Page images
PDF
EPUB

making them doubt those truths, in which they were most deeply interested; but it can convey real good and happiness to no one individual.

(Bell Scholarships, 1825.]

9. The merit of this prince both in private and public life, may with advantage be set in opposition to that of any monarch or citizen, which the annals of any age or any nation can present to us. He seems, indeed, to be the model of that perfect character, which, under the denomination of a sage or wise man, philosophers have been fond of delineating, rather as a fiction of their imagination, than in hopes of ever seeing it really existing ; so happily were all his virtues tempered together, so justly were they blended; and so powerfully did each prevent the other from exceeding its proper boundaries. He knew how to reconcile the most enterprising spirit with the coolest moderation, the most obstinate perseverance, with the easiest flexibility; the most severe justice with the gentlest lenity; the greatest vigour in commanding, with the most perfect affability of deportment; the highest capacity and inclination for science, with the most shining talents for action. His civil and military virtues are almost equally the objects of our admiration; excepting only that the former being more rare among princes, as well as more useful, seem chiefly to challenge our applause.

[Classical Tripos, 1825.]

10. He was a man of wonderful gravity and wisdom, and understood not only the whole science and mystery of the law, at least equally with any man, who had ever sat in that place; but had a clear conception of the

whole policy of the government both of Church and State, which, by the unskilfulness of some well-meaning men jostled each the other too much.

He knew the temper, disposition and genius of the kingdom most exactly; saw their spirits grow every day more sturdy, inquisitive and patient; and therefore naturally abhorred all innovation, which he foresaw would produce ruinous effects.—Yet many, who stood at a distance, thought that he was not active and stout enough in opposing those innovations.

For though, by his place, he presided in all public councils, and was most sharp-sighted on the consequence of things; yet he was seldom known to speak in matters of state, which he well knew were, for the most part, concluded before they were brought to that public agitation: never in foreign affairs, which the vigor of his judgment could well have comprehended; nor indeed freely in any thing, but what immediately and plainly concerned the justice of the kingdom; and in that, as much as he could, he procured reference to the judges. Though, in his nature, he had not only a firm gravity, but a severity, and even some morosity; yet it was so happily tempered, and his courtesy and affability towards all men so transcendent, and so much without affectation, that it marvellously recommended him to all men of all degrees, and he was looked upon as an excellent courtier, without receding from the native simplicity of his own manners.

[Chancellor's Medals, 1826.]

11. It was the funeral day of the late man who made himself to be called Protector. And though I bore but little affection, either to the memory of him, or to the trouble and folly of all public pageantry, yet I was forced

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]

altar, and her harp on the other. She then tucked up her vestments like a Spartan virgin, and amidst thousands of spectators, who were anxious for her safety, and offered up vows for her deliverance, marched directly forwards to the utmost summit of the promontory, where, after having repeated a stanza of her own verses, which we could not hear, she threw herself off the rock with such an intrepidity as was never before observed in any who had attempted that dangerous leap. Many who were present related that they saw her fall into the sea, from whence she never rose again, though there were others who affirmed, that never came to the bottom of her leap; but that she was changed into a swan as she fell, and that they saw her hovering in the air under that shape.

[Classical Tripos, 1826.]

13. But as the Stoics exalted human nature too high, so the Epicureans depressed it too low; as those raised it to the heroic, these debased it to the brutal state: they held pleasure to be the chief good of man, death the extinction of his being; and placed their happiness consequently in the secure enjoyment of a pleasurable life; esteeming virtue on no other account than as it was a handmaid to pleasure, and helped to ensure the possession of it, by preserving health and conciliating friends. Their wise man therefore had no other duty but to provide for his own ease; to decline all struggles; to retire from public affairs; and to imitate the life of their gods; by passing his days in a calm, contemplative, undisturbed repose; in the midst of rural shades and pleasant gardens. This was the scheme that Atticus followed: he had all the talents that could qualify a man to be useful to society; great parts, learning, judgment, candour, benevolence, generosity; the same love of his country, and the same sentiments in politics with Cicero; whom he was always advising and urging to act, yet determined never to act himself, or never at least so far as to disturb his ease, or endanger his safety. For though he was so strictly united with Cicero, and valued him above all men, yet he managed an interest all the while with the opposite faction, and a friendship even with his mortal enemies, Clodius and Antony, that he might secure against all events the grand point which he had in view, the peace and tranquillity of his life. Thus two excellent men, by their mistaken notions of virtue, drawn from the principles of their philosophy, were made useless in a manner to their country: each in a different extreme of life; the one always acting and exposing himself to dangers without the prospect of doing good; the other, without attempting to do any, resolving never to act at all.

[Bell Scholarships, 1826.]

14. I HAVE been very often tempted to write invectives upon those who have detracted from my works, or spoken in derogation of my person ; but I look upon it as a particular happiness, that I have always hindered my resentments from proceeding to this extremity. I once had gone througb half a satire, but found so many motions of humanity rising in me towards the persons whom I had severely treated, that I threw it into the fire without ever finishing it. I have been angry enough to make several little epigrams and lampoons; and after having admired them a day or two, have likewise committed them to the flames. These I look upon as so many sacrifices to humanity, and have received much greater satisfaction from the suppressing such perform

« PreviousContinue »