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We love, we own, to read the great productions of the human mind as they were written. We have this feeling even about scientific treatises, though we know that the sciences are always in a state of progression, and that the alterations made by a modern editor in an old book on any branch of natural or political philosophy are likely to be improvements. Some errors have been detected by writers of this generation in the speculations of Adam Smith. A short cut has been made to much knowledge at which Sir Isaac Newton arrived through arduous and circuitous paths. Yet we still look with peculiar veneration on the Wealth of Nations and on the Principia, and should regret to see either of these great works garbled even by the ablest hands. But in works which owe much of their interest to the character and situation of the writers, the case is infinitely stronger. What man of taste and feeling can endure rifacimenti, harmonies, abridgments, expurgated editions? Who ever reads a stage copy of a play when he can procure the original? Who ever cut open Mrs. Siddons's Milton? Who ever got through ten pages of Mr. Gilpin's translation of John Bunyan's Pilgrim into modern English? Who would lose, in the confusion of a Diatessaron, the peculiar charm which belongs to the narrative of the disciple whom Jesus loved? The feeling of a reader who has become intimate with any great original work is that which Adam expressed towards his bride:
"Should God create another Eve, and I
No substitute, however exquisitely formed, will fill the void left by the original. The second lieauty may be equal and superior to the first; but still it is not she.
Lord Macaulay: BorditlFs Life of Johnson, Sept., 1831.
No skilful reader of the plays of Shakspeare can endure to see what are called the best things taken out, under the name of " Beauties" or of "Elegant Extracts," or to hear any single passage, " To be or not to be," for example, quoted as a sample of the great poet. "To be or not to be" has merit undoubtedly as a composition. It would have merit if put into the mouth of a chorus. But its merit as a composition vanishes when compared with its merit as belonging to Hamlet. It is not too much to say that the great plays of Shakspeare would lose less by being deprived of all the passages which are commonly called the fine passages than those passages lose by being read separately from the play. This is perhaps the highest praise which can be given to a dramatist.
Lord Macaulay: Moore's Life of Byron, June, 1 S31.
Abstracts, abridgments, summaries, etc., have the same use with burning glasses—to collect the diffused rays of wit and learning in authors, and make them point with warmth and quickness upon the reader's imagination. Swift.
Absence, what the poets call death in love, has given occasion to beautiful complaints in those authors who have treated of this passion in verse. Addison.
I distinguish a man that is absent because he thinks of something else, from him that is absent because he thinks of nothing.
Absence destroys trifling intimacies, but it invigorates strong ones.
Rochefoucauld. v '3)
ABSURdITIES. —A CTIONS.
The greater absurdities are, the more strongly they evince the falsity of that supposition from whence they flow. Atterbury.
Absurdities are great or small in proportion to custom or insuetude. LAN dOR.
Actions are of so mixed a nature, that as men pry into them, or observe some parts more than others, they take different hints, and put contrary interpretations on them.
Outward actions can never give a just estimate of us, since there are many perfections of a man which are not capable of appearing in actions. Addison.
He was particularly pleased with Sallust for his entering into internal principles of action.
A superior capacity for business, and a more extensive knowledge, are steps by which a new man often mounts to favour and outshines the rest of his contemporaries. Addison.
There is no greater wisdom than well to time the beginnings and onsets of things.
When things are come to the execution, there is no secrecy comparable to celerity.
Natures that have much heat, and great and violent desires and perturbations, are not ripe for action till they have passed the meridian of their days. Lord Bacon.
In choice of instruments it is better to choose men of a plainer sort that are like to do that that is committed to them, and to report faithfully the success, than those that are cunning to contrive somewhat to grace themselves, and will help the matter in report.
Some men's behaviour is like a verse wherein every syllable is measured: how can a man comprehend great matters that breaketh his mind too much to small observations? Lord Bacon.
However, to act with any people with the least degree of comfort, I believe we must contrive a little to assimilate to their character. We must gravitate toward them, if we would keep in the same system, or expect that they should approach toward us. Burke:
Letter to Hon. C. J. Fox, Oct. 8, 1777.
The progressive sagacity that keeps company with times and occasions, and decides upon things in their existing position, is that alone which can give true propriety, grace, and effect to a man's conduct. It is very hard to antici
pate the occasion, and to live by a rule more general. Burke:
Letter to R. Shackleton, May 25, 1779. The only things in which we can be said to have any property are our actions. Our thoughts may be bad, yet produce no poison; they may be good, yet produce no fruit. Our riches may be taken from us by misfortune, our reputation by malice, our spirits by calamity, our health by disease, our friends by death. But our actions must follow us beyond the grave: with respect to them alone we cannot say that we shall carry nothing with us when we die, neither that we shall go naked out of the world. Our actions must clothe us with an immortality, loathsome or glorious: these are the only title-deeds of which we cannot be disinherited; they will have their full weight in the balance of eternity, when everything else is as nothing; and their value will be confirmed and established by those two sure and sateless destroyers of all other earthly things,—Time and Death.
When young we trust ourselves too much, and we trust others too little when old. Rashness is the error of youth, timid caution of age. Manhood is the isthmus between the two extremes: the ripe and fertile season of action, when alone we can hope to find the head to contrive united with the hand to execute.
No two things differ more than hurry and despatch. Hurry is the mark of a weak mind, despatch of a strong one.
COLTON: Lacon. Hurry and Cunning are the two apprentices of Despatch and of Skill, but neither of them ever learn their master's trade.
Colton: Lacon. The causes and designs of an action are the beginning; the effects of these causes, and the difficulties met with in the execution of these designs, are the middle; and the unravelling and resolution of these difficulties are the end.
The actions of men are oftener determined by their character than their interest: their conduct takes its colour more from their acquired tastes, inclinations, and habits, than from a deliberate regard to their greatest good. It is only on great occasions the mind awakes to take an extended survey of her whole course, and that she suffers the dictates of reason to impress a new bias upon her movements. The actions of each day are, for the most part, links which follow each other in the chain of custom. Hence the great effort of practical wisdom is to imbue the mind with right tastes, affections, and habits; the elements of character and masters of action. Robert Hall: Modern Infidelity.
The ways of well-doing are in number even as many as are the kinds of voluntary actions: so that whatsoever we do in this world, and may do it ill, we show ourselves therein by welldoing to be wise. Hooker.
Many men there are than whom nothing is more commendable when they are singled; and yet, in society with others, none less fit to answer the duties which are looked for at their hands. Hooker.
That every man should regulate his actions by his own conscience, without any regard to the opinions of the rest of the world, is one of the first precepts of moral prudence; justified not only by the suffrage of reason, which declares that none of the gifts of Heaven are to lie useless, but by the voice likewise of experience, which will soon inform us that, if we make the praise or blame of others the rule of our conduct, we shall be distracted by a boundless variety of irreconcilable judgments, be held in perpetual suspense between contrary impulses, and consult forever without determination.
Dr. S. Johnson: Rambler, No. 23.
Act well at the moment, and you have performed a good action to all eternity.
The just season of doing things must be nicked, and all accidents improved. L'Estrange.
No man sets himself about anything but upon some view or other which serves him for a reason. Locke.
Actions have their preference, not according to the transient pleasure or pain that accompanies or follows them here, but as they serve to secure that perfect durable happiness hereafter.
Our voluntary actions are the precedent causes of good and evil which they draw after them and bring upon us. Locke.
We will not, in civility, allow too much sincerity to the professions of most men, but think their actions to be interpreters of their thoughts.
Action is the highest perfection and drawing forth of the utmost power, vigour, and activity of man's nature. God is pleased to vouchsafe the best that he can give only to the best that we can do. The properest and most raised conception that we have of God is, that he is a pure act, a perpetual, incessant motion. South.
The schools dispute, whether in morals the external action superadds anything of good or evil to the internal elicit act of the will: but certainly the enmity of our judgments is wrought up to an high pitch before it rages in an open denial. South.
Since the event of an action usually follows the nature or quality of it, and the quality follows the rule directing it, it concerns a man in the framing of his actions not to be deceived in the rule. South.
We may deny God in all those acts that are capable of being morally good or evil: those are the proper scenes in which we act our confessions or denials of him. South.
Deeds always over-balance, and downright practice speaks more plainly than the fairest profession. South.
For a man to found a confident practice upon a disputable principle is brutishly to outrun his reason. South.
Actions that promote society and mutual fellowship seem reducible to it proneness to do good to others and a ready sense of any good done by others. South.
If he acts piously, soberly, and temperately, he acts prudentially and safely. South.
We are not only to look at the bare action, but at the reason of it. Stillingfleet.
Considering the usual motives of human actions, which are pleasure, profit, and ambition, I cannot yet comprehend how these persons find their account in any of the three.
In every action reflect upon the end; and in your undertaking it consider why you do it.
It is not much business that distracts any man; but the want of purity, constancy, and tendency towards God. Jeremy Taylor.
There is no action of man in this life, which is not the beginning of so long a chain of consequences, as that no human providence is high enough to give us a prospect to the end.
Thomas Of Malmesbury.
In matters of human prudence, we shall find the greatest advantage by making wise observations on our conduct. Dr. I. Watts.
The mere choice and arrangement of his words would have sufficed to make his essays classical. For never, not even by Dryden, not even by Temple, had the English language been written with such sweetness, grace, and facility. But this was the smallest part of Addison's praise. Had he clothed his thoughts in the half-French style of Horace Walpole, or in the half-Latin style of Dr. Johnson, or in the halfGerman jargon of the present day, his genius would have triumphed over all faults of manner. As a moral satirist he stands unrivalled. If ever the best Tatlersand Spectators were equalled in their own kind, we should be inclined to guess that it must have been by the lost comedies of Menander.
In wit, properly so called, Addison was not inferior to Cowley or Butler. No single ode of Cowley contains so many happy analogies as are crowded into the lines of Sir Godfrey Kneller; and we would undertake to collect from the Spectators as great a number of ingenious illustrations as can be found in Hudibras. The still higher faculty of invention Addisor. pos
sessed in still larger measure. The numerous fictions, generally original, often wild and grotesque, but always singularly graceful and happy, which are found in his essays, fully entitle him to the rank of a great poet, a rank to which his metrical compositions give him no claim. As an observer of life, of manners, of all the shades of human character, he stands in the first class. And what he observed he had the art of communicating in two widely different ways. He could describe virtues, vices, habits, whims, as well as Clarendon. But he could do something better. He could call human beings into existence, and make them exhibit themselves. If we wish to find anything more vivid than Addison's best portraits, we must go either to Shake speare or to Cervantes.
But what shall we say of Addison's humour, of his sense of the ludicrous, of his power of awakening that sense in others, and of drawing mirth from incidents which occur every day, and from little peculiarities of temper and manner, such as may be found in every man? We feel the charm, we give ourselves up to it; but we strive in vain to analyze it.
Life and Writings of Addison, July, 1843.
Perhaps the best way of describing Addison's peculiar pleasantry is to compare it with the pleasantry of some other great satirists. The three most eminent masters of the art of ridicule, during the eighteenth century, were, we conceive, Addison, Swift, and Voltaire. Which of the three had the greatest power of moving laughter may be questioned. But each of them, within his own domain, was supreme.
Voltaire is the prince of buffoons. His merriment is without disguise or restraint. He gambols; he grins; he shakes his sides; he points the finger; he turns up the nose; he shoots out the tongue. The manner of Swift is the very opposite to this. He moves laughter, but never joins in it. He appears in his works such as he appeared in society. All the company are convulsed with merriment, while the Dean, the author of all the mirth, preserves an invincible gravity, and even sourness, of aspect, and gives utterance to the most eccentric and ludicrous fancies with the air of a man reading the commination service.
The manner of Addison is as remote from that of Swift as from that of Voltaire. He neither laughs out like the French wit, nor, like the Irish wit, throws A double portion of severity into his countenance while laughing inwardly; but preserves a look peculiarly his own, a look of demure serenity, disturbed only by an arch sparkle of the eye, an almost imperceptible elevation of the brow, an almost imperceptible curl of the lip. His tone is never that either of a Jack Pudding or of a cynic; it is that of a gentleman, in whom the quickest sense of the ridiculous is constantly tempered by good nature and good breeding.
We own that the humour of Addison is, in our opinion, of a more delicious flavour than
the humour of either Swift or Voltaire. Thus much, at least, is certain, that both Swift and Voltaire have been successfully mimicked, and that no man has yet been able to mimic Addison. The letter of the Abbe Coyer to Pansophe is Voltaire all over, and imposed, during a long time, on the Academicians of Paris. There are passages in Arbuthnot's satirical works which we, at least, cannot distinguish from Swift's best writing. But of the many eminent men who have made Addison their model, though several have copied his mere diction with happy effect, none has been able to catch the tone of his pleasantry. In the World, in the Connoisseur, in the Mirror, in the Lounger, there are numerous papers written in obvious imitation of his Tatlers and Spectators. Most of those papers have some merit; many are very lively and amusing; but there is not a single one which could be passed off as Addison's on a critic of the smallest perspicacity.
Lord Macaui.ay: Addison.
But that which chiefly distinguishes Addison from Swift, from Voltaire, from almost all the other great masters of ridicule, is the grace, the nobleness, the moral purity, which we find even in his merriment. Severity, gradually hardening and darkening into misanthropy, characterizes the works of Swift, The nature of Voltaire was, indeed, not inhuman; but he venerated nothing. Neither in the masterpieces of art nor in the purest examples of virtue, neither in the Great First Cause nor in the awful enigma of the grave, could he see anything but subjects for drollery. The more solemn and august the theme, the more monkeylike was his grimacing and chattering. The mirth of Swift is the mirth of Mephistopheles; the mirth of Voltaire is the mirth of Puck. If, as Soame Jenyns oddly imagined, a portion of the happiness of seraphim and just men made perfect be derived from an exquisite perception of the ludicrous, their mirth must surely be none other than the mirth of Addison; a mirth consistent with tender compassion for all that is frail, and with profound reverence for all that is sublime. Nothing great, nothing amiable, no moral duty, no doctrine of natural or revealed religion, has ever been associated by Addison with any degrading idea. His humanity is without a parallel in literary history. The highest proof of virtue is to possess boundless power without abusing it. No kind of power is more formidable than the power of making men ridiculous; and that power Addison possessed in boundless measure. How grossly that power was abused by Swift and by Voltaire is well known. But of Addison it may be confidently affirmed that he has blackened no man's character, nay, that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find in all the volumes which he has left us a single taunt which can be called ungenerous or unkind. Yet he had detractors whose malignity might have seemed to justify as terrible a revenge as that which men not superior to him in genius wreaked on Beltesworlh and on Franc de Pompignan. He was a politician; he was the best writer of his party; he lived in times of fierce excitement, in times when persons of high character and station stooped to scurrility such as is now practised only by the basest of mankind. Yet no provocation and no example could induce him to return railing for railing.
Lord Macaulay: Addison.
Of the service which his Essays rendered to morality it is difficult to speak too highly. It is true that, when the Tatler appeared, that age of outrageous profaneness and licentiousness which followed the Restoration had passed away. Jeremy Collier had shamed the theatres into something which, compared with the excesses of Etherege and Wycherley, might be called decency. Yet there still lingered in the public mind a pernicious notion that there was some connection between genius and profligacy, between the domestic virtues and the sullen formality of the Puritans. That error it is the glory of Addison to have dispelled. He taught the nation that the faith and the morality of Haie and Tillotson might be found in company with wit more sparkling than the wit of Congreve, and with humour richer than the humour of Vanbrugh. So effectually, indeed, did he retort on vice the mockery which had recently been directed against virtue, that, since his time, the open violation of decency has always been considered among us as the mark of a fool. And this revolution, the greatest and most salutary ever effected by any satirist, he accomplished, be it remembered, without writing one personal lampoon.
In the early contributions of Addison to the Tatler his peculiar powers were not fully exhibited. Yet, from the first, his superiority to all his coadjutors was evident. Some of his later Tatlers are fully equal to anything that he ever wrote. Among the portraits we most admire Tom Folio, Ned Softly, and the Political Upholsterer. The proceedings of the Court of Honour, the Thermometer of Zeal, the story of the Frozen Words, the Memoirs of the Shilling, are excellent specimens of that ingenious and lively species of fiction in which Addison excelled all men. There is one still better paper of the same class. But though that paper, a hundred and thirty-three years ago, was probably thought as edifying as one of Smalridge's sermons, we dare not indicate it to the squeamish readers of the nineteenth century.
Lord Macaulay: Addison.
We say this of Addison alone; for Addison is the Spectator. About three-sevenths of the works are his; and it is no exaggeration to say that his worst essay is as good as the liest es?ay of any of his coadjutors. His best essays approach near to absolute perfection; nor is their excellence more wonderful than their variety. His invention never seems to flag; nor is he ever under the necessity of repeating himself, or of wearing out a subject. There are no dregs in his wine. He regales us after the fashion of that prodigal nabob who held that
there was only one good glass in a bottle. As soon as we have tasted the first sparkling foam of a jest, it is withdrawn, and a fresh draught of nectar is at our lips. On the Monday we have an allegory as lively and ingenious as Lucian's Auction of Lives; on the Tuesday,an Eastern apologue as richly coloured as the Tales of Scherezade; on the Wednesday, a character described with the skill of La Bruyere; on the Thursday, a scene from common life equal to the best chapters in the Vicar of Wakefield; on the Friday, some sly Horatian pleasantry on fashionable follies, on hoops, patches, or puppet shows; and on the Saturday, a religious meditation which will bear a comparison with the finest passages in Massillon.
It is dangerous to select where there is so much that deserves the highest praise. We will venture, however, to say that any person who wishes to form a just notion of the extent and variety of Addison's powers will do well to read at one sitting the following papers: the two Visits to the Abbey, the Visit to the Exchange, the Journal of the Retired Citizen, the Vision of Mirza, the Transmigrations of Pug the Monkey, and the Death of Sir Roger de Coverley.
The least valuable of Addison's contributions to the Sliectator are, in the judgment of our age, his critical papers. Yet his critical papers are always luminous, and often ingenious. The very worst of them must be regarded as creditable to him, when the character of the school in which he had been trained is fairly considered. The best of them were much too good for his readers. In truth, he was not so far behind our generation as he was lrefore his own. No essays in the Spectator were more censured and derided than those in which he raised his voice against the contempt with which our fine old ballads were regarded, and showed the scoffers that the same gold which, burnished and polished, gives lustre to the /Eneid and the Odes of Horace, is mingled with the rude dross of Chevy Chace.
Lord Macaulay: Addison.
The last moments of Addison were perfectly serene. His interview with his son-in-law is universally known. "See," he said, "how it Christian can die!" The piety of Addison was, in truth, of a singularly cheerful character. The feeling which predominates in all his devotional writings is gratitude. God was to him the allwise and all-powerful friend who had watched over his cradle with more than maternal tenderness; who had listened to his cries before they could form themselves in prayer; who had preserved his youth from the snares of vice; who had made his cup run over with worldly blessings; who had doubled the value of those blessings by bestowing a thankful heart to enjoy them and dear friends to partake them ; who had rebuked the waves of the I.igurian gulf, had purified the autumnal air of the Cnmpagna, and had restrained the avalanches of Mount Cenis. Of the Psalms, his favourite was that which