which men of education see things, while the ignorant overlook them.

To Hogarth's treatise I would add the Seven Discourses delivered by Sir Joshua Reynolds to the Royal Academy. Many deep, many subtle, many refined observations, are there expressed in correct and elegant language: and if you should not learn the art of painting, nor desire to learn it, you may thence learn the arts of writing and expression, in which every scholar will be glad to improve himself. In this view I would recommend these discourses to your consideration. To painters they form an excellent treatise on the sublime: to other readers they offer many great and original sentiments, which may be transferred with advantage to other subjects.



Now you are employed in the exercise of raising moral observations from the matter of Æsop's Fables, it may be worth our while to enquire a little into their nature and original.

The ancients made great use of fables, and with good reason; for whatever is conceived by the mind must enter by the senses: and moral truth is never so easily understood, as when it is exemplified by a reference to some parallel case in nature, particularly to the various instincts of brute creatures, which were undoubtedly designed by the Creator to answer this end, by representing to us the several characters and

colours of moral good and evil in a way which even children can understand.

The origin of fables is not very clear from the Heathen account of them. It is probable they are nearly as ancient as the history of mankind: or, at least, that there never was a time of which we have any knowledge.when they were not familiar in Palestine and Egypt, from whence they were borrowed by the Greeks and Romans.

Suidas says the fable of the Eagle and Nightingale in Hesiod is the oldest extant, and that Hesiod was a hundred years before Æsop. The use of fables to orators is exemplified from the well-known instance of Menenius Agrippa, who reconciled the populace to the senate at Rome on occasion of an insurrection by repeating to them the fable of the Belly and the Members. When Themistocles admonished the Athenians not to change their magistrates, he argued from the fable of the Fox and the Swarm of Flies.

The Greeks were always notorious for stealing all sorts of learning, and claiming to themselves the merit of every useful invention. The fable is the same with the parable, the earliest specimen of which occurs in the book of Judges, where Jotham signifies to the people the temper and fate of an usurper under the similitude of the trees going forth to choose them a king; in which composition inanimate things, as trees, are made to speak and reason just as they do in the fables of Æsop. The fruitful trees decline the office, and the bramble offers his services and gets into power. The moral of which, as applicable to the person of Abimelech, was this; that the desire of reigning does not prevail in wise and good men, who would feed the people and protect them under the shadow of their authority; but chiefly in men of rough minds

and bloody intentions, who harass the people, and are at length consumed along with them in the unjust exercise of their power.

All the parables of Christ are spiritual discourses, very nearly allied to the form of the fable, and were delivered for the sake of some moral, which would be either obscure without any illustration, or offensive to the hearers if it were delivered to them in plain terms. When the prophet Nathan approached the king, to convict him of his sin and bring him to repentance, the case would not admit of any direct reproof; so, you see, he gains his attention, and steals upon his affections, by putting a case to him, in which he seemed to have no immediate concern: and when his indignation was raised against a fictitious person, the prophet turned it upon himself, with that striking application, " Thou art the man.' Then there was no retracting: he had already condemned himself in the judgment he had passed upon the cruel offender in the parable.


As to Æsop, the reputed author of the fables which go under his name, the accounts we have of him are so obscure and contradictory, that his character itself seems to be fabulous. His fables are plainly collections taken from different ages and different countries. In the 13th chapter of the Wisdom of the Son of Sirach, the fable of the Brass Kettle, as a dangerous companion to the Earthen Pot, is clearly referred to, and was therefore a fable of the East. Some others, which we find under the name of Æsop, seem to be alluded to in the course of the same chapter. The fable of the Fox and the Grapes must be of the same original; for we never heard that foxes are given to plunder vineyards either in Greece or Italy; but the fact was common in Palestine, and is alluded

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to in the Song of Solomon, ch. ii. ver. 15. The stories which are told of Æsop, that he was a slave, that his mistress persecuted him, that he had a golden cup, and some other particulars, bespeak a very strong resemblance to the history of Joseph, so famed for his wisdom in Egypt, the land of fables and hieroglyphics. The names are plainly the same; and therefore I am rather inclined to think, that the history of Æsop was either borrowed from that of Joseph; or that he was a slave or a captive of that name from the East, who brought much of the traditional wisdom of his own country with him into the West. But when all circumstances are considered, I think the former is the more probable opinion.



In the middle ages of the Church many Christians were very shy of the heathen writers; they were afraid lest the heathen principles of religion, morality, and policy, should be imbibed together with their poetry and oratory, and corrupt the minds of their children and scholars. Much was said of what had happened to St. Jerom; that in a vision he dreamed he was severely scourged for reading Cicero. But St. Austin, who was a man of great devotion, and one of the first scholars of the Church, assures us, that one of Cicero's

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pieces inscribed to Hortensius, first gave him an appetite to a more divine sort of wisdom, and that he embraced Christianity in consequence of the sentiments which that treatise had raised in his mind. Basil, another great scholar of the Church, and a man of unquestioned piety, recommended the prudent reading of profane authors to some young people under his tuition. After this example, therefore, I must advise you to read with prudence, and with a proper mixture of caution; not trusting yourself to the reasonings of profane writers, till you are well grounded in principles of truth; and then, as the bee can settle upon a poisonous flower without being hurt, and can even extract honey from it, so may you improve your talents for the highest purposes, and arm yourself more effectually for the defence of sacred truth, by studying profane orators, poets, and historians.

Writers are frequently rising up, with ill designs against your religion, who polish their style, and take the utmost pains to adorn it after the pattern of the best writers of antiquity. Some scholars will always be wanted on the other side, to turn the powers of composition against them; and truth will never fail to add such a force and weight to their embellishments, that the enemy will not be able to stand against them. He that reads the speech of St. Paul to king Agrippa, and considers it as a composition, will never be persuaded that cold and beggarly diction is requisite in a Christian apologist. The apostle, though a rigid Jew by his education, discovered on occasion a familiar acquaintance with the heathen poets.

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