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203. FROM THE DESERTED VILLAGE.'
THE VILLAGE INX.
Vain transitory splendours ! could not all
HISTORICAL, MORAL, POLITICAL, AND THEOLOGICAL WRITERS OF
THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY.
204. David Hume. 1711-1776. (Manual, p. 352.)
CHARACTER OF QUEEN ELIZABETH. There are few great personages in history who have been more exposed to the calumny of enemies, and the adulation of friends, than Queen Elizabeth, and yet there is scarce any whose reputation has been more certainly determined by the unanimous consent of posterity. The unusual length of her administration, and the strong features of her character, were able to overcome all prejudices; and obliging her detractors to abate much of their invectives, and her admirers somewhat of their panegyrics, have, at last, in spite of political factions, and, what is more, of religious animosities, produced an uniform judgment with regard to her conduct. Her vigour, her constancy, her magnanimity, her penetration, vigilance, address, are allowed to merit the highest praises, and appear not to have been surpassed by any person who ever filled a throne: a conduct less rigorous, less imperious, more sincere, more indulgent to her people, would have been requisite to form a perfect character. By the force of her mind, she controlled all her more active and stronger qualities, and prevented them from running into excess. Her heroism was exempt from all temerity, her frugality from avarice, her friendship from partiality, her active temper from turbulency and a vain ambition. She guarded not herself with equal care or equal success from lesser infirmities—the rivalship of beauty, the desire of admiration, the jealousy of love, and the sallies of anger.
Her singular talents for government were founded equally on her temper and ou her capacity. Endowed with a great command over herself, she soon obtained an uncontrolled ascendant over her people; and while she merited all their esteem by her real virtues, she also enjoyed their affection by her pretended ones.
reigns of England succeeded to the throne in more difficult circum• stances; and none ever conducted the government with such uniform
success and felicity. Though unacquainted with the practice of
toleration, the true secret for managing religious factions, she preserved her people, by her superior prudence, from those confusions in which theological controversies had involved all the neighbouring nations; and though her enemies were the most powerful princes of Europe, the most active, the most enterprising, the least scrupulous, she was able by her vigour to make deep impressions on their state; her own greatness meanwhile remained untouched and unimpaired.
The wise ministers and brave warriors who flourished during her reign share the praise of her success; but instead of lessening the applause due to her, they make great addition to it. They owed, all of them, their advancement to her choice; they were supported by her constancy; and with all their ability they were never able to acquire any undue ascendant over her. In her family, in her court, in her kingdom, she remained equally mistress : the force of the tender passions was great over her, but the force of her mind was still superior; and the combat which her victory visibly cost her, serves only to display the firmness of her resolution, and the loftiness of her ambitious sentiments.
The fame of this princess, though it has surmounted the prejudices both of faction and bigotry, yet lies still exposed to another prejudice, which is more durable because more natural, and which, according to the different views in which we survey her, is capable either of exalting beyond measure, or diminishing, the lustre of her character. This prejudice is founded on the consideration of her
When we contemplate her as a woman, we are apt to be struck with the highest admiration of her great qualities and extensive capacity ; but we are also apt to require some more softness of dispos on, some greater lenity of temper, some of those amiable weaknesses by which her sex is distinguished. But the true method of estimating her merit is to lay aside all these cousiderations, and consider her merely as a rational being, placed in authority, and entrusted with the government of mankind. We may find it difficult to reconcile our fancy to her as a wise or a mistress; but her qualities as a sovereign, though with some considerable exceptions, are the object of undisputed applause and approbation.
205. ON THE MIDDLE STATION OF LIFE.
The moral of the following fable will easily discover itself without my explaining it. One rivulet meeting another, with whom he had been long united in strictest amity, with noisy haughtiness and disdain thus bespoke him :-“What, brother! still in the same state! Still low and creeping! Are you not ashamed when you behold me, who, though lately in a like condition with you, am now become a great river, and shall shortly be able to rival the Danube or the Rhine, provided those friendly rains continue which have favoured my banks, but neglected yours ? ' “ Very true," replies the humble rivulet, “you are now, indeed, swollen to a great size; but methinks you are become withal somewhat turbulent and muddy. I am contented with my low condition and my purity.”
Instead of commenting upon this fable, I shall take occasion from it to compare the different stations of life, and to persuade such of my readers as are placed in the middle station to be satisfied with it, as the most eligible of all others. These form the most numerous rank of men that can be supposed susceptible of philosophy, and therefore all discourses of morality ought principally to be addressed to them. The great are too much immersed in pleasure, and the poor too much occupied in providing for the necessities of life, to hearken to the calm voice of reason. The middle station, as it is most happy in many respects, so particularly in this, that a man placed in it can, with the greatest leisure, consider his own happiness, and reap a new enjoyment, from comparing his situation with that of persons above or below him.
Agur's prayer is sufficiently noted—“ Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies ; give me neither poverty nor riches ; feed me with food convenient for me, lest I be full and deny thee, and say, who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.” The middle station is here justly recommended, as affording the fullest security for virtue; and I may also add, that it gives opportunity for the most ample exercise of it, and furnishes employment for every good quality which we can possibly be possessed of. Those who are placed among the lower ranks of men have little opportunity of exerting any other virtue besides those of patience, resignation, industry, and integrity. Those who are advanced into the higher stations, have full employment for their generosity, humanity, affability, and charity. When a man lies betwixt these two extremes, he can exert the former virtues towards his superiors, and the latter towards his inferiors. Every moral quality which the human soul is susceptible of may have its turn, and be called up to action; and a man may, after this manner, be much more certain of his progress in virtue, than ļwhere his good qualities lie dormant and without employment.
But there is another virtue that seems principally to lie among equals; and is, for that reason, chiefly calculated for the middle station of life. This virtue is friendship. I believe most men of generous tempers are apt to envy the great, when they consider the large opportunities such persons have of doing good to their fellowcreatures, and of acquiring the friendship and esteem of men of merit. They make no advances in vain, and are not obliged to associate with those whom they have little kindness for, like people of inferior stations, who are subject to have their proffers of friendship rejected even where they would be most fond of placing their affections. But though the great have more facility in acquiring friendships, they cannot be so certain of the sincerity of them as men of a lower rank, since the favours they bestow may acquire them flattery, instead of good-will and kindness. It has been very judiciously remarked, that we attach ourselves more by the services we perform than by those we receive, and that a man is in danger of losing his friends by obliging them too far. I should therefore choose to lie in the middle way, and to have my commerce with my friend varied both by obligations given and received. I have too much pride to be willing that all the obligations should lie on my side, and should be afraid that, if they all lay on his, he would also have too much pride to be entirely easy under them, or have a perfect complacency in my company.
206. William Robertson. 1721-1793. (Manual, p. 355.)
EXECUTION OF Mary, QUEEN OF Scots. On Tuesday, the 7th of February, 1587, the two earls arrived at Fotheringay, and demanded access to the queen, read in her presence the warrant for execution, and required her to prepare to die next morning. Mary heard them to the end without emotion, and crossing herself in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, “ That soul,” said she, “is not worthy the joys of heaven, which repines because the body must endure the stroke of the executioner; and though I did not expect that the Queen of England would set the first example of violating the sacred person of a sovereign prince, I willingly submit to that which Providence has decreed to be my lot.” And laying her hand on a Bible, which happened to be near her, she solemnly protested that she was
pocent of that conspiracy which Babington had carried on against izabeth's life. She then mentioned the request contained in her tter to Elizabeth, but obtained no satisfactory answer. reated with particular earnestness, that now in her last moment, her almoner might be suffered to attend her, and that she might
enjoy the consolation of those pious institutions prescribed by her religion. Even this favour, which is usually granted to the vilest minal, was absolutely denied.
attendants, during this conversation, were bathed in tears, and