« PreviousContinue »
I was told he sat upon women that day, there being several of the sex lately arrived, who had not yet their mansions assigned them. I was surprised to hear him ask every one of them the same question, namely, what they had been doing? Upon this question being proposed to the whole assembly, they stared one upon another, as not knowing what to an
He then interrogated each of them separately. Madam, says he to the first of them, you have been upon the earth about fifty years : what have you been doing there all this while ? Doing, says she; really, I do not know what I have been doing : I desire I may have time given me to recollect. After about half an hour's pause, she told him that she had been playing at crimp.; upon which Rhadamanthus beckoned to the keeper on his left hand to take her into custody. And you, madam, says the judge, that look with such a soft and languishing air ; I think you set out for this place in your nine and twentieth year, what have you been doing all this while ? I had a great deal of business on my hands, says she, being taken up the first twelve years of my life in dressing a jointed baby, and all the remaining part of it in reading plays and romances. Very well, says he, you have employed your time to good purpose. Away with her. The next was a plain country woman : Well, mistress, says Rhadamanthus, and what have you been doing ? An't please your worship, says she, I did not live quite forty years; and in that time brought my husband seven daughters, made him nine thousand cheeses, and left my youngest daughter with him, to look after his house in my absence; and who, I may venture to say, is as pretty a housewife as any in the country. Rhadamanthus smiled at the simplicity of the good woman, and ordered the keeper of Elysium to take her into his care. And you, fair lady, says he, what have you been doing these five and thirty years? I have been doing no hurt, I assure you, sir,
said she. That is well, said he: but what good have you been doing? The lady was in great confusion at this question ; and not knowing what to answer, the two keepers leaped out to seize her at the same time; the one took her by the hand to convey her to Elysium, the other caught hold of her to carry her away to Erebus. But Rhadamanthus observing an ingenious modesty in her countenance and behaviour, bid them both let her loose, and set her aside for re-examination when he was more at leisure. An old woman, of a proud and sour look, presented herself next at the bar; and being asked what she had been doing ? Truly, said she, I lived threescore and ten years in a very wicked world, and was so angry at the behaviour of a parcel of young flirts, that I passed most of my last years in condemning the follies of the times. I was every day blaming the silly conduct of people about me, in order to deter those I conversed with from falling into the like errors and miscarriages. Very well, says Rhadamanthus, but did you keep the same watchful eye over your own actions ? Why, truly, said she, I was so taken up with publishing the faults of others, that I had no time to consider my own. Madam, says Rhadamanthus, be pleased to file off to the left, and make room for the venerable matron that stands behind you. Old gentlewoman, says he, I think you are fourscore : you have heard the question-What have you been doing so long in the world ? Ah, sir, said she, I have been doing what I should not have done ; but I had made a firm resolution to have changed my life, if I had not been snatched off by an untimely end. Madam, says he, you will please to follow your leader : and spying another of the same age, interrogated her in the same form. To which the matron replied, I have been the wife of a husband who was as dear to me in his old age as in his youth. I have been a mother, and very happy in my children, whom I endeavoured to bring up in every thing that is good. My eldest son is blessed by the poor, and beloved by every one that knows him. I lived within my own family, and left it much more wealthy than I found it. Rhadamanthus, who knew the value of the old lady, smiled upon her in such a manner, that the keeper of Elysium, who knew his office, reached out his hand to her. He no sooner touched her, but her wrinkles vanished, her eyes sparkled, her cheeks glowed with blushes, and she appeared in full bloom and beauty. A young woman, observing that this officer, who conducted the happy to Elysium, was so great a beautifier, longed to be in his hands : so that pressing through the crowd, she was the next that appeared at the bar: and being asked what she had been doing the five, and twenty years that she had passed in the world ? I have endeavoured, says she, ever since I came to years of discretion, to make myself lovely, and gain admirers. In order to it, I passed my time in bottling up May-dew, inventing whitewashes, mixing colours, cutting out patches, consulting my glass, suiting my complexion.-Rhadamanthus, without hearing her out, gave the sign to take her off.
Upon the approach of the keeper of Erebus, her colour faded, her face was puckered up with wrinkles, and her whole person lost in deformity.
I was then surprised with the distant sound of a whole troop of females, that came forward, laughing, singing, and dancing. I was very desirous to know the reception they would meet with, and, withal, was very apprehensive that Rhadamanthus would spoil their mirth ; but at their nearer approach, the noise grew so very great that it awakened me.
I lay some time reflecting in myself on the oddness of this dream; and could not forbear asking my own heart, what I was doing? I answered myself, that I was writing Guardians. If my readers make as good a use of this work as I design they should, I hope it will never be imputed to me as a work that is vain and unprofitable.
I shall conclude this paper with recommending to them thc same short self-examination. If every one of them frequently lays his hand upon his heart, and considers what he is doing, it will check him in all the idle, or what is worse, the vicious moments of his life ; lift up his mind when it is running on in a series of indifferent actions, and encourage him when he is engaged in those which are virtuous and laudable. In a word, it will very much alleviate that guilt, which the best of men have reason to acknowledge in their daily confessions, of " leaving undone those things which they ought to have done, and of doing those things which they ought not to have done.”
XVI.-Character of Francis I. FRANCIS died at Rambouillet, on the last day of March, in the fifty-third year of his age, and the thirtythird of his reign. During twenty-eight years of that time, an avowed rivalship subsisted between him and the emperor; which involved, not only their own dominions, but the greater part of Europe, in wars, prosecuted with more violent animosity, and drawn out to a greater length, than had been known in any former period. Many circumstances contributed to both. Their animosity was founded in opposition of interests, heightened by personal emulation, and exasperated, not only by mutual injuries, but by reciprocal insults. At the same time, whatever advantage one seemed to possess towards gaining the ascendant, was wonderfully balanced by some favourable circumstances peculiar to the other. The emperor's dominions were of great ex
tent; the French king's lay more compact: Francis governed his kingdom with absolute power; that of Charles was limited, but he supplied the want of authority by address: the troops of the former, were more impetuous and enterprising ; those of the latter, better disciplined and more patient of fatigue.
The talents and abilities of the two monarchs were as different as the advantages which they possessed, and contributed no less to prolong the contest between them. Francis took his resolutions suddenly ; prosecuted them at first with warmth; and pushed them into execution with a most adventurous courage ; but, being destitute of the perseverance necessary to surmount difficulties, he often abandoned his designs, or relaxed the vigour of pursuit, from impatience, and sometimes from levity. Charles deliberated long, and determined with coolness; but having once fixed his plan, he adhered to it with inflexible obstinacy; and neither danger nor discouragement could turn him aside from the execution of it.
The success of their enterprises was as different as their characters, and was uniformly influenced by them. Francis, by his impetuous activity, often disconcerted the emperor's best laid schemes ; Charles, by a more calm, but steady prosecution of his designs, checked the rapidity of his rival's career, and baffled or repulsed his most vigorous efforts. The former, at the opening of a war or a campaign, broke in upon his enemy with the violence of a torrent, and carried all before him; the latter, waiting until he saw the force of his rival begin to abate, recovered, in the end, not only, all that he had lost, but made new acquisitions. Few of the French monarch's attempts towards conquest, whatever promising aspect they might wear at first, were conducted to a happy issue; many of the emperor's enterprises, even after they appeared desperate and impracticable, terminated in the most prosperous manner.
The degree, however, of their comparative merit and reputation, has not been fixed, either by strict scrutiny into their abilities for government, or by an impartial consideration of the greatness and success of their undertakings ; and Francis is one of those monarchs, who occupy a higher rank in the temple of fame, than either their talents or performances entitle them to hold. This pre-eminence he owed to many different circumstances. The superiority which Charles acquired by the victory of Pavia, and which, from that period,
he preserved through the remainder of his reign, was so manifest, that Francis' struggle against his exorbitant and growing dominion, was viewed by most of the other powers, not only with that partiality which naturally arises from those who gallantly maintain an unequal contest, but with the favour due to one who was resisting a common enemy, and endeavouring to set bounds to a monarch equally formidable to them all. The characters of princes, too, especially among their contemporaries, depend, not only upon their talents for government, but upon their qualities as men. Francis, notwithstanding the many errors conspicuous in his foreign policy and domestic administration, was, nevertheless, humane, beneficent, generous. He possessed dignity without pride, affability free from meanness, and courtesy exempt from deceit. All who had access to know him, and no man of merit was ever denied that privilege, respected and loved him. Captivated with his personal qualities, his subjects forgot his defects, as a monarch; and admiring him, as the most accomplished and amiable gentleman of his dominions, they hardly murmured at acts of maleadministration, which in a prince of less engaging disposition, would have been deemed unpardonable.
This admiration, however, must have been temporary only, and would have died away with the courtiers who bestowed it; the illusion arising from his private virtues must have ceased, and posterity would have judged of his public conduct with its usual impartiality : but another circumstance prevented this; and his name hath been transmitted to posterity with increasing reputation. Science and the arts had, at that time, made little progress in France. They were just beginning to advance beyond the limits of Italy, where they had revived, and which had bitherto been their only seat. Francis took them immediately under his protection, and vied with Leo himself, in the zeal and munificence, with which he encouraged them. He invited learned men to his court, he conversed with them familiarly, he employed them in business, he raised them to offices of dignity, and honoured them with his confidence. That race of men, not more prone to complain when denied the respect to which they fancy themselves entitled, than apt to be pleased when treated with the distinction which they consider as their due, thought they could not exceed in gratitude to such a benefactor, and strained their invention, and employed all their ingenuity in panegyric.