« PreviousContinue »
soberly reflecting on the casualties of human life, they shew me favour and indulgence, as to a soldier who has served his time, and kindly concede to me an exemption from care and toil. They do not strip me of the badges of honour which I have once worn; they do not deprive me of the places of public trust to which I have been appointed; they do not abridge my salary or emoluments; which, though I may not do so much to deserve as I did formerly, they are too considerate and too kind to take away; and, in short, they honour me as much as the Athenians did those whom they determined to support at the public expense in the Prytaneum. Thus, while both God and man unite in solacing me under the weight of my affliction, let no one lament my loss of sight in so honourable a cause. And let me not indulge in unavailing grief, or want the courage either to despise the revilers of my blindness, or the forbearance easily to pardon the offence.'1
(Here follows the interesting episode of his own career from his birth to the present time, and of 1 The Second Defence,' Works, vol. i. p. 235.
HIS SECOND DEFENCE.
the history of the several works which he had written, which has already been given in its proper chronological place.)
'Your thanks for my Defence are more than it deserves. I had more than once an intention of substituting our English for your Latin. With respect to the subject of your letter you are clearly of my opinion, that that cry to Heaven could not have been audible by any human being, which only serves the more palpably to shew the effrontery of him who affirms with so much audacity that he heard it. Who he was you have caused a doubt; though long since, you seemed to have no doubt but that More was the author' to whom the composition was unanimously ascribed. If you have received any more authentic information on this subject, I wish you would acquaint me with it. With respect to the mode of handling the argument I wish that I could agree with you. If my health and the deprivation of my sight will permit, I shall readily be led to engage in other undertakings, though I know not whether they can
It was really Peter Du Moulin who wrote the Regii Sanguinis Clamor.
be more noble or more useful; for what can be more noble or more useful than to vindicate the liberty of man ! An inactive indolence never pleased me; and this unexpected contest with the enemies of liberty has involuntarily withdrawn my attention from very different and more pleasurable pursuits. What I have done, and which I was under an obligation to do, I feel no reason to regret, and I am far from thinking, as you seem to suppose, that I have laboured in vain.'1
I have always been devotedly attached to the literature of Greece, and particularly to that of your Athens. When you unexpectedly came to London, and saw me who could no longer see, my affliction excited your tenderest sympathy and concern. You would not suffer me to abandon the hope of recovering my sight; and informed me that you had an intimate friend at Paris, Dr Thevenot, who was particularly celebrated in disorders of the eyes, whom you would consult about mine, if I would enable you to lay before him the causes and symptoms of the complaint. I will do
1 Letter XIV. To Henry Oldenburgh, 1654.
what you desire, lest I should seem to reject that aid which perhaps may be offered me by Heaven. It is now about ten years since I perceived my vision to grow weak and dull; and at the same time I was troubled with pain in my kidneys and bowels. In the morning, if I began to read, as was my custom, my eyes instantly ached intensely, but were refreshed after a little bodily exercise. The candle which I looked at, seemed as it were encircled with a rainbow. Not long after the sight in the left part of the left eye (which I lost some years before the other,) became quite obscured; and prevented me from discerning any object on that side. If I shut my right eye, objects before me appeared smaller. The sight in my other eye has now been gradually and sensibly vanishing away for about three years; some months before it had entirely perished, though I stood motionless, everything which I looked at seemed in motion to and fro. A stiff cloudy vapour seemed to have settled on my forehead and temples, which usually occasions a sort of somnolent pressure upon my eyes, particularly from dinner till the evening. So that I often re
collect what is said of the poet Phineus in the Argonautics :
A stupor deep his cloudy temples bound,
And when he walk'd he seem'd as whirling round,
I ought not to omit that while I had any sight left, as soon as I lay down on my bed and turned on either side, a flood of light used to gush from my closed eyelids. Then, as my sight became daily more impaired, the colours became more faint, and were emitted with a certain inward crackling sound; but at present, every species of illumination being as it were extinguished, there is diffused around me nothing but darkness, or darkness mingled and streaked with an ashy brown. Yet the darkness in which I am perpetually immersed, seems always, both by night and day, to approach nearer to white than black; and when the eye is rolling in its socket, it admits a little particle of light, as through a chink. And though your physician may kindle a small ray of hope, yet I make up my mind to the malady as quite incurable; and I often reflect, that, as the