Abbildungen der Seite

memory of it.

mer low condition, but took care to perpetuate the

In a chapel he built at [l] Geneva, over-against the gate of St. Peter's church, he caused this adventure to be carved in stone, where he is represented young and without shoes, keeping hogs under a tree; and all around the wall are the figures of shoes, to express the favour he had received from the shoemaker. This monument is still subsisting at Geneva.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]


Talents of the Mind. How splendid socver the glory of arms and birth may appear, there is still something which more nearly concerns us, which we derive froin learning and the Talents of the Mind. This seems to be more imme. diately our own, and entirely peculiar to us. It is not limited like that of arms to certain times and occasions, nor depends upon a thousand foreign assist

It gives a man a superiority far more agree-able than that which proceeds from riches, birth, or employments, as these are all external; whereas the mind is properly our own, or rather is ourselves, and constitutes our very essence.

Yet it is not the mind alone in which the solid Glory of man consists. Suppose him excellent in himself, and adorned with the knowledge of every thing that is niost curious and exquisite in the sciences, philosophy, mathematics, history, the belles lettres, poetry and eloquence. All these make a man learned, but do not make him good. [1] Non faciunt bonos ista, sed doctos. And if a man be only learned, what is he very often but a vain, obstinate creature, full of himself, and despising all others, and in one word, an animal of glory? For thus Tertullian describes the most learned among the heathen, animal gloria.

Can any thing he more pitiful, or more contemptible, than such a man, vainly putled up with the no

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

[1] He was for some time bishop

[?] Senec. Ep. 106.

of that see

S 3


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

tion of his own learning and abilities, greedy and insatiable after praise, feeding upon wind and smoke, and striving only to live in the opinion of others? [m] Philip, the father of Alexander the Great, beautifully exposed the ridicule of this character in a physician named Menecrates, who had the vanity to take upon himself the surname of Jupiter Serrutor, on account of some extraordinary cures he had wrought, which he attributed wholly to his own skill. Ilaving invited him to dinner, he was placed at table by himself, on which was served up a vessel smoaking with incense. The doctor at first thought hiinself highly honoured, but having nothing to eat during the rest of the entertainment, he soon perceived the meaning of the smoke of the incense; and thus serving for a laughingstock to the rest of the company, he went away hungry from the feast with the title of Jupiter, and the shame he had so justly deserved, in ascribing to his own abilities a success derived from heaven.

The honour, tlierefore, which science and genius confere does not result merely from learning, and the Talents of the Mind, but the good use made of them; and we may truly say, that modesty exalts their lustre and value infinitely more than any thing else. It is a pleasure to see great men sometimes owning themselves in the wrong, as the famous [n] Hippocrates has done in relation to one of the sutures of the skull, about which he had been led into a mistake. Such a confession, [0] as Celsus observes, referring to the passage I am speaking of, argues an uncommon fund of merit in the person that makes it, and an elevation of soul which is very sensible that such slips are not capable of being any prejudice to it; whereas a little mind, which cannot disguise its poverty, is care[m] Ælian. I. 12.c. 51. Achen. ciam magnarum rerum habentium.

Nam levia ingenia, quia nihil ha[1] Lib. επιδημιών ε.

bent, nihil sibi detrahunt. Magno (oj De suturis se deceptum esse ingenio, multaque nihilominus haHippocrates memorize prodidit, bicuro, convenit etiam veri erroris more magnorum virorum, & fidu- siinplex confessio. Cels. I. 8. C. 4.


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

1. 7. c. 10.

[ocr errors][merged small]

ful to run no risque, nor willingly to lose the sinallest share of the little it possesses.

It is a pleasure also to see learned men disputing without bitterness, anger, or passion, as Tully tells us, he was disposed to do: [p] Nos & refellere sine pertinaciâ, &; refelli sine iracundia, parati sumus. Our age has furnished us with several instances of this virtue; but had we no other than F. Mabillon, he would do infinite honour to literature. In his disputes with the famous abbé de la Trape, his mildness and moderation, as we all know, gave him a great advantage over his adversary. There was another, who was able to dispute with him as well in point of modesty as learning ; this was F. Papebrochius, who gave occasion to his writing his book de re diplomaticá.

“I own,” says this learned jesuit, in a Latin letter he wrote to F. Mabillon upon this subject, which he

gave him leave to publish, " that I have no other satisfac"tion in having written upon this matter, than that

of having given you an opportunity of drawing up so accurate a performance. It is true at first I found some uneasiness, upon reading your book, to see myself confuted in such a manner, as I knew not how to answer ; but the usefulness and beauty of so valuable a work soon conquered my weakness; "and overjoyed to see the truth set in so clear a light, " I invited my companion in study to share with me "in my admiration. For which reason, make no

scruple, as often as you have opportunity, to de" clare publicly, that I am wholly of your opinion.

There is an artificial and studied modesty, which covers a secret pride; but here we have an ingenuous simplicity, which shews plainly it came from the heart. I cannot finish what I have to say upon F. Mabillon, without taking notice that the late archbishop of Rheims (le Tellier) presenting him to king Lewis XIV. said to himn thus, Sir, I have the honour to present to your majesty, the most learned and most modest monk in your kingdom.

[A] Acad. Quæst. I. 2. n. 5.
S 4


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

Another character still, which is very amiable in a man of learning, is to be always ready to let others share in his labours, to communicate his remarks to them, to assist them with his reflections, and to contribute to the utmost of his power to the perfection of their works. I question whether any one ever carried this point farther than M. de Tillemont. His collections and extracts, which were the fruit of many years labour, became the property of every one that had occasion for them. He was never afraid, as is too usual amongst men of learning, that his works should lose the merit of invention, or the grace of novelty, by being shewn to others before they were published. And the same praise is due to [9] M. d'Ilerouval. Though a contempt of glory and vain reputation prevented him from publishing any thing himself, yet his zeal for the public good gave him a share in almost all the works that were sent abroad in his time, by his communicating to the authors his discoveries, his observations, and his manuscripts.

Reputation. This is looked upon as the dearest and most valuable treasure belonging to mankind, even by persons of the greatest probity; andan indifference concerning it, and much more the despising it, seem absolutely not to be admitted. [r] What can be expected indeed from one that is unconcerned about the judyment which the rest of the world, and especially men of honesty, shall pass upon his conduct? It is not only, as 'T'ully observes, the sign of unsupportable pride and conceitedness, but the mark of having perfecuy abandoned all modesty.

And yet to be over-solicitous after praise, to he greedy of it, and eager in pursuing it, and to seem in some measure to beg it, instead of being the character - [9] Ant. de Vion, auditeur des quorum. Nam negligere quid de

se quisque sentiat, non solùm arro. [] Adhibenda est quædam re- gantis est, sed etiam omnino dissoverentia & optimi cujusque, & reli-, luti. Cffic. d. i n. 99.

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



of a great soul, is the most certain sign of a vain and light disposition, which feeds upon wind, and takes the shadow for the substance.

Yet this is the weakness of the most part of mankind, and sometimes even of such as are distinguished by peculiar merit, which induces them often to seek for glory where it is not to be found.

[s] Philip of Macedon was not the most scrupulouis in his choice of the means, which were to procure him a solid Reputation. He was fond of every kind of glory, and on every kind of occasion. He was, as an orator, vain of his eloquence. He reckoned upon the victories his chariots had gained in the Olympic games, and took great care to have them engraved on his coins. He gave lessons in music, and undertook to correct the masters of it; which occasioned one of them to make that ingenious answer, which, without offence, was very capable of shewing him his error: God forbid, Sir, you should ever be so unhappy as to know these matters better than I do. He himself

gave a like lesson to his son for having shewn too much skill in music at an entertainment; Are you not ashamed says he to him, that you can sing so well ? In short, there are certain branches of knowledge, which are very commendable in private persons, whose only business is to follow them, that a prince ought but slightly to be acquainted with, as it would be beneath his dignity to affect a greater skill in them, and as his time ought to be taken up in matters of greater weight and importance. [t] Nero, who did not want for wit and spirit, was blamed for neglecting the occupations proper to his station, and amusing himself with engraving, painting, singing, and driving of chariots. A prince, who has a taste of true glory, does not aspire to such a Reputation. He understands what it is deserves his application, and from what he should abstain ; and how great an inclination soever he may [s] Plut. in Vit. Alex.

cælare, & pingere, cantus, aut re[1] Nero puerilibus statim annis gimen equorum exercere.

Tacit, vividum animuin in alia detorsit; Annal. I. 23. C. 3.


« ZurückWeiter »