Page images


Most of the speculations contained in the following work, are not the author's own, but the speculations of ancient and respectable philosophers. His employ has been no more than to exhibit what they taught, which he has endeavoured to do after the best manner he was able. The perusal of old doctrines may afford, perhaps, amusement, if it be true (as he has observed in another place *) that what, from its antiquity, is but little known, has from that very circumstance the recommendation of novelty

If he might ask a favour from his readers, the favour should be this: that they would not reject his work upon a cursory inspection, should it appear in some parts too abstruse, and perhaps in others too obvious. He could not well avoid either the one or the other, without impairing an arrangement which had been established for ages.

a See the Preface to Hermes.







Philosophy, taking its name from the love of wisdom, and having for its end the investigation of truth, has an equal regard both to practice and speculation, inasmuch as truth of every kind is similar and congenial. Hence we find that some of the most illustrious actors upon the great theatre of the world have been engaged at times in philosophical speculation. Pericles, who governed Athens, was the disciple of Anaxagoras; Epaminondas spent his youth in the Pythagorean school; Alexander the Great had Aristotle for his preceptor; and Scipio made Polybius his companion and friend. Why need I mention Cicero, or Cato, or Brutus? The orations, the epistles, and the philosophical works of the first, shew him sufficiently conversant both in action and contemplation. So eager was Cato for knowledge,“ even when surrounded with business, that he used to read philosophy in the senate-house, while the senate was assembling : and as for the patriot Brutus, though his life was a continual scene of the most important action, he found time not only to study, but to compose a treatise upon Virtue.b

a Thus Cicero describes him: Quippe qui, ex multis sermonibus tuis, virtutem ad beate ne reprehensionem quidem volgi inanem vivendum se ipsa esse contentam. Tuscul. reformidans, in ipsa curia soleret legere Disput. v. 1. And again: Provocatus gratissaepe, dum senatus cogeretur, nihil operæ simo mihi libro, quem de Virtute scripsisti. reipublicæ detrahens. De Fin. iji. 2. Where De Fin. ). iii. it is worth remarking, that Cato considered One or two short fragments of this his application to literature as no way ob- treatise of Brutus are preserved in Seneca, structing his duty to the commonwealth. De Consolat, ad Helv. c. 9. The studious character and the political in As to Pericles, Epaminondas, and the him were united.

other great names mentioned in the same 6 Thus the same Cicero: Placere enim page with Cato and Brutus, see note e in tibi (Bruto scil.) admodum sensi, et ex eo the following page. libro quem ad me accuratissime scripsisti, et

When these were gone, and the worst of times succeeded, Thrasea Pætus and Helvidius Priscus were at the same period both senators and philosophers, and appear to have supported the severest trials of tyrannic oppression by the manly system of the Stoic moral. The best emperor whom the Romans, or perhaps any nation, ever knew, Marcus Antoninus, was involved during his whole life in business of the last consequence; sometimes conspiracies forming, which he was obliged to dissipate ; formidable wars arising at other times, when he was obliged to take the field. Yet during none of these periods did he forsake philosophy, but still persisted in meditation, and in committing his thoughts to writing, during moments gained by stealth from the hurry of courts and campaigns.

If we descend to later ages, and search our own country, we shall find sir Thomas More, sir Philip Sidney, sir Walter Raleigh, lord Herbert of Cherbury, Milton, Algernon Sidney, sir William Temple, and many others, to have been all of them eminent in public life, and yet at the same time conspicuous for their speculations and literature. If we look abroad, examples of like character will occur in other countries. Grotius, the poet, the critic, the philosopher, and the divine, was employed by the court of Sweden as ambassador to France: and De Witt, that acute but unfortunate statesman, that pattern of parsimony and political accomplishments, was an able mathematician, wrote upon the elements of curves, and applied his algebra with accuracy to the trade and commerce of his country.

And so much in defence of philosophy, against those who may possibly undervalue her, because they have succeeded without her; those I mean (and it must be confessed they are many) who, having spent their whole lives in what Milton calls “the busy hum of men,” have acquired to themselves habits of amazing efficacy, unassisted by the helps of science and erudition. To such the retired student may appear an awkward being, because they want a just standard to measure his merit. But let them recur to the bright examples before alleged ; let them remember that these were eminent in their own way; were men of action and business; men of the world; and yet they did not disdain to cultivate philosophy, nay, were many of them perhaps indebted to her for the splendor of their active character.

• See Arr. Epictet. lib. i. c. 1, 2. and the devos, kal uáriota tepidels Õykov ain@ notes of my late worthy friend, the learned και φρόνημα δημαγωγίας εμβριθέστερον, editor, Upton. See also Mrs. Carter's ex- όλως τε μετεωρίσας και συνεξάρας το cellent translation.

αξίωμα του ήθους, Αναξαγόρας ήν ο Κλαζο« See the original, particularly in Ga- μένιος, ον οι τότάνθρωποι νούν προσηtaker's edition. See also the learned and opevov: “But he who was most conaccurate translation of Meric Casaubon. versant with Pericles, and most contributed

e The following authorities may serve to to give him a grandeur of mind, and to confirm the truth of this assertion.

make his high spirit for governing the poIn Plutarch's Life of Pericles we read as pular assemblies more weighty and authorifollows: 'O allora llepikiei augyevó- lative; in a word, who exalted his ideas,

« PreviousContinue »