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above all, Mr. Locke admired in him that penetration, that presence of mind, which always prompted him with the best expedients in the most desperate cases; that noble boldness, which appeared in all his public discourses, always guided by a solid judgment, which, never allowing him to say any thing but what was proper, regulated his least word, and left no hold to the vigilance of his enemies.
During the time Mr. Locke lived with that illustrious lord, he had the advantage of becoming acquainted with all the polite, the witty, and agreeable part of the court. It was then that he got the habit of those obliging and benevolent manners which, supported by an easy and polite expression, a great knowledge of the world, and a vast extent of capacity, made his conversation so agreeable to all sorts of people. It was then, too, without doubt that he fitted himself for the great affairs of which he afterwards appeared so capable.
I know not whether it was the ill state of his health that obliged him, in the reign of King William, to refuse going ambassador to one of the most considerable courts in Europe. It is certain that great prince judged him worthy of that post, and nobody doubts but he would have filled it gloriously.
The same prince, after this, gave him a place among the lords commissioners, whom he established for advancing the interest of trade and the plantations. Mr. Locke executed that employment for several years; and it is said (absit invidia verbo) that he was in a manner the soul of that illustrious body. The most experienced merchants were surprised that a man, who had spent his life in the study of physic, of polite literature, or of philosophy, should have more extensive and certain views than themselves, in a business which they had wholly applied themselves to from their youth. At length, when Mr. Locke could no longer pass the summer at London without endangering his life, he went and resigned that office to the king himself, upon account that his health would permit him to stay no longer in town. This reason did not hinder the king from entreating Mr. Locke to continue in his post, telling him
expressly, that, though he could stay at London but a few weeks, his services in that office would yet be very necessary to him; but at length he yielded to the representations of Mr. Locke, who could not prevail upon himself to hold an employment of that importance, without doing the duties of it more regularly. He formed and executed this design without mentioning a word of it to any body whatsoever; thus avoiding, with a generosity rarely to be found, what others would have earnestly laid out after; for by making it known that he was about to quit that employment, which brought him in a thousand pounds a year, he might easily have entered into a kind of composition with any pretender, who, having particular notice of this news, and being befriended with Mr. Locke's interest, might have carried the post from any other person. This, we may be sure, he was told of, and that too by way of reproach. "I knew it very well," replied he; "but this was the very reason why I communicated my design to nobody. I received this place from the king himself, and to him I resolved to restore it, to dispose of it as he thought proper." "Heu prisca fides!" Where are such examples, at this day, to be met with?
One thing, which those who lived for any time with Mr. Locke could not help observing in him, was, that he took a delight in making use of his reason in every thing he did; and nothing that is attended with any usefulness seemed unworthy his care; so that we may say of him, what was said of queen Elizabeth, that he was no less capable of small things than of great. He used often to say himself, that there was an art in every thing; and it was easy to be convinced of it, to see the manner in which he went about the most trifling thing he did, and always with some good reason. I might here descend into particulars, which, probably, to many, would not be unpleasant; but the bounds I have set myself, and the fear of taking up too many pages in your journal, will not give me leave to do it. Mr. Locke, above all things, loved order; and he had got the way of observing it in every thing with wonderful exactness.
As he always kept the useful in his eye, in all his disquisitions, he esteemed the employments of men only in proportion to the good they were capable of producing; for which reason he had no great value for those critics, or mere grammarians, that waste their lives in comparing words and phrases, and in coming to a determination in the choice of a various reading, in a passage that has nothing important in it. He cared yet less for those professed disputants, who, being wholly taken up with the desire of coming off with the victory, fortify themselves behind the ambiguity of a word, to give their adversaries the more trouble. And whenever he had to deal with this sort of folks, if he did not beforehand take a strong resolution of keeping his temper, he quickly fell into a passion; and, in general, it must be owned, he was naturally somewhat choleric; but his anger never lasted long. If he retained any resentment, it was against himself for having given way to so ridiculous a passion; which, as he used to say, may do a great deal of harm, but never yet did the least good. He often would blame himself for this weakness. Upon which occasion, I remember, that two or three weeks before his death, as he was sitting in a garden taking the air in a bright sun-shine, whose warmth afforded him a great deal of pleasure, which he improved as much as possible, by causing his chair to be drawn more and more towards the sun, as it went down; we happened to speak of Horace, I know not on what occasion, and having repeated to him these verses, where that poet says, of himself, that he was
Solibus aptum ;
"That he loved the warmth of the sun, and that, though he was naturally choleric, his anger was easily appeased:" Mr. Locke replied, that if he durst presume to compare himself with Horace in any thing, he thought he was perfectly like him in those two respects. But, that you may be the less surprised at his modesty, upon this occasion, I must, at the same time, inform you, that he looked upon Horace to be one of
the wisest and happiest Romans that lived in the age of Augustus, by means of the care he took to preserve himself clear of ambition and avarice, to keep his desires within bounds, and to cultivate the friendship of the greatest men of those times, without living in their dependence.
Mr. Locke also disliked those authors that labour only to destroy, without establishing any thing themselves: "A building," said he, "displeases them. They find great faults in it; let them demolish it, and welcome, provided they endeavour to raise another in its place, if it be possible."
He advised, that, whenever we have meditated any thing new, we should throw it as soon as possible upon paper, in order to be the better able to judge of it by seeing it altogether; because the mind of man is not capable of retaining clearly a long chain of consequences, and of seeing, without confusion, the relation of a great number of different ideas. Besides, it often happens, that what we had most admired, when considered in the gross, and in a perplexed manner, appears to be utterly inconsistent and unsupportable, when we see every part of it distinctly.
Mr. Locke also thought it necessary always to communicate one's thoughts to some friend, especially if one proposed to offer them to the public; and this was what he constantly observed himself. He could hardly conceive how a being of so limited a capacity as man, and so subject to error, could have the confidence to neglect this precaution.
Never man employed his time better than Mr. Locke, as appears by the works he published himself; and perhaps, in time, we may see new proofs of it. He spent the last fourteen or fifteen years of his life at Oates, a country-seat of Sir Francis Masham's, about five and twenty miles from London, in the county of Essex. I cannot but take pleasure in imagining to myself, that this place, so well known to so many persons of merit, whom I have seen come thither from so many parts of England to visit Mr. Locke, will be famous to posterity, for the long abode that great man made there. Be that as it may, it was there that enjoying sometimes
the conversation of his friends, and always the company of my Lady Masham, for whom Mr. Locke had long conceived a very particular esteem and friendship (in spite of all that lady's merit, this is all the eulogium she shall have of me now) he tasted sweets, which were interrupted by nothing but the ill state of a weakly and delicate constitution. During this agreeable retirement, he applied himself especially to the study of the Holy Scripture; and employed the last years of his life in hardly any thing else. He was never weary of admiring the great views of that sacred book, and the just relation of all its parts; he every day made discoveries in it, that gave him fresh cause of admiration. It is strongly reported in England, that those discoveries will be communicated to the public. If so, the whole world, I am confident, will have a full proof of what was observed by all that were near Mr. Locke to the last part of his life; I mean, that his mind never suffered the least decay, though his body grew every day visibly weaker and weaker.
His strength began to fail him more remarkably than ever, at the entrance of the last summer; a season which, in former years, had always restored him some degrees of strength. Then he foresaw that his end was very near. He often spoke of it himself, but always with great composure, though he omitted none of the precautions, which his skill in physic taught him, to prolong his life. At length his legs began to swell; and, that swelling increasing every day, his strength diminished very visibly. He then saw how short a time he had left to live, and prepared to quit this world, with a deep sense of all the blessings which God had granted him, which he took delight in numbering up to his friends, and full of a sincere resignation to his will, and of firm hopes in his promises, built upon the word of Jesus Christ, sent into the world to bring to light life and immortality by his gospel.
At length, his strength failed him to such a degree, that, the 26th of October, 1704, two days before his death, going to see him in his closet, I found him on his knees, but unable to rise again without assistance. The next day, though he was not worse, he would