Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][ocr errors]

ploits and conquests boasted of; but if all these have no foundation in truth and justice, History will tacitly pass sentence upon them under borrowed names. The greatest part of the most famous conquerors they will find treated as public calamities, the enemies of mankind, and [f] the robbers of nations, who hurried on by a restless and blind ambition, carry desolation from country to country, [8] and like an inundation, or a fire, ravage all that they meet in their way.

They will see a Caligula, a Nero, and a Domitian, who were praised to excess during their lives, become the horror and execration of mankind after their deaths ; whereas Titus, Trajan, Antoninus, and Marcus Aurelius, are, still looked upon as the delights of the world, for having made use of their power only to do good. Thus we may say, that History is to them a tribunal raised in their life-time, like that which was formerly erected amongst the Egyptians, where princes, like private men, were tried and condemned after their death, and that hence they may learn beforehand, the sentence which will for ever be passed upon their reputation. It is History, in fine, [h] which fixes the seal of innortality upon actions truly great, and sets a mark of infamy on vices, which no after-age can ever obliterate. It is by History that mistaken merit, and oppressed virtue, appeal to the uncorruptible tribunal of posterity, which renders them the justice their own age has sometimes refused them, and without respect of persons and the fear of a power, which subsists no more, condemns the unjust abuse of authority with inexorable rigour.

There is no age or condition, which may not derive the same advantages from History; and what I have said of princes and conquerors, comprehends

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

chritt

(f) Jer. iv. 7.

animantium exaruit, Senec. lib. 3. [g] Philippi aut Alexandri la. Nat. Quæst. in Præfat. trocinia cæterorumque, qui exitio [b] Præcipuum munus annalium gentium clari, non minores fuere reor, ne virtutes sileantur, vtque pestes mortalium, quàm inundatio, pravis dictis factisque ex posteritate quâ planum omne perfusum est, & infamiâ metus sit. Tacit. An. quan conflagratio, quâ magna pars nal. lib. 3 cap. 65. P 2

also

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

also in some measure all persons in power, ministers of state, generals of armies, officers, magistrates, governors of provinces, prelates, ecclesiastical superiors both secular and regular, fathers and mothers, masters and mistresses; in a word, whoever have authority over others. For such persons have sometimes more haughtiness, pride and humour in a very limited station than kings in theirs, and carry their despotic disposition and arbitrary power to a greater length. History therefore is of great advantage, to lay down useful lessons to them all, and present them with a faithtul mirror of their duties and obligations by an unsuspected han... and thereby make them sensible, that they are all convituted for the sake of their inferiors, and not their inferiors for them.

Thus History, when it is well taught, becomes a school of morality for all mankind. It condemns vice, throws off the mask from false virtues, lays open popular errors and prejudices, dispels the delusive charms of riches, and all the vain pomp which dazzles the iinagination, and shews by a thousand examples, that are more availing than all reasonings whatsoever, that nothing is great and commendable but honour and probity. From the esteem and admiration, which the most corrupt cannot refuse to the great and good actions which History lays before them, it contirms the great truth, that virtue is man's real good, and alone renders him truly great and valuable. [i] This virtue we are taught by History tn revere, and to discern its beauty and brightness through the veils of poverty, adversity, and obscurity, and sometimes also of disgrace and infamy; and on the other hand it inspires us with the contempt

[i] Si, quemadmodum visus ocu- illam, quamvis sordido obtectam. lorum quibusdam medicamentis Rursus æquè militiam & ærum. acui solet & repurgari, sic & nosnosi animi veternum perspiciemus, acrem animi liberare impertimentis quamvis multus circa divitiarum voluerimus, poterimus perspicere jadiantium splendor impediat, & virtutem, etiam obrutam corpore, intuentem hinc honorum illinc magetiam paupertate opposità, & hu- narum potestatum, falsa lux vermilitate, & infamia ohjacentibus: beret: 'Senec. Ep. 315, cernemus, inquam, pulchritudinem

and

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

and horror of vice, though' clothed in purple, surrounded with splendor, and placed on a throne.

But to confine' myself to my own part of the subject, I look upon History as the first master to be given to children, equally serviceable to entertain and instruct them, to form their hearts and understandings, and to enrich their memories with facts as agreéable as useful. [K] It may likewise be of great service, by means of the pleasure inseparable from it, towards exciting the curiosity of that age, which is ever desirous of being inforined, and inspiring a taste for study. Thus in point of education, it is a fundamental pripeiple, and constantly observed in all times, that the study of History should precede all the rest, and prepare the way for them. Plutarch tells us, that Cato the elder, the famous censor, whose name and virtue brought so much honour to the Roman commonwealth, took upon himself a peculiar care in the education of his son, without trusting to the care of masters, and drew up a collection of historical facts expressly for his use, and wrote them over in large characters with his own hands, that the child, he said, might be able from his infancy, without going from home, to become acquainted with the great men of his own country, and form himself upon those ancient models of probity and virtue. It is by no means necessary that I should dwell

any longer upon proving the usefulness of History; it is a point generally enough agreed on, and which few people call in question. It is of most concern to know what is necessary to be observed in order to render the study of it useful, and reaping the benefits to be expected from it. And this I shall now attempt to lay down.

That I may throw what I have to say upon History into some order, I shall divide this discourse into three

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

{€] Fatendum in ipsis rebus, quæ cognoscendumque moveamur. Cic. discuntur & cognoscuntur invita. lib. s. de fin. bon. & mal. n. 2. mesta inesse, quibus ad discendum P 3

parts. [!] Quia provenere ibi magna orbem (veterum) facta pro maximis scriptorum ingenia, per terrarum celebrantur. Sallust. in Bel. Catil.

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

parts. The first shall treat of the taste for solid glory and real greatness, and serve to caution youth against the false ideas which the study of History itself may raise in them upon this subject. The second shall be upon sacred History. The third upon profane. And in the last I shall say something of fable, of the study of the Greek and Roman antiquities, the authors from whence we are to borrow our knowledge of History, and the order wherein they are to be read.

I make no inention here of the History of France, as it is but natural thatancient History should precede the modern; and I scarce think it possible for boys to find time whilst they are at school, to apply themselves to that of France. But I am far from looking upon it as an indifferent study, and I am concerned to see it so much neglected as it is by abundance of persons, to whom it might notwithstanding be very useful, not to say necessary. : In talking thus, I first of all blame myself; for, Í own I have not applied myself to it in the manner it deserves; and I am ashamed to be in some measure a stranger in my own country, after having travelled through so many others. And yet our History supplies us with great examples of virtue, and abundance of beautiful actions, which remain for the most part buried in obscurity, either through the badness of our historit ans [7 ) who have wanted the talents for treating them according to their dignity, like the Greeks and Romans: or in consequence of a bad taste, which in climes to admire highly what passes at a distance from our own age and country, whilst we remain cold and indifferent to such actions as pass before our eyes

and in the age we live. But though we have not time to teach youth the History of France, we ought at least to cultivate a taste in them for it, by quoting such passages out of it from time to time, as may induce them to a farther application to it, when they shall have leisure.

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

PART

11.12

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

OF THE TASTE FOR SOLID GLORY AND REAL

GREATNESS.

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

1

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

ALL the world agrees, that one of the first cares in training up youth to the study of polite learning, is previously to lay down such rules and principles of good taste, as may...serve to guide and direct them in the reading of authors. It is the more necessary to give them this assistance in the case of History, which may be regarded as the study of morality and virtue; as it is of far more inportance to pass a right judgment upon virtue than eloquence, and less shameful and dangerous to be mistaken in the rules of discourse, than in those of morality.

Our age, and our nation in particular, stand in need of being undeceived concerning a great number of mistakes and false prejudices, which daily prevail more and more, upon the points of poverty and riches; modesty and presumption ; simplicity of buildings and furniture; costliness and magnificence; frugality and delicacy in diet; in a word, upon almost every thing that is the object either of the contempt or admiration of mankind. In matters of this nature the [m] public taste becomes a rule to youth. They look upon that as valuable, which they see every body set a value upon; and are guided, not by reason, but custom [n]. One single bad example shall suffice to corrupt the minds of youth, which are susceptible of every impression : What then have we

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

Ep. 123.

[m] Recti apud nos locum tenet riæ, aut avaritiæ, multum mali
error, ubi publicus factus est. Sen. facit ... quid tu accidere his mori-

bus credis, in quos publicè factus
Nulla res nos majoribus malis est impetus ? ... adeo nemo nos-
implicat, quàm quòd ad rumorein trum ferre impetum vitiorum tam
componimur; optima rati ea, quæ magno comitatu venientium potest.
magno assensu recepta sunt ...nec Id. Ep.7.
ad rationem, sed ad similitudinem Definit esse remedio locus, ubi
vivimus. Id. lib.de Vit.Beat.cap.1. quæ fuerant vitia, mores funt. Id.
[n] Vaum exemplum, aut luxu- Ép. 39.
P4

not

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »