Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

excellent men. Innocent men who have suffered as criminals, though they were benefactors to human society, seem to be persons of the highest distinction, among the vastly greater number of human race, the dead. When the iniquity of the times brought SocRATes to his execution, how great and wonderful is it to behold him, unsupported by any thing but the testimony of his own conscience and conjectures of bereafter, receive the poison with an air of mirth and good-humour, and as if going on an agreeable journey, bespeak some deity to make it fortunate !

When Phocion's good actions had met with the like reward from his country, and he was led to death with many others of his friends, they bewailing their fate, he walking composedly towards the place of execution, how gracefully does he support his illustrious character to the very last instant! One of the rabble spitting at him as he passed, with his usual authority he called to know if no one was ready to teach this fellow how to behave himself. When a poor-spirited creature that died at the same time for his crimes bemoaned himself unmanfully, he rebuked him with this question, “Is it no consolation to such a man as thou art to die with Phocion ?”. At the instant when he was to die, they asked what commands he had for his son: he answered, “ To forget this injury of the Athenians.” NIOOLES, his friend, under the same sentence, desired he might drink the potion before him: Procion said, “ because he never had denied him any thing, he would not even this, the most difficult request he had ever made.”

These instances were very noble and great, and the reflections of those sublime spirits had made death to them what it is really intended to be by the author of nature, a relief from a various being, ever subject to sorrows and difficulties.

EPAMINONDAS, the Theban General, having received in fight a mortal stab with a sword, which was left in his body, lay in that posture until he had intelligence that D 3

his

[ocr errors]

his troops had obtained the victory, and then permitted it to be drawn out, at which instant he expressed himself in this manner: “ This is not the end of my life, my fellow-soldiers; it is now your EPAMINONDAs is born, who dies in so much glory."

It were an endless labour to collect the accounts with which all ages have filled the world of noble and heroic minds that have resigned this being, as if the termination of life were but an ordinary occurrence of it.

This common-place way of thinking I fell into from an'aukward endeavour to throw off a real and fresh affliction, by turning over books in a melancholy mood; but it is not easy to remove griefs which touch the beart, by applying remedies which only entertain the imagination. As therefore this paper is to consist of any thing which concerns human life, I cannot help letting the present subject regard what has been the last object of my eyes, though an entertainment of sorrow.

I went this evening to visit a friend, with a design to rally * him, upon a story I had heard of his intending to steal a marriage without the privity of us his intimate friends and acquaintance. I came into his apartment with that intimacy which I have done for very many years, and walked directly into his bed-chamber, where I found my friend in the agonies of death. What could I do? The innocent mirth in my thoughts struck upon me like the most flagitious wickedness: I in vain called upon him ; he was senseless, and too far spent to have the least knowledge of my sorrow, or any pain in himself. Give me leave then to transcribe my

soliloquy, as I stood by his mother, dumb with the weight of grief for a son who was her honour and her comfort, and never until that hour, since his birth, had been an occasion of a moment's sorrow to her.

• How

* This was an amusement by no means consistent with the cha. rader of the SPECTATOR, who was so remarkably taciturn.

• How surprising is this change! From the possession of vigorous life and strength, to be reduced in a few hours to this fatal extremity! Those lips which look so pale and livid, within these few days gave delight to all who heard their utterance: it was the business, the purpose of his being, next to obeying him to whom he is going, to please and instruct, and that for no other end but to please and instruct. Kindness was the motive of his actions, and with all the capacity requisite for making a figure in a contentious world, moderation, good-nature, affability, temperance, and chastity, were the arts of his excellent life. There as he lies in helpless agony, no wise man who knew him so well as I, but would resign all the world can bestow to be so near the end of such a life. Why does my heart so little obey my reason as to lament thee, thou excellent man ? ---Heaven receive him, or restore him !---Thy beloved mother, thy obliged friends, thy helpless servants, stand round thee without distinction. How much wouldst thou, hadst thou thy senses, say to each of us !

• But now that good heart bursts, and he is at rest--With that breath expired a soul who never indulged a passion unfit for the place he is gone to.

Where are now thy plans of justice, of truth, of honour? Of what use the volumes thou hast collated, the arguments thou hast invented, the examples thou hast followed? Poor were the expectations of the studious, the modest, and the good, if the reward of their labours were only to be expected from man. No, my friend, thy intended pleadings, thy intended good offices to thy friends, thy intended services to thy country, are already performed (as to thy concern in them) in his sight, before whom the past, present, and future, appear at one view. While others with thy talents were tormented with ambition, with vain-glory, with envy, with emulation, how well didst thou turn thy mind to its own improve. ment in things out of the power of fortune; in probity,

in integrity, in the practice and study of justice ! How silent thy passage, how private thy journey, how glorious thy end! Many bave I known more famous, some more knowing, not one so innocent.'

R.

[ocr errors]

NO. 134

FRIDAY, AUGUST 3, 1711.

Opiferque per

orbem Dicor

OVID, MET. i. 521. “ And am the great physician call'd below.”

DRYDEN

LETTERS TO THE SPECTATOR ON HIS OWN WRITINGS.

DURING

my

absence in the country, several packets have been left for me, which were not forwarded to me, because I was expected every day in town. The author of the following letter, dated from Tower-Hill, having sometimes been entertained with some learned gentlemen in plush doublets,* who have vended their wares from a stage in that place, has pleasantly enough addressed to me, as no less a sage in morality, than those are in physic. To comply with his kind inclination to make my cures famous, I shall give you his testimonial of my great abilities at large in his own words.

Tower-hill, July 5, 1711. SIR, • Your saying the other day there is something wonderful in the narrowness of those minds which can be pleased, and be barren of bounty to those who please

them,

* Quack Doctors.

them, makes me in pain that I am not a man of power. If I were, you should soon see how much I approve your speculations. In the mean time, I beg leave to supply that inability with the empty tribute of an honest mind, by telling you plainly I love and thank you for your daily refreshments. I constantly peruse your paper as I smoke my morning's pipe, (though I cannot forbear reading the motto before I fill and light) and really it gives a grateful relish to every whiff'; each paragraph is fraught either with useful or delightful notions, and I never fail of being highly diverted or improved. The variety of your subjects surprises me as much as a box of pictures did formerly, in which there was only one face, that by pulling some pieces of isinglass over it, was changed into a grave senator, or a Merry-Andrew, a patched lady or a nun, a beau or a black-a-moor, a prude or a coquette, a country esquire or a conjurer, with many other different representations very entertaining, (as you are, though still the same at the bottom. This was a childish amusement, when I was carried away with outward appearance, but you make a deeper impression, and affect the secret springs of the mind; you charm the fancy, sooth the passions, and insensibly lead the reader to that sweetness of temper that you so well describe ; you rouse generosity with that spirit, and inculcate humanity with that ease, that he must be miserably stupid that is not affected by you. I cannot say indeed that you have put impertinence to silence, or vanity out of countenance; but methinks you have bid as fair for it, as any man that ever appeared upon a public stage ; and offer an infallible cure of vice and folly, for the price of one penny. And , since it is usual for those who receive benefit by such famous operators, to publish an advertisement, that others may reap the same advantage, I think myself obliged to declare to all the world, that having for a long time been splenetic, ill-natured, froward, suspicious, and unsociable, by the application of your medi

« НазадПродовжити »