Page images

understanding, by the study of ancient wisdom, he ameliorates his heart by the delightful offerings of the muses, and increases the public ftrength by the wife and economical management of his refources. An awful filence, interrupted only by gentle airs, with which it is refreshed, pervades this delightful retreat. It was during the twilight of an autumnal evening that I vifited this folemn scene. As I approached the apartment of this philofophic hero, I difcovered him fitting "nobly penfive" near a small table, from which fhone the feeble rays of a common taper. No jealous centinels, or ceremonious chamberlain, impeded my progrefs, by the scrutinizing enquiries of fufpicion and miftruft; and I walked free and unchecked, except by respect and veneration, through the humble, unoftentatious retreat of this extraordinary man. All characters, however high and illuftrious they may be, who wish to attain a comprehenfive view of things, and to fhine in the highest spheres of virtue, must learn the rudiments of glory under the discipline of occafional retirement.

SOLITUDE is frequently fought from an inclination to extend the knowledge of our talents and characters to those with whom we have no opportunity of being immediately acquainted; by preparing with greater care, and closer appli


cation, for the inspection of our contemporaries, works worthy of the fame we are fo anxious to acquire but it feldom happens, alas! that those whose labours are most pregnant with instruction and delight, have received from the age or country in which they lived, or even from the companions with whom they affociated, the tribute of kindness or applause that is justly due to their merits. The work which is ftigmatized and traduced by the envy, ignorance, or local prejudices of a country for whofe delight and instruction it was particularly intended, frequently receives from the generous fuffrages of impartial and unprejudiced strangers the highest tribute of applause. Even those pretended friends under whofe aufpices it was at firft undertaken, upon whofe advice it proceeded, and upon whose judgment it was at length published, no fooner hear its praises refounded from diftant quarters, than they permit the poisoned fhafts of calumny to fly unaverted around the unsuspecting author, and warrant, by their filence, or affift, by their sneers, every infidious infinuation against his motives or his principles. This fpecies of malevolence has been feelingly painted by the celebrated PETRARCH: "No fooner had my fame," fays he, "rifen above the level of that which my contem"poraries had acquired, than every tongue bab"bled, and every pen was brandifhed against


me: those who had before appeared to be my "dearest friends, inftantly became my deadliest "enemies: the shafts of envy were industriouf"ly directed against me from every quarter: "the critics, to whom my poetry had before "been much more familiar than their pfalms or their prayers, feized, with malignant de"light, every opportunity of traducing my mo❝rals; and those with whom I had been moft "intimate, were the most eager to injure my "character, and destroy my fame." The ftudent, however, ought not to be difcouraged by this inftance of envy and ingratitude. He who, conscious of his merit, learns to depend only on himself for fupport, will forget the injuftice of the world, and draw his comfort and fatisfaction from more infallible fources: like the truly benevolent and great, he will confer his favours on the public without the expectation of a return; and look with perfect indifference upon all the efforts his treacherous friends, or open enemies, are capable of ufing. He will, like PETRARCH, appeal to pofterity for his reward; and the justice and generofity of future ages will preserve his memory, and tranfmit his fame to fucceeding generations, heightened and adorned in proportion as it has been contemporaneously mutilated and depreffed.


The genius of many noble-minded authors, particularly in GERMANY, are obfcured and blighted by the thick and baneful fogs with which ignorance and envy overwhelm their works. Unable to withstand the inceffant oppofition they meet with, the powers of the mind grow feeble and relaxed; and many a fair design and virtuous pursuit is quitted in despair. How frequently does the defponding mind exclaim, "I feel my powers influenced by the "affections of the heart. I am certainly inca"pable of doing to any individual an intentional ❝ injury, and I seek with anxiety every oppor"tunity of doing good; but, alas! my motives "are perverted, my defigns mifrepresented, my "endeavours counteracted, my very person ri"diculed, and my character defamed." There are, indeed, those whose courage and fortitude no oppofition can damp, and no adversity subdue; whofe firm and steady minds proceed with determined resolution to accomplish their designs in defiance of all refiftance; and whofe refulgent talents drive away the clouds of surrounding dulnefs like fogs before the fun. WIELAND, the happy WIELAND, the adopted child of every muse, the favourite pupil of the Graces, formed the powers of his extraordinary mind in a lonely and obfcure retreat, the little village of Biberach, in the circle of Suabia, and thereby

thereby laid the foundation for that indisputable glory he has fince attained. In folitude and filence he enriched his mind with all the ftores that art and science could produce, and enabled himself to delight and instruct mankind by adorning the fober mien of philosophy, and the lively fmiles of wit, with the true fpirit and irresistible charms of poetry. Retirement is the true parent of the great and good, and the kind nurse of nature's powers.* It is to occafional retirement that POLITICS owe the ableft statesmen, and PHILOSOPHY the most celebrated fages. Did ARISTOTLE, the peripatetic chief, compose his profound



To be able to procure its own entertainment, and to fubfift upon its own ftock," fays Dr. JOHNSON," is not the prerogative of every mind. There are, indeed, understandings fo fertile and comprehenfive, that they can always feed reflection with new supplies, and fuffer nothing from the preclufion of adventitious amusements; as fome cities have within their own walls enclosed ground enough to feed their inhabitants in a fiege. But others live only from day to day, and must be conftantly enabled, by foreign fupplies, to keep out the encroachments of languor and ftupidity. Such could not, indeed, be blamed for hovering within the reach of their usual pleasures, more than any other animal for not quitting its native element, were not their faculties contracted by their own fault. But let not those who go into the country merely because they dare not be left alone at home, boaft their love of nature, or their qualifications for folitude; nor pretend that they receive instantaneous effufions of wisdom from the dryads; and are able, when they leave smoke and noise behind, to act, to think, or to reafon for themselves."

« PreviousContinue »