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cana sæculi nostri ruditate, captatrix illa blandiloquentia, robur animi virilis omne, omnem virtutem masculam, profligatura, nisi cavetur.*
In very truth, it grieveth me that men, those especially who profess themselves to be Christians, should be so taken with the sweet baits of literature that they can endure to read nothing but what gives them immediate gratification, no matter how low or sensual it may be. Consequently, the more austere and disciplinary branches of philosophy itself are almost wholly neglected, even by the learned.—A course of study (if such reading, with such a purpose in view, could deserve that name) which, if not corrected in time, will occasion worse consequences than even barbarism did in the times of our forefathers. Barbarism is, I own, a wilful headstrong thing; but with all its blind obstinacy it has less power of doing harm than this self-sufficient, self-satisfied plain good common sense sort of writing, this prudent saleable popular style of composition, if it be deserted by reason and scientific insight pitiably decoying the minds of men by an imposing show of amiableness, and practical wisdom, so that the delighted reader knowing nothing knows all about almost every thing. There will succeed, therefore, in my opinion, and that too within no long time, to the rudeness and rusticity of our age, that ensnaring meretricious popularneșs in literature, with all the tricksy humilities of the ambitious candidates for the favorable suffrages of the judicious public, which if we do not take good care will break up and scatter before it all robustness and manly vigor of intellect, all masculine fortitude of virtue.
* In the original of this passage, the words gulam and mortales stand respectively for præsentem gustum and lectores. -Ed.
Si modo quce natura et ratione concessa sint, assumpserimus, prosumptionis suspicio a nobis quam longissime abesse debet. Multa antiquitati, nobismet nihil, arrogamus. Nihilne vos ? Nihil mehercule, nisi quod omnia omni unimo veritati arrogamus et sanctimonio.
ULR. RINOV. De Controversiis.
If we assume only what nature and reason have granted, with no shadow of right can we be suspected of presumption. To antiquity we arrogate many things, to ourselves nothing. Nothing? Aye, nothing: unless indeed it be, that with all our strength we arrogate all things to truth and moral purity.
It has been remarked by the celebrated Haller, that we are deaf while we are yawning. The same act of drowsiness that stretches open our mouths, closes our ears.
It is much the same in acts of the understanding. A lazy half-attention amounts to a mental yawn.
Where then a subject, that demands thought, has been thoughtfully treated, and with an exact and patient derivation from its principles, we must be willing to exert a portion of the same effort, and to think with the author, or the author will have thought in vain for us. It makes little difference for the time being, whether there be an hiatus oscitans in the reader's attention, or an hiatus lacrymabilis in the author's manuscript. When this occurs during the perusal of a work of known authority and established fame, we honestly lay the fault on our own deficiency, or on the unfitness of our present mood ; but when it is a contemporary production, over which we have been nodding, it is far more pleasant to pronounce it insufferably dull and obscure. Indeed, as charity begins at home, it would be unreasonable to expect that a reader should charge himself with lack of intellect, when the effect may be equally well accounted for by declaring the author unintelligible ; or that he should accuse his own inattention, when by half a dozen phrases
of abuse, as “heavy stuff, metaphysical jargon," &c., he can at once excuse his laziness, and gratify his pride, scorn, To similar impulses we must attribute the praises of a true modern reader, when he meets with a work in the true modern taste : namely, either in skipping, unconnected, short-winded, asthmatic sentences, as easy to be understood as impossible to be remembered, in which the merest common-place acquires a momentary poignancy, a petty titillating sting, from affected point and wilful antithesis ; or else in strutting and rounded periods, in which the emptiest truisms are blown up into illustrious bubbles by help of film and inflation. Aye !” (quoth the delighted reader) “ this is sense, this is genius! this I understand and admire! I have thought the very same a hundred times myself !” In other words, this man has reminded me of my own cleverness, and therefore I admire him. Oh ! for one piece of egotism that presents itself under its own honest bare face of I myself I, there are fifty that steal out in the mask of tu-isms and ille-isms !
It has ever been my opinion, that an excessive solicitude to avoid the use of our first personal pronoun, more often has its source in conscious selfishness than in true self-oblivion. A quiet observer of human follies may often amuse or sadden his thoughts by detecting a perpetual feeling of purest egotism through a long masquerade of disguises, the half of which, had old Proteus been master of as many, would have wearied out the patience of Menelaus. I say, the patience only : for it would ask more than the simplicity of Polypheme, with his one eye extinguished, to be deceived by so poor a repetition of Nobody. Yet I can with strictest truth assure my readers that with a pleasure combined with a sense of weariness, I see the nigh approach of that point of my labors, in which I can convey my opinions and the workings of my heart, without reminding the reader obtrusively of myself. But the frequency with which I have spoken in my own person, recalls my apprehensions to the second danger, which it was my hope to guard against ; the probable charge of arrogance, or presumption, both for daring to dissent from the opinions of great authorities, and, in my following numbers perhaps, from the general opinion concerning the true value of certain authorities deemed great. The word presumption, I appropriate to the internal feeling, and arrogance to the way and manner of outwardly expressing ourselves.
As no man can rightfully be condemned without reference to some definite law, by the knowledge of which he might have avoided the given fault, it is necessary so to define the constituent qualities and conditions of arrogance, that a reason may be assignable why we pronounce one man guilty and acquit another. For merely to call a person arrogant or most arrogant, can convict no one of the vice except perhaps the accuser. I remember, when a young man who had left his books and a glass of water to join a convivial party, each of whom had nearly finished his second bottle, was pronounced very drunk by the whole partyhe looked so strange and pale! Many a man, who has contrived to hide his ruling passion or predominant defect from himself, will betray the same to dispassionate observers, by his proneness on all occasions to suspect or accuse others of it. Now arrogance and presumption, like all other moral qualities, must be shown by some act or conduct : and this too must be an act that implies, if not an immediate concurrence of the will, yet some faulty constitution of the moral habits.
For all criminality supposes its essentials to have been within the power of the agent. Either, therefore, the facts adduced do of themselves convey the whole proof of the charge, and the question rests on the truth or accuracy with which they have been stated; or they acquire their character from the circumstances. I have looked into a ponderous review of the corpuscular philosophy by a Sicilian Jesuit, in which the acrimonious Father frequently expresses his doubt, whether he should pronounce Boyle or Newton more impious than presumptuous, or more presumptuous than impious. They had both attacked the reigning opinions on most important subjects, opinions sanctioned by the greatest names of antiquity, and by the general suffrage of their learned contemporaries or immediate predecessors. Locke was assailed with a full cry for his presumption in having deserted the philosophical system at that time generally received by the universities of Europe ; and of late years Dr. Priestley bestowed the epithets of arrogant and insolent on Reid, Beattie, &c., for presuming to arraign certain opinions of Mr. Locke, himself repaid in kind by many of his own countrymen for his theological novelties. It will scarcely be affirmed, that these accusations were all of them just, or that any of them were fit or courteous. Must we therefore say, that in order to avow doubt or disbelief of a popular persuasion without arrogance, it is required that the dissentient should know himself to possess the genius, and foreknow that he should acquire the reputation, of Locke, Newton, Boyle, or even of a Reid or Beattie? But as this knowledge and prescience are impossible in the strict sense of the words, and could mean no more than a strong inward conviction, it is manifest that such a rule, if it were universally established, would encourage the presumptuous, and condemn modest and humble minds alone to silence. And as this silence could not acquit the individual's own mind of presumption, unless it were accompanied by conscious acquiescence; modesty itself must become an inert quality, which even in private society never displays its charms more unequivocally than in its mode of reconciling moral deference with intellectual courage, and general diffidence with sincerity in the avowal of the particular conviction.
We must seek then elsewhere for the true marks, by which presumption or arrogance may be detected, and on which the charge may be grounded with little hazard of mistake or injustice. And as I confine my present observations to literature, I deem such criteria neither difficult to determine nor to apply. The first mark, as it appears to me, is a frequent bare assertion of opinions not generally received, without condescending to prefix or annex the facts and reasons on which such opinions were formed ; especially if this absence of logical courtesy is supplied by contemptuous or abusive treatment of such as happen to doubt of, or oppose, the decisive ipse dixi. But to assert, however nakedly, that a passage in a lewd novel, in which the Sacred Writings are denounced as more likely to pollute the young and innocent mind than a romance notorious for its indecency—to assert, I say, that such a passage argues equal impudence and ignorance in its author, at the time of writing and publishing it—this is not arrogance ; although to a vast majority of the decent part of our countrymen it would be superfluous as a truism, if it were exclusively an author's business to convey or revive knowledge, and not sometimes his duty to awaken the indignation of his reader by the expression of his own.
A second species of this unamiable quality, which has been often distinguished by the name of Warburtonian arrogance, betrays itself, not as in the former, by proud or petulant omission of proof or argument, but by the habit of ascribing weakness of in