« PreviousContinue »
poses several of them to the embracing of particular schemes and maxims, and to a certain singularity of opinion which proves highly prejudicial to their cause; especially when they are encouraged in them by a vain breath of popularity, or by the artificial praises which are bestowed on them by the opposite party. This temper of mind, though the effect of a noble principle, very often betrays their friends, and brings into power the most pernicious and implacable of their enemies. In cases of this nature, it is the duty of an honest and prudent man, to sacrifice a doubtful opinion to the concurring judgment of those whom he believes to be well-intentioned to their country, and who have better opportunities of looking into all its most complicated interests. An honest party of men, acting with unanimity, are of infinitely greater consequence than the same party aiming at the same end by different views : as a large diamond is of a thousand times greater value whilst it remains entire, than when it is cut into a multitude of smaller stones, notwithstanding they may each of them be very curiously set, and are all of the same water.
No. 30. MONDAY, APRIL 2.
-I, verbis virtutem illude superbis.
As I was some years ago engaged in conversation with a fashionable French abbé upon a subject which the people of that kingdom love to start in discourse, the comparative greatness of the two nations; he asked me, ' How many souls I thought there might be in London ?' I replied, being willing to do my country all the honour I fairly could, “That there were several who computed them at near a million :' but not finding that surprise I expected in his countenance, I returned the question upon him, how
many he thought there might be in Paris ? to which he answered, with a certain grimace of coldness and indifference, about ten of twelve millions.
It would, indeed, be incredible to a man who has never been in France, should one relate the extravagant notion they entertain of themselves, and the mean opinion they have of their neighbours. There are certainly (notwithstanding the visible decay of learning and taste which has appeared among them of late years) many particular persons in that country, who are eminent in the highest degree for their good sense as well as for their knowledge in all the arts and sciences. But I believe every one, who is acquainted with them, will allow, that the people in general fall short of those, who border upon them, in strength and solidity of understanding. One would therefore no more wonder to see the most shallow nation of Europe the most vain, than to find the most empty fellows in every distinct nation more conceited and censorious than the rest of their countrymen. Prejudice and self-sufficiency naturally proceed from inexperience of the world, and ignorance of mankind. As it requires but very small abilities to discover the imperfections of another, we find that none are more apt to turn their neighbours into ridicule, than those who are the most ridiculous in their own private conduct.
Those among the French, who have seen nothing but their own country, can scarce bring themselves to believe, that a nation, which lies never so little north of them, is not full of Goths and Vandals. Nay, those among them who travel into foreign parts, are so prejudiced in favour of their own imaginary politeness, that they are apt to look upon every thing as barbarous in proportion as it deviates from what they find at home. No less a man than an ambassador of France, being in conversation with our king, of glorious memory, and willing to encourage his Ma jesty, told him, that he talked like a Frenchman. The king
smiled at the encomium which was given him, and only replied, 'sir, I am sure you do. An eminent writer of the last age was so offended at this kind of insolence, which shewed itself very plentifully in one of their travellers who gave an account of England, that he vindicated the honour of his country in a book full of just satire and ingenuity. I need not acquaint my reader, that I mean Bishop Sprat’s answer to Sorbiere.
Since I am upon this head, I cannot forbear mentioning some profound remarks that I have been lately shewn in a French book, the author of which lived, it seems, some time in England.
The English,' says this curious traveller,' very much delight in pudding. This is the favourite dish, not only of the clergy, but of the people in general. Provided there be a pudding upon the table, no matter what are the other dishes; they are sure to make a feast. They think themselves so happy when they have a pudding before them, that if any one would tell a friend he is arrived in a lucky juncture, the ordinary salutation is, 'sir, I am glad to see you; you are come in pudding time.'
One cannot have the heart to be angry at this judicious observer, notwithstanding he has treated us like a race of Hottentots, because he only taxes us with our inordinate love of pudding, which, it must be confessed, is not so elegant a dish as frog and sallad. Every one who has been at Paris, knows that Un gros milord Anglois is a frequent jest upon the French stage; as if corpulence was a proper subject for satire, or a man of honour could help his being fat, who eats suitable to his quality.
It would be endless to recount the invectives which are to be met with among the French historians, and even in Mezeray himself, against the manners of our countrymen. Their authors, in other kinds of writing, are likewise very liberal in characters of
• He should have said suitably; and he would have said it, but for the jingle that hurt his ear, in quality.
the same nature. I cannot forbear mentioning the learned Monsieur Patin in particular; who tells us in so many words, · That the English are a people, whom he naturally abhors ;' and in another place, that he looks upon the English among the several nations of men, as he does upon wolves among the several species of beasts.' A British writer would be very justly charged with want of politeness, who, in return to this civility, should look upon the French as that part of mankind which answers to a species in the brute creation, whom we call in English by the Dame of monkies.
If the French load us with these indignities, we may observe, for our comfort, that they give the rest of their borderers no better quarter. If we are a dull, heavy, phlegmatic people, we are, it seems, no worse than our neighbours. As an instance, I sball set down at large a remarkable passage in a famous book entitled Chevræana, written many years ago by the celebrated Monsieur Chevreau; after having advertised my reader that the duchess of Hanover, and the princess Elizabeth of Bohemia, who are mentioned in it, were the late excellent princess Sophia and her sister.
* Tilenus pour un Allemand, parle et ecrit bien François,' dit Scaliger: 'Gretzer a bien de l'esprit pour un Allemand,' dit le Cardinal du Perron : Et le P. Bonhours met en question, si un Allemand peut être bel esprit ? on ne doit juger ni bien ni mal d'une nation par un particulier ni d'un particulier par sa nation. Il y a des Allemands, comme des François, qui n'ont point d'esprit; des Allemands, qui ont scû plus d'Hebreu, plus de Grec, que, Scaliger & le Cardinal du Perron: J'honore fort le P. Bouhours, qui a du merite; mais J'ose dire, que la France n'a point de plus bel Esprit que Madame la Duchese de Hanovre d'aujourdhui, ni de personne plus solidement savante en philosophie que l'etoit Madame la Princesse Elizabeth de Boheme, sa Sæur : Et je ne croi pas que 'on refuse le même titre à beaucoup d'Academiciens d'Allemagne dont les Ouvrages meriteroient bien d'être traduits. Il y a d'autres Princesses en Allemagne, qui ont infiniment de l'esprit. Les François disent c'est un Allemand, pour exprimer un homme pesant, brutal: & les Allemands comme les Italiens, c'est un François, pour dire un fou & un étourdi. C'est aller trop loin : comme le Prince de Salé dit de Ruyter, Il est honnête homme, c'est bien dommage qu'il soit Chrétien. Chevræana, tom. I.
Tilenus,' says Scaliger, 'speaks and writes well for a German.' 'Gretzer has a great deal of wit for a German,' says Cardinal Perron. And Father Bouhours makes it a question, whether a German can be a wit? One ought not to judge well or ill of a nation from a particular person, nor of a particular person from his nation. There are Germans as there are French, who have no wit; and Germans who are better skilled in Greek and Hebrew than either Scaliger or the Cardinal du Perron. I have a great honour for Father Bouhours, who is a man of merit; but will be bold to say, that there is not in all France, a person of more wit than the present Duchess of Hanover; nor more thoroughly knowing in philosophy than was the late Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia, her sister; and I believe none can refuse the same title to many academicians in Germany, whose works very well deserve to be translated into our tongue. There are other Princesses in Germany who have also an infinite deal of wit. The French say of a man, that he is a German, when they would signify that he is dull and heavy; and the Germans, as well as the Italians, when they would call a man a hair-brain'd coxcomb, say he is a Frenchman. This is going too far, and is like the Governor of Sallee's saying of De Ruyter, the Dutch admiral, 'He is an honest man, 'tis a great pity he is a Chris. tian.'"