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Among these many decays, there is yet one imitation in small matters as well as obedience in sort of poetry that seems to have succeeded great: so that some nations look as if they were much better with our moderns than any of the cast all by one mould, or cut out all by one pattern rest, which is dramatic, or that of the stage. In (at least the common people in one and the gentlethis the Italian, the Spanish, and the French men in another). They seem all of a sort in their have all had their different merit, and received babits, their customs, and even their talk and their just applauses. Yet I am deceived if our conversation, as well as in the application and English has not, in some kind, excelled both the pursuit of their actions and their lives. modern and the ancient, which has been by force Besides all this, there is another sort of variety of a vein natural perhaps to our country, and amongst us, which arises from our climate, and which with us is called humour, a word peculiar the dispositions it naturally produces. We are to our language too, and hard to be expressed in not only more unlike one another than any any other; nor is it (that I know of) found in nation I know, but we are more unlike ourselves any foreign writers, unless it be Molière, and too at several times, and owe to our very air yet his itself has too much of the farce to pass some ill qualities as well as many good. We for the same with ours. Shakespeare was the may allow some distempers incident to our first that opened this vein upon our stage, which climate, since so much health, vigour, and length bas run so freely and so pleasantly ever since, of life have been generally ascribed to it; for that I have often wondered to find it appear among the Greek and Roman authors themselves, so little upon any others; being a subject so we shall find the Britons observed to live the proper for them, since humour is but a picture longest, and the Egyptians the shortest, of any of particular life, as comedy is of general; and nations that were known in those ages. Besides, though it represents dispositions and customs I think none will dispute the native courage of less common, yet they are not less natural than our men, and beauty of our women, which may be those that are more frequent among men; for elsewhere as great in particulars, but nowhere so if humour itself be forced it loses all the grace, in general; they may be (what is said of diseases) which has been indeed the fault of some of our as acute in other places, but with us they are poets most celebrated in this kind.
epidemical. For my own part, who have conIt may seem a defect in the ancient stage, that versed much with men of other nations, and such the characters introduced were so few, and those as have been both in great employments and so common, as a covetous old man, an amorous esteem, I can say very impartially that I have young, a witty wench, a crafty slave, a bragging not observed among any so much true genius soldier. The spectators met nothing upon the as among the English; nowhere more sharpness stage but what they met in the streets and at of wit, more pleasantness of humour, more range every turn. All the variety is drawn only from of fancy, more penetration of thought or depth different and uncommon events; whereas if the of reflection among the better sort; nowhere characters are so too, the diversity and the plea | more goodness of nature and of meaning, nor sure must needs be the more. But as of most more plainness of sense and of life than among the general customs in a country, there is usually common sort of country people, nor more blunt some ground, from the nature of the people or courage and honesty than among our seamen. climate, so there may be amongst us for this vein But with all this, our country must be conof our stage, and a greater variety of humour fessed to be what a great foreign physician called in the picture, because there is a greater variety it, the region of spleen, which may arise a good in the life. This may proceed from the native deal from the great uncertainty and many sudden plenty of our soil, the unequalness of our climate, changes of our weather in all seasons of the year. as well as the ease of our government, and the And how much these affect the heads and hearts, liberty of professing opinions and factions which especially of the finest tempers, is hard to be perhaps our neighbours may have about them, believed by men whose thoughts are not turned but are forced to disguise, and thereby they may to such speculations. This makes us unequal in come in time to be extinguished. Plenty begets our humours, inconstant in our passions, unwantonness and pride. Wantonness is apt to certain in our ends, and even in our desires. invent, and pride scorns to imitate; liberty Besides, our different opinions in religion and begets stomach or heart, and stomach will not the factions they have raised or animated, for be constrained. Thus we come to have more | fifty years past, have had an ill effect upon our originals, and more that appear what they are; manners and customs, inducing more avarice, we have more humour, because every man follows ambition, disguise (with the usual consequences his own, and takes a pleasure, perhaps a pride, of them), than were before in our constitution. to show it. 8 24 C 28
From all this it may happen that there is nowhere On the contrary, where the people are generally more true zeal in the many different forms of poor, and forced to work hard labour, their devotion, and yet nowhere more knavery under actions and lives are all of a piece. Where they the shows and pretences. There are nowhere so serve hard masters, they must follow his ex- many disputes upon religion, so many reasoners amples as well as commands, and are forced upon upon government, so many refiners in politics,
80 many curious inquisitives, so many pretenders march with the entertainments of his muse. to business and state employments, greater Augustus was not only a patron, but a friend and porers upon books, nor plodders after wealth.companion of Virgil and Horace, and was himAnd yet nowhere more abandoned libertines, self both an admirer of poetry and a pretender more refined luxurists, extravagant debauchees, too, as far as his genius would reach, or his busy conceited gallants, more dabblers in poetry as scene allow. It is true, since his age, we have well as politics, in philosophy, and in chemistry. few such examples of great princes favouring or I have had several servants far gone in divinity, affecting poetry, and as few, perhaps, of great others in poetry; have known in the families of poets deserving it. Whether it be that the some friends a keeper deep in the Rosicrucian fierceness of the Gothic humours, or noise of their principles, and a laundress firm in those of perpetual wars, frightened it away, or that the Epicurus. What effect soever such a composi- unequal mixture of the modern languages would tion or medley of humours among us may have not bear it, certain it is that the great heights upon our lives or our government, it must needs and excellency, both of poetry and music, fell have a good one upon our stage, and has given with the Roman learning and empire, and have admirable play to our comical wits. So that, in never since recovered the admiration and apmy opinion, there is no vein of that sort, either plauses that before attended them. Yet such as ancient or modern, which excels or equals the they are amongst us, they must be confessed to humour of our plays. And for the rest, I cannot be the softest and sweetest, the most general and but observe, to the honour of our country, that| most innocent amusements of common time and the good qualities amongst us seem to be natural, life. They still find room in the courts of princes and the ill ones more accidental, and such as and the cottages of shepherds. They serve to would be easily changed by the examples of revive and animate the dead calm of poor or idle princes, and by the precepts of laws; such; I lives, and to allay or divert the violent passions mean, as should be designed to form manners, and perturbations of the greatest and the busiest to restrain excesses, to encourage industry, to men. And both these effects are of equal use to prevent men's expenses beyond their fortunes, | human life; for the mind of man is like the sea, to countenance virtue, and raise that true esteem which is neither agreeable to the beholder nor due to plain sense and common honesty. the voyager, in a calm or in a storm, but is so to
But to spin off this thread which is already both, when a little agitated by gentle gales; and grown too long. What honour and request the so the mind, when moved by soft and easy ancient party has lived in, may not only be passions and affections. I know very well, that observed from the universal reception and use in many who pretend to be wise, by the forms of all nations, from China to Peru, from Scythia to | being grave, are apt to despise both poetry and Arabia, but from the esteem of the best and music as toys and trifles too light for the use greatest men, as well as the vulgar. Among the or entertainment of serious men. But whoever Hebrews, David and Solomon, the wisest kings, find themselves wholly insensible to these charms Job and Jeremiah, the holiest men, were the
would, I think, do well to keep their own counsel, best poets of their nation and language. Among for fear of reproaching their own temper, and the Greeks, the two most renowned sages and bringing the goodness of their natures, if not of lawgivers were Lycurgus and Solon, whereof the their understandings, into question: it may be last is known to have excelled in poetry, and the thought at least an ill sign, if not an ill con. first was so great a lover of it that to his carestitution, since some of the fathers went so far and industry we are said (by some authors) to as to esteem the love of music a sign of preowe the collection and preservation of the loose destination, as a thing divine, and reserved for and scattered pieces of Homer, in the order the felicities of heaven itself. While this world wherein they have since appeared. Alexander lasts, I doubt not but the pleasure and requests is reported neither to have travelled nor slept of these two entertainments will do so too, and without those admirable poems always in his com- happy those that content themselves with these, pany. Phalaris, that was inexorable to all other or any other so easy and so innocent, and do not enemies, relented at the charms of Stesichorus' | trouble the world or other men, because they muse. Among the Romans, the last and great cannot be quiet themselves, though nobody hurts Scipio passed the soft hours of his life in the them. conversation of Terence, and was thought to When all is done, human life is at the greatest have a part in the composition of his comedies. and best but like a froward child, that must be Cæsar was an excellent poet as well as orator, played with and humoured a little, to keep it and composed a poem in his voyage from Rome quiet till it falls asleep, and then the care is to Spain, relieving the tedious difficulties of his over.
JOHN LOCKE. BORN 1632: DIED 1704.
(From “The Conduct of the Understanding.")
| reason, where they have no secret inclination CAUSES OF WEAKNESS IN MEN'S that hinders them from being untractable to it. UNDERSTANDING.
3. The third sort is of those who readily and THERE is, it is visible, great variety in men's sincerely follow reason, but for want of having understandings; and their natural constitutions that which one may call large, sound, roundpat so wide a difference between some men in about sense, have not a full view of all that rethis respect, that art and industry would never | lates to the question, and may be of moment to be able to master; and their very natures seem decide it. We are all short-sighted and very to want a foundation to raise on it that which often see but one side of a matter : our views other men easily attain unto. Amongst men of are not extended to all that has a connection equal education there is great inequality of parts; with it. From this defect I think no man is free. and the woods of America, as well as the schools We see but in part, and we know but in part, of Athens, produce men of several abilities in and therefore it is no wonder we conclude not the same kind. Though this be so, yet I right from our partial views. This might inimagine most men come very short of what they struct the proudest esteemer of his own parts might attain unto in their several degrees, by a how useful it is to talk and consult with others, neglect of their understandings. A few rules of even such as come short of him in capacity, logic are thought sufficient, in this case, for quickness, and penetration ; for since no one those who pretend to the highest improvement; sees all, and we generally have different prospects whereas I think there are a great many natural of the same thing, according to our different, as defects in the understanding capable of amend. I may say, positions to it, it is not incongruous ment, which are overlooked and wholly neglected to think, nor beneath any man to try, whether And it is easy to perceive that men are guilty of another may not have notions of things which a great many faults in the exercise and improve- | have escaped him, and which his reason would ment of this faculty of the mind, which hinder make use of if they came into his mind. The them in their progress, and keep them in ignor. faculty of reasoning seldom or never deceives ance and error all their lives. Some of them I those who trust to it; its consequences from shall take notice of, and endeavour to point out what it builds on are evident and certain, but that proper remedies for, in the following discourse. | which it oftenest, if not only, misleads us in is,
Besides the want of determined ideas, and of that the principles from which we conclude, the sagacity and exercise in finding out and laying grounds upon which we bottom our reasoning, in order intermediate ideas, there are three mis are but a part; something is left out whick carriages that men are guilty of in reference to should go into the reckoning to make it just and their reason, whereby this faculty is hindered in exact. Here we may imagine a vast and almost them from that service it might do and was de- infinite advantage that angels and separate spirits rigned for. And he that reflects upon the actions may have over us, who, in their several degrees and discourses of mankind, will find their defects of elevation above us, may be endowed with more in this kind very frequent, and very observable. comprehensive faculties; and some of them, per
1. The first is of those who seldom reason at haps, have perfect and exact views of all finite all, but do and think according to the example beings that come under their considerationof others, whether parents, neighbours, ministers, can, as it were, in the twinkling of an eye collect or who else they are pleased to make choice of together all their scattered and almost boundless to have an implicit faith in, for the saving of relations. A mind so furnished, what reason themselves the pains and trouble of thinking has it to acquiesce in the certainty of its conand examining for themselves.
clusions ! 2. The second is of those who put passion in In this we may see the reason why some men the place of reason, and being resolved that shall of study and thought, that reason right, and are govern their actions and arguments, neither use lovers of truth, do make no great advances in their own, nor hearken to other people's reason, their discoveries of it. Error and truth are unany farther than it suits their humour, interest, certainly blended in their minds; their decisions or party; and these, one may observe, commonly are lame and defective, and they are very often content themselves with words which have no mistaken in their judgments: the reason whereof distinct ideas to them, though, in other matters, is, they converse but with one sort of men, they that they come with an unbiassed indifferency read but one sort of books, they will not come in to, they want not abilities to talk and hear the hearing but of one sort of notions; the truth is, they canton out to themselves a little Goshen almost all manual arts are as wonderful; but I in the intellectual world, where light shines, and, name those which the world takes notice of for as they conclude, day blesses them; but the rest such, because, on that very account, they give of that vast expansum they give up to night and money to see them. All these admired motions, darkness, and so avoid coming near it. They beyond the reach, and almost the conception, of have a petty traffic with known correspondents unpractised spectators, are nothing but the mere in some little creek; within that they confine | effects of use and industry in men whose bodies themselves, and are dexterous managers enough have nothing peculiar in them from those of the of the wares and products of that corner, with amazed lookers-on. which they content themselves, but will not As it is in the body, so it is in the mind; pracventure out into the great ocean of knowledge, tice makes it what it is: and most, even of those to survey the riches that nature hath stored excellencies which are looked on as natural endow. other parts with, no less genuine, no less solid, ments, will be found, when examined into more no less useful, than what has fallen to their lot narrowly, to be the product of exercise, and to in the admired plenty and sufficiency of their be raised to that pitch only by repeated actions. own little spot, which to them contains whatso- Some men are remarked for pleasantness in ever is good in the universe. Those who live raillery; others for apologues and apposite thus mewed up within their own contracted terri. diverting stories. This is apt to be taken for tories, and will not look abroad beyond the the effect of pure nature, and that the rather, boundaries that chance, conceit, or laziness, has because it is not got by rules; and those who get to their inquiries, but live separate from the excel in either of them, never purposely set themnotions, discourses, and attainments, of the rest selves to the study of it as an art to be learned. of mankind, may not amiss be represented by But yet it is true, that at first some lucky hit the inhabitants of the Marian islands, which which took with somebody, and gained him combeing separated by a large tract of sea from all mendation, encouraged him to try again, inclined communion with the habitable parts of the earth, his thoughts and endeavours that way, till at thought themselves the only people of the world. last he insensibly got a facility in it without And though the straitness and conveniences of perceiving how; and that is attributed wholly life amongst them had never reached so far as to to nature, which was much more the effect of use the use of fire, till the Spaniards, not many years and practice. I do not deny that natural dissince, in their voyages from Acapulco to Manilla, position may often give the first rise to it; but brought it amongst them; yet in the want and that never carries a man far without use and ignorance of almost all things, they looked upon exercise, and it is practice alone that brings the themselves, even after that the Spaniards had powers of the mind, as well as those of the body, brought amongst them the notice of variety of to their perfection. Many a good poetic vein is nations abounding in sciences, arts, and conveni. buried under a trade, and never produces any. ences of life, of which they knew nothing-they thing, for want of improvement. We see the looked upon themselves, I say, as the happiest ways of discourse and reasoning are very differand wisest people of the universe.
ent, even concerning the same matter at court and
in the university. And he that will go but from OF PRACTICE AND HABITS.
Westminster Hall to the Exchange, will find a
different genius and turn in their ways of talkWe are born with faculties and powers cap- ing: and yet one cannot think that all whose lot able almost of anything, such at least as would fell in the city were born with different parts carry us further than can be easily imagined: from those who were bred at the university or but it is only the exercise of those powers which inns of court. gives us ability and skill in anything, and leads To what purpose all this, but to show that the us towards perfection.
difference so observable in men's understandings A middle-aged ploughman will scarce ever be and parts, does not arise so much from the natubrought to the carriage and language of a gentle.ral faculties as acquired habits? He would be mán, though his body be as well proportioned, laughed at that should go about to make a fine and his joints as supple, and his natural parts dancer out of a country hedger at past fifty. And not any way inferior. The legs of a dancing. he will not have much better success, who shall master, and the fingers of a musician, fall as it endeavour at that age to make a man reason well, wers naturally, without thought or pains, into or speak handsomely, who has never been used regular and admirable motions. Bid them to it, though you should lay before him a collecchange their parts, and they will in vain endeav. tion of all the best precepts of logic or oratory. our to produce like motions in the members not Nobody is made anything by hearing of rules, oi used to them, and it will require length of time laying them up in his memory; practice must and long practice to attain but some degrees of a settle the habit of doing, without reflecting on like ability. What incredible and astonishing the rule: and you may as well hope to make a actions do we find rope-dancers and tumblers good painter or musician extempore by a lecture bring their bodies to !--not but that sundry in and instruction in the arts of music and painting,
as a coherent thinker, or strict reasoner, by a themselves, and contemptible to others, if they set of rules, showing him wherein right reasoning should embrace opinions without any ground, consists.
and hold what they could give no manner of reaThis being so, that defects and weakness in son for, True or false, solid or sandy, the mind men's understandings, as well as other faculties, must have some foundation to rest itself upon; come from a want of a right use of their own and, as I have remarked in another place, it no minds, I am apt to think the fault is generally sooner entertains any proposition, but it premislaid upon nature, and there is often a com- sently hastens to some hypothesis to bottom it plaint of want of parts, when the fault lies in on: till then it is unquiet and unsettled. So much want of a due improvement of them. We see do our own very tempers dispose us to a right men frequently dexterous and sharp enough in use of our understandings, if we would follow as making a bargain, who, if you reason with we should the inclinations of our nature. them about matters of religion, appear perfectly In some matters of concernment, especially stupid.
those of religion, men are not permitted to be OF PRINCIPLES.
always wavering and uncertain, they must em.
brace and profess some tenets or other; and it There is another fault that stops or misleads would be a shame, nay, a contradiction too men in their knowledge, which I have also heavy for any one's mind to lie constantly under, spoken something of, but yet is necessary to for him to pretend seriously to be persuaded of mention here again, that we may examine it to the truth of any religion, and yet not to be able the bottom, and see the root it springs from, and to give any reason of his belief, or to say any. that is a custom of taking up with principles that thing for his preference of this to any other are not self-evident, and very often not so much opinion; and, therefore, they must make use of as true. It is not unusual to see men rest their some principles or other, and those can be no opinions upon foundations that have no more other than such as they have and can manage; certainty nor solidity than the propositions built and to say they are not in earnest persuaded by on them, and embraced for their sake. Such them, and do not rest upon those they make use foundations are these, and the like, namely: of, is contrary to experience, and to allege that The founders or leaders of my party are good they are not misled when we complain they are. men, and therefore their tenets are true; it is! If this be so, it will be urged, why, then, do the opinion of a sect that is erroneous, therefore they not rather make use of sure and unquestionit is false: it hath been long received in the able principles, rather than rest on such grounds world, therefore it is true; or, it is new, and as may deceive them, and will, as is visible, therefore false.
serve to support error as well as truth? These, and many the like, which are by no! To this I answer, the reason why they do not means the measures of truth and falsehood, the make use of better and surer principles, is begenerality of men make the standards by which cause they cannot: but this inability proceeds they accustom their understanding to judge. not from want of natural parts (for those few And thus, they falling into a habit of determin- | | whose case that is, are to be excused), but for ing of truth and falsehood by such wrong mea. | want of use and exercise. Few men are from sures, it is no wonder they should embrace error their youth accustomed to strict reasoning, and for certainty, and be very positive in things they to trace the dependence of any truth in a long have no ground for.
train of consequences to its remote principles, There is not any who pretends to the least and to observe its connection; and he that by reason, but when any of these his false maxims frequent practice has not been used to this em. are brought to the test, must acknowledge themployment of his understanding, it is no more to be fallible, and such as he will not allow in wonder that he should not, when he is grown those that differ from him; and yet, after he is into years, be able to bring his mind to it, than convinced of this, you shall see him go on in the that he should not be on a sudden able to grave use of them, and the very next occasion that or design, dance on the ropes, or write a good offers, argue again upon the same grounds. | hand, who has never practised either of them. Would one not be ready to think that men are | Nay, the most of men are so wholly strangers willing to impose upon themselves, and mislead to this, that they do not so much as perceive their own understanding, who conduct them by their want of it; they despatch the ordinary such wrong measures, even after they see they business of their callings by rote, as we say, as cannot be relied on! But yet, they will not ap- they have learned it; and if at any time they pear so blainable as may be thought at first miss success, they impute it to anything rather sight; for I think there are a great many that than want of thought or skill; that, they conargue thus in earnest, and do it not to impose onclude (because they know no better), they have themselves or others. They are persuaded of in perfection: or if there be any subject that what they say, and think there is weight in it, interest or fancy has recommended to their though, in a like case, they have been convinced thoughts, their reasoning about it is still after thire is none; but men would be intolerable to their own fashion, be it better or worse; it