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accept of the correspondence of so facetious a cripple, I shall from time to time send you an account of what happened at Rome. You have only heard of it from Latin and Greek authors; nay, perhaps, have read no accounts from hence, but of a triumph, ovation, or apotheois, and will doubtless be surprised to see the description of a procession, jubilee, or canonization. I shall, however, send you what the place affords, in return to what I shall receive from you. If you will acquaint me with your next promotion of general officers, I will send you an account of our next advancement of saints. If you will let me know who is reckoned the bravest warrior in Great Britain, I will tell you who is the best fiddler in Rome. If you will favour me with an inventory of the riches that were brought into your nation by Admiral Wager, I will not fail giving you an account of a pot of medals, that has been lately dug up here, and is now under the examination of our ministers of state. “ There is one thing, in which I desire
would be very particular. What I mean is an exact list of all the religions in Great Britain, as likewise the habits, which are said here to be the great points of conscience in England; whether they are made of serge or broad-cloth, of silk or linen. I should be glad to see a model of the most conscientious dress among you, and desire you will send me a hat of each religion; as likewise, if it be not too much trouble, a cravat. It would also be very acceptable here to receive an account of those two religious orders, which are lately sprung up amongst you, the Whigs and the Tories, with the points of doctrine, severities in discipline, penances, mortifications, and good works, by which they differ one from another. It would be no less kind, if you would explain to us a word, which they do not understand even at our English monastery, Toasts, and let us know whe
ther the ladies so called are nuns or lay-sisters. In return I will send you the secret history of several cardinals, which I have by me in manuscript, with the gallantries, amours, politics, and intrigues, by which they made their way to the holy purple.
“ But when I propose a correspondence, I must not tell
what I intend to advise you of hereafter, and neglect to give you what I have at present. The pope has been sick for this fortnight of a violent tooth-ache, which has very much raised the French faction, and put the Conclave into a great ferment. Every one of the pretenders to the succession is grown twenty years older than he was a fortnight ago. Each candidate tries who shall cough and stoop most; for these are at present the great gifts that recommend to the Apostolical seat: which he stands the fairest for, who is likely to resign it the soonest. I have known the time, when it used to rain Louis d'ors on such occasions; but, whatever is the matter, there are very few of them to be seen, at present, at Rome; insomuch, that it is thought a man might purchase infallibility at a very reasonable rate. It is nevertheless hoped, that his holiness may recover, and bury these his imaginary suc
“ There has lately been found an human tooth in a catacomb, which has engaged a couple of convents in a law-suit; each of them pretending, that it belonged to the jaw-bone of a saint, who was of their order. The college have sat upon it thrice; and I find there is a disposition among them to take it out of the possession of both the contending parties, by reason of a speech which was made by one of the cardinals, who by reason of its being found out of the company of any other bones, asserted that it might be one of the teeth which was coughed out by Ælia, an old woman whose loss is recorded in Martial.
“ I have nothing remarkable to communicate to you of state affairs, excepting only, that the Pope has lately received a horse from the German ambassador, as an acknowledgement for the kingdom of Naples, which is a fief of the church. His holiness refused this horse from the Germans ever since the Duke of Anjou has been possessed of Spain; but as they lately took care to accompany it with a body of ten thousand more, they have at last overcome his holiness's modesty, and prevailed upon him to accept the present. I am, Sir, “ Your most obedient, humble servant,
N° 130. TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 1709-10.
HOR, 2 Sat. 1.75.
FRANCIS. Sheer-lane, February 6. I FIND some of the most polite Latin authors, who wrote at a time when Rome was in its glory, speak with a certain noble vanity of the brightness and splendour of the age in which they lived. Pliny often compliments his emperor Trajan upon this head; and when he would animate him to any thing great, or dissuade him from any thing that was improper, he insinuates, that it is befitting or unbecoming the claritas et nitor seculi, that period of time which was made illustrious by his reign. When we cast our eyes back on the history of mankind,
and trace them through their several successions to their first original, we sometimes see them breaking out in great and memorable actions, and towering up to the utmost heights of virtue and knowledge; when, perhaps, if we carry our observations to a little distance, we see them sunk into sloth and ignorance, and altogether lost in darkness and obscurity. Sometimes the whole species is asleep for two or three generations, and then again awakens into action; flourishes in heroes, philosophers, and poets; who do honour to human nature, and leave such tracks of glory behind them, as distinguish the years, in which they acted their part, from the ordinary course of time.
Methinks a man cannot, without a secret satisfaction, consider the glory of the present age, which will shine as bright as any other in the history of mankind. It is still big with great events, and has already produced changes and revolutions, which will be as much admired by posterity as any that have happened in “ the days of our fathers, or in the old times before them.” We have seen kingdoms divided and united, monarchs erected and deposed, nations transferred from one nation to another; conquerors raised to such a greatness, as has given a terror to Europe, and thrown down by such a fall, as has moved their pity.
But it is still a more pleasing view to an Englishman, to see his own country give the chief influence to so illustrious an age, and stand in the strongest point of light, amidst the diffuse glory that surrounds it.
If we begin with learned men, we may observe, to the honour of our country, that those who make the greatest figure in most arts and sciences, are universally allowed to be of the British nation; and what is more remarkable, that men of the greatest learning, are among the men of the greatest quality.
A nation may indeed abound with persons of such uncommon parts and worth, as may make them rather a misfortune than a blessing to the public. Those who singly might have been of infinite advantage to the age they live in, may, by rising up together in the same crisis of time, and by interfering in their pursuits of honour, rather interrupt, than promote the service of their country. Of this we have a famous instance in the republic of Rome, when Cæsar, Pompey, Cato, Cicero, and Brutus, endeavoured to recommend themselves at the same time to the admiration of their contemporaries. Mankind was not able to provide for so many extraordinary persons at once, or find our posts suitable to their ambition and abilities. For this reason they were all as miserable in their deaths, as they were famous in their lives, and occasioned not only the ruin of each other, but also that of the commonwealth.
It is therefore a particular happiness to a people when the men of superior genius and character are so justly disposed in the high places of honour, that each of them moves in a sphere which is proper to him, and requires those particular qualities in which he excels.
If I see a general commanding the forces of his country, where victories are not to be paralleled in story, and who is as famous for his negociations as his victories ;* and at the same time see the management of a nation's treasury in the hands of one, who has always distinguished himself by a generous contempt of his own private wealth, and an exact frugality of that which belongs to the public;t I can
* The Duke of Marlborough, commander in chief of her Majesty's forces.
+ Sidney lord Godolphin was then lord high-treasurer of England.