A Book of English Prose - Part II, Arranged for Secondary and High Schools
by Percy Lubbock
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A Book of English Prose

Part II

Arranged for Secondary and High Schools





at the University Press






The Editor desires to record his thanks to Messrs Macmillan & Co., Ltd., Messrs Chatto & Windus and Messrs Longmans, Green & Co., for their respective permission to include in this volume passages from Walter Pater's Miscellaneous Studies, from R. L. Stevenson's Random Memories and from Newman's Historical Sketches.

P. L.

October 1913



Death of Sir Gawaine . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sir Thomas Malory 1

The Queen's Speech to her last Parliament . . . . . . . . . . . . Elizabeth, Queen of England 4

Death of Cleopatra . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sir Thomas North 8

The Vanity of Greatness . . . . . . . . . . . Sir Walter Ralegh 12

The Law of Nations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Richard Hooker 16

Of Studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Francis Bacon 17

Meditation on Death . . . . . . . . . . . . . William Drummond 19

Primitive Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Thomas Hobbes 21

Character of a Plodding Student . . . . . . . . . . John Earle 24

Charity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sir Thomas Browne 25

The Danger of interfering with the Liberty of the Press . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . John Milton 27

Death of Falkland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Earl of Clarendon 30

The End of the Pilgrimage . . . . . . . . . . . . . John Bunyan 35

Poetry and Music . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sir William Temple 40

A Day in the Country . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Samuel Pepys 42

Captain Singleton in China . . . . . . . . . . . . Daniel Defoe 46

The Art of Conversation . . . . . . . . . . . . Jonathan Swift 51

The Royal Exchange . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Joseph Addison 56

Sir Roger de Coverley's Ancestors . . . . . . . Richard Steele 60

Partridge at the Play . . . . . . . . . . . . . Henry Fielding 65

A Journey in a Stage-coach . . . . . . . . . . . Samuel Johnson 71

Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim . . . . . . . . . . Laurence Sterne 76

The Funeral of George II . . . . . . . . . . . . Horace Walpole 79

The Credulity of the English . . . . . . . . . . Oliver Goldsmith 83

Decay of the Principles of Liberty . . . . . . . . . Edmund Burke 85

The Candidate for Parliament . . . . . . . . . . . William Cowper 89

Youth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Edward Gibbon 93

First Sight of Dr Johnson . . . . . . . . . . . . James Boswell 94

Arrival at Osbaldistone Hall . . . . . . . . . . Sir Walter Scott 100

A Visit to Coleridge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Charles Lamb 107

Diogenes and Plato . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . W. S. Landor 109

An Invitation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jane Austen 113

Coleridge as Preacher . . . . . . . . . . . . . William Hazlitt 118

A Dream . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Thomas de Quincey 120

The Use of Poetry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . John Keats 122

The Flight to Varennes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Thomas Carlyle 124

The Trial of the Seven Bishops . . . . . . . . . . Lord Macaulay 130

The University of Athens . . . . . . . . . . . . . . J. H. Newman 135

The House of the Seven Gables . . . . . . . Nathaniel Hawthorne 140

Denis Duval's first journey to London . . . . . W. M. Thackeray 144

Storm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Charles Dickens 149

Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester . . . . . . . . . . . Charlotte Bronte 153

A Hut in the Woods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . H. D. Thoreau 157

A Miser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . George Eliot 159

Ships . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . John Ruskin 163

The Child in the House . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Walter Pater 168

Diving . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . R. L. Stevenson 171

Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176


SIR THOMAS MALORY 15th century


And so, as Sir Mordred was at Dover with his host, there came King Arthur with a great navy of ships, galleys, and carracks. And there was Sir Mordred ready waiting upon his landing, to let his own father to land upon the land that he was king of. Then was there launching of great boats and small, and all were full of noble men of arms; and there was much slaughter of gentle knights, and many a full bold baron was laid full low on both parties. But King Arthur was so courageous, that there might no manner of knight let him to land, and his knights fiercely followed him, and so they landed maugre Sir Mordred and all his power, and put Sir Mordred back, that he fled and all his people. So when this battle was done, King Arthur let bury his people that were dead. And then was the noble knight Sir Gawaine found in a great boat, lying more than half dead. When King Arthur wist that Sir Gawaine was laid so low, he went unto him; and there the king made sorrow out of measure, and took Sir Gawaine in his arms, and thrice he swooned. And when he came to himself again, he said, "Alas! my sister's son, here now thou liest, the man in the world {2} that I loved most, and now is my joy gone. For now, my nephew Sir Gawaine, I will discover me unto your person. In Sir Launcelot and you I most had my joy and mine affiance, and now have I lost my joy of you both, wherefore all mine earthly joy is gone from me." "My uncle King Arthur," said Sir Gawaine, "wit you well that my death's day is come, and all is through mine own hastiness and wilfulness, for I am smitten upon the old wound that Sir Launcelot du Lake gave me, of the which I feel that I must die; and if Sir Launcelot had been with you as he was, this unhappy war had never begun, and of all this I myself am causer; for Sir Launcelot and his blood, through their prowess, held all your cankered enemies in subjection and danger. And now," said Sir Gawaine, "ye shall miss Sir Launcelot. But alas! I would not accord with him; and therefore," said Sir Gawaine, "I pray you, fair uncle, that I may have paper, pen, and ink, that I may write unto Sir Launcelot a letter with mine own hands." And when paper and ink was brought, Sir Gawaine was set up weakly by King Arthur, for he had been shriven a little before; and he wrote thus unto Sir Launcelot: "Flower of all noble knights that ever I heard of or saw in my days, I, Sir Gawaine, King Lot's son of Orkney, sister's son unto the noble King Arthur, send unto thee greeting, and let thee have knowledge, that the tenth day of May I was smitten upon the old wound which thou gavest me before the city of Benwick, and through the same wound that thou gavest me I am come unto my death day, and I will that all the world wit that I Sir Gawaine, Knight of the Round Table, sought my death, and not through thy deserving, {3} but it was mine own seeking; wherefore I beseech thee, Sir Launcelot, for to return again unto this realm and see my tomb, or pray some prayer more or less for my soul. And that same day that I wrote this letter, I was hurt to the death in the same wound the which I had of thy hands, Sir Launcelot, for of a more nobler man might I not be slain. Also, Sir Launcelot, for all the love that ever was between us, make no tarrying, but come over the sea in all the haste that thou mayst with thy noble knights, and rescue that noble king that made thee knight, that is my lord and uncle King Arthur, for he is full straitly bestood with a false traitor, which is my half-brother Sir Mordred, and he hath let crown himself king, and he would have wedded my lady Queen Guenevere, and so had he done, if she had not put herself in the Tower of London. And so the tenth day of May last past, my lord and uncle King Arthur and we all landed upon them at Dover, and there we put that false traitor Sir Mordred to flight. And there it misfortuned me for to be stricken upon thy stroke. And the date of this letter was written but two hours and a half before my death, written with mine own hand, and so subscribed with part of my heart-blood. And I require thee, as thou art the most famost knight of the world, that thou wilt see my tomb." And then Sir Gawaine wept, and also King Arthur wept; and then they swooned both. And when they awaked both, the king made Sir Gawaine to receive his Saviour. And then Sir Gawaine prayed the king to send for Sir Launcelot, and to cherish him above all other knights. And so at the hour of noon Sir Gawaine betook his soul into the {4} hands of our Lord God. And then the king let bury him in a chapel within the castle of Dover; and there yet unto this day all men may see the skull of Sir Gawaine, and the same wound is seen that Sir Launcelot gave him in battle. Then it was told to King Arthur that Sir Mordred had pight a new field upon Barendown. And on the morrow the king rode thither to him, and there was a great battle between them, and much people were slain on both parts. But at the last King Arthur's party stood best, and Sir Mordred and his party fled into Canterbury.

(Morte Darthur.)




Mr Speaker,—We perceive your coming is to present thanks unto us. Know I accept them with no less joy than your loves can desire to offer such a present, and do more esteem it than any treasure or riches; for those we know how to prize, but loyalty, love, and thanks, I account them invaluable; and though God hath raised me high, yet this I account the glory of my crown, that I have reigned with your loves. This makes that I do not so much rejoice that God hath made me to be a queen, as to be a queen over so thankful a people, and to be the means under God to conserve you in safety, and {5} preserve you from danger, yea to be the instrument to deliver you from dishonour, from shame and from infamy, to keep you from out of servitude, and from slavery under our enemies, and cruel tyranny, and vile oppression intended against us; for the better withstanding whereof, we take very acceptable your intended helps, and chiefly in that it manifesteth your loves and largeness of hearts to your sovereign. Of myself I must say this, I never was any greedy scraping grasper, nor a strict fasting-holding prince, nor yet a waster; my heart was never set upon any worldly goods, but only for my subjects' good. What you do bestow on me I will not hoard up, but receive it to bestow on you again; yea, mine own properties I account yours to be expended for your good, and your eyes shall see the bestowing of it for your welfare.

Mr Speaker, I would wish you and the rest to stand up, for I fear I shall yet trouble you with longer speech.

Mr Speaker, you give me thanks, but I am more to thank you, and I charge you thank them of the Lower House from me; for had I not received knowledge from you, I might a' fallen into the lapse of an error, only for want of true information. Since I was queen, yet did I never put my pen to any grant but upon pretext and semblance made me that it was for the good and avail of my subjects generally, though a private profit to some of my ancient servants, who have deserved well; but that my grants shall be made grievances to my people, and oppressions to be privileged under colour of our patents, our princely dignity shall not suffer it.

When I heard it, I could give no rest unto my {6} thoughts until I had reformed it, and those varlets, lewd persons, abusers of my bounty, shall know I will not suffer it. And, Mr Speaker, tell the House from me, I take it exceeding grateful that the knowledge of these things is come unto me from them. And though amongst them the principal members are such as are not touched in private, and therefore need not speak from any feeling of the grief, yet we have heard that other gentlemen also of the House, who stand as free, have spoken freely in it; which gives us to know that no respects or interests have moved them, other than the minds they bear to suffer no diminution of our honour and our subjects' love unto us. The zeal of which affection tending to ease my people and knit their hearts unto us, I embrace with a princely care far above all earthly treasures. I esteem my people's love, more than which I desire not to merit: and God, that gave me here to sit, and placed me over you, knows that I never respected myself, but as your good was conserved in me; yet what dangers, what practices, what perils I have passed, some, if not all of you, know; but none of these things do move me, or ever made me fear, but it's God that hath delivered me.

And in my governing this land, I have ever set the last judgment day before mine eyes, and so to rule as I shall be judged and answer before a higher Judge, to whose judgment seat I do appeal; in that thought was never cherished in my heart that tended not to my people's good.

And if my princely bounty have been abused, and my grants turned to the hurt of my people contrary to {7} my will and meaning, or if any in authority under me have neglected, or have converted what I have committed unto them, I hope God will not lay their culps to my charge.

To be a king, and wear a crown, is a thing more glorious to them that see it than it's pleasant to them that bear it: for myself, I never was so much enticed with the glorious name of a king, or the royal authority of a queen, as delighted that God hath made me his instrument to maintain his truth and glory, and to defend this kingdom from dishonour, damage, tyranny, and oppression. But should I ascribe any of these things to myself or my sexly weakness, I were not worthy to live, and of all most unworthy of the mercies I have received at God's hands, but to God only and wholly all is given and ascribed.

The cares and troubles of a crown I cannot more fitly resemble than to the drugs of a learned physician, perfumed with some aromatical savour, or to bitter pills gilded over, by which they are made more acceptable or less offensive, which indeed are bitter and unpleasant to take; and for my own part, were it not for conscience sake to discharge the duty that God hath laid upon me, and to maintain his glory, and keep you in safety, in mine own disposition I should be willing to resign the place I hold to any other, and glad to be freed of the glory with the labours, for it is not my desire to live nor to reign longer than my life and reign shall be for your good. And though you have had and may have many mightier and wiser princes sitting in this seat, yet you never had or shall have any that will love you better.




Shortly after Caesar came himself in person to see her, and to comfort her. Cleopatra being laid upon a little low bed in poor estate, when she saw Caesar come in to her chamber, she suddenly rose up, naked in her smock, and fell down at his feet marvellously disfigured: both for that she had plucked her hair from her head, as also for that she had martyred all her face with her nails, and besides, her voice was small and trembling, her eyes sunk into her head with continual blubbering: and moreover, they might see the most part of her stomach torn in sunder. To be short, her body was not much better than her mind: yet her good grace and comeliness and the force of her beauty was not altogether defaced. But notwithstanding this ugly and pitiful state of hers, yet she shewed herself within, by her outward looks and countenance. When Caesar had made her lie down again, and sat by her bedside, Cleopatra began to clear and excuse herself for that she had done, laying all to the fear she had of Antonius. Caesar, in contrary manner, reproved her in every point. Then she suddenly altered her speech, and prayed him to pardon her, as though she were afraid to die, and desirous to live. At length she gave him a brief and memorial of all the ready money and treasure she had. But by chance there stood Seleucus by, one of her treasurers, who, to seem a good servant, came straight to Caesar to disprove {9} Cleopatra, that she had not set in all, but kept many things back of purpose. Cleopatra was in such a rage with him, that she flew upon him, and took him by the hair of the head, and boxed him well-favouredly. Caesar fell a-laughing, and parted the fray. "Alas," said she, "O Caesar, is not this a great shame and reproach, that thou having vouchsafed to take the pains to come unto me, and hast done me this honour, poor wretch, and caitiff creature, brought into this pitiful and miserable estate: and that mine own servants should come now to accuse me, though it may be I have reserved some jewels and trifles meet for women, but not for me (poor soul) to set out myself withal, but meaning to give some pretty presents and gifts unto Octavia and Livia, that they making means and intercession for me to thee, thou mightest yet extend thy favour and mercy upon me?" Caesar was glad to hear her say so, persuading himself thereby that she had yet a desire to save her life. So he made her answer, that he did not only give her that to dispose of at her pleasure, which she had kept back, but further promised to use her more honourably and bountifully than she would think for: and so he took his leave of her, supposing he had deceived her, but indeed he was deceived himself.

There was a young gentleman Cornelius Dolabella, that was one of Caesar's very great familiars, and besides did bear no evil will unto Cleopatra. He sent her word secretly as she had requested him, that Caesar determined to take his journey through Syria, and that within three days he would send her away before with her children. When this was told Cleopatra, she requested Caesar that {10} it would please him to suffer her to offer the last oblations of the dead, unto the soul of Antonius. This being granted her, she was carried to the place where his tomb was, and there falling down on her knees, embracing the tomb with her women, the tears running down her cheeks, she began to speak in this sort: "O my dear Lord Antonius, not long sithence I buried thee here, being a free woman: and now I offer unto thee the funeral sprinklings and oblations, being a captive and prisoner; and yet I am forbidden and kept from tearing and murdering this captive body of mine with blows, which they carefully guard and keep, only to triumph of thee: look therefore henceforth for no other honours, offerings, nor sacrifices from me, for these are the last which Cleopatra can give thee, sith now they carry her away. Whilst we lived together, nothing could sever our companies: but now at our death, I fear me they will make us change our countries. For as thou, being a Roman, hast been buried in Egypt: even so, wretched creature I, an Egyptian, shall be buried in Italy, which shall be all the good that I have received by thy country. If therefore the gods where thou art now have any power and authority, sith our gods here have forsaken us, suffer not thy true friend and lover to be carried away alive, that in me they triumph of thee: but receive me with thee, and let me be buried in one self tomb with thee. For though my griefs and miseries be infinite, yet none hath grieved me more, nor that I could less bear withal, than this small time which I have been driven to live without thee." Then, having ended these doleful plaints, and crowned the tomb with garlands and sundry {11} nosegays, and marvellous lovingly embraced the same, she commanded they should prepare her bath, and when she had bathed and washed herself, she fell to her meat and was sumptuously served.

Now whilst she was at dinner there came a countryman, and brought her a basket. The soldiers that warded at the gates, asked him straight what he had in his basket. He opened the basket, and took out the leaves that covered the figs, and shewed them that they were figs he brought. They all of them marvelled to see so goodly figs. The countryman laughed to hear them, and bade them take some if they would. They believed he told them truly, and so bade him carry them in.

After Cleopatra had dined, she sent a certain table written and sealed unto Caesar, and commanded them all to go out of the tombs where she was, but the two women; then she shut the doors to her. Caesar, when he received this table, and began to read her lamentation and petition, requesting him that he would let her be buried with Antonius, found straight what she meant, and thought to have gone thither himself: howbeit he sent one before in all haste that might be, to see what it was. Her death was very sudden. For those whom Caesar sent unto her ran thither in all haste possible, and found the soldiers standing at the gate, mistrusting nothing, nor understanding of her death. But when they had opened the doors, they found Cleopatra stark dead, laid upon a bed of gold, attired and arrayed in her royal robes, and one of her two women, which was called Iras, dead at her feet: and her other woman, called Charmion, half dead, and trembling, trimming the diadem which {12} Cleopatra ware upon her head. One of the soldiers, seeing her, angrily said unto her: "Is that well done, Charmion?" "Very well," said she again, "and meet for a princess descended from the race of so many noble kings." She said no more, but fell down dead hard by the bed.

(Plutarch's Lives.)



By this which we have already set down is seen the beginning and end of the three first monarchies of the world; whereof the founders and erecters thought, that they could never have ended. That of Rome, which made the fourth, was also at this time almost at the highest. We have left it flourishing in the middle of the field, having rooted up or cut down all that kept it from the eyes and admiration of the world. But after some continuance, it shall begin to lose the beauty it had; the storms of ambition shall beat her great boughs and branches one against another; her leaves shall fall off, her limbs wither, and a rabble of barbarous nations enter the field and cut her down.

Now these great kings and conquering nations have been the subject of those ancient histories which have been preserved and yet remain among us; and withal of so many tragical poets, as in the persons of powerful princes and other mighty men have complained against {13} infidelity, time, destiny, and most of all against the variable success of worldly things and instability of fortune. To these undertakings these great lords of the world have been stirred up, rather by the desire of fame, which plougheth up the air and soweth in the wind, than by the affection of bearing rule, which draweth after it so much vexation and so many cares. And that this is true, the good advice of Cineas to Pyrrhus proves. And certainly, as fame hath often been dangerous to the living, so it is to the dead of no use at all, because separate from knowledge. Which were it otherwise, and the extreme ill bargain of buying this lasting discourse understood by them which are dissolved, they themselves would then rather have wished to have stolen out of the world without noise, than to be put in mind that they have purchased the report of their actions in the world by rapine, oppression, and cruelty, by giving in spoil the innocent and labouring soul to the idle and insolent, and by having emptied the cities of the world of their ancient inhabitants, and fitted them again with so many and so variable sorts of sorrows.

Since the fall of the Roman Empire (omitting that of the Germans, which had neither greatness nor continuance) there hath been no state fearful in the east but that of the Turk; nor in the west any prince that hath spread his wings far over his nest but the Spaniard; who, since the time that Ferdinand expelled the Moors out of Grenado, have made many attempts to make themselves masters of all Europe. And it is true that by the treasures of both Indies, and by the many kingdoms which they possess in Europe, they are at this day the most {14} powerful. But as the Turk is now counterpoised by the Persian, so instead of so many millions as have been spent by the English, French, and Netherlands in a defensive war and in diversions against them, it is easy to demonstrate that with the charge of two hundred thousand pound continued but for two years, or three at the most, they may not only be persuaded to live in peace, but all their swelling and overflowing streams may be brought back into their natural channels and old banks. These two nations, I say, are at this day the most eminent and to be regarded; the one seeking to root out the Christian religion altogether, the other the truth and sincere profession thereof; the one to join all Europe to Asia, the other the rest of all Europe to Spain.

For the rest, if we seek a reason of the succession and continuance of this boundless ambition in mortal men, we may add to that which hath been already said, that the kings and princes of the world have always laid before them the actions, but not the ends, of those great ones which preceded them. They are always transported with the glory of the one, but they never mind the misery of the other, till they find the experience in themselves. They neglect the advice of God, while they enjoy life or hope it; but they follow the counsel of Death upon his first approach. It is he that puts into man all wisdom of the world, without speaking a word; which God with all the words of His law, promises or threats, doth not infuse. Death, which hateth and destroyeth man, is believed; God, which hath him and loves him, is always deferred. I have considered (saith Solomon) all the works that are wider the sun, and behold, all is vanity and vexation of {15} spirit: but who believes it, till Death tells it us? It was Death, which, opening the conscience of Charles the fifth, made him enjoin his son Philip to restore Navarre; and King Francis the first of France, to command that justice should be done upon the murderers of the Protestants in Merindol and Cabrieres, which till then he neglected. It is therefore Death alone that can suddenly make man to know himself. He tells the proud and insolent that they are but abjects, and humbles them at the instant, makes them cry, complain, and repent, yea, even to hate their forepassed happiness. He takes the account of the rich and proves him a beggar, a naked beggar, which hath interest in nothing but in the gravel that fills his mouth. He holds a glass before the eyes of the most beautiful, and makes them see therein their deformity and rottenness, and they acknowledge it.

O eloquent, just, and mighty Death! whom none could advise, thou hast persuaded; what none hath dared thou hast done; and whom all the world hath flattered, thou only hast cast out of the world and despised. Thou hast drawn together all the far-stretched greatness, all the pride, cruelty, and ambition of man, and covered it all over with these two narrow words, Hic jacet.

(History of the World.)




Now besides that law which simply concerneth men as men, and that which belongeth unto them as they are men linked with others in some form of politic society, there is a third kind of law which toucheth all such several bodies politic, so far forth as one of them hath public commerce with another. And this third is the Law of Nations. Between men and beasts there is no possibility of social communion, because the well-spring of that communion is a natural delight which man hath to transfuse from himself into others, and to receive from others into himself especially those things wherein the excellency of his kind doth most consist. The chiefest instrument of human communion therefore is speech, because thereby we impart mutually one to another the conceits of our reasonable understanding. And for that cause seeing beasts are not hereof capable, forasmuch as with them we can use no such conference, they being in degree, although above other creatures on earth to whom nature hath denied sense, yet lower than to be sociable companions of man to whom nature hath given reason; it is of Adam said that amongst the beasts "he found not for himself any meet companion." Civil society doth more content the nature of man than any private kind of solitary living, because in society this good of mutual participation is so much larger than otherwise. Herewith notwithstanding we are not satisfied, but we covet {17} (if it might be) to have a kind of society and fellowship even with all mankind. Which thing Socrates intending to signify professed himself a citizen, not of this or that commonwealth, but of the world. And an effect of that very natural desire in us (a manifest token that we wish after a sort an universal fellowship with all men) appeareth by the wonderful delight men have, some to visit foreign countries, some to discover nations not heard of in former ages, we all to know the affairs and dealings of other people, yea to be in league of amity with them: and this not only for traffic's sake, or to the end that when many are confederated each may make other the more strong; but for such cause also as moved the Queen of Saba to visit Solomon; and in a word, because nature doth presume that how many men there are in the world, so many gods as it were there are, or at leastwise such they should be towards men.

(Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.)



Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. Their chief use for delight is in privateness and retiring; for ornament, is in discourse; and for ability, is in the judgment and disposition of business. For expert men can execute, and perhaps judge of particulars, one by one; but the general counsels, and the plots, and the marshalling of affairs, come best from those that are learned. To spend too much time in {18} studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules is the humour of a scholar. They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience: for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning by study: and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience. Crafty men contemn studies; simple men admire them; and wise men use them: for they teach not their own use; but that is a wisdom without them, and above them, won by observation. Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others: but that would be only in the less important arguments and the meaner sort of books: else distilled books are like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man. And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit; and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know that he doth not. Histories make men wise, poets witty, the mathematics subtle, natural philosophy deep, moral grave, logic and rhetoric able to contend: Abeunt studia in mores. Nay, there is no stond or impediment in the wit, but may be wrought {19} out by fit studies: like as diseases of the body may have appropriate exercises. Bowling is good for the stone and reins; shooting for the lungs and breast; gentle walking for the stomach; riding for the head; and the like. So if a man's wit be wandering, let him study the mathematics; for in demonstrations, if his wit be called away never so little, he must begin again. If his wit be not apt to distinguish or find differences, let him study the school-men; for they are Cymini sectores. If he be not apt to beat over matters, and to call up one thing to prove and illustrate another, let him study the lawyers' cases. So every defect of the mind may have a special receipt.




If on the great theatre of this earth among the numberless number of men, to die were only proper to thee and thine, then undoubtedly thou had reason to repine at so severe and partial a law. But since it is a necessity, from which never any age by-past hath been exempted, and unto which they which be, and so many as are to come, are thralled (no consequent of life being more common and familiar), why shouldst thou with unprofitable and nought-availing stubbornness, oppose so inevitable and necessary a condition? This is the high-way of morality, and our general home: Behold what millions have trod it before thee, what multitudes shall after thee, with them which at that same instant {20} run. In so universal a calamity (if Death be one) private complaints cannot be heard: with so many royal palaces, it is no loss to see thy poor cabin burn. Shall the heavens stay their ever-rolling wheels (for what is the motion of them but the motion of a swift and ever-whirling wheel, which twineth forth and again uprolleth our life), and hold still time to prolong thy miserable days, as if the highest of their working were to do homage unto thee? Thy death is a pace of the order of this All, a part of the life of this world; for while the world is the world, some creatures must die, and others take life. Eternal things are raised far above this sphere of generation and corruption, where the first matter, like an ever flowing and ebbing sea, with divers waves, but the same water, keepeth a restless and never tiring current; what is below in the universality of the kind, not in itself doth abide: Man a long line of years hath continued, This man every hundred is swept away. This globe environed with air is the sole region of Death, the grave where everything that taketh life must rot, the stage of fortune and change, only glorious in the inconstancy and varying alterations of it, which though many, seem yet to abide one, and being a certain entire one, are ever many. The never agreeing bodies of the elemental brethren turn one into another; the earth changeth her countenance with the seasons, sometimes looking cold and naked, other times hot and flowery: nay, I cannot tell how, but even the lowest of those celestial bodies, that mother of months, and empress of seas and moisture, as if she were a mirror of our constant mutability, appeareth (by her too great nearness {21} unto us) to participate of our changes, never seeing us twice with that same face: now looking black, then pale and wan, sometimes again in the perfection and fulness of her beauty shining over us. Death no less than life doth here act a part, the taking away of what is old being the making way for what is young.

(A Cypress Grove.)



Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and, which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

It may seem strange to some man that has not well weighed these things, that nature should thus dissociate, and render men apt to invade and destroy one another: and he may therefore, not trusting to this inference, {22} made from the passions, desire perhaps to have the same confirmed by experience. Let him therefore consider with himself, when taking a journey, he arms himself, and seeks to go well accompanied; when going to sleep, he locks his doors; when even in his house he locks his chests; and this when he knows there be laws and public officers, armed, to revenge all injuries shall be done him; what opinion he has of his fellow-subjects, when he rides armed; of his fellow-citizens, when he locks his doors; and of his children and servants, when he locks his chests. Does he not there as much accuse mankind by his actions, as I do by my words? But neither of us accuse man's nature in it. The desires and other passions of man are in themselves no sin. No more are the actions that proceed from those passions, till they know a law that forbids them; which, till laws be made, they cannot know; nor can any law be made, till they have agreed upon the person that shall make it.

It may peradventure be thought, there was never such a time, nor condition of war as this; and I believe it was never generally so over all the world; but there are many places where they live so now. For the savage people in many places of America, except the government of small families, the concord whereof dependeth on natural lust, have no government at all; and live at this day in that brutish manner, as I said before. Howsoever, it may be perceived what manner of life there would be, where there were no common power to fear, by the manner of life which men that have formerly lived under a peaceful government used to degenerate into in a civil war.

{23} But though there had never been any time, wherein particular men were in a condition of war one against another; yet in all times, kings and persons of sovereign authority, because of their independency, are in continual jealousies, and in the state and posture of gladiators: having their weapons pointing, and their eyes fixed on one another; that is, their forts, garrisons, and guns upon the frontiers of their kingdoms; and continual spies upon their neighbours; which is a posture of war. But, because they uphold thereby the industry of their subjects, there does not follow from it that misery which accompanies the liberty of particular men.

To this war of every man against every man, this also is consequent, that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice, have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law: where no law, no injustice. Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues. Justice and injustice are none of the faculties, neither of the body nor mind. If they were, they might be in a man that were alone in the world, as well as his senses and passions. They are qualities that relate to men in society, not in solitude. It is consequent also to the same condition, that there be no propriety, no dominion, no mine and thine distinct; but only that to be every man's, that he can get; and for so long as he can keep it. And thus much for the ill condition, which man by mere nature is actually placed in: though with a possibility to come out of it, consisting partly in the passions, partly in his reason.



JOHN EARLE 1601?-1665


A Plodding Student is a kind of alchemist or persecutor of Nature, that would change the dull lead of his brain into finer metal, with success many times as unprosperous, or at least not quitting the cost, to wit, of his own oil and candles. He has a strange forced appetite to learning, and to achieve it brings nothing but patience and a body. His study is not great, but continual, and consists much in the sitting up till after midnight in a rug gown and a nightcap, to the vanquishing perhaps of some six lines: yet what he has, he has perfect, for he reads it so long to understand it, till he gets it without book. He may with much industry make a breach into logic, and arrive at some ability in an argument; but for politer studies, he dare not skirmish with them, and for poetry, accounts it impregnable. His invention is no more than the finding out of his papers, and his few gleanings there; and his disposition of them is as just as the book-binder's, a setting or glueing of them together. He is a great discomforter of young students, by telling them what travail it has cost him, and how often his brain turned at philosophy, and makes others fear studying as a cause of duncery. He is a man much given to apothegms, which serve him for wit, and seldom breaks any jest but which belonged to some Lacedaemonian or Roman in Lycosthenes. He is like {25} a dull carrier's horse, that will go a whole week together, but never out of a foot-pace: and he that sets forth on the Saturday shall overtake him.




Now for that other virtue of charity, without which faith is a mere notion and of no existence, I have ever endeavoured to nourish the merciful disposition and humane inclination I borrowed from my parents, and regulate it to the written and prescribed laws of charity. And, if I hold the true anatomy of myself, I am delineated and naturally framed to such a piece of virtue; for I am of a constitution so general that it consorts and sympathizeth with all things; I have no antipathy, or rather idiosyncrasy, in diet, humour, air, anything. I wonder not at the French for their dishes of frogs, snails, and toadstools, nor at the Jews for locusts and grasshoppers; but, being amongst them, make them my common viands; and I find they agree with my stomach as well as theirs. I could digest a salad gathered in a churchyard as well as in a garden. I cannot start at the presence of a serpent, scorpion, lizard, or salamander; at the sight of a toad or viper, I find in me no desire to take up a stone to destroy them. I feel not in myself those common antipathies that I discover in others: those national repugnances do not touch me, {26} nor do I behold with prejudice the French, Italian, Spaniard, or Dutch; but, where I find their actions in balance with my countrymen's, I honour, love, and embrace them, in the same degree. I was born in the eighth climate, but seem to be framed and constellated unto all. I am no plant that will not prosper out of a garden. All places, all airs, make unto me one country; I am in England everywhere, and under any meridian. I have been shipwrecked, yet am not enemy with the sea or winds; I can study, play, or sleep in a tempest. In brief, I am averse from nothing: my conscience would give me the lie if I should say I absolutely detest or hate any essence, but the devil, or so at least abhor anything, but that we might come to composition. If there be any among those common objects of hatred I do contemn and laugh at, it is that great enemy of reason, virtue, and religion, the multitude; that numerous piece of monstrosity, which, taken asunder, seem men, and the reasonable creatures of God, but, confused together, make but one great beast, and a monstrosity more prodigious than Hydra. It is no breach of charity to call these Fools; it is the style all holy writers have afforded them, set down by Solomon in canonical scripture, and a point of our faith to believe so. Neither in the name of multitude do I only include the base and minor sort of people: there is a rabble even amongst the gentry; a sort of plebeian heads, whose fancy moves with the same wheel as these; men in the same level with mechanics, though their fortunes do somewhat gild their infirmities, and their purses compound for their follies. But, as in casting account three or four men {27} together come short in account of one man placed by himself below them, so neither are a troop of these ignorant Doradoes of that true esteem and value as many a forlorn person, whose condition doth place him below their feet. Let us speak like politicians; there is a nobility without heraldry, a natural dignity, whereby one man is ranked with another, another filed before him, according to the quality of his desert, and pre-eminence of his good parts. Though the corruption of these times, and the bias of present practice, wheel another way, thus it was in the first and primitive commonwealths, and is yet in the integrity and cradle of well-ordered polities: till corruption getteth ground; ruder desires labouring after that which wiser considerations contemn; every one having a liberty to amass and heap up riches, and they a licence or faculty to do or purchase anything.

(Religio Medici.)

JOHN MILTON 1608-1674


First, when a city shall be as it were besieged and blocked about, her navigable river infested, inroads and incursions round, defiance and battle oft rumoured to be marching up, even to her walls and suburb trenches; that then the people, or the greater part, more than at other times, wholly taken up with the study of highest and {28} most important matters to be reformed, should be disputing, reasoning, reading, inventing, discoursing, even to a rarity and admiration, things not before discoursed or written of, argues first a singular good will, contentedness and confidence in your prudent foresight, and safe government, lords and commons; and from thence derives itself to a gallant bravery and well grounded contempt of their enemies, as if there were no small number of as great spirits among us, as his was who when Rome was nigh besieged by Hannibal, being in the city, bought that piece of ground at no cheap rate, whereon Hannibal himself encamped his own regiment. Next, it is a lively and cheerful presage of our happy success and victory. For as in a body when the blood is fresh, the spirits pure and vigorous, not only to vital, but to rational faculties, and those in the acutest and the pertest operations of wit and subtlety, it argues in what good plight and condition the body is; so when the cheerfulness of the people is so sprightly up, as that it has not only wherewith to guard well its own freedom and safety, but to spare, and to bestow upon the solidest and sublimest points of controversy and new invention, it betokens us not degenerated, nor drooping to a fatal decay, by casting off the old and wrinkled skin of corruption to outlive these pangs, and wax young again, entering the glorious ways of truth and prosperous virtue, destined to become great and honourable in these latter ages. Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks: methinks I see her as an eagle mewing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazzled eyes at {29} the full midday beam; purging and unsealing her long abused sight at the fountain itself of heavenly radiance; while the whole noise of timorous and flocking birds, with those also that love the twilight, flutter about, amazed at what she means, and in their envious gabble would prognosticate a year of sects and schisms.

What would ye do then, should ye suppress all this flowery crop of knowledge and new light sprung up and yet springing daily in this city? Should ye set an oligarchy of twenty engrossers over it, to bring a famine upon our minds again, when we shall know nothing but what is measured to us by their bushel? Believe it, lords and commons! they who counsel ye to such a suppressing, do as good as bid ye suppress yourselves; and I will soon show how. If it be desired to know the immediate cause of all this free writing and free speaking, there cannot be assigned a truer than your own mild and free and humane government; it is the liberty, lords and commons, which your own valorous and happy counsels have purchased us; liberty which is the nurse of all great wits: this is that which hath rarified and enlightened our spirits like the influence of Heaven; this is that which hath enfranchised, enlarged, and lifted up our apprehensions degrees above themselves. Ye cannot make us now less capable, less knowing, less eagerly pursuing of the truth, unless ye first make yourselves, that made us so, less the lovers, less the founders of our true liberty. We can grow ignorant again, brutish, formal, and slavish, as ye found us; but you then must first become that which ye cannot be, oppressive, arbitrary and tyrannous, as they were from whom ye have freed us. {30} That our hearts are now more capacious, our thoughts more erected to the search and expectation of greatest and exactest things, is the issue of your own virtue propagated in us; ye cannot suppress that, unless ye reinforce an abrogated and merciless law, that fathers may despatch at will their own children. And who shall then stick closest to thee and excite others? Not he who takes up arms for coat and conduct, and his four nobles of Danegelt. Although I dispraise not the defence of just immunities, yet love my peace better, if that were all. Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.




In this unhappy battle was slain the Lord Viscount Falkland, a person of such prodigious parts of learning and knowledge, of that inimitable sweetness and delight in conversation, of so flowing and obliging a humanity and goodness to mankind, and of that primitive simplicity and integrity of life, that if there were no other brand upon this odious and accursed civil war than that single loss, it must be most infamous and execrable to all posterity.

Before this parliament his condition of life was so happy that it was hardly capable of improvement. Before he came to be twenty years of age, he was master of a noble fortune, which descended to him by the gift of a {31} grandfather, without passing through his father or mother, who were then both alive, and not well enough contented to find themselves passed by in the descent. His education for some years had been in Ireland, where his father was Lord Deputy; so that, when he returned into England to the possession of his fortune, he was unentangled with any acquaintance or friends, which usually grow up by the custom of conversation; and therefore was to make a pure election of his company, which he chose by other rules than were prescribed to the young nobility of that time. And it cannot be denied, though he admitted some few to his friendship for the agreeableness of their natures, and their undoubted affection to him, that his familiarity and friendship for the most part was with men of the most eminent and sublime parts, and of untouched reputation in point of integrity; and such had a title to his bosom.

He was a great cherisher of wit and fancy and good parts in any man, and, if he found them clouded with poverty or want, a most liberal and bountiful patron towards them, even above his fortune; of which, in those administrations, he was such a dispenser, as, if he had been trusted with it to such uses, and if there had been the least of vice in his expense, he might have been thought too prodigal. He was constant and pertinacious in whatsoever he resolved to do, and not to be wearied by any pains that were necessary to that end. And therefore, having once resolved not to see London, which he loved above all places, till he had perfectly learned the Greek tongue, he went to his own house in the country, and pursued it with that indefatigable {32} industry, that it will not be believed in how short a time he was master of it, and accurately read all the Greek historians.

In this time, his house being within little more than ten miles of Oxford, he contracted familiarity and friendship with the most polite and accurate men of that university; who found such an immenseness of wit and such a solidity of judgment in him, so infinite a fancy, bound in by a most logical ratiocination, such a vast knowledge, that he was not ignorant in anything, yet such an excessive humility, as if he had known nothing, that they frequently resorted, and dwelt with him, as in a college situated in a purer air; so that his house was a university in less volume; whither they came not so much for repose as study, and to examine and refine those grosser propositions, which laziness and consent made current in vulgar conversation. . .

From the entrance into this unnatural war, his natural cheerfulness and vivacity grew clouded, and a kind of sadness and dejection of spirit stole upon him, which he had never been used to: yet being one of those who believed that one battle would end all differences, and that there would be so great a victory on one side, that the other would be compelled to submit to any conditions from the victor (which supposition and conclusion generally sunk into the minds of most men, and prevented the looking after many advantages that might then have been laid hold of) he resisted those indispositions. But after the King's return from Brentford, and the furious resolution of the two houses not to admit any treaty for peace, those indispositions, which had before touched {33} him, grew into a perfect habit of uncheerfulness, and he, who had been so exactly easy and affable to all men that his face and countenance was always present and vacant to his company, and held any cloudiness and less pleasantness of the visage a kind of rudeness or incivility, became on a sudden less communicable, and thence very sad, pale, and exceedingly affected with the spleen. In his clothes and habit, which he had minded before always with more neatness and industry and expense than is usual to so great a soul, he was not now only incurious, but too negligent; and in his reception of suitors, and the necessary or casual addresses to his place, so quick and sharp and severe, that there wanted not some men (strangers to his nature and disposition) who believed him proud and imperious, from which no mortal man was ever more free. . .

When there was any overture, or hope of peace, he would be more erect and vigorous, and exceedingly solicitous to press anything which he thought might promote it; and sitting among his friends, often, after a deep silence and frequent sighs, would, with a shrill and sad accent, ingeminate the word Peace, peace; and would passionately profess that the very agony of the war, and the view of the calamities and desolation the kingdom did and must endure, took his sleep from him, and would shortly break his heart. This made some think, or pretend to think, that he was so much enamoured on peace that he would have been glad the King should have bought it at any price; which was a most unreasonable calumny. As if a man that was himself the most punctual and precise in every circumstance {34} that might reflect upon conscience or honour, could have wished the King to have committed a trespass against either. And yet this senseless scandal made some impression upon him, or at least he used it for an excuse of the daringness of his spirit; for at the leaguer before Gloucester, when his friend passionately reprehended him for exposing his person unnecessarily to danger (for he delighted to visit the trenches and nearest approaches, and to discover what the enemy did) as being so much beside the duty of his place that it might be understood rather to be against it, he would say merrily, that his office could not take away the privileges of his age, and that a Secretary in war might be present at the greatest secret of danger; but withal alleged seriously, that it concerned him to be more active in enterprises of hazard than other men, that all might see that his impatiency for peace proceeded not from pusillanimity or fear to adventure his own person.

In the morning before the battle, as always upon action, he was very cheerful, and put himself into the first rank of Lord Byron's regiment, then advancing upon the enemy, who had lined the hedges on both sides with musketeers; from whence he was shot with a musket in the lower part of the belly, and in the instant falling from his horse, his body was not found till the next morning; till when, there was some hope he might have been a prisoner, though his nearest friends, who knew his temper, received small comfort from that imagination. Thus fell that incomparable young man, in the four and thirtieth year of his age, having so much despatched the true business of life, {35} that the eldest rarely attain to that immense knowledge, and the youngest enter not into the world with more innocency. Whosoever leads such a life needs be the less anxious upon how short warning it is taken from him.

(History of the Rebellion.)

JOHN BUNYAN 1628-1688


After this I beheld until they were come unto the land of Beulah, where the sun shineth night and day. Here, because they were weary, they betook themselves a while to rest. And because this country was common for pilgrims, and because the orchards and vineyards that were here belonged to the King of the Celestial Country, therefore they were licensed to make bold with any of his things.

But a little while soon refreshed them here, for the bells did so ring, and the trumpets continually sound so melodiously, that they could not sleep; and yet they received as much refreshing as if they had slept their sleep never so soundly. Here also all the noise of them that walked the streets was, More pilgrims are come to town. And another would answer, saying, And so many went over the water, and were let in at the golden gates to-day. They would cry again, There is now a legion of shining ones just come to town, by which we know that there are more pilgrims upon the road; for here {36} they come to wait for them, and to comfort them after all their sorrow. Then the pilgrims got up and walked to and fro; but how were their ears now filled with heavenly noises, and their eyes delighted with celestial visions! In this land they heard nothing, saw nothing, felt nothing, smelt nothing, tasted nothing, that was offensive to their stomach or mind; only when they tasted of the water of the river, over which they were to go, they thought that tasted a little bitterish to the palate, but it proved sweeter when 'twas down.

In this place there was a record kept of the names of them that had been pilgrims of old, and a history of all the famous acts that they had done. It was here also much discoursed, how the river to some has had its flowings, and what ebbings it has had while others have gone over. It has been in a manner dry for some, while it has overflowed its banks for others.

In this place, the children of the town would go into the King's gardens, and gather nosegays for the pilgrims, and bring them to them with much affection. Here also grew camphor, with spikenard, and saffron, calamus, and cinnamon, with all its trees of frankincense, myrrh, and aloes, with all chief spices. With these the pilgrims' chambers were perfumed while they stayed here; and with these were their bodies anointed, to prepare them to go over the river when the time appointed was come.

Now while they lay here and waited for the good hour, there was a noise in the town that there was a post come from the Celestial City with matter of great importance to one Christiana, the wife of Christian the {37} pilgrim. So inquiry was made for her, and the house was found out where she was, so the post presented her with a letter; the contents whereof was, Hail, good woman, I bring thee tidings that the Master calleth for thee, and expecteth that thou should stand in His presence, in clothes of immortality, within this ten days.

When he had read this letter to her, he gave her therewith a sure token that he was a true messenger, and was come to bid her make haste to be gone. The token was an arrow with a point, sharpened with love, let easily into her heart, which by degrees wrought so effectually with her, that at the time appointed she must be gone.

When Christiana saw that her time was come, and that she was the first of this company that was to go over, she called for Mr Great-heart, her guide, and told him how matters were. So he told her he was heartily glad of the news, and could a' been glad had the post come for him. Then she bid that he should give advice how all things should be prepared for her journey.

So he told her, saying, Thus and thus it must be, and we that survive will accompany you to the riverside.

Then she called for her children, and gave them her blessing; and told them that she yet read with comfort the mark that was set in their foreheads, and was glad to see them with her there, and that they had kept their garments so white. Lastly, she bequeathed to the poor that little she had, and commanded her sons and her daughters to be ready against the messenger should come for them. . . .

{38} Now the day drew on that Christiana must be gone. So the road was full of people to see her take her journey. But behold, all the banks beyond the river were full of horses and chariots, which were come down from above to accompany her to the city-gate. So she came forth, and entered the river with a beckon of farewell to those that followed her to the river-side. The last word she was heard to say was, I come, Lord, to be with thee, and bless thee.

So her children and friends returned to their place, for that those that waited for Christiana had carried her out of their sight. So she went and called, and entered in at the gate with all the ceremonies of joy that her husband Christian had done before her.

At her departure her children wept, but Mr Great-heart and Mr Valiant played upon the well-tuned cymbal and harp for joy. So all departed to their respective places. . . .

Then it came to pass, a while after, that there was a post in the town that inquired for Mr Honest. So he came to his house where he was, and delivered to his hand these lines: Thou art commanded to be ready against this day seven-night, to present thyself before thy Lord at His Father's house. And for a token that my message is true, "all the daughters of music shall be brought low." Then Mr Honest called for his friends, and said unto them, I die, but shall make no will. As for my honesty, it shall go with me; let him that comes after be told of this. When the day that he was to be gone was come, he addressed himself to go over the river. Now the river at that time overflowed the banks {39} in some places. But Mr Honest, in his life-time, had spoken to one Good-conscience to meet him there, the which he also did, and lent him his hand, and so helped him over. The last words of Mr Honest were, Grace reigns. So he left the world.

After this it was noised abroad that Mr Valiant-for-truth was taken with a summons by the same post as the other; and had this for a token that the summons was true, that his pitcher was broken at the fountain. When he understood it, he called for his friends, and told them of it. Then said he: I am going to my Father's, and though with great difficulty I am got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the trouble I have been at to arrive where I am. My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought His battles who now will be my Rewarder.

When the day that he must go hence was come, many accompanied him to the river-side; into which as he went he said, Death, where is thy sting? And as he went down deeper he said, Grave, where is thy victory? So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side. . . .

But glorious it was to see how the open region was filled with horses and chariots, with trumpeters and pipers, with singers and players on stringed instruments, to welcome the pilgrims as they went up, and followed one another in at the beautiful gate of the city.

(Pilgrim's Progress.)




But to spin off this thread, which is already grown too long; what honour and request the ancient poetry has lived in, may not only be observed from the universal reception and use in all nations from China to Peru, from Scythia to Arabia, but from the esteem of the best and the greatest men as well as the vulgar. Among the Hebrews, David and Solomon, the wisest kings, Job and Jeremiah, the holiest men, were the best poets of their nation and language. Among the Greeks, the two most renowned sages and lawgivers were Lycurgus and Solon, whereof the last is known to have excelled in poetry, and the first was so great a lover of it, that to his care and industry we are said (by some authors) to owe the collection and preservation of the loose and scattered pieces, of Homer in the order wherein they have since appeared. Alexander is reported neither to have travelled nor slept without those admirable poems always in his company. Phalaris, that was inexorable to all other enemies, relented at the charms of Stesichorus his muse. Among the Romans, the last and great Scipio passed the soft hours of his life in the conversation of Terence, and was thought to have a part in the composition of his comedies. Caesar was an excellent poet as well as orator, and composed a poem in his voyage from Rome to Spain, relieving the tedious difficulties of his march with the entertainments {41} of his muse. Augustus was not only a patron, but a friend and companion of Virgil and Horace, and was himself both an admirer of poetry and a pretender too, as far as his genius would reach, or his busy scene allow. 'Tis true, since his age we have few such examples of great Princes favouring or affecting poetry, and as few perhaps of great poets deserving it. Whether it be that the fierceness of the Gothic humours, or noise of their perpetual wars, frighted it away, or that the unequal mixture of the modern languages would not bear it; certain it is, that the great heights and excellency both of poetry and music fell with the Roman learning and empire, and have never since recovered the admiration and applauses that before attended them. Yet, such as they are amongst us, they must be confessed to be the softest and sweetest, the most general and most innocent amusements of common time and life. They still find room in the courts of Princes and the cottages of shepherds. They serve to revive and animate the dead calm of poor or idle lives, and to allay or divert the violent passions and perturbations of the greatest and the busiest men. And both these effects are of equal use to human life; for the mind of man is like the sea, which is neither agreeable to the beholder nor the voyager in a calm or in a storm, but is so to both when a little agitated by gentle gales; and so the mind, when moved by soft and easy passions and affections. I know very well that many, who pretend to be wise by the forms of being grave, are apt to despise both poetry and music as toys and trifles too light for the use or entertainment of serious men. But, whoever find {42} themselves wholly insensible to these charms, would, I think, do well to keep their own counsel, for fear of reproaching their own temper, and bringing the goodness of their natures, if not of their understandings, into question; it may be thought at least an ill sign, if not an ill constitution, since some of the fathers went so far as to esteem the love of music a sign of predestination, as a thing divine, and reserved for the felicities of heaven itself. While this world lasts, I doubt not but the pleasure and requests of these two entertainments will do so too: and happy those that content themselves with these, or any other so easy and so innocent; and do not trouble the world, or other men, because they cannot be quiet themselves, though nobody hurts them!

When all is done, human life is, at the greatest and the best, but like a froward child, that must be played with and humoured a little to keep it quiet till it falls asleep, and then the care is over.

SAMUEL PEPYS 1633-1703


July 14th (Lord's Day), 1667. Up, and my wife, a little before four, and to make us ready; and by and by Mrs Turner come to us, by agreement, and she and I staid talking below, while my wife dressed herself, which vexed me that she was so long about it, keeping us till past five o'clock before she was ready. She ready; and taking some bottles of wine, and beer, and some {43} cold fowl with us into the coach, we took coach and four horses, which I had provided last night, and so away. A very fine day, and so towards Epsom, talking all the way pleasantly. The country very fine, only the way very dusty. We got to Epsom by eight o'clock, to the well; where much company, and there we 'light, and I drank the water. Here I met with divers of our town, among others with several of the tradesmen of our office, but did talk but little with them, it growing hot in the sun, and so we took coach again and to the town, to the King's Head, where our coachman carried us, and there had an ill room for us to go into, but the best in the house that was not taken up. Here we called for drink, and bespoke dinner. We all lay down after dinner (the day being wonderful hot) to sleep, and each of us took a good nap, and then rose; and Tom Wilson come to see me, and sat and talked an hour. By and by he parted, and we took coach and to take the air, there being a fine breeze abroad; and I went and carried them to the well, and there filled some bottles of water to carry home with me. Here W. Hewer's horse broke loose, and we had the sport to see him taken again. Then I carried them to see my cousin Pepys's house, and 'light, and walked round about it, and they like it, as indeed it deserves, very well, and is a pretty place; and then I walked them to the wood hard by, and there got them in the thickets till they had lost themselves, and I could not find the way into any of the walks in the wood, which indeed are very pleasant, if I could have found them. At last got out of the wood again; and I, by leaping down the little bank, coming out of {44} the wood, did sprain my right foot, which brought me great present pain, but presently, with walking, it went away for the present, and so the women and W. Hewer and I walked upon the Downs, where a flock of sheep was; and the most pleasant and innocent sight that ever I saw in my life—we find a shepherd and his little boy reading, far from any houses or sight of people, the Bible to him; so I made the boy read to me, which he did, with the forced tone that children do usually read, that was mighty pretty, and then I did give him something, and went to the father, and talked with him; and I find he had been a servant in my cousin Pepys's house, and told me what was become of their old servants. He did content himself mightily in my liking his boy's reading, and did bless God for him, the most like one of the old patriarchs that ever I saw in my life, and it brought those thoughts of the old age of the world in my mind for two or three days after. We took notice of his woollen knit stockings of two colours mixed, and of his shoes shod with iron shoes, both at the toe and heels, and with great nails in the soles of his feet, which was mighty pretty: and, taking notice of them, "Why," says the poor man, "the downs, you see, are full of stones, and we are fain to shoe ourselves thus; and these," says he, "will make the stones fly till they sing before me." I did give the poor man something, for which he was mighty thankful, and I tried to cast stones with his horn crook. He values his dog mightily, that would turn a sheep any way which he would have him, when he goes to fold them: told me there was about eighteen score sheep in his flock, and that he hath four shillings {45} a week the year round for keeping them: so we posted thence with mighty pleasure in the discourse we had with this poor man, and Mrs Turner, in the common fields here, did gather one of the prettiest nosegays that ever I saw in my life. So to our coach, and through Mr Minnes's wood, and looked upon Mr Evelyn's house; and so over the common, and through Epsom town to our inn, in the way stopping a poor woman with her milk-pail, and in one of my gilt tumblers did drink our bellyfulls of milk, better than any cream: and so to our inn, and there had a dish of cream, but it was sour, and so had no pleasure in it; and so paid our reckoning, and took coach, it being about seven at night, and passed and saw the people walking with their wives and children to take the air, and we set out for home, the sun by and by going down, and we in the cool of the evening all the way with much pleasure home, talking and pleasing ourselves with the pleasure of this day's work, Mrs Turner mightily pleased with my resolution, which, I tell her, is never to keep a country-house, but to keep a coach, and with my wife on the Saturday to go sometimes for a day to this place, and then quit to another place; and there is more variety and as little charge, and no trouble, as there is in a country-house. Anon it grew dark, and as it grew dark we had the pleasure to see several glow-worms, which was mighty pretty, but my foot begins more and more to pain me, which Mrs Turner, by keeping her warm hand upon it, did much ease; but so that when we come home, which was just at eleven at night, I was not able to walk from the lane's end to my house without being helped, which did trouble {46} me, and therefore to bed presently, but, thanks be to God, found that I had not been missed, nor any business happened in my absence. So to bed, and there had a cere-cloth laid to my foot and leg alone, but in great pain all night long.


DANIEL DEFOE 1660-1731


In the meantime, we came to an anchor under a little island in the latitude of 23 degrees 28 minutes, being just under the northern tropic, and about twenty leagues from the island. Here we lay thirteen days, and began to be very uneasy for my friend William, for they had promised to be back again in four days, which they might very easily have done. However, at the end of thirteen days, we saw three sail coming directly to us, which a little surprised us all at first, not knowing what might be the case; and we began to put ourselves in a posture of defence: but as they came nearer us, we were soon satisfied, for the first vessel was that which William went in, who carried a flag of truce; and in a few hours they all came to an anchor, and William came on board us with a little boat, with the Chinese merchant in his company, and two other merchants, who seemed to be a kind of brokers for the rest.

{47} Here he gave us an account how civilly he had been used; how they had treated him with all imaginable frankness and openness; that they had not only given him the full value of his spices and other goods which he carried, in gold, by good weight, but had loaded the vessel again with such goods as he knew we were willing to trade for; and that afterwards they had resolved to bring the great ship out of the harbour, to lie where we were, that so we might make what bargain we thought fit; only William said he had promised, in our name, that we should use no violence with them, nor detain any of the vessels after we had done trading with them. I told him we would strive to outdo them in civility, and that we would make good every part of his agreement; in token whereof, I caused a white flag likewise to be spread at the poop of our great ship, which was the signal agreed on.

As to the third vessel which came with them, it was a kind of bark of the country, who, having intelligence of our design to traffic, came off to deal with us, bringing a good deal of gold and some provisions, which at that time we were very glad of.

In short, we traded upon the high seas with these men, and indeed we made a very good market, and yet sold thieves' pennyworths too. We sold here about sixty ton of spice, chiefly cloves and nutmegs, and above two hundred bales of European goods, such as linen and woollen manufactures. We considered we should have occasion for some such things ourselves, and so we kept a good quantity of English stuns, cloth, baize, &c., for ourselves. I shall not take up any of the little {48} room I have left here with the further particulars of our trade; it is enough to mention, that, except a parcel of tea, and twelve bales of fine China wrought silks, we took nothing in exchange for our goods but gold; so that the sum we took here in that glittering commodity amounted to above fifty thousand ounces good weight.

When we had finished our barter, we restored the hostages, and gave the three merchants about the quantity of twelve hundredweight of nutmegs, and as many of cloves, with a handsome present of European linen and stuff for themselves, as a recompense for what we had taken from them; so we sent them away exceedingly well satisfied.

Here it was that William gave me an account, that while he was on board the Japanese vessel, he met with a kind of religious, or Japan priest, who spoke some words of English to him; and, being very inquisitive to know how he came to learn any of those words, he told him that there was in his country thirteen Englishmen; he called them Englishmen very articulately and distinctly, for he had conversed with them very frequently and freely. He said that they were all that were left of two-and-thirty men, who came on shore on the north side of Japan, being driven upon a great rock in a stormy night, where they lost their ship, and the rest of their men were drowned; that he had persuaded the king of his country to send boats off to the rock or island where the ship was lost, to save the rest of the men, and to bring them on shore, which was done, and they were used very kindly, and had houses {49} built for them, and land given them to plant for provision; and that they lived by themselves.

He said he went frequently among them, to persuade them to worship their god (an idol, I suppose, of their own making), which, he said, they ungratefully refused; and that therefore the king had once or twice ordered them all to be put to death; but that, as he said, he had prevailed upon the king to spare them, and let them live their own way, as long as they were quiet and peaceable, and did not go about to withdraw others from the worship of the country.

I asked William why he did not inquire from whence they came. "I did," said William; "for how could I but think it strange," said he, "to hear him talk of Englishmen on the north side of Japan?" "Well," said I, "what account did he give of it?" "An account," said William, "that will surprise thee, and all the world after thee, that shall hear of it, and which makes me wish thou wouldst go up to Japan and find them out." "What do you mean?" said I. "Whence could they come?" "Why," says William, "he pulled out a little book, and in it a piece of paper, where it was written, in an Englishman's hand, and in plain English words, thus; and," says William, "I read it myself:—'We come from Greenland, and from the North Pole.'" This indeed, was amazing to us all, and more so to those seamen among us who knew anything of the infinite attempts which had been made from Europe, as well by the English as the Dutch, to discover a passage that way into those parts of the world; and as William pressed as earnestly to go on to the north to rescue those poor men, so the ship's {50} company began to incline to it; and, in a word, we all come to this, that we would stand in to the shore of Formosa, to find this priest again, and have a further account of it all from him. Accordingly the sloop went over; but when they came there, the vessels were very unhappily sailed, and this put an end to our inquiry after them, and perhaps may have disappointed mankind of one of the most noble discoveries that ever was made, or will again be made, in the world, for the good of mankind in general; but so much for that.

William was so uneasy at losing this opportunity, that he pressed us earnestly to go up to Japan to find out these men. He told us that if it was nothing but to recover thirteen honest poor men from a kind of captivity, which they would otherwise never be redeemed from, and where, perhaps, they might, some time or other, be murdered by the barbarous people, in defence of their idolatry, it were very well worth our while, and it would be, in some measure, making amends for the mischiefs we had done in the world; but we, that had no concern upon us for the mischiefs we had done, had much less about any satisfactions to be made for it, so he found that kind of discourse would weigh very little with us. Then he pressed us very earnestly to let him have the sloop to go by himself, and I told him I would not oppose it; but when he came to the sloop none of the men would go with him; for the case was plain, they had all a share in the cargo of the great ship, as well as in that of the sloop, and the richness of the cargo was such that they would not leave it by any means; so poor William, much to {51} his mortification, was obliged to give it over. What became of those thirteen men, or whether they are not there still, I can give no account of.

(Captain Singleton.)



I have observed few obvious subjects to have been so seldom, or, at least, so slightly handled as this; and, indeed, I know few so difficult to be treated as it ought, nor yet upon which there seemeth so much to be said.

Most things, pursued by men for the happiness of public or private life, our wit or folly have so refined; that they seldom subsist but in idea; a true friend, a good marriage, a perfect form of government, with some others, require so many ingredients, so good in their several kinds, and so much niceness in mixing them, that for some thousands of years men have despaired of reducing their schemes to perfection. But, in conversation, it is, or might be otherwise; for here we are only to avoid a multitude of errors, which, although a matter of some difficulty, may be in every man's power, for want of which it remaineth as mere an idea as the other. Therefore it seemeth to me, that the truest way to understand conversation, is to know the faults and errors to which it is subject, and from thence every man to form maxims to himself whereby it may be regulated, because it requireth few talents to which most men are {52} not born, or at least may not acquire without any great genius or study. For nature hath left every man a capacity of being agreeable, though not of shining in company; and there are an hundred men sufficiently qualified for both, who, by a very few faults, that they might correct in half an hour, are not so much as tolerable.

I was prompted to write my thoughts upon this subject by mere indignation, to reflect that so useful and innocent a pleasure, so fitted for every period and condition of life, and so much in all men's power, should be so much neglected and abused.

And in this discourse it will be necessary to note those errors that are obvious, as well as others which are seldomer observed, since there are few so obvious, or acknowledged, into which most men, some time or other, are not apt to run.

For instance: Nothing is more generally exploded than the folly of talking too much; yet I rarely remember to have seen five people together, where some one among them hath not been predominant in that kind, to the great constraint and disgust of all the rest. But among such as deal in multitudes of words, none are comparable to the sober deliberate talker, who proceedeth with much thought and caution, maketh his preface, brancheth out into several digressions, findeth a hint that putteth him in mind of another story which he promiseth to tell you when this is done; cometh back regularly to his subject, cannot readily call to mind some person's name, holding his head, complaineth of his memory; the whole company all this while in {53} suspense; at length says, it is no matter, and so goes on. And, to crown the business, it perhaps proveth at last a story the company hath heard fifty times before; or, at best, some insipid adventure of the relater.

Another general fault in conversation is, that of those who affect to talk of themselves: Some, without any ceremony, will run over the history of their lives; will relate the annals of their diseases, with the several symptoms and circumstances of them; will enumerate the hardships and injustice they have suffered in court, in parliament, in love, or in law. Others are more dexterous, and with great art will lie on the watch to hook in their own praise: They will call a witness to remember, they always foretold what would happen in such a case, but none would believe them; they advised such a man from the beginning, and told him the consequences, just as they happened; but he would have his own way. Others make a vanity of telling their faults; they are the strangest men in the world; they cannot dissemble; they own it is a folly; they have lost abundance of advantages by it; but, if you would give them the world, they cannot help it; there is something in their nature that abhors insincerity and constraint; with many other insufferable topics of the same altitude.

Of such mighty importance every man is to himself, and ready to think he is so to others; without once making this easy and obvious reflection, that his affairs can have no more weight with other men, than theirs have with him; and how little that is, he is sensible enough.

Where company hath met, I often have observed {54} two persons discover, by some accident, that they were bred together at the same school or university, after which the rest are condemned to silence, and to listen while these two are refreshing each other's memory with the arch tricks and passages of themselves and their comrades.

I know a great officer of the army, who will sit for some time with a supercilious and impatient silence, full of anger and contempt for those who are talking; at length of a sudden demand audience, decide the matter in a short dogmatical way; then withdraw within himself again, and vouchsafe to talk no more, until his spirits circulate again to the same point.

There are some faults in conversation, which none are so subject to as the men of wit, nor ever so much as when they are with each other. If they have opened their mouths, without endeavouring to say a witty thing, they think it is so many words lost: It is a torment to the hearers, as much as to themselves, to see them upon the rack for invention, and in perpetual constraint, with so little success. They must do something extraordinary, in order to acquit themselves, and answer their character, else the standers-by may be disappointed and be apt to think them only like the rest of mortals. I have known two men of wit industriously brought together, in order to entertain the company, where they have made a very ridiculous figure, and provided all the mirth at their own expense.

I know a man of wit, who is never easy but where he can be allowed to dictate and preside: he neither expecteth to be informed or entertained, but to display {55} his own talents. His business is to be good company, and not good conversation; and, therefore, he chooseth to frequent those who are content to listen, and profess themselves his admirers. And, indeed, the worst conversation I ever remember to have heard in my life was that at Will's coffeehouse, where the wits (as they were called) used formerly to assemble; that is to say, five or six men, who had writ plays, or at least prologues, or had share in a miscellany, came thither, and entertained one another with their trifling composures, in so important an air, as if they had been the noblest efforts of human nature, or that the fate of kingdoms depended on them; and they were usually attended with an humble audience of young students from the inns of court, or the universities, who, at due distance, listened to these oracles, and returned home with great contempt for their law and philosophy, their heads filled with trash, under the name of politeness, criticism and belles lettres.

By these means the poets, for many years past, were all overrun with pedantry. For, as I take it, the word is not properly used; because pedantry is the too frequent or unreasonable obtruding our own knowledge in common discourse, and placing too great a value upon it; by which definition, men of the court or the army may be as guilty of pedantry as a philosopher or a divine; and, it is the same vice in women, when they are over copious upon the subject of their petticoats, or their fans, or their china. For which reason, although it be a piece of prudence, as well as good manners, to put men upon talking on subjects they are best versed in, yet that is a liberty a wise man could hardly take; {56} because, beside the imputation of pedantry, it is what he would never improve by.

(Polite Conversation.)



There is no place in the town which I so much love to frequent as the Royal Exchange. It gives me a secret satisfaction, and in some measure gratifies my vanity, as I am an Englishman, to see so rich an assembly of countrymen and foreigners, consulting together upon the private business of mankind, and making this metropolis a kind of emporium for the whole earth. I must confess I look upon high-change to be a great council, in which all considerable nations have their representatives. Factors in the trading world are what ambassadors are in the politic world; they negotiate affairs, conclude treaties, and maintain a good correspondence between those wealthy societies of men that are divided from one another by seas and oceans, or live on the different extremities of a continent. I have often been pleased to hear disputes adjusted between an inhabitant of Japan, and an alderman of London, or to see a subject of the Great Mogul entering into a league with one of the Czar of Muscovy. I am infinitely delighted in mixing with these several ministers of commerce, as they are distinguished by their different walks and different languages. Sometimes I am jostled {57} among a body of Armenians; sometimes I am lost in a crowd of Jews; and sometimes make one in a group of Dutchmen. I am a Dane, Swede, or Frenchman at different times; or rather fancy myself like the old philosopher, who upon being asked what countryman he was, replied that he was a citizen of the world. . . .

Nature seems to have taken a particular care to disseminate her blessings among the different regions of the world, with an eye to this mutual intercourse and traffic among mankind, that the natives of the several parts of the globe might have a kind of dependence upon one another, and be united together by their common interest. Almost every degree produces something peculiar to it. The food often grows in one country, and the sauce in another. The fruits of Portugal are corrected by the products of Barbadoes, and the infusion of a China plant is sweetened with the pith of an Indian cane. The Philippic islands give a flavour to our European bowls. The single dress of a woman of quality is often the product of an hundred climates. The muff and the fan come together from the different ends of the earth. The scarf is sent from the torrid zone, and the tippet from beneath the pole. The brocade petticoat rises out of the mines of Peru, and the diamond necklace out of the bowels of Indostan.

If we consider our own country in its natural prospect, without any of the benefits and advantages of commerce, what a barren and uncomfortable spot of earth falls to our share! Natural historians tell us, that no fruit grows originally among us, besides hips and haws, acorns and pig-nuts, with other delicacies of the {58} like nature; that our climate of itself, and without the assistance of art, can make no further advances towards a plum than to a sloe, and carries an apple to no greater a perfection than a crab; that our melons, our peaches, our figs, our apricots and cherries, are strangers among us, imported in different ages, and naturalised in our English gardens; and that they would all degenerate and fall away into the trash of our own country, if they were wholly neglected by the planter, and left to the mercy of our sun and soil. Nor has traffic more enriched our vegetable world, than it has improved the whole face of nature among us. Our ships are laden with the harvest of every climate. Our tables are stored with spices and oils and wines. Our rooms are filled with pyramids of China, and adorned with the workmanship of Japan. Our morning's draught comes to us from the remotest corners of the earth. We repair our bodies by the drugs of America, and repose ourselves under Indian canopies. My friend Sir Andrew calls the vineyards of France our gardens; the spice-islands, our hot-beds; the Persians our silk-weavers, and the Chinese our potters. Nature indeed furnishes us with the bare necessaries of life, but traffic gives us a great variety of what is useful, and at the same time supplies us with everything that is convenient and ornamental. Nor is it the least part of this our happiness, that whilst we enjoy the remotest products of the north and south, we are free from those extremities of weather which give them birth; that our eyes are refreshed with the green fields of Britain, at the same time that our palates are feasted with fruits that rise between the tropics.

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