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moral world, which is not very likely to be overturned by any new discoveries. But principles, however correct, may sometimes be wrongly, and however true, may sometimes be falsely applied; and none are so likely to be so, as those that from having been found capable of effecting so much, are expected to perform all. An Indian has very few tools, and it is astonishing how much he accomplishes with them; but he sometimes fails, for although his instruments are of general, they are not of universal application. There are two principles however of established acceptance in morals; first that self-interest is the main spring of all our actions, and secondly, that utility is the test of their value. Now there are some cases where these maxims are not tenable, because they are not true; for some of the noblest energies of gratitude, of affection, of courage, and of benevolence, are not resolvible into the first. If it be said indeed that these estimable qualities, may after all be traced to self-interest, because all the duties that flow from them, are a source of the highest gratification to those that perform them, this I presume savours rather too much of an identical proposition, and is only a round-about mode of informing us that virtuous men will act virtuously. Take care of number one, says the worldling, and the christian says so too; for he has taken the best care of number one, who takes care that number one shall go to heaven; that blessed place is full of those same selfish beings who by having con
stantly done good to others, have as constantly gratified themselves. I humbly conceive therefore that it is much nearer the truth to say that all men have an interest in being good, than that all men are good from interest. As to the standard of utility, this is a mode of examining human actions, that looks too much to the event, for there are occasions where a man may effect the greatest general good, by the smallest individual sacrifice; and there are others where he may make the greatest individual sacrifice, and yet produce but little general good. If indeed the moral philosopher is determined to do all his work with the smallest possible quantity of tools, and would wish to cope with the natural philosopher, who has explained such wonders from the two simple causes of impulse, and of gravity, in this case he must look out for maxims as universal as those occasions to which he would apply them. Perhaps he might begin by affirming with me that—men are the same, and this will naturally lead him to another conclusion, that if men are the same, they can have but one common principle of action, The attainment of apparent good; those two simple truisms contain the whole of my philosophy, and as they have not been worn out in the performance of one undertaking, I trust they will not fail me in the execution of another.
WE are not more ingenious in searching out bad motives for good actions, when performed by others, than good motives for bad actions, when performed by ourselves. * I have
* As this volume opens with a double antithesis, I hope I may be permitted to offer a few remarks on this subject, in a note. In the first volume I observed, that with respect to the style I proposed to adopt in these pages, I should attempt to make it vary with the subject. I now find that I have succeeded, so far at least in this attempt, that some have doubted whether all the articles came from the same pen. I can however assure my readers, that whatever faults Lacon may possess belong to me alone, and having said thus much, I believe I shall not have made a very good bargain, by claiming also whatever trifling merits may be found in the book. To those therefore that are disgusted with the abundance of the one, or dissatisfied from the scarcity of the other, I can only reply in the words of the Poet,
“ Adsum qui feci, in me convertite ferrum." As to the frequent recurrence of antithesis, I admit that wherever this figure presents itself to my imagination, I never reject it, if the deductions proposed to be drawn from it, appear to me to be just. I have consulted authors ancient and modern on this subject, and they seem to be all agreed that the sententious, short and apothegmatic style, so highly requisite in a book of maxims or aphorisms, is a style, to the force and spirit of which, antithesis is not only particularly advantageous, but even absolutely necessary. A maxim, if it be worth any thing, is worth remembering, and nothing is so likely to rivet it on the memory, as antithesis ; deprived of this powerful auxiliary, all works of the nature of that in which I am engaged, must droop and be dull.
If indeed I have blundered on some antitheses that lead to false conclusions, I admit that no mercy ought to be shown to these, and I consign them, without benefit of clergy to the severest sentence of criticism Vol. II.
observed elsewhere, that no swindler has assumed so many names as self-love, nor is so much ashamed of his own; selflove can gild the most nauseous pill, and can make the No candid reader I presume will accuse an author of adopting the antithetical style from laziness, and to those who would ask whether it be an easy style of writing, I would say with the celebrated Painter, "try.” That I can abandon antithesis, on subjects where it is not required, will, I think be allowed, by those who have read the notes to Hypocrisy, and my remarks on Don Juan. But to extirpate antithesis from literature altogether, would be to destroy at one stroke about eight-tenths of all the wit, ancient and modern, now existing in the world; and I fancy we shall never have the same excuse for such a measure, that the Dutch had for destroying their spices - the fear of a glut. Dunces, indeed, give antithesis no quarter, and to say the truth, it gives them none; if indeed it be a fault, it is one of the very few which such persons may exclaim against with some justice, because they were never yet found capable of committing it. Let any man try to recall to his memory all the pointed, epigrammatic, brief or severe things which he may have read or heard either at the Senate, the Bar, or the Stage, and he will see that I have not overrated the share which antithesis will be found to have had in their production. It is a figure capable not only of the greatest wit, but sometimes of the greatest beauty, and sometimes of the greatest sublimity. Milton, in his moral description of hell, says that it was a place which God " created evil, for eril only good; where all life dies, death lives.” That it is capable of the greatest beauty, will be seen by the following translation from an Arabic poet, on the birth of a child:
“ When born, in tears we saw thee drown'd,
“ With sniles their joy confest.
" And thou in smiles be drest." If these lines will not put my readers in good humour with antithesis, I must either give them up as incorrigible, or prescribe to them a regular course of reading discipline, administered by such writers as Herder or Gisborne, restricting them also most straightly from all such authors as Butler and Swift, where they will be often shocked with such lines as the following:
“ 'Tis said that Cæsar's horse would stoop