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will be doubly ruinous; and the husband's selfishness, being accompanied with more power, may be still more dangerous.
Should these reasons against voluntary divorces be esteemed insufficient, I hope no body will pretend to refuse the testimony of experience. At the time when divorces were most frequent among the ROMANS, marriages were most rare ; and AUGUSTUS was obliged, by penal laws, to force the men of fashion into the married state: A circumstance which is scarce to be found in any other age or nation. The more ancient laws of Rome which prohibited divorces, are extremely praised by DIONYSIUS HALYCARNASSÆUS*. Wonderful was the har. mony, fays the historian, which this inseparable union of interests produced between married persons; while each of them considered the inevitable necessity by which they were linked together, and abandoned all prospect of any other choice or establishment.
The exclusion of polygamy and divorces sufficiently recommends our present EUROPEAN practice with regard to marriage.
we copy lowalife drawn with and at full length" we make of these are
D INE writing, according to Mr. Addison, consists of sentiments, which are
f natural, without being obvious. There cannot be a juster, and more concise definition of fine writing.
SENTIMENTS, which are merely natural, affect not the mind with any pleasure, and seem not worthy of our attention. The pleasantries of a waterman, the observations of a peasant, the ribaldry of a porter or hackney coachman; all these are natural, and disagreeable. What an insipid comedy should we make of the chicchat of the tea-table, copied faithfully and at full length? Nothing can please persons of taste, but nature drawn with all her graces and ornaments, la belle nature ; or if we copy low life, the strokes must be strong and remarkable, and must convey a lively image to the mind. The absurd naivety of Sancho Pancho is represented in such inimitable colors by CERVANTES, that it entertains as much as the picture of the most magnanimous hero or softest lover.
The case is the same with orators, philosophers, critics, or any author who speaks in his own person, without introducing other speakers or actors. If his language be not elegant, his observations uncommon, his sense strong and masculine, he will in vain boast his nature and simplicity. He may be correct; but he never will be agreeable. 'Tis the unhappiness of such authors, that they are never blamed nor censured. The good fortune of a book, and that of a man, are not the same. The secret deceiving path of life, which HORACE talks of, fallentis semita vita, may be the happiest lot of the one ; but is the greatest misfortune, which the other possibly can fall into.
* Lib. 2.
On the other hand, productions, which are merely surprising, without being natural, can never give any lasting entertainment to the mind. To draw chimeras is not, properly speaking, to copy or imitate. The justness of the representation is lost, and the mind is displeased to find a picture, which bears no resemblance to any original. Nor are such excessive refinements more agreeable in the epistolary or philosophic stile than in the epic or tragic. Too much ornament is a fault in every kind of production. Uncommon expressions, strong Aashes of wit, pointed similies, and epigrammatic turns, especially when they occur too frequently, are a disfigurement rather than any embellishment of discourse. As the eye, in surveying a Gothic building, is distracted by the multiplicity of ornaments, and loses the whole by its minute attention to the parts ; so the mind, in perusing a work overstocked with wit, is fatigued and disgusted with the conftant endeavor to shine and surprize. This is the case where a writer over-abounds in wit, even tho that wit, in itself, should be just and agreeable. But it commonly happens to such writers, that they seek for their favorite ornaments, even where the subject afiords them not; and by that means, have twenty insipid conceits for one thought which is really beautiful.
There is no subject in critical learning more copious than this of the just mixture of simplicity and refinement in writing; and therefore, not to wander in too large a field, I shall confine myself to a few general observations on that head. · Fitji, I observe, That'tho excesses of both kinds are to be avoided, and tho' a proper medium ought to be studied in all productions ; yet this med um lies not in a point, but admits of a very considerable laiitude. Consider the wide distance, in this respect, betwixt Mr. Pope and LUCRETIUS. These seem to lie in the two greatest extremes of refueinent and simplicity, in which a poet can indulge himself, without being guilty of any blameable excess. All this interval may be filled with poets, who may differ from each other, but may be equally admirable, each in his peculiar stile and manner. CORNEILLE and CONGREVE, who carry their wit and refinement somewhat farther than Mr. Pope (if poets of so different a kind can be compared together) and Sophocles and Terence, who are more simple than LucretIUS, seem to have gone out of that medium, in which the most perfect productions are found, and to be guilty of some excess in these opposite characters. Of all the great poets, VIRGIL and Racine, in my opinion, lye nearest the center, and are the farthest removed from both the extremities.
My second observation on this head is, That it is very difficult, if not imposible to explain by words, where the just medium between the exceses of Simplicity and refine-. ment lyes, or to give any rule, by which we can know precisely the bounds between the fault and the beauty. "A critic may not only discourse very judiciously on this head, without instructing his readers, but even without understanding the matter perfectly himself. There is not a finer piece of criticism than the dissertation on pastorals by FONTENELLE ; where, by a number of reflections and philosophical reasonings, he endeavors to fix the juft medium, which is suitable to that species of writing. But let any one read the pastorals of that author, and he will be convinced, that this judicious critic, notwithstanding his fine reasonings, had a false taste, and fixed the point of perfection much nearer the extreme of refinement, than pastoral poetry will admit of. The sentiments of his shepherds are better suited to the
'oilettes of PARIS, than to the forests of ARCADIA. But this it is impossible to discover from his critical reasonings. He blames all excessive painting and ornament as much as VIRGIL could have done, had be wrote a differtation on that species of poetry. However different the tastes of men may be, their general dircourses on these subjects are commonly the same. No criticism can be very instructive, which descends not to particulars, and is not full of examples and illuftrations. 'Tis allowed on all hands, that beauty, as well as virtue, lies always in a medium ; but where this medium is placed, is the great question, and can never be sufficiently explained by general reasonings.
I SHALL deliver it as a third obfervation on this subject, that we ought to be more on our guard against the excess of refinement than that of fimplicity; and that because the former excess is both less beautiful, and more dangerous than the latter.
'Tis a certain rule, that wit and passion are intirely inconsistent. When the affections are moved, there is no place for the imagination. The mind of man being naturally limited, 'tis impossible, that all its faculties can operate at once : And the more any one predominates, the less room is there for the others to exert their vigor. For this reason, a greater degree of fimplicity is required in all compositions, where men, and actions, and passions are painted, than in such as conlift of reflections and observations. And as the former fpecies of writing is the more engaging and beautiful, one may safely, upon this account, give the preference to the extreme of simplicity above that of refinement.
We may also observe, that those compositions, which we read the offeneft, and which every man of taste has got by heart, have the recommendation of simplicity, and have nothing surprizing in the thought, when divested of that elegance of expression, and harmony of numbers, with which it is cloathed. If the merit of the composition lies in a point of wit;, it may strike at first';- but the mind anticipates the thought in the second parusal, and is no longer affected by it. When I read an epigram of MARTIAL, the first line recalls the whole ; and I have no pleasure in repeating to myself what I know already. But each line, each word in CATUL-' LUS has its merit; and I am never tired with the perusal of him. 'Tis sufficient to run over COWLEY once : But PARNEL; after the fiftieth reading, is as fresh as at the first. Besides, 'tis with books; as with women, where a certain plainness of manner and of dress is more engaging than that glare of paint and airs and apa? parel, which may dazzle the eye, but reaches' not the affections. Terence is a modest and bashful beauty, to whom - we grant every thing, because he alsumes nothing, and whose purity and nature make a durable, tho' not a violent, impression on us. · But refinement, as it is the less beautiful, so is it the more dangerous extreme, and what we are the aptest to fall into. Simplicity passes for dulness, when it is not accompanied with great elegance and propriety. On the contrary, there is something surprizing in a blaze of wit and conceit. Ordinary readers are mightily struck with it, and falsely imagine it to be the most difficult, as well as most excel. lent way of writing. Seneca abounds with agreeable faults, says QUINTILIAN," abundat dulcibus vitiis ; and for that reason is the more dangerous, and the more apt: to pervert the taste of the young and inconfiderate.
I shall add, that the excess of refinement is now more to be guarded against than ever ; because 'tis the extreme, which men are the most apt to fall into, af
ter learning has made great progress, and after eminent writers have appeared in every species of composition. The endeavor to please by novelty leads men wide of amplicity and nature, and fills their writings with affectation and conceit. Ic was thus the ASIATIC eloquence degenerated so much from the Attic. It was thus the age of CLAUDIUS and Nero became so much inferior to that of AUGUSTus in taste and genius : And perhaps there are, at present, fome symptoms of a like degeneracy of taste, in FRANCE as well as in ENGLAND.
E S S A Y XXIV.
ANHE vulgar are very apt to carry all national characters to extremes ; and
having once established it as a principle, that any people are knavish, or çowardly, or ignorant, they will admit of no exception, but comprehend every individual under the same character. Men of sense condemn these undistinguishing judgments : thoo at the same time, they allow, that each nation has a peculiar set of manners, and that some particular qualities are more frequently to be met with among one people than among their neighbors. The common people in SWISSERLAND have surely more probity, than those of the same rank in IRELAND ;, and every prudent man will, from that circumstance alone, make a difference in the, trust which he reposes in each. We have reason to expect greater wit and gaiety in a FRENCHMAN than in a SPANIARD; tho' CERVANTES was born in Spain. An ENGLISHMAN will naturally be supposed to have more knowlege than a DANE; tho' Tycho BRAHE was a native of DENMARK.
DIFFERENT reasons are assigned for these national cbaracters; while some account for them from moral and others. from physical causes. By moral causes, I mean all circumstances, which are fitted to work on the mind as motives or reasons, and which render a peculiar set of manners habitual to us. Of this kind are, the nature of the government, the revolutions of public affairs, the plenty or penury in which the people live, the situation of the nation with regard to its neighbors, and such like circumstances. By physical causes, I mean those qualities of the air and climate, which are supposed to work insensibly on the temper, by altering the tone and habit of the body, and giving a particular complexion, which tho' reflection and reason may sometimes overcome, yet will it prevail among the generality of mankind, and have an influence on their manners.;
That the character of a nation will very much depend on moral causes must be evident to the moit superficial observer ; since a nation is nothing but a collection of individuals, and the manners. of individuals are frequently determined by these causes. As poverty and hard labor debase the minds of the common people, and render them unfit for any science and ingenious profession; fo where any government becomes very oppressive to all its subjects, it inust have a proportional effect on their temper and genius, and must banish all the liberal arts from among them. Instances of this nature are very frequent in the world,
As poverty and frience and ingenious it must have a
The same principle of moral causes fixes the character of different professions, and alters even that disposition, which the particular members receive from the hand of nature. A soldier and a priest are different characters, in all nations, and all ages, and this difference is founded on circumstances, whose operation is eternal and unalterable.
The uncertainty of their life makes soldiers lavish and generous as well as brave: Their idleness, as well as the large societies, which they form in camps or garri. fons, inclines them to pleasure and gallantry: By their frequent change of company, they acquire good breeding and an openness of behavior : Being employed only against a public and an open enemy, they become candid, honest, and unde. signing: And as they use more the labor of the body than that of the mind, they are commonly thoughtless and ignorant *.
'Tis a trite, but not altogether a false maxim, that friests of all religions are the same ; and tho’ the character of the profession will not, in every inftance, prevail over the personal character, yet is it sure always to predominate with the greater number. For as chymists observe, that spirits, when raised to a certain height, are all the same, from whatever materials they be extracted; fo these men, being elevated above humanity, acquire a uniform character, which is entirely their own, and which, in my opinion, is, generally speaking, not the most amiable, that is to be met with in human society. It is, in most points, opposite to that of a soldier; as is the way of life, from which it is derived t...
; ; ; ! ! . As
* 'Tis a saying of MENANDER, Kopertos spatiurns, support the veneration paid them by the ignorano o'do áo si mette Dios OjBeis yévout' ár. Men, apud vulgar, they must not only keep a reniarkable reSTOBÆUM. 'Iis not in the power even of God to serve, but muft promote the spirit of superstition, wake a polite soldier. The contrary observation by a continued grimace and typocriiy. This difwith regard to the manners of soldiers takes place simulation often deitroys the candor and ingein our days. This seems to nie a presumption, nuity of their temper, and makes an irreparable that the ancients owed all their refinement and ci- breach in their charauer vility to books and study; for which, indeed,
a I f by chance any of them be possefled of a temsoldier's life is not so well calculated. Company per more susceptible of devotion than usual. fo and the world is their sphere. And if there be that he has but little occasion for hypocrisy to fupany politeness to be learned from company, they port the character of his profesion; 'tis so natural will certainly have a considerable share of it for him to over-rate this advantage, and to think
+ Tho' all mankind have a strong propensity to that it atones for every violation of morality, that religion at certain times and in certain dispositions; frequently he is not more virtuous than the hypoyet are there few or none, who have it to that de crite. And tho' few dare openly avow those exgree, and with that conitancy, which is requisite ploded opinions, that every thing is lawful to the to support the character of this profeflion. It must, jaints, and that they alone kave property in their therefore, happen, that clergymen, being drawn goods ; yet may we observe, that these principles from the common mass of mankind, as people are lurk in every bosom, and represent a zeal for relito other employments, by the views of profit, the gicus obfervances as so great a merit, that it may greatett part, tho' no atheists or free-thinkers, compensate for many vices and enormities. This will find it necessary, on particular occasions, to obfervation is so common, that all prudent men feign more devotion than they are, at that time, are on their guard, when they meet with any ex-' poliessed of, and to maintain the appearance of traordinary appearance of religion;! tho' at the fervor and seriousness, even when jaded with the same time, they confess, that there are many exexercises of their religion, or when they have ceptions to this general rule, and that probity and their minds engaged in the common occupations superstition are not altogether incompatible, of life. They must not, like the rest of the Most men are ambitious; but the ambition of world, give scope to their natural movements and other men may commonly be fatisned, by excelfentiments : They must set a guard over their ling in their particular profession, and thereby proy looks and words and actions : And in order to moting the interests of society. The ambition of