« AnteriorContinuar »
to have some eminent person in our eye, from whom we copy our description. I have strictly observed this rule, and my imagination this minute represents before me a certain great man famous for this talent, to the constant practice of which he owes his twenty years' reputation of the most skilful head in England for the management of nice affairs. The superiority of his genius consists in nothing else but an inexhaustible fund of political lies, which he plentifully distributes every minute he speaks, and by an unparalleled generosity forgets, and consequently contradicts, the next half-hour. He never yet considered whether any proposition were true or false, but whether it were convenient for the present minute or company to affirm or deny it ; so that, if you think fit to refine upon him by interpreting everything he says, as we do dreams, by the contrary, you are still to seek, and will find yourself equally deceived whether you believe or not : the only remedy is to suppose that you have heard some inarticulate sounds, without any meaning at all; and besides, that will take off the horror you might be apt to conceive at the oaths wherewith he perpetually tags both ends of every proposition ; although, at the same time, I think he cannot with any justice be taxed with perjury when he invokes God and Christ, because he has often fairly given public notice to the world that he believes in neither.
Some people may think that such an accomplishment as this can be of no great use to the owner, or his party, after it has been often practised and is become notorious; but they are widely mistaken. Few lies carry the inventor's mark, and the most prostitute enemy to truth may spread a thousand without being known for
the author : besides, as the vilest writer has his readers, so the greatest liar has his believers; and it often happens that, if a lie be believed only for an hour, it has done its work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived it is too late ; the jest is over, and the tale has had its effect : like a man who has thought of a good repartee when the discourse is changed or the company parted; or like a physician who has found out an infallible medicine after the patient is dead.
Considering that natural disposition in many men to lie, and in multitudes to believe, I have been perplexed what to do with that maxim so frequent in everybody's mouth, that truth will at last prevail. Here has this island of ours, for the greatest part of twenty years, lain under the influence of such counsels and persons, whose principle and interest it was to corrupt our manners, blind our understanding, drain our wealth, and in time destroy our constitution both in church and state, and we at last were brought to the very brink of ruin; yet, by the means of perpetual misrepresentations, have never been able to distinguish between our enemies and friends. We have seen a great part of the nation's money got into the hands of those who, by their birth, education, and merit, could pretend no higher than to wear our liveries; while others, who, by their credit, quality, and fortune, were only able to give reputation and success to the Revolution, were not only laid aside as dangerous and useless, but loaded with the scandal of Jacobites, men of arbitrary principles, and pensioners to France; while truth, who is said to lie in a well, seemed now to be buried
there under a heap of stones. But I remember it was a usual complaint among the Whigs, that the bulk of the landed men was not in their interests, which some of the wisest looked on as an ill omen ; and we saw it was with the utmost difficulty that they could preserve a majority, while the court and ministry were on their side, till they had learned those admi. rable expedients for deciding elections and influencing distant boroughs by powerful motives from the city. But all this was mere force and constraint, however upheld by most dexterous artifice and management, until the people began to apprehend their properties, their religion, and the monarchy itself in danger ; when we saw them greedily laying hold on the first occasion to interpose. But of this mighty change in the dispositions of the people I shall discourse more at large in some following paper : wherein I shall endeavour to undeceive or discover those deluded or de. luding persons who hope or pretend it is only a short madness in the vulgar, from which they may soon recover ; whereas, I believe it will appear to be very different in its causes, its symptoms, and its consequences; and prove a great example to illustrate the maxim I lately mentioned, that truth (however some. times late) will at last prevail.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 1710.
-Medioque ut limite curras,
-My boy, take care
It must be avowed that for some years past there have been few things more wanted in England than such a paper as this ought to be: and such I will endeavour to make it as long as it shall be found of any use, without entering into the violences of either party. Considering the many grievous misrepresentations of persons and things, it is highly requisite at this juncture that the people throughout the kingdom should, if possible, be set right in their opinions by some impartial hand, which has never been yet attempted ; those who have hitherto undertaken it being, upon every account, the least qualified of all human kind for such work.
We live here under a limited monarchy, and under the doctrine and discipline of an excellent church. We are unhappily divided into two parties, both which pretend a mighty zeal for our religion and government, only they disagree about the means. The evils we must fence against are, on one side, fanaticism and infidelity in religion, and anarchy, under the name of a commonwealth, in government ; on the other side, popery, slavery, and the pretender from France. Now, to inform and direct us in our sentiments upon these weighty points, here are, on one side, two stupid illiterate scribblers, both of them fanatics by profession, I mean the Review and Observator; on the other side, we have an open nonjuror, whose character and person, as well as learning and good sense, discovered upon other subjects, do indeed deserve respect and esteem ; but his Rehearsal and the rest of his political papers are yet more pernicious than those of the former two. If the generality of the people know not how to talk or think until they have read their lesson in the papers of the week, what a misfortune is it that their duty should be conveyed to them through such vehicles as those ! For, let some gentlemen think what they please, I cannot but suspect that the two worthies I first mentioned have, in a degree, done mischief among us; the mock authoritative manner of the one, and the insipid mirth of the other, however insupportable to reasonable ears, being of a level with great numbers among the lowest part of mankind. Neither was the author of the Rehearsal, while he continued that paper, less infectious to many persons of better figure, who, perhaps, were as well qualified, and much less prejudiced, to judge for themselves.