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public loans, into a nation of annuitants, they all rush to the capital whence their incomes arise, which, by its present injurious plan of extension, promises to become the universal mart of vicious profusion.
Bribed by their miserable wealth to an apostacy from all intellectual interests, the inhabitants of this country turn all their eyes to the National Bank, as the great centre of their hopes and fears; a pedlar principle of profit and loss has absorbed all greater cares, and dignity is departed from the public mind. The state of science and letters is as low as might be expected from the circumstances of the nation. Though the number of writers may not be decreased, yet the contributors to the genuine stock of literature are easily counted. A prurience towards authorship produces some literary volunteers among the rich, who find it cheaper to purchase flattery than to patronise wit. What province of genius or letters maintains any longer a struggle with this declining destiny? Oratory, which, until the dimensions of the human capacity shrinks, will always mount towards its perfection in times of political fermentation, still remains to console the friends of genius, if consolation can arise from the successes of an art that is cherished by public calamities. Posterity will see whether the present æra of astonishing events is able to revive among them the sober spirit of history, gravely and impartially to record these violent transactions, to extricate them from the perplexity in which they are involved, and give life to those embryon lessons of wisdom with which they are impregnated.
At present the solidity of history is crumbled into anecdotes; and its ill-digested compilations no longer promote the study of man, or hold up to nations the mirror of their own imperfections. Poetry is banished from our island, as effectually as if Plate had moulded its institutions : but if a Plato had done it, he might have given us a little good philosophy in its place. It is strange that such an æra as this has not bred a single satirist of ability. There is, surely, enough in our political fantasies and literary absurdities to employ this salutary talent, if there was any genius to be provoked.
This inquiry would lead me, if I were to follow it further, into a wearisome extent of investigation; and my excuse for
pursuing it thus far, must be the extreme importance of the subject, the provocation of existing circumstances, and the difficulty of disengaging the thoughts from a subject which includes such a variety of facts and inferences reciprocally illustrative and corroborative of each other. I was led moreover into the consideration, by the desire of accounting for the infrequency of papers, in the LOOKER-ON, upon the subjects of literature and the arts; topics which have principally exercised the pens of his predecessors. I shall conclude with making over to the reader what has been committed to me, in trust for him, by Mr. SIMON OLIVE-BRANCH. They are, in great part, the collected sentiments of a race of virtuous and sober-minded men, whose philosophy it has been to keep clear of all sects of opinionists; whose ethics have been honesty and simplicity of dealing; and whose politics have been compounded of sincere patriotism and the love of their kind,
N° 1. SATURDAY, MARCH 10, 1792.
Spargens rore levi et ramo felicis Olivp.
I AM an old man, whose best years have been employed less in the service than the survey of my fellow-creatures. It has been with me as it fares with most of us; the season of action was spent in speculation, and in husbanding up wise resolutions to be executed by and by. This by-and-by is a sort of phantom which seduces us on till we drop into old
the first ser attack of the gout, it vanishes for ever, and carries along with it all our gay projects and cherishing hopes. Thus a youth of expectation is sure to prepare an old-age of regret; especially if, under favour of these holiday resolutions and speculative atonements, we think we may fairly contract a few debts to virtue, and intrench a little upon our fyture stock by the rule of anticipation. As I never went upon this calculation myself, and was culpable for the most part only on the side of omission, I have committed very little depredation on the health of my body or the integrity of my intellect; and though advancing towards my grand climacteric, have still a competency of vigour about me, and am in a better condition than most of my age, to fetch up the arrears of my youth.
These considerations tempt me to my present undertaking, as the gravest use I can make of this twilight that remains to me; and as it is the most salutary kind of atonement for evil, to render it productive of good, I consider myself as going the directest way to work, in thus turning the indolent contemplations of my younger years to the account of virtue and morality. The same assurance and consolation, which, as Cicero tells us, encouraged the old husband man to plant his oak while he was drooping himself, animates me also in the culture of my little plantation, and gives me warmth and alacrity in my grey years. I thought it proper in the first place to announce my age to my readers, that they might lay their account to find some old-fashioned opinions and remarks in the course of my work, and to bespeak some excuse for those freedoms which I may allow myself with the fair-sex in particular. Not that I look upon
them to stand most in need of my corrections, but because I consider them as maintaining a very great influence over our sex in general, and as the authors in some measure of the excellencies and depravities of our social conduct. If I can bargain for a little more liberty on that account, I will promise always to promote their interests and empire, and to follow the example of Socrates, who was ever their firm friend, and who once delivered a discourse at the feast of Xenophon, which sent home both bachelors and married men, some to provide themselves with wives, and others to cultivate the possession of those they already enjoyed. As I have no aches or pains about me but such as arise from sympathy with the sufferings of others, my readers will find in general that I have some good-humour in my old blood, and that cast of good-humour which flows from inward complacency of mind, and not the heyday of animal spirits and constitutional ardour.
The present age, methinks, affords some proofs that the World is growing old as well as myself: and this crisis seems clearly to be announced by many characteristic infirmities. I do not pretend to discern any material change of physiognomy: she wears the, same freshness and floridity in her looks; and though her habit has always been somewhat dropsical and gouty, her constant motion seems to have maintained her in tolerable health. Her passion for finery, too, is as great as ever; she is still as gay as before in her green and azure, and the rose and the lily still bloom in her countenance; nor is it suspected that her long journeys are performed with less ease and dispatch than in her earlier years. Her symptoms of decay are of a moral, and not a physical nature. I think I have observed, that she grows every day more prone to talk, and less patient to hear : go where you will, it is a noisy World, always holding forth, always haranguing; nothing but long speeches, from the gallows to the conventicle. She is always pointing her proof, or proving her point, and using her best endeavours to reduce the price of eloquence by an economy of thought. I consider indeed the debatingclubs as a fortunate kind of drain to this superabundance of loquacity, where much of its impertinence does periodically expend itself. The reading-clubs also, where the World goes entirely to talk, very