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striking and obvious instance of this lazy disposition in the author, or the want of plan and connection in his writings, than this before us. He confesses it : and though he indolently aims at an excuse, pleads guilty to the fact. • Taste, judgment, and correc ion, says he, are not to be expected in this work.--I have fallen into every digression that came in my way, without considering, that, while I consulted my own ease, little did I mind how tiresome I should grow to the reader.' Toa reader, indeed, who should peruse this work, with a view folely to the object mentioned in the title; expecting to meet with satisfactory arguments on the effects of theatrical entertainments in general; (a subject which has occasionally employed many able pens, to very little purpose) to such a reader, his digrefiions may probably appear tiresome; but to others, who have no taste for argument, or read with too little attention to pursue any continued chain of reasoning, we are persuaded they will prove the most agreeable part of the book. As they will afford us also an opportunity to consider the sentiments of so ingenious and spirited a writer, on several interesting and popular topicks, we will follow his excentrick genius, as far as the nature of our work will admit, for the entertainment of our readers.
We are informed, that a passage, printed in the Encyclopedia *, under the article of Geneva, gave occafion to this letter to Mr. d'Alembert. This passage, recommending the institution of theatrical entertainments in that republick, is quoted at length in the preface; and the proíciled business of the letter itself, is to thew how impolitic and dangerous it would be, for the citizens of Geneva to listen to the advice therein given them. No less, he seems to think, than the entire depravation of their manners, and total subversion of their liberty, would be the consequence of it. Under this persuasion, he says, 'Were I even 'mistaken, ought not I to act and speak according to my conscience, and to the best of my knowledge? Ought I to hold my tongue? Or can I do it without batraying my duty and my country?
i To have an excuse for being filent on this occasion, I fhould not have written on less necellary subjects. That sweet obscurity, in which I enjoyed myself full thirty years, ought ever to have been my delight: it mould not be known that I had any connection with the editors of the Encyclopedia; that I furnished some articles to that work; that my name is mentioned among the rest of the authors: in short, my love for my country should be less public than it is, to suppose that the article of Geneva could escape me, or not to have a right to infer
* L'Encyclopédie, &c. in folio, now printing at Paris ; in the publication of which work Mr. d'Alembert is principally concerned. Seven volumes of this work are published:
from my silence that I approve of the contents. As nothing of all this is true, I must therefore speak; I must disown what I do not approve, left I fould be charged with opinions I do not hold. My countrymen do not want my advice, I know it well; but for my own part, I aim at honour, in thewing that I agree with them in principles.
"I am not ignorant how far short this essay is of what it ought to be, short even of what I could have made it in my happier days. Such a number of circumstances have concurred to reduce it even below the mediocrity I could formerly attain to, that I am surprized it is not a great deal worse. I was writing in defence of my country: could zeal supply the place of abilities, I should have written better than ever ; but I saw what was to be done, and found myself unequal to the task. I have told the plain truth: but who troubles his head about that ? Sad way of recommending a book! In order to be useful, it should be agreeable ; and this is an art I have lost. Some perhaps will be so malicious as to dispute this lofs with me: be it so: yet I feel myself finking; and no man can sink lower than nothing.'
It must be confessed, we should ourselves be of the number, though we might not do it maliciously, that should dispute our Author's loss (in some measure) of the art of writing agreeably: and, indeed, we are not a little sorry to find him, on this occasion, so much out of humour with himself.
But to come to the letter, the main subject of which the writer defers, till he has taken notice of another exceptionable passage in the above mentioned article ; wherein Mr. d'Alembert is said to have declared, in the face of all Europe, that the clergy of Geneva are downright Socinians. The church, it must be owned, is a little wide of the stage; and, perhaps, there is no other author but would have chosen to reserve his animadversions on this head to some other opportunity; or have thrown them into a postscript or appendix. Not so, Mr. Rousseau. He sets out with the priests; and we must hear what he has to fay of them, before we are to know any thing further of the players. Cedunt cothurni toga. Out of the same respect to the clergy, also, we shall not entirely pass over his remonttrance on this subject.
He does not, ftrenuously, either endeavour to invalidate the charge, or to defend Socinianism. “I know not, says he, what Socinianism is, so that I can neither say good nor ill of it; though, from some confused notions I have of that feet and its founder, I feel a greater aversion than liking to it: but, upon the whole, I am a friend to every peaceable religion, in which
he receive underte that Gohis seasere
pare ishe and
rthodox Chi wanted to what could it be
the Supreme is served according to that portion of reason which he has given to his creatures. When a man cannot believe what he finds absurd, it is not his fault, but that of his reason or understanding; and how can I conceive that God mould punish him for not having framed an understanding * for himself, contrary to that which he received from the divine hands? Should a doctor come and command me in God's name to be. lieve that the part is greater than the whole, what could I think within myself, but that this man wanted to make a fool of me? No doubt but the orthodox Christian, who sees no absurdity in the mysteries of religion, is obliged to believe them : but if the Socinian finds them to be nonsenle, what can we say to him? Shall we attempt to convince him that they are not nonsense? He then will begin to demonstrate to you, that it is nonsense to reason on what we cannot understand. What then is to be done? Let him alone.
Neither am I more offended, that they who serve a merciful God, should reject the eternity of hell torments, if they find it inconsistent with his justice. In that cale, let them interpret the passages contrary to their opinion, as well as they can, rather than give it up : for what else can they do? No man has a greater love and respect for the sublimelt of all books than myself; it affords me daily comfort and instruction, when I have a disike to other reading. Yet I maintain, that even if the
* «The intellectual world, not even excepting geometry, is full of incomprehensible, and yet undeniable truths; because though reason demonstrates their existence, yet it cannot penetrate beyond its boun. daries, (it so I may speak) to reach them, but can only perceive them at a distance. Such is the doctrine of the existence of a Deity ; such are the mysteries admitted in Protestant communions. Thole myiteries which offcnd reason, (to express myself in M. D'Alembert's term are quite a different thing. Even their contradiction brings them within reason's reach ; we have all the foundation in ihe world to conclude they do not exist ; for though we cannot see an abiuid thing, yet nothing is easier than to see an absurdity. This is the cale whenever two contradictory propositions are maintained. If you feil me that an inch is as long as a foot, you do not tell an obicure incomprehen ble myitery ; but a palpable absurdity, a proposition evidently false. Let the proots in its favour be what they will, they cannot be stronger than the demonstration brought against it, because this flows immediately from the original notions on which all human certainty is founded. Otherwise realon, deposing against itself, would oblige me to reject its authority, and far from making us believe this or that, it would prevent our believing any thing at all, because all principle of falih would be fubverted. Every man therefore, of what religion forver, who fays he believes in such mysteries, either imposes upon his ncarcrs, or knows not what he says.' P.5.
Scriptures themselves were to give you an idea unworthy of the Divine Majesty, you ought to reject it in this particular, as in geometry you would reject demonstrations that conclude an abfurdity : for whatever may be the authenticity of the sacred text, still it is more credible that the Bible should be corrupted, than that the Deity should be unjust or malevolent.'
We might, however, ask our Author here, by what criterion he would have us judge, whether our ideas are worthy or unworthy of the divine majesty ? In the scriptures, surely, we find the most perfect standard, and acquire the only true knowlege of the attributes of the Deity. This expreslion, therefore, concerning the corruption of the Bible, appears to us very exceptionable; for to say we must conclude the Scriptures corrupted, when they give us ideas unworthy of the divine Majesty, is to imply that we have fome other more obvious and definite criterion to judge by. But perhaps our Author only meant to say, that such particular passages of holy writ may justly be supposed to have been corrupted, that tend to contradict the general tenour of God's word, in the more clear and indisputable doctrines of christianity. In this we perfectly agree with him.
Our ingenious Author sums up what he has said on this head, with an eulogy on the clergy of Geneva, on account of that spirit of philosophy and toleration, for which, he tells us, they are distinguished; and expresses himself, with a just severity, against that barbarous spirit of persecution, which delights in torturing, even in this life, those whom it devotes to eternal torments in the next. With regard to the article of toleration, however, our Author appears to be a little inconsistent; for, notwithstanding the pacific disposition here manifested to hereticks, he declaims, on a subsequent occasion, against fanaticks, in terms more becoming a popilh inquisitor, than a philofophical and consistent protestant.
Fanaticism, says he, is not an error; but a blind, a fenseless fury, which reason can never keep within bounds. The only way to binder it from spreading, is to restrain those who broach it. In vain is it to demonstrate to madmen, that they are deceived by their leaders ; ftill they will be as eager as ever to follow them. Wherever fanaticism has been introduced, I see but one way to stop its progress; and that is, to combat it with its own weapons. Little does itavail, either to reason or to convince; you must lay aside philosophy, Thut your books, take up the sword, and punish the knaves
• May we not gather, from this paslage, that the spirit of Calvin fuil hovers, in disguise, about the lake of Geneva. Calvin was ac(sunted an advocate for Toleration, by the church of Rome ; but did he appear so to the unhappy Serveius? It would, doubilers, be a
Surely, our Author has forgotten here, that he had asserted, about twenty pages before, moderation and humanity to be christian virtues! This it is to write without niethod, and philosophize without a system! Let our Author's distinction between fanaticism and heresy be ever so just, yet why is the blind, Penseless fury, in the one, to be punished more than the flupidity, or want of comprehension, in the other? Would it not be as cruel, in any case, to torture the lunatick as the idiot? Surely, our humane Author will not deny this! No: the madman and the fool claim equally the forgiveness and compassion of the wise.
But to come to our Author's observations on stage plays and players. The first point he labours to prove, is the futility of stage-morality, so much boasted of by some writers. With this design he takes a critical view of the best pieces on the French theatre, both in tragedy and comedy. On most of these he makes very just and pertinent reflections; and, in our opinion, plainly shews that the stage, in its prelent state, is far from being the best school of morals. We think, indeed, he has proved the generality of plays, on the French stage, to have, in themselves, an immoral tendency. We cannot, however, agree with him, that dullness and infipidity would be the necessary consequence of reforming the drama in this point; or that comic writers would fail to please, in proportion as they levelled their strokes of ridicule at the proper objects of it. But, says Mr. Rousseau, even were it true that plays are not bad in themselves, still we are to inquire whether they do not become fuch in regard to the people for whom they are designed. In particular places they may be of use to draw strangers; to increase the circulation of specie ; to encourage artists; to vary fashions; to amule the overgrown rich, or those who are aspiring to be such; to render them less mischievous ; to divert che people from thinking of their misery ; to make them forget their leaders, by looking at dancers; to maintain and improve some sort of taste, when virtue is filed ; to cover the deformity of vice with the varnish of formality; in a word, to hinder corrupt manners from degenerating into open licentiousness. In other places they would serve only to destroy the love of labour; to discourage industry;
very great instance of moderation in a protestant differter, should he be willing to tolerate the pitablished church, but deny the same privilege to his own brethren. Our Author's scheme for extirpatiog Fanaticism, differs also much from the humane and good humoured project of the polite lord Shaftesbury; which, of the two, in case of necefity, we should be for recommending to our superiors. See his lordihio's letter on Enshusiasm, $ 3.