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as the way of children, who eat their cake, and afterwards cry for it. When men begin to deliberate about dishonesty, and, finding it go less against their stomach, ask slily, "Why they should stick at a good piece of knavery for a good sum ?' they should be told, as children, that they can't eat their cake and have it.
“ When men, indeed, are become accomplish'd knaves, they are past crying for their cake. They know themselves, and are known by mankind. 'Tis not these who are so much envied or admired. The moderate kind are the more taking with us. Yet had we sense, we should consider 'tis in reality the thorow profligate knave, the very compléat unnatural villain alone, who can any way bid for happiness with the honest man. True interest is wholly on one side, or the other. All between is inconsistency, irresolution, remorse, vexation, and an ague-fit: from hot to cold; from one passion to another quite contrary; a perpetual discord of life; and an alternate disquiet and self-dislike.
“ The truth is; as notions stand now in the world, with respect to morals, honesty is like to gain little by philosophy, or deep speculations of any kind. In the main, 'tis best to stick to common sense, and go no further. Men’s first thoughts, in this matter, are generally better than their second: their natural notions better than those refin’d by study, or consultation with casuists. According to common speech, as well as common sense, honesty is the best policy : but according to refin’d sense, the only well-advis'd persons, as to this world, are errant knaves; and they alone are thought to serve themselves, who serve their passions, and indulge their loosest appetites and desires.--Such, it seems, are the wise, and such the wisdom of this world * !”
After this unfortunate attempt, let us hasten to produce a specimen of that style, in which our author was undoubtedly pre-eminent. In the passage I have now to quote, it is not, perhaps, easy to ascertain whether brilliancy of language or sublimity of imagination be most apparent.
« Behold! thro’ a vast tract of sky before us, the mighty Atlas rears his lofty head, cover'd with snow, above the clouds. Beneath the mountain's foot, the rocky country rises into hills, a proper basis of the ponderous mass above : where huge embody'd rocks lie pil'd on one another, and seem to prop the high arch of heaven. See ! with what trembling steps poor mankind tread the narrow brink of the deep precipices! From whence with giddy horror they look down, mis
* An Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour, Part iv. Sect. 1.
trusting even the ground which bears 'em ; whilst they hear the hollow sound of torrents underneath, and see the ruin of the impending rock; with falling trees which hang with their roots upward, and seem to draw more ruin after 'em. Here thoughtless men, seized with the newness of such objects, become thoughtful, and willingly contemplate the incessant changes of this earth's surface. They see, as in one instant, the revolutions of past ages, the fleeting forms of things, and the decay even of this our globe; whose youth and first formation they consider, whilst the apparent spoil and irreparable breaches of the wasted mountain shew them the world itself only, as a noble ruin, and make them think of its approaching period.—But here mid-way the mountain, a spacious border of thick wood harhours our weary'd travellers : who now are come among the evergreen and lofty pines, the firs, and noble cedars, whose towring heads seem endless in the sky; the rest of trees appearing only as shrubs beside them. And here a different horror seizes our shelter'd travellers, when they see the day diminished by the deep shades of the vast wood; which closing thick above, spreads darkness and eternal night below. The faint and gloomy light looks horrid as the shade itself; and the profound stillness of these places imposes silence upon men, struck with the hoarse echoings of every sound within the spacious caverns of the wood. Here space astonishes. Silence itself seems pregnant; whilst an unknown force works on the mind, and dubious objects move the wakeful sense. Mysterious voices are either heard or fancy'd: and various forms of Deity seem to present themselves, and appear more manifest in these sacred silvan scenes ; such as of old gave rise to temples, and favour'd the religion of the antient world *.”
We may consider the style of Addison as forming a medium between the dry and unornamented language of Swift, and the pompous and elaborated diction of Shaftesbury.
Addison had early imbibed an elegant and correct taste for prose composition; his travels, and especially their dedication, are strong proofs of his proficiency. In the latter, the highlyfinished compliment to Lord Somers is expressed with equal grace and perspicuity.
“I had,” he remarks, “a very early ambition to recommend myself to your lordship’s patronage; which yet increased in me as I travelled through the countries of which I here give your lordship some account: whatever great impres
* The Moralists, Part iii. p. 252, 253, 12mo edition of 1749, vol, ii.
sions an Englishman must have of your lordship, they who have been conversant abroad, will find them still improved. It cannot but be obvious to them, that though they see your lordship’s admirers every where, they meet with very few of your well-wishers at Paris or at Rome. And I could not but observe, when I passed through most of the protestant governments in Europe, that their hopes or fears for the common cause rose or fell with your lordship’s interest and authority in England.”
To the various and important advantages derived from a critical knowledge of the ancient classics, he added an equal intimacy with the best prose authors in his native language; and as far as internal evidence can conduct us, it would appear that Cowley, Tillotson, and Temple, were his favourite writers. At least it may with truth be said, that he unites in a very striking degree the sweetness of the first, the simplicity and purity of the second, and the naïveté and vivacity of the third. With these engaging features, he has contrived to combine such a portion of exquisite grace and unaffected elegance as, notwithstanding the greater accuracy with which the language is now written, still renders his style the admiration and delight of every judicious cultivator of English philology.