On Party Zeal

In the midst of the Heats and Zeal, and Divisions, into which they are drawn, for This Man against That, are they ever thoroughly apprised of the Merits and Source of the Dispute? Are they Masters of the real Facts, sufficient for accusing one, or for applauding another? Scarce ever. What Information they have, they have generally from interested Men, at best, quite partial and disguised, often utterly false and forged. But the Truth is, they have generally no Information at all; but only a few Cant Words, such as will always serve to animate a Mob; “I am for John: He is our Friend, and very honest. I am against Thomas: He is our worst Enemy, and very wicked, and deserves to be punished.” And so say they who have taken a Fancy to Thomas, and are prejudiced against John. When it is likely, that neither John nor Thomas have done them much Harm, or much Good; or perhaps both John and Thomas study to delude and enthral them. But, when Passion prevails, Reason is not heard.

——T. Gordon, Discourse of Faction and Parties, Works of Sallust, 1744.

ON FINISHING A TRANSLATION

Monsieur Balzac, who deserved so well of the first person singular, when he spoke of himself and his letters, used to take off his beaver; but a Translator, the ninth part of an author, when he is contented with his proportionate share of vanity, and in possession of a hat, will be more chary of it. I pull off mine, this cold day, not to myself, but my Reader, with whom I wish to exchange forgiveness, and part in peace, while he looks so pleased to see the end of the book.

——John Carr at the end of the last volume of his Lucian.

Drinking to the Health of Attila

Possibly the classical custom of drinking healths had gone out of fashion at Byzantium. The Teutonic nations had it, and it may have been adopted from them by the Huns. It was indeed one well worthy of acceptance among an uncivilized people, but, as here described by Priscus, it lacked its most barbarous element. The Speech, that instrument of torture for speaker and hearers, was absent; not even the cruel ingenuity of the Hun inflicted that misery on his guests.

——Hodgkin, Italy and Her Invaders, Book II, Chapter 2.

The Worship of Force

We are informed that one of the other tribes of Central Asia stuck a naked sabre hilt-downwards into the earth, and then gathered round to adore it. It is impossible not to feel some respect for this honest avowal of the worship of Force. More than one great nation of modern Europe secretly worships a piece of field-artillery while professing to place its whole trust and confidence in some completely different Divine Ruler.

——Hodgkin, Italy and Her Invaders, Book II, Chapter 1.

On Prefaces (and Other Things)

’Tis hard, methinks, that a Man cannot Publish a Book, but he must presently give the World a Reason for’t; when yet there’s not One Book of Twenty that will bear a Reason; not One Man of a Hundred, perhaps, that is able to Give One; nor One Reason of a Thousand (when they are given) that was the True Reason of Doing it. The True Reason (I say:) For there’s a great Difference, many times, betwixt a Good Reason, for the doing of a thing, and the True Reason why the thing was done. The Service of God is a very Good Reason for a Man’s going to Church; and yet the meeting of a Mistress There, may, perchance, be the True Reason of his Going. And so likewise in Other Cases, where we cover our Passions and our Interests under the Semblances of Virtue, and Duty.

——Sir R. L’Estrange, Preface to Tully’s Offices.