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قراءة كتاب The Works of Samuel Johnson, Volume 06 Reviews, Political Tracts, and Lives of Eminent Persons

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‏اللغة: English
The Works of Samuel Johnson, Volume 06
Reviews, Political Tracts, and Lives of Eminent Persons

The Works of Samuel Johnson, Volume 06 Reviews, Political Tracts, and Lives of Eminent Persons

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 4

himself the idol of the nation, which he betrayed and sold. William the third was, for his insolence and brutality, hated by that people, which he protected and enriched:—had the best part of these two characters been united in one prince, the house of Bourbon had fallen before him.

It is not without pain, that the reader observes a shade encroaching upon the light with which the memory of queen Mary has been hitherto invested—the popular, the beneficent, the pious, the celestial queen Mary, from whose presence none ever withdrew without an addition to his happiness. What can be charged upon this delight of human kind? Nothing less than that she wanted bowels, and was insolent with her power; that she was resentful, and pertinacious in her resentment; that she descended to mean acts of revenge, when heavier vengeance was not in her power; that she was desirous of controlling where she had no authority, and backward to forgive, even when she had no real injury to complain of.

This is a character so different from all those that have been, hitherto, given of this celebrated princess, that the reader stands in suspense, till he considers the inconsistencies in human conduct, remembers that no virtue is without its weakness, and considers that queen Mary's character has, hitherto, had this great advantage, that it has only been compared with those of kings.

The greatest number of the letters inserted in this account, were written by queen Anne, of which it may be truly observed, that they will be equally useful for the, confutation of those who have exalted or depressed her character. They are written with great purity and correctness, without any forced expressions, affected phrases, or unnatural sentiments; and show uncommon clearness of understanding, tenderness of affection, and rectitude of intention; but discover, at the same time, a temper timorous, anxious, and impatient of misfortune; a tendency to burst into complaints, helpless dependance on the affection of others, and a weak desire of moving compassion. There is, indeed, nothing insolent or overbearing; but then there is nothing great, or firm, or regal; nothing that enforces obedience and respect, or which does not rather invite opposition and petulance. She seems born for friendship, not for government; and to be unable to regulate the conduct of others, otherwise than by her own example.

That this character is just, appears from the occurrences in her reign, in which the nation was governed, for many years, by a party whose principles she detested, but whose influence she knew not how to obviate, and to whose schemes she was subservient against her inclination.

The charge of tyrannising over her, which was made, by turns, against each party, proves that, in the opinion of both, she was easily to be governed; and though it may be supposed, that the letters here published were selected with some regard to respect and ceremony, it appears, plainly enough, from them, that she was what she has been represented, little more than the slave of the Marlborough family.

The inferiour characters, as they are of less importance, are less accurately delineated; the picture of Harley is, at least, partially drawn: all the deformities are heightened, and the beauties, for beauties of mind he certainly had, are entirely omitted.







The first effect, which this book has upon the reader, is that of disgusting him with the author's vanity. He endeavours to persuade the world, that here are some new treasures of literature spread before his eyes; that something is discovered, which, to this happy day, had been concealed in darkness; that, by his diligence, time has been robbed of some valuable monument which he was on the point of devouring; and that names and facts, doomed to oblivion, are now restored to fame.

How must the unlearned reader be surprised, when he shall be told that Mr. Blackwell has neither digged in the ruins of any demolished city, nor found out the way to the library of Fez; nor had a single book in his hands, that has not been in the possession of every man that was inclined to read it, for years and ages; and that his book relates to a people, who, above all others, have furnished employment to the studious, and amusements to the idle; who have scarcely left behind them a coin or a stone, which has not been examined and explained a thousand times; and whose dress, and food, and household stuff, it has been the pride of learning to understand.

A man need not fear to incur the imputation of vicious diffidence or affected humility, who should have forborne to promise many novelties, when he perceived such multitudes of writers possessed of the same materials, and intent upon the same purpose. Mr. Blackwell knows well the opinion of Horace, concerning those that open their undertakings with magnificent promises; and he knows, likewise, the dictates of common sense and common honesty, names of greater authority than that of Horace, who direct, that no man should promise what he cannot perform.

I do not mean to declare, that this volume has nothing new, or that the labours of those who have gone before our author, have made his performance an useless addition to the burden of literature. New works may be constructed with old materials; the disposition of the parts may show contrivance; the ornaments interspersed may discover elegance.

It is not always without good effect, that men, of proper qualifications, write, in succession, on the same subject, even when the latter add nothing to the information given by the former; for the same ideas may be delivered more intelligibly or more delightfully by one than by another, or with attractions that may lure minds of a different form. No writer pleases all, and every writer may please some.

But, after all, to inherit is not to acquire; to decorate is not to make; and the man, who had nothing to do but to read the ancient authors, who mention the Roman affairs, and reduce them to common places, ought not to boast himself as a great benefactor to the studious world.

After a preface of boast, and a letter of flattery, in which he seems to imitate the address of Horace, in his "vile potabis modicis Sabinum"—he opens his book with telling us, that the "Roman republic, after the horrible proscription, was no more at bleeding Rome. The regal power of her consuls, the authority of her senate, and the majesty of her people, were now trampled under foot; these [for those] divine laws and hallowed customs, that had been the essence of her constitution—were set at nought, and her best friends were lying exposed in their blood."

These were surely very dismal times to those who suffered; but I know not, why any one but a schoolboy, in his declamation, should whine over the commonwealth of Rome, which grew great only by the misery of the rest of mankind. The Romans, like others, as soon as they grew rich, grew corrupt, and, in their corruption, sold the lives and freedoms of themselves, and of one another.

"About this time, Brutus had his patience put to the highest trial: he had been married to Clodia; but whether the family did not please him, or whether he was dissatisfied with the lady's behaviour during his absence, he soon entertained thoughts of a separation. This raised a good deal of talk, and the women of the Clodian family inveighed bitterly against Brutus—but he married Portia, who was worthy of such a father as M. Cato, and such a husband as M. Brutus. She had a soul capable of an exalted passion, and found a proper object to raise and give it a sanction;