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If Blount dispatch'd himself, he play'd the man,
VER. 123. If Blount] Author of an impious and foolish book called the Oracles of Reafon, who being in love with a near kinfwoman of his, and rejected, gave himself a ftab in the arm, as pretending to kill himself, of the confequence of which he really died. P.
VER. 124. Pafferan!] Author of another book of the fame ftamp, called Aphilofophical discourse on death, being a defence of fuicide. He was a nobleman of Piedmont, banished from his country for his impieties, and lived in the utmost misery, yet feared to practise his own precepts; of which there went a pleasant story about that time. Amongst his pupils, it feems, to whom he read in moral philofophy, was a noted Gamester, who lodged under the fame roof with him. This ufeful citi zen, after a run of ill luck, came one morning early into his mafter's bed-chamber, with two loaded piftols. And, as Englishmen do not understand raillery in a cafe of this nature, told the philofopher, on prefenting him with one of his pistols, that now was come the time to put his doctrine in practice: that as to himself having loft his last stake he was become an useless member in fociety, and fo was refolved to quit his ftation; and that, as to him, his guide, philofopher, and friend, furrounded with miferies, the outcaft of government, and the fport even of that Chance which he adored, he doubtless would rejoice for fuch an opportunity to bear him company. All this was faid and done with fo much refolution and folemnity, that the Italian found himself under a neceffity to cry out murder, which brought in Company to his relief.-This unhappy man at last died a penitent.
VER. 125, But fhall a Printer, etc.] A Fact that happened in London a few years paft. The unhappy man left behind him
This calls the Church to deprecate our Sin,
And hurls the Thunder of the Laws on Gin. 130
a paper juftifying his action by the reafonings of fome of these
VER. 129. This calls the Church to deprecate our Sin,] Alluding to the forms of prayer, compofed in the times of public calamity; where the fault is generally laid upon the People.
VER. 130. Gin.] A fpirituous liquor, the exorbitant use of which had almoft deftroyed the lowest rank of the People till it was reftrained by an act of Parliament in 1736. P.
VER. 131. Let modeft FOSTER,] This confirms an obfervation which Mr. Hobbes made long ago, That there be very few Bishops that act a fermon fo well, as divers Prefbyterians and fanatic Preachers can do. Hift. of Civ. Wars, p. 62. SCRIB.
VER. 134. Landaffe] A poor Bishoprick in Walcs, as poorly supplied.
VER. 135. Let humble ALLEN with an aukward Shame,--Do good by Stealth, and blush to find it Fame.] The true Character of our Author's moral pieces, confidered as a fupplement to buman laws (the force of which they have defervedly obtained) is, that his praife is always delicate, and his reproof never mifplaced: and therefore the firft not reaching the head, and the latter too fenfibly touching the heart of his vulgar readers, have made him cenfured as a cold Panegyrift, and a cauftic Satirift; whereas, indeed, he was the warmest friend, and the moft placable enemy.
The lines above have been commonly given as an inftance of this ungenerous backwardnefs in doing juftice to merit. And,
may chuse the high or low Degree, 'Tis juft alike to Virtue, and to me;
indeed, if fairly given, would bear hard upon the Author, who believed the perfon here celebrated to be one of the greatest characters in private life that ever was; and known by him to be, in fact, all, and much more than he had feigned in the imaginary virtues of the man of Rofs. One, who, whether he be confidered in his civil, focial, domeftic, or religious character, is, in all these views, an ornament to human nature.
And, indeed, we fhall fee, that what is here faid of him agrees only with fuch a Character. But as both the thought and the expreffion have been cenfured, we fhall confider them in their order.
Let humble ALLEN, with an aukward Shame,
This encomium has been called obfcure (as well as penurious.) It may be fo; not from any defect in the conception, but from the deepness of the fenfe; and, what may feem more ftrange, (as we fhall fee afterwards) from the elegance of phrase, and exactnefs of expreffion. We are fo abfolutely governed by cuftom, that to act contrary to it, creates even in virtuous men, who are ever modeft, a kind of diffidence, which is the parent of Shame. But when, to this, there is joined a consciousness that, in forfaking cuftom, you follow truth and reason, the indignation arifing from fuch a confcious virtue, mixing with Jhame, produces that amiable aukwardness, in going out of the fashion, which the Poet, here, celebrates :
and blush to find it Fame,
i. e. He blushed at the degeneracy of his times, which, at beft, gave his goodnefs its due commendation (the thing he never aimed at) instead of following and imitating his example, which was the reafon why fome acts of it were not done by filth, but more openly.
So far as to the thought: but it will be faid, tantamne rem tam negligenter?
And this will lead us to fay fomething concerning the expreffion, which will clear up what remains of the difficulty.
Dwell in a Monk, or light upon a King,
And stoops from Angels to the Dregs of Earth:
Thefe lines, and thofe which precede and follow them, contain an ironical neglect of Virtue, and an ironical concern and care for Vice. So that the Poet's elegant correctnefs of compofition required, that his language, in the firft cafe, fhould prefent fomething of negligence and cenfure; which is admirably implied in the expreffion of the thought.
VER. 138. 'Tis juft alike to Virtue, and to me;] He gives the reafon for it, in the line that prefently follows,
She's ftill the fame, belov'd, contented thing.
So that the fenfe of the text is this, "It is all one to Virtue on "whom her influence falls, whether on high or low, because
it ftill produces the fame effect, their content; and it is all "one to me, because it ftill produces the fame effect, my love."
VER. 144. Let Greatnefs own her, and he's mean no more,] The Poet, in this whole paffage, would be understood to allude to a very extraordinary ftory told by Procopius in his Secret hiftory: the fum of which is as follows.
The Emprefs THEODORA was the daughter of one Acaces, who had the care of the wild beafts, which the Green fallion kept for the entertainment of the people. For the Empire was, at that time, divided between the two Factions of the Green and Blue. But Acaces dying in the infancy of Theodora, and her two Sifters, his place of Mafter of the Bears was difpofed of to a ftranger; and his widow had no other way of fupporting herfelf than by proftituting her three Daughters, who were all very pretty, on the public Theatre. Thither fhe brought them in their turns as they came to years of puberty. Theodora first attended her Sifters in the habit and quality of a
Her Birth, her Beauty, Crowds and Courts confefs,
flave. And when it came to her turn to mount the stage, as she could neither dance, nor play on the flute, fhe was put into the lowest class of Buffoons to make diverfion for the Rabble; which she did in fo arch a manner, and complained of the indignities fhe fuffered in fo ridiculous a tone, that she became the abfolute favourite of the people. After a complete course of infamy and prostitution, the next place we hear of her is at Alexandria, in great poverty and diftrefs: from whence (as it was no wonder) fhe was willing to remove. And to Conftantinople fhe came, but after a large circuit thro' the Eaft, where she worked her way, by a free courfe of proftitution. JUSTINIAN was at this time confort in the Empire with his Uncle Juftin, and the management of affairs entirely in his hands. He no fooner faw Theodora than he fell desperately in love with her, and would have married her immediately, but that the Empress Euphemia, a barbarian, and unpolite, but not illiberal in her nature, was then alive. And fhe, altho' fhe rarely denied him any thing, yet obftinately refused giving him this instance of her complaifance. But she did not live long: and then, nothing but the ancient Laws, which forbad a fenator to marry with a common prostitute, hindered Juftinian from executing this extraordinary project. Thefe, he obliged Juftin to revoke; and then, in the face of the fun, married his dear Theodora. A terrible example (fays the Hiftorian) and an encouragement to the most shameless licence. And now no fooner was THEODORA (in the Poet's phrafe) owned by Greatness, than fhe, whom not long before it was thought unlucky to meet, and a pollution to touch, became the idol of the Court. There was not a fingle Magiftrate (fays Procopius) that expreffed the leaft indignation at the fhame and difhonour brought upon the state; not a fingle Prelate that fhewed the leaft defolation for the public fcandal. They all drove to court fo precipitately, as if they were ftriving to prevent one another in her good graces. Nay, the very foldiers were emulous of the honour of becoming the Champions of her Virtue. As for the common people, who had fo long been the fpectators of her fervility, her Buffoonry,