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The chapter concerning the "influence of natural laws on the happiness of individuals,” is also worthy of special attention. This, 100, goes to illustrate the same great truth as the fifth chapter, and in so striking a manner that he who has once read will not soon forget it. That we are not alone in this opinion, will appear from the following. Some three or four years since, while listening to an eloquent evangelical clergyman, not a thousand miles from New Haven, we were strongly impressed with the idea that he had read the work under consideration. It may be imagined our suspicions were somewhat confirmed when we saw, (as we suppose,) a bona fide copy of the book produced, and heard him read from it several paragraphs of this very chapter. At that time it had never entered our mind that the book was infidel in its tendency; on the contrary, we thought it a powerful enforcer of the truths of revelation.
The author, in conclusion, urges with great ability the necessity of making mankind at large, and especially the young, acquainted with the physical, intellectual, and moral laws under which they live. Otherwise, he thinks it impossible that individuals or nations should be delivered from mental or moral degradation, and be enabled to move in that exalted sphere for which they were designed. It may be said that this is barefaced infidelity, which sets aside the necessity of regeneration or of a Saviour's atonement. But we beg leave to deny that this is necessarily true. It is universally acknowledged that science and the arts are the firm allies of Christianity, without which it cannot long remain uncorrupted. It becomes those, therefore, who charge Mr. Combe with infidelity in this particular, to show that he intends, when advocating the wide diffusion of knowledge, as a necessary means to make men good and happy, any thing more than our missionaries do when they urge the importance of establishing schools among the inhabitants of Ceylon.
Again we say, then, denunciation and dogmatism, however honestly indulged, cannot destroy the influence of such a work as this. If overthrown at all, it must be by clear, candid, closely-connected reasoning
THE AUTHOR, VIEWED AS A “CUI BONO" MAN.
It is a prophecy of Holy Writ, that, “ In the latter days, many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” Men of the nineteenth century are beginning to see its fulfillment. Never was there a time when the means of information were afforded to all at so cheap a rate. At the same time, however, that investigations and discoveries are made so available, productions not only worthless, but pernicious and demoralizing, are equally multiplied, and the prevalent idea among authors seems to be, that the quantity of their works shall bear
an inverse ratio to their value, and their value shall vary directly as the price which they will command.
What at this day appear to be the reasons for writing a book? To this question several answers may be returned. One—that too, of quite extensive application, is, to get money.
Often is it made the subject of complaint among us, that there is no such thing as literary patronage. We are told that because the author depends on his productions solely for subsistence, the question with him is, not how can I best hand down my name to Immortality, or how can I most enrich my country's literature, but how can I render my work most palatable, and so adapt myself to public taste as to realize a handsome revenue? It is undoubtedly true, that could you elevate him above all appehension of want, you would relieve him of a burden which checks every bold aspiration, chills the enthusiasm of genius, cramps its energies, and binds it down to that path in which others have trodden, with which the public are acquainted and which they can appreciate. It is to this dependence upon literature for support, that we may trace the multitudes of novels, magazines, fancy sketches, love sonnets, and the flood of kindred trash which threatens to sweep away those great mental structures that have stood as landmarks along the path of time.
Love of popularity is another source of these productions. “Give us your hand, my darling public,” says the author, who by chance is delivered of an idea, which, dressed up in tinsel and finery, he sends forth into the world to seek its fortune. Blessed with another, he disposes of it in a similar manner. The object of all this is to draw admiration upon himself. Dr. Johnson has given a ludicrous representation of the man of genius, afraid to show his face, lest it should be copied—to write, lest his correspondents should publish his letters, always uneasy lest his friends should steal his papers for the good of the public. Yet inconvenient as are its consequences, it is a reputation like this for which the short-sighted author pants. It is to him a comparatively trifling consideration whether his name reaches future ages ; the great question is, how he may secure present distinction. Posthumous fame will not satisfy him, nor the noble consciousness of having conferred on the world a lasting benefit; but he must have his own praise resounded, and attract the gaze of an admiring public. What should we expect would be the productions of one imbued with sentiments like these? What must be their character ? He has but one end in view—to suit the taste of his readers, and he will of course pander to their appetite, however corrupted and depraved.
The foregoing appear to be the two prolific sources of many productions which mark the present age. As to the first, the need of money, we acknowledge it is what Dr. Paley would call a violent motive, but would suggest that in all probability many writers could find some other employment more lucrative, and certainly one might be found in which they could be more serviceable to the world. And as to the second reason-love of present distinction, or popularity-small must be the soul of that man who is conscious of stooping to gratify a depraved appetite, and also conscious that if he succeeds in acquiring popularity it must be by sacrificing what is pure and noble. Those who entertain exalted views of human nature and are continually expatiating on the moral dignity of man, may deem it an absurd supposition that an author should seek a warm reception from the public by infusing into his works a loose morality. We are not of that number who believe in such high moral excellence as natural to humanity. It is the express testimony of revelation, corroborated by observation and universal experience, that man is prone to evil as sparks to fly upwards. What better evidence can be desired of this truth than the fact that by the world at large, books which enforce the claims of a rigid inflexible morality are neglected, while those which fall in with the current of human passions form the aliment of the reading community ?
But not to dwell upon dark and melancholy facts, let us inquire what should induce a man to become an author ? And in this we have not the presumption to suppose we are going to give laws to the philosopher, the poet, the orator, or the man of letters. t is not our intention to discourse and reveal new motives by which the author should be influenced, but to specify those which mankind have in fact acknowledged as admirable.
We hear much in these days of an author's writing because his subject drives him to it. He conceives thoughts too big to be contained in his own mind; it is therefore essential to his happiness, perhaps to his existence, that he be delivered of these huge conceptions. If this be his case, he is to be pitied. And so much the more as he is himself the judge of his own conceptions; and we imagine that no man ever yet claimed the dignity of authorship who did not attach to his own ideas a marvelous magnitude and importance. To such an unfortunate man we would prescribe the remedy of Horace, to let his ideas lie by, known only to himself for nine months or nine years, (as the case may be, for we forget the exact terms of the recipe,) and then give them a thorough review. However, if this be too bitter a prescription, he must be regarded, according to the old Greek philosophy, as a victim of inexorable fate. If under this omnipotent impulse, his sayings and actions are injurious in their tendency, he deserves no censure; if salutary, he can claim no praise.
A frequent and powerful motive among authors, is the desire of extensive, permanent fame. We refer not to that contracted love of popularity which retails essays in quantity or quality to suit subscribers, but a more noble and generous impulse. A spirit like this does not sacrifice the interests of virtue and morality to gratify a corrupted taste. It does not study the manners and prejudices of an age, or of a nation, but appeals to their feelings, and those passions which are common to humanity. An intrepid, magnanimous mind, struggling with the tide of misfortune, at one moment buried beneath the waves, and the next rising triumphant, enlists the sympathies of man's nature. Boldness in conception of plans, firmness of purpose, inflexibility in execution, are attributes of a superior character. So true is this, that we admire the high resolve, the unbending will, and the hand to execute, even irrespective of the object about which they are employed. The novelist who has read the human heart knows this, and often makes these commanding qualities atone for, or palliate vice and crime.
We may go even farther, and say that it is natural for man to love, rather than hate virtue ; to admire intrepidity of mind when guided by reason, morality, and right, more than when it appears in the degenerate form of bold recklessness, giving a more fearful energy to vice and corruption. Man admires virtue in itself. It is repulsive only when it conflicts with his own passions and lusts. He admires morality in itself. It assumes a fearful, odious aspect only when he contemplates its stern laws as applying to himself. These are the common feelings of humanity, and he who writes for an enduring name, makes them the groundwork of his productions. On the contrary, the author who aims only at transient fame, humors the passions of the age in which he lives, and the characters with which he is surrounded. You see in him no independence, no high-souled purpose; he is the literary demagogue.
But the desire of never-fading glory is not the noblest impulse by which the author can be actuated. To use a trite, but apt illustration, consider the character of him who is justly styled the father of the American republic. How would the lustre which encircles the name of Washington be tarnished, could we suppose his brilliant achievements all to have been prompted by a crafty far-sighted selfishness! And this admiration of disinterested benevolence is not confined to a country or to an age. It is universal and illustrative. You may find a human heart from which every other mark of original impress has been effaced, still there is a chord within responsive to the touch of benevolence. The pulse of gratitude ceases to beat only when the last vestige of humanity is lost. As this is the highest attribute of man's nature, so it is the last to desert him. Nor are admiration and gratitude called forth by the patriotic services of the warrior, the statesman, and legislator alone. They are likewise yielded to the poet and the man of letters. Though Robert Burns lived and sung in a foreign land, yet we love him when he tells us in what spirit he wrote, speaking of his boyhood in those familiar lines :
6 E'en then a wish, I mind its power,
Or sing a sang at least." There is much said in derision of “cui bono” men. As some sublimely express it, they are the rabble, shut out from the holy of holies, excluded from the inner temple of genius, who revel not in the spiritual ecstacy of man's etherial nature; but the truth is, they are the men of reason. Instead of soaring to play with the airy phantoms of a crazy imagination, and exclaiming in proud self-sufficiency, “Odi profanum vulgus," they employ their powers to some purpose. They consider, to use the language of an admired writer, that "the gifts of nature and
accomplishments of art are valuable but as they are exerted in the interests of virtue, or governed by the rules of honor.” When such sentiments become prevalent; when enlightened minds are influenced by an enlarged philanthropy, a sincere desire to benefit mankind, we may expect a higher tone of morality and virtue to pervade our popular literature.
ΕΛΠΙΣ ΒΡΟΤΟΙΣΙ ΣΥΜΜΑΧΟΣ (A FRAGMENT.)
'Αστερ ελευθερίας ! Tδου οι φιλοπάτριδες είλαι,
Κείται δή κατά γής και φυγάς, τ' άρθρ' ώς αναπαύων,
Εις’ Αιγαίον ορών και σύννους διος ο φεύγων