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distance from the scene of action, will dare to contradict a man, who reports from his own eyes and ears, and to whom all persons and affairs are thus intimately known?
This kind of falsehood is generally successful for a time, because it is practised at first with timidity and caution ; but the prosperity of the liar is of short duration; the reception of one story is always an incitement to the forgery of another less probable : and he goes on to triumph over tacit credulity, till pride or reason rises up against him, and his companions will no longer endure to see him wiser than themselves.
It is apparent, that the inventors of all these fictions intend some exaltation of themselves, and are led off by the pursuit of honour from their attendance upon truth: their narratives always imply some consequence in favour of their courage, their sagacity, or their activity, their familiarity with the learned, or their reception among the great; they are always bribed by the present pleasure of seeing themselves superior to those that surround them, and receiving the homage of silent attention and envious admiration.
But vanity is sometimes excited to fiction by less visible gratifications: the present age abounds with a race of liars who are content with the consciousness of falsehood, and whose pride is to deceive others without any gain or glory to themselves. Of this tribe it is the supreme pleasure to remark a lady in the play-house or the park, and to publish, under the character of a man suddenly enamoured, an advertisement in the news of the next day, containing a minute description of her person and her dress. From this artifice, however, no other effect can be expected, than perturbations which the writer can never see, and conjectures of which he can never
be informed: some mischief, however, he hopes he has done; and to have done mischief, is of some importance. He sets his invention to work again, and produces a narrative of a robbery or a murder, with all the circumstances of time and place accurately adjusted. This is a jest of greater effect and longer duration : if he fixes his scene at a proper distance, he may for several days keep a wife in terror for her husband, or a mother for her son; and please himself with reflecting, that by his abilities and address some addition is made to the miseries of life.
There is, I think, an ancient law in Scotland, by which Leasing-making was capitally punished. I am, indeed, far from desiring to increase in this kingdom the number of executions; yet I cannot but think, that they who destroy the confidence of society, weaken the credit of intelligence, and interrupt the security of life; harass the delicate with shame, and perplex the timorous with alarms; might very properly be awakened to a sense of their crimes, by denunciations of a whipping-post or pillory: since many are so insensible of right and wrong, that they have no standard of action but the law; nor feel guilt, but as they dread punishment.
N° 51. TUESDAY, MAY 1, 1753.
Si quid ex Pindari, Flaccive dictis fuerit interjectum splendet oratio ; 8 sordescit, si quid e sacris Psalmis aptè fuerit attextum? An Libri Spiritûs cælestis afflatů proditi sordent nobis præ scriptis Homeri, Euripidis, aut Ennii? ERASMUS.
Is a discourse beautified by a quotation from Pindar and Horace? and shall we think it blemished by a passage from the sacred Psalms aptly interwoven? Do we despise the books which were dictated by the Spirit of God, in comparison of Homer, Euripides, and Ennius?
TO THE ADVENTURER.
In the library of the Benedictine Monks at Lyons, has lately been discovered a most curious manuscript of the celebrated Longinus. As I know you will eagerly embrace every opportunity of contributing to promote, or rather revive, a reverence and love for the Sacred Writings, I send you the following extract, translated from this extraordinary work.
My dear Terentianus, You may remember that in my treatise on the Sublime, I quoted a striking example of it from Moses the Jewish lawgiver ; Let there be light, and there was light. I have since met with a large volume, translated into Greek by the order of Ptolemy, containing all the religious opinions, the civil laws and customs of that singular and unaccountable people. And to confess the truth, I am greatly astonished at the incomparable elevation of its style, and the supreme grandeur of its images; many of which excel the utmost efforts of the most exalted genius of Greece.
At the appearance of God, the mountains and the forests do not only tremble as in Homer, but
are melted down like wax at his presence.' He rides not on a swift chariot over the level waves like Neptune, but comes flying upon the wings of the wind : while the floods clap their hands, and the hills and forests, and earth and heaven, all exult together before their Lord.' And how dost thou conceive, my friend, the exalted idea of the universal presence of the infinite Mind can be expressed, adequately to the dignity of the subject, but in the following manner? Whither shall I go from thy presence? If I climb up into heaven, thou art there! If I go down to hell, lo, thou art there also ! If I take wings and fly toward the morning, or remain in the uttermost parts of the western ocean ; even there also'
the poet does not say, 'I shall find thee,' but, far more forcibly and emphatically
thy right hand shall hold me.' With what majesty and magnificence is the Creator of the world, before whom the whole universe is represented as nothing, nay, less than nothing, and vanity, introduced making the following sublime inquiry! Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with a span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance ?' Produce me, Terentianus, any image or description in Plato himself, so truly elevated and divine! Where did these barbarians learn
to speak of God, in terms that alone appear worthy of him? How contemptible and vile are the deities of Homer and Hesiod, in comparison of this Jehovan of the illiterate Jews! before whom, to use this poet's own words, all other gods are “as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance.
Had I been acquainted with this wonderful volume, while I was writing my treatise on the Pathetic, I could have enriched my work with many strokes of eloquence, more irresistibly moving than any I have borrowed from our three great tragedians, or even from the tender Simonides himself. The samt Moses I formerly mentioned, relates the history o a youth sold into captivity by his brethren, in a manner so deeply interesting, with so many little strokes of nature and passion, with such penetrating knowledge of the human heart, with such various and unexpected changes of fortune, and with such a striking and important discovery, as cannot be read without astonishment and tears; and which I am almost confident Aristotle would have preferred to the story of his admired Edipus, for the artificial manner in which the recognition, αναγνωρισις,
is effected, emerging gradually from the incidents and circumstances of the story itself, and not from things extrinsical and unessential to the fable.
In another part we are presented with the picture of a man most virtuous and upright, who, for the trial and exercise of his fortitude and patience, is hurried down from the summits of felicity, into the lowest depths of distress and despair. Were ever sorrow and misery and compassion expressed more forcibly and feelingly, than by the behaviour of his friends, who when they first discovered him in this altered condition, destitute, afflicted, tormented, “sat down with him upon the ground seven days and