« ZurückWeiter »
conscious rectitude of will.—And are the advantages of vanity, when arising to the heroic standard, at all short of this self-complacence? nay, are they not, in the opinion of the enamoured owner, far beyond it? ' Let the world,' will such an one say, * impute to me what folly or weakness they please; but till wisdom can give me, something that will make me more heartily happy, I am content to be gazed at*.' This, we see, is vanity according to the heroic gage or measure ; not that low and ignoble species which pretendeth to virtues we have not; but the laudable ambition of being gazed at for glorying in those vices which every body knows we have. 'The world may ask,' says he,' why I make my follies public? Why not? 1 have passed my life very pleasantly with themt.' In short, there is no sort of vanity such a hero would scrapie, but that which might go near to degrade him from his high station in this our Dunciad; namely, 1 whether it would not be vanity in him, to take shame to himself for not being a wise man J?'
Bravery, the second attribute of the true hero, is courage manifesting itself in every limb; while its correspondent virtue, in the mock hero, is that same courage all collected into the face. And as power, when drawn together, must needs have more force and spirit than when dispersed, we generally find this kind of courage in so high and heroic a degree, that it insults not only men, but gods. Me. sentins is, without doubt, the bravest character in all the tEoeis; but how? His bravery, we know, was a high courage of blasphemy. And can we say less of this brave man's? who having told us that he placed his 'summum bonum in those follies which he was not content barely to possess, but would likewise glory in,' adds, 'If I am misguided, 'tis
nature's fault, and I follow her*.' Nor can we be mistaken in making this happy quality a species of courage, when we consider those illustrious marks of it, winch made his face 'mote known (as he justly boastrth; than most in the kingdom f and hi» language to consist of what we must allow to be the most daring figure of speech, that which is taken from the name of God.
Gentle love, the next ingredient in the true here's composition, is a mere bird of passage, or (as Shakespeare calls it)' summer-teeming lust,' and evaporates in the heat of youth , doubtless by that refinement it suffers in passing through tlrase certain strainers which our poet somewhere speaketh of. Bat when it is let alone to work upon the lees, it acquired] strength by old age; and becometh a lasting ornament to the little epic. It is true, indeed, there is one objection bo its fitness for such an use: for not only the ignorant may think it common, but it is admitted to be so, even by him who best fcnoveth its value. ' Don't you think,' argueth he, * to sty only a man has his whore*ought to go for little or nothing? bet :ause defundit Humerus. Take the first ten thousand men you meet, and, I believe, yon would be no loser if you betted ten to one, that every single sinner of them, one with another, had been guilty of the same frailty}.' But here be eeemeth nor to have doue justice to himself: the man is sum enough a hero, who hath his lady at fourscore, ifow doth his modesty herein lessen the merit of a whole welUspent life? cot taking t» himself the commendation (which Horace accounted the greatest in a theatrical character) of continuing
• Life of C. C. p. 23. ocL edit I Alluding to these lines in the Epist. to Dr. Ar. buthnot:
And lias not Colly still his lord and whore. His butchers Henley, his free-masona Moore? % Letter to Mr. P. p. 46.
to the very dregs the same he was from (he begin> nine;
* — ..-Servetur ad imum Qualis ab incepto processerat.——
But here, in justice both to the poet and the hero, let us farther remark, that the catling her his whore implied she was his own, and not his neighbour's. 'Truly a commendable continence! and such as Scipio himself must have applanded. For how much self-denial was necessary not to covet his neighbour's whore ? and what disorders must the coveting her have occasioned in that society, where (according to this political calculator) nine in ten of all ages have their concubines!
We have now, as briefly as we could devise, gone through the three constituent qualities of either •hero. But It is not in any, or in all of these, that heroism properly or essentially resideth. It ufi lucky result rather from the collision of these liveljg qualities against one another. Thus, as from wisdom, bravery, and love, ariseth magnanimity, the object of admiration, which is the aim of the greater epic; so from vanity, assurance, and debanchery, sprinneth buffoonery, the source of ridicule, that * langhing ornament,' as he well termeth it*, of the little epic.
He is not ashamed (God forbid he ever should be ashamed!) of this character, who deemeth that not reason but risibility distingulsheth the human spee'es from the brutal. 'As nature,' saith this profound philosopher, 'distinguished our species from the mute creation by our risibility, her design must have been by that faculty as evidently to raise our happiness, as by our os sublime (our erected faces) to lift the dignity of our form above themt.' All this . considered, how complete a hero must he be, as 'well as how happy a man, whose risibility lieth, not barely in his muscles, as in the common sort,
• Letter to Mr. P. p. 31. t Life, p. 23, 24.
but (as .himself informeth us) in his very spirits? and whose as sublime is not simply an erect face, but a brazen head; as should seem by his preferring it to one of iron, said to belong to the late king of Sweden-?
But whatever personal qualities a hero may have, the examples of Achilles and iEneas show us, that all those are of small avail, without the constant assistance of the gods; for the subversion and erection of empires have never been adjndged the wort of man. How greatly soever then we may esteem of his high talents, we can hardly conceive his personal prowess alone sufficient to restore the decayed empire of dulness. So weighty an achievement must require the particular favour and protection of the great; who being the natural patrons and supporters of letters, as the ancient gods were of Troy, tnust first be drawn off and engaged in another interest, before the total subversion of them can he accomplished. To surmount, therefore, this last and greatest difficulty, we have, in this excellent man, a professed favourite and intimado of the great. And look, of what force ancient piety was to draw the gods into the party of jEneas, that, and much stronger, is modern incense, to engage the great in the party of dulness.
Thus have we essayed to portray or shadow out this noble imp of fame. But now the impatient reader will be apt to say, ' If so many and various graces go to the making up a hero, what mortal shall suffice to bear his character V III hath he read, who seeth not, in every trace of this picture, that individual, all-accomplished person, in whom these rare virtues and lucky circumstances have agreed to meet and concentre with the strongest lustre and fullest harmony.
The good Scriblerus indeed, nay, the world itself, might be imposed on, in the late spurious editions,
• Letter to Mr. P. p. 8.
by I caa't tell what sham-hero or phantom; but it was not so easy to impose on him whom this egregious error most of all concerned. For no sooner had the fourth book laid open the high and swelling scene, but he recognized his own heroic acts i and when he came to the words,
Soft on her lap her laureat son reclines, (though laureat imply no more than one crowned with laurel, as befitteth any associate or consort in empire), he loudly resented this indignity to violated Majesty. Indeed, not without cause, he being there represented as fast asleep; so misbeseeming the eye of empire, which, like that of Providence, should never doae nor slumber. * Ha!' saith he, 'fast asleep, it seems! that's a little too strong. Pert and dull at least you might have allowed me, but as seldom asleep as any fool*.' However, the injured hero may comfort himself with this reflection, that though it be a sleep, yet it is not the sleep of death, but of immortality. Here he willt live at least, though not awake; and in no worse condition than many an enchanted warrior before him. The famous Durandante, for instance, was, like him, cast into a long slumber by Merlin the British bard and necromancer; and his example for submitting to it with a good grace, might be of use to our hero. For that disastrous knight being sorely pressed or driven to make his answer by several persons of quality, only replied with a sigh, 'Patience, and shuffle the cardsj.'
But now, as nothing in this world, no not the most sacred and perfect things, either of religion or government, can escape the sting of envy, metbinks \ already hear these carpers objecting to the clearness of our hero's title.
'It would never', say they, * have been esteemed sufficient to make a hero for the Iliad or £neis.