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TO THE PUBLIC.
THE present is a reading generation. But our reading is principally of the periodical kind, consisting of the news and politics of the day, of isolated scraps of literature and science, of tales, anecdotes, poetry, &c. intermingled in one confused mass; insomuch that it is extremely difficult to recollect what one has been reading, after having pored for an hour or more over these #. of the day. Hence, although we are a reading generation, we are, so far as substantial knowledge is concerned, a very superficial one.
#. remedy this state of things, it becomes necessary to adapt means to the nature of the case. The literary taste of the day being of this periodical character, we can hardly expect, whatever may be the case with the Jew, to turn the attention of the million, in any great degree, to the perusal of books. Indeed, such is the business of life, such the constitution of society, that sew have leisure to read the thousands of volumes which comprise what is denominated general or universal knowledge; whence we perceive at once the necessity for condensing this diffuse mass to a size within their grasp.
This task we now assume. We take it upon us to ransack the archives of history; to plunge into the depths of antiquity; to pry into the arcana of science; to cull the flowers of literature; to rummage the whole world of intelligence; and to present to those who may favor us with their patronage, the result of our researches and labors in our little weekly sheet; thus furnishing them with the substance of that general knowledge without which one cannot properly be denominated an intelligent man. To do this the more effectually, we shall avail ourselves of the assistance of several literary and scientific gentlemen of our acquaintance: and, in addition to this, we trust that every friend of the work will furnish us with all that is valuable and rare which may fall in his way, that comes properly within the scope of a work of the kind.
Several periodicals of a kindred character are already
ublished in Europe, and obtain an immense circulation. H. is one in France that has, we believe, a hundred thousand subscribers, and another in England, a weekly paper about the size of ours, that has a circulation, by subscription and sale, of more than two hundred thousand copies! This latter named periodical is issued under high auspices. It is published by the “Society for the diffusion of Useful Knowledge,” of which Lord Brougham is chairman. Thus we perceive, that men of the first intellect, and of the highest station, deem the object we have in view, and the very mode of accomplishing it, sufficiently momentous to claim the sanction of their names, and the benefit of their services. Such facts show, that there is a demand for knowledge in the community which books cannot, and which common periodicals do not, satisfy—books, on account of their bulk and number, which prevent their being generally read; and periodicals, on account of the manner in which they are generally conducted, as already mentioned.
The work which we have now commenced is designed to meet the wants of the American community in this respect. And this we flatter ourselves it will do the more effectually, from the adoption on our part of a systematic plan which we do not find in any other work of the kind, either European or American; which plan
is this: to treat general knowledge as a system; to divide it into its various departments, assigning a due proportion of our paper to as many of them as can be inserted at a time, and continuing the same from number to number till sufficient shall have been inserted relative thereto; when each subject, on its becoming exhausted, will give place to the introduction of a new one, and so onward, till the whole circle shall have been run, and the system completed. A remark here relative to the cuts which appear in the work; which is, that they are not for mere embellishment, as some may suppose, but that they serve te give clearer ideas of the things described, and are therefore valuable, as well as pleasing. And we will just add, that they render the work as expensive as one of twice its size without them. We hope, therefore, that the public, who are furnished with so costly a paper at so cheap a rate, will in return afford us a most liberal patronage, and thus sustain us in our arduous enterprise. (G. As the Magazine will be in some measure an elementary work, and as it will be confined to subjects of a general nature, avoiding political and other controversy; we would suggest the propriety of its introduction into schools, as a reading publication. School books, however valuable and interesting, become, by repeated reading, stale and insipid: hence it is necessary frequently to change them, which occasions no smail
expense. But a paper, furnishing a new course of read
ing from week to week, would keep up a constant interest in the pupil's mind, and would be read with avidity, rather than as a task. Each number would contain enough to serve as reading lessons for the week; when, as a supply for the next week, another number would arrive, with contents entirely new, to excite a fresh interest, and to impart additional instruction, instead of leading the pupil the same beaten round which he would have run the week before. The great benefit to be derived by schools from the adoption of a measure like this, must, we think, be obvious on the first consideration. ** TERMs. ONE Dollan AND FIFTY CENTs per annum, payable IN ADVANCE. Should an order for the Magazine be received unaccompanied by advance payment, one number will be sent, showing our terms; after which, no more will be forwarded till payment shall have been received. Companies of four individuals, sending five pollars, current here, free of postage, will be furnished with four copies for one year. Companies of ten, sending Trn DoILARs as above, will be furnished with ten copies. (G Schools adopting the Magazine as suggested in our prospectus, will be supplied at on E pollar per an num for each copy. As the sum of $150, which is the price of the Maga zine to a single subscriber, cannot be sent by mail, i. will be necessary that two subscribers at least send pay ment in a letter together. The postage on the Magazine is 3-4 of a cent under one hundred miles, and 1 1-4 cent for any distance over. Any deduction on uncurrent money, or on unpaid postage, will be charged to the account of the subscribers concerned.
The first, the most interesting, and the most instructive branch of general knowledge, is history. It may be ranked first, because it is first in order of time, being coeval with the world itself; the most interesting, because it gives a view of all events in all ages, and is in itself a system of general knowledge of the past; and the most instructive, because it teaches the result of the erperience of all generations. We feel a lively interest in passing events, because they relate to our species. We are continually receiving fresh instruction by the experience of others, or by our own. Much more, then, have we reason to feel an interest in history, which relates not to one generation, but to a hundred; and much wider the range of experimental knowledge to be derived from its records, than from the short term of three score years and ten. Its tendency is, to expand the mind; to give it an enlarged view of human nature; thereby divesting it of prejudice and sectional feeling, and preparing it to look at things in their proper aspect. A knowledge of history is likewise indispensable to the understanding of allusions which abound in books, and in writings of almost every description, and which are continually made in ordinary eonversation. It is also requiste, to enable one to understand the meaning of numerous paintings, engravings, statues, &c. In short, without a general knowledge of history, no one can properly claim to be considered intelligent. But what is of still greater consequence, in the estimation of a believer in Divine Providence, is, that in the history of nations, he discovers the dealings of that Providence in its righteous retributions, as frequently exhibited in their signal chastisement and total subversion.
Having thus premised, we will next consider the sources whence historians derive the materials for their works, in order to ascertain what degree of credit should be attached to them.
Were one to write a general history, he would of course give few if any events on his own testimony, as he could have witnessed few himself. His course would be, to draw the materials for his work from sources received as authentic—from admitted history already published; from public records, public monuments, and public institutions, and from antique coins, medals, inscriptions, &c. The history from which he would draw would itself have been drawn from received history extant at least at the time of his writing, and from the other sources already mentioned. The prior historian would have drawn his from a prior, and he from a prior, and so on. Each historian would of course be the original register of events contemporary with himself, which, to be received by the gen-ration living at the time, would, in its general features, necessarily be correct; for no writer could impose great fiction on a community as fact that, had it occurred, must have taken place before their own eyes.
From the foregoing considerations we perceive, that we have good grounds for confidence in what is now *off by the civilised world as history. It has come down to us srom historian to historian, accumulating new ‘acts in its progress, each generation transmitting it, as received, to a succeeding one, and setting its seal of conformation to the additions made in its own day. It is true, that, in a dark age, when men do not investigate, but reeeive things on trust, sables are sometimes foisted into nistory, and obtain for a time. But no sooner is the darkness dispelled, than their falsity is detected, and they are discarded. Thus was it with the fables of antiquity. They were formerly interwoven with the history of nations. They had their day. But when brought to the rigid test of investigation, they were rejected; while well sustained history was received, and has been transmitted to our times.
The great leading features of history can never be obliterated. They are graven on the tablet of man's memory, and handed down from father to son from generation to generation. They are traced on the canvass pf time in lines deep and indelible. Ages upon ages
have passed away, and they remain the same, Thus will they continue till time shall be no more. When will mankind cease to remember the mighty dead who, when living, filled the world with the terrour of their names?. When will they forget the Macedonian! the Roman the Corsican Never! while memory retains her seat. Never! while human nature remains unchanged. 'Tis a moral, 'tis an absolute impossibility, that a world of intelligent beings should ever cease to recollect such individuals, or their famed achievements Now, in looking back through the vista of past ages, we find, beyond a certain ...; a blank, a void, a barren waste. We extend our inquiries beyond that period; we ask who were the Alexanders, the Caesars, the Napoleons; what were the wars, the battles, the conquests; where were the Babylons, the Romes, the Parises, of those far distant days? No responding note comes back to tell us. All is silent as the tomb! Reasoning then from analogy, we conclude there were none; or, in other words, that the human race did not then exist, and that history is not of very ancient date. And, in confirmation of this idea, we find that, notwithstanding the increasing nature of population, and the progressive nature of human improvement, the earth is yet but partially inhabited, and the improvements of society are in a very imperfect state; showing that man cannot long have inhabited the earth, or been in existence to improve his condition. And a further confirmation still, is to be found in the geological appearances of the earth, which show that the globe itself has not long existed in its present condition. These united facts lead to the inevitable conclusion, that the authentic history of the world cannot be of very high date. This being understood, the reader will be the better prepared to receive with due confidence what will appear to be the fact on examining history itself: viz. that the human race, so far from being eternal, as some suppose, have existed but a few thousand years. In all this, it is not our intention to enter into a theological discussion of the subject. Ours is not designed as a theological paper. We shall not meddle with theology at all, save where it is inseparably connected with subjects properly within our province, as in the present instance; and even then, we shall say as little in that respect as is compatible with the full and faithful discharge of the duty we have undertaken—the presentation of our readers with a regular system of general knowledge.
Closely connected with the subject of History is that of Mythology. Mythology is the fabulous history of the heathen gods and goddesses, which have been worshipped by heathen nations in various countries, and in different ages. Of course, a knowledge of this subject is useless in itself; but, like history, it is absolutely indispensable to the understanding of numerous allusions of classic writers, and many statues, pictures, &c. No man can write a classic style who is ignorant of Mythology, be his other attainments what they may ; and, what is a greater disadvantage still, no one, without such knowledge, can fully realise the '. and meaning of many words in his own language, which have been introduced into it from what are denominated the learned languages. Trivial then as mythology may at first thought appear, it will be found, on examination, to be a very important branch of knowledge. Nor will it hardly fail to suggest to the Christian a comparison between heathenism and his own religion most favourable to the latter.
The causes to which idolatry has been attributed are these:—1. The admiration of distinguished men by the ‘ ignorant populace; which admiration grew by degrees into adoration. 2. The abject homage of the people to their princes, which led them to rear altars, and to place thereon their images, to which they offered incense, and
this sometimes while they were living. Hence the trans
ition was easy and natural to come at length to regard them as gods, and to embellish their biographies with fable. 3. A thirst sor immortal fame, which induced some to leave behind them their effigies, which in process of time came to be adored. The inventor of idolatry is said to have been Ninus, the first Assyrian monarch, who erected a statue in honour of Belus, his sire, who was the founder of the city and empire of Babylon. To this statue he required the people to pay the same reverence as they would to Belus is living. He likewise made it the sanctuary of the wretched, and ordained, that if at any time an offender should fly to it, it should not be lawful to force him away to punishment. This procured for the deceased prince so great a degree of veneration, that he was at length regarded as more than man, and consequently was j under the title of Jupiter according to some, or, as others say, Saturn of Babylon, where was erected to his honour by his son a most magnificent temple. This heathen deity was the Bel mentioned in scripture.
The mythology most important in a literary point of view, is that of the ancient Greeks and Romans. This mythology is introduced into all classic poetry. Almost all modern poets, orators, and writers, frequently allude to it. various characters. So that, to the man ignorant of this branch of mythology, much of poetry, of oratory, of writing, of painting, of statuary, would be unintelligible. We shall therfore commence with this branch, and likewise give it more in detail than any other portion of mythology. The Greeks were civilised by colonies of Phoenicans and Egyptians; whence it is probable, that the mythology of Greece was a compound of Phoenician and Egyptian idolatry. The Romans adopted the mythology of Greece, and consequently, a description of the mythology of the one, is a description of that of both. The pagan deities were divided into four general classes: the celestial, the terrestrial, the marine, and the infernal—gods of heaven, earth, ocean, and hell. The principal of the celestial divinities were eleven in number, gods and goddesses, five of the former, and six of the latter, viz. Jupiter, Apollo, Mars, Mercury, and Bacchus, (gods;) Juno, Vesta, Minerva or Pallas, Venus, Luna, and Bellona, ol.) The principal of the terrestrial deities were Saturn, Janus, Vulcan, AEolus, and Momus, (gods;) Cybele, Vesta, Ceres, the Muses, and Themis, (goddesses.) The principal of the marine divinities were Neptune, Oceanus, and Triton. The infernal Deities were Pluto and Proserpine, who were King and Queen of Hell. The most ancient of the heathen divinities were Coelus (called likewise Coelum and Coelius) and Terra, that is, heaven and earth. Coelus was the son of Æther and Dies (air and day.) Coelus married his own daughter, Terra, by whom he had a numerous progeny, the most noted of whom was Saturn, whose brothers were the Cyclops, Oceanus, Titan, and the Giants. His sisters were Ceres, Tethys, and Ops,(or Rhea or Cybele) the latter of whom he married. These sisters persuaded their mother, Terra, to discard Titan or Titanus, her eldest son, from the throne of the universe, and to appoint Saturn as heir, on its being vacated by his father Coelus. Titan consented to this arrangement, on condition that his brother Saturn should devour all his male children at their birth, so that, after Saturn's death, the dominion might revert to the house of Titan. But Ops, the wife of Saturn, perceiving the cannibal propensity of her husband, on the birth of her twins, Jupiter and Juno, presented to him Juno only, and sent Jupiter to be nursed in mount Ida, in Crete, the place of his birth, by the Curetes, or the Corybantes, who were her priestesses. At the same time, she gave Saturn a stone, which he, supposing it to be the male infant, devoured. By this strao was Jupiter preserved. Neptune and Pluto, two other sons of Saturn, were likewise saved by stratagem. Having thus explained and introduced our subject at
Painters have depicted and sculptors chiselled its
large, we are now prepared to treat it in detail, and te give a particular description of the heathen deities separately. We shall commence with Jupiter; for, though not first in order of time, it will be seen that he was so in every other respect. Or, to use the language of the Mantuan bard, as rendered into English:
“From the great Father of the gods above, My muse begins; for all is full of Jove.”
JUPITER was the Supreme Being of the ancients; the dread, the omnipotent Thunderer; the Ruler of heaven and earth; the King and Father of gods and men;
and the Dispenser of good to the human race. He is represented in the figure before us as seated on an ivory throne embellished with gold, grasping in his right hand his fierce thunders and his forked lightnings, which he brandishes against the giants beneath his feet, whom he had formerly subdued; and sustaining with his left the sceptre of the universe, made of cypress, an incorruptible material, to denote the eternal duration of his government, and surmounted by an eagle, either because it brought him up, or, by resting on his head, portended his reign, or, in his wars with the giants, brought him his thunder, by which it won the proud title of Jupiter's armour bearer. He is decked with an embroidered cloak, embellished with flowers, and figures of animals. Of this cloak it is said, that Dionysius, the Sicilian tyrant, took it from him, and gave him a woollen one, telling him that the latter would be more convenient for him in all seasons, seeing it was warmer in winter, and lighter in summer.
As the remainder of the history of Jupiter will require considerable space, and as we have been obliged to introduce the subject at large in this number, we will defer the rest of his story till our next.