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most hateful of the hateful, the most profligate of the profligate, have been denied any celebrations which they were willing to purchase, or that wickedness and folly have not found correspondent flatterers through all their subordinations, except when they have been associated with avarice or poverty, and have wanted either inclination or ability to hire a panegyrist.
As there is no character so deformed as to fright away from it the prostitutes of praise, there is no degree of encomiastick veneration which pride has refused. The emperors of Rome suffered themselves to be worshipped in their lives with altars and sacrifices; and, in an age more enlightened, the terms peculiar to the praise and worship of the Supreme Being, have been applied to wretches whom it was the reproach of humanity to number among men; and whom nothing but riches or power hindered those that read or wrote their deification, from hunting into the toils of justice, as disturbers of the peace of nature.
There are, indeed, many among the poetical flatterers, who must be resigned to infamy without vindication, and whom we must confess to have deserted the cause of virtue for pay; they have committed, against full conviction, the crime of obliterating the distinctions between good and evil, and, instead of opposing the encroachments of vice, have incited her progress, and celebrated her conquests. But there is a lower class of sycophants, whose understanding has not made them capable of equal guilt. Every man of high rank is surrounded with numbers, who have no other rule of thought or action, than his
maxims, and his conduct; whom the honour of being numbered among his acquaintance, reconciles to all his vices, and all his absurdities; and who easily persuade themselves to esteem him, by whose regard they consider themselves as distinguished and exalted. It is dangerous for mean minds to venture themselves within the sphere of greatness. Stupidity is soon blinded by the splendour of wealth, and cowardice is easily fettered in the shackles of dependance. To solicit patronage, is, at least, in the event, to set virtue to sale. None can be pleased without praise, and few can be praised without falsehood; few can be assiduous without servility, and none can be servile without corruption.
NUMB, 105. TUESDAY, March 19, 1751.
Impulsu, et cæcâ magnâque cupidine ducti.
Vain man runs headlong, to caprice resign'd;
I WAS lately considering, among other objects of speculation, the new attempt of an universal register, an office, in which every man may lodge an account of his superfluities and wants, of whatever he desires to purchase or to sell, My imagination soon presented to me the latitude to which this design may be extended by integrity and industry, and the advantages which may be justly hoped from a general mart of intelligence, when once its reputation shall be so established, that neither reproach nor fraud shall be feared from it; when an application to it shall not be censured as the last resource of desperation, nor its informations suspected as the fortuitous suggestions of men obliged not to appear ignorant. A place where every exuberance may be discharged, and every deficiency supplied; where every lawful passion may find its gratifications, and every honest curiosity receive satisfaction; where the stock of a nation, pecuniary and intellectual, may be brought together, and where all conditions of huma nity may hope to find relief, pleasure, and accommodation; must equally deserve the attention of the merchant and philosopher, of him who mingles in the
tumult of business, and him who only lives to amuse himself with the various employments and pursuits of others. Nor will it be an uninstructing school to the greatest masters of method and dispatch, if such multiplicity can be preserved from embarrassment, and such tumult from inaccuracy.
While I was concerting this splendid project, and filling my thoughts with its regulation, its conveniencies, its variety, and its consequences, I sunk gradually into slumber; but the same images, though less distinct, still continued to float upon my fancy. I perceived myself at the gate of an immense edifice, where innumerable multitudes were passing without confusion; every face on which I fixed my eyes, seemed settled in the contemplation of some important purpose, and every foot was hastened by ragerness and expectation. I followed the crowd without knowing whither I should be drawn, and remained a while in the unpleasing state of an idler, where all other beings were busy, giving place every moment to those who had more importance in their looks. Ashamed to stand ignorant, and afraid to ask questions, at last I saw a lady sweeping by me, whom, by the quickness of her eyes, the agility of her steps, and a mixture of levity and impatience, I knew to be my long-loved protectress, CURIOSITY. "Great goddess," said I, " may thy votary be permitted to implore thy favour; if thou hast been my directress from the first dawn of reason, if I have followed thee through the maze of life with invariable fidelity, if I have turned to every new call, and quitted at thy nod one pursuit for another, if I bave
never stopped at the invitations of fortune, nor forgot thy authority in the bowers of pleasure, inform me now whither chance has conducted me."
"Thou art now," replied the smiling power, "in the presence of JUSTICE, and of TRUTH, whom the father of gods and men has sent down to register the demands and pretensions of mankind, that the world may at last be reduced to order, and that none may complain hereafter of being doomed to tasks for which they are unqualified, of possessing faculties for which they cannot find employment, or virtues that languish unobserved for want of opportunities to exert them, of being encumbered with superfluities which they would willingly resign, or of wasting away in desires which ought to be satisfied. JUSTICE is now to examine every man's wishes, and TRUTH is to record them; let us approach, and observe the progress of this great transaction."
She then moved forward, and TRUTH, who knew her among the most faithful of her followers, beckoned her to advance, till we were placed near the seat of JUSTICE. The first who required the assistance of the office, came forward with a slow pace, and tumour of dignity, and shaking a weighty purse in his hand, demanded to be registered by TRUTH, as the MECENAS of the present age, the chief encourager of literary merit, to whom men of learning and wit might apply in any exigence or distress with certainty of succour. JUSTICE very mildly inquired, whether he had calculated the expence of such a declaration? whether he had been informed what number of petitioners would swarm