صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

the prosecution, or (which they will always call it) the persecution, of libellers can never produce any other ef. fect but to give weigiit and consequence to both the libel and the libeller: that of Tacitus being uuiversally true, punitis ingeniis gliscit auctoritas. Nay, there is no occasion for ingenuity, if that idea be included here, to give a lustre to the prosecution ; since nothing is more frequent than that writers of neither sense, nor wit, nor learning, nor honesty, become, by being prosecuted, possessed of them all.

Philosophers have from time to time held out to poor sufferers in this way (I mean, to those who have wept under the smart of satire) certain medicamina mentis, certain specifics to render the mind callous and insensible to this sort of correction; and one of them, I think, prescribes the following recipe : “Whenever you labour under defamation, or whenever any thing false is reported to your discredit, consider that it is not you, but some imaginary personage, to whoin the imputed infamy belongs.". But this seems nothing near so efficacious as the virulence and malignity of the case may reqnire. For if Robert, mistaking in the dark, should fall upon the shoulders of Richard with a cudgel, would the impressions be less forcible, or the sensations less lively, because Richard might not be the person for whom the favour was intended? There is more good sense, if not so much subtlety, in the saying of Augustus; who, when urged by his son-in-law to pursue this race of scribblers, replied, “ Don't indulge a spirit of resentment against these our adversaries; it is quite sufficient that we are not in a situation to be hurt by any one:" satis est, mi Tiberi, si hoc habemus, ne quis nobis malè facere possit

But neither does this entirely please me : for, first, this Emperor derived his boasted security from usurpation and tyranny; and then he afterwards became himself a severe prosecutor of libellous productions f. The example of Timoleon is more perfect in its kind. This wise and virtuous man, being wrongfully accused in an assembly of the people, instead of resenting or even taking it ill, thanked the immortal gods for granting what he had so often prayed for; which was, that “ the Syracu

* Sueton, in Aug. 51.

Primus Augustus cognitionem de famasis Libellis, specie legis jestatis, tractavit. Tacit. Ann. I.

Bans might have the liberty of speaking what, and of . whom, they would, with impunity *. This example is, I say, more perfect; but then, alas! it is too perfect for the age we live in: it is above the strength of men, as men are now—0601 wuo Rotos 2006. I choose, therefore, upon the whole, to recommend the behaviour of the Emperor Constantine ; who, being importuned to punish some seditious persons for disfiguring his statues by throwing stones at them, did nothing more than calmly stroke his face, and tell his friends with a smile, that he did not perceive himself to be hurt t. This cold contempt of what men say or think seems to have been the specific of our celebrated Dr. Swift against iinpressions from the malignity of scandal, as set forth in a poem he has left us; which, being short and edifying, may as well be here subjoined.

Yewise, instruct me to endure
An evil, which admits no eure :
Or how this evil can be borne,
Which breeds at once both hate and scorn.
Bare innocence is no support,
When you are tried in Scandal's court.
Stand high in honour, wealth, and wit :
All others who inferior sit
Conceive themselves in conscience bound
To join and drag you to the ground.
Your altitnde offends the eyes
Of those, who want the power to rise.
The world, a willing stander-by,
Inclines to aid a specious lye :
“ Alas! they would not do you wrong,
“ But all appearances are strong."

Yet, whence proceeds this weight we lay
On what detracting people say?
For let mankind discharge their tongues
In venom, till they burst their lungs,
Their utmost malice cannot make
Your head, or tooth, or finger ache:
Nor spoil your shape, distort your face,
Or put one feature out of place :
Nor will you find your fortune sink
By what they speak or what they think :
Nor can ten hundred thousand lies
DIake you less virtuous, learned, or wise.

The most effectual way to baulk
Their malice is---to let them talk.

+ Nepon in Timol.

+ Chrysostom, Homl. 20.

ARABIAN GRATITUDE AND GENEROSITY. 'ALI-IBN-ABBAS, favourite of the Caliph Mamoun** and lieutenant of the police in the reign of this prince' relates, in these terms, a story that happened to hinself “ I was one eveuing with the caliph, when a inan, bound hand and foot, was brought in. Mamoun' ordered me to keep a watchful eye over the prisoner, and to bring him the next day. The caliph seemed greatly irritated ; and the fear of exposing myself to his resentment induced me to confine the prisoner in my haram, as the most secure place in my house.

" I asked him what country he was of. He said, Da. mascus; and that his habitation was in the quarter of the great mosque. May Heaven, cried, I shower down the choicest of its blessings upon the city of Damascus, and particularly upon the quarter where you resided ! He was solicitous to know the motive that so much interested me for that district. It is, said I, that I owe my life to a man that lived there.

“ These words excited his curiosity, and he conjured me to gratify it. It is many years since, continued I, that the caliph, dissatisfied with the viceroy of Damascus, deposed him. I accompanied the person whora the prince had appointed his successor; and at the instant we were taking possession of the governor's palace, a quarrel broke out between the new and the old go

* Mamoun, son of the Caliph Aroun Alrachid. His name is famous all over the east; and he is reckoned the greatest prince of the Abbassidies family. He reigned twenty-eight years and eight months. He was a great warrior, of a sweet disposition, and liberal to excess: but what most immortalised him was his love of learning. He was himself deeply versed in every science, but more espe. cially in philosophy and astronomy. This is the prince that caused the most valuable books to be translated from the Greeks, their first masters. The Mahometan doctors have reproached, him with introducing philosophy, and the other speculative sciences, into Mahometanism; for the Arabians of bis days were not accustomed to read any other books but wbat related to their own religion. This prince shewed equal favour to every man of knowledge, let his religion be what it would. The question abont the creation, or eternity, of the Alcoran, was started in his time, and occasioned much effusion of blood. He, with the smallest number of doctors, held it to be created. But the other doctors insisted, that the Alcoran, being the word proceeding from God, was eternal like himself: this sentiment is embraced by the present Mahometans, who consider all that deny that doctrine as infidels.

vernor; the latter had posted soldiers who assaulted us : I escaped out of a window, and, tinding myself pursued by other assassins, took shelter in your quarter. I observed a palace open, and seeing the master at the door, supplicated him to save my life. He immediately con ducted me into the apartment of his wonen, where I continued a month in peace and plenty.

" My host came one day to inform me, that a caravan was setting out for Bagdad ; and that, if I wished to return to my own home, I could not avail myself of a more favourable opportunity. Shame held my tongue; and I had not courage to confess my poverty: I had no money, and for want of that should be forced to follow the caravan on foot. But how great was my surprise, when, on the day of departure, a very fine horse was brought me, a mule loaded with all sorts of provisions, and a black slave to attend me on the road! My generous host presented me at the same time a purse of gold, and conducted me himself to the caravan, where he recommended me to several of the travellers, who were his friends. These are the kindnesses I received in your city, and that render it so dear to me: all my concern is, that I have not hitherto been able to discover my generous benefactor. I should die content, could I find an opportunity of testifying my gratitude.'

“ Your wishes are accomplished, cried my prisoner, in a transport. I am he that received you in my palace. Do you not remember me? The time that had elapsed since that event, and the grief into which he was sunk, had greatly altered his face; but, on a more close examination of his, features, I easily recollected him ; aud some circumstances he brought to my mind left me not the least room to doubt but that the prisoner, who was then in danger of losing his life, was the very person who had so generously saved mine. I embraced him with tears in iny eyes, took off his chains, and asked him by what fatality he had incurred the caliph's displeasure. Some contemptible enemies, he replied, have found means to asperse mne unjustly to Mamoun: I was hurried away froin Damascus, and .cruelly denied even the consolation of embracing my wife and children: I know not what fate attends me; but as I have reason to apprehend my death is determined, I request you to acquaint them with my misfortunes.

“ No, said I to him, you shall not die; I dare give

you this assurance: you shall be restored to your family; be at liberty from this moinent. I presently provided some pieces of the richest gold stuffs of Bagdad, and beggej him to present them to his wife; depart immediately, added I, presenting him with a purse of a thousand sequins : haste to rejoin those precious pledges of your affection which you left at Damascus; let the caliph's indignation fall on me; I dread it not, if I am happy enough to preserve you. · "What a proposal do you make me! answered my prisoner; and can you think me capable of accepting at ? What! shall I, to avoid death, sacrifice that same life now which I formerly saved ? Endeavour to convince the caliph of my innocence: this is the only proof I will admit of your gratitude: if you cannot undeceive him, I will go myself and offer him my head : let him dispose of my life at his pleasure, provided yours be safe. I again intreated him to escape, but he continued inflexible.

" I did not fail to present myself the next morning before Mamoun. The prince was dressed in a crimson, coloured mantle, the symbol of his anger. As soon as he saw me, he inquired where my prisoner was; and at the same instiint ordered the executioner to attend. My lord, says I, throwing myself at his feet, something very extraordinary has happened with regard to the per son you yesterday committed to my custody. Will your majesty permit me to explain it? These words threw him into a passion. I swear, cried he, by the soul of my ancestors, that thy head shall pay for the prisoner, if thou hast suffered him to escape. Both my life and his are at yonr majesty's disposal; vouchsafe to hear me, Speak, said he. I then related to the prince in what manner that man had saved my life at Damascus; that, desirous to discharge the obligation I lay under to him; I had offered him his liberty; but that he had refused it, from the fear of exposing ine to death. My lord, added 1, he is not guilty; a man of such generous sentiments cannot be so. Some base detractors have calumniated him to you; and he is become the unfortunate victim of their hatred and envy. The caliph appeared affected, and, having naturally a greatness of soul, could not help admiring the conduct of my friend. I pardon him, said Mamoun, on thy account: go, carry him this good news, and bring him to me. I threw myself at the prince's feet, kissed them, and made my uckuowledgments in

« السابقةمتابعة »