صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

neither the silence of ancient, nor the eloquence of modern opponents, can shake the records on which we ground our faith.


Ar the same time that it is fair to suppose there must be more than ordinary merit in men, who rise to great opulence and condition in life from low beginnings, all the world must be sensible of the danger attending sudden elevation, and how very apt a man's head is to turn, who climbs an eminence to which his habits have not familiarized him. A mountaineer can tread firm upon a precipice, and walk erect without tottering along the path that winds itself about the craggy cliff

, on which he has his dwelling ; whilst the inhabitant of the valley travels with affright and danger over the giddy pass, and oftentimes is precipitated from the height to perish in the gulf beneath his feet. Such is the fate of many, who by the revolutions of fortune are raised to lofty situations: it is generally the lot of such people to make few friends; in their danger there are none to give them warning, in their fall there are few to afford them pity.

This is not the case with them, who are born to the dignities they enjoy: the sovereign, whose throne is his inheritance, meets with pity and indulgence; pity for the cares inseparable from his condition, indulgence for the failings and excesses incidental to hereditary greatness; but the man who is the maker of his own fortune, acts on a stage where every step he takes will be observed with jealousy;

amongst the many thousands who are set to watch him, let him reflect how many hearts there are, rankling with disappointed pride, and envying him the lot, which in their own conceit at least their merit had a better title to: when such a man appears, it is the common cry~' I cannot bear that upstart-At the same time therefore that it must be allowed more natural to excuse the proud looks of the high, than the proud looks of the low, still it is no bad caution to beware of giving easy faith to reports against those, whom so many unsuccessful people are interested to decry; for though fortune can do mighty things amongst us, and make great men in this world, she cannot make friends.

If caution be necessary for such as are only look. ers-on upon these sudden changes in the scene of life, how much more wary should he be, who by fortune's favour is the actor in it! Time past and present so abounds in examples to put him on his guard, that if he will not profit by example, what hope is there that precept will avail? That

any man should grow arrogant who has once been dependant, is as unaccountable for the folly of the thing, as it is for the baseness of it; it is as if a pedagogue should turn tyrant, because he remembers to have smarted under the lash of the master when a school-boy: and yet there seems a principle in some natures that inclines them to this despicable species of revenge, by which they sacrifice all claim to reason, reputation, or religion. Dionysius, though the cruellest of all tyrants, had moderation in a private station, and made a good and patient schoolmaster; he handled the sceptre like a rod, and the rod as he should have done a sceptre. Are we to conclude from this and other instances, that humanity may be learnt by those who descend from power, but that men become tyrants by ascending to it?

Is there in nature any thing so ridiculous as pride, so self-destructive, so absurd ? The man who rises out of humble life must have seen it, felt it, and remarked its folly; he must have been convinced that pride deprives itself of its own proper object: for every proud man, who assumes a superiority on the score of rank, or wealth, or titles, forfeits that better interest with mankind, which would have credited him for superiorities of a far nobler quality than those on which he grounds his silly arrogance : how strange is it therefore, when the man, who has seen through the weakness of this passion in others, whilst below them in condition, should fall into the same folly when he rises to be their equal! And yet it happens every day. What is so hateful to a poor man as the purse-proud arrogance of a rich one? Let fortune shift the scene and make the poor man rich, he runs at once into the vice that he declaimed against so feelingly: these are strange contradictions in the human character. One should have thought that Pope Sixtus V. might have recollected himself enough to be humble, though Pasquin had never reminded him of it; but neither he, nor Becket, nor Wolsey, had any moderation in their spirit, though professing a religion whose very essence is humility.

In modern times, the philosopher's stone seems to have been found by our adventurers in the East, where beggars have become princes and princes have become beggars; if Ben Jonson was now living, could he have painted these upstart voluptuaries more to the life, than by the following animated description ?

I will have all my beds blown up, not stuffd.
Down is too hard ; and then my oval room
Fillid with such pictures, as Tiberius took
From Elephantis, and dull Aretine
But coldly imitated~My mists
I'll have of perfume, vapour'd 'bout the room,

To lose ourselves in, and my baths, like pits,
To fall into, from whence we will come forth,
And roll us dry in gossamour and roses-
My meat shall all come in in Indian shells,
Dishes of agate set in gold, and studded
With emeralds, sapphires, hyacinths, and rubies.
The tongues of carp, dormice, and camels' heels
Boil'd in the spirit of sol and dissolv'd pearl,
(Apicius' diet 'gainst the epilepsie)
Ànd I will eat these broths with spoons of amber,
Headed with diamond and carbuncle.
My foot-boy shall eat pheasants; I myself will have
The beards of barbels serv'd instead of sallads;
Oild mushrooms, and the swelling unctious paps
Of a fat pregnant sow, newly cut off,
Dressed with an exquisite and poignant sauce,
For which I'll say unto my cook, there's gold,
Go forth and be a knight!—My shirts
I'll have of taffeta sarsnet, soft and light
As cobwebs, and for all my other raiment,
It shall be such as might provoke the Persian,
Were he to teach the world riot a-new.
My gloves of fish's and bird's skins perfum'd
With gums of paradise and eastern air-

Q. And do you think to have the stone with this ?--
A. No, I do think to have all this with the stone.


These are strong colours; and though he has dipped his pencil pretty liberally into the pallet of the ancients, he has finely mixed the composition with tints of his own; to speak in the same figure, we may say of this sketch, that it is in the very best style of the master.

As I should be loath however to offer none but instances of the abuse of prosperity, I am happy in recollecting one very singular example of the con; trary sort, though I go back to times far distant from our own to fetch it.

[blocks in formation]


I am neither without example in seizing the tyranny, nor without claim; for as much as I derive from Codrus, and take no more by force, than I should have inherited by right, if the Athenians had never violated those oaths of allegiance, which in times past confirmed the prerogative of my ancestors. I live here without offence towards men or gods; neither transgressing your laws myself, nor permitting others to transgress them : judge, therefore, if the constitution you have given to Athens is not safer under my administration, than if intrusted to the discretion of the people: no man suffers wrong under my government, nor do I expect any new contributions from my people, contenting myself with the tenths of their produce, as by ancient usage established; and these I apply not to my own coffers, but to those of the state, for defraying civil and religious expenses, and as a provision for the future exigencies of war. Against you, Solon, I harbour no ill-will, convinced that in your opposition to my measures, you acted upon public, not personal motives : you could not foresee what use I was to make of power, and if you could have foreseen it, I will persuade myself you would neither have traversed my interests, nor withdrawn yourself from your country; return, therefore, I conjure you, return to Athens, and believe me on the word of a king you have nothing to fear from Pisistratus, who has not the heart, as you well know, to annoy even his enemies, much less so excellent a citizen as Solon : come then, if you are so disposed, and be received into the number of my dearest friends; but if you are resolved against returning, remember it is your own choice: and if Solon is lost to his country,

« السابقةمتابعة »