« PreviousContinue »
Far from thy delights and thee.' The dialogue of the piece is rendered with equal spirit: as, for example, in the more Euripidean than Cyclopean speech of Polyphemus in reply to Ulysses' petition for mercy in the name of the Gods and hospitality, ("Ο Πλώτος, ανθρωπισκε, τοίς σοφούς θεός, &c.)
• Wealth, my good fellow, is the wise man's god,
I will not cheat my soul of its delight,
The Homeric hymn to Mercury is translated in stanzas of eight lines—which difficult measure Mr. Shelley has managed with considerable skill. His version preserves very much the archaic and pastoral tone of the original, both as to manners and language; but a short specimen would be insufficient, and for a long one we have not room.
One department of our literature has, without doubt, sustained a heavy loss in the early death of this unfortunate and misguided gentleman.
ART.VIII.-1. Transactions of the Cambridge Philosophical So
ciety. vol. i. 2. Memoirs of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Man
chester. 2d Series. vol. iv. London. 1824. 3. Transactions of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, in
stituted February 11. vol. i. and ii. Penzance. 4. Report of the Liverpool Royal Institution. 1822. 5. Bristol Institution. Proceedings of the Second Annual Meet
ing, held February 10, 1825, 8c. 6. Annual Report of the Council of the Yorkshire Philosophical
Society for 1824. A GROWING taste for the cultivation of Physical Science
characterizes the present state of the public mind in England, and deserves attentive consideration, since facilities, whether for acquiring elementary instruction in the various departments of Natural Philosophy, or for promoting their farther advancement, have not hitherto been provided by us with such liberality as has distinguished our exertions in behalf of other branches of useful knowledge. To insist on the high relative importance of scientific studies, whether as enlarging the sphere of our intellectual enjoyments, or as contributing to the rank and power of the nation, would in the present age be altogether superfluous; and every reflecting mind must be prepared to expect that our rapid improvement in wealth, intelligence, and civilization, should not merely render indispensable successive modifications and re-modellings of our political institutions, but also call, from time to time, for some corresponding changes in our public provisions for extending the advantages of a liberal education. The introduction and discovery of various arts and sciences before unknown or disregarded, and still more the rise and swift growth of new cities, and the sudden affluence to which commercial or manufacturing industry has raised districts hitherto insignificant and thinly peopled, must necessarily have created new wants; in the attempt to supply these the energies of our countrymen have
of late been signally displayed; and the measures which have been carried into effect throughout the country with great harmony of design, although chiefly by the unassisted exertions of private individuals, are characteristic of the genius of the British people, and without parallel in the history of contemporary nations. We allude to the recent establishment of numerous literary and philosophical institutions in our metropolis and many
of our provinces.
These are as yet indeed in the infancy of their career, but even now, if regarded collectively, they are entitled to a prominent place amongst our national establishments. Many people, it is true, have scarcely heard of their very existence--for no other reason than that their expediency has never assumed the character of a party question, and has never therefore become an animating topic of popular discussion. When we reflect, indeed, how often the proposal of new measures bearing less directly than these on the general interests of society has served to kindle in this country the spirit of political controversy,—when we remember that, at no distant period, rival theories of a purely philosophical nature, and as unconnected with the affairs of human life as the elements which strove for mastery in Milton's chaos, ' around the flag, of each his faction,' derived, nevertheless, exclusively from the ranks of opponent political parties, their zealous champions, we are at a loss to conceive by what happy accident the Institutions in question have so long escaped this prevailing contagion; and the addition of a few similar instances would persuade us that Chance' here also, as in the poet's allegory, is high arbiter,
But as the interests involved in the present subject are of sufficient magnitude to arrest attention without the factitious aid of party excitement, we shall proceed to lay before our readers a brief sketch of the progress of these institutions considered in the order of their date-confining ourselves, lest we should transgress the limits of a single article, to such as are designed to promote the advancement of physical science, a class of studies never in former times fostered by a due share of public encouragement.
To enable our readers to form a correct idea of the present state of these establishments, a consideration of those of a more ancient foundation is indispensable; we shall, however, merely mention here the Royal Society, as the services rendered to science by that body throughout the greater part of two centuries, and the information contained in their Transactions, (now amounting to 114 volumes,) so varied in its nature and so profound, are justly and universally appreciated. For the same reason we shall merely advert to the Observatory of Greenwich, founded a few
years later, and of which the Royal Society is the official visitor. If the labours of this establishment had been limited to the computing and publishing its Nautical Ephemeris, it would still have rendered a powerful aid to the commercial and maritime superiority of Great Britain, and we might confidently appeal to this work as to one of the most beneficial of all the practical results of astronomy.
It was nearly a century after the institution of the Royal Society before a national museum of Natural History was founded in our metropolis. The British Museum was opened in 1759, and the magnificent collection of Sir Hans Sloane, and one formed by the Royal Society, were at that time deposited there. Deficiency of space has, from the commencement of this Museum, impeded the increase and arrangement of the specimens, and we therefore congratulate the public on the noble additions to the building now in progress. The collections in various branches of Natural History at present assembled there are undeniably of the first importance, nor have their scientific classification and arrangement been neglected, in so far as means were provided by the country for this purpose; but, regarded as a national museum, and still more as the first in the British empire, it is wholly unworthy of the present age. As England is not only the most affluent of modern nations, but the grand centre of commercial activity and communication between the most distant portions of the globe; as her colonial possessions are more diversified in climate and local character than those of any other European empire, we may naturally ask why her museums do not display a proportional extent and magnificence, and set all foreign rivalry at defiance? Why, on the contrary, are they so decidedly inferior not only to those of France, but of several petty states of Italy and Germany? The reply to this question is not difficult. The inferiority complained of could not long have existed in a country where the opinion of the enlightened and educated classes exercises a predominant sway and disposes of the whole resources of the state, had there been a general taste for promoting physical science, or had our countrymen discovered the intimate relation between its progress and large accumulations of objects of natural history.
They have at length made this discovery, and having perceived the inadequacy of private funds and individual efforts to accumulate these treasures on a scale of liberality consistent with the present state of science, they have organized associations and obtained liberal grants from parliament for establishments both in England and Scotland, and are taking steps to secure the enlargement and future permanency of scientific institutions. But we are still passing the threshold only of this new æra in
public opinion; and the measures adopted now, however small their apparent pretensions, will widely affect the success of future undertakings. At a moment so critical in the history of the progress of science and natural history in this country, we learn with great satisfaction that the National Gallery of Pictures is not to find a place, as was first designed, in the buildings now erecting at the British Museum. The propriety of separating subjects so entirely distinct as are the fine arts and natural history, cannot be doubted on a moment's reflection. By neglecting to assign an independent government to either establishment, we infallibly diminish the zeal, activity, and emulation that spring from the exaggerated importance attached by all men to their own pursuits and avocations; by associating in a common direction persons of different if not uncongenial tastes, we are perpetually in danger of partiality in the distribution of their patronage, and the sacrifice of the less popular to the more favoured object; at best a want of harmony and unity of action will result, even if the force of rival prepossessions be adjusted and fairly balanced. The possibility of such inconveniencies is happily precluded at Paris, where the administration of the Galleries of the Louvre and the Luxembourg has been always separated from the Museum of Natural History, and the latter placed under the sole direction of a body of professors of various branches of science and natural history. Its decided superiority over any in our own country or in the rest of Europe may well excite a generous feeling of national emulation; more especially as this superiority is in a great degree the fruit of modern industry, and the recent progress of scientific research. To retain a gallery of the fine arts and cabinets of natural history even as distinct departments in the same building is objectionable, as there is the highest probability of the mutual interference of such unconnected repositories of national treasures in the event of future enlargements of the original design. The most splendid collections of either description have been almost invariably the result of slow and gradual additions, and for this reason their growth may be effectually retarded by inconveniencies apparently too inconsiderable to be apprehended as obstacles to a great national undertaking. To continue, therefore, to associate in our museum the antiquities and Grecian marbles with cabinets of natural history is, at least, a measure of questionable expediency. The Royal Library at Paris, containing a collection of books of greater value than any in Great Britain, is also separated from their national museum, and our arguments may seem applicable to the impropriety of connecting these departments in our own metropolis. But although we are far from denying the weight of this objection, yet not only does the central position of