Page images

and, of course, as the best means of discovering the true road to earthly happiness; for

VIRTUE, immortal Virtue! born to please,
The child of nature, and the fource of eafe,
Bids every blifs on human life attend;
To every rank a kind and faithful friend;
Infpirits nature 'midft the scenes of toil,
Smooths languor's cheek, and bids fell want recoil;
Shines from the mitre with unfullied rays,
Glares on the crest, and gives the star to blaze;
Supports diftinction, fpreads ambition's wings,
Forms faints of queens, and demi-gods of kings;
O'er grief, oppreffion, envy, fcorn, prevails,
And makes a cottage greater than Versailles.

A free, open, unconstrained intercourse with mankind, has also the advantage of reconciling us to the peculiarities of others, and of teaching us the important leffon how to accommodate our minds and manners to fuch principles, opinions, and difpofitions, as may differ from our own. The learned and enlightened cannot maintain an intercourse with the illiterate, without exercifing an extraordinary degree of patience, conceding many points which appear unnatural, and forbearing to feel thofe little vexations fo adherent to characters who have lived in retirement. The philofopher, in order to teach virtue to the world with any hope of fuccefs, muft humour its vices to a certain degree, and fometimes even adopt the

the follies he intends to destroy. To inculcate wisdom, it is neceffary to follow the examples of SOCRATES and WIELAND, and separating from morals all that is harsh, repulfive, and anti-social, adopt only the kind and complacent tenets of the science. A German author of the present day, whom I glory to call both my countryman and my friend, obferves, with the fagacity and dif crimination of a true critic, in his "Remarks on the Writings and Genius of Franklin,” that the compofitions of that great and extraordinary character are totally free from that pomp of ftyle, and parade of erudition, which fo frequently dif figure the writings of other authors, and defeat their intended effect. The pen of FRANKLIN renders the most abstract principles easy and familiar. He conveys his inftructions in pleasing narrations, lively adventures, or humorous obfervations; and while his manner wins upon the heart, by the friendly interest he appears to take in the concerns of mankind, his matter instils into the mind the foundeft principles of morals and good policy. He makes Fancy the handmaid to Reason in her researches into science, and penetrates the understanding through the medium of the affections. A fecret charm pervades every part of his works. He rivets the attention by the ftrength of his observations, and relieves it by the variety of pleasing images with which he embellishes



embellishes his fubject. The perfpicuity of his ftyle, and the equally easy and eloquent turn of his periods, give life and energy to his thoughts; and while the reader feels his heart bounding with delight, he finds his mind impregnated with inftruction. These high advantages refulted entirely from his having ftudied the world, and gained an accurate knowledge of mankind. An author, indeed, may acquire an extraordinary fund of knowledge in Solitude; but it is in Society alone that he can learn how to render it useful. Before he can inftruct the world, he must be enabled to view its fooleries and vices with calm infpection; to contemplate them without anger, as the unavoidable confequences of human infirmity; to treat them with tenderness; and to avoid exasperating the feelings of those whose depravity he is attempting to correct. A moral cenfor, whose disposition is kind and benevolent, never suffers his fuperior virtue, knowledge, or talents, however great they may be, to offend the feelings of others; but, like SOCRATES, he will appear as if he were receiving himfelf the inftruction he is imparting. It is a fine obfervation of the celebrated GOETHE, that kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together: thofe who have had the happiness to converse with that extraordinary man, must have perceived the anxiety with which


he endeavours to temper the ftrength of his genius by the mildness and amenity of his converfation.

Men of letters, however aukward the habits of feclufion may have rendered them, would, I am convinced, be in general, if not always, treated with great politenefs and attention, if they would be careful to treat others with the common candour which humanity requires, and with that indulgence and affability which true liberality of fentiment will ever dictate: But how few, alas! are there, who, by complacency and condefcenfion, entitle themselves to the kindness and civility of which they stand so much in need, and fo arrogantly expect! How is it poffible for those who are vigilantly anxious to depress the rifing merit of others, ever to gain their friendship or efteem? Friendship can only be acquired by an open, fincere, liberal, and manly conduct: but he whofe breaft is filled with envy and jealousy, who cautiously examines before he fpeaks, every fentiment and feeling, left his tongue should betray the meannefs of his heart, and the poverty of his mind; who feizes every light indiscretion, or trifling error that may inadvertently escape from his companions; who filently repines at every excellency, both moral and intellectual, which they may discover; who, even when furK 2 rounded

[ocr errors]

rounded by those who wish him well, continues with guarded circumfpection, and fufpicious caution, to weigh the motives of their actions and conversation, as if he were furrounded by the bitterest enemies, must be utterly incapable of efteeming others, or being esteemed himself; and to suppose that the generous flame of friendship, that holy fire, which, under the deepest adverfity, fo comfortably warms and cheers the heart, can ever spring up from fuch cold materials, and afhy embers, would be extravagant and ridiculous.

The delight which the heart experiences in pouring forth the fulness of its feelings, with honeft confidence, into the bosom of a faithful friend, is permanent and unbounded. The pleafures which spring from the acquifition of fame, whether refulting from the generous voice of an approving public, or extorted from the reluctant tongues of envious rivals and contemporaries, will bear no comparison with those which thrill through the exulting bofom of him who can juftly exclaim, "To the heart of this unhappy man I have given returning hopes, and made him look forward with confidence to the enjoyment of peace to this wounded fpirit I have imparted the balm of comfort and tranquillity; and from the bleeding bofom of my friend have driven defpair!"

« PreviousContinue »