Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

against my discipline and my administration; but if I neglect either of these, who knows whether I should not have the weakness to compel such writers to silence.

HELVETIUS.

De l'Homme, vol. ii. sect. ix, cb. xii, and xiii. WE have the origin of book-licensing not, that can be heard of, from any ancient state, or polity, or church, nor by any statute left us by our ancestors elder or later, nor from the modern custom of any reformed city abroad; but from the most antichristian council and the most tyrannous inquisition that ever inquired. Till then books were ever as freely admitted as any other birth; the issue of the brain was no more stifled than the issue of the womb.)

DIS

I am of those who believe it will be a harder alchymy than Lullius ever knew, to sublimate any good use out of such an invention. nu 14

1b

Truth and understanding are not such wares as to be monopolized and traded in by tickets and

97

statutes

[ocr errors]

To limit the press is to insult the nation to prohibit the reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants to be either fools or slaves.

21.

Should we to destroy error compel it to silence? No. How then? Let it talk on. Error, obscure of itself, is rejected by every sound understanding. If time have not given it credit, and it be not favoured by government, it cannot bear the eye of examination. Reason will ultimately direct wherever it be freely exercised.

·

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

statutes and standards. We must not think to
make a staple commodity of all the knowledge in
the land, to mark and license it like our broad-
cloth and our woolpacks.

To the pure all things are pure; not only meats
and drinks, but all kinds of knowledge whether
of good or evil; the knowledge cannot defile, nor
consequently the books, if the will and conscience
be not defiled.

Bad books serve in many respects to discover, to confute, to forewarn, and to illustrate,

Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to doubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple; who ever knew truth put to the worse in a fre and open encounter? Who knows not that truth is strong, next to the Almighty? She need no policies, nor stratagems, nor licensings to make her victorious; those are the shifts and defences that error uses against her power. Give her but room, and do not bind her when she sleeps, for then she speaks not true, but then rather she turns herself cinto all shapes, except her own, and perhaps tunes her voice according to the time, until she be adjured into her own likeness.

To count a man not fit to print his mind, is the greatest indignity to a free and knowing spirit that can be put upon him. What advantage is it to be a man [rather than] a boy at school, if we have only escaped the ferula to come under the

CC 2

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

the fescu of an imprimatur? When a man writes. to the world, he summons up all his reason and deliberation to assist him; he searches, meditates, is industrious, and likely consults and confers with his judicious friends; if in this, the most consummate act of his fidelity and ripeness, no years, no industry, no former proof of his abilities can bring him to that state of maturity, as not to be still mistrusted and suspected, it cannot but be a dishonour and derogation to the author, to the book, to the privilege and dignity of learning.

f

*

Nor is it to the common people less a reproach; for if we be so jealous over them, as that we dare not trust them with an English pamphlet, wha do we but censure them for a giddy, vicious, and ungrounded people; in such a sick and weak state of faith and discretion as to be able to take nothing down but through the pipe of a licenser. That this is care or love of them we cannot pretend. Wisdom we cannot call it, because it stops but one breach of license, nor that neither: those corruptions which it seeks to prevent, break in faster at doors which cannot be shut.-He who were pleasantly disposed could not avoid to liken it to the exploit of that gallant man who thought to pound up the crows by shutting his park gate.

D

If the amendment of manners be aimed at, look into Italy and Spain, whether those places be one scruple the better, the honester, the wiser, the chaster, since all the inquisitorial rigour that hath been executed upon books.

I could recount what I have seen and heard in

977

wodal

countries,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

countries, where this kind of inquisition tyrannises ;" when I have sat among their learned men, who did nothing but bemoan the servile condition into which learning amongst them was brought; that this was it which had damped the glory of Italian wits; that nothing had been there written now these many years but flattery and fustian. There it was that I found and visited the famous Galileo grown old, a prisoner to the inquisition, for thinking in astronomy otherwise than the Franciscan and Dominican licensers thought.

[ocr errors]

This obstructing violence meets for the most part with an event utterly opposite to the end which it drives at : instead of suppressing sects and schisms, it raises them and invests them with a reputation. The punishment of wits enhances their authority, saith the Viscount St. Albans, and a forbidden writing is thought to be a certain spark of truth that flies up in the faces of them who seek to tread it out.

When God shakes a kingdom, with strong and healthful commotions, to a general reforming, it is not untrue that many sectaries and false teachers are then busiest in seducing; but yet more true it is, that God then raises to his own work men of rare abilities, and more than common industry, not only to look back and révise what hath been taught heretofore, but to gain further, and go on, some new enlightened steps in the discovery of

truth.

If any one would write and bring his helpful hand to the slow moving reformation which we

labour

labour under, if Truth have spoken to him be fore others, or but seemed at least to speak, who hath so bejesuited us that we should trouble that man with asking license to do so worthy a deed; and not consider, that if it come to prohibiting, there is not aught more likely to be prohibited than truth itself, whose first appearance to our eyes, bleared and dimmed with prejudice and custom, is more unsightly and unplausible than many errors? And what do they vainly tell us of new opinions, when this very opinion of theirs, that none must be heard but whom they like, is the worst and newest opinion of all others, and is the chief cause why sects and schisms do so much abound, and true knowledge is kept at a distance.

When the clearfulness of the people is so sprightly up, as that it has not only wherewithal to guard well its own freedom and safety, but to spare and to bestow upon the solidest and sublimest points of controversy, and new invention, it betokens us not degenerated, nor drooping to a fatal decay, but casting off the old and wrinkled skin of corruption, to outlive these pangs, and wax young again, entering the glorious ways of truth and prosperous virtue, destined to become great and honourable in these latter ages, Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself, like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks a inethinks I see her as an eagle muing her mighty youth, and kindling her endazzled eyes, at the full mid-day beam; purging and unscaling her long abused sight, at the fountain itself of heavenly ra

diance;

ล่า

bas

A

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »