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598 PUBLIC OPINION.—PUBLIC SPIRIT—PUFFING.
What are all systems, religious, political, or scientific, but opinions resting on evidence more or less satisfactory? The question is not between human opinion and some higher and more certain mode of arriving at truth, but between opinion and opinion, between the opinions of one man and another, or of one class and another, or of one generation and another. Public opinion is not infallible; but can Mr. Southey construct any institutions which shall secure to us the guidance of an infallible opinion? Can Mr. Southey select any family, any profession, any class, in short, distinguished by any plain badge from the rest of the community, whose opinion is more likely to be just than this muchabused public opinion? Would he choose the peers, for example? Or the two hundred tallest men in the country? Or the poor Knights of Windsor? Or children who are born with cauls? Or the seventh sons of seventh sons? We cannot suppose that he would recommend popular election; for that is merely an appeal to public opinion. And to say that society ought to be governed by the opinion of the wisest and best, though true, is useless. Whose opinion is to decide who are the wisest and best?
Lord Macaulay: Southey's Colloquies on Society, Jan. 1S30.
To stick at nothing for the public interest is represented as the refined part of the Venetian wisdom. Addison.
A good magistrate must be endued with a public spirit, that is, with such an excellent temper as sets him loose from all selfish views, and makes him endeavour towards promoting the public good. Atterhuky.
Let brave spirits, fitted for command by sea or land, not be laid by as persons unnecessary for the time. Lord Bacon.
A present personal detriment is so heavy where it falls, and so instant in its operation, that the cold commendation of a public advantage never was, and never will be, a match for the quick sensibility of a private loss.
An enlightened self-interest, which, when well understood, they tell us will identify with an interest more enlarged and public. Burke.
In common life, we may observe that the circumstance of utility is always appealed to; nor is it supposed that a greater eulogy can be given to any man than to display his usefulness to the public, and to enumerate the services which he has performed to mankind and to society.
It is the greatest interest of particulars to advance the good of the community.
All nations that grew great out of little or nothing did so merely by the public-mindedness of particular persons. South.
When men look into their own bosoms, and consider the generous seeds which are there planted, that might, if rightly cultivated, ennoble their lives, and make their virtue venerable to futurity; how can they, without tears, reflect on the universal degeneracy from that public spirit which ought to be the first and principal motive of all their actions? In the Grecian and Roman nations, they were wise enough to keep up this great incentive, and it was impossible to be in the fashion without being a patriot.
Sir R. Steele: 7aiter, No. 183.
But however general custom may hurry us away in the stream of a common error, there is no evil, no crime, so great as that of being cold in matters which relate to the common good. This is in nothing more conspicuous than in a certain willingness to receive anything that tends to the diminution of such as have been conspicuous instruments in our service. Such inclinations proceed from the most low and vile corruption of which the soul of man is capable. This effaces not only the practice, but the very approbation of honour and virtue; and has had such an effect, that, to speak freely, the very sense of public good has no longer a part even of our conversations.
Sir R. Steele: Tatler, No. 183.
It is to be feared, indeed, that Society would fare but ill if none did service to the public except in proportion as they possessed the rare moral and intellectual endowment of enlightened public spirit. For such a spirit, whether in the form of patriotism or that of philanthropy, implies not merely benevolent feelings stronger than, in fact, we commonly meet w ith, but also powers of abstraction beyond what the mass of mankind can possess. Whately:
Annot. on Bacon's F.ssay, Of the True
It is indeed amusing to turn over some late volumes of periodical works, and to see how many immortal productions have, within a few months, been gathered to the Poems of Blackmore and the novels of Mrs. Behn; how many "profound views of human nature," and "exquisite delineations of fashionable manners," and "vernal, and sunny, and refreshing thoughts," and "high imaginings," and "young breathings," and "cmbodyings," and '• pinings," and "minglings with the beauty of the universe," and " harmonies which dissolve the soul in a passionate sense of loveliness and divinity," the world has contrived to forget. The names of the books and of the writers are buried in as deep an oblivion as the name of the builder of Stonehenge. Some of the well-puffed fashionable novels of eighteen hundred and twentynine hold the pastry of eighteen hundred and thirty; and others, which are now extolled in language almost too high-flown for the merits
of Don Quixote, will, we have no doubt, line the trunks of eighteen hundred and thirty-one. But, though we have no apprehensions that puffing will ever confer permanent reputation on the undeserving, we still think its influence most pernicious. Men of real merit will, if they persevere, at last reach the station, to which they are entitled, and intruders will be ejected with contempt and derision. But it is no small evil that the avenues to fame should be blocked up by a swarm of noisy, pushing, elbowing pretenders, who, though they will not ultimately be able to make good their own entrance, hinder, in the mean time, those who have a right to enter. All who will not disgrace themselves by joining in the unseemly scuffle must expect to be at first hustled and shouldered back. Some men of talents, accordingly, turn away in dejection from pursuits in which success appears to bear no proportion to desert. Others employ in self-defence the means by which competitors, far inferior to themselves, appear for a time to obtain a decided advantage. There are few who have sufficient confidence in their own powers and sufficient elevation of mind to wait with secure and contemptuous patience, while dunce after dunce presses before them. Those who will not stoop to the baseness of the modern fashion are too often discouraged. Those who do stoop to it are always degraded.
We have of late observed with great pleasure some symptoms which lead us to hope that respectable literary men of all parties are beginning to be impatient of this insufferable nuisance. And we purpose to do what in us lies for the abating of it. Lord Macaulay:
Mr. Robert Montgomery's Poems, April, 1830.
There is no kind of false wit which has been so recommended by the practice of all ages, as that which consists in a jingle of words, and is comprehended under the general name of punning. It is indeed impossible to kill a weed which the soil has a natural disposition to produce. The seeds of punning are in the minds of all men; and though they may be subdued by reason, reflection, and good sense, they will be very apt to shoot up in the greatest genius that is not broken and cultivated by the rules of art. Imitation is natural to us, and when it does not raise the mind to poetry, painting, music, or other more noble arts, it often breaks out in puns and quibbles.
Aristotle, in the eleventh chapter of his book of rhetoric, describes two or three kinds of puns, which he calls paragrams, among the beauties of good writing, and produces instances of them out of some of the greatest authors in the Greek tongue. Cicero has sprinkled several of his works with puns, and in his book where he lays down the rules of oratory, quotes abundance of sayings as pieces of wit, which also upon examnation prove arrant puns.
But the age in which the pun chiefly flourished was in the reign of King James the First. That learned monarch was himself a tolerable punster, and made very few bishops or privy-counsellors that had not some time or other signalized themselves by a clinch or a conundrum. It was therefore in this age that the pun appeared with pomp and dignity. It had been before admitted into merry speeches and ludicrous compositions, but was now delivered with great gravity from the pulpit, or pronounced in the most solemn manner at the council table. The greatest authors, in their most serious works, made frequent use of puns. The sermons of Bishop Andrews, and the tragedies of Shakspeare, are full of them. The sinner was punned into repentance by the former, as in the latter nothing is more usual than to see a hero weeping and quibbling for a dozen lines together.
Addison' s Spectator, No. 61.
Much therefore of that humour which transported the last century with merriment is lost to us, who do not know the sour solemnity, the sullen superstition, the gloomy moroseness, and the stubborn scruples of the ancient Puritans; or, if we know them, derive our information only from books or from tradition, have never had them before our eyes, and cannot but by recollection and study understand the lines in which they are satirized. Our grandfathers knew the picture from the life; we judge of the life by contemplating the picture.
It is scarcely possible, in the regularity and composure of the present time, to imagine the tumult of absurdity, and clamour of contradiction, which perplexed doctrine, disordered practice, and disturbed both public and private quiet, in that age when subordination was broken, and awe was hissed away; when any unsettled innovator who could hatch a half-formed notion produced it to the public; when every man might become a preacher, and almost every preacher could collect a congregation.
Dr. S. Johnson: Life of Milton.
We would speak first of the Puritans, the most remarkable body of men, perhaps, which the world has ever produced. The odious and ridiculous parts of their character lie on the surface. He that runs may read them; nor have there been wanting attentive and malicious observers to point them out. For many years after the Restoration, they were the theme of unmeasured invective and derision. They were exposed to the utmost licentiousness of the press and of the stage, at the time when the press and the stage were the most licentious. They were not men of letters; they were, as a body, unpopular; they could not defend themselves; and the public would not take them under its protection. They were therefore abandoned, without reserve, to the tender mercies of the satirists and dramatists.
The ostentatious simplicity of their dress, their sour aspect, their nasal twang, their stiff posture, their long graces, their Hebrew names, the Scriptural phrases which they introduced on every occasion, their contempt of human learning, their detestation of polite amusements, were indeed fair game for the laughers. But it is not from the laughers alone that the philosophy of history is to be learnt. And he who approaches this subject should carefully guard against the influence of that potent ridicule which has already misled so many excellent writers.
Lord Macau LAY: Milton, Aug. 1825.
Those who roused the people to resistance, who directed their measures through a long series of eventful years, who formed, out of the most unpromising materials, the finest army that Europe had ever seen, who trampled down King, Church, and Aristocracy, who, in the short intervals of domestic sedition and rebellion, made the name of England terrible to every nation on the face of the earth, were no vulgar fanatics. Most of their absurdities were mere external badges, like the signs of freemasonry, or the dresses of friars. We regret that these badges were not more attractive. We regret that a body to whose courage and talents mankind has owed inestimable obligations had not the lofty elegance which distinguished some of the adherents of Charles the First, or the easy good-breeding for which the court of Charles the Second was celebrated. But, if we must make our choice, we shall, like Bassanio in the play, turn from the specious caskets which contain only the Death's head and the Fool's head, and fix on the plain leaden chest which conceals the treasure.
Lord Macaulay: Milton,
The Puritans were men whose minds had derived a peculiar character from the daily contemplation of superior beings and eternal interests. Not content with acknowledging, in general terms, an overruling Providence, they habitually ascribed every event to the will of the Great Being, for whose power nothing was too vast, for whose inspection nothing was too minute. To know him, to serve him, to enjoy him, was with them the great end of existence. They rejected with contempt the ceremonious homage which other sects substituted for the pure worship of the soul. Instead of catching occasional glimpses of the Deity through an obscuring veil, they aspired to gaze full on his intolerable brightness, and to commune with him face to face. Hence originated their contempt for terrestrial distinctions. The difference between the greatest and the meanest of mankind seemed to vanish, when compared with the boundless interval which separated the whole race from Him on whom their own eyes were constantly fixed. They recognized no title to superiority but his favour; and, confident of that favour, they despised all the accomplishments and all the dignities of the world. If they were unacquainted with the works of philosophers and poets, they were deeply read
in the oracles of God. If their names were not found in the registers of heralds, they were recorded in the Book of Life. If their steps were not accompanied by a splendid train of menials, legions of ministering angels had charge over them. Their palaces were houses not made with hands; their diadems, crowns of glory which should never fade away. On the rich and the eloquent, on nobles and priests, they looked down with contempt: for they esteemed themselves rich in a more precious treasure, and eloquent in a more sublime language, nobles by the right of an earlier creation, and priests by the imposition of a mightier hand. The very meanest of them was a being to whose fate a mysterious and terrible importance belonged, on whose slightest action the spirits of light and darkness looked with anxious interest; who had been destined, before heaven and earth were created, to enjoy a felicity which should continue when heaven and earth should have passed away. Events which short-sighted politicians ascribed to earthly causes had been ordained on his account. For his sake empires had risen, and flourished, and decayed. For his sake the Almighty had proclaimed his will by the pen of the Evangelist and the harp of the prophet. He had been wrested by no common deliverer from the grasp of no common foe. He had been ransomed by the sweat of no vulgar agony, by the blood of no earthly sacrifice. It was for him that the sun had been darkened, that the rocks had been rent, that the dead had risen, that all nature had shuddered at the sufferings of her expiring God.
Lord Macaulay: Milton.
It was the same with our fathers in the time of the Great Civil War. We are by no means unmindful of the great debt which mankind owes to the Puritans of that time, the deliverers of England, the founders of the American Commonwealth. But in the day of their power those men committed one great fault, which left deep and lasting traces in the national character and manners. They mistook the end and overrated the force of government. They determined, not merely to protect religion and public morals from insult, an object for which the civil sword, in discreet hands, may be beneficially employed, but to make the people committed to their rule truly devout. Yet, if they had only reflected on events which they had themselves witnessed and in which they had themselves borne a great part, they would have seen what was likely to be the result of their enterprise;. They had lived under a government which, during a long course of years, did all that could be done, by lavish bounty and by rigorous punishment, to enforce conformity to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England. No person suspected of hostility to that church had the smallest chance of obtaining favour at the court of Charles. Avowed dissent was punished by imprisonment, by ignominious exposure, by cruel mutilations, and be ruinous fines. And the event had been that the QUOTATIONS.
church had fallen, and had in its fall dragged things beyond their reach are likely not merely
down with it a monarchy which had stood to fail, but to produce an effect directly the
six hundred years. The Puritan might have opposite of that which they contemplate a*
learned, if from nothing else, yet from his own desirable. Lord Macaulay:
recent victory, that governments which attempt Comic Dramatists of the Restoration,Jan. 1841.
I am wonderfully pleased when I meet with any passage in an old Greek or Latin author, that is not blown upon, and which I have never met with in any quotation.
Why read a book which you cannot quote?
Dr. Richard Bentley:
Out of monuments, names, words, proverbs, traditions, private records and evidences, fragments of stories, passages of bookes, and the like, we doe save and recover somewhat from the deluge of time. Lord Bacon:
Advancement of Learning.
If the grain were separated from the chaff which fills the works of our National Poeis, what is truly valuable would be to what is useless in the proportion of a mole-hill to a mountain. Burke.
It is the beauty and independent worth of the citations, far more than their appropriateness, which have made Johnson's Dictionary popular even as a reading-book.
Why are not more gems from our great authors scattered over the country? Great books are not in everybody's reach; and though it is better to know them thoroughly than to know them only here and there, yet it is a good work to give a little to those who have neither time nor means to get more. Let every book-worm, when in any fragrant scarce old tome he discovers a sentence, a story, an illustration, that does his heart good, hasten to give it.
If we steal thoughts from the moderns, it will be cried down as plagiarism; if from the ancients, it will be cried up as erudition. But in this respect every author is a Spartan, being more ashamed of the discovery than of the depredation. Yet the offence itself may not be so heinous as the manner of committing it; for some, as Voltaire, not only steal, but, like the harpies, befoul and bespatter those whom they -have plundered. Others, again, give us the mere carcase of another man's thoughts, but deprived of all their life and spirit, and this is
to add murder to robbery. I have somewhere seen it observed that we should make the same use of a book that the bee does of a flower: she steals sweets from it, but does not injure it; and those sweets she herself improves and concocts into honey. But most plagiarists, like the drone, have neither taste to select, nor industry to acquire, nor skill to improve; but impudently pilfer the honey ready prepared from the hive.
Horace has enticed me into this pedantry of quotation. Cowley.
'Twas this vain idolizing of authors which wave birth to that silly vanity of impertinent citations: these ridiculous fooleries signify nothing to the more generous discerners but the pedantry of the affected sciolists.
The subject of quotation being introduced, Mr. [John] Wilkes censured it as pedantry. Johnson. "No, Sir, it is a good thing; there is a community of mind in it. Classical quotation is the parole of literary men all over the world." Wilkes. "Upon the continent they all quote the Vulgate Bible. Shakspeare is chiefly quoted here: and we quote also Pope, Prior, Butler, Waller, and sometimes Cowley."
Dr. S. Johnson: Boswell's Johnson, year 1781.
When I first collected these authorities, I was desirous that every quotation should be useful to some other end than the illustration of a word; I therefore extracted from philosophers principles of science; from historians remarkable facts; from chymists complete processes; from divines striking exhortations; and from poets beautiful descriptions. Such is design while it is yet at a distance from execution. When the time called upon me to range this accumulation of elegance and wisdom into an alphabetical series, I soon discovered that the bulk of my volumes would fright away the student, and was forced to depart from my scheme of including all that was pleasing or useful in English literature, and reduce my transcripts very often to clusters of words in which scarcely any meaning is retained: thus to the weariness of copying I was condemned to add the vexation of expunging. Some passages I have yet spared, which may relieve the labour of verbal
searches, and intersperse with verdure and flowers the dusty deserts of barren philology.
The examples, thus mutilated, are no longer to be considered as conveying the sentiments or doctrine of their authors: the word for the sake of which they are inserted, with all its attendant clauses, has been carefully preserved; but it may sometimes happen, by hasty detruncalion, that the general tendency of the sentence may be changed: the divine may desert his tenets, or the philosopher his system.
Dr. S. Johnson: Preface to A Dictionary of the English Language.
He that has ever so little examined the citations of writers cannot doubt how little credit the quotations deserve where the originals are wanting. Locke.
The indiscreet scrihlers of our times, who amongst their laborious nothings insert whole sections, paragraphs, and pages, out of ancient authors, with a design by that means to illustrate their own writings, do quite contrary; for this infinite dissimilitude of ornaments renders the complexions of their own compositions so pale, sallow, and deform'd, that they lose much more than they get. The philosophers Chrysippus and Epicurus were in this of two quite contrary humours; for the first did not only in
his books mix the passages and sayings of other authors, but entire pieces, and in one the whole Medea of Euripides; which gave Apollodorus occasion to say, "that should a man pick out of his writings all that was none of his, he would leave him nothing but blank paper;" whereas the latter, quite contrary, in three hundred volumes that he left behind him, has not so much as any one quotation. Montaigne:
Essays, Cotton's 3d ed., ch. xxv.
Quotations are best brought in to confirm some i opinion controverted. Swift.
Whoever only reads to transcribe shining remarks, without entering into the genius and spirit of the author, will be apt to be misled out of the regular way of thinking; and all the product of all this will be found a manifest incoherent piece of patchwork. SwiFT.
If these little sparks of holy fire, which I have thus heaped up together do not give life to your prepared and already enkindled spirit, yet they will sometimes help to entertain a thought, to actuate a passion, to employ and hallow a fancy. Jeremy Taylor.
Some persons of bright parts have narrow remembrance; for, having riches of their own, they are not solicitous to borrow.
Dr. I. Watts.
A quotation from Hudibras shall make them treat with levity an obligation wherein their welfare is concerned as to this world and the next: raillery of this nature is enough to make the hearer tremble. ADDISON.
While good men are employed in extirpating mortal sins, I should rally the world out of indecencies and venial transgression.
Raillery is the sauce of civil entertainment; and without some such tincture of urbanity, good humour falters. L'EsTRANGE.
A small mistake may leave upon the mind the lasting memory of having been piquantly, though wittily, taunted. Locke.
If I build my felicity upon my reputation I am happy as long as the railer will give me leave. South.
I do not know anything which gives greater disturbance to conversation than the false notion some people have of raillery. It ought, certainly, to be the first point to be aimed at in
society, to gain the good will of those with whom you converse: the way to that is, to show you are well inclined towards them. What then can be more absurd than to set up for being extremely sharp and biting, as the term is, in your expressions to your familiars ? A man who has no good quality but courage is in a very ill way towards making an agreeable figure in the world, because that which he has superior to other people cannot be exerted without raising himself an enemy. Your gentleman of a satirical turn is in the like condition.
Sir R. Steele: Spectator, No. 422.
Raillery is no longer agreeable only while the whole company is pleased with it. I would least of all be understood to except the person rallied. Sir R. Steele.
Where wit hath any mixture of raillery, it is but calling it banter, and the work is done.
If any man turns religion into raillery by bald jests, he renders himself ridiculous, because he sports with his own life.