« PreviousContinue »
profound fyftems in the tumultuous court of PHILIP, or were the fublime theories of his master conceived among the noisy feasts of the tyrant DIONYSIUS? No. The celebrated groves of THE ACADEMY, and the fhades of ATARNYA, bear witnefs of the important advantages which, in the opinion both of PLATO and ARISTOTLE, learning may derive from a rational retirement.* These
* PLATO, the illuftrious philofopher of antiquity, was by descent an Athenian, though the place of his birth was the island of Egina. The time of his birth is commonly placed in the beginning of the 88th olympiad, or about 430 years before the Chriftian æra. He gave early indication of an extenfive and original genius. He applied with great diligence to the study of the arts of painting and poetry, and made fuch proficiency in the latter as to produce an epic poem, which, upon comparing it with the poem of Homer, he committed to the flames. At the age of twenty he compofed a dramatic piece; but, after he had given it to the performers, happening to attend upon a difcourfe of SOCRATES, he was fo captivated by his eloquence, that he reclaimed his tragedy without fuffering it to be acted, renounced the muses, burnt all his poems, and applied himself wholly to the ftudy of wisdom. After fome time he fettled in Athens, and executed the defign which he had long had in contemplation, of forming a new school for the instruction of youth in the principles of philofophy. The place which he made choice of for this purpose was a public grove, called THE ACADEMY, from HECADEMUS, who left it to the citizens for the purpose of gymnastic exercises. Adorned with ftatues, temples, and fepulchres, planted with lofty plane trees, and interfected by a gentle ftream, it afforded a delightful retreat for philofophy and the mufes. This fchool foon became famous, and its mafter
These great men, like all others who preceded or have followed them, found in the ease and quietude of retirement the best means of forming their minds and extending their discoveries. The celebrated LEIBNITZ, to whom the world is H 2 deeply
was ranked among the most eminent philofophers. But greatness was never yet exempted from envy. The distinguished reputation of PLATO brought upon him the hatred of his former companions in the school of SOCRATES, and they loaded him with detrac tion and obloquy. DIOGENES, the Cynic, was vastly offended at the politeness and fine taste of PLATO, and used to catch at all opportunities of fnarling at him. He dined one day at his table with other company, and trampling upon the tapestry with his dirty feet, uttered this brutish farcasm: "I trample upon the pride of PLATO." To which PLATO wifely reparteed, "With greater pride." The fame of PLATO drew disciples to him from all parts, and among the reft the great ARISTOTLE. He died in the 81ft year of his age: but his disciple, who was born at Stagyra, a small city in MACEDON, in the 99th olympiad, about 384 years before the birth of Chrift, preferved the memory, and propagated the principles, of his illustrious master. The last fourteen years of his life he spent moftly at ATHENS, furrounded with every affiftance which men and books could afford him for profecuting his philofophical enquiries. PHILIP confided the education of his fon ALEXANDER the Great to his care. "I thank my gods," faid the king, in his introductory letter," not fo much for having given me a fon, as for their having given him to me during the life of ARISTOTLE;. and I have no doubt but that you will make him worthy of me and of his country." He died, at the age of fixty-three, far from his country and his friends. RAPIN has compared the talents and characters of these two extraordinary men with great fpirit and ability.
deeply indebted, paffed a great part of every year at an humble, quiet, retired, and beautiful villa which he poffeffed in the vicinity of HANOVER.
To this catalogue of caufes conducing to a love of Solitude, or hatred of Society, we may add RELIGION and FANATICISM. The benign genius of Religion leads the mind to a love of retirement from motives the highest, the most noble, and most really interesting that can poffibly be conceived, and produces the most perfect state of human happiness, by inftilling into the heart the most virtuous propenfities, and inspiring the mind with its fineft energies: but Fanaticism muft ever be unhappy; for it proceeds from a fubverfion of nature itself, is formed on a perverfion of reason, and a violation of truth; the vice of low and little understandings, is produced by an ignorance of human nature, a misapprehension of the Deity, and cannot be practifed without a renunciation of real virtue. The paffion for retirement which a fenfe of RELIGION enforces, rises in proportion as the heart is pure and the mind correct; but the difpofition to Solitude which FANATICISM creates, arifes from a wild, enthufiaftic notion of inspiration, and increases in proportion as the heart is corrupt, and the mind deranged. RELIGION is the offspring of Truth and Love, and the parent of Benevolence,
Benevolence, Hope and Joy: but the monster FANATICISM is the child of Difcontent, and her followers are Fear and Sorrow. Religion is not confined to cells and closets, nor restrained to fullen retirement; these are the gloomy retreats of Fanaticifm, by which fhe endeavours to break thofe chains of benevolence and focial affection that link the welfare of every individual with that of the whole. The greatest honour we can pay to the Author of our being, is by fuch a chearful behaviour as difcovers a mind fatisfied with his difpenfations. But this temper of mind is most likely to be attained by a rational retirement from the cares and pleasures of the world. "Although," fays a celebrated preacher, "an entire retreat from the world would lay us afide from the part for which Providence chiefly intended us, it is certain that without occafional retreat we must act that part very ill. There will be neither consistency in the conduct, nor dignity in the character, of one who fets apart no fhare of his time for meditation and reflection. In the heat and bustle of life, while paffion is every moment throwing false colours on the objects around us, nothing can be viewed in a juft light.
If you with that reason fhould exert her native power, you must step afide from the crowd into the cool and filent fhade. It is there that, with fober and steady eye, fhe examines what is good
or ill, what is wife or foolish, in human conduct: fhe looks back on the past, she looks forward to the future; and forms opinions, not for the present moment only, but for the whole life. How should that man discharge any part of his duty aright who never fuffers his paffions to cool, who is engaged, without interruption, in the tumults of the world? This inceffant ftir may be called the perpetual drunkenness of life. It raifes that eager fermentation of spirit which will be ever fending forth the dangerous fumes of rashness and folly. Whereas he who mingles RELIGIOUS RETREAT with worldly affairs, remains calm, and mafter of himself. He is not whirled round and rendered giddy by the agitation of the world; but, from that SACRED RETIREMENT in which he has been converfant among higher objects, comes forth into the world with manly tranquillity, fortified by the principles which he has formed, and prepared for whatever may befal him. As he who is unacquainted with retreat cannot sustain any character with propriety, fo neither can he enjoy the world with any advantage. Of the two claffes of men who are moft apt to be negligent of this duty, the men of pleasure, and the men of business, it is hard to say which fuffer most, in point of enjoyment, from that neglect. To the former every moment appears to be loft which partakes not of the vivacity of amusement.