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MR. ADDISON'S TREATISE
See the wild waste of all-devouring years!
Ambition sigh’d. She found it vain to trust
The medal, faithful to its charge of fame, Through climes and ages bears each form and name: In one short view, subjected to our eye, Gods, emp’rors, heroes, sages, beauties lie. With sharpen'd sight pale antiquaries pore, Th'inscription value, but the rust adore : Vol. V.
This, the blue varnish, that, the green endears,
Theirs is the vanity, the learning thine.
O when shall Britain, conscious of her claim,
UPON THE USEFULNESS
CYNTHIO, Eugenius, and Philander had retired together from the town to a country village, that lies upon the Thames. Their design was to pass away the heats of the summer among the fresh breezes that rise from the river, and the agreeable mixture of shades and fountains, in which the whole country naturally abounds. They were all three very well versed in the politer parts of learning, and had travelled into the most refined nations of Europe: so that they were capable of entertaining themselves on a thousand different subjects, without running into the common topics of defaming public parties, or particular persons. As they were intimate friends, they took the freedom to dissent from one another in discourse, or, upon occasion, to speak a Latin sentence without fearing the imputation of pedantry or ill-breeding.
They were one evening taking a walk together in the fields, when their discourse accidentally fell upon several unprofitable parts of learning. It was Cynthio's humour to run down every thing that was rather for ostentation than use. He was still preferring good sense to arts and sciences, and often took a pleasure to appear ignorant, that he might the better turn to ridicule those that valued themselves on their books and studies, though at the same time one might very well see that he could not have attacked many parts of learning so successfully, had not he borrowed his assistances from them. After having rallied a set or two of virtuosos, he fell upon the medallists.
These gentlemen, says he, value themselves upon being critics in rust, and will undertake to tell
the different ages of it, by its colour. They are possessed with a kind of learned avarice, and are for getting together hoards of such money only as was current among the Greeks and Latins. There are several of them that are better acquainted with the faces of the Antonines than of the Stuarts, and would rather chuse to.count out a sum in sesterces than in pounds sterling. I have heard of one in Italy that used to swear by the head of Otho. Nothing can be pleasanter than to see a circle of these virtuosos about a cabinet of medals, descanting upon the value, rarity, and authenticalness of the several pieces that lie before them. One takes up a coin of gold, and, after having well weighed the figures and inscription, tells you very gravely, if it were brass, it would be invaluable. Another falls a ringing a Pescennius Niger, and judiciously distinguishes the sound of it to be modern. A third desires you to observe well the Toga on such a reverse, and asks you whether you can in conscience believe the sleeve of it to be of the true Roman cut.
I must confess, says Philander, the knowledge of medals has most of those disadvantages that can render a science ridiculous, to such as are not well versed in it. Nothing is more easy than to represent as impertinences any parts of learning that have no immediate relation to the happiness or convenience of mankind. When a man spends his whole life among the stars and planets, or lays out a twelvemonth on the spots in the sun, however noble his speculations may be, they are very apt to fall into burlesque. But it is still more natural to laugh at such studies as are employed on low and vulgar objects. What curious