Page images
PDF
EPUB

JEAN BAPTISTE MASSILLON

453

passes, leaves only desolation and ruin; digs even into the bowels of the earth, and fixes itself on things the most hidden ; turns into vile ashes what only a moment before had appeared to us so precious and brilliant; acts with more violence and danger than ever in the time when it is apparently smothered up and almost extinct; which blackens what it cannot consume, and sometimes sparkles and delights before it destroys.

I would have told you that evil speaking is an assemblage of iniquity; a secret pride, which discovers to us the mote in our brother's eye, but hides the beam which is in our own; a mean envy, which, hurt at the talents or prosperity of others, makes them the subject of its censures, and studies to dim the splendor of whatever outshines itself; a disguised hatred, which sheds, in its speeches, the hidden venom of the heart; an unworthy duplicity, which praises to the face and tears to pieces behind the back; a shameful levity, which has no command over itself or its words, and often sacrifices both fortune and comfort to the imprudence of an amusing conversation; a deliberate barbarity, which goes to pierce your absent brother; a scandal, where you become a subject of shame and sin to those who listen to you ; an injustice, where you ravish from your brother what is dearest to him.

I should have said that slander is a restless evil, which disturbs society, spreads dissension through cities and countries, disunites the strictest friendships ; is the source of hatred and revenge; fills, wherever it enters, with disturbances and confusion, and everywhere is an enemy to peace, comfort and Christian good breeding. Lastly, I should have added that it is an evil full of deadly poison ; that whatever flows from it is infected, and poisons whatever it approaches; that even its praises are empoisoned, its applauses malicious, its silence criminal, its gestures, motions, and looks, have all their venom, and spread it each in their way.

Behold what in this discourse it would have been my duty, more at large, to have exposed to your view, had I not proposed to paint to you only the vileness of the vice which I am now going to combat; but as I have already said, these are only general invectives, which none apply to themselves. The more odious the vice is represented, the less do you perceive yourselves concerned in it; and though you acknowledge the principle, you make no use of it in the regulation of your manners; because, in these general paintings, we always find features which do not resemble ourselves. I wish, therefore, to confine myself at present to the single object of making you feel all the injustice of that description of slander which you think the more innocent; and, lest you should not feel yourself connected with what I shall say, I shall attack it only in the pretexts which you continually employ in its justification .

454

JEAN BAPTISTE MASSILLON

I know that it is, above all, by the innocency of the intention that you pretend to justify yourself; that you continually say that your design is not to tarnish the reputation of your brother, but innocently to divert yourself with faults which do not dishonor him in the eyes of the world. You, my dear hearer, to divert yourself with his faults ! But what is that cruel pleasure which carries sorrow and bitterness to the heart of your brother? Where is the innocency of an amusement whose source springs from vices which ought to inspire you with compassion and grief? If Jesus Christ forbids us in the Gospel to invigorate the languors of conversation by idle words, shall it be more permitted to you to enliven it by derisions and censures ? If the law curses him who uncovers the nakedness of his relatives, shall you who add raillery and insult to the discovery be more protected from that malediction? If whoever call his brother fool be worthy, according to Jesus Christ, of eternal fire, shall he who renders him the contempt and laughingstock of the profane assembly escape the same punishment ? You, to amuse yourself with his faults! But does charity delight in evil? Is that rejoicing in the Lord, as commanded by the apostle? If you love your brother as yourself, can you delight in what afficts him ? Ah! the Church formerly held in horror the exhibition of gladiators, and denied that believers, brought up in the tenderness and benignity of Jesus Christ, could innocently feast their eyes with the blood and death of these unfortunate slaves, or form a harmless recreation of so inhuman a pleasure. But you renew more detestable shows to enliven your languor; you bring upon the stage not infamous wretches devoted to death, but members of Jesus Christ, your brethren; and then you entertain the spectators with wounds which you inflict on persons rendered sacred by baptism. Is it then necessary that your brother should suffer to amuse you? Can you find no delight in your conversations unless his blood, as I may say, is furnished toward your iniquitous pleasure?

BOOK III,

British Orators of the Middle Period

FR

'ROM the days of the decadence of classic ora

tory to those of the famous orators of Eng

land, France and the United States who gave lustre to the latter part of the nineteenth century, a period elapsed of many centuries in duration, during which the voice of the orator was, no doubt, abundantly heard, yet few examples of what he had to say were put upon record, and these much more largely in the Church than in legislative or judicial halls. That in so extended a time many orators of marked ability must have arisen can scarcely be questioned, though we do not possess many animated examples of the art. One important occasion for its exercise was the Puritan Revolution in England, when the halls of Parliament rang with the voices of such ardent patriots as Eliot, Pym and their fellows. Some of the speeches of these have been preserved, and forensic oratory also has left us some interesting examples. While, as above said, the great sum of the oratory of the long period in question has vanished, some of it has found a foothold in literature. In England these examples chiefly extend from the Elizabethan reign down to the great renaissance of oratory after the middle of the eighteenth century. The records are not extensive. We have not a word, for instance, from an orator of the fame of Lord Bolingbroke. Yet others have been more fortunate in the preservation of their speeches, and selections from some of the more notable of these may be fitly given, as specimens of the driftwood of oratory which has reached us from the past centuries.

455

FRANCIS BACON (1561-1626)

THE FOUNDER OF MODERN SCIENCE

TI

HAT Bacon was the author of the plays of Shakespeare has

been iterated and reiterated, with no small array of argu

ments, but with nothing that is likely to be accepted as proof. If Bacon's future fame was to depend upon the outcome of this contention, it would be small indeed. Or, if it depended on his political reputation, it would be the reverse of desirable, since his craving for power and place, and his greed of money, ended in his being convicted of accepting bribes and perverting justice, and sentenced to be fined £40,000, imprisoned during the king's pleasure, and banished from Parliament and the court. A sad ending this to what might, but for the faults stated, have been a great and noble career,

Aside from all this, Bacon was intellectually one of the greatest men of his age, a philosopher, a scientist, an essayist of the highest type. Most important among his works is the “Novum Organum, or Indications Respecting the Interpretations of Nature,” in which the inductive system of science--the observation of facts and drawing of conclusions from them alone-is first advanced. Best known and most read among his works is his “Essays,” concise in language, pithy in style, marked by keenness and accuracy of observation, and full of practical wisdom. Of the able writers of that great age, Bacon stands next to Shakespeare in intellectual power and elevation, and in modern appreciation.

THE EVILS OF DUELING [A contemporary of Bacon speaks of him as “the eloquentest man in England." Those who read such examples of his oratory as exist will scarcely agree with this, or admit that his Star Chamber arguments are in any sense eloquent. For the latter quality we should rather seek bis essays than his speeches. We append a brief example of his style.]

[blocks in formation]

ness.

sons.

My lords, I thought it fit for my place, and for these times, to bring to bearing before your lordships some cause touching private duels, to see if this Court can do any good to claim and reclaim that evil, which seems unbridled. And I could have wished that I could have met with some greater persons, as a subject for your censure; both because it had been more worthy of this presence, and also the better to have shown the resolution I myself have to proceed without respect of persons in this busi

But finding this cause on foot in my predecessor's time, I thought to lose no time in a mischief that groweth every day; and, besides, it passes not amiss sometimes in government, that the greater sort be admonished by an example made in the meaner, and the dog to be eaten before the lion. Nay, I should think, my lords, that men of birth and quality will leave the practice, when it begins to be vilified and to come so low as to barber-surgeons and butchers, and such base mechanical per

And for the greatness of this presence, in which I take much comfort, both as I consider it in itself, and much more in respect it is by his Majesty's direction, I will supply the meanness of the particular cause by handling of the general point; to the end that by the occasion of this present cause, both my purpose of prosecution against duels and the opinion of the court-without which I am nothing—for the censure of them may appear, and thereby offenders of that kind may read their own case, and know what they are to expect; which may serve for a warning until example may be made in some greater person,—which I doubt the times will but too soon afford.

Therefore, before I come to the particular, whereof your lordships are now to judge, I think the time best spent to speak somewhat (1) of the nature and greatness of this mischief; (2) of the causes and remedies ; (3) of the justice of the law of England, which some stick not to think defective in this matter ; (4) of the capacity of this Court, where certainly the remedy of this mischief is best to be found; (5) touching mine own purpose and resolution, wherein I shall humbly crave your lordships' aid and assistance.

For the mischief itself, may it please your lordships to take into your consideration that, when revenge is once extorted out of the magistrate's hands, contrary to God's ordinance, mihi vindicta, ego retribuam ; and every man shall bear the sword, not to defend, but to assail, and private men begin once to presume to give law to themselves and to right their own wrongs : no man can foresee the danger and inconveniences that may arise and multiply thereupon. It may cause sudden storms in Court to the disturbance of his Majesty and unsafety of his person. It may grow from quarrels to bandying, and from bandying to trooping, and so to

« PreviousContinue »