« VorigeDoorgaan »
charged in his majesty's name, and upon his allegiance, not to disclose to any other the answer he had given. A striking instance of that fatuity of the human mind, when a weak government is trying to do what it knows not how to perform : it was seeking to obtain a secret purpose by the most open and general means; a self-destroying principle !
Our ancestors were children in finance : their simplicity has been too often described as tyranny! but from my soul do I believe, on this obscure subject of taxation, that old Burleigh's advice to Elizabeth includes more than all the squabbling pamphlets of our political economists—“ WIN HEARTS, AND YOU HAVE THEIR HANDS AND PURSES !”
THE BOOK OF DEATH.
MONTAIGNE was fond of reading minute accounts of the deaths of remarkable persons; and, in the simplicity of his heart, old Montaigne wished to be learned enough to form a collection of these deaths, to observe “ their words, their actions, and what sort of countenance they put upon it.” He seems to have been a little over curious about deaths, in reference, no doubt, to his own, in which he was certainly deceived; for we are told that he did not die as he had promised himself,-expiring in the adoration of the mass; or, as his preceptor Buchanan would have called it, in “ the act of rank idolatry.”
I have been told of a privately printed volume, under the singular title of “ The Book of Death,” where an amateur has compiled the pious memorials of many of our eminent men in their last moments : and it may form a companion-piece to the little volume on “ Les grands hommes qui sont morts en plaisantant.” This work, I fear, must be monotonous; the deaths of the righteous must resemble each other; the learned and the eloquent can only receive in silence that hope which awaits “ the covenant of the grave." But this volume will not establish any decisive principle; since the just and the religious have not always encountered death with indifference, nor even in a fit composure of mind.
The functions of the mind are connected with those of the body. On a death-bed a fortnight's disease may reduce the firmest to a most wretched state; while, on the contrary, the soul struggles, as it were in torture, in a robust frame. Nani, the Venetian historian, has curiously described the death of Innocent X., who was a character unblemished by vices, and who died at an advanced age, with too robust a constitution. Dopo lunga e terribile agonia, con dolore e con pena, seperandosi l'anima da quel corpo robusto, egli spiro ai sette di Genuaro, nel ottantesimo primo de suoi аппо.. “ After a long and terrible agony, with great bodily pain and difficulty, his soul separated itself from that robust frame, and expired in his eighty-first year.”
Some have composed sermons on death, while they passed many years of anxiety, approaching
madness, in contemplating their own. The certainty of an immediate separation from all our human sympathies may, even on a death-bed, suddenly disorder the imagination. The great physician of our times told me of a general, who had often faced the cannon's mouth, dropping down in terror, when informed by him that his disease was rapid and fatal. Some have died of the strong imagination of death. There is a print of a knight brought on the scaffold to suffer ; he viewed the headsman; he was blinded, and knelt down to receive the stroke. Having passed through the whole ceremony of a criminal execution, accompanied by all its disgrace, it was ordered that his life should be spared, - instead of the stroke from the sword, they poured cold water over his neck. After this operation the kniglit remained motionless ; they discovered that he had expired in the very imagination of death! Such are among the many causes which may affect the mind in the hour of its last trial. The habitual associations of the natural character are most likely to prevail—though not always ! The intrepid Marshal Biron disgraced his exit by womanish tears, and raging imbecility; the virtuous Erasmus, with miserable groans was heard crying out, Domine ! Domine! fac finem! fac finem! Bayle having prepared his proof for the printer, pointed to where it lay when dying. The last words which Lord Chesterfield was heard to speak were, when the valet, opening the curtains of the bed, announced Mr. Dayroles " Give Dayroles a chair !"
“ This goodbreeding,” observed the late Dr. Warren, bis physician, “ only quits him with his life.” The last words of Nelson were, “ Tell Collingwood to bring the fleet to an anchor.” The tranquil grandeur which cast a new majesty over Charles the First on the scaffold, appeared when he de. clared, " I fear not death! Death is not terrible to me!” And the characteristic pleasantry of Sir Thomas More exhilarated his last moments, when observing the weakness of the scaffold, he said, in mounting it," I pray you see me up safe, and for my coming down, let me shift for myself !” Sir Walter Rawleigh passed a similar jest when going to the scaffold. ... My ingenious friend Dr. Sherwen has furnished me with the following anecdotes of death. In