BOOK IX. CONTAINING TWELVE HOURS.
1. Chapter i. Of those who lawfully may...
[*] There is a peculiar propriety in mentioning this great actor,
and these two most justly celebrated actresses, in this place, as
they have all formed themselves on the study of nature only, and not
on the imitation of their predecessors. Hence they have been able to
excel all who have gone before them; a degree of merit which the
servile herd of imitators can never possibly arrive at.
Now this conversation in our historian must be universal, that is,
with all ranks and degrees of men; for the knowledge of what is called
high life will not instruct him in low; nor, e converso, will his
being acquainted with the inferior part of mankind teach him the
manners of the superior. And though it may be thought that the
knowledge of either may sufficiently enable him to describe at least
that in which he hath been conversant, yet he will even here fall
greatly short of perfection; for the follies of either rank do in
reality illustrate each other. For instance, the affectation of high
life appears more glaring and ridiculous from the simplicity of the
low; and again, the rudeness and barbarity of this latter, strikes
with much stronger ideas of absurdity, when contrasted with, and
opposed to, the politeness which controuls the former. Besides, to say
the truth, the manners of our historian will be improved by both these
conversations; for in the one he will easily find examples of
plainness, honesty, and sincerity; in the other of refinement,
elegance, and a liberality of spirit; which last quality I myself have
scarce ever seen in men of low birth and education.
Nor will all the qualities I have hitherto given my historian avail
him, unless he have what is generally meant by a good heart, and be
capable of feeling. The author who will make me weep, says Horace,
must first weep himself. In reality, no man can paint a distress well
which he doth not feel while he is painting it; nor do I doubt, but
that the most pathetic and affecting scenes have been writ with tears.
In the same manner it is with the ridiculous. I am convinced I never
make my reader laugh heartily but where I have laughed before him;
unless it should happen at any time, that instead of laughing with me
he should be inclined to laugh at me. Perhaps this may have been the
case at some passages in this chapter, from which apprehension I will
here put an end to it.