Page images
PDF
EPUB

fefs, I look upon High Change to be a grand council, in which all confiderable nations have their

representatives. Factors, in the trading world, are what ambaffadours are in the politic world. They negociate affairs, conclude treaties, and maintain a good correspondence between those wealthy focieties of inen that are divided from one another by feas and oceans, or live on the different ex. tremities of a continent. I have often been pleased to hear disputes adjusted between an inhabitant of Japan and an alderinan of London, or to see a subject of the Great Mogul entering into a league with one of the Czar of Mulcovy. I am infinitely delighted in mixing with these several ministers of commerce, as they are distinguished by their different walks and different languages. Sometimes I am joftled among a body of Armenians; fometimes I am fost in a crowd of Jews; and sometimes make one in a group of Dutchmen. I am a Dane, a Swede, or Frenchman, at different times; or rather fancy myself like the old philofopher, who, upon being asked what countryman he was, replied, That he was a citizen of the world.

Nature seems to have taken a particular care to diffe. minate her blessings among the different regions of the world, with an eye to this mutual intercourte and traf. fic among mankind, that the natives of the several paris of the globe might have a kind of dependence upon one another, and be united together by their common inte. selts. Almost every degree produces something peculiar to it. The food often grows in one country and the fauce in another. The fruits of Portugal. are corrected by the products of Barbadoes; the infusion of a China plant sweetened with the pith of an Indian cane. The Philippine islands give a flavour to our European bowls. The single dress of a woman of quality is often the product of an hundred climates. The inuff and the fan come together from the different ends of the earth. The scarf is sent from the torrid zone, and the tippet from beneath the pole. The brocade petticoat rises out of the mines of Peru, and the diamond necklace out of the bowels of Indoftan.

If we consider our own country in its natural prospect, without any of the benefits and advantages of commerce,

what

H 2

what a barren uncomfortable spot of earth falls to our share ! Natural historians tell us, that no fruit grows ori. ginally among us besides hips and haws, acorns and pig.nuts, with other delicacies of the like nature: that our climate, of itself, and without the assistance of art, can make no farther advances towards a plum than a floe, and carries an apple to no greater perfection than a crab: that our melons, our peaches, our figs, our apricots, and our cherries, are strangers among us, imported in different ages, and naturalized in our English gardens; and that they would all degenerate and fall away into the trash of our own country, if they were wholly peglected by the planter, and left to the mercy of our fun and foil.

Nor has traffic more enriched our vegetable world than it has improved the whole face of nature among us. Our Thips are laden with the harvest of every climate; our tables are stored with spices, and oils; and wines; our rooms are filled with pyramids of china, and adorned with the workmanlip of Japan; our morning's draught comes to us from the remotelt corners of the earth; we'repair our bodies by the drugs of America, and repose ourfelves under Indian canopies. · My friend-Sir Andrew calls the vineyards of France our gardens; the spice-iflands, our hiọt beds; the Persians, our silk-weavers; and the Chinese, our potters. Nature, indeed, furnishes us with the bare necessaries of life ; but traffic gives us a great variety of what is useful, and, at the same time, supplies us with every thing that is convenient and ornamental. Nor is it the least part of this our happiness, that, while we enjoy the remotest products ofthenorth and fouth, we are free from those extremities of weather which give them

that our eyes are refreshed with the green fields of Britain, at the same time that our palates are feasted with fruits that rise between the tropics.

For these reasons, there are not more useful members in a commonwealth than merchants. They knit mankind together in a mutual intercourse of good offices, diAtribute the gifts of nature, find work for the poor, add wealth to the rich, and magnificence to the great. Our English merchant converts the tin of his own country in. to gold, and exchanges his wool for rubies. The Maho

birth;

metans

metans are clothed in our British manufacture, and the inhabitants of the frozen zone warmed with the fleeces of our sheep

X. On public Speaking, MOST foreign writers who have given any character

of the English nation, whatever vices they afcribe to it, allow, in general, that the people are naturally modeft. It proceeds, perhaps, from this our riational virtue, that our orators are observed to make use of less gesture or action than those of other countries. Our preachers stand stock-ftill in the pulpit, and will not so much as move a finger to fet off the best sermons in the world. We meet with the same speaking Itatues at our bars, and in all public places of debate. Our words flow from us in a smooth continued stream, without those strainings of the voice, motions of the body, and majesty of the band, which are so much celebrated in the orators of Greece and Rome. We can talk of life and death in cold blood, and keep our temper in a discourse which turns upon every thing that is dear to us. Though our zeal breaks out in the finest tropes and figures, it is not able to stir a limb about us,.

It is certain that proper gestures and exertions of the voice cannot be too much studied by a public orator. They are a kind of comment to what he utters; and enforce every thing he says, with weak hearers, better than the strongest argiment he can make use of. They keep the audience awake, and fix their attention to what is delivered to them; at the same time that they show the fpeaker is in earnest, and affected himself with what he so passionately recommends to others.

We are told, that the great Latin orator very much impaireel his health by the vehemence of action with which he used to deliver himself. The Greek orator was likewise fo

very

famous for this particular in rhetoric, that one of his antagonists, whom he had banilhed from Athens, reading over the oration which had procured his banishment, and seeing his friends admire it, could not forbear asking them, If they were so much affected by the bare reading of it, how much more they

would

H 3

would have been alarmed, had they heard him aétually throwing out such a storm of eloquence.

How cold and dead a figure, in comparifon of these two great men, does an orator often make at the British bar, holding up his head with the moft insipid ferenity, and stroking the sides of a long wig that reaches down 10 his middle ! Nothing can be more ridiculous than the gestures of most of our English fpeakers. You fee some of them running their hands into their pockets as far as ever they can thrust them, and others looking with great attention on a piece of pap: r that has nothing writren on it: you may see many a smart rhetorician turning his hat in his hands, moulding it into several different cocks, examining fometimes the lining of it, and fometimes the bụtton, during the whole course of his harangue. A deaf man would think he was cheapening a beaver, when perhaps he is talking of the fate of the British nation. I remember, when I was a young man, and used to freqnent Westmintter-hall, there was a counselor who never pleaded without a piece of packthread in his hand, which he used to twist about a thumb or finger all the while he was fpeaking : the wags of 'those days used to call it the thread of his discourse, for lie was not able to utter a word without it. One of his elients, who was more merry ihan wife, stole it frem him ove day in the midft of his pleading ; but he had better have let it alone, for lie loft his caule by the jeit.

XI. Advantages of History. THE advantages found in history seem to be of three

kinds; as it anules the fancy, as it improves the understanding, and as it strengthens virtue.

In reality, what more agreeable entertainment to the mind than to be transported into the remotest ages of the world, and to observe human society, in its infancy, making the first fait eflays towards the arts and sciences ?

To see the policy of government and the civility.of conversation refining by degrees, and every thing that is or. namental to human life advancing towards its perfection? To mark the rise, progress, declension, and final extinction of the most flourishing empires; the virtues which contributed to their greatness, and the vices which drew

on their ruin? In short, to see all human race, from the beginning of time, pais as įt were in review before us, appearing in their true colours, withont any of those difguises, which, during their lifetime, so much perplexed The judgnients of the beholders? What spectacle can be imagined fo magnificent, so various, so interesting? What amusement, either of the senses or imagination, can be compared with it? Shall those trifling pastimes, which engrofs fo much of our time, be preferred as more fatisfactory, and more fit to engage our attention! How perverse mult that taste be which is capable of so wrong a choice of pleasures !

But history is a moft improving part of knowledge, as well as an agreeable amusement; and indeed a great part of what we commonly call erudition, and value fo highly, is nothing but an acquaintance with historical facts. An extensive knowlerige of this kind belongs to men of letters; but I mutt think it an unpardonable ig. norance in persons, of whatever fex or condition, not to be acquainted with the history of their own country along with the histories of ancient Greece and Rome.

I must add, that history is not only a valuable part of knowledge, but opens the door to many other parts of knowledge, and affords materials to most of the scien

And indeed, if we consider the shortness of human life, and our limited knowledge, even of what passes in our own time, we must be serofible that we should be for ever children in understanding, weré it not for this invention; which extends our experience to all past ages and to the moft distant nations, inaking them contribute as much to our improvement in wisdom as if they had actually lain under our observation. A man acquainted with history may, in fome respect, be said to have lived from the beginning of the world, and to have been making continual additions to his stock of knowledge in every century.

There is also an advantage in that knowledge which is aconired by history, above what is learned by the prace tice of the world, that it brings us acquainted with human affairs, without diminishing in the least from the most delicate sentiments of virtue. And, to tell the truth, 1 Scarce know any study or occupation so unexcep

tionable

ces.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »