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wated by thempiety. Posed the me
he still found leisure to pursue his metaphysical specula. tions.' In 1751, he published essays on the principles of morality and natural religion. In this work he seems to have designed to counteract the pernicious influence of his friend Hume's Philosophical Essays. He endeavours to prove that the laws to which the moral constitution of man is (or ought to be) subservient, are as regular and undeviating jo their operations, as those laws by which the natural world is controaled. Though this work was intended to combat the sceptical philosophy, yet, such is the perverseness of bigotry, that ii exposed the writer to the charge of scepticism and impiety. An attempt was made to get him cen, sured by the general assembly of the kirk, and a complaint was lodged against the book, before the presbytery of Edinburgh. Those essays which were thus marked out as the ob. jects of proscription, contaio many ingenious observations; but the train of reasoning is usually carried too far into the region of metaphysical refinement, or is lost in the clouds of chilling and confortless speculation. Mr. Home has expatiated at length on the dark and bewildering doctrine of liberty and necessity, but he has neither rendered it less intricate, nor less obscure than it was before.--This seems one of those subjects on which reason can throw no clear nor cheering light. There is no individual, whatever may be his speculative tenets, who is not self-conscious that he possesses a liberty of choice in his moral conduct; and hence it follows that he is accountable for his actions. But to endeavour to reason any man out of this idea, or to, induce him to believe that the supposition is delusive, appears to us, if not in the design, yet in the effect, to weaken the hold of virtue on the conscience, and to relax the strongest ties of moral obligation. We have never been friendly to those notions of philosophical necessity, which are very ge... nerally embraced by the English unitarians, and which ap. pear to us to be not less absurd, nor less pernicious, than the fate of the stoics, or the election and reprobation of the methodists. If every individual possess the self feeling of liberiy of choice in his moral conduct, that feeling must be a part of the natural. constitution of man. It must be accordingly the actual impress of the Deity, and it seems as absurd in metaphysicians and religionists to deny the truth of this feeling, as it would be to argue against the existence of the sun in the firmament.
In 1752, Mr. Home was appointed one of the judges of the court of session, when he took his seat on the bench, . by the title of lord Kames. Lord Woodhouselce tells us
that his nietaphysical opinions did not blend their refinement nor their subtlety with his judicial decisions. He confined himself
to a simple exposition of the principles where the case turned on a point of law, or the sum of the proof, where it depended on the weighing of evidence.' · In questions wlrich involved no ambiguity of statement, nor perplexily of detail, he thought that
promptitude of decision was essential to justice, and that where the facts are substantialed, and the law is clear, it is the duty of the judge simply to pronounce his decree, without any superfluity of reasoning, or fluctuating inconstancy of imbecile hesitation.
Lord Kames was very active in encouraging the literary spirit which begun about this time to be very prevalent in Scotland. Many men of talents were encouraged by his patronage. It was by his perusasion that Adam Smith, soon after his return from Oxford, when he relinquished bis ori: ginal design of entering into the church, was induced to deliver a course of lectures on rhetoric, and the belles lets tres. The friendship between lord Kames and this great political economist began early, and was preserved invio. Jate through life. Their mutual regard was not abated by their speculative differences. . When Adam Smith published his · Theory of Moral Sentiments,' lord Kames attacked the principle of sympathy, from which his friend had endea. ' voured to derive the sense and the cogency of moral oblia gation. This moral structure of Mr. Smith is composed of rich and well-assorted materials ; but it is certainly founded on a base too narrow for the costly edifice wbich it is designed to support. Philosophers are, in general, too fond of simplifying the complicated varieties of pature; or, as Mr. Hume well remarked, they are apt to imagine that nature is as much bounded in her works as in their specuJacions.
Dr. Blair owed the professorship of rhetoric principally c. to the patronage of lord Kames, to whom the public are
much indebied for the publication both of his lectures and
Kames, where he superintended the education of his son. ...Jo 1757, lord Kames published, in one volume 8vo. the
stalute law of Scotland, abridged, with historical notes.' In this useful work he exhibits an accurate and methodical
summary of the statute law of Scotland, as it is found in the printed acts, from the earliest period to that of the union with England. Lord Kames was of opinion that the law of Scotland might be materially improved by a nearer assimilation to that of this country. In order to promote this important purpose, he had drawn up some historical tracts on particular branches of the Scottish law, which he sent in MSS. to lord Hardwick, then lord chancellor of England. Lord Hardwick highly approved the design ; hę thought the incorporation of the two countries in one po. litical society incomplete without an uniformity of laws. Yet, from the time of the union, to that of lord Hardwick, and from that of lord Hardwick' to the present period, no attempt of this kind was seriously made, till the late administration came into power. Among other innovations which lord Hardwick would have introduced into the Scottish law, he mentions in his letter to lord Kames, that of the abolition of the strict tailzies. These tailzies, said lord Hardwick, ' not only differ from the genius of the English law, which abhors perpetuities, but are manifestly prejudicial to the national interests of Scotland, which is now rising in trade, and will, I hope, greatly increase in it. The taking so much of the lands, extra commerciam, is inconsistent with a commercial country.' · In 1759, lord Kames published his Historical Law Tracts, in one volume, 8vo. Those tracts,' says lord Woodhouselee, are deservedly high in the public esteem. They are among the few works which unite law with philosophy, and the study of human nature. And they have accordingly received the praise, not only of judicial authors, but of the writers on politics and morals, both of our own and foreign countries. In 1760, lord Kames published another work, under the title of Principles of Equity,'in prosecution of the wise design wbich he had formed, of bringing the jurisprudence of the two states into close approximation, On the principal subject of this work, lord Kames received a very excellent letter from the earl of Hardwick, which his biographer has published. Did our limits permit, we should · have great pleasure in extracting it for the perusal of the 'reader.
The next literary performance of lord Kames, was an Introduction to the Art of Thinking, which contains a series of moral and incidental maxims, illustrated by appropriate .examples, from history and romance. His object, in this - work,was by an easy and simple method to instruct children - in the faculty of abstraction, to teach them how to form
general conclusions from a series of simple facts." The design was very ingenious, and it is executed with ability. We are, however, convinced that the minds of children may be rendered weak and sterile, by, being incited to practise the art of generalization, before the mind is filled with a copious stock of ideas, and a variety of information is obtained. Dr. Franklin, who made a visit to Scotland in the autumn of 1759, and spent some time with lord Kames, at his country seat, passed a high commendation on this little work. He says that he 'never saw more solid useful matter contained in so small a compass.' Lord Woodhouselee next subjoins some letters from Dr. Franklin to lord Kames, in one of which, dated Jan, 3d, 1760, the Doctor says that' the foundations of thefuture grandeur and stability of the British empire, lie in America. No unan, however keen and prospective his sight, had any idea of the complete separation which has since taken place between Great Britain and her transata lantic colonies. '
In 1762, lord Kames published his great work, entitled the Elements of Criticism,' in three volumes, 8vo. In this work, wbich we agree with lord Woodhouselee in ranking among the first specimeos of philosophical criticism in this country, the author endeavoured to shew how the great laws of criticism were founded in the constitution of man ; how the pain or the pleasure which we derive from contemplating the beauty or deformity of external objects, or how the agreeable or disagreeable impressions, which are made on us by the different works of literature, or the fine arts. have their origin in certain fixed principles of our nature and that hence a criterion of taste may be formed, which is not liable to variation.
Ć To the generality of mankind,' says lord Woodhouselee, a work of this nature, which presents a series of judicious precepts, or rules of criticism, of which the truth is prit beyond dispute, by an appeal to the judgment of all who are able to try them by that standard, and which are illustrated by a vast variety of beautiful and striking examples, taken from the works of art, is productive of high pleasure, and of real improvement of the sensitive faculties, which, even, when naturally acute, are wonderfully sharpened änd refined by exercise,' , .
To those who attentively peruse the Elements of Criticism, it must occur that the author often treats the subject of dis. .
cussion in a manner which exbibits the lawyer or meta., - physician rather than the man of genuine sensibility. He. · displays too much fondness for the rigid formalities of pre:
cept, in some instances, and for the airy niceties of speculation in others. But the productions of the fine arts can at times neither be estimated by technical rules, nor appreciated by any subtleties of abstract disquisition. The criterion by which their excellence can be determined, is. to be found only in the manner in which they excite, or by which they harmonize with certain invisible sensations of the breast, of which it is hardly possible to give a ver, bal analysis. Thus beauty or deformity, in the productions of the fine arts, not being always susceptible of an approxi
mation to strict rules, must often' be left to the test of in..dividual sensibility. It must be rather a matter of feeling
than of judgment. Even taste itself, instead of being exo alted, may be diminished ; instead of being refined, may be vitiated by mechanical rules, or by the cold and dull formulæ of inetaphysical abstraction.
Lord Woodhouselee concludes his sensible and ingenious observations on the Elements of Criticism, with some remarks on a question which has been often agitated, whether "the author of the Elements of Criticism was really possessed of a great portion of native sensibility, and warmly awake to the emotions excited by the productions of the fine arts, or whether his taste was not rather the result of study and attention to those - very rules and canons of criticism, which he had framed from a
careful examination of those great productions of the fine arts, of which the excellence is universally acknowledged. A presumption, it must be owned, arises from the very nature of his work, which displays a continued exercise of the reasoning powers, and the most minute and patient attention to the operations of the mind, that the man, thus eminently qualified for the investigation of the laws which regulate our emotions, was not himself subject to those emne tions in a very acute degree, of which a too lively feeling impedes for the time all capacity of speculating on their causes. A strong native sense of the sublime and beautiful, is constantly attended with a degree of rapture and enthusiasm, which gives its tincture to all the thoughts and expressions of the man who possesses it, and prompts to empassioned eloquence, whenever its objects are the matter of his discourse or writings. Now the reader of the Elements of Criticism, cannot fail to remark that this criterion of feeling is wanting in that most ingenious work. It may, no doubt, be plausibly argued, that, as the author's undertaking demanded a spirit of cool and sober thought, and an exercise of the judgment, purged, if possible, from all alloy of passion or enthusiasm, be made it a law to himself to avoid all rapturous expressions, and even la suppress the emotions that prompt them : but besides that, it may reasonably be questioned whether such violence to the feelings were truly necessary, and, on the contrary, were not in many places
CRIT. Rev. Vol. 16. January, 1809.