The library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) online

. (page 29 of 75)
Online LibraryUnknownThe library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) → online text (page 29 of 75)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

be truly wise is to serve God, learn your book,
and observe the instructions of your parents
first, and next your tutor, to whom I have re-
signed you for this seven years, and according
as you employ that time, you are to be happy
or unhappy for ever ; but 1 have so good an
opinion of you, that I am glad to think you
will never deceive me ; dear child, learn your
book and be obedient, and you shall see what
a father I will be to you. You shall want no
pleasure while you are good, and that you
may be so are my constant prayers.


Charles, I take it very kindly that you
write me though seldom, and wish heartily
you woulo behave yourself so that I might
shew how much I love you without being
ashamed. Obedience to your grandmother,
and those who instruct you in good things, is
the way to make you happy here and for
ever. Avoid idleness, scorn lying, and God
will bless you.



[SiR CHARLES SEDI.EY (1639 1701) was one of the
brightest satellites of the court of Charles II. as witty
and gallant as Rochester, as fine a poet, and a better
man. He was the son of a Kentish baronet, Sir John
Sedley of Aylesford. The Restoration drew him to
London, and he became such a favourite for his taste
and accomplishments, that Charles is said to have asked
him if he had not obtained from Nature a patent to bo
Apollo's viceroy. His estate, his time, and morals, were
squandered away at court ; but latterly the poet re-
deemed himself, became a constant attender of parlia-
ment, in which he had a seat, opposed the arbitrary
measures of James II. and assisted to bring about the
Revolution. Sir Charles wrote plays and poems, which
were extravagantly praised by his contemporaries.
Buckingham eulogized the u-Uchcraft of Serlley, and
Rochester spoke of his " gentle prevailing art." His
songs arc light and graceful, with a more studied and
felicitous diction than is seen in most of the court-poets
One of the finest, " Ah .'CJiloris, that I now cotild sit," has
been often printed us the composition of the Scottish
patriot, Duncan Forbes of Culloden, Lord President of
the Court of Session : the verses occur in Sedley's play,
" The Mulberry Garden," 1668. Sedley's conversation was

highly prized, and he lived on, delighting all his friends,
till past his sixtieth year. As he says of one of his own
heroines, he

Bloomed in the winter of his days,
Like Glastonbury thorn.]

Ah ! Chloris, that I now could sit

As unconcerned as when
Your infant beauty could beget

No pleasure, nor no pain.

When I the dawn used to admire,
And praised the coming day,

I little thought the growing fire
Must take my rest away.

Your charms in harmless childhood lay

Like metals in a mine ;
Age from no face took more away,

Than youth concealed in thine.

But as your charms insensibly

To their perfection prest,
Fond love as unperceived did fly,

And in my bosom rest.

My passion with your beauty grew,

And Cupid at my heart,
Still as his mother favoured you,

Threw a new flaming dart.

Each gloried in their wanton part;

To make a lover, he
Employed the utmost of his art

To make a beauty, she.

Though now I slowly bend to love,

Uncertain of my fate,
If your fair self my chains appro?e,

I snail my freedom hate.

Lovers, like dying men, may well

At first disordered be,
Since none alive can truly tell

What fortune they must see.


Phillis, men say that all my vows

Are to thy fortune paid ;
Alas ! my heart he little knows,

Who thinks my love a trade.

Were I of all these woods the lord,

One berry from thy hand
More real pleasure would afford

Thau all my large command.



My humble love has learned to live

On what the nicest maid,
Without a conscious blush, may give

Beneath the myrtle shade.

Of costly food it hath no need,

And nothing will devour ;
But like the harmless bee can feed,

And not impair the flower.

A spotless innocence like thine

May such a flame allow ;
Yet thy fair name for ever shine

As doth thy beauty now.

I heard thee wish my lambs might stray

Safe from the fox's power,
Though every one become his prey,

I'm richer than before 1



The small number of those who per-
petrated these murders in the French capi-
tal under the eyes of the legislature, is one
of the most instructive facts in the history
of revolutions. Marat had long before said,
that with two hundred assassins at a louis a
day. he would govern France, and cause
three hundred thousand heads to fall ; and
the events of the 2d September seemed to
justify the opinion. The number of those
actually engaged in the massacres did not
exceed three hundred ; and twice as many
more witnessed and encouraged their pro-
ceedings ; yet this handful of men governed
Paris and France, with a despotism which
three hundred thousand armed warriors
afterwards strove in vain to effect. The
immense majority of the well-disposed citi-
zens, divided in opinion, irresolute in con-
duct, and dispersed in different quarters,
were incapable of arresting a band of assas-
sins, engaged in the most atrocious cruelties
of which modern Europe has yet afforded
an example an important warning to the
strenuous and the good in every succeeding
age, to combine for defence the moment
that the aspiring and the desperate have
begun to agitate the public mind, and never
to trust that mere smallness of numbers can
be relied on for preventing reckless ambi-
tion from destroying irresolute virtue. It is
not less worthy of observation, that these

atrocious massacres took place in the heart
of a city where above fifty thousand men
were enrolled in the National Gruard, and
had arms in their hands ; a force specifically
destined to prevent insurrectionary move-
ments, and support, under all changes, the
majesty of the law. They were so divided
in opinion, and the revolutionists composed
so large a part of their number, that nothing
whatever was done by them, either on the
10th August, when the king was dethroned,
or the 2d September, when the prisoners
were massacred. This puts in a forcible
point of view the weakness of such a force,
which, being composed of citizens, is dis-
tracted by their feelings, and actuated by
their passions. In ordinary times, it may
exhibit an imposing array, and be ade-
quate to the repression of the smaller dis-
orders ; but it is paralyzed by the events
which throw society into convulsions, and
generally fails at the decisive moment when
its aid is most required.


This terminated the Reign of Terror, a
period fraught with greater political instruc-
tion than any of equal duration which has
existed since the beginning of the world.
In no former period had the efforts of the
people so completely triumphed, or the
higher orders been so thoroughly crushed
by the lower. The throne had been over-
turned, the altar destroyed, the aristocracy
levelled with the dust : the nobles were in
exile, the clergy in captivity, the gentry in
affliction. A merciless sword had waved
over the state, destroying alike the dignity
of rank, the splendour of talent, and the
graces of beauty. All that excelled the
labouring classes in situation, fortune, or
acquirement, had been removed ; they had
triumphed over their oppressors, seized
their possessions, and risen into their sta-
tions. And what was the consequence?
The establishment of a more cruel and re-
volting tyranny than any which mankind
had yet witnessed ; the destruction of all
the charities and enjoyments of life ; the
dreadful spectacle of streams of blood flow-
ing through every part of France. The
earliest friends, the warmest advocates, the
firmest supporters of the people, were swept
off indiscriminately with their bitterest ene-
mies; in the unequal struggle, virtue and
philanthropy sunk under ambition and vio-
lence, and society returned to a state of



chaos, when all the elements of private or
public happiness were scattered to the
winds. Such are the results of unchaining
the passions of the multitude ; such the peril
of suddenly admitting the light upon a be-
nighted people. The extent to which blood
was shed in France during this melancholy
period, will hf.rdly be credited by future
ages. The Republican P udhomme, whose
prepossessions led him to anything rather
than an exaggeration of the horrors of the
popular party, has given the following ap-
palling account of the victims of the Revo-
Jution :

Nobles, 1,278

Noble Women, . . . 750
Wives of labourers and artisans, 1,467
Religieuses, .... 350

Priests, 1,135

Common Persons, not noble, 1:3,623

Guillotined by sentence of the 1 , Q 10 CM

Revolutionary Tribunal, / 18 ' bu ' i 18.WM

Women died of premature childbirth,

In childbirth from grief,

Women killed in La Vend6e, .

CMldren killed in La Vendee,

Men slain in La VendSe, .

Victims under Carrier at Nantes, . .
("Children shot, . . . 500

| Children drowned, . 1,500

S | Women shot, . . . 264
Women drowned, . 500

Priests shot, ... 300
Priests drowned, . 460

Nobles drowned, . . 1,400
Artisans drowned, . 5,300

Victims at Lyon, ....



Total, 1,022,351

In this enumeration are not compre-
hended the victims of the massacre at Ver-
sailles, at the Abbey, the Carmes, or other
prisons on September 2,. the victims of the
Glaciere of Avignon, those shot at Toulon
and Marseilles, or the persons slain in the
little town of Bedoin, of which the whole
population perished. It is in an especial
manner remarkable in this dismal cata-
logue, how large a proportion of the victims
of the Revolution were persons in the mid-
dling and lower ranks of life. The priests
and nobles guillotined are only 2413, while
the persons of plebeian origin exceed 13,000 !
The nobles and priests put to death at
Nantes were only 2160; while the infants
drowned andshotare 2000, the wounded men
764, and the artisans 5300 ! So rapidly in
revolutionary convulsions does the career of
cruelty reach the lower orders, and so wide-
spread is the carnage dealt out to them,
compared with that which they have sought
to inflict on their superiors. The facility
with which a faction, composed of a few

of the most audacious and reckless of the
nation, triumphed over the immense ma-
jority of their fellow-citizens, and led them
forth like victims to the sacrifice, is not the
least extraordinary or memorable part of
that eventful period. The bloody faction
at Paris never exceeded a few hundred
men ; their talents were by no means of the
highest order, nor their weight in society
considerable ; yet they trampled under foot
all the influential classes, ruled mighty
armies with absolute sway, kept 200,000 of
their fellow-citizens in captivity, and daily
led out several hundred persons, of the best
blood in France, to execution. Such is the
effect of the unity of action which atrocious
wickedness produces ; such the ascend-
ency which in periods of anarchy is acquired
by the most savage and lawless of the people.
The peaceable and inoffensive citizens lived
and wept in silence ; terror crushed every at-
tempt at combination ; the extremity of grief
subdued even the firmest hearts. In despair
at effecting any change in the general suffer-
ings, apathy universally prevailed, the people
sought to bury their sorrows in the delirium
of present enjoyments, and the theatres were
never fuller than during the whole duration
of the Reign of Terror. Ignorance of human
nature can alone lead us to ascribe this to
any peculiarity in the French character ;
the same effects have been observed in all
parts and ages of the world, as invariably
attending a state of extreme and long-con-
tinued distress. The death of Hebert and
the anarchists was that of guilty depravity ;
that of Robespierre and the Decemvirs, of
sanguinary fanaticism ; that of Danton and
his confederates, of stoical infidelity ; that
of Madame Roland and the Girondists, of
deluded virtue ; that of Louis and his family,
of religious forgiveness. The moralist will
contrast the different effects of virtue and
wickedness in the last moments of life ; the
Christian will mark with thankfulness the
superiority in the supreme hour to the
sublimest efforts of human virtue, which
was evinced by the believers in his own faith.



[HUGH S. LEOARE, an American scholar, born in
Charleston, S. C., 1797, died at Boston, 1843. The early



zeal of hig devotion to study, with the facility and
quickness with which^ he acquired command of lan-
guages, gave him great distinction at college and through-
out lite. Devoting himself to the law, he became Attor-
ney General of the State in 1830. He contributed
largely to the Soutliern Quarterly Review, founded at
Charleston in 1827, and wrote many fine papers for the
New York Review, which raided his reputation as a man
f letters. After one term in Congress, Mr. Legarts
became Attorney General of the United States. Hia
collected writings appeared in two volumes in 1846.]

It is impossible to contemplate the annals
of Greek literature and art, without being
struck with them, as by far the most extra-
ordinary and brilliant phenomena in the
history of the human mind. The very lan-
guage even in its primitive simplicity, as
it came down from the rhapsodists who
celebrated the exploits of Hercules and
Theseus, was as great a wonder as any it
records. All the other tongues that civi-
lized man has spoken are poor and feeble,
and barbarous, in comparison with it. Its
compass and flexibility, its riches and
its powers are altogether unlimited. It not
only expresses with precision all that is
thought or known at any given period, but
it enlarges itself naturally, with the progress
of science, and affords, as if without an
effort, a new phrase, or a systematic nomen-
clature whenever one is called for. It is
equally adapted to every variety of style and
subject to the most shadowy subtlety of
distinction, and the utmost exactness of
definition, as well as to the energy and the
pathos of popular eloquence to the ma-
jesty, the elevation, the variety of the epic,
and the boldest license of the dithyrambic,
no less than to the sweetness of the elegy,
the simplicity of the pastoral, or the heed-
less gaiety and delicate characterization of
comedy. Above all, what is an unspeak-
able charm a sort of naivete is peculiar to
it, which appears in all those various styles,
and which is quite as becoming and agree-
able in a historian or a philosopher Xeno-
phon for instance as ir. the light and
jocund numbers of Anacreon. Indeed,
were there no other object in learning
Greek but to see to what perfection lan-
guage is capable of being carried, not only
as a medium of communication, but as an
instrument of thought, we see not why the
time of a young man would not be just as
well bestowed in acquiring a knowledge of
it for all the purposes, at least of a liberal
or elementary education as in learning
algebra, another specimen of a language or

arrangement of signs perfect in its kind.
But this wonderful idiom happens to have
been spoken, as was hinted in the preceding
paragraph, by a race as wonderful. The
very first monument of their genius the
most ancient relic of letters in the western
world stands to this day altogether un-
rivalled in the exalted class to which it
belongs. What was the history of this im-
mortal poem and of its great fellow? Was
it a single individual, and who was he, that
composed them? Had he any master or
model ? AVhat had been his education, and
what the state of society in which he lived ?
These questions are full of interest to a
philosophical inquirer into the intellectual
history of the species, but they are espe-
cially important with a view to the subject
of the present discussion. Whatever causes
account for the matchless excellence of these
primitive poems, and for that of the lan-
guage in which they are written, will go far
to explain the extraordinary circumstance,
that the same favoured people left nothing
unattempted in philosophy, in letters and in
arts, and attempted nothing without signal,
and in some cases, unrivalled success.
Winckelmann undertakes to assign some rea-
sons for this astonishing superiority of the
Greeks, and talks very learnedly about a fine
climate, delicate organs, exquisite suscepti-
bility, the full development of the human
form by gymnastic exercises, &c. For our
own part, we are content to explain the
phenomenon after the mcinner of the Scot-
tish school of metaphysicians, in which we
learned the little that we profess to know of
that department of philosophy, by resolving
it at once to an original law of nature ; in
other words, by substantially, but decently,
confessing it to be inexplicable.


[A volume of " Outlines of History " having appeared in
1830 in Lardner's Cyclopaedia, Dr. Arnold urged its au-
thor, THOMAS KEIOHTLEY (1792-1872), a native of Ire-
land, to write a series of histories, which might be used
in schools, and prove trustworthy manuals in after-life.
Mr. Keightley produced a number of historical compi-
lations of merit. His "History of England," two volumes,
and the same enlarged in three volumes, is admitted to
be the one most free from party-spirit ; and his Histories
of India, Greece, and Rome may be said to contain tha
essence of most of what has been written and discovered



regarding those countries. Mr. Keightley also pro-
duced a " History of the War of Independence in Greece"
two volumes, 1830, and "Tlie Crusaders" or scenes, events,
and characters from the times of the Crusades. These
works have all been popular. The " Outlines " are read in
schools, colleges, and universities; the Duke of Welling-
ton directed them to be read by officers and candidates
for commissions in the army. The " History of Greece " has
boon translated into modern Greek, and published at
Athens. In the department of mythology, Mr. Keight-
ley was also a successful student, and author of the "My-
thology of Ancient Greece and Italy ; " " Fairy Mythology,"
illustrative of the romance and superstition of various
countries ; and " Tales, and Popular Fictions, their Besem-
blunce and Transmission from Country to Country." From
the second of these works we give a brief extract.]

According to a well-known law of our
nature, effects suggest causes ; and another
law, perhaps equally general, impels us to
ascribe to the actual and efficient cause the
attributes of intelligence. The mind of the
deepest philosopher is thus acted upon
equally with that of the peasant or the
savage ; the only difference lies in the na-
ture of the intelligent cause at which they
respectively stop. The one pursues the
chain of cause and effect, and traces out its
various links till he arrives at the great
intelligent cause of all, however he may
designate him ; the other, when unusual
phenomena excite his attention, ascribes
their production to the immediate agency
of some of the inferior beings recognised by
his legendary creed. The action of this
latter principle must forcibly strike the minds
of those who disdain not to bestow a portion
of their attention on the popular legends
and traditions of different countries. Every
extraordinary appearance is found to have
its extraordinary cause assigned ; a cause
always connected with the history or reli-
gion, ancient or modern, of the country, and
not unfrequently varying with a change of
faith. The noises and eruptions of J^tna
and Stromboli were, in ancient times,
ascribed to Typhon or Vulcan, and at this
day the popular belief connects them with
the infernal regions. The sounds resem-
bling the clanking of chains, hammering of
iron, and blowing of bellows, once to be
heard in the island of Barrie, were made by
the fiends whom Merlin had set to work to
frame the wall of brass to surround Caer-
rnarthen. The marks which natural causes
have impressed on the solid and unyielding
granite rock were produced, according to
the popular creed, by the contact of the
hero, the saint, or the god : masses of stone,

resembling domestic implements in form,
were the toys, or the corresponding imple-
ments of the heroes or giants of old. Gre-
cian imagination ascribed to the galaxv or
Milky-way an origin in the teeming breast
of the queen of heaven : marks appeared
in the petals of flowers on the occasion of a
youth's or a hero's untimely death : the rose
derived its present hue from the blood of
Venus, as she hurried barefoot through the
woods and lawns ; while the professors of
Islam, less fancifully, refer the origin of this
flower to the moisture that exuded from the
sacred person of their prophet. Under a
purer form of religion, the crucifixion stripes
which mark the back and shoulders of the
patient ass first appeared, according to the
popular tradition, when the Son of God con-
descended to enter the Holy City, mounted
on that animal ; and a fish, only to be found
in the sea, still bears the impress of the
finger and thumb of the apostle, who drew
him out of the waters of Lake Tiberias to
take the tribute-money that lay in his mouth.
The repetition of the voice among the hills
is, in Norway and Sweden, ascribed to the
dwarfs mocking the human speaker ; while
the more elegant fancy of Greece gave birth
to Echo, a nymph who pined for love, and
who still fondly repeats the accents that she
hears. The magic scenery occasionally pre-
sented on the waters of the Straits of Mes-
sina is produced by the power of the fata
morgana ; the gossamers that float through
the haze of an autumnal morning are
woven by the ingenious dwarfs ; the verdant
circlets in the mead are traced beneath the
light steps of the dancing elves ; and St.
Cuthbert forges and fashions the beads that
bear his name, and lie scattered along the
shore of Landisfarne. In accordance with
these laws, we find in most countries a po-
pular belief in different classes of beings
distinct from men, and from the higher or-
ders of divinities. These beings are usually
believed to inhabit, in the caverns of earth,
or the depths of the waters, a region of their
own. They generally excel mankind in
knowledge, and, like them, are subject to
the inevitable laws of death, though after a
more prolonged period of existence. How
these classes were first called into existence
it is not easy to say ; but if, as some assert,
all the ancient systems of heathen religion
were devised by philosophers for the instruc-
tion of rude tribes by appeals to their senses,
we might suppose that the minds which peo-
pled the skies with their thousands and



tens of thousands of divinities gave birth
also to the inhabitants of the field and flood,
and that the numerous tales of their exploits
and advantages are the production of poetic
fiction and rude invention.


Now, with the seventeenth century, at
least in England, expired the astronomy of
Ptolemy. Had Milton, then, lived after
that century, he could not for a moment
have believed in a solid, globous world, in-
closing various revolving spheres, with the
earth in the centre, and unlimited, unoccu-
pied, undigested space beyond. His local
heaven and local hell would then have be-
come, if not impossible, fleeting and uncer-
tain to a degree which would preclude all
firm, undoubting faith in their existence ;
for far as the most powerful telescopes can
pierce into space, there is nothing found but
a uniformity of stars after stars in endless
succession, exalting infinitely our idea of the
Deity and his attributes, but enfeebling in
proportion that of any portion of space
being his peculiar abode. Were Milton in
possession of this knowledge, is it possible
that he could have written the first three
books of Paradise Lost ?


[THOMAS HARDY, an English novelist, born in Dorset-
shire, in 1840, became an architect in his seventeenth
year. After hesitating long between architecture and
literature, Hardy ventured on a work of fiction in 1871,
and became almost immediately a successful novelist,
publishing" Under the Greenwood Tree," (1872,) " A Pair

Online LibraryUnknownThe library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) → online text (page 29 of 75)