صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

even whilst he was living: It was usual also to ornament the prefs, where any confiderable author's works were contained, with his figure in brafs or plaifter of a small fize.

There is one more circumftance attending these public libraries, which ought not to be omitted, as it marks the liberal spirit of their inftitution: It was ufual to appropriate an adjoining building for the ufe and accommodation. of students, where every thing was furnished at the emperor's coft; they were lodged, dieted and attended by fervants fpecially appointed, and supplied with every thing, under the eye of the chief librarian, that could be wanting, whilft they were engaged in their ftudies and had occafion to confult the books: This establishment was kept up in a very princely ftile at Alexandria in particular, where a college was endowed and a special fund appointed for its fupport, with a prefident, and proper officers under him, for the entertainment of learned ftrangers, who reforted thither from various parts to confult thofe invaluable collections, which that famous library contained in all branches of science.

[blocks in formation]


PEOPLE have a cuftom of excufing the

enormities of their conduct by talking of their paffions, as if they were under the controul of a blind neceffity, and finned because they could not help it. Before any man resorts to this kind of excufe it behoves him to examine the juftice of it, and to be sure that the fe paffions, which he thus attempts to palliate, are ftrictly natural, and do not spring either from the neglect of education or the crime of felfindulgence.

Of our infancy, properly fo called, we either remember nothing, or few things faintly and imperfectly; fome paffions however make their appearance in this ftage of human life, and appear to be born with us, others are born after us; fome follow us to the grave, others forfake us in the decline of age.

The life of man is to be reviewed under three periods, infancy, youth, and manhood; the first includes that portion of time before reafon fhews itfelf; in the second it appears indeed, but being incompetent to the proper government of the creature, requires the aid,


fupport and correction of education; in the third it attains to its maturity.

Now as a perfon's responsibility bears respect to his reason, so do human punishments bear respect to his refponfibility: Infants and boys are chaftifed by the hand of the parent or the mafter; rational adults are amenable to the laws, and what is termed mischief in the first cafe becomes a crime in the other. It will not avail the man to plead lofs of reason by temporary intoxication, nor can he excuse himfelf by the plea of any fudden impulfe of paffion. If a prifoner tells his judge that it is his nature to be cruel, that anger, luft or malice are inherent in his conftitution, no human tribunal will admit the defence; yet thus it is that all people deal with God and the world, when they attempt to palliate their enormities, by pleading the uncontroulable propenfity of their natural defires, as if the Creator had fet up a tyrant in their hearts, which they were neceffitated to obey.

This miferable fubterfuge is no less abject than impious; for what can be more degrading to a being, whose inherent attribute is free-. agency and whose distinguishing faculty is reafon, than to fhelter himself from the dread of responsibility under the humiliating apology of

[blocks in formation]

mental flavery? It is as if he should say-Excufe the irregularities of my conduct, for I am a brute and not a man; I follow instinct and renounce all claim to reafon; my actions govern me, not I my actions;—and yet the people, to whom I allude, generally fet up this plea in excufe for thofe paffions in particular, which have their origin in that ftage of life, when the human mind is in the ufe and poffeffion of reafon; an impofition fo glaring that it convicts itself; notwithstanding this it is too often seen, that whilst the fenfualift is avowing the irresistible. violence of his propensities, vanity fhall receive it not only as an atonement for the bafeft attempts, but as an expected tribute to the tempting charms of beauty; nay such is the perverfion of principle in fome men, that it shall pafs with them as a recommendation even of that fex, the purity of whofe minds fhould be. their fovereign grace and ornament.

The paffion of fear feems coæval with our nature; if they, who have our infancy in charge, fuffer this paffion to fix and increase upon us; if they augment our infant fears by invented. terrors, and prefent to our fight frightful objects to fcare us; if they practife on our natural and defenceless timidity by blows and menaces, and crufh us into abfolute fubjection of spirit

in our early years, a human creature thus abused has enough to plead in excufe for cowardice; and yet this, which is the strongest defence we can make upon the impulfe of paffion, is perhaps the only one we never refort to: In most other paffions we call that conftitution, which is only habit.

When we reflect upon the variety of paffions, to which the human mind is liable, it fhould seem as if reason, which is exprefsly implanted in us for their correction and controul, was greatly overmatched by such a host of turbulent infurgents; but upon a clofer examination we may find that reafon has many aids and allies, and though her antagonists are alfo many and. mighty, yet that they are divided and distracted, whilft fhe can in all cafes turn one paffion against another, fo as to counterbalance any. power by its oppofite, and make evil inftruments in her hands conducive to moral ends.: Avarice for inftance will act as a counterpoile to luft, and intemperance, whilft vanity on the other hand will check avarice; fear will keep a bad man honeft, and pride will fometimes make a coward brave,


Obferve the manners of Palpatius in company with his patron; affiduous, humble, obliging; for ever fmiling, and fo fupple and obfe


« السابقةمتابعة »