صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

tification of his present necessities. The prodigal and the miser are equally mistaken in their reckoning; the error of both lying in the greater concern they bestow on chimerical and imaginary wants, than on real ones. We may be clearly convinced, by an attentive examination into the nature of riches, that, wbenever they surpass the limits of competency, they necessarily bring with them the desire of increasing, and the embarrassment of securing them ; befides numerous other sufpicions and inquietudes, which multiply the sum of our defires beyond our power of gratifying them.'

From the consideration of riches, our author passes to that of rank and honours ; endeavouring to thew, that a thirst after ambition, is in every respect similar to that after wealth, and attended with like effects. He considers next more particularly the influence, which imagination has over both our pains and pleasures ; and here he supposes that our voluptuous fensations lose more than any other, in their transition from imagination to reality. On the other hand, he conceives that our fears and anxieties depend much less on the organization

of our frame, and the real nature of the object, than on the finest error of our imagination, which exaggerates the distress or the Ezece, 5 danger.

danger. An attentive and careful examination, therefore, inof the file to the nature of things, says he, will greatly diminish the in

Auence of that faculty, which is perpetually exciting irregu

lar and immoderate desires; all which, in fact, arise from our = 022.1* ignorance. Such an examination also, he conceives, would

tend to make us prefer that vigorous activity, in which the gratification of our moderate desires always leaves the soul; and which never deprives us of the more agreeable sensations, viz. those arising from the satisfying those physical wants, which spontaneously arise from our constitution.

The distinction made by our author between moderate and immoderate desires, may poslibly seem to clash with what we observed in the beginning of this article, respecting the relative nature of pleasure and pain in general. It is to be observed, however, that we are limited by our very nature and constitution, both to the enjoyment of pleasure, and the suffering of pain within certain bounds; even as a spring, whose elasticity, we say, is always equal to its compressure. But this is to be understood with certain limits; for if it be stretched or compressed too far, it loses the very virtue by which it is either Compressed or dilated. It is thus with our capacity for pleasure and pain ; our sensations of which, how moderate soever, are proportioned to each other *. At the same time, nevertheless,

[ocr errors]


So that tho' the moderation of our desires would make us more politi-


we may entertain desires so immoderate, that their gratification will debilitate even the capacity of enjoyment; in which cafe the disgust arising from that gratification will not be proportionably so great ; but the consequences will be still worse, because it will weaken the faculty of future enjoyment, even as the overbending or stretching a spring destroys its elafticity.

But, to return to our author ; who, considering man as a compound being, conceives his power of gratification capable of being increased not only by physical, but political means. In regard to the former, he prescribes various rules to augment animal vigour and sentimental fortitude : all these, however, amount to no more than saying, “ preserve health, and acquire knowledge.” But tho' happiness be incompatible with sickness and ignorance, yet it is not necessarily conferred by health and knowledge : his remarks on the political means of encreafing our power of gratification, are more pertinent; these tending to a point, which, as we before observed, is actually, tho' still comparatively, attainable *. Our power of gratification, says he, is to be considerably augmented by the assistance of others; whose concurrence in our favour is to be purchased either by riches or services. It were necessary, however, to possess a boundless and inexhaustible resource of riches, in order to interest a great number of persons, for any considerable time, to contribute to our peculiar gratification. The influence of wealth, says our author, is in this relpect temporary; and is employed to the greatest advantage in those conjunctures, which may ferve to give a lasting establishment to that superiority which it occasionally gives us. The influence of our services is of larger duration ; but it rather tends to prevent others from injuring us, than to excite them to be active in our favour. When people are attached to us on account of our wealth, their attachment is immediately united to a sense


cal'y happy, it would not make us more phycally fo, unless we place fuch happiness in the doration of our capacity for the alternate fucceffion of pain and pleafure : but this is nothing more than longevity, which if the sum of our pains and pleasures should be perfectly equal, would be a state of infipidicy not of happiness.

* What we mean is this; it is polible that the physical happiness of individuals in all ages, and climes may be equal ; but it cannot be doubted that the political happiness of an European, or of any other inhabitant of polithed nations, is much greater than that of the barbarians of primitive ages, or the favages of the present. It is honce 'evident alio, that political happineis, tho' attainable, is only fo in a comparative degree ; for we know not that the most refined, voluptuous and independent people on earth, have as yet attained the ne plus ultra of political happiness.


of their own wants; but when they are only bound to us by moral obligation, they are held by the slender and uneven ties of mere opinion. Now chance or caprice have so great an ef, fect on popular opinion, that its possession is of all things the. most uncertain. A man, who is solicitous of obtaining the good opinion of mankind, by endeavouring to serve them, muit make a total and perpetual facrifice of his own sense and senlibility; he must regulate both his words and actions by the caprices of public opinion; renouncing, as it were, his own being, to assume an heterogeneous existence foreign to himself, and similar to that of the multitude. And this facrifice he must make merely for the enjoyment of an imaginary good, which is every moment ready to escape him.

Where is the man, of the least elevation of soul, capable of acting long so, inconsistently and absurdly? There are two ways to induce others to cooperate with our designs ; the first is by acquiring their approbation or consent to what we have an inclination to do ; and the other by artfully taking the advantage of human weakness, to inculcate incessantly their natural inferiority with regard to ourselves. · It is by this method mankind are the most effęctually subjected to our pleasure ; as they are thus bound by the most indissoluble of all ties, that of fear. The most certain rule, by which to attain this end, is that of displaying on every proper occasion, an incontestible superiority in point of fortitude or courage: this being a virtue the most conspicuous and commanding in all ages and all countries. There is à method, our author observes, also, of depriving others of the opportunity of laying a restraint on our powers of gratifis cation ; this is by withdrawing ourselves from society, and living in obscurity under the protection of the laws. This last condition, says he, is absolutely indispensible; left that sense of superiority, which is common to men in a state of society, fhould make them rush into acts of injustice against an helplefs folitary, incapable of resisting their violence. This last method is the least perilous, as well as the least subject to interruption from the caprices of others ; and is therefore that which hath been generally preferred by the fages. A proper application of these principles, affifted by refeétion, our author conceives, would greatly meliorate the lot of humanity, by er. tablishing an equilibrium between their desires and their means of gratification. There are but a few privileged minds, however, that he thinks capable of entering so far into the necessary examination of themselves. The greater part of mankind, says he, are like those; who, being wounded or difeared, are afraid to look at their fores. The favages, having satisfied their physical wants, enjoy a state of perfect tranquillity ; but in proportion as mankind recede from a state of folieude, they ac

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

quire a multitude of social ideas ; from the confufion and disorder of which, arises a deep sense of their own weakness, and of a Jassitude which makes even life itself a burthen *. Hence it is that we endeavour to go beyond that personal sphere, which seems too confined for our desires ; to live, as it were, at a distance from ourselves in the midst of society. Our lives become in general, habitually and meanly subjected to the influence of present objects ; to which, reflection very seldom opposes the image of those which are diftant: a consideration this, which is sufficient to give those, who can find enjoyment in folitude, a sense of real superiority above the rest of mankind. To preserve this superiority also, it is highly necessary to reflect maturely in every important action of our lives : by which means, we shall the more rarely commit such as we may have reafon to repent. A good conscience is almost always the acquifition of reflection : for what is a good conscience, but a sense of the conformity of our actions with the rules of justice ; and what is justice, but the conformity of actions with the laws of fociety? By the laws of society, however, our author does not mean the statutes or customs of particular states ; which may sometimes be even contradictory to those general rules, or principles by which all societies should be regulated. He remarks in particular, that one of those laws which has ever had the greatest influence on mankind, is that universal notion to which we give the name of honour. Yet this notion which hath formerly effected such wonders, is frequently found to be in direct opposition to particular institutions, both ecclefiaftical and civil.

This consideration leads our author into an examination of the nature of laws and the fundamental principles of society ; after which he endeavours to shew, that the moral duty and the political interest of every individual, are the same thing; the one term signifying the genus, and the other the species. Thus our duty is our interest regulated by law ; altho' we may, it is true, in some particular cases, have an interest where we are not bound in duty ; because there are many actions, concerning which the laws are filent. It is impossible, howe ever, that our true interest should be contrary to the laws, because it is a flat contradiction to pretend that it is our interest

* And yet, who that ever tasted, or has a taste for the pleasures of focicty, would wish to have been a savage, or can envy that stupid tran: quillity which is here recommended > we may with indeed, that our defires had been more moderate, and our gratifications less exquisite, in order that we might have longer enjoyed the charms of society without disgust. But tho we look back on paft pleasure with regret, we canpot look forward ar indifference with delight,


to purchase even a great pleasure at the price of a greater pain.

One of the principal conditions of human happiness, says this writer, is the acquisition of a just knowlege of mankind, the connections by which they are bound, and the relations in which they stand to each other. He seems to think, also, that this knowledge is to be acquired to such a degree, as to set our opinion above the casual influence of particular events and circumstances : none of which should in such a case, prevent our forming a just estimate of men and things. But, by whom is this acquisition to be made? By a man possessed equally of courage and candour ; without affectation and without weakness; equally diftant from an unpolished severity of manners, as from a despicable and complacent servility. If such a man could be found, indeed, he would bid fair to be as happy, as our au or's advice could make him ; but we fear, that in this age of timidity, dependence and irresolution, the generality of his readers will be apt to think the greater part of what he hath advanced, to be merely fine talking! It is doubtless much easier to say than to do: but it does by no means invalidate the truth of a proposition, or shew the impracticability of a design, to say it is eafier said than DONE.


L'Antiquité dévoilée par ses usages.
Antiquity unveiled; or a critical Enquiry into the principal Opi-

nions, Ceremonies and Institutions, religious and political, of the
different Inhabitants of the Earth. By the late Mr. Boulan-
ger. 2 Vols. 12mo. Amsterdam, 1766.

[ocr errors]

N a letter prefixed to this performance, we have some account

of the life and writings of its author ; of which the writer, who profeffes himfelf to have been his intimate friend, fpeaks with a degree of warmth that evidently borders on partiality. The well known talents, however, of Mr. Boulanger, may fufficiently apologize, if not justify, this instance of the letterwriter's regard for his deceased friend. There is, indeed, fomething so fingular in his account of the progress of this author's genius, that we cannot resist the temptation of selecting a few : paffages from this introductory epiftle.

After having acquainted the reader that Mr. Boulanger was remarkably dull and backward in his learning when a schoolboy, he proceeds to inform us, that when about the age of 18, our author applied himself with success to the study of the mathematics and architecture ; in consequence of which he afterwards was made engineer, and was appointed to execute



« السابقةمتابعة »