Page:Machiavelli, Romanes Lecture, 2 June 1897.djvu/24

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great writers, who to intellectual strength add moral grandeur? Napoleon hated a general who made mental pictures of what he saw, instead of looking at the thing clearly as through a field-glass. Machiavelli's is the style of the field-glass. 'I want to write something,' he said, 'that may be useful to the understanding man; it seems better for me to go behind to the real truth of things, rather than to a fancy picture.' Every sentence represents a thought or a thing. He is never open to the reproach thrown by Aristotle at Plato: 'This is to talk poetic metaphor.' As has been said much less truly of Montesquieu, reflection is not broken by monuments and landscapes. He has the highest of all the virtues that prose-writing can possess—save the half-dozen cases in literature of genius with unconquerable wings,—he is simple, unaffected, direct, vivid, and rational. He possesses the truest of all forms of irony, which consists in literal statement, and of which you are not sure whether it is irony or naïveté. He disentangles his thought from the fact so skilfully and cleanly, that it looks almost obvious. Nobody has ever surpassed him in the power of throwing pregnant vigour into a single concentrated word. Of some pages it has been well said that they are written with the point of a stiletto. He uses few of our loud easy words of praise and blame, he is not often sorry or glad, he does not smile and he does not scold, he is seldom indignant and he is never surprised. He has not even the mastering human infirmity of trying to persuade. His business is