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No. 139 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 139
Thursday, August 9, 1711.

Vera Gloria radices agit, atque etiam propagatur: Ficta omnia celeriter, tanquam flosculi, decidunt, nec simulatum potest quidquam esse diuturnum.


Of all the Affections which attend Human Life, the Love of Glory is the most Ardent. According as this is Cultivated in Princes, it produces the greatest Good or the greatest Evil. Where Sovereigns have it by Impressions received from Education only, it creates an Ambitious rather than a Noble Mind; where it is the natural Bent of the Prince’s Inclination, it prompts him to the Pursuit of Things truly Glorious. The two greatest Men now in Europe (according to the common Acceptation of the Word Great) are Lewis King of France, and Peter Emperor of Russia. As it is certain that all Fame does not arise from the Practice of Virtue, it is, methinks, no unpleasing Amusement to examine the Glory of these Potentates, and distinguish that which is empty, perishing, and frivolous, from what is solid, lasting, and important. Lewis of France had his Infancy attended by Crafty and Worldly Men, who made Extent of Territory the most glorious [Instance [1]] of Power, and mistook the spreading of Fame for the Acquisition of Honour. The young Monarch’s Heart was by such Conversation easily deluded into a Fondness for Vain-glory, and upon these unjust Principles to form or fall in with suitable Projects of Invasion, Rapine, Murder, and all the Guilts that attend War when it is unjust. At the same time this Tyranny was laid, Sciences and Arts were encouraged in the most generous Manner, as if Men of higher Faculties were to be bribed to permit the Massacre of the rest of the World. Every Superstructure which the Court of France built upon their first Designs, which were in themselves vicious, was suitable to its false Foundation. The Ostentation of Riches, the Vanity of Equipage, Shame of Poverty, and Ignorance of Modesty, were the common Arts of Life: The generous Love of one Woman was changed into Gallantry for all the Sex, and Friendships among Men turned into Commerces of Interest, or mere Professions. While these were the Rules of Life, Perjuries in the Prince, and a general Corruption of Manners in the Subject, were the Snares in which France has Entangled all her Neighbours. With such false Colours have the Eyes of Lewis been enchanted, from the Debauchery of his early Youth, to the Superstition of his present old Age. Hence it is, that he has the Patience to have Statues erected to his Prowess, his Valour, his Fortitude; and in the Softnesses and Luxury of a Court, to be applauded for Magnanimity and Enterprize in Military Atchievements.

Peter Alexiwitz of Russia, when he came to Years of Manhood, though he found himself Emperor of a vast and numerous People, Master of an endless Territory, absolute Commander of the Lives and Fortunes of his Subjects, in the midst of this unbounded Power and Greatness turned his Thoughts upon Himself and People with Sorrow. Sordid Ignorance and a Brute Manner of Life this Generous Prince beheld and contemned from the Light of his own Genius. His Judgment suggested this to him, and his Courage prompted him to amend it. In order to this he did not send to the Nation from whence the rest of the World has borrowed its Politeness, but himself left his Diadem to learn the true Way to Glory and Honour, and Application to useful Arts, wherein to employ the Laborious, the Simple, the Honest part of his People. Mechanick Employments and Operations were very justly the first Objects of his Favour and Observation. With this glorious Intention he travelled into Foreign Nations in an obscure Manner, above receiving little Honours where he sojourned, but prying into what was of more Consequence, their Arts of Peace and of War. By this means has this great Prince laid the Foundation of a great and lasting Fame, by personal Labour, personal Knowledge, personal Valour. It would be Injury to any of Antiquity to name them with him. Who, but himself, ever left a Throne to learn to sit in it with more Grace? Who ever thought himself mean in Absolute Power, ’till he had learned to use it?