Page images

of the ancients in poetry, painting, oratory, history, architecture, and all the noble arts and sciences which depend more upon genius than experience, we exceed them as much in doggerel humour, burlesque, and all the trivial arts of ridicule. We meet with more raillery among the moderns, but more good sense among the ancients.

(Gonville and Caius College, 1845.]

In your

149. If I were personally your enemy, I might pity and forgive you. You have every claim to compassion that can arise from misery and distress. The condition you are reduced to would disarm a private enemy of his resentment. But, in the relation you have borne to this country, you have no title to indulgence; and if I had followed the dictates of my own opinion, I never should have allowed you the respite of a moment. public character, you have injured every subject of the empire; and though an individual is not authorized to forgive the injuries done to society, he is called upon to assert his separate share in the public resentment. I submitted, however, to the judgment of men, more moderate, perhaps more candid, than myself. For my own part, I do not pretend to understand those prudent forms of decorum, those gentle rules of discretion, which some men endeavour to unite with the conduct of the greatest and most hazardous affairs. Engaged in the defence of an honourable cause, I would take a decisive part. I should scorn to provide for a future retreat, or to keep terms with a man who preserves no measure with the public. I would pursue him through life, and try the last exertion of my abilities to preserve the perishable infamy of his name, and make it immortal.

[ St John's College Voluntary Classical, 1845.)

150. ONCE give your mind to suspicion, and there will be sure to be food enough for it. In the stillest night, the air is filled with sounds for the wakeful ear that is resolved to listen.

You talk of fame and glory, and of the great men of antiquity: Pray, tell me, what are all your great dead men, but so many little living letters ? What a vast reward is here for all the ink wasted by writers, and all the blood spilt by princes? There was in old time one Severus a Roman Emperor. I dare say you never called him by any other name in your life : and yet in his days he was styled Lucius, Septimius, Severus, Pius, Pertinax, Augustus, Parthicus, Adiabenicus, Arabicus, Maximus, and what not ? What a prodigious waste of letters has time made! what a number have here dropt off, and left the poor surviving seven unattended!

[Trinity College Scholarships, 1845.]

[ocr errors]

151. SOCIETY has almost always begun in inequality, and its tendency is towards equality. This is a sure progress : but the inequality of its first stage is neither unnatural nor unjust: it is only the error of preserving instead of improving which has led to injustice; the folly of thinking that men's institutions can be perpetual when everything else in the world is continually changing. When the conquered Latins were first brought to Rome by those who were then the only Roman citizens, when they were allowed to retain their personal liberty, to enjoy landed property, and to become so far a part of the Roman people, it was not required that they should at once pass from the condition of foreigners to that of perfect citizens: the condition of commons was state of transition from the one rank to the other. But after years had passed away, and both they and their original conquerors were in fact become one people : above all, when this truth had been practically acknowledged by the constitution of Severus Tullius; to continue the old distinctions was but provoking a renewal of the old hostility.

a fit

[Jesus College, 1845.]

152. All composure of mind was now for ever fled from the protector: he felt that the grandeur which he had attained with so much guilt and courage, could not ensure him that tranquillity which it belongs to virtue alone and moderation, fully to ascertain. Death too, which with such signal intrepidity he had braved in the field, being incessantly threatened by the poignards of fanatical or interested assassins, was ever present to his terrified apprehension, and haunted him in every scene of business or repose. Each action of his life betrayed the terrors under which he laboured. The aspect of strangers was uneasy to him: with a piercing and anxious eye he surveyed every face to which he was not daily accustomed. He never moved a step without strong guards attending him: he wore armour under his clothes, and farther secured himself by offensive weapons, which he always carried about him. He returned from no place by the direct road, or by the same way which he went. Every journey he performed with hurry and precipitation. Seldom he slept above three nights together in the same chamber: and he never let it be known beforehand what chamber he intended to choose, nor intrusted himself in any which was not provided with back doors, at which sentinels were carefully placed. Society terrified him, while he reflected on his numerous, unknown, and implacable enemies: solitude astonished him, by

[ocr errors]

withdrawing that protection which he found so necessary for his security. [Trinity College Fellowships, 1845.]

153. But it was not the splendour flowing from a few families of this sort, that gave such respectability to the Roman plebs. It was their essential character as a body of landholders, such as it is denoted by their Quiritary property. The ancients universally esteemed agriculture to be the proper business for freemen, as well as the proper school for soldiers. The countryman, says Cato, has the fewest evil thoughts. In him the old stock of the nation is preserved: while it changes in cities, where

oreign merchants and tradesmen settle, and the natives remove whithersoever gain lures them. In every country where slavery prevails, freedmen seek their livelihood by occupations of this kind, in which they not unfrequently grow wealthy. Thus among the ancients, as in aftertimes, such trades were mostly in the hands of this class, and were therefore thought disreputable to a citizen. Hence the opinion, that admitting the artisans to full civic rights was a hazardous measure, and would transform a nation's character. The ancients had no notion of a government carried on with dignity by guilds, such as we see in the history of the towns during the middle ages : and even in them it is undeniable that the military spirit sank, as the guilds gained the upper hand of the houses, and that at last it became wholly extinct; and with it fell the character and the freedom of the towns. At this day the Italian peasants, if proprietors, are a very honest and worthy race, and infinitely preferable to the townspeople. Agriculture is their nation's true calling, as a sea-life is that of the Greeks, and even of the Neapolitans.

[St John's College, 1845.]

154. The character of any excellent person whom we have never seen, will many times engage our hearts and make us hugely concerned in all his interests: and what is it, I pray you, that engages us so much to those with whom we converse ? I cannot think that it is merely the colour of their face, or their comely proportions; for then we should fall in love with statues, and pictures, and flowers: these outward accomplishments may a little delight the eye, but would never be able to prevail so much on the heart, if they did not represent some vital perfection. We either see or apprehend some greatness of mind, or vigour of spirit, or sweetness of disposition, some sprightliness, or wisdom, or goodness, which charm our spirit, and command our love. Now these perfections are not-obvious to the sight; the eyes can only discern the signs and effects of them; and if it be the understanding that directs the affection, and vital perfections prevail with it, certainly the excellencies of the divine nature (the traces whereof we cannot but discover in every thing we behold) would not fail to engage our hearts, if we did seriously view and regard them. Shall we not be infinitely more transported with that almighty wisdom and goodness which fills the universe, and displays itself in all the parts of the creation, which establisheth the frame of nature, and turneth the mighty wheels of providence, and keepeth the world from disorder and ruin, than with the faint rays

of the

very same perfections which we meet with in our fellow-creatures ? Shall we doat on the scattered pieces of a rude and imperfect picture, and never be affected with the original beauty? This were an unaccountable stupidity and blindness : whatever we find lovely in a friend, or in a saint, ought not to engross, but to elevate our affection ;

« PreviousContinue »