Изображения страниц

by the products of Barbadoes ; the infusion of a China plant sweetened with the pith of an Indian cane. The Philippine islands give a favor to our European bowls. The single dress of a woman of quality is often the product of an hundred climates. The muffand the fan come together from the different ends of the earth. The scarf is sent from the torrid zone, and the tippet from beneath the pole. The brocade petticoat rises out of the mines of Peru, and the diamond necklace out of the bowels of Indostan.

If we consider our own country in its natural prospect, without any of the benefits and advantages of commerce, what a barren uncomfortable spot of the earth falls to our share ! Natural historians iell us, that no fruit grows originally among us, besides hips and haws, acorns and pignuts, with other delicacies of the like nature ; that our climate, of itself, and without the assistance of art, can make no further advances towards a plumb, than a sloe, and carries an apple to no greater perfection than a crab ; that our nielons, our peaches, our figs, our apri. coats andour cherries,are strangers among us,imported in different ages, and naturalized in our English gardens; and that they would all degenerate and fall away into the trash of our own country, if they were wholly neglected by the planter, and left io the mercy of our sun and soil.

Nor has traffic more enriched our vegetable world, than it has improved the whole face of nature among us. Our ships are ladenwith the harvest of every climate;our tables are stored with spices, and oils, and wines ; our rooms are filled with pyramids of China, and adorned with the workmanship of Japan; our morning's draught comes to us from the remotest corners of the earth ; we repair our bodies by the drugs of America, and repose ourselves under Indian canopies. My friend, Sir Andrew, calls the vineyards of France,our gardens ; the spice Isl. ands, our hot beds ; the Persians, our silk weavers ; and the Chinese, our potters. Nature, indeed, furnishes us with the bare necessaries of life ; but traffic gives us a great variety of what is useful and at the same time,supplies uswith every thing that is convenient and ornamental. Nor is it the least part of this our happiness, that whilst we enjoy the remotest products of the north and south, we are free from those extremeties of weather which give them birth ; that our eyes are refreshed with the green fields of Britain, at the same time that our palates are feasted with fruits that rise between the tropics.

For these reasons, there are not more useful members in a commonwealth than merchants. They knit man kind together in a mutual intercourse of good offices, distribute the gifts of nature, find work for the poor, add wealth to the rich, and magnificence to the great. Our English merchant converts the tin of his own country into gold, and exchanges his wool for rubies. The Mahometans are clothed in our British manufacture,and the inhabitants of the frozen zune warmed with the flee. des of our sheep.

X-On Public Speaking.-IB. MOST foreign writers who have given any character of the English nation, whatever vice they ascribe to it, allow, in general, that the people are naturally modest. It proceeds, perhaps, from this our national virtue, that our orators are observed to make use of less gesture or action than those of other countries. Our preachers stand stock still in the pulpit, and will not so much as move a finger to set off the best sermons in the world. We meet with the same speaking statues at our bars, and in all public places of clebate. Our words flow from us in a smooth continued stream, without those strainings of the voice, motions of the body, and majesty of the hand which are so much celebrated in the orators of Greece and Rome. We can talk of life and death in cold blood, and keep our temper in a discourse which lurns upon every thing that is dear to us. Though our zeal breaks out in the finest tropes and figures, it is not able to stir a limb about us.

It is certain that proper gestures and exertions of the voice cannot be to much studied by a public orator.They are a kind of comment to what he utters ; and enforce every thing he says, with weak hearers, better than the strongest argument he can make use They keep the audience awake, and fix their attention to what is delivered to them ; at the same time that they show

the speaker is in earnest,and affected himself with what be so passionately recommends to others.

We are told that the great Latin orator very much impaired his health, by the vehemence of action with which he used to deliver himself. The Greek orator was likewise so very famous for this particular in rheto. ric, that one of his antagonists, whom he had banished from Athens, reading over the oration which had procured his banishment, and seeing his friends admire it, could not forbear asking them if they were so much affected by the bare reading it, how much more they would have been alarmed, had they heard him actually throwing out such a storm of eloquence.

How cold and dead a figure,in comparison of these two great men does an orator often make at the British bar, holding up his head with the most insipid serenity, and stroking the sides of a long wig that reaches down to his middle ! Nothing can be more ridiculous than the gest. ures of most of our English speakers. You see some of them running their hands into their pockets as far as ever they can thrust them, and others looking with great attention on a piece of paper that has nothing written on it ; you may see many a smart rhetorieian turning his hat in his hands, moulding it into several different cocks, examining sometimes the lining of it, and sometimes the button, during the whole course of his harangue. A deaf man would think that he was cheapening a beaver ; when perhaps he was talking of the fate of the British nation. I remember when I was a young man and used 10 frequent Westminster hall,there was a counsellor who never pleaded without a piece of pack-thread in his hand, which be used to twist about a thumb or finger all the while he was speaking ; the wags of those days used to call it the thread of his discourse, for he was not able to ulter a word without it. One of his clients who was more merry than wise, stole it from him one day, in the midstof his pleading; but he had better have let it alone, for he lost his cause by the jest.

XI.-Advantages of History.- HUME. THE advantages found in history seem to be of three kinds ; as it amuses the fancy, as it improves the understanding, and as it strengthens virtue,

[ocr errors]

In reality, what more agreeable entertainment to the mind, than to be transported into the remotest ages of the world, and to observe human sociely,'in its infancy, mak; ing the first faint essays towards the arts and sciences ? To see the policy of government and the civility of conversation refining by degrees, and every thing that is or namental to human life advancing towards its

perfection? To mark the rise, progress, declension, and final extinca tion of the most flourishing empires; the virtues which contributed to their greatness, and the vices which drew on their ruin ? In short, to see all the human race, from the beginning of time,pass as it were in review before us, appearing in their true colors, without any of those disgaises, which, during their lifetime, so much perplexed the judgment of the beholders? What spectacle can be imagined so magnificent, so various, so interesting? What amusement, either of the senses or imagination, can be compared with it? Shall our crifling pastimes, which engross so much of our time, be preferred, as more satisfactory, and more fit to engage our attention? How perverse must that taste be, which is capable of so wrong a choice of pleasure ?

But history is a most improving part of knowledge, as well as an agreeable amusement; and, indeed, a great part of what we commonly call erudition, and value so highly, is nothing but an acquaintance with historical facts. An extensive knowledge of this kind belongs to men of letters; but I must think it an uapardonable ignorance in persons, of whatever sex or condition, not to be acquainted with the histories of their own country, along with the histories of ancient Greece and Rome.

I must add, that history is not only a valuable part of knowledge, but opens the door to many other parts of knowledge, and affords materials to most of the sciences. And, indeed, if we consider the shortness of human life, and our limited knowledge, even of what passes in our own time,we must be sensible that we should be fou. ever children in understanding, were it not for this invention, which ex!ends our experience to all past ages, and to most distant nations, making them contribute as much to our improvement in wisslom, as if they hx!!

actually lain under our observation. A man acquainted with history, may, in some respects, be said to have lived from the beginning of the world, and to have been making continual additions to his stock of knowledge, in er. ery century.

There is also an advantage in that knowledge which is acquired by history,above what is learned by the prac. tice of the world, that it brings us acquainted with human affairs, without diminishing in the least from the most delicate sentiments of virtue. And, to tell the truth, I scarce know any study or occupation so unex. ceptionable as history, in this particular. Poets can paint virtue in the most charming colors; but, as they address themselves entirely to the passions, they often become advocates to vice. Even philosophers are apt to bewil. der themselves in the subtilty of their speculations, and we have seen some go so far, as to deny the reality of all moral distinctions. But I think it a remark worthy the attention of the speculative reader, that the historians have been, almost without exception, the true friends of virtue, and have always represented it in its proper colors however they may have erred in their judgments of particular persons. Nor is this combination of historians, in favor of virtue, at all difficult to be accounted for. When a man of business enters into life, and action, he is more apt to consider the characters of men as they have relation to his interest,than as they stand in themselves, and has his judgment warped on every oce casion, by the violence of his passion. When a philosopher contemplates character and manners, in his closet, the general abstract view of the objects leaves the mind $0 cold and unmoved, that the sentiments of nature have no room to play, and he scarce feels the difference between vice and virtue. History keeps in a just medium betwixt these extremes, and places the objects in their true point of view. The writers of history, as well as the readers, are sufficiently interested in the characters and events, to have a lively sentiment ofblame or praise; and, at the same time, have no particular interest or concern to pervert their judgment.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »