« PreviousContinue »
May we not imagine, that beings of superior natures. and perfections regard all the instances of pride and vanity,among our own species in. the same kind of view, when they take a survey of those who inhabit the earth, or in the language of an ingenious French poet, of those pismires that people this heap of dirt, which human vanity has divided into climates and regions.
X11. Journal of the life of Alexander Severus.— GIBBON,
ALEXANDER rose early. The first moments of the day were consecrated to private devotion: But as he deemed the service of mankind the most acceptable worship of the gods, the greatest part of his morning hours were employed in council; where he discussed public affairs, and determined private causes, with a patience. and discretion above his years. The dryness of business was enlivened by the charms of literature; and a portion of time was always set apart for his favorite studies of poetry, history and philosophy. The works of Virgil and Horace,the republics of Plato, and Cicero, formed his taste, enlarged his understanding, and gave him the noblest ideas of man and of government. The exercises of the body succeeded to those of the mind; and Alexander, who was tall, active and robust, surpassed most of his equals in the gymnastic arts. Refreshed by the use of his bath, and a slight dinner, he resumed, with new vigor, the business of the day: And till the hour of supper, the principal meal of the Romans, he was attended by his secretaries, with whom he read and answered the multitude of letters, memorials, and petitions, that must have been addressed to the master of the greatest part of the world. His table was served with the most frugal simplicity; and whenever he was at liberty to consult his own inclination, the company consisted of a few select friends, men of learning and virtue... His dress was plain and modest; his demeanor courteous and affable. At the proper hours, his palace was open to all his subjects; but the voice of a crier was heard, as in the Eleusinlan mysteries, pronounce. ing the same salutary admonition." Let none enter
these holy walls unless he is conscious of a pure and innocent mind."
Character of Julius Cesar.-MIDDLETON.
CESAR was endowed with every great and noble quality that could exalt human nature, and give a man the ascendant in society; formed to excell in peace as well as war, provident in council, fearless in action, and executing what he had resolved with an amazing celerity; generous beyond measure to his friends, placable to his enemies; for parts, learning and eloquence, scarce inferior to any man. His orations were admired for two qualities, which are seldom found togeth er, strength and elegance. Cicero ranks him among the greatest orators that Rome ever bred: And Quintillian says, that he spoke with the same force with which he fought; and, if he had devoted himself to the bar, would have been the only man capable of rivalling Cicero. Nor was he a master only of the politer arts, but conversant also with the most abstruse and critical parts of learning; and, among other works which he published, addressed two books to Cicero, on the analogy of language, or the art of speaking and writing correctly. He was a most liberal patron of wit and learning, whersoever they were found; and, out of his love of these talents, would readily pardon those who had employed them against himself; rightly judging, that, by making such men his friends, he should draw praises from the same fountain from which he had been aspersed. His capital passions were ambition and love of pleasure; which he indulged in their turns, to the greatest excess: yet the first was always predominant; to which he could easily sacrifice all the charms of the second, and draw pleasure even from toils and dangers, when they ministered to his glory. For he thought tyranny, as Cicero says, the greatest of goddesses; and had frequently in his mouth a verse of Euripides, which expressed the image of his soul. That if right and justice were ever to be violated they were to be violated for the sake of reigning. This was the chief end and purpose of his life; the scheme that he had formed from his early youth; so that, as
Cato truly declared of him, he came with sobriety and meditation to the subversion of the republic. He used to say, that there were two things necessary to acquire and to support power-soldiers and money; which yet depended mutually on each other: With money, therefore, he provided soldiers, and with soldiers extorted money; and was, ofall men, the most rapacious in plundering both friends and foes; sparing neither prince, nor state, nor temple, nor even private persons, who were known to possess any share of treasure. His great abilities would necessarily nave made him one of the first citizens of Rome; but, disdaining the condition of a subject, he could never rest till he had made himself a monarch. In acting this last part, his usual prudence seemed to fail him; as if the height to which he was mounted had turned his head, and made him giddy : For by a vain ostentation of his power, he destroyed the stability of it; and as men shorten life by living too fast, so, by an intemperance of reigning, he brought his reign to a violent end."
XV.-On Misspent Time.-GUARDIAN.
I WAS yesterday comparing the industry of man with that of other creatures; in which I could not but observe,that notwithstanding we are obliged by duty tokeep ourselves in constant employ, after the same manner as inferior animals are prompted to it by instinct, we fall very short of them in this particular. We are here the more inexcusable, because there is a greater variety of business to which we may apply ourselves. Reason opens to us a large field of affairs which other creatures are not capable of. Beasts of prey, and, I be lieve of all other kinds, in their natural state of being, divide their time between action and rest. They are always at work or asleep In short, their waking hours are wholly taken up in seeking after their food, or in consuming it. The human species only, to the great reproach of our natures, are filled with complaints, that "the day hangs heavy on them," that they do not know what to do with themselves," that" they are at a loss how to pass away their time;" with many of the
like shameful murmurs, which we often find in the mouths of those who are styled reasonable beings. How monstrous are such expressions, among creatures who have the labors of the mind, as well as those of the body, to furnish them with proper employments; who besides the business of their proper callings and professions can apply themselves: to the duties of religion, to meditation, to the reading of useful books, to discourse; in a word, who may exercise themselves in the unbounded pursuits of knowledge and virtue, and, every hour of their lives, make themselves wiser or better than they were before.
After having been taken up for some time in this course of thought, diverted myself with a book, according to my usual custom, in order to unbend my rund before I went to sleep. The book made use of on this occasion was Lucian, where amused my thoughts for about an hour, among the dialogues of the dead; which, in all probability, produced the following dream:
i was conveyed, me thought, into the entrance of the infernal regions, where i saw Rhadamanthus, one of the judges of the dead, seated on his tribunal. On his left hand stood the keeper of Erebus, on his right the keeper of Elysium. i was told he sat upon woman that day, there being several of the sex lately arrived, who had not yet their mansions assigned them. 1 was surprised to hear him ask every one of them the same question, namely, what they had been doing? Upon this question being proposed to the whole assembly, they stared one upon another, as not knowing what to answer. He then interrogated each of them, separately. Madam, says he to the first of them, you have been upon the earth about fifty years: What have you been do ing there all this while? Doing, says she; really, I do not know what I have been doing: I desire I may have time given me to recollect After about half an hour's pause she told him that she had been playing at crimp; upon which Rhadamanthus beckoned to the keeper on his left hand to take her into custody. And you, Madam. says the judge, that look with such a soft and languishing air; I think you set out for this place in your
nine and twentieth year, what have you been doing all this while? I had a great deal of business on my hands, says she, being taken up the first twelve years of my life in dressing a jointed baby, and all the remaining part of it in reading plays and romances. Very well, says he, you have employed your time to good purpose. Away with her. The next was a plain country woman: Well, mistress, says Rhadamanthus, and what have you been doing? An't please your worship, says she, I did not live quite forty years; and in that time brought my husband seven daughters, made him nine thousand cheeses, and left my youngest girl with him, to look after his house in my abscence; and who, I may venture to say, is as pretty a housewife as any in the country. Rhadamanthus smiled at the simplicity of the good woman, and ordered the keeper of Elysium to take her into his care. And you, fair lady, says he, what have you been doing these five and thirty years? I have been doing no hurt, I assure you, sir, said she. That is well, said he: But what good have you been doing? The lady was in great confusion at this question: And not knowing what to answer, the two keepers leaped out to seize her at the same time; the one took her by the hand to convey her to Elysium, the other caught hold of her, to carry her away to Erebus. But Rhadamanthus observing an ingenuous modesty in her countenance and behaviour, bid them both let her loose, and, set her aside for re-examination when he was more at leisure. An old woman, of a proud and sour look, presented herself next at the bar; and being asked what she had been doing? Truly, said she, lived three score and ten years in a very wicked world, and was so angry at the behaviour of a parcel of young flirts, that I passed most of my last years in condemning the follies of the times. i was every day blaming the silly conduct of people about me, in order to deter those i conversed with from falling into the like errors and miscarriages. Very well, says Rhadamanthus, but did you keep the same watchful eye over your own actions? Why, truly, said she, I was so taken up with publishing the faults of others, that I had no time to consider my own. Mad