feeble impression; that the observations of In their arts they imitated only such parts of nature as might please in the representation; in the sciences, they cultivated such parts of knowledge as it was every man's duty to know. Thus learning was encouraged, protected, and honoured; and in its turn it adorned, strengthened, and harmonized the community.
But as the mind is vigorous and active, and experiment is dilatory and painful, the spirit of philosophy being excited, the reasoner, when destitute of experiment, had recourse to theory, and gave up what was useful for refinement.
others are soon forgotten, those made by ourselves are permanent and useful. But it seems, understandings of every size were to be mechanically instructed in poetry. If the reader was too dull to relish the beauties of Virgil, the comment of Servius was ready to brighten his imagination; if Terence could not raise him to a smile, Evantius was at hand, with a long-winded scholium to increase his titilation. Such rules are calculated to make block heads talk, but all the lemmata of the Lyceum are unable to give him feeling.
But it would be endless to recount all the abCritics, sophists, grammarians, rhetoricians, and surdities which were hatched in the schools of commentators, now began to figure in the literary those specious idlers; be it sufficient to say, that commonwealth. In the dawn of science such are they increased as learning improved, but swarmed generally modest, and not entirely useless. Their on its decline. It was then that every work of performances serve to mark the progress of learn- taste was buried in long comments, every useful ing, though they seldom contribute to its improve-subject in morals was distinguished away into casument. But as nothing but speculation was required istry, and doubt and subtlety characterized the learnin making proficients in their respective depart- ing of the age. Metrodorus, Valerius Probus, ments, so neither the satire nor the contempt of the Aulus Gellius, Pedianus, Boethius, and a hundred wise, though Socrates was of the number, nor the others, to be acquainted with whom might show laws levelled at them by the state, though Cato much reading, and but little judgment; these, I was in the legislature, could prevent their ap- say, made choice each of an author, and delivered proaches.* Possessed of all the advantages of un- all their load of learning on his back. Shame to feeling dulness, laborious, insensible, and persever- our ancestors! many of their works have reached ing, they still proceed mending and mending every our times entire, while Tacitus himself has sufferwork of genius, or, to speak without irony, under-ed mutilation.
mining all that was polite and useful. Libraries In a word, the commonwealth of literature was were loaded, but not enriched with their labours, at last wholly overrun by these studious triflers. while the fatigue of reading their explanatory com- Men of real genius were lost in the multitude, or, ments was tenfold that which might suffice for un- as in a world of fools it were folly to aim at being derstanding the original, and their works effectual- an only exception, obliged to conform to every prely increased our application, by professing to re-vailing absurdity of the times. Original producmove it. tions seldom appeared, and learning, as if grown Against so obstinate and irrefragable an enemy, superannuated, bestowed all its panegyric upon what could avail the unsupported sallies of genius, the vigour of its youth, and turned encomiast upon or the opposition of transitory resentment? In its former achievements. short, they conquered by persevering, claimed the It is to these, then, that the depravation of anright of dictating upon every work of taste, sentiment, or genius, and at last, when destitute of employment, like the supernumerary domestics of the great, made work for each other.
cient polite learning is principally to be ascribed. By them it was separated from common sense, and made the proper employment of speculative idlers. Men bred up among books, and seeing nature only They now took upon them to teach poetry to by reflection, could do little, except hunt after perthose who wanted genius: and the power of dis- plexity and confusion. The public, therefore, with puting, to those who knew nothing of the subject reason, rejected learning, when thus rendered barin debate. It was observed how some of the most ren, though voluminous; for we may be assured, admired poets had copied nature. From these they that the generality of mankind never lose a passion collected dry rules, dignified with long names, and for letters, while they continue to be either amus. such were obtruded upon the public for their im- ing or useful. provement. Common sense would be apt to sug- It was such writers as these, that rendered learngest, that the art might be studied more to advan- ing unfit for uniting and strengthening civil societage, rather by imitation than precept. It might ty, or for promoting the views of ambition. True suggest, that those rules were collected, not from philosophy had kept the Grecian states cemented nature, but a copy of nature, and would consequent- into one effective body, more than any law for that purpose; and the Etrurian philosophy, which pre
• Vide Sueton. Hist. Gram.