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´╗┐Title: Letters on England
Author: Voltaire, 1694-1778
Language: English
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Transcribed from the 1894 Cassell & Co. edition by David Price, email


LETTERS ON ENGLAND
by Voltaire


INTRODUCTION


Francois Marie Arouet, who called himself Voltaire, was the son of
Francois Arouet of Poitou, who lived in Paris, had given up his office of
notary two years before the birth of this his third son, and obtained
some years afterwards a treasurer's office in the Chambre des Comptes.
Voltaire was born in the year 1694.  He lived until within ten or eleven
years of the outbreak of the Great French Revolution, and was a chief
leader in the movement of thought that preceded the Revolution.  Though
he lived to his eighty-fourth year, Voltaire was born with a weak body.
His brother Armand, eight years his senior, became a Jansenist.  Voltaire
when ten years old was placed with the Jesuits in the College Louis-le-
Grand.  There he was taught during seven years, and his genius was
encouraged in its bent for literature; skill in speaking and in writing
being especially fostered in the system of education which the Jesuits
had planned to produce capable men who by voice and pen could give a
reason for the faith they held.  Verses written for an invalid soldier at
the age of eleven won for young Voltaire the friendship of Ninon
l'Enclos, who encouraged him to go on writing verses.  She died soon
afterwards, and remembered him with a legacy of two thousand livres for
purchase of books.  He wrote in his lively school-days a tragedy that
afterwards he burnt.  At the age of seventeen he left the College Louis-
le-Grand, where he said afterwards that he had been taught nothing but
Latin and the Stupidities.  He was then sent to the law schools, and saw
life in Paris as a gay young poet who, with all his brilliant liveliness,
had an aptitude for looking on the tragic side of things, and one of
whose first poems was an "Ode on the Misfortunes of Life."  His mother
died when he was twenty.  Voltaire's father thought him a fool for his
versifying, and attached him as secretary to the Marquis of Chateauneuf;
when he went as ambassador to the Hague.  In December, 1713, he was
dismissed for his irregularities.  In Paris his unsteadiness and his
addiction to literature caused his father to rejoice in getting him
housed in a country chateau with M. de Caumartin.  M. de Caumartin's
father talked with such enthusiasm of Henri IV. and Sully that Voltaire
planned the writing of what became his _Henriade_, and his "History of
the Age of Louis XIV.," who died on the 1st of September, 1715.

Under the regency that followed, Voltaire got into trouble again and
again through the sharpness of his pen, and at last, accused of verse
that satirised the Regent, he was locked up--on the 17th of May, 1717--in
the Bastille.  There he wrote the first two books of his _Henriade_, and
finished a play on OEdipus, which he had begun at the age of eighteen.  He
did not obtain full liberty until the 12th of April, 1718, and it was at
this time--with a clearly formed design to associate the name he took
with work of high attempt in literature--that Francois Marie Arouet, aged
twenty-four, first called himself Voltaire.

Voltaire's _OEdipe_ was played with success in November, 1718.  A few
months later he was again banished from Paris, and finished the
_Henriade_ in his retirement, as well as another play, _Artemise_, that
was acted in February, 1720.  Other plays followed.  In December, 1721,
Voltaire visited Lord Bolingbroke, who was then an exile from England, at
the Chateau of La Source.  There was now constant literary activity.  From
July to October, 1722, Voltaire visited Holland with Madame de
Rupelmonde.  After a serious attack of small-pox in November, 1723,
Voltaire was active as a poet about the Court.  He was then in receipt of
a pension of two thousand livres from the king, and had inherited more
than twice as much by the death of his father in January, 1722.  But in
December, 1725, a quarrel, fastened upon him by the Chevalier de Rohan,
who had him waylaid and beaten, caused him to send a challenge.  For this
he was arrested and lodged once more, in April, 1726, in the Bastille.
There he was detained a month; and his first act when he was released was
to ask for a passport to England.

Voltaire left France, reached London in August, 1726, went as guest to
the house of a rich merchant at Wandsworth, and remained three years in
this country, from the age of thirty-two to the age of thirty-five.  He
was here when George I. died, and George II. became king.  He published
here his _Henriade_.  He wrote here his "History of Charles XII."  He
read "Gulliver's Travels" as a new book, and might have been present at
the first night of _The Beggar's Opera_.  He was here whet Sir Isaac
Newton died.

In 1731 he published at Rouen the _Lettres sur les Anglais_, which
appeared in England in 1733 in the volume from which they are here
reprinted.

H.M.



LETTERS ON ENGLAND


LETTER I.--ON THE QUAKERS


I was of opinion that the doctrine and history of so extraordinary a
people were worthy the attention of the curious.  To acquaint myself with
them I made a visit to one of the most eminent Quakers in England, who,
after having traded thirty years, had the wisdom to prescribe limits to
his fortune and to his desires, and was settled in a little solitude not
far from London.  Being come into it, I perceived a small but regularly
built house, vastly neat, but without the least pomp of furniture.  The
Quaker who owned it was a hale, ruddy-complexioned old man, who had never
been afflicted with sickness because he had always been insensible to
passions, and a perfect stranger to intemperance.  I never in my life saw
a more noble or a more engaging aspect than his.  He was dressed like
those of his persuasion, in a plain coat without pleats in the sides, or
buttons on the pockets and sleeves; and had on a beaver, the brims of
which were horizontal like those of our clergy.  He did not uncover
himself when I appeared, and advanced towards me without once stooping
his body; but there appeared more politeness in the open, humane air of
his countenance, than in the custom of drawing one leg behind the other,
and taking that from the head which is made to cover it.  "Friend," says
he to me, "I perceive thou art a stranger, but if I can do anything for
thee, only tell me."  "Sir," said I to him, bending forwards and
advancing, as is usual with us, one leg towards him, "I flatter myself
that my just curiosity will not give you the least offence, and that
you'll do me the honour to inform me of the particulars of your
religion."  "The people of thy country," replied the Quaker, "are too
full of their bows and compliments, but I never yet met with one of them
who had so much curiosity as thyself.  Come in, and let us first dine
together."  I still continued to make some very unseasonable ceremonies,
it not being easy to disengage one's self at once from habits we have
been long used to; and after taking part in a frugal meal, which began
and ended with a prayer to God, I began to question my courteous host.  I
opened with that which good Catholics have more than once made to
Huguenots.  "My dear sir," said I, "were you ever baptised?"  "I never
was," replied the Quaker, "nor any of my brethren."  "Zounds!" say I to
him, "you are not Christians, then."  "Friend," replies the old man in a
soft tone of voice, "swear not; we are Christians, and endeavour to be
good Christians, but we are not of opinion that the sprinkling water on a
child's head makes him a Christian."  "Heavens!" say I, shocked at his
impiety, "you have then forgot that Christ was baptised by St. John."
"Friend," replies the mild Quaker once again, "swear not; Christ indeed
was baptised by John, but He himself never baptised anyone.  We are the
disciples of Christ, not of John."  I pitied very much the sincerity of
my worthy Quaker, and was absolutely for forcing him to get himself
christened.  "Were that all," replied he very gravely, "we would submit
cheerfully to baptism, purely in compliance with thy weakness, for we
don't condemn any person who uses it; but then we think that those who
profess a religion of so holy, so spiritual a nature as that of Christ,
ought to abstain to the utmost of their power from the Jewish
ceremonies."  "O unaccountable!" say I: "what! baptism a Jewish
ceremony?"  "Yes, my friend," says he, "so truly Jewish, that a great
many Jews use the baptism of John to this day.  Look into ancient
authors, and thou wilt find that John only revived this practice; and
that it had been used by the Hebrews, long before his time, in like
manner as the Mahometans imitated the Ishmaelites in their pilgrimages to
Mecca.  Jesus indeed submitted to the baptism of John, as He had suffered
Himself to be circumcised; but circumcision and the washing with water
ought to be abolished by the baptism of Christ, that baptism of the
Spirit, that ablution of the soul, which is the salvation of mankind.
Thus the forerunner said, 'I indeed baptise you with water unto
repentance; but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I
am not worthy to bear: he shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with
fire.'  Likewise Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles, writes as
follows to the Corinthians, 'Christ sent me not to baptise, but to preach
the Gospel;' and indeed Paul never baptised but two persons with water,
and that very much against his inclinations.  He circumcised his disciple
Timothy, and the other disciples likewise circumcised all who were
willing to submit to that carnal ordinance.  But art thou circumcised?"
added he.  "I have not the honour to be so," say I.  "Well, friend,"
continues the Quaker, "thou art a Christian without being circumcised,
and I am one without being baptised."  Thus did this pious man make a
wrong but very specious application of four or five texts of Scripture
which seemed to favour the tenets of his sect; but at the same time
forgot very sincerely an hundred texts which made directly against them.
I had more sense than to contest with him, since there is no possibility
of convincing an enthusiast.  A man should never pretend to inform a
lover of his mistress's faults, no more than one who is at law, of the
badness of his cause; nor attempt to win over a fanatic by strength of
reasoning.  Accordingly I waived the subject.

"Well," said I to him, "what sort of a communion have you?"  "We have
none like that thou hintest at among us," replied he.  "How! no
communion?" said I.  "Only that spiritual one," replied he, "of hearts."
He then began again to throw out his texts of Scripture; and preached a
most eloquent sermon against that ordinance.  He harangued in a tone as
though he had been inspired, to prove that the sacraments were merely of
human invention, and that the word "sacrament" was not once mentioned in
the Gospel.  "Excuse," said he, "my ignorance, for I have not employed a
hundredth part of the arguments which might be brought to prove the truth
of our religion, but these thou thyself mayest peruse in the Exposition
of our Faith written by Robert Barclay.  It is one of the best pieces
that ever was penned by man; and as our adversaries confess it to be of
dangerous tendency, the arguments in it must necessarily be very
convincing."  I promised to peruse this piece, and my Quaker imagined he
had already made a convert of me.  He afterwards gave me an account in
few words of some singularities which make this sect the contempt of
others.  "Confess," said he, "that it was very difficult for thee to
refrain from laughter, when I answered all thy civilities without
uncovering my head, and at the same time said 'thee' and 'thou' to thee.
However, thou appearest to me too well read not to know that in Christ's
time no nation was so ridiculous as to put the plural number for the
singular.  Augustus Caesar himself was spoken to in such phrases as
these: 'I love thee,' 'I beseech thee,' 'I thank thee;' but he did not
allow any person to call him 'Domine,' sir.  It was not till many ages
after that men would have the word 'you,' as though they were double,
instead of 'thou' employed in speaking to them; and usurped the
flattering titles of lordship, of eminence, and of holiness, which mere
worms bestow on other worms by assuring them that they are with a most
profound respect, and an infamous falsehood, their most obedient humble
servants.  It is to secure ourselves more strongly from such a shameless
traffic of lies and flattery, that we 'thee' and 'thou' a king with the
same freedom as we do a beggar, and salute no person; we owing nothing to
mankind but charity, and to the laws respect and obedience.

"Our apparel is also somewhat different from that of others, and this
purely, that it may be a perpetual warning to us not to imitate them.
Others wear the badges and marks of their several dignities, and we those
of Christian humility.  We fly from all assemblies of pleasure, from
diversions of every kind, and from places where gaming is practised; and
indeed our case would be very deplorable, should we fill with such
levities as those I have mentioned the heart which ought to be the
habitation of God.  We never swear, not even in a court of justice, being
of opinion that the most holy name of God ought not to be prostituted in
the miserable contests betwixt man and man.  When we are obliged to
appear before a magistrate upon other people's account (for law-suits are
unknown among the Friends), we give evidence to the truth by sealing it
with our yea or nay; and the judges believe us on our bare affirmation,
whilst so many other Christians forswear themselves on the holy Gospels.
We never war or fight in any case; but it is not that we are afraid, for
so far from shuddering at the thoughts of death, we on the contrary bless
the moment which unites us with the Being of Beings; but the reason of
our not using the outward sword is, that we are neither wolves, tigers,
nor mastiffs, but men and Christians.  Our God, who has commanded us to
love our enemies, and to suffer without repining, would certainly not
permit us to cross the seas, merely because murderers clothed in scarlet,
and wearing caps two foot high, enlist citizens by a noise made with two
little sticks on an ass's skin extended.  And when, after a victory is
gained, the whole city of London is illuminated; when the sky is in a
blaze with fireworks, and a noise is heard in the air, of thanksgivings,
of bells, of organs, and of the cannon, we groan in silence, and are
deeply affected with sadness of spirit and brokenness of heart, for the
sad havoc which is the occasion of those public rejoicings."



LETTER II.--ON THE QUAKERS


Such was the substance of the conversation I had with this very singular
person; but I was greatly surprised to see him come the Sunday following
and take me with him to the Quakers' meeting.  There are several of these
in London, but that which he carried me to stands near the famous pillar
called The Monument.  The brethren were already assembled at my entering
it with my guide.  There might be about four hundred men and three
hundred women in the meeting.  The women hid their faces behind their
fans, and the men were covered with their broad-brimmed hats.  All were
seated, and the silence was universal.  I passed through them, but did
not perceive so much as one lift up his eyes to look at me.  This silence
lasted a quarter of an hour, when at last one of them rose up, took off
his hat, and, after making a variety of wry faces and groaning in a most
lamentable manner, he, partly from his nose and partly from his mouth,
threw out a strange, confused jumble of words (borrowed, as he imagined,
from the Gospel) which neither himself nor any of his hearers understood.
When this distorter had ended his beautiful soliloquy, and that the
stupid, but greatly edified, congregation were separated, I asked my
friend how it was possible for the judicious part of their assembly to
suffer such a babbling?  "We are obliged," says he, "to suffer it,
because no one knows when a man rises up to hold forth whether he will be
moved by the Spirit or by folly.  In this doubt and uncertainty we listen
patiently to everyone; we even allow our women to hold forth.  Two or
three of these are often inspired at one and the same time, and it is
then that a most charming noise is heard in the Lord's house."  "You
have, then, no priests?" say I to him.  "No, no, friend," replies the
Quaker, "to our great happiness."  Then opening one of the Friends'
books, as he called it, he read the following words in an emphatic
tone:--"'God forbid we should presume to ordain anyone to receive the
Holy Spirit on the Lord's Day to the prejudice of the rest of the
brethren.'  Thanks to the Almighty, we are the only people upon earth
that have no priests.  Wouldst thou deprive us of so happy a distinction?
Why should we abandon our babe to mercenary nurses, when we ourselves
have milk enough for it?  These mercenary creatures would soon domineer
in our houses and destroy both the mother and the babe.  God has said,
'Freely you have received, freely give.'  Shall we, after these words,
cheapen, as it were, the Gospel, sell the Holy Ghost, and make of an
assembly of Christians a mere shop of traders?  We don't pay a set of men
clothed in black to assist our poor, to bury our dead, or to preach to
the brethren.  These offices are all of too tender a nature for us ever
to entrust them to others."  "But how is it possible for you," said I,
with some warmth, "to know whether your discourse is really inspired by
the Almighty?"  "Whosoever," says he, "shall implore Christ to enlighten
him, and shall publish the Gospel truths he may feel inwardly, such an
one may be assured that he is inspired by the Lord."  He then poured
forth a numberless multitude of Scripture texts which proved, as he
imagined, that there is no such thing as Christianity without an
immediate revelation, and added these remarkable words: "When thou movest
one of thy limbs, is it moved by thy own power?  Certainly not; for this
limb is often sensible to involuntary motions.  Consequently he who
created thy body gives motion to this earthly tabernacle.  And are the
several ideas of which thy soul receives the impression formed by
thyself?  Much less are they, since these pour in upon thy mind whether
thou wilt or no; consequently thou receivest thy ideas from Him who
created thy soul.  But as He leaves thy affections at full liberty, He
gives thy mind such ideas as thy affections may deserve; if thou livest
in God, thou actest, thou thinkest in God.  After this thou needest only
but open thine eyes to that light which enlightens all mankind, and it is
then thou wilt perceive the truth, and make others perceive it."  "Why,
this," said I, "is Malebranche's doctrine to a tittle."  "I am acquainted
with thy Malebranche," said he; "he had something of the Friend in him,
but was not enough so."  These are the most considerable particulars I
learnt concerning the doctrine of the Quakers.  In my next letter I shall
acquaint you with their history, which you will find more singular than
their opinions.



LETTER III.--ON THE QUAKERS


You have already heard that the Quakers date from Christ, who, according
to them, was the first Quaker.  Religion, say these, was corrupted a
little after His death, and remained in that state of corruption about
sixteen hundred years.  But there were always a few Quakers concealed in
the world, who carefully preserved the sacred fire, which was
extinguished in all but themselves, until at last this light spread
itself in England in 1642.

It was at the time when Great Britain was torn to pieces by the intestine
wars which three or four sects had raised in the name of God, that one
George Fox, born in Leicestershire, and son to a silk-weaver, took it
into his head to preach, and, as he pretended, with all the requisites of
a true apostle--that is, without being able either to read or write.  He
was about twenty-five years of age, irreproachable in his life and
conduct, and a holy madman.  He was equipped in leather from head to
foot, and travelled from one village to another, exclaiming against war
and the clergy.  Had his invectives been levelled against the soldiery
only he would have been safe enough, but he inveighed against
ecclesiastics.  Fox was seized at Derby, and being carried before a
justice of peace, he did not once offer to pull off his leathern hat,
upon which an officer gave him a great box of the ear, and cried to him,
"Don't you know you are to appear uncovered before his worship?"  Fox
presented his other cheek to the officer, and begged him to give him
another box for God's sake.  The justice would have had him sworn before
he asked him any questions.  "Know, friend," says Fox to him, "that I
never swear."  The justice, observing he "thee'd" and "thou'd" him, sent
him to the House of Correction, in Derby, with orders that he should be
whipped there.  Fox praised the Lord all the way he went to the House of
Correction, where the justice's order was executed with the utmost
severity.  The men who whipped this enthusiast were greatly surprised to
hear him beseech them to give him a few more lashes for the good of his
soul.  There was no need of entreating these people; the lashes were
repeated, for which Fox thanked them very cordially, and began to preach.
At first the spectators fell a-laughing, but they afterwards listened to
him; and as enthusiasm is an epidemical distemper, many were persuaded,
and those who scourged him became his first disciples.  Being set at
liberty, he ran up and down the country with a dozen proselytes at his
heels, still declaiming against the clergy, and was whipped from time to
time.  Being one day set in the pillory, he harangued the crowd in so
strong and moving a manner, that fifty of the auditors became his
converts, and he won the rest so much in his favour that, his head being
freed tumultuously from the hole where it was fastened, the populace went
and searched for the Church of England clergyman who had been chiefly
instrumental in bringing him to this punishment, and set him on the same
pillory where Fox had stood.

Fox was bold enough to convert some of Oliver Cromwell's soldiers, who
thereupon quitted the service and refused to take the oaths.  Oliver,
having as great a contempt for a sect which would not allow its members
to fight, as Sixtus Quintus had for another sect, _Dove non si chiamava_,
began to persecute these new converts.  The prisons were crowded with
them, but persecution seldom has any other effect than to increase the
number of proselytes.  These came, therefore, from their confinement more
strongly confirmed in the principles they had imbibed, and followed by
their gaolers, whom they had brought over to their belief.  But the
circumstances which contributed chiefly to the spreading of this sect
were as follows:--Fox thought himself inspired, and consequently was of
opinion that he must speak in a manner different from the rest of
mankind.  He thereupon began to writhe his body, to screw up his face, to
hold in his breath, and to exhale it in a forcible manner, insomuch that
the priestess of the Pythian god at Delphos could not have acted her part
to better advantage.  Inspiration soon became so habitual to him that he
could scarce deliver himself in any other manner.  This was the first
gift he communicated to his disciples.  These aped very sincerely their
master's several grimaces, and shook in every limb the instant the fit of
inspiration came upon them, whence they were called Quakers.  The vulgar
attempted to mimic them; they trembled, they spake through the nose, they
quaked and fancied themselves inspired by the Holy Ghost.  The only thing
now wanting was a few miracles, and accordingly they wrought some.

Fox, this modern patriarch, spoke thus to a justice of peace before a
large assembly of people: "Friend, take care what thou dost; God will
soon punish thee for persecuting His saints."  This magistrate, being one
who besotted himself every day with bad beer and brandy, died of an
apoplexy two days after, the moment he had signed a _mittimus_ for
imprisoning some Quakers.  The sudden death with which this justice was
seized was not ascribed to his intemperance, but was universally looked
upon as the effect of the holy man's predictions; so that this accident
made more converts to Quakerism than a thousand sermons and as many
shaking fits could have done.  Oliver, finding them increase daily, was
desirous of bringing them over to his party, and for that purpose
attempted to bribe them by money.  However, they were incorruptible,
which made him one day declare that this religion was the only one he had
ever met with that had resisted the charms of gold.

The Quakers were several times persecuted under Charles II.; not upon a
religious account, but for refusing to pay the tithes, for "theeing" and
"thouing" the magistrates, and for refusing to take the oaths enacted by
the laws.

At last Robert Barclay, a native of Scotland, presented to the King, in
1675, his "Apology for the Quakers," a work as well drawn up as the
subject could possibly admit.  The dedication to Charles II. is not
filled with mean, flattering encomiums, but abounds with bold touches in
favour of truth and with the wisest counsels.  "Thou hast tasted," says
he to the King at the close of his epistle dedicatory, "of prosperity and
adversity; thou knowest what it is to be banished thy native country; to
be overruled as well as to rule and sit upon the throne; and, being
oppressed, thou hast reason to know how hateful the Oppressor is both to
God and man.  If, after all these warnings and advertisements, thou dost
not turn unto the Lord with all thy heart, but forget Him who remembered
thee in thy distress, and give up thyself to follow lust and vanity,
surely great will be thy condemnation.

"Against which snare, as well as the temptation of those that may or do
feed thee and prompt thee to evil, the most excellent and prevalent
remedy will be, to apply thyself to that light of Christ which shineth in
thy conscience, which neither can nor will flatter thee nor suffer thee
to be at ease in thy sins, but doth and will deal plainly and faithfully
with thee, as those that are followers thereof have plainly done.--Thy
faithful friend and subject, Robert Barclay."

A more surprising circumstance is, that this epistle, written by a
private man of no figure, was so happy in its effects, as to put a stop
to the persecution.



LETTER IV.--ON THE QUAKERS


About this time arose the illustrious William Penn, who established the
power of the Quakers in America, and would have made them appear
venerable in the eyes of the Europeans, were it possible for mankind to
respect virtue when revealed in a ridiculous light.  He was the only son
of Vice-Admiral Penn, favourite of the Duke of York, afterwards King
James II.

William Penn, at twenty years of age, happening to meet with a Quaker in
Cork, whom he had known at Oxford, this man made a proselyte of him; and
William being a sprightly youth, and naturally eloquent, having a winning
aspect, and a very engaging carriage, he soon gained over some of his
intimates.  He carried matters so far, that he formed by insensible
degrees a society of young Quakers, who met at his house; so that he was
at the head of a sect when a little above twenty.

Being returned, after his leaving Cork, to the Vice-Admiral his father,
instead of falling upon his knees to ask his blessing, he went up to him
with his hat on, and said, "Friend, I am very glad to see thee in good
health."  The Vice-Admiral imagined his son to be crazy, but soon finding
he was turned Quaker, he employed all the methods that prudence could
suggest to engage him to behave and act like other people.  The youth
made no other answer to his father, than by exhorting him to turn Quaker
also.  At last his father confined himself to this single request, viz.,
"that he should wait upon the King and the Duke of York with his hat
under his arm, and should not 'thee' and 'thou' them."  William answered,
"that he could not do these things, for conscience' sake," which
exasperated his father to such a degree, that he turned him out of doors.
Young Pen gave God thanks for permitting him to suffer so early in His
cause, after which he went into the city, where he held forth, and made a
great number of converts.

The Church of England clergy found their congregations dwindle away
daily; and Penn being young, handsome, and of a graceful stature, the
court as well as the city ladies flocked very devoutly to his meeting.
The patriarch, George Fox, hearing of his great reputation, came to
London (though the journey was very long) purely to see and converse with
him.  Both resolved to go upon missions into foreign countries, and
accordingly they embarked for Holland, after having left labourers
sufficient to take care of the London vineyard.

Their labours were crowned with success in Amsterdam, but a circumstance
which reflected the greatest honour on them, and at the same time put
their humility to the greatest trial, was the reception they met with
from Elizabeth, the Princess Palatine, aunt to George I. of Great
Britain, a lady conspicuous for her genius and knowledge, and to whom
Descartes had dedicated his Philosophical Romance.

She was then retired to the Hague, where she received these Friends, for
so the Quakers were at that time called in Holland.  This princess had
several conferences with them in her palace, and she at last entertained
so favourable an opinion of Quakerism, that they confessed she was not
far from the kingdom of heaven.  The Friends sowed likewise the good seed
in Germany, but reaped very little fruit; for the mode of "theeing" and
"thouing" was not approved of in a country where a man is perpetually
obliged to employ the titles of "highness" and "excellency."  William
Penn returned soon to England upon hearing of his father's sickness, in
order to see him before he died.  The Vice-Admiral was reconciled to his
son, and though of a different persuasion, embraced him tenderly.  William
made a fruitless exhortation to his father not to receive the sacrament,
but to die a Quaker, and the good old man entreated his son William to
wear buttons on his sleeves, and a crape hatband in his beaver, but all
to no purpose.

William Penn inherited very large possessions, part of which consisted in
Crown debts due to the Vice-Admiral for sums he had advanced for the sea
service.  No moneys were at that time more insecure than those owing from
the king.  Penn was obliged to go more than once, and "thee" and "thou"
King Charles and his Ministers, in order to recover the debt; and at
last, instead of specie, the Government invested him with the right and
sovereignty of a province of America, to the south of Maryland.  Thus was
a Quaker raised to sovereign power.  Penn set sail for his new dominions
with two ships freighted with Quakers, who followed his fortune.  The
country was then called Pennsylvania from William Penn, who there founded
Philadelphia, now the most flourishing city in that country.  The first
step he took was to enter into an alliance with his American neighbours,
and this is the only treaty between those people and the Christians that
was not ratified by an oath, and was never infringed.  The new sovereign
was at the same time the legislator of Pennsylvania, and enacted very
wise and prudent laws, none of which have ever been changed since his
time.  The first is, to injure no person upon a religious account, and to
consider as brethren all those who believe in one God.

He had no sooner settled his government, but several American merchants
came and peopled this colony.  The natives of the country, instead of
flying into the woods, cultivated by insensible degrees a friendship with
the peaceable Quakers.  They loved these foreigners as much as they
detested the other Christians who had conquered and laid waste America.
In a little time a great number of these savages (falsely so called),
charmed with the mild and gentle disposition of their neighbours, came in
crowds to William Penn, and besought him to admit them into the number of
his vassals.  It was very rare and uncommon for a sovereign to be
"thee'd" and "thou'd" by the meanest of his subjects, who never took
their hats off when they came into his presence; and as singular for a
Government to be without one priest in it, and for a people to be without
arms, either offensive or defensive; for a body of citizens to be
absolutely undistinguished but by the public employments, and for
neighbours not to entertain the least jealousy one against the other.

William Penn might glory in having brought down upon earth the so much
boasted golden age, which in all probability never existed but in
Pennsylvania.  He returned to England to settle some affairs relating to
his new dominions.  After the death of King Charles II., King James, who
had loved the father, indulged the same affection to the son, and no
longer considered him as an obscure sectary, but as a very great man.  The
king's politics on this occasion agreed with his inclinations.  He was
desirous of pleasing the Quakers by annulling the laws made against
Nonconformists, in order to have an opportunity, by this universal
toleration, of establishing the Romish religion.  All the sectarists in
England saw the snare that was laid for them, but did not give into it;
they never failing to unite when the Romish religion, their common enemy,
is to be opposed.  But Penn did not think himself bound in any manner to
renounce his principles, merely to favour Protestants to whom he was
odious, in opposition to a king who loved him.  He had established a
universal toleration with regard to conscience in America, and would not
have it thought that he intended to destroy it in Europe, for which
reason he adhered so inviolably to King James, that a report prevailed
universally of his being a Jesuit.  This calumny affected him very
strongly, and he was obliged to justify himself in print.  However, the
unfortunate King James II., in whom, as in most princes of the Stuart
family, grandeur and weakness were equally blended, and who, like them,
as much overdid some things as he was short in others, lost his kingdom
in a manner that is hardly to be accounted for.

All the English sectarists accepted from William III, and his Parliament
the toleration and indulgence which they had refused when offered by King
James.  It was then the Quakers began to enjoy, by virtue of the laws,
the several privileges they possess at this time.  Penn having at last
seen Quakerism firmly established in his native country, went back to
Pennsylvania.  His own people and the Americans received him with tears
of joy, as though he had been a father who was returned to visit his
children.  All the laws had been religiously observed in his absence, a
circumstance in which no legislator had ever been happy but himself.
After having resided some years in Pennsylvania he left it, but with
great reluctance, in order to return to England, there to solicit some
matters in favour of the commerce of Pennsylvania.  But he never saw it
again, he dying in Ruscombe, in Berkshire, in 1718.

I am not able to guess what fate Quakerism may have in America, but I
perceive it dwindles away daily in England.  In all countries where
liberty of conscience is allowed, the established religion will at last
swallow up all the rest.  Quakers are disqualified from being members of
Parliament; nor can they enjoy any post or preferment, because an oath
must always be taken on these occasions, and they never swear.  They are
therefore reduced to the necessity of subsisting upon traffic.  Their
children, whom the industry of their parents has enriched, are desirous
of enjoying honours, of wearing buttons and ruffles; and quite ashamed of
being called Quakers they become converts to the Church of England,
merely to be in the fashion.



LETTER V.--ON THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND


England is properly the country of sectarists.  _Multae sunt mansiones in
domo patris mei_ (in my Father's house are many mansions).  An
Englishman, as one to whom liberty is natural, may go to heaven his own
way.

Nevertheless, though every one is permitted to serve God in whatever mode
or fashion he thinks proper, yet their true religion, that in which a man
makes his fortune, is the sect of Episcopalians or Churchmen, called the
Church of England, or simply the Church, by way of eminence.  No person
can possess an employment either in England or Ireland unless he be
ranked among the faithful, that is, professes himself a member of the
Church of England.  This reason (which carries mathematical evidence with
it) has converted such numbers of Dissenters of all persuasions, that not
a twentieth part of the nation is out of the pale of the Established
Church.  The English clergy have retained a great number of the Romish
ceremonies, and especially that of receiving, with a most scrupulous
attention, their tithes.  They also have the pious ambition to aim at
superiority.

Moreover, they inspire very religiously their flock with a holy zeal
against Dissenters of all denominations.  This zeal was pretty violent
under the Tories in the four last years of Queen Anne; but was productive
of no greater mischief than the breaking the windows of some
meeting-houses and the demolishing of a few of them.  For religious rage
ceased in England with the civil wars, and was no more under Queen Anne
than the hollow noise of a sea whose billows still heaved, though so long
after the storm when the Whigs and Tories laid waste their native
country, in the same manner as the Guelphs and Ghibelins formerly did
theirs.  It was absolutely necessary for both parties to call in religion
on this occasion; the Tories declared for Episcopacy, and the Whigs, as
some imagined, were for abolishing it; however, after these had got the
upper hand, they contented themselves with only abridging it.

At the time when the Earl of Oxford and the Lord Bolingbroke used to
drink healths to the Tories, the Church of England considered those
noblemen as the defenders of its holy privileges.  The lower House of
Convocation (a kind of House of Commons) composed wholly of the clergy,
was in some credit at that time; at least the members of it had the
liberty to meet, to dispute on ecclesiastical matters, to sentence
impious books from time to time to the flames, that is, books written
against themselves.  The Ministry which is now composed of Whigs does not
so much as allow those gentlemen to assemble, so that they are at this
time reduced (in the obscurity of their respective parishes) to the
melancholy occupation of praying for the prosperity of the Government
whose tranquillity they would willingly disturb.  With regard to the
bishops, who are twenty-six in all, they still have seats in the House of
Lords in spite of the Whigs, because the ancient abuse of considering
them as barons subsists to this day.  There is a clause, however, in the
oath which the Government requires from these gentlemen, that puts their
Christian patience to a very great trial, viz., that they shall be of the
Church of England as by law established.  There are few bishops, deans,
or other dignitaries, but imagine they are so _jure divino_; it is
consequently a great mortification to them to be obliged to confess that
they owe their dignity to a pitiful law enacted by a set of profane
laymen.  A learned monk (Father Courayer) wrote a book lately to prove
the validity and succession of English ordinations.  This book was forbid
in France, but do you believe that the English Ministry were pleased with
it?  Far from it.  Those wicked Whigs don't care a straw whether the
episcopal succession among them hath been interrupted or not, or whether
Bishop Parker was consecrated (as it is pretended) in a tavern or a
church; for these Whigs are much better pleased that the Bishops should
derive their authority from the Parliament than from the Apostles.  The
Lord Bolingbroke observed that this notion of divine right would only
make so many tyrants in lawn sleeves, but that the laws made so many
citizens.

With regard to the morals of the English clergy, they are more regular
than those of France, and for this reason.  All the clergy (a very few
excepted) are educated in the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge, far
from the depravity and corruption which reign in the capital.  They are
not called to dignities till very late, at a time of life when men are
sensible of no other passion but avarice, that is, when their ambition
craves a supply.  Employments are here bestowed both in the Church and
the army, as a reward for long services; and we never see youngsters made
bishops or colonels immediately upon their laying aside the academical
gown; and besides most of the clergy are married.  The stiff and awkward
air contracted by them at the University, and the little familiarity the
men of this country have with the ladies, commonly oblige a bishop to
confine himself to, and rest contented with, his own.  Clergymen
sometimes take a glass at the tavern, custom giving them a sanction on
this occasion; and if they fuddle themselves it is in a very serious
manner, and without giving the least scandal.

That fable-mixed kind of mortal (not to be defined), who is neither of
the clergy nor of the laity; in a word, the thing called _Abbe_ in
France; is a species quite unknown in England.  All the clergy here are
very much upon the reserve, and most of them pedants.  When these are
told that in France young fellows famous for their dissoluteness, and
raised to the highest dignities of the Church by female intrigues,
address the fair publicly in an amorous way, amuse themselves in writing
tender love songs, entertain their friends very splendidly every night at
their own houses, and after the banquet is ended withdraw to invoke the
assistance of the Holy Ghost, and call themselves boldly the successors
of the Apostles, they bless God for their being Protestants.  But these
are shameless heretics, who deserve to be blown hence through the flames
to old Nick, as Rabelais says, and for this reason I do not trouble
myself about them.



LETTER VI.--ON THE PRESBYTERIANS


The Church of England is confined almost to the kingdom whence it
received its name, and to Ireland, for Presbyterianism is the established
religion in Scotland.  This Presbyterianism is directly the same with
Calvinism, as it was established in France, and is now professed at
Geneva.  As the priests of this sect receive but very inconsiderable
stipends from their churches, and consequently cannot emulate the
splendid luxury of bishops, they exclaim very naturally against honours
which they can never attain to.  Figure to yourself the haughty Diogenes
trampling under foot the pride of Plato.  The Scotch Presbyterians are
not very unlike that proud though tattered reasoner.  Diogenes did not
use Alexander half so impertinently as these treated King Charles II.;
for when they took up arms in his cause in opposition to Oliver, who had
deceived them, they forced that poor monarch to undergo the hearing of
three or four sermons every day, would not suffer him to play, reduced
him to a state of penitence and mortification, so that Charles soon grew
sick of these pedants, and accordingly eloped from them with as much joy
as a youth does from school.

A Church of England minister appears as another Cato in presence of a
juvenile, sprightly French graduate, who bawls for a whole morning
together in the divinity schools, and hums a song in chorus with ladies
in the evening; but this Cato is a very spark when before a Scotch
Presbyterian.  The latter affects a serious gait, puts on a sour look,
wears a vastly broad-brimmed hat and a long cloak over a very short coat,
preaches through the nose, and gives the name of the whore of Babylon to
all churches where the ministers are so fortunate as to enjoy an annual
revenue of five or six thousand pounds, and where the people are weak
enough to suffer this, and to give them the titles of my lord, your
lordship, or your eminence.

These gentlemen, who have also some churches in England, introduced there
the mode of grave and severe exhortations.  To them is owing the
sanctification of Sunday in the three kingdoms.  People are there
forbidden to work or take any recreation on that day, in which the
severity is twice as great as that of the Romish Church.  No operas,
plays, or concerts are allowed in London on Sundays, and even cards are
so expressly forbidden that none but persons of quality, and those we
call the genteel, play on that day; the rest of the nation go either to
church, to the tavern, or to see their mistresses.

Though the Episcopal and Presbyterian sects are the two prevailing ones
in Great Britain, yet all others are very welcome to come and settle in
it, and live very sociably together, though most of their preachers hate
one another almost as cordially as a Jansenist damns a Jesuit.

Take a view of the Royal Exchange in London, a place more venerable than
many courts of justice, where the representatives of all nations meet for
the benefit of mankind.  There the Jew, the Mahometan, and the Christian
transact together, as though they all professed the same religion, and
give the name of infidel to none but bankrupts.  There the Presbyterian
confides in the Anabaptist, and the Churchman depends on the Quaker's
word.

If one religion only were allowed in England, the Government would very
possibly become arbitrary; if there were but two, the people would cut
one another's throats; but as there are such a multitude, they all live
happy and in peace.



LETTER VII.--ON THE SOCINIANS, OR ARIANS, OR ANTITRINITARIANS


There is a little sect here composed of clergymen, and of a few very
learned persons among the laity, who, though they do not call themselves
Arians or Socinians, do yet dissent entirely from St. Athanasius with
regard to their notions of the Trinity, and declare very frankly that the
Father is greater than the Son.

Do you remember what is related of a certain orthodox bishop, who, in
order to convince an emperor of the reality of consubstantiation, put his
hand under the chin of the monarch's son, and took him by the nose in
presence of his sacred majesty?  The emperor was going to order his
attendants to throw the bishop out of the window, when the good old man
gave him this handsome and convincing reason: "Since your majesty," says
he, "is angry when your son has not due respect shown him, what
punishment do you think will God the Father inflict on those who refuse
His Son Jesus the titles due to Him?"  The persons I just now mentioned
declare that the holy bishop took a very wrong step, that his argument
was inconclusive, and that the emperor should have answered him thus:
"Know that there are two ways by which men may be wanting in respect to
me--first, in not doing honour sufficient to my son; and, secondly, in
paying him the same honour as to me."

Be this as it will, the principles of Arius begin to revive, not only in
England, but in Holland and Poland.  The celebrated Sir Isaac Newton
honoured this opinion so far as to countenance it.  This philosopher
thought that the Unitarians argued more mathematically than we do.  But
the most sanguine stickler for Arianism is the illustrious Dr. Clark.
This man is rigidly virtuous, and of a mild disposition, is more fond of
his tenets than desirous of propagating them, and absorbed so entirely in
problems and calculations that he is a mere reasoning machine.

It is he who wrote a book which is much esteemed and little understood,
on the existence of God, and another, more intelligible, but pretty much
contemned, on the truth of the Christian religion.

He never engaged in scholastic disputes, which our friend calls venerable
trifles.  He only published a work containing all the testimonies of the
primitive ages for and against the Unitarians, and leaves to the reader
the counting of the voices and the liberty of forming a judgment.  This
book won the doctor a great number of partisans, and lost him the See of
Canterbury; but, in my humble opinion, he was out in his calculation, and
had better have been Primate of all England than merely an Arian parson.

You see that opinions are subject to revolutions as well as empires.
Arianism, after having triumphed during three centuries, and been forgot
twelve, rises at last out of its own ashes; but it has chosen a very
improper season to make its appearance in, the present age being quite
cloyed with disputes and sects.  The members of this sect are, besides,
too few to be indulged the liberty of holding public assemblies, which,
however, they will, doubtless, be permitted to do in case they spread
considerably.  But people are now so very cold with respect to all things
of this kind, that there is little probability any new religion, or old
one, that may be revived, will meet with favour.  Is it not whimsical
enough that Luther, Calvin, and Zuinglius, all of them wretched authors,
should have founded sects which are now spread over a great part of
Europe, that Mahomet, though so ignorant, should have given a religion to
Asia and Africa, and that Sir Isaac Newton, Dr. Clark, Mr. Locke, Mr. Le
Clerc, etc., the greatest philosophers, as well as the ablest writers of
their ages, should scarcely have been able to raise a little flock, which
even decreases daily.

This it is to be born at a proper period of time.  Were Cardinal de Retz
to return again into the world, neither his eloquence nor his intrigues
would draw together ten women in Paris.

Were Oliver Cromwell, he who beheaded his sovereign, and seized upon the
kingly dignity, to rise from the dead, he would be a wealthy City trader,
and no more.



LETTER VIII.--ON THE PARLIAMENT


The members of the English Parliament are fond of comparing themselves to
the old Romans.

Not long since Mr. Shippen opened a speech in the House of Commons with
these words, "The majesty of the people of England would be wounded."  The
singularity of the expression occasioned a loud laugh; but this
gentleman, so far from being disconcerted, repeated the same words with a
resolute tone of voice, and the laugh ceased.  In my opinion, the majesty
of the people of England has nothing in common with that of the people of
Rome, much less is there any affinity between their Governments.  There
is in London a senate, some of the members whereof are accused (doubtless
very unjustly) of selling their voices on certain occasions, as was done
in Rome; this is the only resemblance.  Besides, the two nations appear
to me quite opposite in character, with regard both to good and evil.  The
Romans never knew the dreadful folly of religious wars, an abomination
reserved for devout preachers of patience and humility.  Marius and
Sylla, Caesar and Pompey, Anthony and Augustus, did not draw their swords
and set the world in a blaze merely to determine whether the flamen
should wear his shirt over his robe, or his robe over his shirt, or
whether the sacred chickens should eat and drink, or eat only, in order
to take the augury.  The English have hanged one another by law, and cut
one another to pieces in pitched battles, for quarrels of as trifling a
nature.  The sects of the Episcopalians and Presbyterians quite
distracted these very serious heads for a time.  But I fancy they will
hardly ever be so silly again, they seeming to be grown wiser at their
own expense; and I do not perceive the least inclination in them to
murder one another merely about syllogisms, as some zealots among them
once did.

But here follows a more essential difference between Rome and England,
which gives the advantage entirely to the latter--viz., that the civil
wars of Rome ended in slavery, and those of the English in liberty.  The
English are the only people upon earth who have been able to prescribe
limits to the power of kings by resisting them; and who, by a series of
struggles, have at last established that wise Government where the Prince
is all-powerful to do good, and, at the same time, is restrained from
committing evil; where the nobles are great without insolence, though
there are no vassals; and where the people share in the Government
without confusion.

The House of Lords and that of the Commons divide the legislative power
under the king, but the Romans had no such balance.  The patricians and
plebeians in Rome were perpetually at variance, and there was no
intermediate power to reconcile them.  The Roman senate, who were so
unjustly, so criminally proud as not to suffer the plebeians to share
with them in anything, could find no other artifice to keep the latter
out of the administration than by employing them in foreign wars.  They
considered the plebeians as a wild beast, whom it behoved them to let
loose upon their neighbours, for fear they should devour their masters.
Thus the greatest defect in the Government of the Romans raised them to
be conquerors.  By being unhappy at home, they triumphed over and
possessed themselves of the world, till at last their divisions sunk them
to slavery.

The Government of England will never rise to so exalted a pitch of glory,
nor will its end be so fatal.  The English are not fired with the
splendid folly of making conquests, but would only prevent their
neighbours from conquering.  They are not only jealous of their own
liberty, but even of that of other nations.  The English were exasperated
against Louis XIV. for no other reason but because he was ambitious, and
declared war against him merely out of levity, not from any interested
motives.

The English have doubtless purchased their liberties at a very high
price, and waded through seas of blood to drown the idol of arbitrary
power.  Other nations have been involved in as great calamities, and have
shed as much blood; but then the blood they spilt in defence of their
liberties only enslaved them the more.

That which rises to a revolution in England is no more than a sedition in
other countries.  A city in Spain, in Barbary, or in Turkey, takes up
arms in defence of its privileges, when immediately it is stormed by
mercenary troops, it is punished by executioners, and the rest of the
nation kiss the chains they are loaded with.  The French are of opinion
that the government of this island is more tempestuous than the sea which
surrounds it, which indeed is true; but then it is never so but when the
king raises the storm--when he attempts to seize the ship of which he is
only the chief pilot.  The civil wars of France lasted longer, were more
cruel, and productive of greater evils than those of England; but none of
these civil wars had a wise and prudent liberty for their object.

In the detestable reigns of Charles IX. and Henry III. the whole affair
was only whether the people should be slaves to the Guises.  With regard
to the last war of Paris, it deserves only to be hooted at.  Methinks I
see a crowd of schoolboys rising up in arms against their master, and
afterwards whipped for it.  Cardinal de Retz, who was witty and brave
(but to no purpose), rebellious without a cause, factious without design,
and head of a defenceless party, caballed for caballing sake, and seemed
to foment the civil war merely out of diversion.  The Parliament did not
know what he intended, nor what he did not intend.  He levied troops by
Act of Parliament, and the next moment cashiered them.  He threatened, he
begged pardon; he set a price upon Cardinal Mazarin's head, and
afterwards congratulated him in a public manner.  Our civil wars under
Charles VI. were bloody and cruel, those of the League execrable, and
that of the Frondeurs ridiculous.

That for which the French chiefly reproach the English nation is the
murder of King Charles I., whom his subjects treated exactly as he would
have treated them had his reign been prosperous.  After all, consider on
one side Charles I., defeated in a pitched battle, imprisoned, tried,
sentenced to die in Westminster Hall, and then beheaded.  And on the
other, the Emperor Henry VII., poisoned by his chaplain at his receiving
the Sacrament; Henry III. stabbed by a monk; thirty assassinations
projected against Henry IV., several of them put in execution, and the
last bereaving that great monarch of his life.  Weigh, I say, all these
wicked attempts, and then judge.



LETTER IX.--ON THE GOVERNMENT


That mixture in the English Government, that harmony between King, Lords,
and commons, did not always subsist.  England was enslaved for a long
series of years by the Romans, the Saxons, the Danes, and the French
successively.  William the Conqueror particularly, ruled them with a rod
of iron.  He disposed as absolutely of the lives and fortunes of his
conquered subjects as an eastern monarch; and forbade, upon pain of
death, the English either fire or candle in their houses after eight
o'clock; whether was this to prevent their nocturnal meetings, or only to
try, by an odd and whimsical prohibition, how far it was possible for one
man to extend his power over his fellow-creatures.  It is true, indeed,
that the English had Parliaments before and after William the Conqueror,
and they boast of them, as though these assemblies then called
Parliaments, composed of ecclesiastical tyrants and of plunderers
entitled barons, had been the guardians of the public liberty and
happiness.

The barbarians who came from the shores of the Baltic, and settled in the
rest of Europe, brought with them the form of government called States or
Parliaments, about which so much noise is made, and which are so little
understood.  Kings, indeed, were not absolute in those days; but then the
people were more wretched upon that very account, and more completely
enslaved.  The chiefs of these savages, who had laid waste France, Italy,
Spain, and England, made themselves monarchs.  Their generals divided
among themselves the several countries they had conquered, whence sprung
those margraves, those peers, those barons, those petty tyrants, who
often contested with their sovereigns for the spoils of whole nations.
These were birds of prey fighting with an eagle for doves whose blood the
victorious was to suck.  Every nation, instead of being governed by one
master, was trampled upon by a hundred tyrants.  The priests soon played
a part among them.  Before this it had been the fate of the Gauls, the
Germans, and the Britons, to be always governed by their Druids and the
chiefs of their villages, an ancient kind of barons, not so tyrannical as
their successors.  These Druids pretended to be mediators between God and
man.  They enacted laws, they fulminated their excommunications, and
sentenced to death.  The bishops succeeded, by insensible degrees, to
their temporal authority in the Goth and Vandal government.  The popes
set themselves at their head, and armed with their briefs, their bulls,
and reinforced by monks, they made even kings tremble, deposed and
assassinated them at pleasure, and employed every artifice to draw into
their own purses moneys from all parts of Europe.  The weak Ina, one of
the tyrants of the Saxon Heptarchy in England, was the first monarch who
submitted, in his pilgrimage to Rome, to pay St. Peter's penny
(equivalent very near to a French crown) for every house in his
dominions.  The whole island soon followed his example; England became
insensibly one of the Pope's provinces, and the Holy Father used to send
from time to time his legates thither to levy exorbitant taxes.  At last
King John delivered up by a public instrument the kingdom of England to
the Pope, who had excommunicated him; but the barons, not finding their
account in this resignation, dethroned the wretched King John and seated
Louis, father to St. Louis, King of France, in his place.  However, they
were soon weary of their new monarch, and accordingly obliged him to
return to France.

Whilst that the barons, the bishops, and the popes, all laid waste
England, where all were for ruling the most numerous, the most useful,
even the most virtuous, and consequently the most venerable part of
mankind, consisting of those who study the laws and the sciences, of
traders, of artificers, in a word, of all who were not tyrants--that is,
those who are called the people: these, I say, were by them looked upon
as so many animals beneath the dignity of the human species.  The Commons
in those ages were far from sharing in the government, they being
villains or peasants, whose labour, whose blood, were the property of
their masters who entitled themselves the nobility.  The major part of
men in Europe were at that time what they are to this day in several
parts of the world--they were villains or bondsmen of lords--that is, a
kind of cattle bought and sold with the land.  Many ages passed away
before justice could be done to human nature--before mankind were
conscious that it was abominable for many to sow, and but few reap.  And
was not France very happy, when the power and authority of those petty
robbers was abolished by the lawful authority of kings and of the people?

Happily, in the violent shocks which the divisions between kings and the
nobles gave to empires, the chains of nations were more or less heavy.
Liberty in England sprang from the quarrels of tyrants.  The barons
forced King John and King Henry III. to grant the famous Magna Charta,
the chief design of which was indeed to make kings dependent on the
Lords; but then the rest of the nation were a little favoured in it, in
order that they might join on proper occasions with their pretended
masters.  This great Charter, which is considered as the sacred origin of
the English liberties, shows in itself how little liberty was known.

The title alone proves that the king thought he had a just right to be
absolute; and that the barons, and even the clergy, forced him to give up
the pretended right, for no other reason but because they were the most
powerful.

Magna Charta begins in this style: "We grant, of our own free will, the
following privileges to the archbishops, bishops, priors, and barons of
our kingdom," etc.

The House of Commons is not once mentioned in the articles of this
Charter--a proof that it did not yet exist, or that it existed without
power.  Mention is therein made, by name, of the freemen of England--a
melancholy proof that some were not so.  It appears, by Article XXXII.,
that these pretended freemen owed service to their lords.  Such a liberty
as this was not many removes from slavery.

By Article XXI., the king ordains that his officers shall not
henceforward seize upon, unless they pay for them, the horses and carts
of freemen.  The people considered this ordinance as a real liberty,
though it was a greater tyranny.  Henry VII., that happy usurper and
great politician, who pretended to love the barons, though he in reality
hated and feared them, got their lands alienated.  By this means the
villains, afterwards acquiring riches by their industry, purchased the
estates and country seats of the illustrious peers who had ruined
themselves by their folly and extravagance, and all the lands got by
insensible degrees into other hands.

The power of the House of Commons increased every day.  The families of
the ancient peers were at last extinct; and as peers only are properly
noble in England, there would be no such thing in strictness of law as
nobility in that island, had not the kings created new barons from time
to time, and preserved the body of peers, once a terror to them, to
oppose them to the Commons, since become so formidable.

All these new peers who compose the Higher House receive nothing but
their titles from the king, and very few of them have estates in those
places whence they take their titles.  One shall be Duke of D-, though he
has not a foot of land in Dorsetshire; and another is Earl of a village,
though he scarce knows where it is situated.  The peers have power, but
it is only in the Parliament House.

There is no such thing here as _haute_, _moyenne_, and _basse
justice_--that is, a power to judge in all matters civil and criminal;
nor a right or privilege of hunting in the grounds of a citizen, who at
the same time is not permitted to fire a gun in his own field.

No one is exempted in this country from paying certain taxes because he
is a nobleman or a priest.  All duties and taxes are settled by the House
of Commons, whose power is greater than that of the Peers, though
inferior to it in dignity.  The spiritual as well as temporal Lords have
the liberty to reject a Money Bill brought in by the Commons; but they
are not allowed to alter anything in it, and must either pass or throw it
out without restriction.  When the Bill has passed the Lords and is
signed by the king, then the whole nation pays, every man in proportion
to his revenue or estate, not according to his title, which would be
absurd.  There is no such thing as an arbitrary subsidy or poll-tax, but
a real tax on the lands, of all which an estimate was made in the reign
of the famous King William III.

The land-tax continues still upon the same foot, though the revenue of
the lands is increased.  Thus no one is tyrannised over, and every one is
easy.  The feet of the peasants are not bruised by wooden shoes; they eat
white bread, are well clothed, and are not afraid of increasing their
stock of cattle, nor of tiling their houses, from any apprehension that
their taxes will be raised the year following.  The annual income of the
estates of a great many commoners in England amounts to two hundred
thousand livres, and yet these do not think it beneath them to plough the
lands which enrich them, and on which they enjoy their liberty.



LETTER X.--ON TRADE


As trade enriched the citizens in England, so it contributed to their
freedom, and this freedom on the other side extended their commerce,
whence arose the grandeur of the State.  Trade raised by insensible
degrees the naval power, which gives the English a superiority over the
seas, and they now are masters of very near two hundred ships of war.
Posterity will very probably be surprised to hear that an island whose
only produce is a little lead, tin, fuller's-earth, and coarse wool,
should become so powerful by its commerce, as to be able to send, in
1723, three fleets at the same time to three different and far distanced
parts of the globe.  One before Gibraltar, conquered and still possessed
by the English; a second to Portobello, to dispossess the King of Spain
of the treasures of the West Indies; and a third into the Baltic, to
prevent the Northern Powers from coming to an engagement.

At the time when Louis XIV. made all Italy tremble, and that his armies,
which had already possessed themselves of Savoy and Piedmont, were upon
the point of taking Turin; Prince Eugene was obliged to march from the
middle of Germany in order to succour Savoy.  Having no money, without
which cities cannot be either taken or defended, he addressed himself to
some English merchants.  These, at an hour and half's warning, lent him
five millions, whereby he was enabled to deliver Turin, and to beat the
French; after which he wrote the following short letter to the persons
who had disbursed him the above-mentioned sums: "Gentlemen, I have
received your money, and flatter myself that I have laid it out to your
satisfaction."  Such a circumstance as this raises a just pride in an
English merchant, and makes him presume (not without some reason) to
compare himself to a Roman citizen; and, indeed, a peer's brother does
not think traffic beneath him.  When the Lord Townshend was Minister of
State, a brother of his was content to be a City merchant; and at the
time that the Earl of Oxford governed Great Britain, a younger brother
was no more than a factor in Aleppo, where he chose to live, and where he
died.  This custom, which begins, however, to be laid aside, appears
monstrous to Germans, vainly puffed up with their extraction.  These
think it morally impossible that the son of an English peer should be no
more than a rich and powerful citizen, for all are princes in Germany.
There have been thirty highnesses of the same name, all whose patrimony
consisted only in their escutcheons and their pride.

In France the title of marquis is given gratis to any one who will accept
of it; and whosoever arrives at Paris from the midst of the most remote
provinces with money in his purse, and a name terminating in _ac_ or
_ille_, may strut about, and cry, "Such a man as I!  A man of my rank and
figure!" and may look down upon a trader with sovereign contempt; whilst
the trader on the other side, by thus often hearing his profession
treated so disdainfully, is fool enough to blush at it.  However, I need
not say which is most useful to a nation; a lord, powdered in the tip of
the mode, who knows exactly at what o'clock the king rises and goes to
bed, and who gives himself airs of grandeur and state, at the same time
that he is acting the slave in the ante-chamber of a prime minister; or a
merchant, who enriches his country, despatches orders from his counting-
house to Surat and Grand Cairo, and contributes to the well-being of the
world.



LETTER XI.--ON INOCULATION


It is inadvertently affirmed in the Christian countries of Europe that
the English are fools and madmen.  Fools, because they give their
children the small-pox to prevent their catching it; and madmen, because
they wantonly communicate a certain and dreadful distemper to their
children, merely to prevent an uncertain evil.  The English, on the other
side, call the rest of the Europeans cowardly and unnatural.  Cowardly,
because they are afraid of putting their children to a little pain;
unnatural, because they expose them to die one time or other of the small-
pox.  But that the reader may be able to judge whether the English or
those who differ from them in opinion are in the right, here follows the
history of the famed inoculation, which is mentioned with so much dread
in France.

The Circassian women have, from time immemorial, communicated the small-
pox to their children when not above six months old by making an incision
in the arm, and by putting into this incision a pustule, taken carefully
from the body of another child.  This pustule produces the same effect in
the arm it is laid in as yeast in a piece of dough; it ferments, and
diffuses through the whole mass of blood the qualities with which it is
impregnated.  The pustules of the child in whom the artificial small-pox
has been thus inoculated are employed to communicate the same distemper
to others.  There is an almost perpetual circulation of it in Circassia;
and when unhappily the small-pox has quite left the country, the
inhabitants of it are in as great trouble and perplexity as other nations
when their harvest has fallen short.

The circumstance that introduced a custom in Circassia, which appears so
singular to others, is nevertheless a cause common to all nations, I mean
maternal tenderness and interest.

The Circassians are poor, and their daughters are beautiful, and indeed,
it is in them they chiefly trade.  They furnish with beauties the
seraglios of the Turkish Sultan, of the Persian Sophy, and of all those
who are wealthy enough to purchase and maintain such precious
merchandise.  These maidens are very honourably and virtuously instructed
to fondle and caress men; are taught dances of a very polite and
effeminate kind; and how to heighten by the most voluptuous artifices the
pleasures of their disdainful masters for whom they are designed.  These
unhappy creatures repeat their lesson to their mothers, in the same
manner as little girls among us repeat their catechism without
understanding one word they say.

Now it often happened that, after a father and mother had taken the
utmost care of the education of their children, they were frustrated of
all their hopes in an instant.  The small-pox getting into the family,
one daughter died of it, another lost an eye, a third had a great nose at
her recovery, and the unhappy parents were completely ruined.  Even,
frequently, when the small-pox became epidemical, trade was suspended for
several years, which thinned very considerably the seraglios of Persia
and Turkey.

A trading nation is always watchful over its own interests, and grasps at
every discovery that may be of advantage to its commerce.  The
Circassians observed that scarce one person in a thousand was ever
attacked by a small-pox of a violent kind.  That some, indeed, had this
distemper very favourably three or four times, but never twice so as to
prove fatal; in a word, that no one ever had it in a violent degree twice
in his life.  They observed farther, that when the small-pox is of the
milder sort, and the pustules have only a tender, delicate skin to break
through, they never leave the least scar in the face.  From these natural
observations they concluded, that in case an infant of six months or a
year old should have a milder sort of small-pox, he would not die of it,
would not be marked, nor be ever afflicted with it again.

In order, therefore, to preserve the life and beauty of their children,
the only thing remaining was to give them the small-pox in their infant
years.  This they did by inoculating in the body of a child a pustule
taken from the most regular and at the same time the most favourable sort
of small-pox that could be procured.

The experiment could not possibly fail.  The Turks, who are people of
good sense, soon adopted this custom, insomuch that at this time there is
not a bassa in Constantinople but communicates the small-pox to his
children of both sexes immediately upon their being weaned.

Some pretend that the Circassians borrowed this custom anciently from the
Arabians; but we shall leave the clearing up of this point of history to
some learned Benedictine, who will not fail to compile a great many
folios on this subject, with the several proofs or authorities.  All I
have to say upon it is that, in the beginning of the reign of King George
I., the Lady Wortley Montague, a woman of as fine a genius, and endued
with as great a strength of mind, as any of her sex in the British
Kingdoms, being with her husband, who was ambassador at the Porte, made
no scruple to communicate the small-pox to an infant of which she was
delivered in Constantinople.  The chaplain represented to his lady, but
to no purpose, that this was an unchristian operation, and therefore that
it could succeed with none but infidels.  However, it had the most happy
effect upon the son of the Lady Wortley Montague, who, at her return to
England, communicated the experiment to the Princess of Wales, now Queen
of England.  It must be confessed that this princess, abstracted from her
crown and titles, was born to encourage the whole circle of arts, and to
do good to mankind.  She appears as an amiable philosopher on the throne,
having never let slip one opportunity of improving the great talents she
received from Nature, nor of exerting her beneficence.  It is she who,
being informed that a daughter of Milton was living, but in miserable
circumstances, immediately sent her a considerable present.  It is she
who protects the learned Father Courayer.  It is she who condescended to
attempt a reconciliation between Dr. Clark and Mr. Leibnitz.  The moment
this princess heard of inoculation, she caused an experiment of it to be
made on four criminals sentenced to die, and by that means preserved
their lives doubly; for she not only saved them from the gallows, but by
means of this artificial small-pox prevented their ever having that
distemper in a natural way, with which they would very probably have been
attacked one time or other, and might have died of in a more advanced
age.

The princess being assured of the usefulness of this operation, caused
her own children to be inoculated.  A great part of the kingdom followed
her example, and since that time ten thousand children, at least, of
persons of condition owe in this manner their lives to her Majesty and to
the Lady Wortley Montague; and as many of the fair sex are obliged to
them for their beauty.

Upon a general calculation, threescore persons in every hundred have the
small-pox.  Of these threescore, twenty die of it in the most favourable
season of life, and as many more wear the disagreeable remains of it in
their faces so long as they live.  Thus, a fifth part of mankind either
die or are disfigured by this distemper.  But it does not prove fatal to
so much as one among those who are inoculated in Turkey or in England,
unless the patient be infirm, or would have died had not the experiment
been made upon him.  Besides, no one is disfigured, no one has the small-
pox a second time, if the inoculation was perfect.  It is therefore
certain, that had the lady of some French ambassador brought this secret
from Constantinople to Paris, the nation would have been for ever obliged
to her.  Then the Duke de Villequier, father to the Duke d'Aumont, who
enjoys the most vigorous constitution, and is the healthiest man in
France, would not have been cut off in the flower of his age.

The Prince of Soubise, happy in the finest flush of health, would not
have been snatched away at five-and-twenty, nor the Dauphin, grandfather
to Louis XV., have been laid in his grave in his fiftieth year.  Twenty
thousand persons whom the small-pox swept away at Paris in 1723 would
have been alive at this time.  But are not the French fond of life, and
is beauty so inconsiderable an advantage as to be disregarded by the
ladies?  It must be confessed that we are an odd kind of people.  Perhaps
our nation will imitate ten years hence this practice of the English, if
the clergy and the physicians will but give them leave to do it; or
possibly our countrymen may introduce inoculation three months hence in
France out of mere whim, in case the English should discontinue it
through fickleness.

I am informed that the Chinese have practised inoculation these hundred
years, a circumstance that argues very much in its favour, since they are
thought to be the wisest and best governed people in the world.  The
Chinese, indeed, do not communicate this distemper by inoculation, but at
the nose, in the same manner as we take snuff.  This is a more agreeable
way, but then it produces the like effects; and proves at the same time
that had inoculation been practised in France it would have saved the
lives of thousands.



LETTER XII.--ON THE LORD BACON


Not long since the trite and frivolous question following was debated in
a very polite and learned company, viz., Who was the greatest man, Caesar,
Alexander, Tamerlane, Cromwell, &c.?

Somebody answered that Sir Isaac Newton excelled them all.  The
gentleman's assertion was very just; for if true greatness consists in
having received from heaven a mighty genius, and in having employed it to
enlighten our own mind and that of others, a man like Sir Isaac Newton,
whose equal is hardly found in a thousand years, is the truly great man.
And those politicians and conquerors (and all ages produce some) were
generally so many illustrious wicked men.  That man claims our respect
who commands over the minds of the rest of the world by the force of
truth, not those who enslave their fellow-creatures: he who is acquainted
with the universe, not they who deface it.

Since, therefore, you desire me to give you an account of the famous
personages whom England has given birth to, I shall begin with Lord
Bacon, Mr. Locke, Sir Isaac Newton, &c.  Afterwards the warriors and
Ministers of State shall come in their order.

I must begin with the celebrated Viscount Verulam, known in Europe by the
name of Bacon, which was that of his family.  His father had been Lord
Keeper, and himself was a great many years Lord Chancellor under King
James I.  Nevertheless, amidst the intrigues of a Court, and the affairs
of his exalted employment, which alone were enough to engross his whole
time, he yet found so much leisure for study as to make himself a great
philosopher, a good historian, and an elegant writer; and a still more
surprising circumstance is that he lived in an age in which the art of
writing justly and elegantly was little known, much less true philosophy.
Lord Bacon, as is the fate of man, was more esteemed after his death than
in his lifetime.  His enemies were in the British Court, and his admirers
were foreigners.

When the Marquis d'Effiat attended in England upon the Princess Henrietta
Maria, daughter to Henry IV., whom King Charles I. had married, that
Minister went and visited the Lord Bacon, who, being at that time sick in
his bed, received him with the curtains shut close.  "You resemble the
angels," says the Marquis to him; "we hear those beings spoken of
perpetually, and we believe them superior to men, but are never allowed
the consolation to see them."

You know that this great man was accused of a crime very unbecoming a
philosopher: I mean bribery and extortion.  You know that he was
sentenced by the House of Lords to pay a fine of about four hundred
thousand French livres, to lose his peerage and his dignity of
Chancellor; but in the present age the English revere his memory to such
a degree, that they will scarce allow him to have been guilty.  In case
you should ask what are my thoughts on this head, I shall answer you in
the words which I heard the Lord Bolingbroke use on another occasion.
Several gentlemen were speaking, in his company, of the avarice with
which the late Duke of Marlborough had been charged, some examples
whereof being given, the Lord Bolingbroke was appealed to (who, having
been in the opposite party, might perhaps, without the imputation of
indecency, have been allowed to clear up that matter): "He was so great a
man," replied his lordship, "that I have forgot his vices."

I shall therefore confine myself to those things which so justly gained
Lord Bacon the esteem of all Europe.

The most singular and the best of all his pieces is that which, at this
time, is the most useless and the least read, I mean his _Novum
Scientiarum Organum_.  This is the scaffold with which the new philosophy
was raised; and when the edifice was built, part of it at least, the
scaffold was no longer of service.

The Lord Bacon was not yet acquainted with Nature, but then he knew, and
pointed out, the several paths that lead to it.  He had despised in his
younger years the thing called philosophy in the Universities, and did
all that lay in his power to prevent those societies of men instituted to
improve human reason from depraving it by their quiddities, their horrors
of the vacuum, their substantial forms, and all those impertinent terms
which not only ignorance had rendered venerable, but which had been made
sacred by their being ridiculously blended with religion.

He is the father of experimental philosophy.  It must, indeed, be
confessed that very surprising secrets had been found out before his
time--the sea-compass, printing, engraving on copper plates,
oil-painting, looking-glasses; the art of restoring, in some measure, old
men to their sight by spectacles; gunpowder, &c., had been discovered.  A
new world had been fought for, found, and conquered.  Would not one
suppose that these sublime discoveries had been made by the greatest
philosophers, and in ages much more enlightened than the present?  But it
was far otherwise; all these great changes happened in the most stupid
and barbarous times.  Chance only gave birth to most of those inventions;
and it is very probable that what is called chance contributed very much
to the discovery of America; at least, it has been always thought that
Christopher Columbus undertook his voyage merely on the relation of a
captain of a ship which a storm had driven as far westward as the
Caribbean Islands.  Be this as it will, men had sailed round the world,
and could destroy cities by an artificial thunder more dreadful than the
real one; but, then, they were not acquainted with the circulation of the
blood, the weight of the air, the laws of motion, light, the number of
our planets, &c.  And a man who maintained a thesis on Aristotle's
"Categories," on the universals _a parte rei_, or such-like nonsense, was
looked upon as a prodigy.

The most astonishing, the most useful inventions, are not those which
reflect the greatest honour on the human mind.  It is to a mechanical
instinct, which is found in many men, and not to true philosophy, that
most arts owe their origin.

The discovery of fire, the art of making bread, of melting and preparing
metals, of building houses, and the invention of the shuttle, are
infinitely more beneficial to mankind than printing or the sea-compass:
and yet these arts were invented by uncultivated, savage men.

What a prodigious use the Greeks and Romans made afterwards of mechanics!
Nevertheless, they believed that there were crystal heavens, that the
stars were small lamps which sometimes fell into the sea, and one of
their greatest philosophers, after long researches, found that the stars
were so many flints which had been detached from the earth.

In a word, no one before the Lord Bacon was acquainted with experimental
philosophy, nor with the several physical experiments which have been
made since his time.  Scarce one of them but is hinted at in his work,
and he himself had made several.  He made a kind of pneumatic engine, by
which he guessed the elasticity of the air.  He approached, on all sides
as it were, to the discovery of its weight, and had very near attained
it, but some time after Torricelli seized upon this truth.  In a little
time experimental philosophy began to be cultivated on a sudden in most
parts of Europe.  It was a hidden treasure which the Lord Bacon had some
notion of, and which all the philosophers, encouraged by his promises,
endeavoured to dig up.

But that which surprised me most was to read in his work, in express
terms, the new attraction, the invention of which is ascribed to Sir
Isaac Newton.

We must search, says Lord Bacon, whether there may not be a kind of
magnetic power which operates between the earth and heavy bodies, between
the moon and the ocean, between the planets, &c.  In another place he
says either heavy bodies must be carried towards the centre of the earth,
or must be reciprocally attracted by it; and in the latter case it is
evident that the nearer bodies, in their falling, draw towards the earth,
the stronger they will attract one another.  We must, says he, make an
experiment to see whether the same clock will go faster on the top of a
mountain or at the bottom of a mine; whether the strength of the weights
decreases on the mountain and increases in the mine.  It is probable that
the earth has a true attractive power.

This forerunner in philosophy was also an elegant writer, an historian,
and a wit.

His moral essays are greatly esteemed, but they were drawn up in the view
of instructing rather than of pleasing; and, as they are not a satire
upon mankind, like Rochefoucauld's "Maxims," nor written upon a sceptical
plan, like Montaigne's "Essays," they are not so much read as those two
ingenious authors.

His History of Henry VII. was looked upon as a masterpiece, but how is it
possible that some persons can presume to compare so little a work with
the history of our illustrious Thuanus?

Speaking about the famous impostor Perkin, son to a converted Jew, who
assumed boldly the name and title of Richard IV., King of England, at the
instigation of the Duchess of Burgundy, and who disputed the crown with
Henry VII., the Lord Bacon writes as follows:--

"At this time the King began again to be haunted with sprites, by the
magic and curious arts of the Lady Margaret, who raised up the ghost of
Richard, Duke of York, second son to King Edward IV., to walk and vex the
King.

"After such time as she (Margaret of Burgundy) thought he (Perkin
Warbeck) was perfect in his lesson, she began to cast with herself from
what coast this blazing star should first appear, and at what time it
must be upon the horizon of Ireland; for there had the like meteor strong
influence before."

Methinks our sagacious Thuanus does not give in to such fustian, which
formerly was looked upon as sublime, but in this age is justly called
nonsense.



LETTER XIII.--ON MR. LOCKE


Perhaps no man ever had a more judicious or more methodical genius, or
was a more acute logician than Mr. Locke, and yet he was not deeply
skilled in the mathematics.  This great man could never subject himself
to the tedious fatigue of calculations, nor to the dry pursuit of
mathematical truths, which do not at first present any sensible objects
to the mind; and no one has given better proofs than he, that it is
possible for a man to have a geometrical head without the assistance of
geometry.  Before his time, several great philosophers had declared, in
the most positive terms, what the soul of man is; but as these absolutely
knew nothing about it, they might very well be allowed to differ entirely
in opinion from one another.

In Greece, the infant seat of arts and of errors, and where the grandeur
as well as folly of the human mind went such prodigious lengths, the
people used to reason about the soul in the very same manner as we do.

The divine Anaxagoras, in whose honour an altar was erected for his
having taught mankind that the sun was greater than Peloponnesus, that
snow was black, and that the heavens were of stone, affirmed that the
soul was an aerial spirit, but at the same time immortal.  Diogenes (not
he who was a cynical philosopher after having coined base money) declared
that the soul was a portion of the substance of God: an idea which we
must confess was very sublime.  Epicurus maintained that it was composed
of parts in the same manner as the body.

Aristotle, who has been explained a thousand ways, because he is
unintelligible, was of opinion, according to some of his disciples, that
the understanding in all men is one and the same substance.

The divine Plato, master of the divine Aristotle,--and the divine
Socrates, master of the divine Plato--used to say that the soul was
corporeal and eternal.  No doubt but the demon of Socrates had instructed
him in the nature of it.  Some people, indeed, pretend that a man who
boasted his being attended by a familiar genius must infallibly be either
a knave or a madman, but this kind of people are seldom satisfied with
anything but reason.

With regard to the Fathers of the Church, several in the primitive ages
believed that the soul was human, and the angels and God corporeal.  Men
naturally improve upon every system.  St. Bernard, as Father Mabillon
confesses, taught that the soul after death does not see God in the
celestial regions, but converses with Christ's human nature only.
However, he was not believed this time on his bare word; the adventure of
the crusade having a little sunk the credit of his oracles.  Afterwards a
thousand schoolmen arose, such as the Irrefragable Doctor, the Subtile
Doctor, the Angelic Doctor, the Seraphic Doctor, and the Cherubic Doctor,
who were all sure that they had a very clear and distinct idea of the
soul, and yet wrote in such a manner, that one would conclude they were
resolved no one should understand a word in their writings.  Our
Descartes, born to discover the errors of antiquity, and at the same time
to substitute his own, and hurried away by that systematic spirit which
throws a cloud over the minds of the greatest men, thought he had
demonstrated that the soul is the same thing as thought, in the same
manner as matter, in his opinion, is the same as extension.  He asserted,
that man thinks eternally, and that the soul, at its coming into the
body, is informed with the whole series of metaphysical notions: knowing
God, infinite space, possessing all abstract ideas--in a word, completely
endued with the most sublime lights, which it unhappily forgets at its
issuing from the womb.

Father Malebranche, in his sublime illusions, not only admitted innate
ideas, but did not doubt of our living wholly in God, and that God is, as
it were, our soul.

Such a multitude of reasoners having written the romance of the soul, a
sage at last arose, who gave, with an air of the greatest modesty, the
history of it.  Mr. Locke has displayed the human soul in the same manner
as an excellent anatomist explains the springs of the human body.  He
everywhere takes the light of physics for his guide.  He sometimes
presumes to speak affirmatively, but then he presumes also to doubt.
Instead of concluding at once what we know not, he examines gradually
what we would know.  He takes an infant at the instant of his birth; he
traces, step by step, the progress of his understanding; examines what
things he has in common with beasts, and what he possesses above them.
Above all, he consults himself: the being conscious that he himself
thinks.

"I shall leave," says he, "to those who know more of this matter than
myself, the examining whether the soul exists before or after the
organisation of our bodies.  But I confess that it is my lot to be
animated with one of those heavy souls which do not think always; and I
am even so unhappy as not to conceive that it is more necessary the soul
should think perpetually than that bodies should be for ever in motion."

With regard to myself, I shall boast that I have the honour to be as
stupid in this particular as Mr. Locke.  No one shall ever make me
believe that I think always: and I am as little inclined as he could be
to fancy that some weeks after I was conceived I was a very learned soul;
knowing at that time a thousand things which I forgot at my birth; and
possessing when in the womb (though to no manner of purpose) knowledge
which I lost the instant I had occasion for it; and which I have never
since been able to recover perfectly.

Mr. Locke, after having destroyed innate ideas; after having fully
renounced the vanity of believing that we think always; after having laid
down, from the most solid principles, that ideas enter the mind through
the senses; having examined our simple and complex ideas; having traced
the human mind through its several operations; having shown that all the
languages in the world are imperfect, and the great abuse that is made of
words every moment, he at last comes to consider the extent or rather the
narrow limits of human knowledge.  It was in this chapter he presumed to
advance, but very modestly, the following words: "We shall, perhaps,
never be capable of knowing whether a being, purely material, thinks or
not."  This sage assertion was, by more divines than one, looked upon as
a scandalous declaration that the soul is material and mortal.  Some
Englishmen, devout after their way, sounded an alarm.  The superstitious
are the same in society as cowards in an army; they themselves are seized
with a panic fear, and communicate it to others.  It was loudly exclaimed
that Mr. Locke intended to destroy religion; nevertheless, religion had
nothing to do in the affair, it being a question purely philosophical,
altogether independent of faith and revelation.  Mr. Locke's opponents
needed but to examine, calmly and impartially, whether the declaring that
matter can think, implies a contradiction; and whether God is able to
communicate thought to matter.  But divines are too apt to begin their
declarations with saying that God is offended when people differ from
them in opinion; in which they too much resemble the bad poets, who used
to declare publicly that Boileau spake irreverently of Louis XIV.,
because he ridiculed their stupid productions.  Bishop Stillingfleet got
the reputation of a calm and unprejudiced divine because he did not
expressly make use of injurious terms in his dispute with Mr. Locke.  That
divine entered the lists against him, but was defeated; for he argued as
a schoolman, and Locke as a philosopher, who was perfectly acquainted
with the strong as well as the weak side of the human mind, and who
fought with weapons whose temper he knew.  If I might presume to give my
opinion on so delicate a subject after Mr. Locke, I would say, that men
have long disputed on the nature and the immortality of the soul.  With
regard to its immortality, it is impossible to give a demonstration of
it, since its nature is still the subject of controversy; which, however,
must be thoroughly understood before a person can be able to determine
whether it be immortal or not.  Human reason is so little able, merely by
its own strength, to demonstrate the immortality of the soul, that it was
absolutely necessary religion should reveal it to us.  It is of advantage
to society in general, that mankind should believe the soul to be
immortal; faith commands us to do this; nothing more is required, and the
matter is cleared up at once.  But it is otherwise with respect to its
nature; it is of little importance to religion, which only requires the
soul to be virtuous, whatever substance it may be made of.  It is a clock
which is given us to regulate, but the artist has not told us of what
materials the spring of this chock is composed.

I am a body, and, I think, that's all I know of the matter.  Shall I
ascribe to an unknown cause, what I can so easily impute to the only
second cause I am acquainted with?  Here all the school philosophers
interrupt me with their arguments, and declare that there is only
extension and solidity in bodies, and that there they can have nothing
but motion and figure.  Now motion, figure, extension and solidity cannot
form a thought, and consequently the soul cannot be matter.  All this so
often repeated mighty series of reasoning, amounts to no more than this:
I am absolutely ignorant what matter is; I guess, but imperfectly, some
properties of it; now I absolutely cannot tell whether these properties
may be joined to thought.  As I therefore know nothing, I maintain
positively that matter cannot think.  In this manner do the schools
reason.

Mr. Locke addressed these gentlemen in the candid, sincere manner
following: At least confess yourselves to be as ignorant as I.  Neither
your imaginations nor mine are able to comprehend in what manner a body
is susceptible of ideas; and do you conceive better in what manner a
substance, of what kind soever, is susceptible of them?  As you cannot
comprehend either matter or spirit, why will you presume to assert
anything?

The superstitious man comes afterwards and declares, that all those must
be burnt for the good of their souls, who so much as suspect that it is
possible for the body to think without any foreign assistance.  But what
would these people say should they themselves be proved irreligious?  And
indeed, what man can presume to assert, without being guilty at the same
time of the greatest impiety, that it is impossible for the Creator to
form matter with thought and sensation?  Consider only, I beg you, what a
dilemma you bring yourselves into, you who confine in this manner the
power of the Creator.  Beasts have the same organs, the same sensations,
the same perceptions as we; they have memory, and combine certain ideas.
In case it was not in the power of God to animate matter, and inform it
with sensation, the consequence would be, either that beasts are mere
machines, or that they have a spiritual soul.

Methinks it is clearly evident that beasts cannot be mere machines, which
I prove thus.  God has given to them the very same organs of sensation as
to us: if therefore they have no sensation, God has created a useless
thing; now according to your own confession God does nothing in vain; He
therefore did not create so many organs of sensation, merely for them to
be uninformed with this faculty; consequently beasts are not mere
machines.  Beasts, according to your assertion, cannot be animated with a
spiritual soul; you will, therefore, in spite of yourself, be reduced to
this only assertion, viz., that God has endued the organs of beasts, who
are mere matter, with the faculties of sensation and perception, which
you call instinct in them.  But why may not God, if He pleases,
communicate to our more delicate organs, that faculty of feeling,
perceiving, and thinking, which we call human reason?  To whatever side
you turn, you are forced to acknowledge your own ignorance, and the
boundless power of the Creator.  Exclaim therefore no more against the
sage, the modest philosophy of Mr. Locke, which so far from interfering
with religion, would be of use to demonstrate the truth of it, in case
religion wanted any such support.  For what philosophy can be of a more
religious nature than that, which affirming nothing but what it conceives
clearly, and conscious of its own weakness, declares that we must always
have recourse to God in our examining of the first principles?

Besides, we must not be apprehensive that any philosophical opinion will
ever prejudice the religion of a country.  Though our demonstrations
clash directly with our mysteries, that is nothing to the purpose, for
the latter are not less revered upon that account by our Christian
philosophers, who know very well that the objects of reason and those of
faith are of a very different nature.  Philosophers will never form a
religious sect, the reason of which is, their writings are not calculated
for the vulgar, and they themselves are free from enthusiasm.  If we
divide mankind into twenty parts, it will be found that nineteen of these
consist of persons employed in manual labour, who will never know that
such a man as Mr. Locke existed.  In the remaining twentieth part how few
are readers?  And among such as are so, twenty amuse themselves with
romances to one who studies philosophy.  The thinking part of mankind is
confined to a very small number, and these will never disturb the peace
and tranquillity of the world.

Neither Montaigne, Locke, Bayle, Spinoza, Hobbes, the Lord Shaftesbury,
Collins, nor Toland lighted up the firebrand of discord in their
countries; this has generally been the work of divines, who being at
first puffed up with the ambition of becoming chiefs of a sect, soon grew
very desirous of being at the head of a party.  But what do I say?  All
the works of the modern philosophers put together will never make so much
noise as even the dispute which arose among the Franciscans, merely about
the fashion of their sleeves and of their cowls.



LETTER XIV.--ON DESCARTES AND SIR ISAAC NEWTON


A Frenchman who arrives in London, will find philosophy, like everything
else, very much changed there.  He had left the world a plenum, and he
now finds it a vacuum.  At Paris the universe is seen composed of
vortices of subtile matter; but nothing like it is seen in London.  In
France, it is the pressure of the moon that causes the tides; but in
England it is the sea that gravitates towards the moon; so that when you
think that the moon should make it flood with us, those gentlemen fancy
it should be ebb, which very unluckily cannot be proved.  For to be able
to do this, it is necessary the moon and the tides should have been
inquired into at the very instant of the creation.

You will observe farther, that the sun, which in France is said to have
nothing to do in the affair, comes in here for very near a quarter of its
assistance.  According to your Cartesians, everything is performed by an
impulsion, of which we have very little notion; and according to Sir
Isaac Newton, it is by an attraction, the cause of which is as much
unknown to us.  At Paris you imagine that the earth is shaped like a
melon, or of an oblique figure; at London it has an oblate one.  A
Cartesian declares that light exists in the air; but a Newtonian asserts
that it comes from the sun in six minutes and a half.  The several
operations of your chemistry are performed by acids, alkalies and subtile
matter; but attraction prevails even in chemistry among the English.

The very essence of things is totally changed.  You neither are agreed
upon the definition of the soul, nor on that of matter.  Descartes, as I
observed in my last, maintains that the soul is the same thing with
thought, and Mr. Locke has given a pretty good proof of the contrary.

Descartes asserts farther, that extension alone constitutes matter, but
Sir Isaac adds solidity to it.

How furiously contradictory are these opinions!

   "Non nostrum inter vos tantas componere lites."

   VIRGIL, Eclog. III.

   "'Tis not for us to end such great disputes."

This famous Newton, this destroyer of the Cartesian system, died in
March, anno 1727.  His countrymen honoured him in his lifetime, and
interred him as though he had been a king who had made his people happy.

The English read with the highest satisfaction, and translated into their
tongue, the Elogium of Sir Isaac Newton, which M. de Fontenelle spoke in
the Academy of Sciences.  M. de Fontenelle presides as judge over
philosophers; and the English expected his decision, as a solemn
declaration of the superiority of the English philosophy over that of the
French.  But when it was found that this gentleman had compared Descartes
to Sir Isaac, the whole Royal Society in London rose up in arms.  So far
from acquiescing with M. Fontenelle's judgment, they criticised his
discourse.  And even several (who, however, were not the ablest
philosophers in that body) were offended at the comparison; and for no
other reason but because Descartes was a Frenchman.

It must be confessed that these two great men differed very much in
conduct, in fortune, and in philosophy.

Nature had indulged Descartes with a shining and strong imagination,
whence he became a very singular person both in private life and in his
manner of reasoning.  This imagination could not conceal itself even in
his philosophical works, which are everywhere adorned with very shining,
ingenious metaphors and figures.  Nature had almost made him a poet; and
indeed he wrote a piece of poetry for the entertainment of Christina,
Queen of Sweden, which however was suppressed in honour to his memory.

He embraced a military life for some time, and afterwards becoming a
complete philosopher, he did not think the passion of love derogatory to
his character.  He had by his mistress a daughter called Froncine, who
died young, and was very much regretted by him.  Thus he experienced
every passion incident to mankind.

He was a long time of opinion that it would be necessary for him to fly
from the society of his fellow creatures, and especially from his native
country, in order to enjoy the happiness of cultivating his philosophical
studies in full liberty.

Descartes was very right, for his contemporaries were not knowing enough
to improve and enlighten his understanding, and were capable of little
else than of giving him uneasiness.

He left France purely to go in search of truth, which was then persecuted
by the wretched philosophy of the schools.  However, he found that reason
was as much disguised and depraved in the universities of Holland, into
which he withdrew, as in his own country.  For at the time that the
French condemned the only propositions of his philosophy which were true,
he was persecuted by the pretended philosophers of Holland, who
understood him no better; and who, having a nearer view of his glory,
hated his person the more, so that he was obliged to leave Utrecht.
Descartes was injuriously accused of being an atheist, the last refuge of
religious scandal: and he who had employed all the sagacity and
penetration of his genius, in searching for new proofs of the existence
of a God, was suspected to believe there was no such Being.

Such a persecution from all sides, must necessarily suppose a most
exalted merit as well as a very distinguished reputation, and indeed he
possessed both.  Reason at that time darted a ray upon the world through
the gloom of the schools, and the prejudices of popular superstition.  At
last his name spread so universally, that the French were desirous of
bringing him back into his native country by rewards, and accordingly
offered him an annual pension of a thousand crowns.  Upon these hopes
Descartes returned to France; paid the fees of his patent, which was sold
at that time, but no pension was settled upon him.  Thus disappointed, he
returned to his solitude in North Holland, where he again pursued the
study of philosophy, whilst the great Galileo, at fourscore years of age,
was groaning in the prisons of the Inquisition, only for having
demonstrated the earth's motion.

At last Descartes was snatched from the world in the flower of his age at
Stockholm.  His death was owing to a bad regimen, and he expired in the
midst of some literati who were his enemies, and under the hands of a
physician to whom he was odious.

The progress of Sir Isaac Newton's life was quite different.  He lived
happy, and very much honoured in his native country, to the age of
fourscore and five years.

It was his peculiar felicity, not only to be born in a country of
liberty, but in an age when all scholastic impertinences were banished
from the world.  Reason alone was cultivated, and mankind could only be
his pupil, not his enemy.

One very singular difference in the lives of these two great men is, that
Sir Isaac, during the long course of years he enjoyed, was never sensible
to any passion, was not subject to the common frailties of mankind, nor
ever had any commerce with women--a circumstance which was assured me by
the physician and surgeon who attended him in his last moments.

We may admire Sir Isaac Newton on this occasion, but then we must not
censure Descartes.

The opinion that generally prevails in England with regard to these new
philosophers is, that the latter was a dreamer, and the former a sage.

Very few people in England read Descartes, whose works indeed are now
useless.  On the other side, but a small number peruse those of Sir
Isaac, because to do this the student must be deeply skilled in the
mathematics, otherwise those works will be unintelligible to him.  But
notwithstanding this, these great men are the subject of everyone's
discourse.  Sir Isaac Newton is allowed every advantage, whilst Descartes
is not indulged a single one.  According to some, it is to the former
that we owe the discovery of a vacuum, that the air is a heavy body, and
the invention of telescopes.  In a word, Sir Isaac Newton is here as the
Hercules of fabulous story, to whom the ignorant ascribed all the feats
of ancient heroes.

In a critique that was made in London on Mr. de Fontenelle's discourse,
the writer presumed to assert that Descartes was not a great
geometrician.  Those who make such a declaration may justly be reproached
with flying in their master's face.  Descartes extended the limits of
geometry as far beyond the place where he found them, as Sir Isaac did
after him.  The former first taught the method of expressing curves by
equations.  This geometry which, thanks to him for it, is now grown
common, was so abstruse in his time, that not so much as one professor
would undertake to explain it; and Schotten in Holland, and Format in
France, were the only men who understood it.

He applied this geometrical and inventive genius to dioptrics, which,
when treated of by him, became a new art.  And if he was mistaken in some
things, the reason of that is, a man who discovers a new tract of land
cannot at once know all the properties of the soil.  Those who come after
him, and make these lands fruitful, are at least obliged to him for the
discovery.  I will not deny but that there are innumerable errors in the
rest of Descartes' works.

Geometry was a guide he himself had in some measure fashioned, which
would have conducted him safely through the several paths of natural
philosophy.  Nevertheless, he at last abandoned this guide, and gave
entirely into the humour of forming hypotheses; and then philosophy was
no more than an ingenious romance, fit only to amuse the ignorant.  He
was mistaken in the nature of the soul, in the proofs of the existence of
a God, in matter, in the laws of motion, and in the nature of light.  He
admitted innate ideas, he invented new elements, he created a world; he
made man according to his own fancy; and it is justly said, that the man
of Descartes is, in fact, that of Descartes only, very different from the
real one.

He pushed his metaphysical errors so far, as to declare that two and two
make four for no other reason but because God would have it so.  However,
it will not be making him too great a compliment if we affirm that he was
valuable even in his mistakes.  He deceived himself; but then it was at
least in a methodical way.  He destroyed all the absurd chimeras with
which youth had been infatuated for two thousand years.  He taught his
contemporaries how to reason, and enabled them to employ his own weapons
against himself.  If Descartes did not pay in good money, he however did
great service in crying down that of a base alloy.

I indeed believe that very few will presume to compare his philosophy in
any respect with that of Sir Isaac Newton.  The former is an essay, the
latter a masterpiece.  But then the man who first brought us to the path
of truth, was perhaps as great a genius as he who afterwards conducted us
through it.

Descartes gave sight to the blind.  These saw the errors of antiquity and
of the sciences.  The path he struck out is since become boundless.
Rohault's little work was, during some years, a complete system of
physics; but now all the Transactions of the several academies in Europe
put together do not form so much as the beginning of a system.  In
fathoming this abyss no bottom has been found.  We are now to examine
what discoveries Sir Isaac Newton has made in it.



LETTER XV.--ON ATTRACTION


The discoveries which gained Sir Isaac Newton so universal a reputation,
relate to the system of the world, to light, to geometrical infinities;
and, lastly, to chronology, with which he used to amuse himself after the
fatigue of his severer studies.

I will now acquaint you (without prolixity if possible) with the few
things I have been able to comprehend of all these sublime ideas.  With
regard to the system of our world, disputes were a long time maintained,
on the cause that turns the planets, and keeps them in their orbits: and
on those causes which make all bodies here below descend towards the
surface of the earth.

The system of Descartes, explained and improved since his time, seemed to
give a plausible reason for all those phenomena; and this reason seemed
more just, as it is simple and intelligible to all capacities.  But in
philosophy, a student ought to doubt of the things he fancies he
understands too easily, as much as of those he does not understand.

Gravity, the falling of accelerated bodies on the earth, the revolution
of the planets in their orbits, their rotations round their axis, all
this is mere motion.  Now motion cannot perhaps be conceived any
otherwise than by impulsion; therefore all those bodies must be impelled.
But by what are they impelled?  All space is full, it therefore is filled
with a very subtile matter, since this is imperceptible to us; this
matter goes from west to east, since all the planets are carried from
west to east.  Thus from hypothesis to hypothesis, from one appearance to
another, philosophers have imagined a vast whirlpool of subtile matter,
in which the planets are carried round the sun: they also have created
another particular vortex which floats in the great one, and which turns
daily round the planets.  When all this is done, it is pretended that
gravity depends on this diurnal motion; for, say these, the velocity of
the subtile matter that turns round our little vortex, must be seventeen
times more rapid than that of the earth; or, in case its velocity is
seventeen times greater than that of the earth, its centrifugal force
must be vastly greater, and consequently impel all bodies towards the
earth.  This is the cause of gravity, according to the Cartesian system.
But the theorist, before he calculated the centrifugal force and velocity
of the subtile matter, should first have been certain that it existed.

Sir Isaac Newton, seems to have destroyed all these great and little
vortices, both that which carries the planets round the sun, as well as
the other which supposes every planet to turn on its own axis.

First, with regard to the pretended little vortex of the earth, it is
demonstrated that it must lose its motion by insensible degrees; it is
demonstrated, that if the earth swims in a fluid, its density must be
equal to that of the earth; and in case its density be the same, all the
bodies we endeavour to move must meet with an insuperable resistance.

With regard to the great vortices, they are still more chimerical, and it
is impossible to make them agree with Kepler's law, the truth of which
has been demonstrated.  Sir Isaac shows, that the revolution of the fluid
in which Jupiter is supposed to be carried, is not the same with regard
to the revolution of the fluid of the earth, as the revolution of Jupiter
with respect to that of the earth.  He proves, that as the planets make
their revolutions in ellipses, and consequently being at a much greater
distance one from the other in their Aphelia, and a little nearer in
their Perihelia; the earth's velocity, for instance, ought to be greater
when it is nearer Venus and Mars, because the fluid that carries it
along, being then more pressed, ought to have a greater motion; and yet
it is even then that the earth's motion is slower.

He proves that there is no such thing as a celestial matter which goes
from west to east since the comets traverse those spaces, sometimes from
east to west, and at other times from north to south.

In fine, the better to resolve, if possible, every difficulty, he proves,
and even by experiments, that it is impossible there should be a plenum;
and brings back the vacuum, which Aristotle and Descartes had banished
from the world.

Having by these and several other arguments destroyed the Cartesian
vortices, he despaired of ever being able to discover whether there is a
secret principle in nature which, at the same time, is the cause of the
motion of all celestial bodies, and that of gravity on the earth.  But
being retired in 1666, upon account of the Plague, to a solitude near
Cambridge; as he was walking one day in his garden, and saw some fruits
fall from a tree, he fell into a profound meditation on that gravity, the
cause of which had so long been sought, but in vain, by all the
philosophers, whilst the vulgar think there is nothing mysterious in it.
He said to himself; that from what height soever in our hemisphere, those
bodies might descend, their fall would certainly be in the progression
discovered by Galileo; and the spaces they run through would be as the
square of the times.  Why may not this power which causes heavy bodies to
descend, and is the same without any sensible diminution at the remotest
distance from the centre of the earth, or on the summits of the highest
mountains, why, said Sir Isaac, may not this power extend as high as the
moon?  And in case its influence reaches so far, is it not very probable
that this power retains it in its orbit, and determines its motion?  But
in case the moon obeys this principle (whatever it be) may we not
conclude very naturally that the rest of the planets are equally subject
to it?  In case this power exists (which besides is proved) it must
increase in an inverse ratio of the squares of the distances.  All,
therefore, that remains is, to examine how far a heavy body, which should
fall upon the earth from a moderate height, would go; and how far in the
same time, a body which should fall from the orbit of the moon, would
descend.  To find this, nothing is wanted but the measure of the earth,
and the distance of the moon from it.

Thus Sir Isaac Newton reasoned.  But at that time the English had but a
very imperfect measure of our globe, and depended on the uncertain
supposition of mariners, who computed a degree to contain but sixty
English miles, whereas it consists in reality of near seventy.  As this
false computation did not agree with the conclusions which Sir Isaac
intended to draw from them, he laid aside this pursuit.  A half-learned
philosopher, remarkable only for his vanity, would have made the measure
of the earth agree, anyhow, with his system.  Sir Isaac, however, chose
rather to quit the researches he was then engaged in.  But after Mr.
Picard had measured the earth exactly, by tracing that meridian which
redounds so much to the honour of the French, Sir Isaac Newton resumed
his former reflections, and found his account in Mr. Picard's
calculation.

A circumstance which has always appeared wonderful to me, is that such
sublime discoveries should have been made by the sole assistance of a
quadrant and a little arithmetic.

The circumference of the earth is 123,249,600 feet.  This, among other
things, is necessary to prove the system of attraction.

The instant we know the earth's circumference, and the distance of the
moon, we know that of the moon's orbit, and the diameter of this orbit.
The moon performs its revolution in that orbit in twenty-seven days,
seven hours, forty-three minutes.  It is demonstrated, that the moon in
its mean motion makes an hundred and fourscore and seven thousand nine
hundred and sixty feet (of Paris) in a minute.  It is likewise
demonstrated, by a known theorem, that the central force which should
make a body fall from the height of the moon, would make its velocity no
more than fifteen Paris feet in a minute of time.  Now, if the law by
which bodies gravitate and attract one another in an inverse ratio to the
squares of the distances be true, if the same power acts according to
that law throughout all nature, it is evident that as the earth is sixty
semi-diameters distant from the moon, a heavy body must necessarily fall
(on the earth) fifteen feet in the first second, and fifty-four thousand
feet in the first minute.

Now a heavy body falls, in reality, fifteen feet in the first second, and
goes in the first minute fifty-four thousand feet, which number is the
square of sixty multiplied by fifteen.  Bodies, therefore, gravitate in
an inverse ratio of the squares of the distances; consequently, what
causes gravity on earth, and keeps the moon in its orbit, is one and the
same power; it being demonstrated that the moon gravitates on the earth,
which is the centre of its particular motion, it is demonstrated that the
earth and the moon gravitate on the sun which is the centre of their
annual motion.

The rest of the planets must be subject to this general law; and if this
law exists, these planets must follow the laws which Kepler discovered.
All these laws, all these relations are indeed observed by the planets
with the utmost exactness; therefore, the power of attraction causes all
the planets to gravitate towards the sun, in like manner as the moon
gravitates towards our globe.

Finally, as in all bodies re-action is equal to action, it is certain
that the earth gravitates also towards the moon; and that the sun
gravitates towards both.  That every one of the satellites of Saturn
gravitates towards the other four, and the other four towards it; all
five towards Saturn, and Saturn towards all.  That it is the same with
regard to Jupiter; and that all these globes are attracted by the sun,
which is reciprocally attracted by them.

This power of gravitation acts proportionably to the quantity of matter
in bodies, a truth which Sir Isaac has demonstrated by experiments.  This
new discovery has been of use to show that the sun (the centre of the
planetary system) attracts them all in a direct ratio of their quantity
of matter combined with their nearness.  From hence Sir Isaac, rising by
degrees to discoveries which seemed not to be formed for the human mind,
is bold enough to compute the quantity of matter contained in the sun and
in every planet; and in this manner shows, from the simple laws of
mechanics, that every celestial globe ought necessarily to be where it is
placed.

His bare principle of the laws of gravitation accounts for all the
apparent inequalities in the course of the celestial globes.  The
variations of the moon are a necessary consequence of those laws.
Moreover, the reason is evidently seen why the nodes of the moon perform
their revolutions in nineteen years, and those of the earth in about
twenty-six thousand.  The several appearances observed in the tides are
also a very simple effect of this attraction.  The proximity of the moon,
when at the full, and when it is new, and its distance in the quadratures
or quarters, combined with the action of the sun, exhibit a sensible
reason why the ocean swells and sinks.

After having shown by his sublime theory the course and inequalities of
the planets, he subjects comets to the same law.  The orbit of these
fires (unknown for so great a series of years), which was the terror of
mankind and the rock against which philosophy split, placed by Aristotle
below the moon, and sent back by Descartes above the sphere of Saturn, is
at last placed in its proper seat by Sir Isaac Newton.

He proves that comets are solid bodies which move in the sphere of the
sun's activity, and that they describe an ellipsis so very eccentric, and
so near to parabolas, that certain comets must take up above five hundred
years in their revolution.

The learned Dr. Halley is of opinion that the comet seen in 1680 is the
same which appeared in Julius Caesar's time.  This shows more than any
other that comets are hard, opaque bodies; for it descended so near to
the sun, as to come within a sixth part of the diameter of this planet
from it, and consequently might have contracted a degree of heat two
thousand times stronger than that of red-hot iron; and would have been
soon dispersed in vapour, had it not been a firm, dense body.  The
guessing the course of comets began then to be very much in vogue.  The
celebrated Bernoulli concluded by his system that the famous comet of
1680 would appear again the 17th of May, 1719.  Not a single astronomer
in Europe went to bed that night.  However, they needed not to have broke
their rest, for the famous comet never appeared.  There is at least more
cunning, if not more certainty, in fixing its return to so remote a
distance as five hundred and seventy-five years.  As to Mr. Whiston, he
affirmed very seriously that in the time of the Deluge a comet overflowed
the terrestrial globe.  And he was so unreasonable as to wonder that
people laughed at him for making such an assertion.  The ancients were
almost in the same way of thinking with Mr. Whiston, and fancied that
comets were always the forerunners of some great calamity which was to
befall mankind.  Sir Isaac Newton, on the contrary, suspected that they
are very beneficent, and that vapours exhale from them merely to nourish
and vivify the planets, which imbibe in their course the several
particles the sun has detached from the comets, an opinion which, at
least, is more probable than the former.  But this is not all.  If this
power of gravitation or attraction acts on all the celestial globes, it
acts undoubtedly on the several parts of these globes.  For in case
bodies attract one another in proportion to the quantity of matter
contained in them, it can only be in proportion to the quantity of their
parts; and if this power is found in the whole, it is undoubtedly in the
half; in the quarters in the eighth part, and so on in _infinitum_.

This is attraction, the great spring by which all Nature is moved.  Sir
Isaac Newton, after having demonstrated the existence of this principle,
plainly foresaw that its very name would offend; and, therefore, this
philosopher, in more places than one of his books, gives the reader some
caution about it.  He bids him beware of confounding this name with what
the ancients called occult qualities, but to be satisfied with knowing
that there is in all bodies a central force, which acts to the utmost
limits of the universe, according to the invariable laws of mechanics.

It is surprising, after the solemn protestations Sir Isaac made, that
such eminent men as Mr. Sorin and Mr. de Fontenelle should have imputed
to this great philosopher the verbal and chimerical way of reasoning of
the Aristotelians; Mr. Sorin in the Memoirs of the Academy of 1709, and
Mr. de Fontenelle in the very eulogium of Sir Isaac Newton.

Most of the French (the learned and others) have repeated this reproach.
These are for ever crying out, "Why did he not employ the word
_impulsion_, which is so well understood, rather than that of
_attraction_, which is unintelligible?"

Sir Isaac might have answered these critics thus:--"First, you have as
imperfect an idea of the word impulsion as of that of attraction; and in
case you cannot conceive how one body tends towards the centre of another
body, neither can you conceive by what power one body can impel another.

"Secondly, I could not admit of impulsion; for to do this I must have
known that a celestial matter was the agent.  But so far from knowing
that there is any such matter, I have proved it to be merely imaginary.

"Thirdly, I use the word attraction for no other reason but to express an
effect which I discovered in Nature--a certain and indisputable effect of
an unknown principle--a quality inherent in matter, the cause of which
persons of greater abilities than I can pretend to may, if they can, find
out."

"What have you, then, taught us?" will these people say further; "and to
what purpose are so many calculations to tell us what you yourself do not
comprehend?"

"I have taught you," may Sir Isaac rejoin, "that all bodies gravitate
towards one another in proportion to their quantity of matter; that these
central forces alone keep the planets and comets in their orbits, and
cause them to move in the proportion before set down.  I demonstrate to
you that it is impossible there should be any other cause which keeps the
planets in their orbits than that general phenomenon of gravity.  For
heavy bodies fall on the earth according to the proportion demonstrated
of central forces; and the planets finishing their course according to
these same proportions, in case there were another power that acted upon
all those bodies, it would either increase their velocity or change their
direction.  Now, not one of those bodies ever has a single degree of
motion or velocity, or has any direction but what is demonstrated to be
the effect of the central forces.  Consequently it is impossible there
should be any other principle."

Give me leave once more to introduce Sir Isaac speaking.  Shall he not be
allowed to say? "My case and that of the ancients is very different.
These saw, for instance, water ascend in pumps, and said, 'The water
rises because it abhors a vacuum.'  But with regard to myself; I am in
the case of a man who should have first observed that water ascends in
pumps, but should leave others to explain the cause of this effect.  The
anatomist, who first declared that the motion of the arm is owing to the
contraction of the muscles, taught mankind an indisputable truth.  But
are they less obliged to him because he did not know the reason why the
muscles contract?  The cause of the elasticity of the air is unknown, but
he who first discovered this spring performed a very signal service to
natural philosophy.  The spring that I discovered was more hidden and
more universal, and for that very reason mankind ought to thank me the
more.  I have discovered a new property of matter--one of the secrets of
the Creator--and have calculated and discovered the effects of it.  After
this, shall people quarrel with me about the name I give it?"

Vortices may be called an occult quality, because their existence was
never proved.  Attraction, on the contrary, is a real thing, because its
effects are demonstrated, and the proportions of it are calculated.  The
cause of this cause is among the _Arcana_ of the Almighty.

   "Precedes huc, et non amplius."

(Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther.)



LETTER XVI.--ON SIR ISAAC NEWTON'S OPTICS


The philosophers of the last age found out a new universe; and a
circumstance which made its discovery more difficult was that no one had
so much as suspected its existence.  The most sage and judicious were of
opinion that it was a frantic rashness to dare so much as to imagine that
it was possible to guess the laws by which the celestial bodies move and
the manner how light acts.  Galileo, by his astronomical discoveries,
Kepler, by his calculation, Descartes (at least, in his dioptrics), and
Sir Isaac Newton, in all his works, severally saw the mechanism of the
springs of the world.  The geometricians have subjected infinity to the
laws of calculation.  The circulation of the blood in animals, and of the
sap in vegetables, have changed the face of Nature with regard to us.  A
new kind of existence has been given to bodies in the air-pump.  By the
assistance of telescopes bodies have been brought nearer to one another.
Finally, the several discoveries which Sir Isaac Newton has made on light
are equal to the boldest things which the curiosity of man could expect
after so many philosophical novelties.

Till Antonio de Dominis the rainbow was considered as an inexplicable
miracle.  This philosopher guessed that it was a necessary effect of the
sun and rain.  Descartes gained immortal fame by his mathematical
explication of this so natural a phenomenon.  He calculated the
reflections and refractions of light in drops of rain.  And his sagacity
on this occasion was at that time looked upon as next to divine.

But what would he have said had it been proved to him that he was
mistaken in the nature of light; that he had not the least reason to
maintain that it is a globular body?  That it is false to assert that
this matter, spreading itself through the whole, waits only to be
projected forward by the sun, in order to be put in action, in like
manner as a long staff acts at one end when pushed forward by the other.
That light is certainly darted by the sun; in fine, that light is
transmitted from the sun to the earth in about seven minutes, though a
cannonball, which were not to lose any of its velocity, could not go that
distance in less than twenty-five years.  How great would have been his
astonishment had he been told that light does not reflect directly by
impinging against the solid parts of bodies, that bodies are not
transparent when they have large pores, and that a man should arise who
would demonstrate all these paradoxes, and anatomise a single ray of
light with more dexterity than the ablest artist dissects a human body.
This man is come.  Sir Isaac Newton has demonstrated to the eye, by the
bare assistance of the prism, that light is a composition of coloured
rays, which, being united, form white colour.  A single ray is by him
divided into seven, which all fall upon a piece of linen, or a sheet of
white paper, in their order, one above the other, and at unequal
distances.  The first is red, the second orange, the third yellow, the
fourth green, the fifth blue, the sixth indigo, the seventh a
violet-purple.  Each of these rays, transmitted afterwards by a hundred
other prisms, will never change the colour it bears; in like manner, as
gold, when completely purged from its dross, will never change afterwards
in the crucible.  As a superabundant proof that each of these elementary
rays has inherently in itself that which forms its colour to the eye,
take a small piece of yellow wood, for instance, and set it in the ray of
a red colour; this wood will instantly be tinged red.  But set it in the
ray of a green colour, it assumes a green colour, and so of all the rest.

From what cause, therefore, do colours arise in Nature?  It is nothing
but the disposition of bodies to reflect the rays of a certain order and
to absorb all the rest.

What, then, is this secret disposition?  Sir Isaac Newton demonstrates
that it is nothing more than the density of the small constituent
particles of which a body is composed.  And how is this reflection
performed?  It was supposed to arise from the rebounding of the rays, in
the same manner as a ball on the surface of a solid body.  But this is a
mistake, for Sir Isaac taught the astonished philosophers that bodies are
opaque for no other reason but because their pores are large, that light
reflects on our eyes from the very bosom of those pores, that the smaller
the pores of a body are the more such a body is transparent.  Thus paper,
which reflects the light when dry, transmits it when oiled, because the
oil, by filling its pores, makes them much smaller.

It is there that examining the vast porosity of bodies, every particle
having its pores, and every particle of those particles having its own,
he shows we are not certain that there is a cubic inch of solid matter in
the universe, so far are we from conceiving what matter is.  Having thus
divided, as it were, light into its elements, and carried the sagacity of
his discoveries so far as to prove the method of distinguishing compound
colours from such as are primitive, he shows that these elementary rays,
separated by the prism, are ranged in their order for no other reason but
because they are refracted in that very order; and it is this property
(unknown till he discovered it) of breaking or splitting in this
proportion; it is this unequal refraction of rays, this power of
refracting the red less than the orange colour, &c., which he calls the
different refrangibility.  The most reflexible rays are the most
refrangible, and from hence he evinces that the same power is the cause
both of the reflection and refraction of light.

But all these wonders are merely but the opening of his discoveries.  He
found out the secret to see the vibrations or fits of light which come
and go incessantly, and which either transmit light or reflect it,
according to the density of the parts they meet with.  He has presumed to
calculate the density of the particles of air necessary between two
glasses, the one flat, the other convex on one side, set one upon the
other, in order to operate such a transmission or reflection, or to form
such and such a colour.

From all these combinations he discovers the proportion in which light
acts on bodies and bodies act on light.

He saw light so perfectly, that he has determined to what degree of
perfection the art of increasing it, and of assisting our eyes by
telescopes, can be carried.

Descartes, from a noble confidence that was very excusable, considering
how strongly he was fired at the first discoveries he made in an art
which he almost first found out; Descartes, I say, hoped to discover in
the stars, by the assistance of telescopes, objects as small as those we
discern upon the earth.

But Sir Isaac has shown that dioptric telescopes cannot be brought to a
greater perfection, because of that refraction, and of that very
refrangibility, which at the same time that they bring objects nearer to
us, scatter too much the elementary rays.  He has calculated in these
glasses the proportion of the scattering of the red and of the blue rays;
and proceeding so far as to demonstrate things which were not supposed
even to exist, he examines the inequalities which arise from the shape or
figure of the glass, and that which arises from the refrangibility.  He
finds that the object glass of the telescope being convex on one side and
flat on the other, in case the flat side be turned towards the object,
the error which arises from the construction and position of the glass is
above five thousand times less than the error which arises from the
refrangibility; and, therefore, that the shape or figure of the glasses
is not the cause why telescopes cannot be carried to a greater
perfection, but arises wholly from the nature of light.

For this reason he invented a telescope, which discovers objects by
reflection, and not by refraction.  Telescopes of this new kind are very
hard to make, and their use is not easy; but, according to the English, a
reflective telescope of but five feet has the same effect as another of a
hundred feet in length.



LETTER XVII.--ON INFINITES IN GEOMETRY, AND SIR ISAAC NEWTON'S CHRONOLOGY


The labyrinth and abyss of infinity is also a new course Sir Isaac Newton
has gone through, and we are obliged to him for the clue, by whose
assistance we are enabled to trace its various windings.

Descartes got the start of him also in this astonishing invention.  He
advanced with mighty steps in his geometry, and was arrived at the very
borders of infinity, but went no farther.  Dr. Wallis, about the middle
of the last century, was the first who reduced a fraction by a perpetual
division to an infinite series.

The Lord Brouncker employed this series to square the hyperbola.

Mercator published a demonstration of this quadrature; much about which
time Sir Isaac Newton, being then twenty-three years of age, had invented
a general method, to perform on all geometrical curves what had just
before been tried on the hyperbola.

It is to this method of subjecting everywhere infinity to algebraical
calculations, that the name is given of differential calculations or of
fluxions and integral calculation.  It is the art of numbering and
measuring exactly a thing whose existence cannot be conceived.

And, indeed, would you not imagine that a man laughed at you who should
declare that there are lines infinitely great which form an angle
infinitely little?

That a right line, which is a right line so long as it is finite, by
changing infinitely little its direction, becomes an infinite curve; and
that a curve may become infinitely less than another curve?

That there are infinite squares, infinite cubes, and infinites of
infinites, all greater than one another, and the last but one of which is
nothing in comparison of the last?

All these things, which at first appear to be the utmost excess of
frenzy, are in reality an effort of the subtlety and extent of the human
mind, and the art of finding truths which till then had been unknown.

This so bold edifice is even founded on simple ideas.  The business is to
measure the diagonal of a square, to give the area of a curve, to find
the square root of a number, which has none in common arithmetic.  After
all, the imagination ought not to be startled any more at so many orders
of infinites than at the so well-known proposition, viz., that curve
lines may always be made to pass between a circle and a tangent; or at
that other, namely, that matter is divisible in _infinitum_.  These two
truths have been demonstrated many years, and are no less
incomprehensible than the things we have been speaking of.

For many years the invention of this famous calculation was denied to Sir
Isaac Newton.  In Germany Mr. Leibnitz was considered as the inventor of
the differences or moments, called fluxions, and Mr. Bernouilli claimed
the integral calculus.  However, Sir Isaac is now thought to have first
made the discovery, and the other two have the glory of having once made
the world doubt whether it was to be ascribed to him or them.  Thus some
contested with Dr. Harvey the invention of the circulation of the blood,
as others disputed with Mr. Perrault that of the circulation of the sap.

Hartsocher and Leuwenhoek disputed with each other the honour of having
first seen the _vermiculi_ of which mankind are formed.  This Hartsocher
also contested with Huygens the invention of a new method of calculating
the distance of a fixed star.  It is not yet known to what philosopher we
owe the invention of the cycloid.

Be this as it will, it is by the help of this geometry of infinites that
Sir Isaac Newton attained to the most sublime discoveries.  I am now to
speak of another work, which, though more adapted to the capacity of the
human mind, does nevertheless display some marks of that creative genius
with which Sir Isaac Newton was informed in all his researches.  The work
I mean is a chronology of a new kind, for what province soever he
undertook he was sure to change the ideas and opinions received by the
rest of men.

Accustomed to unravel and disentangle chaos, he was resolved to convey at
least some light into that of the fables of antiquity which are blended
and confounded with history, and fix an uncertain chronology.  It is true
that there is no family, city, or nation, but endeavours to remove its
original as far backward as possible.  Besides, the first historians were
the most negligent in setting down the eras: books were infinitely less
common than they are at this time, and, consequently, authors being not
so obnoxious to censure, they therefore imposed upon the world with
greater impunity; and, as it is evident that these have related a great
number of fictitious particulars, it is probable enough that they also
gave us several false eras.

It appeared in general to Sir Isaac that the world was five hundred years
younger than chronologers declare it to be.  He grounds his opinion on
the ordinary course of Nature, and on the observations which astronomers
have made.

By the course of Nature we here understand the time that every generation
of men lives upon the earth.  The Egyptians first employed this vague and
uncertain method of calculating when they began to write the beginning of
their history.  These computed three hundred and forty-one generations
from Menes to Sethon; and, having no fixed era, they supposed three
generations to consist of a hundred years.  In this manner they computed
eleven thousand three hundred and forty years from Menes's reign to that
of Sethon.

The Greeks before they counted by Olympiads followed the method of the
Egyptians, and even gave a little more extent to generations, making each
to consist of forty years.

Now, here, both the Egyptians and the Greeks made an erroneous
computation.  It is true, indeed, that, according to the usual course of
Nature, three generations last about a hundred and twenty years; but
three reigns are far from taking up so many.  It is very evident that
mankind in general live longer than kings are found to reign, so that an
author who should write a history in which there were no dates fixed, and
should know that nine kings had reigned over a nation; such an historian
would commit a great error should he allow three hundred years to these
nine monarchs.  Every generation takes about thirty-six years; every
reign is, one with the other, about twenty.  Thirty kings of England have
swayed the sceptre from William the Conqueror to George I., the years of
whose reigns added together amount to six hundred and forty-eight years;
which, being divided equally among the thirty kings, give to every one a
reign of twenty-one years and a half very near.  Sixty-three kings of
France have sat upon the throne; these have, one with another, reigned
about twenty years each.  This is the usual course of Nature.  The
ancients, therefore, were mistaken when they supposed the durations in
general of reigns to equal that of generations.  They, therefore, allowed
too great a number of years, and consequently some years must be
subtracted from their computation.

Astronomical observations seem to have lent a still greater assistance to
our philosopher.  He appears to us stronger when he fights upon his own
ground.

You know that the earth, besides its annual motion which carries it round
the sun from west to east in the space of a year, has also a singular
revolution which was quite unknown till within these late years.  Its
poles have a very slow retrograde motion from east to west, whence it
happens that their position every day does not correspond exactly with
the same point of the heavens.  This difference, which is so insensible
in a year, becomes pretty considerable in time; and in threescore and
twelve years the difference is found to be of one degree, that is to say,
the three hundred and sixtieth part of the circumference of the whole
heaven.  Thus after seventy-two years the colure of the vernal equinox
which passed through a fixed star, corresponds with another fixed star.
Hence it is that the sun, instead of being in that part of the heavens in
which the Ram was situated in the time of Hipparchus, is found to
correspond with that part of the heavens in which the Bull was situated;
and the Twins are placed where the Bull then stood.  All the signs have
changed their situation, and yet we still retain the same manner of
speaking as the ancients did.  In this age we say that the sun is in the
Ram in the spring, from the same principle of condescension that we say
that the sun turns round.

Hipparchus was the first among the Greeks who observed some change in the
constellations with regard to the equinoxes, or rather who learnt it from
the Egyptians.  Philosophers ascribed this motion to the stars; for in
those ages people were far from imagining such a revolution in the earth,
which was supposed to be immovable in every respect.  They therefore
created a heaven in which they fixed the several stars, and gave this
heaven a particular motion by which it was carried towards the east,
whilst that all the stars seemed to perform their diurnal revolution from
east to west.  To this error they added a second of much greater
consequence, by imagining that the pretended heaven of the fixed stars
advanced one degree eastward every hundred years.  In this manner they
were no less mistaken in their astronomical calculation than in their
system of natural philosophy.  As for instance, an astronomer in that age
would have said that the vernal equinox was in the time of such and such
an observation, in such a sign, and in such a star.  It has advanced two
degrees of each since the time that observation was made to the present.
Now two degrees are equivalent to two hundred years; consequently the
astronomer who made that observation lived just so many years before me.
It is certain that an astronomer who had argued in this manner would have
mistook just fifty-four years; hence it is that the ancients, who were
doubly deceived, made their great year of the world, that is, the
revolution of the whole heavens, to consist of thirty-six thousand years.
But the moderns are sensible that this imaginary revolution of the heaven
of the stars is nothing else than the revolution of the poles of the
earth, which is performed in twenty-five thousand nine hundred years.  It
may be proper to observe transiently in this place, that Sir Isaac, by
determining the figure of the earth, has very happily explained the cause
of this revolution.

All this being laid down, the only thing remaining to settle chronology
is to see through what star the colure of the equinoxes passes, and where
it intersects at this time the ecliptic in the spring; and to discover
whether some ancient writer does not tell us in what point the ecliptic
was intersected in his time, by the same colure of the equinoxes.

Clemens Alexandrinus informs us, that Chiron, who went with the
Argonauts, observed the constellations at the time of that famous
expedition, and fixed the vernal equinox to the middle of the Ram; the
autumnal equinox to the middle of Libra; our summer solstice to the
middle of Cancer, and our winter solstice to the middle of Capricorn.

A long time after the expedition of the Argonauts, and a year before the
Peloponnesian war, Methon observed that the point of the summer solstice
passed through the eighth degree of Cancer.

Now every sign of the zodiac contains thirty degrees.  In Chiron's time,
the solstice was arrived at the middle of the sign, that is to say to the
fifteenth degree.  A year before the Peloponnesian war it was at the
eighth, and therefore it had retarded seven degrees.  A degree is
equivalent to seventy-two years; consequently, from the beginning of the
Peloponnesian war to the expedition of the Argonauts, there is no more
than an interval of seven times seventy-two years, which make five
hundred and four years, and not seven hundred years as the Greeks
computed.  Thus in comparing the position of the heavens at this time
with their position in that age, we find that the expedition of the
Argonauts ought to be placed about nine hundred years before Christ, and
not about fourteen hundred; and consequently that the world is not so old
by five hundred years as it was generally supposed to be.  By this
calculation all the eras are drawn nearer, and the several events are
found to have happened later than is computed.  I do not know whether
this ingenious system will be favourably received; and whether these
notions will prevail so far with the learned, as to prompt them to reform
the chronology of the world.  Perhaps these gentlemen would think it too
great a condescension to allow one and the same man the glory of having
improved natural philosophy, geometry, and history.  This would be a kind
of universal monarchy, with which the principle of self-love that is in
man will scarce suffer him to indulge his fellow-creature; and, indeed,
at the same time that some very great philosophers attacked Sir Isaac
Newton's attractive principle, others fell upon his chronological system.
Time that should discover to which of these the victory is due, may
perhaps only leave the dispute still more undetermined.



LETTER XVIII.--ON TRAGEDY


The English as well as the Spaniards were possessed of theatres at a time
when the French had no more than moving, itinerant stages.  Shakspeare,
who was considered as the Corneille of the first-mentioned nation, was
pretty nearly contemporary with Lopez de Vega, and he created, as it
were, the English theatre.  Shakspeare boasted a strong fruitful genius.
He was natural and sublime, but had not so much as a single spark of good
taste, or knew one rule of the drama.  I will now hazard a random, but,
at the same time, true reflection, which is, that the great merit of this
dramatic poet has been the ruin of the English stage.  There are such
beautiful, such noble, such dreadful scenes in this writer's monstrous
farces, to which the name of tragedy is given, that they have always been
exhibited with great success.  Time, which alone gives reputation to
writers, at last makes their very faults venerable.  Most of the
whimsical gigantic images of this poet, have, through length of time (it
being a hundred and fifty years since they were first drawn) acquired a
right of passing for sublime.  Most of the modern dramatic writers have
copied him; but the touches and descriptions which are applauded in
Shakspeare, are hissed at in these writers; and you will easily believe
that the veneration in which this author is held, increases in proportion
to the contempt which is shown to the moderns.  Dramatic writers don't
consider that they should not imitate him; and the ill-success of
Shakspeare's imitators produces no other effect, than to make him be
considered as inimitable.  You remember that in the tragedy of _Othello,
Moor of Venice_, a most tender piece, a man strangles his wife on the
stage, and that the poor woman, whilst she is strangling, cries aloud
that she dies very unjustly.  You know that in _Hamlet, Prince of
Denmark_, two grave-diggers make a grave, and are all the time drinking,
singing ballads, and making humorous reflections (natural indeed enough
to persons of their profession) on the several skulls they throw up with
their spades; but a circumstance which will surprise you is, that this
ridiculous incident has been imitated.  In the reign of King Charles II.,
which was that of politeness, and the Golden Age of the liberal arts;
Otway, in his _Venice Preserved_, introduces Antonio the senator, and
Naki, his courtesan, in the midst of the horrors of the Marquis of
Bedemar's conspiracy.  Antonio, the superannuated senator plays, in his
mistress's presence, all the apish tricks of a lewd, impotent debauchee,
who is quite frantic and out of his senses.  He mimics a bull and a dog,
and bites his mistress's legs, who kicks and whips him.  However, the
players have struck these buffooneries (which indeed were calculated
merely for the dregs of the people) out of Otway's tragedy; but they have
still left in Shakspeare's _Julius Caesar_ the jokes of the Roman
shoemakers and cobblers, who are introduced in the same scene with Brutus
and Cassius.  You will undoubtedly complain, that those who have hitherto
discoursed with you on the English stage, and especially on the
celebrated Shakspeare, have taken notice only of his errors; and that no
one has translated any of those strong, those forcible passages which
atone for all his faults.  But to this I will answer, that nothing is
easier than to exhibit in prose all the silly impertinences which a poet
may have thrown out; but that it is a very difficult task to translate
his fine verses.  All your junior academical sophs, who set up for
censors of the eminent writers, compile whole volumes; but methinks two
pages which display some of the beauties of great geniuses, are of
infinitely more value than all the idle rhapsodies of those commentators;
and I will join in opinion with all persons of good taste in declaring,
that greater advantage may be reaped from a dozen verses of Homer of
Virgil, than from all the critiques put together which have been made on
those two great poets.

I have ventured to translate some passages of the most celebrated English
poets, and shall now give you one from Shakspeare.  Pardon the blemishes
of the translation for the sake of the original; and remember always that
when you see a version, you see merely a faint print of a beautiful
picture.  I have made choice of part of the celebrated soliloquy in
_Hamlet_, which you may remember is as follows:--

   "To be, or not to be? that is the question!
   Whether 't is nobler in the mind to suffer
   The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
   Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
   And by opposing, end them?  To die! to sleep!
   No more! and by a sleep to say we end
   The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
   That flesh is heir to!  'Tis a consummation
   Devoutly to be wished.  To die! to sleep!
   To sleep; perchance to dream!  O, there's the rub;
   For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come
   When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
   Must give us pause.  There's the respect
   That makes calamity of so long life:
   For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
   The oppressor's wrong, the poor man's contumely,
   The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
   The insolence of office, and the spurns
   That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
   When he himself might his quietus make
   With a bare bodkin.  Who would fardels bear
   To groan and sweat under a weary life,
   But that the dread of something after death,
   The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
   No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
   And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
   Than fly to others that we know not of?
   Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
   And thus the native hue of resolution
   Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought:
   And enterprises of great weight and moment
   With this regard their currents turn awry,
   And lose the name of action--"

My version of it runs thus:--

   "Demeure, il faut choisir et passer a l'instant
   De la vie, a la mort, ou de l'etre au neant.
   Dieux cruels, s'il en est, eclairez mon courage.
   Faut-il vieillir courbe sous la main qui m'outrage,
   Supporter, ou finir mon malheur et mon sort?
   Qui suis je?  Qui m'arrete! et qu'est-ce que la mort?
   C'est la fin de nos maux, c'est mon unique asile
   Apres de longs transports, c'est un sommeil tranquile.
   On s'endort, et tout meurt, mais un affreux reveil
   Doit succeder peut etre aux douceurs du sommeil!
   On nous menace, on dit que cette courte vie,
   De tourmens eternels est aussi-tot suivie.
   O mort! moment fatal! affreuse eternite!
   Tout coeur a ton seul nom se glace epouvante.
   Eh! qui pourroit sans toi supporter cette vie,
   De nos pretres menteurs benir l'hypocrisie:
   D'une indigne maitresse encenser les erreurs,
   Ramper sous un ministre, adorer ses hauteurs;
   Et montrer les langueurs de son ame abattue,
   A des amis ingrats qui detournent la vue?
   La mort seroit trop douce en ces extremitez,
   Mais le scrupule parle, et nous crie, arretez;
   Il defend a nos mains cet heureux homicide
   Et d'un heros guerrier, fait un Chretien timide," &c.

Do not imagine that I have translated Shakspeare in a servile manner.  Woe
to the writer who gives a literal version; who by rendering every word of
his original, by that very means enervates the sense, and extinguishes
all the fire of it.  It is on such an occasion one may justly affirm,
that the letter kills, but the Spirit quickens.

Here follows another passage copied from a celebrated tragic writer among
the English.  It is Dryden, a poet in the reign of Charles II.--a writer
whose genius was too exuberant, and not accompanied with judgment enough.
Had he written only a tenth part of the works he left behind him, his
character would have been conspicuous in every part; but his great fault
is his having endeavoured to be universal.

The passage in question is as follows:--

   "When I consider life, 't is all a cheat,
   Yet fooled by hope, men favour the deceit;
   Trust on and think, to-morrow will repay;
   To-morrow's falser than the former day;
   Lies more; and whilst it says we shall be blest
   With some new joy, cuts off what we possessed;
   Strange cozenage! none would live past years again,
   Yet all hope pleasure in what yet remain,
   And from the dregs of life think to receive
   What the first sprightly running could not give.
   I'm tired with waiting for this chymic gold,
   Which fools us young, and beggars us when old."

I shall now give you my translation:--

   "De desseins en regrets et d'erreurs en desirs
   Les mortals insenses promenent leur folie.
   Dans des malheurs presents, dans l'espoir des plaisirs
   Nous ne vivons jamais, nous attendons la vie.
   Demain, demain, dit-on, va combler tous nos voeux.
   Demain vient, et nous laisse encore plus malheureux.
   Quelle est l'erreur, helas! du soin qui nous devore,
   Nul de nous ne voudroit recommencer son cours.
   De nos premiers momens nous maudissons l'aurore,
   Et de la nuit qui vient nous attendons encore,
   Ce qu'ont en vain promis les plus beaux de nos jours," &c.

It is in these detached passages that the English have hitherto excelled.
Their dramatic pieces, most of which are barbarous and without decorum,
order, or verisimilitude, dart such resplendent flashes through this
gleam, as amaze and astonish.  The style is too much inflated, too
unnatural, too closely copied from the Hebrew writers, who abound so much
with the Asiatic fustian.  But then it must be also confessed that the
stilts of the figurative style, on which the English tongue is lifted up,
raises the genius at the same time very far aloft, though with an
irregular pace.  The first English writer who composed a regular tragedy,
and infused a spirit of elegance through every part of it, was the
illustrious Mr. Addison.  His "Cato" is a masterpiece, both with regard
to the diction and to the beauty and harmony of the numbers.  The
character of Cato is, in my opinion, vastly superior to that of Cornelia
in the "Pompey" of Corneille, for Cato is great without anything like
fustian, and Cornelia, who besides is not a necessary character, tends
sometimes to bombast.  Mr. Addison's Cato appears to me the greatest
character that was ever brought upon any stage, but then the rest of them
do not correspond to the dignity of it, and this dramatic piece, so
excellently well writ, is disfigured by a dull love plot, which spreads a
certain languor over the whole, that quite murders it.

The custom of introducing love at random and at any rate in the drama
passed from Paris to London about 1660, with our ribbons and our
perruques.  The ladies who adorn the theatrical circle there, in like
manner as in this city, will suffer love only to be the theme of every
conversation.  The judicious Mr. Addison had the effeminate complaisance
to soften the severity of his dramatic character, so as to adapt it to
the manners of the age, and, from an endeavour to please, quite ruined a
masterpiece in its kind.  Since his time the drama is become more
regular, the audience more difficult to be pleased, and writers more
correct and less bold.  I have seen some new pieces that were written
with great regularity, but which, at the same time, were very flat and
insipid.  One would think that the English had been hitherto formed to
produce irregular beauties only.  The shining monsters of Shakspeare give
infinite more delight than the judicious images of the moderns.  Hitherto
the poetical genius of the English resembles a tufted tree planted by the
hand of Nature, that throws out a thousand branches at random, and
spreads unequally, but with great vigour.  It dies if you attempt to
force its nature, and to lop and dress it in the same manner as the trees
of the Garden of Marli.



LETTER XIX.--ON COMEDY


I am surprised that the judicious and ingenious Mr. de Muralt, who has
published some letters on the English and French nations, should have
confined himself; in treating of comedy, merely to censure Shadwell the
comic writer.  This author was had in pretty great contempt in Mr. de
Muralt's time, and was not the poet of the polite part of the nation.  His
dramatic pieces, which pleased some time in acting, were despised by all
persons of taste, and might be compared to many plays which I have seen
in France, that drew crowds to the playhouse, at the same time that they
were intolerable to read; and of which it might be said, that the whole
city of Paris exploded them, and yet all flocked to see them represented
on the stage.  Methinks Mr. de Muralt should have mentioned an excellent
comic writer (living when he was in England), I mean Mr. Wycherley, who
was a long time known publicly to be happy in the good graces of the most
celebrated mistress of King Charles II.  This gentleman, who passed his
life among persons of the highest distinction, was perfectly well
acquainted with their lives and their follies, and painted them with the
strongest pencil, and in the truest colours.  He has drawn a misanthrope
or man-hater, in imitation of that of Moliere.  All Wycherley's strokes
are stronger and bolder than those of our misanthrope, but then they are
less delicate, and the rules of decorum are not so well observed in this
play.  The English writer has corrected the only defect that is in
Moliere's comedy, the thinness of the plot, which also is so disposed
that the characters in it do not enough raise our concern.  The English
comedy affects us, and the contrivance of the plot is very ingenious, but
at the same time it is too bold for the French manners.  The fable is
this:--A captain of a man-of-war, who is very brave, open-hearted, and
inflamed with a spirit of contempt for all mankind, has a prudent,
sincere friend, whom he yet is suspicious of; and a mistress that loves
him with the utmost excess of passion.  The captain so far from returning
her love, will not even condescend to look upon her, but confides
entirely in a false friend, who is the most worthless wretch living.  At
the same time he has given his heart to a creature, who is the greatest
coquette and the most perfidious of her sex, and he is so credulous as to
be confident she is a Penelope, and his false friend a Cato.  He embarks
on board his ship in order to go and fight the Dutch, having left all his
money, his jewels, and everything he had in the world to this virtuous
creature, whom at the same time he recommends to the care of his supposed
faithful friend.  Nevertheless the real man of honour, whom he suspects
so unaccountably, goes on board the ship with him, and the mistress, on
whom he would not bestow so much as one glance, disguises herself in the
habit of a page, and is with him the whole voyage, without his once
knowing that she is of a sex different from that she attempts to pass
for, which, by the way, is not over natural.

The captain having blown up his own ship in an engagement, returns to
England abandoned and undone, accompanied by his page and his friend,
without knowing the friendship of the one or the tender passion of the
other.  Immediately he goes to the jewel among women, who he expected had
preserved her fidelity to him and the treasure he had left in her hands.
He meets with her indeed, but married to the honest knave in whom he had
reposed so much confidence, and finds she had acted as treacherously with
regard to the casket he had entrusted her with.  The captain can scarce
think it possible that a woman of virtue and honour can act so vile a
part; but to convince him still more of the reality of it, this very
worthy lady falls in love with the little page, and will force him to her
embraces.  But as it is requisite justice should be done, and that in a
dramatic piece virtue ought to be rewarded and vice punished, it is at
last found that the captain takes his page's place, and lies with his
faithless mistress, cuckolds his treacherous friend, thrusts his sword
through his body, recovers his casket, and marries his page.  You will
observe that this play is also larded with a petulant, litigious old
woman (a relation of the captain), who is the most comical character that
was ever brought upon the stage.

Wycherley has also copied from Moliere another play, of as singular and
bold a cast, which is a kind of _Ecole des Femmes_, or, _School for
Married Women_.

The principal character in this comedy is one Homer, a sly fortune
hunter, and the terror of all the City husbands.  This fellow, in order
to play a surer game, causes a report to be spread, that in his last
illness, the surgeons had found it necessary to have him made a eunuch.
Upon his appearing in this noble character, all the husbands in town
flock to him with their wives, and now poor Homer is only puzzled about
his choice.  However, he gives the preference particularly to a little
female peasant, a very harmless, innocent creature, who enjoys a fine
flush of health, and cuckolds her husband with a simplicity that has
infinitely more merit than the witty malice of the most experienced
ladies.  This play cannot indeed be called the school of good morals, but
it is certainly the school of wit and true humour.

Sir John Vanbrugh has written several comedies, which are more humorous
than those of Mr. Wycherley, but not so ingenious.  Sir John was a man of
pleasure, and likewise a poet and an architect.  The general opinion is,
that he is as sprightly in his writings as he is heavy in his buildings.
It is he who raised the famous Castle of Blenheim, a ponderous and
lasting monument of our unfortunate Battle of Hochstet.  Were the
apartments but as spacious as the walls are thick, this castle would be
commodious enough.  Some wag, in an epitaph he made on Sir John Vanbrugh,
has these lines:--

   "Earth lie light on him, for he
   Laid many a heavy load on thee."

Sir John having taken a tour into France before the glorious war that
broke out in 1701, was thrown into the Bastille, and detained there for
some time, without being ever able to discover the motive which had
prompted our ministry to indulge him with this mark of their distinction.
He wrote a comedy during his confinement; and a circumstance which
appears to me very extraordinary is, that we don't meet with so much as a
single satirical stroke against the country in which he had been so
injuriously treated.

The late Mr. Congreve raised the glory of comedy to a greater height than
any English writer before or since his time.  He wrote only a few plays,
but they are all excellent in their kind.  The laws of the drama are
strictly observed in them; they abound with characters all which are
shadowed with the utmost delicacy, and we don't meet with so much as one
low or coarse jest.  The language is everywhere that of men of honour,
but their actions are those of knaves--a proof that he was perfectly well
acquainted with human nature, and frequented what we call polite company.
He was infirm and come to the verge of life when I knew him.  Mr.
Congreve had one defect, which was his entertaining too mean an idea of
his first profession (that of a writer), though it was to this he owed
his fame and fortune.  He spoke of his works as of trifles that were
beneath him; and hinted to me, in our first conversation, that I should
visit him upon no other footing than that of a gentleman who led a life
of plainness and simplicity.  I answered, that had he been so unfortunate
as to be a mere gentleman, I should never have come to see him; and I was
very much disgusted at so unseasonable a piece of vanity.

Mr. Congreve's comedies are the most witty and regular, those of Sir John
Vanbrugh most gay and humorous, and those of Mr. Wycherley have the
greatest force and spirit.  It may be proper to observe that these fine
geniuses never spoke disadvantageously of Moliere; and that none but the
contemptible writers among the English have endeavoured to lessen the
character of that great comic poet.  Such Italian musicians as despise
Lully are themselves persons of no character or ability; but a Buononcini
esteems that great artist, and does justice to his merit.

The English have some other good comic writers living, such as Sir
Richard Steele and Mr. Cibber, who is an excellent player, and also Poet
Laureate--a title which, how ridiculous soever it may be thought, is yet
worth a thousand crowns a year (besides some considerable privileges) to
the person who enjoys it.  Our illustrious Corneille had not so much.

To conclude.  Don't desire me to descend to particulars with regard to
these English comedies, which I am so fond of applauding; nor to give you
a single smart saying or humorous stroke from Wycherley or Congreve.  We
don't laugh in rending a translation.  If you have a mind to understand
the English comedy, the only way to do this will be for you to go to
England, to spend three years in London, to make yourself master of the
English tongue, and to frequent the playhouse every night.  I receive but
little pleasure from the perusal of Aristophanes and Plautus, and for
this reason, because I am neither a Greek nor a Roman.  The delicacy of
the humour, the allusion, the _a propos_--all these are lost to a
foreigner.

But it is different with respect to tragedy, this treating only of
exalted passions and heroical follies, which the antiquated errors of
fable or history have made sacred.  OEdipus, Electra, and such-like
characters, may with as much propriety be treated of by the Spaniards,
the English, or us, as by the Greeks.  But true comedy is the speaking
picture of the follies and ridiculous foibles of a nation; so that he
only is able to judge of the painting who is perfectly acquainted with
the people it represents.



LETTER XX.--ON SUCH OF THE NOBILITY AS CULTIVATE THE BELLES LETTRES


There once was a time in France when the polite arts were cultivated by
persons of the highest rank in the state.  The courtiers particularly
were conversant in them, although indolence, a taste for trifles, and a
passion for intrigue, were the divinities of the country.  The Court
methinks at this time seems to have given into a taste quite opposite to
that of polite literature, but perhaps the mode of thinking may be
revived in a little time.  The French are of so flexible a disposition,
may be moulded into such a variety of shapes, that the monarch needs but
command and he is immediately obeyed.  The English generally think, and
learning is had in greater honour among them than in our country--an
advantage that results naturally from the form of their government.  There
are about eight hundred persons in England who have a right to speak in
public, and to support the interest of the kingdom; and near five or six
thousand may in their turns aspire to the same honour.  The whole nation
set themselves up as judges over these, and every man has the liberty of
publishing his thoughts with regard to public affairs, which shows that
all the people in general are indispensably obliged to cultivate their
understandings.  In England the governments of Greece and Rome are the
subject of every conversation, so that every man is under a necessity of
perusing such authors as treat of them, how disagreeable soever it may be
to him; and this study leads naturally to that of polite literature.
Mankind in general speak well in their respective professions.  What is
the reason why our magistrates, our lawyers, our physicians, and a great
number of the clergy, are abler scholars, have a finer taste, and more
wit, than persons of all other professions?  The reason is, because their
condition of life requires a cultivated and enlightened mind, in the same
manner as a merchant is obliged to be acquainted with his traffic.  Not
long since an English nobleman, who was very young, came to see me at
Paris on his return from Italy.  He had written a poetical description of
that country, which, for delicacy and politeness, may vie with anything
we meet with in the Earl of Rochester, or in our Chaulieu, our Sarrasin,
or Chapelle.  The translation I have given of it is so inexpressive of
the strength and delicate humour of the original, that I am obliged
seriously to ask pardon of the author and of all who understand English.
However, as this is the only method I have to make his lordship's verses
known, I shall here present you with them in our tongue:--

   "Qu'ay je donc vu dans l'Italie?
   Orgueil, astuce, et pauvrete,
   Grands complimens, peu de bonte
   Et beaucoup de ceremonie.

   "L'extravagante comedie
   Que souvent l'Inquisition
   Vent qu'on nomme religion
   Mais qu'ici nous nommons folie.

   "La Nature en vain bienfaisante
   Vent enricher ses lieux charmans,
   Des pretres la main desolante
   Etouffe ses plus beaux presens.

   "Les monsignors, soy disant Grands,
   Seuls dans leurs palais magnifiques
   Y sont d'illustres faineants,
   Sans argent, et sans domestiques.

   "Pour les petits, sans liberte,
   Martyrs du joug qui les domine,
   Ils ont fait voeu de pauvrete,
   Priant Dieu par oisivete
   Et toujours jeunant par famine.

   "Ces beaux lieux du Pape benis
   Semblent habitez par les diables;
   Et les habitans miserables
   Sont damnes dans le Paradis."



LETTER XXI.--ON THE EARL OF ROCHESTER AND MR. WALLER


The Earl of Rochester's name is universally known.  Mr. de St. Evremont
has made very frequent mention of him, but then he has represented this
famous nobleman in no other light than as the man of pleasure, as one who
was the idol of the fair; but, with regard to myself, I would willingly
describe in him the man of genius, the great poet.  Among other pieces
which display the shining imagination, his lordship only could boast he
wrote some satires on the same subjects as those our celebrated Boileau
made choice of.  I do not know any better method of improving the taste
than to compare the productions of such great geniuses as have exercised
their talent on the same subject.  Boileau declaims as follows against
human reason in his "Satire on Man:"

   "Cependant a le voir plein de vapeurs legeres,
   Soi-meme se bercer de ses propres chimeres,
   Lui seul de la nature est la baze et l'appui,
   Et le dixieme ciel ne tourne que pour lui.
   De tous les animaux il est ici le maitre;
   Qui pourroit le nier, poursuis tu?  Moi peut-etre.
   Ce maitre pretendu qui leur donne des loix,
   Ce roi des animaux, combien a-t'il de rois?"

   "Yet, pleased with idle whimsies of his brain,
   And puffed with pride, this haughty thing would fain
   Be think himself the only stay and prop
   That holds the mighty frame of Nature up.
   The skies and stars his properties must seem,
   * * *
   Of all the creatures he's the lord, he cries.
   * * *
   And who is there, say you, that dares deny
   So owned a truth?  That may be, sir, do I.
   * * *
   This boasted monarch of the world who awes
   The creatures here, and with his nod gives laws
   This self-named king, who thus pretends to be
   The lord of all, how many lords has he?"

   OLDHAM, _a little altered_.

The Lord Rochester expresses himself, in his "Satire against Man," in
pretty near the following manner.  But I must first desire you always to
remember that the versions I give you from the English poets are written
with freedom and latitude, and that the restraint of our versification,
and the delicacies of the French tongue, will not allow a translator to
convey into it the licentious impetuosity and fire of the English
numbers:--

   "Cet esprit que je hais, cet esprit plein d'erreur,
   Ce n'est pas ma raison, c'est la tienne, docteur.
   C'est la raison frivole, inquiete, orgueilleuse
   Des sages animaux, rivale dedaigneuse,
   Qui croit entr'eux et l'Ange, occuper le milieu,
   Et pense etre ici bas l'image de son Dieu.
   Vil atome imparfait, qui croit, doute, dispute
   Rampe, s'eleve, tombe, et nie encore sa chute,
   Qui nous dit je suis libre, en nous montrant ses fers,
   Et dont l'oeil trouble et faux, croit percer l'univers.
   Allez, reverends fous, bienheureux fanatiques,
   Compilez bien l'amas de vos riens scholastiques,
   Peres de visions, et d'enigmes sacres,
   Auteurs du labirinthe, ou vous vous egarez.
   Allez obscurement eclaircir vos misteres,
   Et courez dans l'ecole adorer vos chimeres.
   Il est d'autres erreurs, il est de ces devots
   Condamne par eux memes a l'ennui du repos.
   Ce mystique encloitre, fier de son indolence
   Tranquille, au sein de Dieu.  Que peut il faire?  Il pense.
   Non, tu ne penses point, miserable, tu dors:
   Inutile a la terre, et mis au rang des morts.
   Ton esprit enerve croupit dans la molesse.
   Reveille toi, sois homme, et sors de ton ivresse.
   L'homme est ne pour agir, et tu pretens penser?"  &c.

The original runs thus:--

   "Hold mighty man, I cry all this we know,
   And 'tis this very reason I despise,
   This supernatural gift that makes a mite
   Think he's the image of the Infinite;
   Comparing his short life, void of all rest,
   To the eternal and the ever blest.
   This busy, puzzling stirrer up of doubt,
   That frames deep mysteries, then finds them out,
   Filling, with frantic crowds of thinking fools,
   Those reverend bedlams, colleges, and schools;
   Borne on whose wings each heavy sot can pierce
   The limits of the boundless universe.
   So charming ointments make an old witch fly,
   And bear a crippled carcase through the sky.
   'Tis this exalted power, whose business lies
   In nonsense and impossibilities.
   This made a whimsical philosopher
   Before the spacious world his tub prefer;
   And we have modern cloistered coxcombs, who
   Retire to think, 'cause they have naught to do.
   But thoughts are given for action's government,
   Where action ceases, thought's impertinent."

Whether these ideas are true or false, it is certain they are expressed
with an energy and fire which form the poet.  I shall be very far from
attempting to examine philosophically into these verses, to lay down the
pencil, and take up the rule and compass on this occasion; my only design
in this letter being to display the genius of the English poets, and
therefore I shall continue in the same view.

The celebrated Mr. Waller has been very much talked of in France, and Mr.
De la Fontaine, St. Evremont, and Bayle have written his eulogium, but
still his name only is known.  He had much the same reputation in London
as Voiture had in Paris, and in my opinion deserved it better.  Voiture
was born in an age that was just emerging from barbarity; an age that was
still rude and ignorant, the people of which aimed at wit, though they
had not the least pretensions to it, and sought for points and conceits
instead of sentiments.  Bristol stones are more easily found than
diamonds.  Voiture, born with an easy and frivolous, genius, was the
first who shone in this aurora of French literature.  Had he come into
the world after those great geniuses who spread such a glory over the age
of Louis XIV., he would either have been unknown, would have been
despised, or would have corrected his style.  Boileau applauded him, but
it was in his first satires, at a time when the taste of that great poet
was not yet formed.  He was young, and in an age when persons form a
judgment of men from their reputation, and not from their writings.
Besides, Boileau was very partial both in his encomiums and his censures.
He applauded Segrais, whose works nobody reads; he abused Quinault, whose
poetical pieces every one has got by heart; and is wholly silent upon La
Fontaine.  Waller, though a better poet than Voiture, was not yet a
finished poet.  The graces breathe in such of Waller's works as are writ
in a tender strain; but then they are languid through negligence, and
often disfigured with false thoughts.  The English had not in his time
attained the art of correct writing.  But his serious compositions
exhibit a strength and vigour which could not have been expected from the
softness and effeminacy of his other pieces.  He wrote an elegy on Oliver
Cromwell, which, with all its faults, is nevertheless looked upon as a
masterpiece.  To understand this copy of verses you are to know that the
day Oliver died was remarkable for a great storm.  His poem begins in
this manner:--

   "Il n'est plus, s'en est fait, soumettons nous au sort,
   Le ciel a signale ce jour par des tempetes,
   Et la voix des tonnerres eclatant sur nos tetes
   Vient d'annoncer sa mort.

   "Par ses derniers soupirs il ebranle cet ile;
   Cet ile que son bras fit trembler tant de fois,
   Quand dans le cours de ses exploits,
   Il brisoit la tete des Rois,
   Et soumettoit un peuple a son joug seul docile.

   "Mer tu t'en es trouble; O mer tes flots emus
   Semblent dire en grondant aux plus lointains rivages
   Que l'effroi de la terre et ton maitre n'est plus.

   "Tel au ciel autrefois s'envola Romulus,
   Tel il quitta la Terre, au milieu des orages,
   Tel d'un peuple guerrier il recut les homages;
   Obei dans sa vie, sa mort adore,
   Son palais fut un Temple," &c.

* * * * *

   "We must resign! heaven his great soul does claim
   In storms as loud as his immortal fame;
   His dying groans, his last breath shakes our isle,
   And trees uncut fall for his funeral pile:
   About his palace their broad roots are tost
   Into the air; so Romulus was lost!
   New Rome in such a tempest missed her king,
   And from obeying fell to worshipping.
   On OEta's top thus Hercules lay dead,
   With ruined oaks and pines about him spread.
   Nature herself took notice of his death,
   And, sighing, swelled the sea with such a breath,
   That to remotest shores the billows rolled,
   Th' approaching fate of his great ruler told."

   WALLER.

It was this elogium that gave occasion to the reply (taken notice of in
Bayle's Dictionary), which Waller made to King Charles II.  This king, to
whom Waller had a little before (as is usual with bards and monarchs)
presented a copy of verses embroidered with praises, reproached the poet
for not writing with so much energy and fire as when he had applauded the
Usurper (meaning Oliver).  "Sir," replied Waller to the king, "we poets
succeed better in fiction than in truth."  This answer was not so sincere
as that which a Dutch ambassador made, who, when the same monarch
complained that his masters paid less regard to him than they had done to
Cromwell.  "Ah, sir!" says the Ambassador, "Oliver was quite another
man--"  It is not my intent to give a commentary on Waller's character,
nor on that of any other person; for I consider men after their death in
no other light than as they were writers, and wholly disregard everything
else.  I shall only observe that Waller, though born in a court, and to
an estate of five or six thousand pounds sterling a year, was never so
proud or so indolent as to lay aside the happy talent which Nature had
indulged him.  The Earls of Dorset and Roscommon, the two Dukes of
Buckingham, the Lord Halifax, and so many other noblemen, did not think
the reputation they obtained of very great poets and illustrious writers,
any way derogatory to their quality.  They are more glorious for their
works than for their titles.  These cultivated the polite arts with as
much assiduity as though they had been their whole dependence.

They also have made learning appear venerable in the eyes of the vulgar,
who have need to be led in all things by the great; and who,
nevertheless, fashion their manners less after those of the nobility (in
England I mean) than in any other country in the world.



LETTER XXII.--ON MR. POPE AND SOME OTHER FAMOUS POETS


I intended to treat of Mr. Prior, one of the most amiable English poets,
whom you saw Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary at Paris in 1712.  I
also designed to have given you some idea of the Lord Roscommon's and the
Lord Dorset's muse; but I find that to do this I should be obliged to
write a large volume, and that, after much pains and trouble, you would
have but an imperfect idea of all those works.  Poetry is a kind of music
in which a man should have some knowledge before he pretends to judge of
it.  When I give you a translation of some passages from those foreign
poets, I only prick down, and that imperfectly, their music; but then I
cannot express the taste of their harmony.

There is one English poem especially which I should despair of ever
making you understand, the title whereof is "Hudibras."  The subject of
it is the Civil War in the time of the grand rebellion, and the
principles and practice of the Puritans are therein ridiculed.  It is Don
Quixote, it is our "Satire Menippee" blended together.  I never found so
much wit in one single book as in that, which at the same time is the
most difficult to be translated.  Who would believe that a work which
paints in such lively and natural colours the several foibles and follies
of mankind, and where we meet with more sentiments than words, should
baffle the endeavours of the ablest translator?  But the reason of this
is, almost every part of it alludes to particular incidents.  The clergy
are there made the principal object of ridicule, which is understood but
by few among the laity.  To explain this a commentary would be requisite,
and humour when explained is no longer humour.  Whoever sets up for a
commentator of smart sayings and repartees is himself a blockhead.  This
is the reason why the works of the ingenious Dean Swift, who has been
called the English Rabelais, will never be well understood in France.
This gentleman has the honour (in common with Rabelais) of being a
priest, and, like him, laughs at everything; but, in my humble opinion,
the title of the English Rabelais which is given the dean is highly
derogatory to his genius.  The former has interspersed his unaccountably-
fantastic and unintelligible book with the most gay strokes of humour;
but which, at the same time, has a greater proportion of impertinence.  He
has been vastly lavish of erudition, of smut, and insipid raillery.  An
agreeable tale of two pages is purchased at the expense of whole volumes
of nonsense.  There are but few persons, and those of a grotesque taste,
who pretend to understand and to esteem this work; for, as to the rest of
the nation, they laugh at the pleasant and diverting touches which are
found in Rabelais and despise his book.  He is looked upon as the prince
of buffoons.  The readers are vexed to think that a man who was master of
so much wit should have made so wretched a use of it; he is an
intoxicated philosopher who never wrote but when he was in liquor.

Dean Swift is Rabelais in his senses, and frequenting the politest
company.  The former, indeed, is not so gay as the latter, but then he
possesses all the delicacy, the justness, the choice, the good taste, in
all which particulars our giggling rural Vicar Rabelais is wanting.  The
poetical numbers of Dean Swift are of a singular and almost inimitable
taste; true humour, whether in prose or verse, seems to be his peculiar
talent; but whoever is desirous of understanding him perfectly must visit
the island in which he was born.

It will be much easier for you to form an idea of Mr. Pope's works.  He
is, in my opinion, the most elegant, the most correct poet; and, at the
same time, the most harmonious (a circumstance which redounds very much
to the honour of this muse) that England ever gave birth to.  He has
mellowed the harsh sounds of the English trumpet to the soft accents of
the flute.  His compositions may be easily translated, because they are
vastly clear and perspicuous; besides, most of his subjects are general,
and relative to all nations.

His "Essay on Criticism" will soon be known in France by the translation
which l'Abbe de Resnel has made of it.

Here is an extract from his poem entitled the "Rape of the Lock," which I
just now translated with the latitude I usually take on these occasions;
for, once again, nothing can be more ridiculous than to translate a poet
literally:--

   "Umbriel, a l'instant, vieil gnome rechigne,
   Va d'une aile pesante et d'un air renfrogne
   Chercher en murmurant la caverne profonde,
   Ou loin des doux raions que repand l'oeil du monde
   La Deesse aux Vapeurs a choisi son sejour,
   Les Tristes Aquilons y sifflent a l'entour,
   Et le souffle mal sain de leur aride haleine
   Y porte aux environs la fievre et la migraine.
   Sur un riche sofa derriere un paravent
   Loin des flambeaux, du bruit, des parleurs et du vent,
   La quinteuse deesse incessamment repose,
   Le coeur gros de chagrin, sans en savoir la cause.
   N'aiant pense jamais, l'esprit toujours trouble,
   L'oeil charge, le teint pale, et l'hypocondre enfle.
   La medisante Envie, est assise aupres d'elle,
   Vieil spectre feminin, decrepite pucelle,
   Avec un air devot dechirant son prochain,
   Et chansonnant les Gens l'Evangile a la main.
   Sur un lit plein de fleurs negligemment panchee
   Une jeune beaute non loin d'elle est couchee,
   C'est l'Affectation qui grassaie en parlant,
   Ecoute sans entendre, et lorgne en regardant.
   Qui rougit sans pudeur, et rit de tout sans joie,
   De cent maux differens pretend qu'elle est la proie;
   Et pleine de sante sous le rouge et le fard,
   Se plaint avec molesse, et se pame avec art."

   "Umbriel, a dusky, melancholy sprite
   As ever sullied the fair face of light,
   Down to the central earth, his proper scene,
   Repairs to search the gloomy cave of Spleen.
   Swift on his sooty pinions flits the gnome,
   And in a vapour reached the dismal dome.
   No cheerful breeze this sullen region knows,
   The dreaded east is all the wind that blows.
   Here, in a grotto, sheltered close from air,
   And screened in shades from day's detested glare,
   She sighs for ever on her pensive bed,
   Pain at her side, and Megrim at her head,
   Two handmaids wait the throne.  Alike in place,
   But differing far in figure and in face,
   Here stood Ill-nature, like an ancient maid,
   Her wrinkled form in black and white arrayed;
   With store of prayers for mornings, nights, and noons,
   Her hand is filled; her bosom with lampoons.
   There Affectation, with a sickly mien,
   Shows in her cheek the roses of eighteen,
   Practised to lisp, and hang the head aside,
   Faints into airs, and languishes with pride;
   On the rich quilt sinks with becoming woe,
   Wrapt in a gown, for sickness and for show."

This extract, in the original (not in the faint translation I have given
you of it), may be compared to the description of _la Molesse_ (softness
or effeminacy), in Boileau's "Lutrin."

Methinks I now have given you specimens enough from the English poets.  I
have made some transient mention of their philosophers, but as for good
historians among them, I don't know of any; and, indeed, a Frenchman was
forced to write their history.  Possibly the English genius, which is
either languid or impetuous, has not yet acquired that unaffected
eloquence, that plain but majestic air which history requires.  Possibly
too, the spirit of party which exhibits objects in a dim and confused
light may have sunk the credit of their historians.  One half of the
nation is always at variance with the other half.  I have met with people
who assured me that the Duke of Marlborough was a coward, and that Mr.
Pope was a fool; just as some Jesuits in France declare Pascal to have
been a man of little or no genius, and some Jansenists affirm Father
Bourdaloue to have been a mere babbler.  The Jacobites consider Mary
Queen of Scots as a pious heroine, but those of an opposite party look
upon her as a prostitute, an adulteress, a murderer.  Thus the English
have memorials of the several reigns, but no such thing as a history.
There is, indeed, now living, one Mr. Gordon (the public are obliged to
him for a translation of Tacitus), who is very capable of writing the
history of his own country, but Rapin de Thoyras got the start of him.  To
conclude, in my opinion the English have not such good historians as the
French have no such thing as a real tragedy, have several delightful
comedies, some wonderful passages in certain of their poems, and boast of
philosophers that are worthy of instructing mankind.  The English have
reaped very great benefit from the writers of our nation, and therefore
we ought (since they have not scrupled to be in our debt) to borrow from
them.  Both the English and we came after the Italians, who have been our
instructors in all the arts, and whom we have surpassed in some.  I
cannot determine which of the three nations ought to be honoured with the
palm; but happy the writer who could display their various merits.



LETTER XXIII.--ON THE REGARD THAT OUGHT TO BE SHOWN TO MEN OF LETTERS


Neither the English nor any other people have foundations established in
favour of the polite arts like those in France.  There are Universities
in most countries, but it is in France only that we meet with so
beneficial an encouragement for astronomy and all parts of the
mathematics, for physic, for researches into antiquity, for painting,
sculpture, and architecture.  Louis XIV. has immortalised his name by
these several foundations, and this immortality did not cost him two
hundred thousand livres a year.

I must confess that one of the things I very much wonder at is, that as
the Parliament of Great Britain have promised a reward of 20,000 pounds
sterling to any person who may discover the longitude, they should never
have once thought to imitate Louis XIV. in his munificence with regard to
the arts and sciences.

Merit, indeed, meets in England with rewards of another kind, which
redound more to the honour of the nation.  The English have so great a
veneration for exalted talents, that a man of merit in their country is
always sure of making his fortune.  Mr. Addison in France would have been
elected a member of one of the academies, and, by the credit of some
women, might have obtained a yearly pension of twelve hundred livres, or
else might have been imprisoned in the Bastile, upon pretence that
certain strokes in his tragedy of _Cato_ had been discovered which
glanced at the porter of some man in power.  Mr. Addison was raised to
the post of Secretary of State in England.  Sir Isaac Newton was made
Master of the Royal Mint.  Mr. Congreve had a considerable employment.
Mr. Prior was Plenipotentiary.  Dr. Swift is Dean of St. Patrick in
Dublin, and is more revered in Ireland than the Primate himself.  The
religion which Mr. Pope professes excludes him, indeed, from preferments
of every kind, but then it did not prevent his gaining two hundred
thousand livres by his excellent translation of Homer.  I myself saw a
long time in France the author of _Rhadamistus_ ready to perish for
hunger.  And the son of one of the greatest men our country ever gave
birth to, and who was beginning to run the noble career which his father
had set him, would have been reduced to the extremes of misery had he not
been patronised by Monsieur Fagon.

But the circumstance which mostly encourages the arts in England is the
great veneration which is paid them.  The picture of the Prime Minister
hangs over the chimney of his own closet, but I have seen that of Mr.
Pope in twenty noblemen's houses.  Sir Isaac Newton was revered in his
lifetime, and had a due respect paid to him after his death; the greatest
men in the nation disputing who should have the honour of holding up his
pall.  Go into Westminster Abbey, and you will find that what raises the
admiration of the spectator is not the mausoleums of the English kings,
but the monuments which the gratitude of the nation has erected to
perpetuate the memory of those illustrious men who contributed to its
glory.  We view their statues in that abbey in the same manner as those
of Sophocles, Plato, and other immortal personages were viewed in Athens;
and I am persuaded that the bare sight of those glorious monuments has
fired more than one breast, and been the occasion of their becoming great
men.

The English have even been reproached with paying too extravagant honours
to mere merit, and censured for interring the celebrated actress Mrs.
Oldfield in Westminster Abbey, with almost the same pomp as Sir Isaac
Newton.  Some pretend that the English had paid her these great funeral
honours, purposely to make us more strongly sensible of the barbarity and
injustice which they object to us, for having buried Mademoiselle Le
Couvreur ignominiously in the fields.

But be assured from me, that the English were prompted by no other
principle in burying Mrs. Oldfield in Westminster Abbey than their good
sense.  They are far from being so ridiculous as to brand with infamy an
art which has immortalised a Euripides and a Sophocles; or to exclude
from the body of their citizens a set of people whose business is to set
off with the utmost grace of speech and action those pieces which the
nation is proud of.

Under the reign of Charles I. and in the beginning of the civil wars
raised by a number of rigid fanatics, who at last were the victims to it;
a great many pieces were published against theatrical and other shows,
which were attacked with the greater virulence because that monarch and
his queen, daughter to Henry I. of France, were passionately fond of
them.

One Mr. Prynne, a man of most furiously scrupulous principles, who would
have thought himself damned had he worn a cassock instead of a short
cloak, and have been glad to see one-half of mankind cut the other to
pieces for the glory of God, and the _Propaganda Fide_; took it into his
head to write a most wretched satire against some pretty good comedies,
which were exhibited very innocently every night before their majesties.
He quoted the authority of the Rabbis, and some passages from St.
Bonaventure, to prove that the OEdipus of Sophocles was the work of the
evil spirit; that Terence was excommunicated _ipso facto_; and added,
that doubtless Brutus, who was a very severe Jansenist, assassinated
Julius Caesar for no other reason but because he, who was Pontifex
Maximus, presumed to write a tragedy the subject of which was OEdipus.
Lastly, he declared that all who frequented the theatre were
excommunicated, as they thereby renounced their baptism.  This was
casting the highest insult on the king and all the royal family; and as
the English loved their prince at that time, they could not bear to hear
a writer talk of excommunicating him, though they themselves afterwards
cut his head off.  Prynne was summoned to appear before the Star Chamber;
his wonderful book, from which Father Le Brun stole his, was sentenced to
be burnt by the common hangman, and himself to lose his ears.  His trial
is now extant.

The Italians are far from attempting to cast a blemish on the opera, or
to excommunicate Signor Senesino or Signora Cuzzoni.  With regard to
myself, I could presume to wish that the magistrates would suppress I
know not what contemptible pieces written against the stage.  For when
the English and Italians hear that we brand with the greatest mark of
infamy an art in which we excel; that we excommunicate persons who
receive salaries from the king; that we condemn as impious a spectacle
exhibited in convents and monasteries; that we dishonour sports in which
Louis XIV. and Louis XV., performed as actors; that we give the title of
the devil's works to pieces which are received by magistrates of the most
severe character, and represented before a virtuous queen; when, I say,
foreigners are told of this insolent conduct, this contempt for the royal
authority, and this Gothic rusticity which some presume to call Christian
severity, what an idea must they entertain of our nation?  And how will
it be possible for them to conceive, either that our laws give a sanction
to an art which is declared infamous, or that some persons dare to stamp
with infamy an art which receives a sanction from the laws, is rewarded
by kings, cultivated and encouraged by the greatest men, and admired by
whole nations?  And that Father Le Brun's impertinent libel against the
stage is seen in a bookseller's shop, standing the very next to the
immortal labours of Racine, of Corneille, of Moliere, &c.



LETTER XXIV.--ON THE ROYAL SOCIETY AND OTHER ACADEMIES


The English had an Academy of Sciences many years before us, but then it
is not under such prudent regulations as ours, the only reason of which
very possibly is, because it was founded before the Academy of Paris; for
had it been founded after, it would very probably have adopted some of
the sage laws of the former and improved upon others.

Two things, and those the most essential to man, are wanting in the Royal
Society of London, I mean rewards and laws.  A seat in the Academy at
Paris is a small but secure fortune to a geometrician or a chemist; but
this is so far from being the case at London, that the several members of
the Royal Society are at a continual, though indeed small expense.  Any
man in England who declares himself a lover of the mathematics and
natural philosophy, and expresses an inclination to be a member of the
Royal Society, is immediately elected into it.  But in France it is not
enough that a man who aspires to the honour of being a member of the
Academy, and of receiving the royal stipend, has a love for the sciences;
he must at the same time be deeply skilled in them; and is obliged to
dispute the seat with competitors who are so much the more formidable as
they are fired by a principle of glory, by interest, by the difficulty
itself; and by that inflexibility of mind which is generally found in
those who devote themselves to that pertinacious study, the mathematics.

The Academy of Sciences is prudently confined to the study of Nature,
and, indeed, this is a field spacious enough for fifty or threescore
persons to range in.  That of London mixes indiscriminately literature
with physics; but methinks the founding an academy merely for the polite
arts is more judicious, as it prevents confusion, and the joining, in
some measure, of heterogeneals, such as a dissertation on the
head-dresses of the Roman ladies with a hundred or more new curves.

As there is very little order and regularity in the Royal Society, and
not the least encouragement; and that the Academy of Paris is on a quite
different foot, it is no wonder that our transactions are drawn up in a
more just and beautiful manner than those of the English.  Soldiers who
are under a regular discipline, and besides well paid, must necessarily
at last perform more glorious achievements than others who are mere
volunteers.  It must indeed be confessed that the Royal Society boast
their Newton, but then he did not owe his knowledge and discoveries to
that body; so far from it, that the latter were intelligible to very few
of his fellow members.  A genius like that of Sir Isaac belonged to all
the academies in the world, because all had a thousand things to learn of
him.

The celebrated Dean Swift formed a design, in the latter end of the late
Queen's reign, to found an academy for the English tongue upon the model
of that of the French.  This project was promoted by the late Earl of
Oxford, Lord High Treasurer, and much more by the Lord Bolingbroke,
Secretary of State, who had the happy talent of speaking without
premeditation in the Parliament House with as much purity as Dean Swift
wrote in his closet, and who would have been the ornament and protector
of that academy.  Those only would have been chosen members of it whose
works will last as long as the English tongue, such as Dean Swift, Mr.
Prior, whom we saw here invested with a public character, and whose fame
in England is equal to that of La Fontaine in France; Mr. Pope, the
English Boileau, Mr. Congreve, who may be called their Moliere, and
several other eminent persons whose names I have forgot; all these would
have raised the glory of that body to a great height even in its infancy.
But Queen Anne being snatched suddenly from the world, the Whigs were
resolved to ruin the protectors of the intended academy, a circumstance
that was of the most fatal consequence to polite literature.  The members
of this academy would have had a very great advantage over those who
first formed that of the French, for Swift, Prior, Congreve, Dryden,
Pope, Addison, &c. had fixed the English tongue by their writings;
whereas Chapelain, Colletet, Cassaigne, Faret, Perrin, Cotin, our first
academicians, were a disgrace to their country; and so much ridicule is
now attached to their very names, that if an author of some genius in
this age had the misfortune to be called Chapelain or Cotin, he would be
under a necessity of changing his name.

One circumstance, to which the English Academy should especially have
attended, is to have prescribed to themselves occupations of a quite
different kind from those with which our academicians amuse themselves.  A
wit of this country asked me for the memoirs of the French Academy.  I
answered, they have no memoirs, but have printed threescore or fourscore
volumes in quarto of compliments.  The gentleman perused one or two of
them, but without being able to understand the style in which they were
written, though he understood all our good authors perfectly.  "All,"
says he, "I see in these elegant discourses is, that the member elect
having assured the audience that his predecessor was a great man, that
Cardinal Richelieu was a very great man, that the Chancellor Seguier was
a pretty great man, that Louis XIV. was a more than great man, the
director answers in the very same strain, and adds, that the member elect
may also be a sort of great man, and that himself, in quality of
director, must also have some share in this greatness."

The cause why all these academical discourses have unhappily done so
little honour to this body is evident enough.  _Vitium est temporis
potius quam hominis_ (the fault is owing to the age rather than to
particular persons).  It grew up insensibly into a custom for every
academician to repeat these elogiums at his reception; it was laid down
as a kind of law that the public should be indulged from time to time the
sullen satisfaction of yawning over these productions.  If the reason
should afterwards be sought, why the greatest geniuses who have been
incorporated into that body have sometimes made the worst speeches, I
answer, that it is wholly owing to a strong propension, the gentlemen in
question had to shine, and to display a thread-bare, worn-out subject in
a new and uncommon light.  The necessity of saying something, the
perplexity of having nothing to say, and a desire of being witty, are
three circumstances which alone are capable of making even the greatest
writer ridiculous.  These gentlemen, not being able to strike out any new
thoughts, hunted after a new play of words, and delivered themselves
without thinking at all: in like manner as people who should seem to chew
with great eagerness, and make as though they were eating, at the same
time that they were just starved.

It is a law in the French Academy, to publish all those discourses by
which only they are known, but they should rather make a law never to
print any of them.

But the Academy of the _Belles Lettres_ have a more prudent and more
useful object, which is, to present the public with a collection of
transactions that abound with curious researches and critiques.  These
transactions are already esteemed by foreigners; and it were only to be
wished that some subjects in them had been more thoroughly examined, and
that others had not been treated at all.  As, for instance, we should
have been very well satisfied, had they omitted I know not what
dissertation on the prerogative of the right hand over the left; and some
others, which, though not published under so ridiculous a title, are yet
written on subjects that are almost as frivolous and silly.

The Academy of Sciences, in such of their researches as are of a more
difficult kind and a more sensible use, embrace the knowledge of nature
and the improvements of the arts.  We may presume that such profound,
such uninterrupted pursuits as these, such exact calculations, such
refined discoveries, such extensive and exalted views, will, at last,
produce something that may prove of advantage to the universe.  Hitherto,
as we have observed together, the most useful discoveries have been made
in the most barbarous times.  One would conclude that the business of the
most enlightened ages and the most learned bodies, is, to argue and
debate on things which were invented by ignorant people.  We know exactly
the angle which the sail of a ship is to make with the keel in order to
its sailing better; and yet Columbus discovered America without having
the least idea of the property of this angle: however, I am far from
inferring from hence that we are to confine ourselves merely to a blind
practice, but happy it were, would naturalists and geometricians unite,
as much as possible, the practice with the theory.

Strange, but so it is, that those things which reflect the greatest
honour on the human mind are frequently of the least benefit to it!  A
man who understands the four fundamental rules of arithmetic, aided by a
little good sense, shall amass prodigious wealth in trade, shall become a
Sir Peter Delme, a Sir Richard Hopkins, a Sir Gilbert Heathcote, whilst a
poor algebraist spends his whole life in searching for astonishing
properties and relations in numbers, which at the same time are of no
manner of use, and will not acquaint him with the nature of exchanges.
This is very nearly the case with most of the arts: there is a certain
point beyond which all researches serve to no other purpose than merely
to delight an inquisitive mind.  Those ingenious and useless truths may
be compared to stars which, by being placed at too great a distance,
cannot afford us the least light.

With regard to the French Academy, how great a service would they do to
literature, to the language, and the nation, if, instead of publishing a
set of compliments annually, they would give us new editions of the
valuable works written in the age of Louis XIV., purged from the several
errors of diction which are crept into them.  There are many of these
errors in Corneille and Moliere, but those in La Fontaine are very
numerous.  Such as could not be corrected might at least be pointed out.
By this means, as all the Europeans read those works, they would teach
them our language in its utmost purity--which, by that means, would be
fixed to a lasting standard; and valuable French books being then printed
at the King's expense, would prove one of the most glorious monuments the
nation could boast.  I have been told that Boileau formerly made this
proposal, and that it has since been revived by a gentleman eminent for
his genius, his fine sense, and just taste for criticism; but this
thought has met with the fate of many other useful projects, of being
applauded and neglected.





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to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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