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66 man may be certain, who stood trembling at Aftracc can, before a being not naturally fuperior to him"felf. That they will not fupply unexhausted plea"fure, the recollection of forfaken palaces, and "neglected gardens, will eafily inform thee. That they rarely purchase friends, thou didst foon dife cover, when thou wert left to ftand thy trial un"countenanced and alone. Yet think not riches "useless; there are purposes to which a wife man may be delighted to apply them; they may, by a "rational diftribution to those who want them, ease "the pains of helpless disease, still the throbs of rest"less anxiety, relieve innocence from oppression, and "raise imbecility to cheerfulness and vigour. This "they will enable thee to perform, and this will "afford the only happiness ordained for our present "ftate, e confidence of divine favour, and the "hop future rewards."
NUMB. 121. TUESDAY, May 14, 1751.
O imitatores, fervum pécus!
I HAVE been informed by a letter from one of the universities, that among the youth from whom the next fwarm of reafoners is to learn philofophy, and the next flight of beauties to hear elegies and fonnets, there are many, who, instead of endeavouring by books and meditation to form their own opinions, content themselves with the fecondary knowledge, which a convenient bench in a coffee. house can supply; and, without any examination or distinction, adopt the criticifms and remarks, which happen to drop from those who have risen, by merit or fortune, to reputation and authority.
These humble retailers of knowledge my corre fpondent ftigmatizes with the name of Echoes; and feems defirous that they should be made afhamed of lazy fubmiffion, and animated to attempts after new discoveries, and original sentiments.
It is very natural for young men to be vehement, acrimonious, and fevere. For, as they seldom comprehend at once all the confequences of a pofition, or perceive the difficulties by which cooler and more experienced reafoners are reftrained from confidence, they form their conclufions with great precipitance. Seeing nothing that can darken or embarrass the question, they expect to find their own opinion univerfally
verfally prevalent, and are inclined to impute uncertainty and hesitation to want of honesty, rather than of knowledge. I may, perhaps, therefore, be reproached by my lively correfpondent, when it shall be found, that I have no inclination to perfecute thefe collectors of fortuitous knowledge with the feverity required; yet, as I am now too old to be much pained by hafty cenfure, I fhall not be afraid of taking into protection those whom I think condemned without a fufficient knowledge of their cause.
He that adopts the fentiments of another, whom he has reason to believe wifer than himself, is only to be blamed when he claims the honours which are not due but to the author, and endeavours to deceive the world into praife and veneration; for, to learn, is the proper business of youth; and whether we increase our knowledge by books or by converfation, we are equally indebted to foreign affift.
The greater part of ftudents are not born with abilities to conftruct fyftems, or advance knowledge; nor can have any hope beyond that of becoming intelligent hearers in the fchools of art, of being able to comprehend what others difcover, and to remember what others teach. Even thofe to whom Providence hath allotted greater strength of understanding, can expect only to improve a single science. In every other part of learning, they must be con tent to follow opinions, which they are not able to examine; and, even in that which they claim as peculiarly their own, can seldom add more than fome fmall particle of knowledge to the hereditary stock VOL. V.
devolved to them from ancient times, the collective labour of a thousand intellects.
In science, which, being fixed and limited, admits of no other variety than fuch as arifes from new methods of distribution, or new arts of illustration, the neceffity of following the traces of our predeceffors is indifputably evident; but there appears no reason why imagination fhould be fubject to the fame restraint. It might be conceived, that of those who profefs to forfake the narrow paths of truth, every one may deviate towards a different point, fince, though rectitude is uniform and fixed, obliquity may be infinitely diverfified. The roads of science are narrow, fo that they who travel them, muft either follow or meet one another; but in the boundless regions of poffibility, which fiction claims for her dominion, there are furely a thousand receffes unexplored, a thousand flowers unplucked, a thousand fountains unexhausted, combinations of imagery yet unobferved, and races of ideal inhabitants not hitherto defcribed.
Yet, whatever hope may perfuade, or reason evince, experience can boast of very few additions to ancient fable. The wars of Troy, and the travels of Ulyffes, have furnished almost all fucceeding poets with incidents, characters, and fentiments. The Romans are confeffed to have attempted little more than to display in their own tongue the inven tions of the Greeks. There is, in all their writings, fuch a perpetual recurrence of allufions to the tales of the fabulous age, that they must be confeffed often to want that power of giving pleasure which
novelty fupplies; nor can we wonder that they excelled fo much in the graces of diction, when we confider how rarely they were employed in fearch of new thoughts.
The warmest admirers of the great Mantuan poet can extol him for little more than the fkill with which he has, by making his hero both a traveller and a warrior, united the beauties of the Iliad and the Odyssey in one compofition: yet his judgment was perhaps fometimes overborne by his avarice of the Homeric treasures; and, for fear of fuffering a fparkling ornament to be loft, he has inferted it where it cannot shine with its original splendour.
When Ulyffes vifited the infernal regions, he found among the heroes that perifhed at Troy, his competitor, Ajax, who, when the arms of Achilles were adjudged to Ulyffes, died by his own hand in the madness of disappointment. He ftill appeared to refent, as on earth, his lofs and difgrace. Ulyffes endeavoured to pacify him with praises and fubmiffion; but Ajax walked away without reply. This paffage has always been confidered as eminently beautiful; because Ajax, the haughty chief, the unlettered foldier, of unfhaken courage, of immoveable conftancy, but without the power of recommending his own virtues by eloquence, or enforcing his affertions by any other argument than the fword, had no way of making his anger known, but by gloomy fullennefs and dumb ferocity. His hatred of a man whom he conceived to have defeated him only by volubility of tongue, was therefore naturally fhewn by filence, more contemptuous and piercing than any words that fo rude an orator could have Y 2