Page images

of Marmontel. This usual dress is however well-suited to the Rasselas of Johnson; which was originally composed in stimulant and impressive prose, in an eloquent and almost oriental vein of narrative, in a gorgeous and pompous diction, with a formal rhythm of arrangement, and a swelling solemnity of period. Its phrases strut in the trappings of metaphor, and pronounce every sentiment with oracular significance. It prefers grandeur to propriety, and resembles the colossal garden in which its hero is confined, where elephants repose beneath centennial palms, and the massy gates of entrance are unfolded only by an engine. It has accordingly been not unsuccessfully rendered by the Comte de Fouchecour, as an extract will convince the reader; although we doubt the perpetual purity of his dialect, and fancy that we can detect some latent anglicisms.

• Un jour Rasselas qui se croyoit seul, ayant fixé les yeux sur des chéores qui broutoient parmi les rochers, compara leur condition avec la sienne.

En quoi, dit-il, les hommes différent-ils donc du reste des animaux? toutes les bêtes qui errent à mes cotés ont les mêmes besoins corporels que moiOnt-elles faim? elles sont au milieu des pâturages : ont-elles soif? alles boivent l'eau d'un clair ruisseau. Leur faim et leur soif sont-elles appaisées ? elles sont satisfaites et dorment en paix. Le besoin se fait-il sentir de nouveau à leur réveil? elles se repaissent encore et se reposent. Comme elles, j'ai faim et soif; mais quand j'ai bû et mangé, je n'ai pas de repos. Je leur ressemble par mes besoins, mais je ne suis pas comme elles satisfait, quand je suis rassasié. Les heures qui s'écoulent entre mes repas sont semés d'ennuis et de tristesse. Alors je désire de nouveau d'éprouver la faim, pour donner une nouvelle activité à mon attention. Les oiseaux becquetent les grains de bled dans les champs, et vite ils s'envolent au milieu des bois, où ils se perchent sur les branches des arbres et paroissent heureux, Ils passent toute leur vie à moduler les mêmes airs, et toujours avec la même apparence de satisfaction. Il est vrai que je puis aussi me procurer des concerts; mais les chants qui me plaisoient le plus bier, m'ennuyent aujourd bui, et me déplairont encore d'avantage demain. Il me semble que j'eprouve toutes les sensations de plaisir dont mon être est capable, et cependant je ne me trouve pas heureux. Certes il y a dans l'homme quelque sens caché, pour qui ce séjour n'a point de jouissance; ou quelques désirs distingués des sens qui doivent être satisfaits, avant qu'il puisse goûter le bonheur.

A ces mots il leva la tête; et voyant la lune qui commencoit à paroître, il retourna vers le palais. En passant à travers les champs, et n'apperrevant autour de lui que des animaux; vous êtes heureux, leur dit-il, et ne devez pas m'envier la promenade, que je fais au milieu de vous chargé du poids de mes ennuis; et moi je n'envie point non plus votre félicité, car elle n'est pas celle de l'homme. J'ai bien des misères dont vous êtes affranchis. Si je n'ai pas de peines actuelles, j'en éprouve la crainte. Je frissonne au souvenir des maux passés, ainsi qu'à l'idée de ceux qui me sont réservés. Sûrement la Providence toujours juste et toujours équitable, compense les souffrances de la vie par de certaines jouissances.

Le Prince en revenant s'amusoit par ces observations, en les prononçant d'une voix plaintive, mais d'un air cependant qui laissoit entrevoir la



complaisance intérieure, qu'il trouvoit dans sa propre pénétration, et Pespéce d'adoucissement aux misères de la vie, qui résulioit pour lui de la delicatesse de sa sensibilité et de l'équence de ses plaintes. Il se méla gaiement aux plaisirs du soir, tout réjoui de trouver son caur soulage.

The press has been carelessly corrected; many superfluous capital letters having been retained. The plates are not excellent.


ART. VII. A Treatise on the sublime Science of Heliography, satis factorily demonstrating our great Orb of Light, the Sun, to be absolutely no other than a Body of Ice! Overturning all the re ceived Systems of the Universe hitherto extant; proving the cele brated and indefatigable Sir Isaac Newton, in his Theory of the Solar System, to be as far distant from the Truth, as any of the Heathen Authors of Greece or Rome. By Charles Palmer, Gent. 8vo. pp. 42. 35. Ginger, &c.


ORD Bacon, in his Novum Organum, mentions how liable to error the popular opinion is in matters of philosophy. Many opinions have been formed concerning the Sun, which philosophers have sometimes ridiculed, and sometimes seriously refuted. To shew the absurdity and ignorance of past ages, they quote the Poet asserting that the Sun might be heard to hiss as he descended into the western ocean; and poor Anaxa goras, condemned to death by the people for asserting that the Sun was bigger than the Peloponnesus. The people, however, are now more enlightened and tolerant; they even suffer to live quietly a philosopher *, who has attempted to prove that the Sun is not a luminous and igneous but an opaque body :-but what will they say to the present author, who out-Herod's Herod; and resolving not to be outgone in paradox by any of the philosophers, not only denies that the Sun is a body of fire, but asserts it to be a body of ice!!! Nihil tam absurdum excogitari potest, quod dictum non sit ab aliquo philosophorum.

Well! if philosophy reasons the Sun out of the universe, we hope that we shall nevertheless receive our usual remittances of light and heat.

Mr. Palmer excludes from the common number of the elements, one; because, says he, Nature is in all her ways tritine; the Sun, according to him, cannot be the cause of light, for Moses relates that there was light in the first moment of creation, whereas the Sun was not made till the fourth day:the Sun is called the organic rotatory of the Deity,' the spe culum of ethereal delegation,' and is a medium to reduce the


* Dr. Herschell.


[ocr errors]

rays of light to an acceptation of the optic perception of men
and animals in this transitory world.' According to our au-
thor, the Apostle made a truly philosophical allusion, when he
said, "Now we see through a glass darkly." What led to
the important discovery of the Sun being ice is thus related:


The first thought I had of the Sun being a body of ice was from experiments in natural philosophy with a convex glass, commonly called a burning glass; I prepared tobacco as combustible matter, then the glass receiving the rays of the Sun, collected the heat of the floating atoms of the radius and refracted that heat to the focus, where by the friction of those rays they set the combustible matter on fire; or in other words on atomatical agitation, for friction always produces fire.

If a lump of ice could be placed so as to receive the rays of light from the sun, it would act the very same as the glass.

If we admit that the Sun could be removed, and a terrestrial body of ice placed in its stead, it would produce the same effect.

The Sun is a crystalline body receiving the radiance of God, and operates on this earth in a similar manner as the light of the Sun does when applied to a convex mirror, or glass, reflecting the heat of the Earth to itself, which we feel more especially when under the influence of its focus, increasing in proportion the more or less it is situated from the horizon.-The summer more intense-the winter less so. Its effect will be described in the following section.'

Mr. P. very candidly allows Sir Isaac Newton to have been a great man: but he was engaged, he says, very deeply and assiduously in a bad cause'!!!


ART. VIII. Observations on the Zoonomia of Erasmus Darwin, M. D.
By Thomas Brown, Esq. (Edinburgh.) 8vo. pp. 560. 8s.
Boards. Johnson, &c. 1798.



N the present state of medical knowlege, it could not be expected that the daring efforts of the author of Zoonomia, in attempting to reduce to a permanent arrangement the immense chaotic mass of physiological and pathological facts, should be marked with no controversy, and disputed by no rival. We are, therefore, less surprised that a book, which professed to change the opinions of the medical world on so many important subjects, should be opposed, than to find that Mr. Brown is the first formidable antagonist whom the novelty of Dr. Darwin's theories has provoked. He has entered on this investigation, however, with all the respect due to the great talents and extensive knowlege of the author whom he criticises; and whatever may have been our partiality to the beautiful fabric which he attempts to overthrow, we must



consider him as a champion worthy of being admitted to the


For the investigation of the Zoonomia, a degree of metaphysical knowlege is requisite, which is not often possessed by medical men, and in which the present author displays uncommon proficiency. If he be inferior to Dr. Darwin in brilliancy of imagination, or in elegance of expression, he exhibits much logical acuteness and general information; and though an unsparing, he appears to be always an honourable and candid antagonist. The metaphysical part of the Zoonomia forms, indeed, the principal object of his attack; he confines himself to an examination of the first volume; and we should suspect, from various passages, that he has studied. medicine only as a branch of general science.

We shall extract, from the preface, his observations on the nature of system; they will arrest the attention of every intelligent reader:

To philosophize is nothing more, than to register the appearances of nature, and to mark those, which each is accustomed to succeed; and, though we have words, which seem to express causation, we shall find, if we examine the ideas signified, that they merely state the existence of a change. We say, that a body is moved, by impulse, by gravity, by chemical affinity; but we only state the fact of mo tion, in different circumstances. While we confine ourselves to the order of succession of observed changes, no evil can result from systems; but, if, between observed changes, we suppose another, we do not render the production of the last change more explicable: we only add to it another inexplicable change. When Newton applied to planetary motion the principle, by which bodies fall to the ground, he did not form an hypothesis; because he did not attempt to explain the cause of the motion, in either case. He merely stated a known fact, and placed out of view the hypotheses, that had obscured it. A body falls to the ground: to this we give the name of gravitation. The curvilinear direction of the planets shews them to be acted upon, by different forces, by one of which alone, they would fall to the sun. This effect being, in no respect, different from the fall of bodies, on our earth, the same is given to it. In this, there is no hypothesis. We do not consider the fall of bodies, on the earth, as the cause, by which planets are retained, in their orbits: we are merely led by the one, to observe the other, and register them, as similar appearances.'

It is, however, impossible, without altering the whole structure of language, to carry on the affairs of life, or even to write a philosophical book, without employing the hypothesis of the connection between cause and effect. The author himself, in the course of his work, is compelled, on many occasions, to use those terms according to their common acceptation.


Mr. B.'s application of the principles of Berkeley and Hume, to the doctrines of the Zoonomia, gives him a great advantage over Dr. Darwin; who had, perhaps, conceded in appearance what a rigorous adhesion to his system must take away in effect. We allude to his distinction between spirit and matter, which stands at the head of his book, but is never brought into action in the subsequent part of his theory. On this subject, Mr. Brown has made some important remarks, which our readers will be pleased to see.

The systems of materialism chiefly owe their rise to the groundless belief, that we are acquainted with the nature of causation. In the external world, we merely know a change of position. Oxygene, hydrogene, and caloric exist: they change their place: water exists. When one of the ingredients of a compound substance is added to the others, we term it the cause of the compound; because, when it is added, the compound exists. Thus, evaporation, we say, is caused by heat; because, when a certain quantity of the matter of heat is added to water, vapour exists. In like manner, when one of the ingredients is withdrawn, we consider this privation, as the cause of the remaining compound. Thus, we say: rain is occasioned by cold. Whenever, therefore, we observe addition, or subtraction, we think, that we have discovered a cause; and, to observe addition, or subtraction, it is necessary, that we know, not merely a single change, but a series of changes. Thus, were it possible for us, to see oxy. gene, and hydrogene, alone, and water instantly formed, without knowing the existence of caloric, the change would appear inexplicable; but the mystery would vanish, if the addition of caloric, the intervening change, were pointed out. As the material phenomena attract our chief attention, and as, in them, we are able to trace a series of additions, or subtractions, which we are erroneously accustomed to consider, as a series of causes, we endeavour, in every change, to find something intervening. But, in perception, there is no addition, nor subtraction: light is not to be found in the sensa. tion of vision, nor air in the sensation of sound: nothing intervenes. But causation means the intervention of something; and, therefore, as nature does not present a series of changes, we invent one. A subtile fluid is best adapted to quick changes; and we accordingly resolve perception, into vibrations, or vibratiuncles, or direct motion.

Had we been accustomed, to consider phenomena, as a series of changes, rather than of effects, it is probable, that no system of materialism would have been formed. We should then have known, that all changes are equally inexplicable, and that the philosopher, who traces a series, where we supposed a single change, only adds to the multitude of facts, of which human ability will never be able, to discover the connection. The mentalist allows, that he is ignorant of


Terms, merely negative, as that of immaterialist, are often convenient in philosophy, being a shorter mode of expressing those, who, though of different opinions, in other respects, agree, in denying a

REV. JUND, 1799.



« PreviousContinue »