What an encouragement to vice is this! If an ill man be alive, and in power, we dare not attack him; and if he be weary of the world, or of his own villainies, he has nothing to do but die, and then his reputation is safe. For these excellent casuists know just Latin enough to have heard a most foolish precept, that de mortuis nil nisi bonum; so that if Socrates, and Anytus his accuser, had happened to die together, the charity of survivors must either have obliged them to hold their peace, or to fix the same character on both. The only crime of charging the dead is, when the least doubt remains whether the accusation be true; but when men are openly abandoned, and lost to all shame, they have no reason to think it hard if their memory be reproached. Whoever reports, or otherwise publisheth, any thing which it is possible may be false, that man is a slanderer; hic niger est, hunc tu, Romane, caveto. Even the least misrepresentation, or aggravation of facts, deserves the same censure, in some degree, but in this case, I am quite deceived if my error hath not been on the side of extenuation.
I have now present before me the idea of some persons (I know not in what part of the world) who spend every moment of their lives, and every turn of their thoughts, while they are awake, (and probably of their dreams while they sleep,) in the most detestable actions and designs; who delight in mischief, scandal, and obloquy, with the hatred and contempt of all mankind against them, but chiefly of those among their own party and their own family; such whose odious qualities rival each other for perfection: avarice, brutality, faction, pride, malice, treachery, noise, impudence, dullness, ignorance, vanity, and revenge, contending every moment for superiority in their breasts. Such creatures are not to be reformed, neither is it prudence or safety to attempt a reformation. Yet, although their memories will rot, there may be some benefit for their survivors to smell it while it is rotting.
Your humble servant,
March 25th, 1728.
TO SEVERAL LETTERS FROM UNKNOWN
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1729.
ANSWER TO SEVERAL LETTERS FROM UNKNOWN PERSONS.
I am inclined to think that I received a letter from you two, last summer, directed to Dublin, while I was in the country, whither it was sent me; and I ordered an answer to it to be printed, but it seems it had little effect, and I suppose this will have not much more. But the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed. And, gentlemen, I am to tell you another thing: That the world is so regardless of what we write for the public good, that after we have delivered our thoughts, without any prospect of advantage, or of reputation, which latter is not to be had but by subscribing our names, we cannot prevail upon a printer to be at the charge of sending it into the world, unless we will be at all or half the expense; and although we are willing enough to bestow our labours, we think it unreasonable to be out of pocket; because it probably may not consist with the situation of our affairs.