« PreviousContinue »
ceeded, and how much experience has found to be within the reach of diligence. Idlenefs and timidity often defpair without being overcome, and forbear attempts for fear of being defeated; and we may promote the invigoration of faint endeavours, by fhewing what has been already performed. It may fometimes happen that the greatest efforts of ingenuity have been exerted in trifles; yet the fame principles and expedients may be applied to more valuable purposes, and the movements, which put into action machines of no ufe but to raise the wonder of ignorance, may be employed to drain fens, or manufacture metals, to affift the architect, or preferve the failor.
For the utenfils, arms, or dreffes of foreign nations, which make the greatest part of many collections, I have little regard, when they are valued only because they are foreign, and can fuggeft no improvement of our own practice. Yet they are not all equally useless, nor can it be always fafely determined which should be rejected or retained: for they may fometimes unexpectedly contribute to the illustration of history, and to the knowledge of the natural commodities of the country, or of the genius and customs of its inhabitants.
Rarities there are of yet a lower rank, which owe their worth merely to accident, and which can convey no information, nor fatisfy any rational defire. Such are many fragments of antiquity, as urns and pieces of pavement; and things held in veneration only for having been once the property of fome eminent perfon, as the armour of King Henry; or for having been used on fome remarkable occafion, as
The lofs or preservation
the lantern of Guy Faux. of these feems to be a thing indifferent, nor can I perceive why the poffeffion of them fhould be coveted. Yet, perhaps, even this curiofity is implanted
nature; and, when I find Tully confeffing of himfelf, that he could not forbear at Athens to vifit the walks and houses which the old philofophers had frequented or inhabited, and recollect the reverence which every nation, civil and barbarous, has paid to the ground where merit has been buried*, I am afraid to declare against the general voice of mankind, and am inclined to believe, that this regard, which we involuntarily pay to the meaneft relique of a man great and illustrious, is intended as an incitement to labour, and an encouragement to expect the fame renown, if it be fought by the fame virtues.
The virtuofo therefore cannot be faid to be wholly ufelefs; but perhaps he may be fometimes culpable for confining himself to bufinefs below his genius, and lofing, in petty fpeculations, thofe hours by which, if he had spent them in nobler ftudies, he might have given new light to the intellectual world. It is never without grief that I find a man capable of ratiocination or invention enlifting himself in this fecondary clafs of learning; for when he has once discovered a method of gratifying his defire of eminence by expence rather than by labour, and known the sweets of a life bleft at once with the ease of idleness, and the reputation of knowledge, he will
See this fentiment illuftrated by a moft fplendid paffage in Dr. Johnfon's "Journey to the Weftern Islands," Vol. VIII. P. 395-6.
not easily be brought to undergo again the toil of thinking, or leave his toys and trinkets for arguments and principles; arguments which require circumfpection and vigilance, and principles which cannot be obtained but by the drudgery of meditation. He will gladly fhut himself up for ever with his fhells and metals, like the companions of Ulyffes, who, having tafted the fruit of Lotos, would not, even by the hope of seeing their own country, be tempted again to the dangers of the fea.
Αλλ' αύτε βάλοντο μετ' άνδρασι Λωτοφάγοισι,
Infatiate riots in the sweet repasts;
Nor other home nor other care intends,
But quits his house, his country, and his friends. POPE.
Collections of this kind are of ufe to the learned, as heaps of ftones and piles of timber are neceffary to the architect. But to dig the quarry or to search the field, requires not much of any quality beyond ftubborn perfeverance; and though genius muft often lie unactive without this humble affiftance, yet this can claim little praise, because every man can afford it.
To mean understandings, it is fufficient honour to be numbered amongst the loweft labourers of learning; but different abilities muft find different tafks. To hew ftone, would have been unworthy of Palladio; and to have rambled in fearch of fhells and flowers, had but ill-fuited with the capacity of Newton.
NUMB. 84. SATURDAY, January 5, 1751.
Cunarum fueras motor, CHARIDEME, mearum,
Et pueri cuflos, affiduufque comes.
Fam mihi nigrefcunt tonfa fudaria barba,
Te difpenfator, te domus ipfa pavet.
Corripis, obfervas, quereris, fufpiria ducis,
Et vix a ferulis abflinet ira manum.
γου You feem in all your papers to be an enemy to tyranny, and to look with impartiality upon the world; I fhall therefore lay my cafe before you, and hope by your decifion to be set free from unreafonable restraints, and enabled to juftify myself against the accufations which spite and peevishness produce against me.
At the age of five years I loft my mother, and my father, being not qualified to fuperintend the education of a girl, committed me to the care of his fifter, who inftructed me with the authority, and, not to
deny her what she may juftly claim, with the affection of a parent. She had not very elevated fentiments or extenfive views, but her principles were good, and her intentions pure; and, though fome may practise more virtues, fcarce any commit fewer faults.
Under this good lady, I learned all the common rules of decent behaviour, and standing maxims of domestick prudence; and might have grown up by degrees to a country gentlewoman, without any thoughts of ranging beyond the neighbourhood, had not Flavia come down, last summer, to vifit her relations in the next village. I was taken, of course, to compliment the ftranger, and was, at the first fight, furprised at the unconcern with which the faw herself gazed at by the company whom she had never known before; at the careleffness with which fhe received compliments, and the readiness with which fhe returned them. I found fhe had fome. thing which I perceived myself to want, and could not but wish to be like her, at once eafy and officious, attentive and unembarrassed. I went home, and for four days could think and talk of nothing but mifs Flavia; though my aunt told me, that she was a forward flut, and thought herself wife before her time.
In a little time fhe repaid my vifit, and raised in my heart a new confufion of love and admiration. I foon faw her again, and still found new charms in her air, converfation, and behaviour. You, who have perhaps feen the world, may have obferved, that formality foon ceases between young perfons. know not how others are affected on fuch occafions,