« PreviousContinue »
every truth, is certainly erroneous. As I said be. Custom, or the traditional observance of the practice fore, the good preacher should adopt no model, of their forefathers, was what directed the Ronians write no sermons, study no periods; let him but as well in their public as private determinations. understand his subject, the language he speaks, Custom was appealed to in pronouncing sentence and be convinced of the truth he delivers. It is against a criminal, where part of the formulary was amazing to what heights eloquence of this kind more majorum. So Sallust, speaking of the expulmay reach! This is that eloquence the ancients re-sion of Tarquin, says, mutato more, and not lege prosented as lightning, bearing down every op. mulato; and Virgil, pacisque imponere morem. So poser; this the power which has turned whole as- that, in those times of the empire in which the semblies into astonislıment, admiration, and awe; people retained their liberty, they were governed by that is described by the torrent, the flame, and custom; when they sunk into oppression and tyevery other instance of irresistible impetuosity. ranny, they were restrained by new laws, and the
But to attempt such noble heights belongs only laws of tradition abolished. to the truly great, or the truly good. To discard As getting the ancients on our side is half a victhe lazy manner of reading sermons, or speaking tory, it will not be amiss to fortify the argument sermons by rute; to set up singly against the op- with an observation of Chrysostom's; "That the position of men who are attached to their own er- enslaved are the fittest to be governed by laws, rors, and to endeavour to be great, instead of being and free men by custom.” Custom partakes of the prudent, are qualities we seldom see united. A nature of parental injunction; it is kept by the minister of the Church of England, who may be people themselves, and observed with a willing possessed of good sense, and some hopes of prefer- obedience. The observance of it must therefore ment, will seldom give up such substantial advan- be a mark of freedom; and, coming originally to tages for the empty pleasure of improving society. a state from the reverenced founders of its liberty, By his present method, he is liked by his friends, will be an encouragement and assistance to it in admired by his dependants, not displeasing to his the defence of that blessing: but a conquered peobishop; he lives as well, eats and sleeps as well, as ple, a nation of slaves, must pretend to none of this if a real orator, and an eager assertor of his mis- freedom, or these happy distinctions; having by sion : he will hardly, therefore, venture all this to degeneracy lost all right to their brave forefathers' be called perhaps an enthusiast ; nor will he de- free institutions, their masters will in a policy take part from customs established by the brotherhood, the forfeiture; and the fixing a conquest must be when, by such a conduct, he only singles himself|done by giving laws, which may every moment out for their contempt.
serve to remind the people enslaved of their conquerors; nothing being more dangerous than to
trust a late subdued people with old customs, that CUSTOM AND LAWS COMPARED. presently upbraid their degeneracy, and provoko
them to revolt. What, say some, can give us a more contempti- The wisdom of the Roman republic in their ble idea of a large state than to find it mostly gov- veneration for custom, and backwardness to introerned by custom; to have few written laws, and no duce a new law, was perhaps the cause of their boundaries to mark the jurisdiction between the long continuance, and of the virtues of which they senate and the people? Among the number who have set the world so many examples. But to show speak in this manner is the great Montesquieu, in what that wisdom consists, it may be proper to who asserts that every nation is free in proportion observe, that the benefit of new written laws is to the number of its written laws, and seems to merely confined to the consequences of their obser hint at a despotic and arbitrary conduct in the pre- vance; but customary laws, keeping up a venera sent king of Prussia, who has abridged the laws tion for the founders, engage men in the imitation of his country into a very short compass. of their virtues as well as policy. To this may be
As Tacitus and Montesquieu happen to differ ascribed the religious regard the Romans paid to in sentiment upon a subject of so much importance their forefathers' memory, and their adhering for (for the Roman expressly asserts that the state is so many ages to the practice of the same virtues, generally vicious in proportion to the number of its which nothing contributed more to efface than the laws,) it will not be anriss to examine it a little introduction of a voluminous body of new laws over more minutely, and see whether a state which, like the neck of venerable custom. England, is burdened with a multiplicity of written The simplicity, conciseness, and antiquity of laws; or which, like Switzerland, Geneva, and custom, give an air of majesty and immutability some other republics, is governed by custom and that inspires awe and veneration ; but new laws the determination of the judge, is best.
are too apt to be voluminous, perplexed, and indeAnd to prove the superiority of custom to writ- terininate, whence must necessarily arise neglect ten law, we shall at least find history conspiring. contempt, and ignorance.
As every human institution is subject to gross by the prodigious numbers of mechanics who flock imperfections, so laws must necessarily be liable to to the races, gaming-tables, brothels, and all pub the same inconveniencies, and their defects soon lic diversions this fashionable town affords. discovered. Thus, through the weakness of one You shall see a grocer, or a tallow-chandler part, all the rest are liable to be bright into con- sneak from behind the counter, clap on a laced teinpt But such weaknesses in a custom, for coat and a bag, fly to the E O table, throw away very obvious reasons, evade an examination ; be- fifty pieces with some sharping man of quality sides, a friendly prejudice always stands up in their while his industrious wife is selling a pennyworth favour.
of sugar, or a pound of candles, to support her But let us suppose a new law to be perfectly fashionable spouse in his extravagances. equitable and necessary; yet if the procurers of it I was led into this reflection by an old advenhave betrayed a conduct that confesses by-ends and ture which happened to me the other day at Epsom private motives, the disgust to the circumstances races, whither I went, not through any desire, I do disposes us, unreasonably indeed, to an irreverence assure you, of laying bets or winning thousands, of the law itself; but we are indulgently blind to but at the earnest request of a friend, who had the most visible imperfections of an old custom. long indulged the curiosity of seeing the sport, Though we perceive the defects ourselves, yet we very natural for an Englishman. When we had remain persuaded, that our wise forefathers had arrived at the course, and had taken several turns good reason for what they did; and though such to observe the different objects that made up this motives no longer continue, the benefit will still go whimsical group, a figure suddenly darted by us, along with the observance, though we do not know mounted and dressed in all the elegance of those how. It is thus the Roman lawyers speak : Non polite gentry who come to show you they have a omnium, que a majoribus constituta sunt, ralio little money, and, rather than pay their just debts reddi protest, el ideo rationes corum que constitu- at home, generously come abroad to bestow it on untur inquiri non oportet, alioquin multa ex his gamblers and pickpockets. As I had not an opquæ certa sunt subvertuntur.
portunity of viewing his face till his return, 1 Those laws which preserve to themselves the gently walked after him, and met him as he came greatest love and observance, must needs be best ; back, when, to my no small surprise, I beheld in but custom, as it executes itself
, must be necessari- this gay Narcissus the visage of Jack Varnish, a ly superior to written laws in this respect, which humble vender of prints. Disgusted at the sight, are to be executed by another. Thus, nothing can I pulled my friend by the sleeve, pressed him to be more certain, than that numerous written laws return home, telling him all the way, that I was so are a sign of a degenerate community, and are fre- enraged at the fellow's impudence that I was requently not the consequences of vicious morals in a solved never to lay out another penny with him. state, but the causes.
And now, pray sir, let me beg of you to give Hence we see how much greater benefit it would this a place in your paper, that Mr. Varnish may be to the state, rather to abridge than increase its understand he mistakes the thing quite, if he imalaws. We every day find them increasing acts and gines horse-racing recommendable in a tradesman; reports, which may be termed the acts of judges, are and that he who is revelling every night in the every day becoming more voluminous, and loading arms of a common strumpet (though blessed with the subject with new penalties.
an indulgent wife), when he ought to be minding Laws ever increase in number and severity, un- his business, will never thrive in this world. He til they at length are strained so tight as to break will find himself soon mistaken, his finances de themseives. Such was the case of the latter em- crease, his friends shun him, customers fall off, and pire, whose laws were at length become so strict, himself thrown into a gaol. I would earnestly that the barbarous invaders did not bring servitude recommend this adage to every mechanic in Lonbut liberty
don, “Keep your shop, and your shop will keep you.” A strict observance of these words will, I
am sure, in time gain them estates. Industry is OF THE PRIDE AND LUXURY OF THE the road to wealth, and honesty to happiness; and MIDDLING CLASS OF PEOPLE.
he who strenuously endeavours to pursue them
both, may never fear the critic's lash, or the sharp Of all the follies anıl absurdities under which cries of penury and want. this great metropolis labours, there is not one, I believe, that at present appears in a more glaring and ridiculous light, than the pride and luxury of SABINUS AND OLINDA. the middling class of people. Their eager desire of being seen in a sphere far above their capacities In a fair, rich, and flourishing country, whose and circumstances, is daily, nay hourly instanced, cliffs are washed by the German Ocean, livedł Sa
jinus, a youth formed by nature to make a con- Olinda to comfort himn in his miseries. In this quest wherever he thought proper ; but the con- mansion of distress they lived together with resigstancy of his disposition fixed him only with nation, and even with comfort. She provided the Olinda. He was indeed superior to her in fortune, frugal meal, and he read to her while employed in but that defect on her side was so amply supplied by the little offices of domestic concern. Their fellowher merit, that none was thought more worthy of prisoners admired their contentment, and whenbis regards than she. He loved her, he was be- ever they had a desire of relaxing into mirth, and loved by her; and in a short time, by joining enjoying those little comforts that a prison affords, bands publicly, they avowed the union of their Sabinus and Olinda were sure to be of the party. hearts. But, alas! none, however fortunate, how- Instead of reproaching each other for their mutual ever happy, are exempt from the shafts of envy, wretchedness, they both lightened it, by bearing and the malignant effects of ungoverned appetite. each a share of the load imposed by Providence. How unsafe, how detestable are they who have Whenever Sabinus showed the least concern on this fury for their guide! How certainly will it his dear partner's account, she conjured him, by lead them from themselves, and plunge them in the love he bore her, by those tender ties which now errors they would have shuddered at, even in ap- united them forever, not to discompose himself; prehension! Ariana, a lady of many amiable that so long as his affection lasted, she defied all qualities, very nearly allied to Sabinus, and highly the ills of fortune and every loss of fame or friendesteemed by him, imagined herself slighted, and ship; that nothing could make her miserable but injuriously treated, since his marriage with Olinda. his seeming to want happiness ; nothing please By incautiously suffering this jealousy to corrode but his sympathizing with her pleasure. A conin her breast, she began to give a loose to passion; tinuance in prison soon robbed them of the little she forgot those many virtues for which she had they had left, and famine began to make its horrid been so long and so justly applauded. Causeless appearance; yet still was neither found to mursuspicion and mistaken resentment betrayed her mur: they both looked upon their little boy, who, into all the gloom of discontent; she sighed with- insensible of their or his own distress, was playout ceasing; the happiness of others gave her in- ing about the room, with inexpressible yet silent tolerable pain; she thought of nothing but re- anguish, when a messenger came to inform them renge. How unlike what she was, the cheerful, that Ariana was deal, and that her will in favour the prudent, the compassionate Ariana !
of a very distant relation, who was now in another She continually laboured to disturb a union so country, might easily be procured and burnt; in firmly, so affectionately founded, and planned which case all her large fortune would revert to every scheme which she thought most likely to him, as being the next heir at law. disturb it.
A proposal of so base a nature filled our unFortune seemed willing to promote her unjust happy couple with horror; they ordered the mesintentions; the circumstances of Sabinus had been senger immediately out of the room, and falling long embarrassed by a tedious law-suit
, and the upon each other's neck, indulged an agony of sorcourt determining the cause unexpectedly in favour row, for now even all hopes of relief were banished. of his opponent, it sunk his fortune to the lowest The messenger who made the proposal
, however, pitch of penury from the highest affluence. From was only a spy sent by Ariana to sound the dispa the nearness of relationship, Sabinus expected sitions of a man she at once loved and persecuted. from Ariana those assistances his present situation This lady, though warpeel by wrong passions, was required; but she was insensible to all his en-naturally kind, judicious, and friendly. She found treaties and the justice of every remonstrance, un- that all her attempts to shake the constancy or the less be first separated from Olinda, whom she re-integrity of Sabinus were ineffectual; she had garded with detestation. Upon a compliance with therefore begun to reflect, and to wonder how she her desire in this respect, she promised that her could so long and so unprovokedly injure such unfortune, her interest, and her all, should be at his common fortitude and affection. command. Sabinus was shocked at the proposal; She had from the next room herself heard the he loved his wife with inexpressible tenderness, reception given to the messenger, and could not and refused those offers with indignation which avoid feeling all the force of superior virtue ; she were to be purchased at so high a price. Ariana therefore reassumed her former goodness of heart; was no less displeased to find her offers rejected, she came into the room with tears in her eyes, and and gave a loose to all that warmth which she had acknowledged the severity of her former treatment. long endeavoured to suppress. Reproach generally She bestowed her first care in providing them all produces recrimination ; the quarrel rose to such the necessary supplies, and acknowledged them as a height, that Sabinus was marked for destruction, the most deserving heirs of her fortune. From and the very next day, upon the strength of an this moment Sabinus enjoyed an uninterrupted okul family debt, he was sent to gaol, with none but happiness with Olinda, and both were happy iw
the friendship and assistance of Ariana, who, dy- and that in their hearts they rather envy than con-
qualities; and probably, whenever he contradicts
the tempers of the people whom he addresses, THE SENTIMENTS OF A FRENCH. He asserts, that gaiety is one great obstacle to the
MAN ON THE TEMPER OF THE prudent conduct of women. But are those of a
melancholic temper, as the English women gene
rally are, less subject to the foibles of love ? I am Nothing is so uncommon among the English acquainted with some doctors in this science, to as that easy affability, that instant method of ac- whose judgment I would more willingly refer than quaintance, or that cheerfulness of disposition, to his. And perhaps, in reality, persons naturally which make in France the charm of every socie- of a gay temper are too easily taken off by differty. Yet in this gloomy reserve they seem to pride ent objects, to give themselves up to all the ex. themselves, and think themselves less happy if cesses of this passion. obliged to be more social. One may assert, with- Mr. Hobbes, a celebrated philosopher of his naout wronging them, that they do not study the tion, maintains that laughing proceeds from our inethod of going through life with pleasure and pride alone. This is only a paradox if asserted of tranquillity like the French. Might not this be a laughing in general, and only argues that misan. proof that they are not so much philosophers as thropical disposition for which he was remarkable. they imagine ? Philosophy is no more than the To bring the causes he assigns for laughing unart of making ourselves happy : that is in seeking der suspicion, it is sufficinnt to remark, that proud pleasure in regularity, and reconciling what we people are commonly those who laugh least. owe to suciety with what is due to ourselves. Gravity is the inseparable companion of pride. To
This cheerfulness, which is the characteristic of say that a man is vain, because the humour of a our nation, in the eye of an Englishman passes al. writer, or the buffooneries of a harlequin, excite his most for folly. But is their gloominess a greater laughter, would be advancing a great absurdity. mark of their wisdom ? and, folly against folly, is We should Jistinguish between laughter inspired not the most cheerful sort the best? If our gaiety by joy, and that which arises from mockery. The makes them sad, they ought not to find it strange malicious sneer is improperly called laughter. It if their seriousness makes us laugh.
must be owned, that pride is the parent of such As this disposition to levity is not familiar to laughter as this : but this is in itself vicious; them, and as they look on every thing as a fault whereas the other sort has nothing in its princiwhich they do not find at home, the English who ples or effects that deserves condemnation. We live among us are hurt by it. Several of their au- find this amiable in others, and is it unhappiness thors reproach us with it as a vice, or at least as a to feel a disposition towards it in ourselves ? ridicule.
When I see an Englishman laugh, I fancy I Mr. Addison styles us a comic nation. In my rather see him hunting after joy than having opinion, it is not acting the philosopher on this caught it : and this is more particularly remarkapoint, to regard as a fault that quality which con- ble in their women, whose tempers are inclined to tributes most to the pleasure of society and happi- melancholy. A laugh leaves no more traces on ness of life. Plato, convinced that whatever makes their countenance than a flash of lightning on the men happier makes them better, advises to neglect face of the heavens. The most laughing air is innothing that may excite and convert to an early stantly succeeded by the most gloomy. One habit this sense of joy in children. Seneca places would be apt to think that their souls open with it in the first rank of good things. Certain it is, difficulty to joy, or at least that joy is not pleased at least, that gaiety may be a concomitant of all with its habitation there. sorts of virtue, but that there are some vices with In regard to fine raillery, it must be allowed that which it is incompatible.
it is not natural to the English, and therefore those As to him who laughs at every thing, and him who endeavour at it make but an ill figure. Some who laughs at nothing, neither has sound judg- of their authors have candidly confessed, that ment. All the difference I find between them is, pleasantry is quite foreign to their character; but that the last is constantly the most unhappy. according to the reason they give, they lose nothing 'Those who speak against cheerfulness, prove no- by this confession. Bishop Sprat gives the fol. thing else but that they were born melancholic, llowing one; "The English,' says he, "have 100
much bravery to be derided, and too much virtue what people ate, and drank, and saw, was not what and honour to mock others.”
they ate, and drank, and saw, but something further, which they were fond of because they were
ignorant of it. In short, nothing was itself, but THE BEE, No. VIII.
something beyond itself; and by these artifices and
amusements the heads of the world were so turned
and intoxicated, that at last there was scarcely a SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 1759.
sound set of brains left in it.
In this state of giddiness and infatuation it was
no very hard task to persuade the already deluded, ON DECEIT AND FALSEHOOD. that there was an actual society and communion The following account is so judiciously conceived And when they had thus put people into the power
between human creatures and spiritual demons, that I am convinced the reader will be more and clutches of the devil, none but they alone could pleased with it than with any thing of mine, so have either skill or strength to bring the prisoners I shall make no apology for this new publication. back again.
But so far did they carry this dreadful drollery, TO THE AUTHOR OF THE BEE.
and so fond were they of it, that to maintain it and SIR,
themselves in profitable repute, they literally sacriDecert and falsehood have ever been an over- ficed for it, and made impious victims of number. match for truth, and followed and admired by the less uld women and other miserable persons, who majority of mankind. If we inquire after the rea- either, through ignorance, could not say what they son of this, we shall find it in our own imagina- were bid to say, or, through madness, said what tions, which are amused and entertained with the they should not have said. Fear and stupidity perpetual novelty and variety that fiction affords, made them incapable of defending themselves, and but find no manner of delight in the uniform sim. frenzy and infatuation made them confess guilty plicity of homely truth, which still sues them un- impossibilities, which proeluced cruel sentences, der the same appearance.
and then inhuman executions. He, therefore, that would gain our hearts, must Some of these wretched mortals, finding themmake his court to our fancy, which, being sovereign selves either hateful or terrible to all, and befriendcomptroller of the passions, lets them loose, and in- ed by none, and perhaps wanting the common neflames them more or less, in proportion to the force cessaries of life, came at last to abhor themselves as and efficacy of the first cause, which is ever the much as they were abhorred by others, and grew more powerful the more new it is. Thus in mathe- willing to be burnt or hanged out of a world which matical demonstrations themselves, though they was no other to them than a scene of persecution seem to aim at pure truth and instruction, and to and anguish. be addressed to our reason alone, yet I think it is Others of strong imaginations and little underpretty plan, that our understanding is only made standings were, by positive and repeated charges a drudge to gratify our invention and curiosity, and against them, of committing mischievous and suwe are pleased, not so much because our discoveries pernatural facts and villanies, deluded to judge of are certain, as because they are new.
themselves by the judgment of their enemies, whose I do not deny but the world is still pleased with weakness or malice prompted them to be accusers. things that pleased it many years ago, but it should And many have been condemned as witches and at the same time be considered, that man is na- dealers with the devil, for no other reason but their turally so much of a logician, as to distinguish be- knowing more than those who accused, tried, and tween matters that are plain and easy, and others passed sentence upon them. that are hard and inconceivable. What we un- In these cases, credulity is a much greater error derstand, we overlook and despise, and what we than infidelity, and it is safer to believe nothing know nothing of, we hug and delight in. Thus than too much. A man that believes little or no there are such things as perpetual novelties; for we thing of witchcraft will destroy nobody for being are pleased no longer than we are amazed, and no- under the imputation of it; and so far he certainly thing so much contents us as that which con- acts with humanity to others, and safety to himfounds us.
self: but he that credits all, or too much, upou This weakness in human nature gave occasion that article, is obliged, if he acts consistently with to a party of men to make such gainful markets as his persuasion, to kill all those whom he takes to they have done of our credulity. All objects and he the killers of mankind; and such are witches, facts whatever now ceased to be what they had been It would be a jest and a contradiction to say, tha for ever before, and received what make and mean- he is for sparing them who are harmless of that ing it was found convenient to put upon them: /tribe, since the received notion of their supposed