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to another ;" so, generally speaking, one author is a mole to another author. It is impossible for them to discover beauties in one another's works; they have eyes only for spots and blemishes: they can indeed see the light, as it is said of the animals which are their namesakes, but the idea of it is painful to them; they immediately shut their eyes upon it, and withdraw themselves into a wilful obscurity.
Aristotle tells as that the world is a copy or transcript of those ideas which are in the inind of the first Being; and that those ideas, which are in the mind of man, are a transcript of the world: to this we may add, that words are the transcript of those ideas which are in the mind of man, and that writing or printing are the transcript of words.
As the Supreme Being has expressed, and as it were printed, his idea in the creation, men express their ideas in books, which by this great invention of these latter ages may last as long as the sun and moon, and perish only in the general wreck of nature. Thus Cowley in his Poem on the Resurrection, mentioning the destruction of the universe, has those admirable lines.
“ Now all the wide extended sky,
There is no other method of fixing those thoughts which arise and disappear in the mind of man, and transmitting them to the last periods of time; no other method of giving a permanency to our ideas, and preserving the knowledge of any particular person, when his body is inixed with the common mass of matter, and bis soul retired into the world of spirits. Books are the legacies that a great genius leaves to mankind, which are delivered down from generation to generation, as presents to the posterity of those who are yet nnborn.
All other arts of perpetuating our ideas continue but a short time: statues can last but a few thousands of years, edifices fewer, and colours still fewer than edifces. Michael Angelo, Fontana, and Raphael, will hereafter be what Phidias, Vitruvius, and Apelles are at present; the names of great statuaries, architects, and painters, whose works are lost. The several arts are expressed in mouldering materials: nature sinks under them, and is not able to support the ideas which are impressed upon it.
The circumstance which gives authors an advantage above all these great masters is this, that they can multiply their originals; or rather can make copies of their works, to wbat number they please, which shall be as valuable as the originals themselves. This gives a great author something like a prospect of eternity, bat at the same time deprives him of those other ad. vantages wbich artists meet with. The artist finds greater returns in profit, as the author in fame. What au inestimable price would a Virgil or a Homer, a Cicero or an Aristotle bear, were their works like a statue, a building, or a picture, or to be confined only in one place, and made the property of a single person?
If writings are thus durable, and may pass from age to age throughout the whole conrse of time, how care. ful should an author be of committing any thing to print that may corrupt posterity, and poison the minds of men with vice and error?* Writers of great talents, who employ their parts in propagating immorality, and seasoning vicious sentiments with wit and humour, are to be looked upon as the pests of society, and the enemies of mankind: they leave books behind them,
* That the Spectator has faithfully adhered to the advice he gives to writers; and that he has published no essays but those which refine the taste, ridiculize folly, make vice blush, and purify piety, any reader will be ready to acknowledge, after the perusal of the following selection.
as it is said of those who die in distempers which breed an ill-will towards their own species, to scatter infection and destroy their posterity. They act the counterparts of a Confucius or a Socrates; and seem , to have been sent into the world to deprave human nature, and sink it into the condition of brutality.
I have seen some Roman Catholic authors, who tell us that vicious writers continue in purgatory so long as the influence of their writings continues upon pos. terity : for purgatory, say they, is nothing else but a cleansing us of our sins, which cannot be said to be done away, so long as they continue to operate and corrupt mankind. The vicious author, say they, sins after death, and so long as he continues to sin, so long must be expect to be punished. Though the Roman Catholic notion of purgatory be indeed very ridiculons, one cannot but think that if the soul after death has any knowledge of what passes in this world, that of an immoral writer wonld receive much more regret from the sense of corrupting, than satisfaction from the thought of pleasing his surviving admirers.
To take off from the severity of this speculation, I shall conclude this paper with a story of av atheistical author, who at a time when he lay dangerously sick, and had desired the assistance of a neighbouring curate, confessed to him with great contrition, that nothing sat more heavy at his heart than the sense of bis having seduced the age by his writings, and that their evil influence was likely to continue even after his death. The curatę upon further examination, finding the penitent in the ntmost agonies of despair, and be. ing himself a miu of learning, told him, that he hoped his case was not so desperate as he apprehended, since he found that he was so very sensible of his fault, and 80 sincerely repented of it. The penitent still urged the evil tendency of his book to subvert all religion, and the little ground of hope there could be for one whose writings would continne to do mischief when his body was laid in ashes. The curate, finding no
other way to comfort him, told him, that he did well in being afflicted for the evil design with which he published bis book; but that he ought to be very thankful that there was no danger of its doing any hurt : that his cause was so very bad, and his arguments so weak, that he did not apprehend any ill effects of it: in short, that he might rest satisfied his book could do no more mischief after his death, than it had done whilst he was living. To which he added, for his further satisfaction, that he did not believe any besides bis particular friends and acquaintance had ever been at the pains of reading it, or that any body after his death would ever inquire after it. The dying man had still so much the frailty of an author in bim, as to be cut to the heart with these consolations; and without answering the good man, asked his friends about him, with a peevishness that is natural to a sick person, where they had picked up such a blockhead: And whether they thought him a proper person to attend one in his condition. The curate finding that the author did not expect to be dealt with as a real and sincere penitent, but as a penitent of importance, after a short admonition withdrew; not questioning but he should be again sent for if the sickness grew desperate. The author bowever recovered, and has since written two or three other tracts with the same spirit, and, very luckily for his poor soul, with the same success.
A HUNTING PARTY.
Vocat ingenti clamore Citharon, Taygetique canes
VIRG. Georg. iii. 43. “ The echoing hills and chiding hounds invite.” THOSE who have searched into human nature, ob
serve that nothing so much shows the nobleness of the soul, as that its felicity consists in action. Every man has such an active principle in him, that he will find out something to employ himself apon, in whatever place or state of life he is posted. I have heard of a gentleman who was under close confineident in the Bastile seven years; during which time he amused himself in scattering a few small pins about his chamber, gathering them up again, and placing them in different figures on the arm of a great chair. He often told his friends afterwards, that unless he had found out this piece of exercise, be verily believed he should have lost his senses.
Sir Roger, with whose character I hope my readers are at present pretty well acquainted, has in his youth gone through the whole course of those rural diversions which the country abounds in; and which seem to be extremely well suited to that laborious industry a man may observe here in a far greater degree than in towns and cities. He has in his youthful days taken forty coveys of partridges in a season; and tired many a salmon with a line consisting but of a single hair. The constant thanks and good wishes of the neigbbourhood always attended him, on account of his remarkable enmity towards foxes; having destroyed more of those vermin in one year, than it was thought the whole county could have produced. Ineed the Knight does not scruple to own among his most intimate friends, that in order to establish his reputation this way, be has secretly sent for great numbers of them out of