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good or bad, virtuous or wicked : if love, mercy, and good-nature prevail, they speak bim of the angel : if hatred, cruelty, and envy predominate, they declare his kindred to the brute. Hence it was that some of the ancients imagined, that as men in this life inclined more to the angel or the brute, so after their death they should transmigrate into the one or the other; and it would be no unpleasant notion to consider the several species of brutes, into which we may imagine that tyrants, misers, the proud, malicious, and ill-natured, might be changed.
* As a consequence of this original, all passions are in all men, but appear not in all : constitution, education, custom of the country, reason, and the like causes, may improve or abate the strength of them ; but still the seeds remain, which are ever ready to sprout forth upon the least encouragement. I have heard a story of a good religious man, who, having been bred with the milk of a goat, was very modest in public by a careful reflexion he made on his actions ; but he frequently had an hour in secret, wherein he had his frisks and capers ; and if we had an opportunity of examining the retirement of the strictest philosophers, no doubt but we should find perpetual returns of those passions they so artfully conceal from the public. I remember, Machiavel observes, that every state should entertain a perpetual jealousy of its neighbours, that so it should never be unprovided when an emergency happens ; in like manner, should the reason be perpetually on its guard against the passions, and never suffer them to carry on any design that may be destructive of its security ; yet at the same time it must be careful, that it don't so far break their strength as to render them contemptible, and consequently itself unguarded.
The understanding being of itself too slow and
lazy to exert itself into action, it is necessary it should be put in motion by the gentle gales of the passions, which may preserve it from stagnating and corruption; for they are necessary to the health of the mind, as the circulation of the animal spirits is to the health of the body; they keep it in life, and strength, and vigour; nor is it possible for the mind to perform its offices without their assistance. These motions' are given us with our being; they are little spirits that are born and die with us ; to some they are mild, easy, and gentle; to others, wayward and unruly, yet never too strong for the reins of reason and the guidance of judgment.
We may generally observe a pretty nice proportion between the strength of reason and passion; the greatest geniuses have commonly the strongest affections, as, on the other hand, the weaker understandings have generally the weaker passions; and it is fit the fury of the coursers should not be too great for the strength of the charioteer. Young men, whose passions are not a little unruly, give small hopes of their ever being considerable ; the fire of youth will of course abate, and is a fault, if it be a fault, that mends every day ; but surely, unless a man has fire in his youth, he can hardly have warmth in old age. We must therefore be very cautious, lest, while we think to regulate the passions, we should quite extinguish them, which is putting out the light of the soul; for to be without passion, or to be hurried away with it, makes a man equally blind. The extraordinary severity used in most of our schools has this fatal effect, it breaks the spring of the mind, and most certainly destroys more good geniuses than it can possibly improve. And surely it is a mighty mistake that the passions should be so entirely subdued : for little irregularities are sometimes not only to be borne with, but to be cultivated too, since they are frequently attended with the greatest perfections. All great geniuses have faults mixed with their virtues, and resemble the flaming bush which has thorns amongst lights.
Since therefore the passions are the principles of human actions, we must endeavour to manage them so as to retain their vigour, yet keep them under strict command; we must govern them rather like free subjects than slaves, lest, while we intend to make them obedient, they become abject, and unfit for those great purposes to which they were designed. For my part I must confess I could never have any regard to that sect of philosophers who so much insisted upon an absolute indifference and vacancy from all passion ; for it seems to me a thing very inconsistent, for a man to divest himself of humanity in order to acquire tranquillity of mind; and to eradicate the very principles of action, because it is possible they may produce ill effects.
I am, Sir,
Your affectionate admirer,
N° 409. THURSDAY, JUNE 19, 1712.
Musæo contingere cuncta lepore.
To grace each subject with enliv'ning wit.
GRATIAN very often recommends fine taste as the utmost perfection of an accomplished man.
As this word arises very often in conversation, I shall endeavour to give some account of it, and to lay down rules how we may know whether we are possessed of it, and how we may acquire that fine taste of writing which is so much talked of among the polite world.
Most languages make use of this metaphor, to express that faculty of the mind which distinguishes all the most concealed faults and nicest perfections in writing. We may be sure this metaphor would not have been so general in all tongues, had there not been a very great conformity between that mental taste, which is the subject of this paper, and that sensitive taste, which gives us a relish of every different flavour that affects the palate. Accordingly we find, there are as many degrees of refinement in the intellectual faculty as in the sense which is marked out by this common denomination.
I knew a person who possessed the one in so great a perfection, that, after having tasted ten different kinds of tea, he would distinguish, without seeing the colour of it, the particular sort which was offered him; and not only so, but any two sorts of them that were mixed together in an equal proportion ; nay, he has carried the experiment so far, as, upon tasting the composition of three different sorts, to name the parcels from whence the three several ingredients were taken. A man of a fine taste in writing will discern, after the same manner, not only the general beauties and imperfections of an author, but discover the several ways of thinking and expressing himself, which diversify him from all other authors, with the several foreign infusions of thought and language, and the particular authors from whom they were borrowed.
After having thus far explained what is generally meant by a fine taste in writing, and shown the propriety of the metaphor which is used on this occa
sion, I think I may define it to be that faculty of the soul, which discerns the beauties of an author with pleasure, and the imperfections with dislike.' If a man would know whether he is possessed of this faculty, I would have him read over the celebrated works of antiquity, which have stood the test of so many different ages and countries, or those works among the moderns which have the sanction of the politer part of our contemporaries. If, upon the perusal of such writings, he does not find himself delighted in an extraordinary manner, or if, upon reading the admired passages in such authors, he finds a coldness and indifference in his thoughts, he ought to conclude, not (as is too usual among tasteless readers) that the author wants those perfections which have been admired in him, but that he himself wants the faculty of discovering them.
He should, in the second place, be very careful to observe, whether he tastes the distinguishing perfections, or, if I may be allowed to call them so, the specific qualities of the author whom he peruses; whether he is particularly pleased with Livy for his manner of telling a story, with Sallust for entering into those internal principles of action which arise from the characters and manners of the describes, or with Tacitus for displaying those outward motives of safety and interest which gave birth to the whole series of transactions which he relates.
He may likewise consider, how differently he is affected by the same thought which presents itself in a great writer, from what he is when he finds it delivered by a person of an ordinary genius; for there is as much difference in apprehending a thought clothed in Cicero's language, and that of a common author, as in seeing an object by the light of a taper, or by the light of the sun.