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decreed that the church of Rome neither had erred, and never should err. It was thus this
prerogative of his holiness became received, till 1313, when John XXII. abrogated decrees made by three popes his predecessors, and declared that what was done amiss by one pope or council might be corrected by another; and Gregory XI., 1370, in his will deprecates, si quid in catholica fide errasset. The university of Vienna protested against it, calling it a contempt of God, and an idolatry, if any one in matters of faith should appeal from a council to the Pope; that is, from God who presides in councils, to man. But the infallibility was at length established by Leo X., especially after Luther's opposition, because they despaired of defending their indulgences, bulls, &c. by any other method.
Imagination cannot form a scene more terrific than when these men were in the height of power, and to serve their political purposes hurled the thunders of their excommunications over a kingdom. It was a national distress not inferior to a plague or famine.
Philip Augustus, desirous of divorcing Ingelburg, to unite himself to Agnes de Meranie, the Pope put his kingdom under an interdict. The churches were shut during the space of eight
months; they said neither mass nor vespers; they did not marry; and even the offspring of the married, born at this unhappy period, were considered as illicit: and because the king would not sleep with his wife, it was not permitted to any of his subjects to sleep with theirs ! In that year France was threatened with an extinction of the ordinary generation. A man under this curse of public penance was divested of all his functions, civil, military, and matrimonial; he was not allowed to dress his hair, to shave, to bathe, nor even change his linen, so that, says Saint Foix, upon the whole this made a filthy penitent. The good King Robert incurred the censures of the church for having married his cousin. He was immediately abandoned. Two faithful domestics alone remained with him, and these always passed through the fire whatever he touched. In a word, the horror which an excommunication occasioned was such that a woman of pleasure, with whom one Peletier had passed some moments, having learnt soon afterwards that he had been above six months an excommunicated person, fell into a panic, and with great difficulty recovered from her convulsions.
To literary composition we may apply the saying of an ancient philosopher:-"a little thing gives perfection, although perfection is not a little thing."
The great legislator of the Hebrews orders us to pull off the fruit for the first three years, and not to taste them. Levit. xix. ver. 23. He was not ignorant how it weakens a young tree to bring to maturity its first fruits. Thus, on literary compositions, our green essays ought to be picked away. The word Zamar, by a beautiful metaphor from pruning trees, means in Hebrew to compose
Blotting and correcting was so much Churchill's abhorrence, that I have heard from his publisher, he once energetically expressed himself, that it was like cutting away one's own flesh. This strong figure sufficiently shows his repugnance to an author's duty. Churchill now lies neglected, for posterity only will respect those, who
File off the mortal part
I have heard that this careless bard, after a successful work, usually precipitated the publication of another, relying on its crudeness being passed over on the public curiosity excited by its better brother. He called this getting double pay; for thus he secured the sale of a hurried work. But Churchill was a spendthrift of fame, and enjoyed all his revenue while he lived; posterity owes him little, and pays him nothing!
Bayle, an experienced observer in literary mat. ters, tells us, that correction is by no means practicable by some authors; as in the case of Ovid. In exile, his compositions were nothing more than spiritless repetitions of what he had formerly written. He confesses both negligence and idleness in the corrections of his works. The vivacity which animated his first productions, failing him when he revised his poems, he found correction too laborious, and he abandoned it. This, however, was only an excuse. “ It is certain, that some authors cannot correct. They compose with pleasure, and with ardour; but they exhaust all their force: they fly but with one wing when they review their works; the first fire does not return; there is in their imagination a certain calm which hinders their pen from making any progress. Their mind is like a boat, which only advances by the strength of oars.”
Dr. More, the Platonist, had such an exuberance of fancy, that correction was a much greater labour than composition. He used
He used to say, that in writing his works, he was forced to cut his way through a crowd of thoughts as through a wood, and that he threw off in his compositions as much as would make an ordinary philosopher. More was a great enthusiast, and, of course, an egotist, so that criticism ruffled his temper, notwithstanding all his Platonism. When accused of obscurities and extravagancies, he said, that like the ostrich, he laid his eggs in the sands, which would prove vital and prolific in time; however, these ostrich eggs have proved to be addled.
A habit of correctness in the lesser parts of composition will assist the higher. It is worth l'ecording that the great Milton was anxious for correct punctuation, and that Addison was solicitous after the minutiæ of the press. Savage, Armstrong, and others, felt tortures on similar objects. It is said of Julius Scaliger, that he had this peculiarity in his manner of composition; he wrote with such accuracy that his mss. and the printed copy corresponded page for page, and line for line.
Malherbe, the father of French poetry, tormented himself by a prodigious slowness; and was