JANUARY the 7th
Read the 7th Book of Quintilian's Institutes, in which he treats of the arrangement of the materials which he presumes to be provided; and loses himself in endless subtleties, in endeavouring to establish general rules a priori, for what in every instance must be governed by the particular circumstances of the case: but he vindicates his judgment by confessing this, by citing examples, and by repeatedly recommending "ducem naturam."<35> I was particularly pleased with the close of the last chapter, in which, after strenuously inculcating a reliance on our own enlightened sagacity, rather than on any positive precepts, he gives to good sense the first, the second, the third place; and describes' its happy effect in melting the various materials of composition into one uniform and consistent mass. The whole passage is exquisitely conceived and delightfully expressed.—His examples by way of illustration, are often rendered obscure, by their particular reference to the Roman Law.
Attended Church in the afternoon. Mr. S. endeavoured to make faith a matter of duty; and deprecated licentious, with a salvo (exacted by the spirit of the times) in favour of free enquiry. In the way he took it, it was a distinction without a difference. The defenders of religious dogmas, where there is a contrariety of persuasions on the subject, are placed in an awkward dilemma. They cannot shut the door upon enquiry, without affording an impregnable asylum to adverse tenets; and they cannot open it, without letting in the common enemy and endangering their own. To stop at a certain point of enquiry, would be convenient to all parties; but this limit would vary in different sects; and for stopping at all, there is nothing but convenience to plead.
JAN. the 8th
Read the 8th Book of Quintilian's Institutes. I was much pleased with that part of the Proemium (confirmed by various subsequent passages) in which he condemns an overweening attention to the style, to the neglect of the sentiment; inducing the vices of affectation, tumour, unnatural contortions, and obscurity. He seems, in the 3rd chapter, to dwell, with a sort of prurient pleasure, on that particular ambiguity of language which equivocates obscenely. His strictures, in the 5th, on the sententious style, composed of luminous points, without coherence or continuity; perpetually sparkling, without breadth of shade or of effulgence; rough, without grandeur of inequality, and level without easy smoothness, are admirable.
JAN the 9th
Began, and read the first section of, Wollaston's Religion of Nature. He here propounds and maintains his hypothesis, "That moral rectitude consists in a conformity between our actions and truth;" and evinces, how much may be advanced by learning and ingenuity, in favour of the most fantastical notion.
Read the 9th Book of Quintilian's Institutes, in which he treats, with great judgment and refined taste, of figures of style and sentiment: though he condescends sometimes to needless and perplexing divisions; and does not sufficiently discriminate between these two species of figures—which perhaps ought not to be distinguished at all, the whole being referable to sentiment, without which language is "vox et preterea nihil."<36>
JAN. the 13th
Read the 10th Book of Quintilian's Institutes. The 1st chapter, in which, in recommending authors to the perusal of the young orator, he takes occasion to perstringe, with consummate skill and exquisite taste, all the most celebrated works of Greece and Rome, is above measure delightful. It is quite enchanting to hear an Ancient thus discussing the merits of the Ancients. The remaining chapters contain many judicious and excellent remarks—coming home directly to the bosoms of men—on the use and abuse of imitation, the formation of style, correction, composition, and extemporary speaking.—"Cito scribendo, non fit, ut bene scribatur: bene scribendo, fit, ut cito,"<37> says Quintilian; directly contrary to the advice of Johnson, who recommends rapid, as preparatory to correct, composition.—"Vix enim bona fidei viro convenit, auxilium in publicum polliceri, quod in prasentissimis quibusque periculis desit,"<38> is the reflection which induced me to relinquish my profession.—"Qui stultis videri eruditi volunt, stulti eruditis videntur,"<39> reminds one of "a wit among Lords and a Lord among wits."—Parr, in his Preface, has been busy with the first chapter: one imitation is very striking, "ille se profecisse sciat, cui Cicero valde placebit,"<40> says Quintilian: "In litteris ipsi se sciant plurimum profecisse, quibus Burkius valde placuerit,"<41> says Parr.
JAN. the 14th
Read the 11th Book of Quintilian's Institutes, on the adaptation of eloquence to the cause, the parties, and the audience; on memory; and on pronunciation and gesture—the last of which topics he discusses with surprising minuteness.
Ld. C. called in. Had much conversation on Fox; some passages of whose late conduct we deeply deplored: "If I may venture to say it," his Lordship exclaimed with much earnestness, "of so great a man, he appears sometimes strangely defective in judgment." But for the alarm which his excessive candour and occasional indiscretion had excited, we must, he thought, ere this, have seen him Minister. He feared he was sometimes overborne by Grey.
JAN. the 15th
Read the 12th and last Book of Quintilian's Institutes, in which, in giving the supreme finish to the accomplished orator, he insists essentially on his knowledge and observance of moral duty; recommends an intimate acquaintance with civil law and history; delivers various directions with regard to the practice of his profession; discusses the different kinds of eloquence—the sublime, the temperate, and the grand; advises a seasonable retirement, before a decay of power; and concludes with an animating exhortation to the young aspirant, not to sink under the prospect of the difficulties he has to surmount.—Thus closes a work which establishes Quintilian's character as one of the ablest Critics, at least, of his own, or of any age. A Translation of the best and most applicable parts of these Institutes, enriched with modern illustrations, judiciously and ably executed (for it is a task which could be trusted to no vulgar artist), would form a most useful and valuable publication.—The Preface to Bellendenus, so far as it relates to Burke (for I have attended, on a particular account, to that part alone), is much indebted to the 10th chapter of this last Book: one imitated sentence is very glaring, "melius de hoc nomine sentiant, credantque, Attice dicere, esse optime dicere,"<42> is Quintilian's expression; "sed melius de hoc nomine sentiant * * * *: Burkium si quis imitetur, eum credant et Attice dicturum et optime,"<43> is Parr's.—I am not aware on what principle Parr sometimes gives, and sometimes withholds, his authorities for sentences and expressions; nor am I competent to decide on the propriety of this style of composing in a dead language. The effect which it would have upon a Roman eye or ear, might easily be tried, by forming an English composition from shreds of Addison, Johnson, Swift, Bolingbroke, and Gibbon:—I suspect the texture would resemble a Harlequin's jacket.
JAN. the 17th
Read the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th sections of Wollaston's Religion of Nature. In the two former he endeavours to demonstrate, with great parade, that happiness, and following the dictates of right reason, coincide with his own grand principle, of acting conformably to truth. In the 4th, conformably with his system, he makes the extent of moral obligation commensurate with the knowledge a truth. In the last, he proves the existence, the perfection, and the superintending providence, of a First Cause; and deduces our peculiar duties toward& that wise, very ingeniously, from our true relations to each other.
Finished the Baviad and Maeviad; an exquisite satire on the loathsome affectations of the Della Crusca school of poetry. The Pursuits of Literature, though bearing some marks of resemblance, is however, of a much higher cast; and I think clearly not from the same pen.
JAN. the 18th
Finished the four remaining sections of Wollaston's Religion. of Nature; in which, he deduces, sometimes from his leading principle indeed, but often, too, from right reason, general utility, and the passions and affections of our common nature, the rights and, duties of man, considered as a rational animal, as a member of community, as a member of a family, and, lastly, as a private individual: concluding, with proofs of the immortality of the soul, from its immateriality, the necessity of a future life, to execute the ends of retributive justice, and the general prepossession in favour of such a belief: to which he subjoins some curious speculations on the nature of our state hereafter, with a view of the advantages attending a belief in it; and, closes with a final reference to his fundamental principle, as the great guide of human conduct in all its relations.—The passage in the 9th section, in which, though he admits and enforces, that the tendency of virtue is to happiness, and of vice to misery, he shows that this is only a tendency, which external circumstances, may counteract, or, if they do not counteract, may otherwise overbalance, struck, me as perfectly just; and another, in which he describes the wretchedness and impotence of the present life, if that is the "be all and the end all," as extremely eloquent.
Looked over, afterwards, a Supplement to Wollaston, by a French translator of his work. It consists of three Parts; in the two first of which, he defends the principle and scheme advanced by his original; and in the third, sets in a fog, in endeavouring to reconcile what he calls "premotion physique," with the liberty of man. He seems a weak superstitious character, and I am surprised at his hardihood in adopting Wollaston's Hypothesis.
JAN the 21st
Finished Barrington's Observations on the Ancient Statutes: a well conceived and elaborate work, containing much valuable antiquarian lore, and many amusing anecdotes and allusions; but through which the old woman occasionally peeps out. In page 489 he mentions, that a particular rock is shown in Merionethshire, between Dolgellau and Tal-y-lyn, called Craig-y-llam, from which, by the laws of Athelstan, thieves were formerly precipitated. This Tarpeian height is the awful crag which impends over the eastern side of the Pool Of Three Grains: and I can attest that it is admirably adapted to give these laws the fullest effect.
Read Jasper Wilson's celebrated Letter: a temperate; liberal, well informed, and eloquent address; deficient in nothing, I think, but an adequate consideration of the spirit militant in France.
JAN. the 24th
Finished Warton's Life of Pope prefixed to his edition of Pope's Works; and compared Wakefield's Preface to his Observations On Pope. These two critics differ essentially in their judgement of Pope: Wakefield ascribes to him, in a transcendent, and, it should seem, an equal degree, all the superior qualities of a consummate poet; while Warton regards him as deficient in the characteristic one—imagination.—The latter sometimes takes great liberties with his Principal; as where he compares Pope's version of the Iliad, to Townley's bust of Homer in a bag-wig.— A quotation from Cicero's Orator, which Warton applies, with some justice but more severity, to Johnson, " * * qui nihil potest tranquille; nihil leniter, nihil definite, distincte potest dicere; is * * furere apud sanos, et quasi inter sobrios bacchari temulentus videtur,"<44> reminds me of a corresponding passage in the Preface to Bellendenus, "qui nihil solet leniter, nihil explicate, nihil definite dicere, is stomacho plus dare, quam consilio videtur, et prope abesse a quadam orationis insania."<45> Were this Preface stripped of its borrowed plumage, might I judge from the slender part to which I have attended, it would be bald indeed; but I am not sure of the right we have, to pluck it in this way.
JAN. the 26th
Looked over Warton's notes on the two first Volumes of Pope's Works, comparing occasionally Wakefield's Observations. Warton's character of Johnson, as posessed of strong judgment, and keen discrimination of whatever regards life and manners (his favourite quarry), but deficient in a true taste and relish for poetry, is, I think, just.—Notwithstanding Johnson's decision, backed by Warton, there is surely a striking echo to the sense in Pope's line, in the Essay on Criticism,
"When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw."
—"One of the best musicians of the age," who informs Mr. Warton, that Mr. Pope's remark (Essay on Criticism, v. 144.) "that there are nameless graces in music which no methods teach," is unfounded, I should suppose, is Dr. Burney; yet I can hardly believe him so "correctly dull." There are occasional repetitions in Warton's notes, indicating slovenly execution; as in the quotation from Quintilian appended both to the 213th, and 570th, vv. of the Essay on Criticism.
The peculiarities I have observed in these notes, tending to develope Warton's character and sentiments, are, his repeated and warm expressions of admiration at Milton's Lycidas, and Gray's Poems in general; his high praise of Aristotle; his quotations, with applause, from Harris and Beattie; his compliment to Lord Monboddo; his exaltation of Dionysius, and depreciation of Longinus; and his frequent censure of Johnson's critical decrees. With Wakefield he sometimes exactly coincides; but cautiously abstains from anything like allusion to his labours in the same vineyard. Warton has one felicitous expression with which even the exuberant luxuriance of Mr. Wakefield's style would have been enriched—"prose fringed with rhyme."
JAN. the 27th
Looked over some of Gray's Poems. I am almost tempted to agree in Johnson's character of these compositions. There is an encumbered heaviness in them, an over-laboured obscurity, and vehement straining—even where he affects to trifle, very revolting to my taste.
Read Dryden's Dedication of his Fables to the Duke of Ormond. One is amazed that such undisguised, overwrought, extravagant and fulsome flattery, could ever have been endured: the most voracious appetite for praise must surely have been gorged by such a dose.
JAN. the 31st
Read Boileau's Preface to his Works. Pope's sentiment in his Essay on Criticism,
"True wit is nature to advantage dress'd;
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd:
Something, whose truth convinc'd at sight we find,
That gives us back the image of our mind." (v. 297.)
is evidently borrowed from an incomparable passage in this Preface. "Qu'est-ce qu'une pensée neuve, brilliante, extraordinaire? Ce n'est point, somme se le persuadent les ignorans, une penséee que personne n'a jamais euë, ni dû avoir: c'est, au contraire, une pensée qui a dû venir a tout le monde, et que quelqu'un s'avise le premier d'exprimer. Un bon mot n'est bon mot qu'en ce qu'il dit une chose que chacun pensoit, et qui la dit d'une maniere vive, fine et nouvelle."<46> This Preface was written in 1700: the Essay, I think, in 1710.
Pursued Warton's Pope. I am disappointed in the critical information and entertainment I expected from such an editor of such a work. Innumerable slips attest how carelessly he has executed the task; and he has taken such unconscionable liberties in stealing from himself, that a reader well versed in the Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope, will find little of novelty to glean, from the apparently abundant harvest of anecdote and criticism with which he is here presented in the form of scattered annotations.
FEBRUARY the 1st
Read several of Dryden's original Poems. The sudden transition from his Funeral Lines on Oliver Cromwell, to his Astraea Redux on the Restoration, the two first pieces in the collection, has a curious effect: one grieves to see genius thus prostituted. In his Political Poems (where he sometimes becomes impotent from rage) may be found most of the arguments which have furnished out the party pamphlets of the present day.—His Hind demonstrates, what I have often thought, but tremble to express, that the first step of separation from the Church of Rome, was the first step to infidelity.—The Religio Laici, is the most finished and equally sustained, of any of these pieces; and, as an argumentative poem, has infinite merit. For disputing in rhyme, Dryden has certainly no equal: his spirit is inextinguishable.
Began Boileau's Satires: compositions of exquisite wit and urbanity; and surpassed by nothing but Pope's productions in the same way. His 5th Satire, on Hereditary Rank, might now be recited with applause at Paris; and shows how the same thing may differ, when urged as a corrective, and when adopted as a principle. The10th, on Woman, is inferior in spirit to Pope's Satire on the same subject. In the 11th and 12th he is evidently out of his depth.
Was much pleased, in the European Magazine for last month, with Sir Joshua Reynolds' masterly character of Reubens' style. The comparison of his pictures to. "bunches of flowers," struck me as eminently happy.
FEB. the 4th
Pursued Warton's Pope. On v. 408. of the Prologue to the Satires, Warton has feelingly described the delightful transition, from the austerities of acrimonous censure,, to the melting scenes of domestic tenderness.—On v. 31. of Pope's Imitation of the 1st Epistle of Horace, he expresses a surprise, that Pope should have omitted the strong sentiment,
"Et mihi res, non me rebus, subjungere conor:" v.19.<28>
I conceive that Pope has endeavoured, and not unsuccessfully, to render it by the line
"And win my way, by yielding to the tide."
The original indeed is more pointedly significant; for Horace (if we may be allowed to dilute his spirit so unmercifully) intimates, that revolting from the Stoic doctrine; which in effect renders its votaries slaves to external circumstances by exacting an incessant and vain struggle against them, he found himself insensibly sliding back to the system of Aristippus, which, by a full admission of their influence on our happiness, pursued the only course to reduce these stubborn principles into a subjection to our pleasure:—See August 18th 1797.—It is amazing that Warton should have passed, without censure, and even with some sort of retrospective approbation, the flattest line Pope ever published. v. 49., 6th Epis. of Horace, B. 1.:
"So known, so honoured, at the House of Lords."
To make amends, he violently reprobates as coarse and vulgar, an expression, which, in its place, is felicitous enough. v. 13 I., 2nd Epis. of Horace, B. 2.
"Each had a gravity would make you spit."
The colloquial form of the phrase, here adds greatly to' its spirit.
FEB. the 7th
Read Boileau's Epistles. The 3rd, on False Shame, is eminently happy; and the 6th, in which he describes his mode of life, above measure interesting. His advice to Racine in the 7th, to convert the efforts of malevolence into instruments of good, by extracting improvement from the carpings of his envious critics, is at once neat and judicious. The 9th is an excellent lecture against affectationn: the 10th exhibits an engaging portrait of the writer: the 11th displays the pains of literary labour, and the pangs of idleness, with the easiest and most felicitous address: while the l2th, though dexterously managed; and treating on a fruitful subject, is polluted with the rancour, and clouded by the darkness, of polemical theology. Had Boileau written nothing but this latter piece, as he declares that he sometimes wished in good earnest had been the case, where would have been the remembrance of him now? His addresses to the King, however neatly turned, are necessarily fulsome: the leading idea in them all, is, that the Monarch conquered faster than the Muse could celebrate.
Read Pope's Preface to the Iliad, and Postscript to the Odyssey; both pieces, but particularly the latter, replete with most judicious critical observations, and illuminated with some of the happiest and most striking similes I ever met with. I doubt whether his Epic Poem of Brutus, though ingeniously, conceived, would, under any management, have succeeded: the consummation of the plot, is to destroy those illusions from which the fable must have derived its principal interest.
FEB. the 8th
Beta Boileau's Art Poetique, and Lutrin. In the former, he has copied too closely the desultory manner of Horace; though to much better purpose. The latter is, I think, superior as a mock heroic poem, to the Rape of the Lock; excepting always the conclusion, which is extremely lame and impotent.
Pursued Wakefield's Observations on Pope. I exactly agree with him in the species of preference which he gives to Pope's over Boileau's Imitation of Horace, in the account of the Visionary, (v. 192., Epis. 2., B. 2., and Sat. 4., v. 103.); but do not see how he mends the matter in his proposed, improvement of vv. 74. and 75., in the 2nd Dialogue by way of Epilogue to the Satires.—Wakefield possesses exquisite taste, and a most luxuriant fancy, as a critic; and one grieves that he should, ever have misapplied his powers to politics and religion.
FEB the 11th
Read the Dunciad, with. Warton's and Wakefield's Annotations. Lord Orford's stricture on Swift and Cervantes, mentioned by Warton, with such high respect, in his note on v. 21. of the Dunciad, Book. 1st, strikes me as tasteless and groundless. Supposing the vices and follies satirised to be precisely the same (a gratuitous concession), in the Voyage to Lilliput they are rendered ridiculous and odious, by being placed in so diminutive and contemptible an animal; and in the Voyage to Brobdingnag this animal is, by an opposite contrast, distinctly and forcibly shown to be ourselves: while, with respect to Don Quixote, though the general character of his madness is sufficiently inhibited at. the Wind-mill and the Inn, its peculiar turns and qualifications (putting all the entertainment derived from it out of the question) are finely wrought out by the subsequent adventures.—Warton has one very happy, and one very forced, image, in his critique between the 3rd and 4th Books:—one happy, in comparing the subjects of the Dunciad, to monsters preserved in the most costly spirits; and one forced, in resembling the violence of its satire to "that marvellous column of boiling water near Mount Hecla, in Iceland, thrown upwards, above ninety feet, by the force of subterranean fire."—Wakefield's attempts at humour, under the character of Scriblerus to the Dunciad, are very frigid and uncouth: he seems to have caught the grossness of Pope without his spirit; and occasionally displays the bigot.—The expression of Pope's Scriblerus, on v. 6., B. 4., that "they have chosen rather to turn the dark lanthorn of Lycophron,<47> than to trim the everlasting lamp of Homer," is forcible and fine.—In a note on v. 150. Warton treats Locke very disrespectfully—another of his characteristics. Swift he calls "a true whig," who was certainly a very high churchman, and in his zenith strictly connected with the tories: I reckon him a very moderate whig indeed.—The Dunciad was undoubtedly more perfect as a Poem, in its first form of three Books; but one cannot marvel at Pope's yielding to the temptation of enlarging this Limbo for his enemies.
FEB. the 14th
Read Garth's Dispensary;<48> a lively and pleasing poem, sparkling with considerable wit, but defrauded of its just fame by the Dunciad, so much its superior in correctness, conduct, spirit, and lustre.
Finished the Memoirs of Scriblerus; an exquisite piece of satire, of which the separate parts of Swift, Pope, and Arbuthnot, are sometimes very distinguishable. I am not surprised that the 13th chapter was suppressed in the 2nd edition:—it is grossly indecent, and does no credit to Warton in the republication. Had Burke's Sublime and Beautiful been in existence at the time of these Memoirs, I should have been fully assured that the 10th chapter was a burlesque upon some parts of it.—Warton's application of Horace's "Sublimi feriam Sidera vertice," "striking his head against the Stars," to Johnson's
Should the fierce North, upon his frozen wings
Bear him aloft above the wond'ring clouds,
And seat him in the Pleiad's golden chariot:
in a note on Scriblerus' Art of Sinking, c. 9., is very happy, but very contemptuous.
FEB. the 24th
Read Macfarlane's History of George the III.: a strange amalgam of vulgarity, impudence, and scurrility, compounded into a specious and showy mass, by a morbid vigour of intellect, which rather scares from its ferocity, than impresses with admiration by its force. Though ostentatiously the advocate of the present ministry, the author ill disguises strong traits of the unprincipled and dangerous political desperado. Who can he be?
Perused Johnson's London, and Vanity of Human Wishes. His numbers are strong in sense, and smooth in flow; but want that varied grace, and inextinguishable spirit, which constitute the essential charm of Pope's.
MARCH the 1st
How deceptive are titles. I finished, this morning, Campbell's Journey to India "partly by a route never gone before by any European." The whole of this unexplored route consists, in our Traveller's own words, of an eighteen days ride of 1400 miles (from Aleppo to Baghdad) through "a tract of country distinguished by nothing that could serve even as a circumstance to mark and remember our daily journeys." The whole volume contains nothing interesting but the narrative of the author's shipwreck and imprisonment at Bedanore.
Began Pope's Letters, Vol.7 Warton's Edition.—Wycherley appears a conceited old coxcomb. Pope's 24th Letter to him, in which the young censor gravely complains, that the repetitions in his poems, which Wycherley had desired him to cancel, grew so fast, and increased beyond expectation, upon him, each perusal, that he scarce knew what they would leave, is truly ludicrous. One would like to have seen the old gentleman's countenance on the perusal of this paragraph.—Dean Berkeley's Letter, giving an account of the island of Inarime, in the Bay of Naples, p. 330., is beautifully descriptive:—what an inviting picture does he exhibit of that Elysian spot.—A taint of affectation, more or less strong, runs through the whole of Pope's Letters: those to the ladies, particularly, are stuffed with miserable and frigid attempts to be gallant and gay.
MARCH the 3rd
Concluded a second reading of Roscoe's Lorenzo de' Medici, which fades considerably on a reperusal. The author, as is natural, partakes of the general debility of his subject; and, for want of better matter, is sometimes led to trifle most elaborately. In the 2nd chapter, he expends more serious and solemn pains in settling the period of a tournament, than would be allowable to an historian of the Roman Empire in ascertaining the date of the sack of Rome by the Goths.—We feel, after all, no interest in the life of his hero, but as it is connected with the literature of the period; we can conceive no other motive, but what this connection presents, which could have led to the selection of his Life as a subject of biography: why not, therefore, have made that literature at once the theme; and written a History of the Revival of Learning in Italy?
MARCH the 9th
Finished the first volume of Tooke's ΕΠΕΑ ΠΤΕΡΟΕΝΤΑ (Epea Pteroenta, or the Diversions of Purley), 4to. edition. The purpose of language is to communicate thought: it is not however by singly contemplating this purpose, that we can account for the various contrivances in language, any more than we can explain the various conveniences of a chariot, its springs, its glasses, its blinds, &c. from regarding it merely as a vehicle to transport us from one place to another. For the purpose of communicating thought, the noun and the verb would alone be sufficient; but we wish to communicate it with despatch, and with this view employ three kinds or abbreviations: 1st in terms, 2nd in sorts of words; and 3rdly in construction. To the first of these descriptions of abbreviations, Mr. Tooke considers Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding, as the best guide; what is there called the composition and abstraction of ideas, being merely a contrivance of language, and relating solely to terms: he himself undertakes the investigation of the second. It being impossible to have a particular term for every individual idea, the use and operation of the ARTICLE consists, in limiting a general term to some particular idea; or, in other words, particularising a general term. In the same way, as it is impossible to have a distinct complex term for every different collection of ideas, the use and operation of the PREPOSITION consists, in denoting the adding or subtracting one or more ideas to or from that collection which the complex term embraces. Lastly, what the preposition effects with respect to single words, the CONJUNCTION, as it is termed, performs with respect to many; adding or subtracting whole sentences. Each of these Parts of Speech, as they are called, is neither without meaning, as some have supposed, nor possesses the various meanings which others (misled by imputing to them some part of the meaning of the terms with which they stand connected) have ascribed to them; but has a distinct and constant signification of its own, and may be traced to some original noun or verb in the language from which this signification is derived.—Such, as far as I can collect, is the sum and substance of this celebrated volume: in which, combined, with much address in insinuating and impressing his doctrine, Mr. Tooke has evinced considerable skill in the art of awakening admiration, irritating curiosity, and inflaming appetite, by partial concealments, intricate evolution, and coy reserves. For one, I. am very impatient for him to go on. He expressly states his object to be, the laying a foundation for a new theory of language: and from various passages in the work, expressive of a supreme contempt for all the systems of metaphysics which are, or which ever have been, in the world, and for all the controversies respecting them, as founded on the grossest ignorance of words and the nature of speech, we are led to expect, from the complete development of his scheme, a new theory of philosophy, too.—One grieves to find the same memorials of personal and political altercation which disgraced the former edition, retained in this; and even more of the same dross added. They exhibit strong and disgusting indications of a perverse, acrimonious, and vindictive spirit: yet in private life, I am told, Mr. Tooke is amiable and bland; and I can attest that he is a most entertaining and agreeable companion.
MARCH the 10th
Began Campbell's Rhetoric. I doubt whether his quadruple division of the ends of eloquence, 1st to enlighten the understanding, 2ndly to please the imagination, 3rdly. to move the passions, and 4thly to influence the will, can be supported as separate and distinct purposes. The last, at any rate, embraces the other three as means.
Looked into Young's Night Thoughts: debased throughout with many poor and puerile conceits; such as making, "the night weep dew over extinct nature;" the revolving spheres, "a horologe machinery divine:" "each circumstance armed with an aspic, and all a hydra woe;" "each tear mourn its own distinct distress, and each distress heightened by the whole." Frigidity and tumour, obscurity and glare, are the two apparently opposite but striking faults of this popular and imposing poem: yet parts are in good taste: he glows with a natural and genial warmth in describing the charms of social intercourse and the blessings of friendship, towards the close of the 2nd Night; and the passage in the 4th, beginning, "O my coevals, remnants of yourselves," is animated and sublime. Johnson perhaps caught his, "panting time toiled after him in vain," from Young's, "and leave praise panting in the distant vale."
MARCH the 12th
Read Watson's Address and Wakefield's Answer. The bishop is certainly wrong in supposing that an equal depression of all ranks would be a matter of no concern, as each individual would preserve his relative place in society; since, though the rich would in consequence suffer only a positive privation of superfluities, this privation, with the poor, would extend to the necessaries of life: he is equally wrong in supposing it possible to discharge the national debt by deducting a proportionate quantum of property from each individual, since a vast class of individuals have no property besides their annual, monthly, weekly, or even daily income: but I cannot forgive Wakefield's attempt, in his reply, to depreciate the national character; nor his ill-concealed complacency at our subjugation by France. I have no opinion of the man who has lost the love of his country in more remote regards.
MARCH the 13th
Pursued Campbell's Rhetoric. In the 5th chapter, B. 1., he distributes the sources of Evidence into, 1st Intuitive, and 2ndly Deductive. Under the former he includes, 1st Mathematical Axioms, 2ndly Consciousness, 3rdly. Common Sense. The latter (the Deductive) he divides into, 1st the Scientific, 2ndly the Moral; comprehending under the latter, 1st Experience, 2ndly Analogy, 3rdly. Testimony, and 4thly Calculation of Chances.—In the 6th chapter he spews the futility of syllogistic reasoning:—nothing farther seems necessary to expose the impotence of this instrument of reason in the advancement of truth, whatever may be its use in the detection of error, than to observe, that the premises, in a correct syllogism, must always comprise the conclusion.
MARCH the 14th
Finished the 9th and last volume of Warton's Pope. Swift, in the 11th Letter, opens the true motives of his Gulliver's Travels: after mentioning that work, he says, "—but the chief end I propose in all my labours, is to vex the world, rather than divert it;" and again, "when you think of the world, give it one lash more on my account;" and, afterwards, "but principally I hate and detest that animal called man, although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas, &c." Pope's rebuke of this misanthropy, in the next Letter, is forcible and dignified.—Bolingbroke has a noble thought in the 40th Letter: "Fame is the wise man's means—his ends, are his own good and the good of society:" Burke, I think, has somewhere borrowed this sentiment.
MARCH the 18th
Finished the Memoirs of Grammont; which exhibit, with less wit and spirit than I expected, a shameful picture of the voluptuousness, intrigues, and abandoned profligacy, of the Court of Charles the II.; and exalt, in a comparative estimate, the purity of modern manners: yet perhaps it would be as wrong to form a judgment of the morals of the nation at large at that time, by this Work, as it would be to appreciate the present by the Newgate Calendar.
Began Colley Cibber's Life; and was much delighted with his minute yet masterly account of the principal actors who figured previously to the Revolution:—their characters are really very finely drawn.—Cibber's vanity and easy good humour promise to be highly amusing. He reminds one of Boswell. I hope he will not ramble too wide in his wild and eccentric excursions; and perplex, by their means, the narrative they were designed to enliven.
Read Hurd's Dialogue between Cowley and Sprat, on Retirement. Cowley, who is an advocate for retirement, has manifestly the advantage throughout; and Sprat makes but a very sorry figure in defence of mingling with the world. After all, there is something offensive to correct feeling, and just taste, in thus imputing fictitious conversations to real personages; and though Mr. Hurd has executed his task with delicacy and address, I cannot help thinking that he has set a mischievous example.
MARCH the 23rd
Read Adam Smith's Disquisition on the Imitative Arts, in his Posthumous Works. He observes, That a production of art seldom derives any merit from its resemblance to another object of the same kind, except where it promotes uniformity in corresponding parts; That the pleasure derived from imitation, is greater, in proportion to the disparity between the imitating and the imitated object; That on this account the representation of indifferent or even offensive objects, is allowable in painting, but not in sculpture; and that painted statues, artificial fruits, &c. where this disparity disappears, immediately disgust after they have surprised, while very inferior representations in tapestry and needle work continue to delight; That the idea of expense, enhances the value of imitation, as in tapestry; and that of cheapness depreciates, as in cut trees; That the pleasure arising from imitation in statuary and painting, is incompatible with deception, since it is founded on a self-evident perception of the disparity between the representing and the represented object; That, for this reason, a slight imitation in vocal, and a still slighter in instrumental, music, is gratifying; That the chief power of vocal music, as an imitative art, consists in its imitation of those repetitions in which passion so much delights to indulge; That the principal delight of instrumental music (independently of the proper and peculiar charms of all music—melody and harmony) arises, not from its power of imitation, but of exciting different tempers and dispositions of mind; and its principal aid in dramatic exhibitions, from its exciting such tempers and dispositions as are congenial to the scene; and, That, in dancing, as the disparity of the imitation is less, its merit is less, than that of statuary and painting; though, from its power of representing a continued history, it may featly affect us more.—These remarks are as just, as they are ingenious and new.
MARCH the 25th
Read Adam Smith's Account of the External Senses. He seems to think, that the sense of Touch, is the only one which primarily and necessarily excites the idea of external substance, by pressure from without; though he appears disposed to believe, that the other senses suggest some vague idea of this kind, by an instinct subservient to other purposes. I do not exactly apprehend the distinction; and suspect that he was not very clear and firm in it, himself.—Smith has a pretty remark, in his History of Astronomy, on Philosophical Systems. These, says he, in many respects, resemble machines: a machine, is a little system, created to perform, as well as to connect together in reality, those different movements and effects which the artist has occasion for; a system, is an imaginary machine, invented to connect together, in the fancy, those different movements and effects which are already performed. How happy an illustration!
Pursued Hurd's Dialogues. A note in the 4th, ridiculing the reduction of the Church of Christ to its pure and primitive state of indigence and suffering, strongly reminded me of a corresponding passage in Burke's 2nd Letter on the Revolution in France, addressed to a Member of the National Assembly, where he reprobates, with cutting severity, the entrusting the concerns of the Gallican Church to Mirabeau.
MARCH the 27th
Finished Hurd's Dialogues. In the 7th and 8th, in disfavour of foreign travel, the parts of Shaftsbury and Locke, but particularly of the latter, are sustained with incomparable spirit. In the twelve Letters on Chivalry and Romance, the origin of the spirit of chivalry (the distinguishing spirit of modern times), as it exhibits itself in the characteristics of prowess, generosity, gallantry, and religion, is satisfactorily traced to feudal institutions; the heroic and gothic manners arc ably compared; and the superiority of the latter, in a poetical view, successfully asserted.—Parr's imputation on Hurd, given on the authority of a friend, who, by the description, must be Porson, "that he had softened the aspect of certain uncourtly opinions, in the different successive editions of these dialogues," I can affirm, from a minute collation, to be unfounded. Alterations have indeed been made: but they are chiefly such, either as were necessary when the writer exchanged the character of Editor for that of Author; or which evince his good taste and discernment in removing the blemishes of first composition. Those which respect the strictures on Hume's History, are the most material and the most curious.
APRIL the 11th
Looked over King's Origin of Evil. He divides Evil into, 1st Evil of defect, of the want of those perfections which exist elsewhere; 2ndly natural Evil, or the pains and incommodities arising from physical causes; 3rdly. moral Evil, which he places in the vicious election of natural good and evil: and endeavours to show, that infinite wisdom, power, and goodness, could not have constructed the best possible system without them, or with less of them than appears; on the principle, that not one of these evils could have been prevented or diminished, without incurring a greater evil than that which was removed. Pope has evidently borrowed his doctrine of "whatever is, is best," from this work.
APRIL the 15th
Mr. L. breakfasted and spent the day with me. Had a long and interesting conversation on the subject of Rousseau. He had brought a volume of the Nouvelle Héloise in his pocket; and spoke of its author, notwithstanding his known partiality for classic literature, as, without any exception, the greatest genius and the finest writer that ever lived. I can impute this only to a temporary fascination—to a fervid but transient glow of feeling, which of all men, his favourite is the most calculated to impart, and himself to catch.
Rousseau is a character who has by turns transported me with the most violent and opposite emotions, of delight and disgust, admiration and contempt, indignation and pity: but my ultimate opinion of him, drawn as it is from a pretty attentive consideration of his writings and his actions, will not, I think, easily be changed.
This extraordinary man, it is evident, was constitutionally of an ardent spirit, vivid imagination, and most acute feeling. A mind thus attempered, is naturally prone to brood over its own visions; to hang, with fond complacency, upon a scene where everything is arrayed at the disposition of the will and in the tint of fancy; and to turn aside with soreness and disgust from the spectacle of real life, in which good and ill are so intimately and stubbornly mingled; where apathy succeeds enjoyment; interest and self-will dissolve the charm of social intercourse; avarice and pride disturb the dreams (the endearing dreams) of sentiment and passion; and even the sweet sympathies of pity itself, are chafed and exasperated into anguish, by the coarse manners, squalid rags, and loathsome horrors, that too often accompany the wretched. Expelled at a tender age from those domestic habitudes which mitigate the natural fierceness of man; a sort of outcast from his family, his country, and almost from his species; a wild and needy adventurer, cursed with a fastidious delicacy, and exposed to that scorn and contumely and insolent neglect, which the pride of genius most impatiently endures; he contracted a distempered sensibility, which forms the distinguishing feature of his character, and animates almost every passage in his writings. He wrote from the heart; but from a heart excoriated by real or imputed wrongs, stung with a maddening sense of the depravity and sufferings of his species, and inflamed with an implacable indignation at the causes of these evils, as he viewed them, through his perturbed imagination, in the civil social and domestic institutions, the received opinions, and prevailing practices of mankind. Upon these accordingly he pours out, in consuming fire, the vials of his wrath; while he arrays in all the glowing hues of impassioned eloquence, romantic modes of being, dear indeed, and delightful to the fancy, but utterly incompatible with the real and unalterable condition of our nature.
His maiden essay was an attack upon civilized society. It was an attempt, by exposing and aggravating the follies the vices and the sufferings which plague us in refinement, and by deepening the horrors of this gloomy spectacle with the glowing contrast of a visionary state of unlettered innocence and freedom, to make us loathe ourselves and everything around us, and to look for no amendment in our unhappy condition, but through the entire dissolution of the social system we live in. Had Rousseau written nothing but this piece, or had he written afterwards in a different strain, we might have ascribed the extravagance of its doctrines to a sportive sally of the imagination, or an eager ambition of distinction; but from the whole tenor of his subsequent compositions, from the solemn confessions of his own mouth, these doctrines were the serious and settled conviction of his mind. Let us look at his Nouvelle Hèloise.
Of all the modes of inculcating opinion, that which brings before us a vivid representation of real life, where everything lives and moves and breathes at the disposition of the fancy; which indirectly enforces its sentiments by the energy of character and action, and impressively stamps them on the mind by the interest and fascination of circumstantial narrative,—has unquestionably the fairest chance for rapid and popular effect. Feeble and impotent is the most animated exhortation, lifeless and inert are the most authoritative precepts, compared with the powerful and seductive influence of a well-conceived and well conducted novel; which, while it awakens breathless curiosity and enchains expectant attention by the magic of its fable, while it agitates at pleasure and in modes most conducive to its purpose all the varieties of passion, silently liquefies and moulds to its will, the taste, the turn of thought, the moral sentiments, and the moral character of its reader. Of compositions like these, I shall always take the liberty to collect the aim, from the final and predominant impression which they leave upon the mind. If their tendency is, upon the whole, to relax the obligations to virtue and smooth the declivities to vice, by means which it is so entirely in the power of the writer to employ and to conceal, it is not any declaration on his part, nor any corrective he may put in his own mouth, or in those of the personages he brings forward, no, nor any lenient qualification he may deem it prudent to introduce in the moral government of his drama, which shall soothe my unguarded unsuspecting simplicity into a persuasion of the innocent spirit of the work, or the virtuous views of the author. The effect it is impossible to mistake; the intention, at best, is equivocal. With what impressions, then, do we rise from the perusal of Julia? With a considerable abatement, I think, in our exquisite sense and high estimation (to say no more) of three most important regulations in life: regulations, which engrafted as they are, upon the dearest of our personal and bosom interests, strike deep into the composition of our several characters, mingle with the whole texture of our domestic economy, and affect, remotely indeed, but powerfully, the entire fabric of civil society;—those, I mean, which enjoin the purest chastity in females before marriage; a deference to parental authority, in the disposal of their affections and their persons; and a sacred horror to whatever may tend, after marriage, to alienate their conjugal regards. Love, which it is the object of these, regulations to check from diffusion or perversion, and to conduct into its regular fructifying channels, has so universal and absolute an influence, enters into our composition at so green an age, and agitates the tender germ with such an impetuous and fervid impulse, that in the cultivation of the human mind, it cannot be to vigilantly watched, or sedulously trained. This imperious passion, from which we derive our being and transmit it, and in a great degree our characters too, it has been the endeavour of Rousseau to exasperate into an impatience of all control; and to convert into an engine for overwhelming its natural guardians and protectors, as tyrannical usurpers over the rights of nature. What is the story he brings before us? A young lady, the only and darling child of a man of rank, and proud of that rank, conceives a passionate attachment for a youth entrusted with the delicate charge of her education; a clandestine intercourse is carried on; the impossibility of union reverberates the flame, and kindles intolerable ardour; the youth is modest and reserved; the enamoured maid invites him to her bed, and rewards his passion with the last favour a virgin can bestow: an improper sympathy is suspected by the father; he proposes and presses an equal match on which he had long set his heart; she reluctantly consents; she dismisses her lover; she marries; she resumes her old correspondence with her favourite paramour; she admits him, with her husband's permission, an inmate in the house; she is indulged with opportunities of renewing with him the passionate scenes, and reviving the harrowing remembrances, of former days; and expires in this unnatural intercourse. When these things are fairly set before us, in all their naked deformity, we want no monitor to prompt our aversion and disgust. We see by an intuitive glance, we feel by an instinctive thrill, all the pestilent disorders which would flow in upon us, from our encouragement, from our toleration, of such practices; from our not driving them, as we do, by common consent, from society, with shame and scorn and detestation. It requires no logic to convince us, that if the settled restrictions on these subjects were once removed, and nothing substituted but loose personal discretion swayed by every gust of appetite and passion, that all domestic security and comfort, all parental care, all filial duty, all pure and hallowed affection, all conjugal confidence and endearment, would be overwhelmed under a flood of gross adulterous lust and corrupted sentiment. What shall we think then of a writer, who, by the fascination of his fable, the melting fervour of his sentiments, and the vivid force of his thrilling descriptions, induces us, not to palliate as venial errors, not to approve as amiable failings, but to enter into and adopt as our own, to cherish as consolatory expedients, and embrace as a sort of sanctuary and refuge from despair, these flagrant violations of delicacy, decency, and chastity? Is it enough to say, that the actors in this scene, are beings of a peculiar order: that in the present depraved condition of human manners, such practices might not be perfectly prudent; but that when the same purity of sentiment is found, and the same difficulties occur, the same pastoral freedoms may innocently be indulged? Love, to which these edifying lectures are addressed, is, to be sure, a most distinguishing passion, and extremely cautious and deliberative in all its proceedings. No boarding-school young lady, after such an admonition, can be giddy enough to fancy herself a Julia; nor her dancing master, a St. Preux; nor her barbarous father, who may, from groveling prejudice, oppose the dear scheme Of Arcadian felicity, a Baron D 'Etange; nor her future husband, should he prove not quite so indulgent as M. Wolmar, a narrow-minded, hard-hearted, illiberal tyrant
His professed plan of education, is just in the same strain. It is an ingenious scheme to rear up a sort of enlightened savage; a being, who, in the midst of social habitudes, is to act upon the strength of his own judgment, in the pursuit of his own pleasure, with a perfect contempt for all the opinions and all the practices of the world he lives in. "Voulant former l'homme de la nature, il ne s'agit pas pour cela d'en faire un sauvage, et de le réléguer an fond des bois; mais qu'enfermé dans le tourbillon social, il suffit ne s'y laisse entrainer, ni par les passions, ni par les opinions des hommes; qu'il voye par ses yeux, sente par son cœuur, qu'aucune autorité ne le gouverne hors celle de sa propre raison."<49> It is an insane attempt to inflame that generous warmth of feeling, which inspires an ingenuous frankness of temper and erect independence of spirit, into a devouring conflagration against the system which these qualities seem peculiarly destined to purify and to adorn. Without entering into a direct refutation of paradoxes which their warmest admirers have never ventured to adopt, it is sufficient to remark, that supposing beings attempered to our wishes, constituted and trained up just as we would have them, such a plan of culture would be miserably defective, as forcing each individual to subsist on his own separate stock or observation and experience, instead of resorting to the common accumulating fund derived from the observation and experience of ages: but, taking human nature as we really find it, and as it ever has been found; assuming that mankind are subject to excesses and defects of passion, which it is the object Of laws, morality, and manners, to restrain, supply, and regulate; it requires no powers of prophecy to foresee, and common prudence has ever felt, into what horrible confusion and mischief the abrogation of all this discipline from without, by encouraging each individual, on the principle of taking nothing upon trust, "to be the only law unto himself," must, whilst man continues man, inevitably lead. It is the spirit of the writer, which I have chiefly in view.
That keen and morbid sensibility which may be regarded as the root of all these seductive but pernicious visions, produced in the unhappy writer himself, amidst much specious and hyperbolical virtue, many of the worst effects of a malignant and depraved disposition. To man, as he would have had him, Rousseau overflowed with tender, generous, and endearing emotions; to man, as he is, he was above measure querulous, captious, sour, perverse, and discontented: as a friend, he was clouded with dark and preposterous suspicions; and, as a lover, he quenched the fervours of a delirious fancy in the most coarse and revolting sensuality. The rubs, the insults, the acrimonious attacks, and petty persecutions, to which the singularity of his opinions and practices of course exposed him, though borne apparently with sufficient vexation by his irritable spirit, became, in time, the only element in which he could satisfactorily subsist: they not only fed the cravings of an insatiable vanity, and fanned a zeal which might otherwise have languished in support of his favourite paradoxes, but seem, by degrees, to have acquired the force of an habitual stimulative, eagerly sought by the unhappy victim to irritate a distempered sensibility into pleasurable action; till, disqualified at length for all the regular quiet enjoyments of life, and utterly alien, abhorrent, and ferocious, to the whole system of its manners and habits, by the united operation of these causes, if it was not at the bottom of them all, he exhibited in his latter days, and particularly, I think, on his visit to this country, the most unequivocal symptoms of a disordered intellect.
I have thrown together these thoughts on Rousseau, while my mind is still warm with our conversation respecting him: but I did not venture to bring forward to Mr. L. all that I have stated, since everything is frequently lost by endeavouring to accomplish too much.
We agreed far better in our opinion of Richardson and his Works. He admitted that the character of Sir Charles Grandison was by no means of such unnatural excellence, as not to furnish a very captivating and most instructive example. However consummately accomplished this moral hero is represented, he appears, on all occasions, actuated by the real passions, corrected by the genuine sympathies of our nature. What must be deemed romantic, I fear, are the effects ascribed to his conduct. Were virtue of such sure efficacy in actual life, who (we are tempted to exclaim) would not be virtuous? It is the perpetual and vexatious disappointment to which our good intentions are exposed, from the perverse and intractable nature of the system on which they are doomed to act, which really forms the great discouragement to virtuous exertion;-a discouragement far more operative, than any exacted conflict (of which we hear so much) with our appetites and passions. Other difficulties may brace our moral resolution, even when they overpower it; this relaxes, by despondency, the virtuous principle itself: nor am I surprised or offended, if, in the anguish of a soul overwhelmed by this intolerable affliction—the more discomfiting, the more generous the nature which it visits—Brutus should have exclaimed, as he is said to have done, in his last moments, That the virtue he had so long adored, was but an empty name! In fiction, these untoward obstructions may be either entirely suppressed, or if brought forward, so managed as only to irritate our sensibility to a keen relish of their triumphant demolition; and it is here, accordingly, where a departure from truth is at once the least perceptible and the most efficacious, that a well written novel usually deviates the most widely from real life. The endowments, moral and intellectual, of Sir Charles Grandison, however transcendent, present a fair field for generous emulation: but sanguine indeed must be his temper, who, with a competent knowledge of the world, should expect from them the same prosperous issues in practice, which they produce, with so much plausibility, in fiction; and which, if they were found to obtain in real life as they do in fable, would soon, by the congenial encouragement thus held out to beneficence, reduce the market price of the virtues far below the standard which they at present so justly maintain in the estimation of mankind.—Our duties limit each other. It was impossible to exhibit the perfect pattern of an accomplished gentleman, without appearing to stint some of those qualifications which the world is most disposed to admire; and it is curious to observe the pains which Richardson has taken to palliate this inevitable difficulty, by seizing every opportunity to bring out and set off, as much as he consistently could, Sir Charles' gallantry and spirit: he evidently felt where the popular objection to such a character would lie; but, after all, I am afraid he has not satisfied the ladies.—L., very acutely and perhaps justly, ascribed the superior popularity of this work over the Clarissa (which he regarded as much the more masterly performance), to its enforcing rather the lesser manners, which form the charm and safeguard of civilized life, than the higher morals, engrafted on the fiercer passions.
Finished the 2nd Vol. of Russell's History of Modern Europe. I agree with this sensible writer, that the spirit of persecution did not spring, as many have endeavoured to represent, from a decay of Christian piety; and that the first preachers of Christianity would have been persecutors if they could. Nothing, to be sure, can be more adverse to persecution, than the suavity and benignity of soul which Christianity inculcates: but the peculiar and exclusive character of its doctrines, acting on such a creature as man, has a natural and invincible tendency, I fear, to generate intolerance. If we see, in modern times, but little of this spirit, it arises from the general languor and indifference which prevails on all religious subjects: the pertinacity and zeal, however, with which the distinguishing tenets of their creed are still maintained among sectaries, strikingly evince, what sort of temper and disposition precise articles of faith, not loosely professed in compliance with general opinion, but fervently embraced as the essential conditions of salvation, will infallibly engender in the human mind.—This is an extremely useful and well written work.
APRIL the 16th
Read the first Book of Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding,—in refutation of the doctrine of innate principles. One now wonders, how it could ever have been thought necessary to say so much, on so very plain a point. The main argument lies in a narrow compass:—general principles must be conversant with general ideas; but particular ideas must enter the mind before general ideas, and consequently general principles, can be formed.
Finished the Novel of Nourjahad in the evening. Nothing, I think, can be more happily conceived for its purpose, than the plan of this little romance; and it is very prettily executed. It goes much farther than Swift's Struldbrugs; since they only perpetuated the infirmities of age, while Nourjahad possessed, in fancy, immortal vigour.
APRIL the 22nd
Read the 34th and last Letter of the 2nd Part of the History of Modern Europe,—on the progress of society in Europe during the present century:—the work of a superior mind, very intimately conversant with the literature and elegant arts of that period. The account of the contest between the King and Clergy and Parliaments of France, opens, in a very striking manner, the germ of the subsequent Revolution: we see that event distinctly in its first movements.
Lieut. G. P. of the 49th Regt. of Foot, very unexpectedly came in. He stated, that he had as a private in his Company, the late usurper captain of the Lancaster. Admiral Paisley, he said, assured him, that they had not been able to trace the naval mutiny to any correspondence with shore; but that the prime instigators of it, there was every reason to believe, had escaped under the general pardon.
MAY the 9th
Finished Bertrand De Moleville's Memoirs of the Last Year of the Reign of Louis the 16th. They contain much curious, and I presume, authentic information relative to the crisis of the Revolution; and clearly show, that the King, though certainly not attached by affection to the New Constitution which he had accepted, was conscientiously determined to maintain it: but that a spirit had gone forth, hostile to all monarchy; and that his contest with this spirit (an unequal struggle), furnished the grounds of all the charges against him. Even before the meeting of the States, it appears, that the people at Rennes in Brittany, and probably in other towns, were quite ripe for the Revolution in its fullest extent.—The King's character is placed by this work, upon the whole, in a very amiable light; and there appears, in general, to have been a far greater ease, graciousness, and condescension, in the French Court, than, our own.—Some of the facts developed in this tract, are very surprising. Who would have supposed that Danton, and some of the fiercest Jacobins, were actually at one time in the pay of the Court, for the purpose of giving, even in their most outrageous speeches and addresses, a desirable turn to the public mind! I do not see how the King could honestly deny all knowledge of such corruption.
MAY the 13th
Began Dalrymple's Memoirs of Great Britain and Ireland; and read the two introductory sections; containing a masterly review of our political affairs, from the commencement of the Monarchy to the Restoration; and thence to the dissolution of the last Parliament of Charles II.—the period when the Memoirs immediately commence. There seems much originality of thought and expression, and (what I like still better) a true Whig spirit, in this work. One passage in the first Sect. struck me as pointedly applicable to the present times;—"Men forgot, in their danger from foreign invasions, the precedents which were established at home against the liberties of their posterity."
Looked over the Correspondence between the American Envoys and the French Directory; which exhibits the latter—those chosen representatives of stern republican virtue—in a new character,—as the unprincipled and grovelling votaries of the most low and sordid corruption. I suppose such a scene of Old Bailey diplomacy, in which common honesty is denied the decent homage of hypocrisy, was never before presented to the world.
MAY the 17th
Finished the 1st Vol., comprising the two first Parts, of Dalrymple's Memoirs. In the structure and turn of the sentences; in the close and laboured compression of the matter; in vivid delineation of character and scene; in deep, original, and sagacious remarks on human passions and sentiments, generally just and happy, but sometimes far-fetched and misplaced, and often abruptly urged in the shape of pithy sententious declarations,—these Memoirs bear a striking resemblance to the compositions of Tacitus; of whose beauties and blemishes, but (as in all imitations) chiefly of the latter, they strongly partake. The character of the Scottish Clans, at the close of B. 2., P. 2., is drawn with uncommon force and spirit; and may fairly be opposed, I think, to any descriptive painting which Tacitus has given.—But whatever may be thought of the manner of this Work, the matter, which may be considered as embracing the immediate causes and effects of the Revolution in 1688, is unquestionably of the deepest importance to every lover of the constitution; and it is treated in a way, I apprehend, adapted to give a very just impression of this interesting portion of our history.—So strong, it is observable, is our sympathy with the great, that notwithstanding the obstinate bigotry, arbitrary spirit, and infatuated perverseness, of James the II., and our full assurance that his deposition was absolutely necessary for the preservation of our liberties, we still cannot help commiserating his fallen fortunes, when distinctly brought before us: nor is the cold petrific character of our deliverer, William, at all calculated to diminish this interest. The traits of national spirit in the former, in spite of his strict connections with France; particularly at the battle of La Hogue, so fatal to his hopes, where he could not resist exclaiming "none but my brave English could have done this",—are very touching.—Some of the Whigs at the Revolution, appear to have leaned more towards republicanism, than I had supposed.—The Appendix, forming the 2nd Vol., contains many interesting documents, which exhibit several points in our history in a very different light from that in which the speculations of our historians had previously placed them. What a different tale would history tell, had we always access to such materials as these!
JUNE the 3rd
Attended Queen-Square Chapel in the morning. The Sermon was an undisguised, but declamatory, defence of the doctrine of the Trinity; founded, as its text, upon the exploded passage in John, of the "Three that bear record in Heaven;"<50> respecting the authenticity of which, not a suspicion was hinted. Was this ignorance, or pious fraud, or merely a total want of candour?
Looked afterwards into the Roman Catholic Chapel, in Duke-Street. The thrilling tinkle of the little bell at the elevation of the Host, is perhaps the finest example that can be given, of the sublime by association:—nothing, so poor and trivial in itself; nothing So transcendently awful, as indicating the sudden change of the consecrated Elements, and the instant presence of the Redeemer.
JUNE the 5th
Read Haslam on Insanity. This dreadful visitation he ascribes, not to a false perception, or morbid intensity, but to a wrong association, of ideas. There surely, however, must be more in it than this.—I once asked a professional gentleman, who had particular opportunities of experience on the subject, whether he always found the brain of maniacs in a preternatural or disordered state. He said that he frequently, perhaps generally, did; but that in many cases where the faculties were most completely deranged, that organ had every appearance of being in a perfectly sound and healthy condition.
Looked over Godwin's Memoirs of Mrs. Woolstonecraft; which strikingly evince that love, even in a modern philosopher, "emollit mores, nec sinet esse feros."<51> This austere moralist, from whose forbidding frown we should expect that Cupid would shrink away abashed, becomes quite bland, obsequious, and gallant, under his fascinating influence.
Attended the Opera in the evening:—Il Barbiere di Seviglia.<52> Morelli was admirable throughout: but in a cadenza introduced in a Trio at the close of the first Act, surpassed in clearness, depth, and volume of tone, and facility, brilliancy, and correctness of execution, what I had supposed possible for the human voice; especially, so far as execution is concerned, a voice of that calibre. The general charge alleged against him by the cognoscenti, that he is sometimes out of tune, I confess escaped my observation; and I listened to him very attentively.—After all, the continued, and (as for the greater part it necessarily must be) unmeaning, recitative of the Italian Opera, by degrees wearies the patience: the sudden transition, on the other hand, from dialogue to song, in the English Opera, is, I allow, too abrupt: might not a compromise take place; and the airs in the latter be introduced by an accompanied recitative of an impassioned sentence leading to the song, with good effect? I should like, at any rate, to have the effect tried.
JUNE the 10th
Detained at Kingston, on our way to Portsmouth, by finding every vehicle and' every horse engaged in the forwarding troops to Ireland at this exigent crisis.<52> The Duke of Clarence actively and intently occupied in superintending the requisite arrangements.—Escaped out of the crowd and bustle and strolled to Richmond.
Passed on our way, by Ham Common, an extraordinary Elm, called Ham Church: two-thirds of its enormous trunk decayed away; the remainder pierced through; but the top still exuberant. Ascended Richmond Terrace, and enjoyed perhaps the most richly variegated scene in English landscape. Returned by the Thames, and paused, with much interest, opposite Pope's villa and garden: his favourite willow on the lawn propped up by stakes; and exhibiting, abstractedly considered, an unsightly spectacle.—Great men should plant trees of longer duration: we might still wider the broad and majestic shade of Shakespeare's Oak.
JUNE the 11th
Reached Portsmouth. Between the 40th and 42nd mile from Town, climbed, by a long ascent, having a vast hollow called the Devil's Punch Bowl on our right, to the top of Hindhead Hill, commanding a glorious retrospect of the country we had traversed. A bleak and dreary heath around: its wildness heightened by a gibbet with the remains of three bodies on it; and a stone, memorialising the spot of "barbarous murder" committed by these wretches on an unknown sailor.—Between Petersfield and Horndean, pursued a devious course round the bases of smooth and lofty downs, rising steeply above on both sides, and, producing, a singular effect on an eve habituated to a level and enclosed country. Beyond Horndean, entered a luxuriant sylvan scene, rendered agreeably wild, simply by there being no separations of fence or hedgerow between the woodlands and the road;—a circumstance not common in English landscape; and on this account, Perhaps as well as from its intrinsic recommendations, particularly pleasing.—Grand burst from the brow of Portsdown hill, over an intervening level, of Portsmouth and its harbour; the straights beyond, sprinkled with men of war and shipping of all kinds; and the Isle of Wight, stretching away, finely in the distance.
JUNE the 13th
Rowed over to Cowes in a small open skiff:—the sea calm, still, and smooth as a mill-pond, "looking tranquillity." Singular and picturesque effect of the town of West Cowes; hanging on a steep acclivity at the mouth of the Medina; the houses and streets rising one above another in rapid succession.—Strolled to the poor remains of the Castle, and along a sweetly sequestered lane, opening occasionally; on the Inner Passage, sweeping like a mighty river, to the right; till we caught a grand view of it, extending in a long vista, and bounded by the opposite projecting points of Cary Sconce and Hurst Castle—the Western Downs rising in huge ridges to the left.
JUNE the 14th
Ferried over the river to some agreeable shady walks upon its banks; and climbed the opposite heights; exhibiting beautiful retrospect of the town, the harbour, and the shipping; inlaid below in bright enamel. Pursued the road to Alverstone till we attained an expansive view of the rich and diversified vale of Newport, spreading as far as. Sir Richard Worsley's Obelisk at Appuldurcombe;—the naked ridge of Arreton Downs extending about midway to the left. Returned round by Barton, an antique stone mansion; and at the back of Osborne House, to the highest point of ground in this direction: from whence a magnificent prospect of the Straights, and the English coast; tis far as the aching sight could carry.
JUNE the 15th
Had an agreeable sail to Newport, about five miles up the river Medina. Visited Carisbrook Castle, proudly crowning the summit of an eminence; but deficient in effect, from the want of picturesque accompaniments. Missed my friend Ogden, the old soldier; who: on a previous excursion acted as Cicerone to the place; and was accustomed, at the conclusion, to exhibit himself as the greatest curiosity there, being the person in whose arms the immortal Wolfe expired. Found, on enquiry of his son, who has succeeded him in the office of guide, and who still preserves with religious veneration the General's cane, that the gallant veteran was gone to the grand and final muster, at which, sooner or later, we must all appear. On my former visit, I was of course solicitous to enquire respecting the last moments of a hero, on whose fall, the arts of painting, poetry, and sculpture, have contrived to. Throw so bright a blaze of glory. The old fellow assured me, that far from displaying the lively interest ascribed to him, in the fate of the day, he appeared absorbed in his own sufferings, oppressed with debility and languor, and nearly insensible to what was passing around him. It is not pleasant to have illusions of this kind destroyed: but as the natural propensity of my informant would be; rather to aggrandise, than depreciate, the fame of one with whom he must feel his own so nearly connected, there can be little reason to question the truth and accuracy of his representation.—Ascended to the highest point of the Keep, commanding an extensive but uninteresting prospect over the whole interior of the Island. Viewed again the celebrated Well, 200 feet deep to the water; 30 of which are walled with stone, and 170 pierced through rock: and 70 feet more of water at the bottom. Its prodigious depth best shown by dropping down a lighted sheet of paper, which, as it whirls round and round, in its spiral descent, emits a sound like the roaring of a furnace; and, at length, when it touches the water, casts a transient gleam over its surface, which appears about the compass of a silver penny. A naval officer lately, in bravado, jumped across the well, and forgot the transverse spindle, round which the bucket winds:—he escaped; but the blood curdles at the imminent and horrible danger to which his rashness exposed him.
After dinner, strolled to the sequestered village of Arreton, lying snugly at the foot of the southern declivity of the Downs; and, climbing to their summit, pursued the extreme ridge, which runs transversely, East and West, about midway athwart this portion of the island, and sloping steeply and smoothly down on both sides, presents, in either direction, a prospect almost equally attractive: extending, to the South, over a rich and variegated hollow, tufted with trees, sparkling with streams, and enlivened with villages and spires, to the heights of Appuldurcombe; and, to the North, over the whole expanse of this division of the Island spread like a sylvan wilderness beneath, and across the vast arm of the Outer Passage distinctly studded with the men of war at Spithead, to a long line of the English Coast, on which, through a transparent atmosphere, Gosport, Portsmouth, Havant, even the city of Chichester, and headlands stretching far beyond on the Sussex Coast, were clearly discernible.
JUNE the 16th
Drove to Shanklin Chine, a perpendicular rift in a lofty cliff: formed probably by the rush of waters, a torrent still gurgling in hollow murmurs at the bottom. The sides of this tortuous cleft, richly feathered with trees and underwood; and an enchanting peep from the deep shades and secluded recesses of this romantic glen, on a brightly illumined segment of the ocean, caught, in distant perspective, through its aperture. From the top, a fine bird's eye view of the grand sweep of Sandown Bay, extending to the white cliffs of Culver. Dismissed our carriage at Luccombe; and, winding down under the steep sides of St. Boniface's Down, walked the whole extent of Undercliff—about six miles—an extraordinary, and, as far as my observation extends, an unparalleled scene. A continued line of heights, towering precipitously not less than 400 feet above, to the right, inhibits all access or egress in that direction; and effectually excludes the "tyrannous North" from the favoured region below: the strip of ground thus secluded and sheltered, and which receives its denomination of Undercliff on this account, varying from about a quarter to half a mile in breadth, tossed about in the happiest forms, and richly diversified with rock and wood and verdure, forms itself, the crown of another cliff; which breaks down boldly to the sea. Here are all the ingredients of romantic landscape; and they are most picturesquely combined, in every possible variety. Passed St. Boniface's cottage, lying snugly in a delicious recess under the shelving steeps to the right; and afterwards Mr. Tollemache's, luxuriantly embosomed in wood. Leaving Sir Richard Worsley's celebrated cottage and vineyard to the left, the scene gradually assumes a character of solitude and wildness:—the verdure becomes more scanty; foliage disappears; the heights to the right, break down in rugged masses of bare rock; nor is anything heard, in this sequestered region, but the deep murmur of the sea, and the hoarse cawing of innumerable ravens that nestle in the Cliff. Struck to the right, through a pass in the Cliff, and resumed our carriage at Niton.
JUNE the 18th
Had an uninteresting drive yesterday to Yarmouth,<54> passing under the dreary foot of Shalcombe Down. This morning crossed the Yar, and leaving Mr. Binstead's beautiful cottage, embowered in trees, to our left, turned the point of Cary Sconce, and pursued the shore to the narrowest part of the channel between Hurst Castle and the Island—scarce a mile over: had a fine prospect, from an adjoining cliff; of the Freshwater Downs terminated, by the Needles, to the left; the Hampshire Coast receding towards Christ Church, to the right; and the open sea spreading between them. Pleasing views, on our return, of the whole length of the Inner Passage, stretching as far as the headland by West Cowes; and of the luxuriant scenery up the Yar, bounded by Afton and Freshwater Downs, wrapped in shade—a sullen, but fine background.
In the evening perambulated Yarmouth; which has a neat and quiet, but antiquated and rather melancholy air. Many of the houses, the worst of which seem far from wretched, are formed of blocks of unsquared grey stone;—much more grateful to the picturesque eye (so little does beauty depend on convenience) than the mean squares, and harsh dingy colouring, of brick. The prison, a singular insulated little building; not calculated, apparently, for more than half a dozen tenants; and at present, I believe, not occupied by one.—The cottages in the Island, which are mostly built of stone, have in general a very comfortable aspect; and the peasantry and small farmers, we incline to think, appear better dressed, and in better condition, than the same class with us.
JUNE the 19th
Took boat up the Yar. About a mile and half from the town, passed, by permission, through Mr. Rushworth's pleasure grounds;—richly wooded, and forming a most sequestered retreat: myrtles flourishing luxuriantly in them, as ordinary shrubs, quite unprotected. Proceeded up the river to Freshwater; where its source is separated only by a narrow strip of pebbles from the sea, so that the two waters, I believe, are sometimes mingled. Sat down and enjoyed the rocky scenery of Freshwater Gate, animated by a brisk gale. Ascended by a long and steep slope to the summit of Freshwater Downs, 685 feet above the level of the sea; the Light-House Downs, separated by an intervening hollow, rising beyond. All to the North obscured by storms but a grand retrospect of the Southern shores, extending as far as St. Catharine's Hill, at the Western extremity of Undercliff,—the highest ground in the Island, being 752 feet above the level of the sea.—Struck, by a steep descent, down the Northern slope of the Downs; and returning through a rich and luxuriant country, finely relieved by the naked ridge we had traversed, resumed our boat at Freshwater. Observed, on our voyage back, a remarkably well-defined double rainbow; and that the sky around the interior curve, was considerably and uniformly darker than that within it:—a phaenomenon which I have noticed before, but do not remember to have seen explained.
JUNE the 24th
Walked at the back of Mr. Rushworth's grounds to the foot of Freshwater Downs, near the point to which we had descended on the 19th; and ascended, by a long acclivity, to the summit of the Light-House Downs, about twenty or thirty feet lower than the former;—accurately, it is said, by a late measurement, 685 feet above the level of the sea. Gloriously expansive prospect from the Light-House, embracing the whole western division of the Island, with its indented bays and winding shores; and an immense diffusion of the English coast, from the spires of Southampton, to St. Alban's Head; and even, faint in the distance, as we were told, the Isle of Portland, Hurst Castle, at the extremity of its narrow, curving spit of sand, and the contracted mouth of the Inner Passage, spread apparently close under our feet. A boundless extent of ocean to the South.—Cautiously ascended, by a shelving slope, to the brink of the cliff at the western extremity of the Downs, dropping plumb-down into the sea, which laves its base:—a far more giddy height than that of Shakespeare's Cliff at Dover. The Needles shooting out beneath, in a line of white pyramidal wedge-like rocks; the clear blue waves boiling round their bases, and curling up their sides. Listened fearfully, in this scene of solitude and wildness, to the hoarse murmur of the surges, raging under us in the depths below; and the dismal, piercing screams of the sea fowl, hovering around;—sounds finely accordant with the genius of the place.—Descended, through a cleft, to the beach of Allum Bay; and enjoyed, for an hour, the singular and beautiful scenery of its fantastic cliffs, trickling with rills, and stained, by their mineral depositions, with every variety of vivid hue.—Returned to Yarmouth by an intricate course across the common.
JUNE the 26th
Had a remarkably quick passage, to Lymington,—a distance of seven miles, in less than fifty minutes. Crossing the river by a causeway, pursued its course by an agreeable walk along its banks, up to Boldre; and returning by the upper mad, struck clown into a woody dell at the back of Vicar's Hill, Mr. Gilpin's parsonage, the object of our pilgrimage; shrouded, together with its gardens, in thick foliage. Contemplated with much interest the residence of a gentleman, by whose pen and whose pencil I have been almost equally delighted; and who, with an originality that always accompanies true genius, may be considered as having opened a new source of enjoyment in surveying the Works of Nature.—In the evening strolled down to the Salt Works; amidst dreary and melancholy marshes, with teasing views of the Isle of Wight, extending from Gurneys Bay to the Needles, but not a single eminence from which the whole could be satisfactorily enjoyed. Felt deeply the sad exchange of wretched clay hovels, for the comfortable cottages of the Island.
JUNE the 29th
Reached Salisbury yesterday. This morning visited the Cathedral for the second time, and was again struck with the magical effect of its architecture; though light and elegant, above measure solemn and impressive. Whatever may be the questionable superiority of the more regular Orders over the Gothic, in religious buildings, seen from without, all doubts are hushed when they are contemplated within; nor can the majestic simplicity of the former be compared, for architectural pathos, with the intricacy, variety, and awful grandeur of the latter. The spire of the Cathedral, which beautifully tapers to a greater height than the Cross of St. Paul's, appears to have declined from its original perpendicularity, about seven inches to the NE by E. A magnificent, showy monument to a Duke of Somerset,—but in wretched taste: allegorical figures are bad on canvas; but detestable, stuck up in stone.—The Close, spacious and handsome; and most happily adapted for the abode of reverend ease, and learned leisure.—The town itself, chiefly remarkable for the straightness of its streets; and the singular luxury of a salubrious stream of pure water, running with a brisk current through each of them.
JUNE the 30th
Visited Wilton House. Noble cedars of Lebanon adorning the approach. The Palladian bridge (an absurdity in architecture) under repair. In front of the grand entrance, a beautiful column, the shaft of which was transported to the Temple of Venus by Julius Caesar;—one side of it manifestly worn by the weather. The house, of stone; built, according to the sullen taste of our ancestors, round a quadrangular area, dark, damp, and cheerless. Gorgeous display of antique magnificence within. The hall spacious and grand, and most appropriately decorated with ancient armour: a curule chair<55> in it; which, if genuine, is indeed a curiosity. The great drawing-room, a double cube, sixty feet by thirty; another, exactly cubical,—a most incommodious and unsightly shape. Much struck with a copy of the Apollo Belvidere, in an attitude, and with an air, of grace, dignity, and spirit, more than mortal:—a bust of Pompey; the face distinctly and thickly pitted, as if with the small-pox:—the Dying Gladiator, wonderfully and touchingly expressive, in position and countenance, of the languor of approaching death:—Vandyke's Pembroke Family, and Charles the I.; the colouring not warm, indeed, with the mellow hues of Titian, nor dazzling with the resplendent glow of Rubens, but true to the chaste and sober tints of ordinary nature:—and an inimitable head of the Virgin by Carlo Dolce, encircled with flowers; in every part most elaborately and exquisitely finished, but the flesh rather inclining, from excessive polish and lubricity, to what Sir Joshua Reynolds calls, an ivory hardness.
JULY the 2nd
Reached Winchester, twenty-four miles, by Stockbridge, fifteen, yesterday evening:—an uninteresting drive through a dreary country destitute of houses and trees, till we reached a wood of ancient yews, producing a very solemn and pleasing effect, about three miles from Winchester. Visited the Cathedral: very defective on the outside, for want of a spire to give a relief and finish to the pile: the interior, massy Saxon; contrasting strikingly with the airy lightness of that of Salisbury. Interesting monuments of William of Wyckham, Bishops Gardiner, Fox, and Hoadley; and the recumbent skeleton effigies of a nameless prelate, who perished in attempting to imitate our Saviour's fast of forty days;—the last of his order, I suspect, who will be guilty of this species of Lenten extravagance. To the East of the choir, an ancient chapel, paved with roman bricks, in which Philip and Mary were married. Saw, in a side-aisle, the vaults of the Saxon kings; and chests, on an opposite screen, in which their bones are reposited. The font, very ancient, with rude sculpture:—the whole hewn out of one block of dark-coloured stone. The altar piece, the resurrection of Lazarus, by West;—a fine subject, but feebly treated. The screen to the choir, most exquisitely carved in stone.
Viewed, on the brow of a hill to the West of the city, the unfinished palace of Charles the II.-an immense pile, presenting a double row of twenty-seven large windows in the grand front, and seventeen in depth:—now converted into barracks, holding 4000 troops. The ditch, and some remains of the ancient walls of the city, visible at the bottom of the hill, in this direction. The streets of the present town, very narrow and incommodious.
JULY the 2nd
Reached Farnham, twenty-seven miles, by Alresford eight, and Alton ten.—Ascended to the castle, now the bishop's palace, and walked the extent of the grand avenue of the park; commanding a variegated and delightful prospect over Farnham, and a luxuriant country richly intermingled, with hill and dale, to distant heights towards the South: Moor-Park House, the favourite residence of Sir William Temple, and near which his heart lies buried,—a spot rendered still more interesting by having been the frequent abode of Swift when visiting his patron,—peeping sweetly out of its wood-screened vale.—Pursued our way to the heath behind the Park; and gained, by a long but gentle ascent, the top of Brigsbury Hill, a projecting headland to the North; enclosed on every side but that (where the steepness of the descent made such a defence unnecessary), with the remains of an ancient fortification, consisting of a double ditch and ramparts. Expansive view from hence in every direction but to the West: Hindhead Hill bounding the prospect to the South; but high ranges, far more remote, to the South-West: an immense plain extending towards London; faintly marked on its extreme verge by St. Paul's Cupola which cannot be less than thirty-five miles distant in a straight line. Struck across the heath to the left, and upon its western edge had a glorious burst in that direction, over a boundless expanse of rich and level country, shooting in capes of enclosure and cultivation, into the bleak and barren moor below,—marked by Fleet Pond, and intersected by the Basingstoke. Canal.
JULY the 6th
Viewed an exhibition of Italian pictures, near Leicester-Square. Principally struck with a St. Catharine, by Carlo Dolce; her head encircled with a wreath of flowers, and attended by a cherub displaying wings brilliantly be-dropt with every vivid hue, yet the "purpureum lumen"<56> of her countenance still triumphant:—a Lucretia, by Guercino, finely drawn and coloured, without any of his usual coarseness of manner:—a Fortune and Cupid, by Guido; with his accustomed grace, and sweetness of tone: and a Pope, by Titian; a noble portrait, full of life, character, and simple unaffected dignity. Not much delighted with several saffron-coloured paintings, by Raphael, in his first hard, laboured, stiff manner; something after the style of the figures we meet with, in illuminated missals.—Examined the tints of Dolce and Guercino. Five very distinguishable;—the bloom of flesh,—a. bright highlight,—a warm transparent reflex light,—a clear brown shadow,-and a soft greenish-blue middle tint;—exquisitely blended with, each other. These colours are all perceptible in nature, critically viewed; but seem not sufficiently attended to by modern artists, when they paint from life.
JULY the 11th
Viewed Miss Linwood's exhibition of needle work; which might be mistaken for painting, but for the excessive deadness of the surface, and the stiffness and harshness of some of the contours. The Woodman, from Barker, struck me as the best piece. The Madonna, from Raphael, is, I dare say, exact; but, with all his excellencies, Raphael must, in this case, have retained something of the hardness of manner of the first artists.—After all, this is a species of ingenious imitation which one does not wish to see prevail. The principal delight it affords, arises from the difficulty surmounted: the needle, though it may laboriously copy the effects, can never emulate the free, spirited, and masterly execution, of the pencil; and its productions are most grievously exposed to the molestation of moth and dust.
JULY the 12th
Finished Bissett's Life of Burke. He has a right view and just estimation of this wonderful man; and his work derives an additional interest, from the contemporary characters introduced: but it by no means precludes, what I have sometimes meditated, "A Dissertation on the Genius and Character of Edmund Burke,"—a subject rich in interest, but for which the public mind, agitated as it has been by recent events, is yet far from prepared.
Met Mr. I. Pleased with an anecdote he gave me of Lord Kenyon. A friend of his, sometime since, had sold his Lordship a cottage at Richmond; and, going down there lately, wished to take a view of the premises: an old housekeeper admitted him: on the table he saw three books; the Bible—Epictetus—and the Whole Duty of Man: "does my Lord read this," said the Gentleman, taking up the Bible? "No," said the woman, "he is always poring upon this little book," pointing to Epictetus, "I don't know what it is; my lady reads the two others: they come down here of a Saturday evening, with a leg or shoulder of mutton; this serves them the Sunday; and they leave me the remains." A Chief Justice of England, thus severely simple in his taste and habits, is at least a curiosity.
AUGUST the 4th
Ld. C. dined with me. Solemnly and deliberately affirmed, that he knew no character in British History, which stood so high in his estimation as that of Mr. Fox; and strenuously denied that he had ever discovered in him, any leaning towards the democratic party. I know no man less likely than his Lordship, to suffer his enthusiasm to overpower his judgment: yet, firmly and solidly established as is my esteem for Mr. Fox, it staggers, I confess, under the measure of praise conveyed in the first part of this declaration; nor can I think that the circumstances under which it has been the fortune of this illustrious character to be placed, and by which his virtues and his talents have been tried, are sufficient (highly as I think of them both), to justify so prodigious an encomium. On the extent of the sacrifices and sufferings necessary to canonise a patriot, it were invidious to dwell:—ardently do I hope, not out of apprehension for the result, but of veneration for the person, that in the present instance they may never be required:-but I may remark, I trust, without offence, since cordially do I wish for the experiment here, that it is by the actual exercise of political power, and not by a course of censure upon it, however meritorious, that political ability,—as ("magna componere parvis")<5 it is by original composition, and not by critical strictures upon it, however sagacious, that literary talent, most severely proved, and can alone perhaps be satisfactorily attested.—Of the imputation alluded to, and denied; in the latter part of this opinion, I do most fully and honourably, from the bottom of my soul, acquit Mr. Fox; but, at the same time, I must deeply regret, that he has not, in his place, more distinctly recognized, and fairly met, that portentous spirit which has broken loose during the late Revolution in France, and against whose present influence on the moral and political condition of mankind (whatever may be thought of its ulterior destination), it should seem almost impossible to shut the eyes: nor am I able to discern, in the most explicit avowal on this subject, anything which should "impede the march of his abilities" in that career of usefulness and glory, on which he so justly claims the gratitude and affection of his country; while it would infallibly secure the confidence of many, whom this strange and marked neglect fills with uneasiness and apprehension.—With respect to Mr. Fox's Eloquence (another topic of discussion this evening) there are few circumstances, I confess, which render me so justly diffident of my own taste, as the not feeling for it "horresco referens" that keen relish which the world tells me that fought to do. Its admirable adaptation to the purposes of debate in an English House of Commons, I distinctly perceive and eagerly acknowledge; but while it assails at once our judgment and our passions, in this character, with matchless dexterity and force, it certainly furnishes little of that aliment to the imagination, which is so delectable, and, to my intellectual cravings, so indispensible, in works on which we wish to revel in the closet. That this ground of dissatisfaction, is no just cause of complaint, against compositions intended for other purposes, and which perform those purposes with such incomparable, success, I feel while I am assigning it: but—it operates: and with the deepest sense of their transcendent merit as effusions addressed, on the exigency of the occasion, to the business and bosoms of men, I turn, in the hour of literary recreation, whatever be the shame, with delight, from the vehement harangues of Fox, to the "variegated and expanded eloquence" of Burke; which, if it does not hurry us along, like the other, by its impetuous and reiterated assaults, directly to the goal, yet, by the ample stores of moral and political wisdom which it unfolds, the radiant imagery with which it illuminates these treasures, and the powerful appeals to our best affections, by which it seconds their operation,—enlarges the understanding, replenishes the fancy, dilates the heart, and generously aims to effectuate the purpose of the speaker, rather by elevating us to his own standard in contemplating the subject which he treats, than by accommodating itself to the contracted views and dispositions which we may bring to its discussion.—On the question of Parliamentary Reform, which was next agitated, his Lordship professed himself quite neutral, as he saw neither good from it nor harm: the evil which it was designed to remove, he thought, lay deeper than the remedy would reach:—he regards the great mass of the people as corrupt.
AUGUST the 11th
Finished the 1st Vol. of Miss Williams' Tour through Switzerland. She paints, the giddy frivolity and capricious versatility of French manners, in very vivid colours; and exhibits the moral mischiefs of the Revolution acting on this character, in a more glaring and offensive light, than perhaps she intended.
Looked over Sir Joshua Reynolds' papers in the Idler: curious, as containing the seeds of those doctrines, which he has more fully expanded in his subsequent Discourses. In the third he maintains (what Burke has controverted) that Beauty is that invariable general form in every species, which nature always seems to intend, to which she is perpetually approaching, and which she more frequently produces than any particular description of deviation or deformity. He seems, with Plato, to ascribe a real independent existence to these mental abstractions.—In his Journey to Flanders, he speaks of Rubens just as I could wish; and liberally ascribes to him those powers, whose effects, in ignorance, I had long and ardently admired.
AUGUST the 18th
Read Shaftesbury's Enquiry concerning Virtue. His ideas are not very distinctly stated: but he seems, to place Virtue in a proper management of the affections; its recommendation to others, in its congeniality to our moral taste; and its obligation on ourselves, in the advantages it procures us: and he very happily describes the influence of true religion, of superstition, and of atheism, on its operation.—He evidently spews himself to be a Deist.
Looked into D'Alembert's Elémens de Musique. His evolution of harmony; at the opening (L. 1. c. 1.), from the harmonical sounds inseparably combined with every musical note, however apparently simple; and which, though so intimately blended with the principal and generative tone as to escape ordinary observation, may clearly be detected and distinguished from it by a delicate ear,—is to me quite new, and very satisfactory. This natural and inherent affinity between concordant sounds, evinced (where we should least expect to find it) in the elements themselves out of which all artificial concords are composed, seems to place the principles of modern harmony on a very solid basis; and enables us to advance a step farther in accounting for the gratification arising from musical composition, than is allowed to our curiosity in investigating the sources of most of the other pleasures of taste.
Read Burke's Memorial on the Conduct of the Minority—a powerful composition, purely argumentative, and, I believe, without a single metaphor.
AUGUST the 25th
Finished Sir Joshua Reynolds' Discourses, with an eye to a peculiar and distinguishing doctrine which runs through the whole, and is manifestly a particular favourite with the author. He begins to dilate upon it in the 3rd Discourse, stating, That the higher excellency of the art, consists, not in imitating individual nature, but in exhibiting the general forms of things, abstracted from natural and accidental deformities and discriminations of whatever kind, and of course more perfect and beautiful than any one original.—In the 4th he applies what he had said of the forms of things, to, 1., Historical Invention, which should neglect the minute peculiarities of dress, furniture, scene, and even the personal peculiarities of the actors, if injurious to grandeur; 2., to the Expression, which should be such as the supposed occasion operating on the supposed characters, generally produces; and 3., to the colouring, which should be severely simple, either by reducing the hues to little more than chiaro oscuro, like the Bolognian School, or making them very distinct and forcible, like the Schools of Rome and Florence. On the same principle, landscape painting should be a representation of general nature, selected from various views of it, not an exhibition of any individual scene; and, even in portraits, he is of opinion, the grace, nay the likeness, consists more in taking the general air, than in exactly copying each particular feature. The works, whether of poets, painters, moralists, or historians, he observes in conclusion, which are built on general nature, live for ever; while those which depend on particular customs and habits, a partial view of nature, or the fluctuations of fashion, perish with their archetypes.—In the 7th he very elaborately maintains, That the general idea of nature, purified from all peculiarities, and which in reality is alone nature, constitutes the great object of true taste; That we are materially assisted in attaining to such an idea of nature, by attending to the selections which others have made in the works they have produced; and, That those works are most deserving our attention, which have been most generally approved under the influence of different prejudices operating in different countries and ages.—In the 9th he affirms the object of painting, to be beauty; but a beauty general and intellectual; an idea subsisting only in the mind; towards the expression of which we may advance, but to which we can never perfectly attain: and be ascribes the beneficial effects of the art upon our habits, to its abstracting the mind from the objects of sense, and directing it to the contemplation of this intellectual excellence.—In the 10th he defines the object of Sculpture, to be the imparting that delight which results from the perfect beauty of abstract form; an intellectual pleasure, incompatible with that which is merely addressed to the senses, and of course to colour, &c.—In the 11th he regards the essence of genius in painting, as consisting in the power of expressing the general effect of a whole (whether of form, colour, light and shadow, or whatever may become the separate object of a painter), not by a detail of particulars, but by seizing those characteristic circumstances which distinguish it in real existence to the spectator; and thus exhibiting a greater quantity of truth by a few lines or touches, than by the most laborious finishing of parts; and delighting by the inadequacy of the means to the end.—In the 13th he contends, That of arts addressed to the imagination and its sensibility, the affection produced, is the sole test; That all theories which attempt to regulate such arts by principles falsely called rational, formed on a supposition of what ought to be, in reason, the end or means of such arts, independently of the effects in fact produced by them, must be delusive; That the theory which places the perfection of painting simply in imitating nature, is of this kind; That its end is, to produce a pleasing effect upon the mind; That sometimes, it is true, it accomplishes this end by imitation alone; but that often, too, and whenever it produces its grandest effects, it deviates from an exact imitation of nature for this purpose.—Lastly, in his 15th Discourse, he closes his labours with enforcing the same doctrine: earnestly exhorting his auditory, "to distinguish the greater truth from the less; the larger and more liberal idea of nature, from the more narrow and confined; that which addresses itself to the imagination, from that which is solely directed to the eye."
The doctrine thus imposingly delivered by its amiable author, in all the pomp of Platonic mysticism, when fully developed and fairly exhibited, appears as just, as it is obvious and simple.
The qualities by which any object, or class of objects, engages our attention, or interests our feelings, are only some out of various others of which it is composed. In any attempt therefore at the representation, even of a particular theme, whether the design be simply to imitate, or, through imitation, to communicate the feelings which the object itself is adapted to inspire, the perfection of the art will consist, in seizing and bringing forward those peculiar qualities by which it strikes, or by which it touches us, and in throwing the rest, as much as may be, into shade. By thus removing from the view whatever may tend to distract or pervert the mind, and presenting to the undivided attention those qualities only upon which the recognition or interest of the object depends, these qualities, it is evident, will exert their fullest effect upon the spectator; and the copy may thus be made very far to surpass the original itself, in force and pathos. If this holds true in the portraiture even of a specific subject, the same doctrine, it is manifest, will obtain, with still greater force, in the representation of imaginary scenes; where a far ampler scope is given to genius, in drawing, from a multitude of particular examples, the most characteristic and touching traits of whatever strikes or whatever affects us, and not only in suppressing all that may tend to disturb or counteract the impression, but in adding, from the rich stores of a happy invention, whatever accompaniments are best adapted to relieve and heighten their effect. Compositions, it will readily be conceived, may thus be produced, which shall far transcend, in force of character and vivacity of interest, any particular scenes which real existence presents: but we must ever bear in mind, that this will be accomplished, not by soaring, with Plato and Sir Joshua, "extra * * * flammantia moenia mundi"—"beyond the flaming bounds of Place and Time," in pursuit of those pure primaeval archetypes, from which enthusiasts have vainly dreamed, that the gross concrete substances here below are mere imperfect transcripts; but by a judicious selection and management of those materials, which, however widely dispersed in different gradations of perfection, and however intermingled with other and baser elements, are alone to be sought, where all true knowledge begins and ends,—in real nature as it actually subsists around us.
AUGUST the 29th
Finished the 3rd Vol. of Dalrymple's Memoirs; published at a long interval from the two former.—The opening to Part III., on the plan of French ambition on the continent, which has since been realized by the Republic; and the conclusion of the same Part, in which he foresees the advancement of France to liberty and power, and endeavours to provide against it, are now become very interesting.—There is an original and bold cast of thought in this work, which pleases me: but his project, in the Appendix, No. 2., of a federal union between this country and America, through the appointment of a Resident on our part, appears perfectly extravagant.—In reading many passages of this volume, we are tempted to exclaim, that, whatever may be the venality of the present times, they are pure to the past: but corruption has only worn its channels more smooth: the stream itself is much enlarged; its ramifications are infinitely multiplied and extended; and the great spring-bead is now engrossed entirely by the Crown.
AUGUST the 30th
Read Mandeville's Fable of the Bees, and his Enquiry into the Origin of Virtue. In the latter, he ascribes entirely to the policy of Lawgivers, the infusion of that controlling principle which results from the constitution of our nature; and nicknames its operation, Pride and Shame. With respect to his capital and offensive paradox, that private vices are public benefits, Mandeville's whole art consists, in denominating our passions by the appellation assigned to their vicious excess; and then proving them, under this denomination, useful to society. There is a lively force, and caustic though coarse wit, in his performance, which occasionally reminds one of Paine. The conclusion of note P. (on v. 201) is powerful and pathetic: and the Parable at the end of note T. (on v. 367) is of the happiest humour.—I was surprised to find Sir Joshua Reynolds' doctrine, of rejecting the representation of individual nature in painting, recommended, sneeringly I believe, with an illustration from the Opera, towards the beginning of the 1st Dialogue in the 2nd Part of the Fable of the Bees; and a reference given, by way of authority, to "Graham's Preface to his Art of Painting."
AUGUST the 31st
Read Mandeville's Essay on Charity and Charity Schools, and his Search into the Nature of Society. He places Virtue in what it does not consist—an extinction of all personal feeling; and then, by misnaming the principle from which it does spring, and expatiating largely on the motives which operate to produce its semblance, endeavours to show, that there is little or nothing of it in the world. In the first piece, he denies that any real charity exists; and maintains that the schools pretended to be formed on this principle, tend only to disqualify their objects for the duties of their station; in the second, he labours to prove, that social intercourse results, not from social affections on which Lord Shaftesbury insists, but from our hard situation and bad passions,—from physical and moral evil. The scene, in the latter, between the mercer and his customer, is happily worked up.
SEPTEMBER the 5th
Looked over Johnson's vigorous defence of Shakespeare against the charge of violating, whether from neglect or disdain, the unities of time and place in his dramas. His argument for the inutility of their observance, is, that the drama moves, not as these laws of criticism suppose, by imposing on the spectator as the reality itself, but by suggesting realities to the mind—as history and painting move—as a just picture of an interesting original. He is undoubtedly right; but in the elation of his triumph over false science, he has, as certainly, been, led to push the career of his victory a little too far. A drama is something more than a poem recited: it is the representation of a theme by actors and by scenery; and, as such, is subject to certain restrictions respecting place and time, arising out of the difficulty of indicating in this mode of exhibition, without offence to the feelings, the shifting of the former when changed, and the effects of the latter when protracted, from which, though far less rigorous than those which the law of unity exacts, the historian and the epic poet, it is obvious, may be regarded as exempt.
Finished Coxe's Memoirs of Sir Robert Walpole.-The character of Bolingbroke's Political Writings is, I think, justly, though clumsily, given, at the close of the 26th Chapter: yet these compositions must possess considerable merit of some kind, to have maintained their popularity in despite of his own unprincipled conduct. Should all memorials of Bolingbroke perish, but his own works, what a false opinion will posterity form of his character!—Either Sir Robert Walpole's Speech on the Triennial Bill is ill reported, or his language was miserably vulgar, perplexed, and obscure: it is, I think, very inferior to his Speech on the Excise Bill; but his eloquence, on no occasion, seems to have been very powerful.—The Speeches of Geo. the II. from the Throne, as far as they are reported in this work, appear to breathe a very liberal spirit.—How accurately and justly has Burke appreciated, only in a side-glance (Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs), the merits of Sir Robert Walpole's character and administration! And what a change has been effected in the relative weight and ascendancy of the landed and moneyed interests of this country, since the period of that administration!—On what grounds were Pope and Swift the mortal enemies of Walpole? As the patron of corruption, or the opponent of the House of Stuart?—The Memoirs themselves (which are comprised in the 1st Vol.) are heavily and clumsily written, and the author shuffles backward and forward unpardonably in his narrative, instead of pursuing steadily the stream of time and events; but they interest, from the interesting period which they treat. The most striking passage, perhaps, in the whole volume, is the last paragraph but one, in which the author accounts for Sir Robert's listlessness, and indifference to all ordinary enjoyments, when retired from public life. The two succeeding volumes, of ponderous bulk, are merely supplementary; containing many very useful documents, certainly, to whoever should undertake a history of the times to which they relate, but with which one sees no absolute necessity that the purchaser of the Memoirs themselves, should have been oppressed.
SEPT. the 12th
Dipped into Bacon's Essays; so pregnant with just, original, and striking observations on every topic which is touched, that I cannot select what pleases me most. For reach of thought, variety and extent of view, sheer solid and powerful sense, and admirable sagacity, what works of man can be placed in competition with these wonderful effusions.
Looked into that period of the History of Modern Europe, which closes with the inglorious Peace of Paris, in 1763. How auspiciously did the present reign open, under the transcendent genius of Chatham; and how soon was it gloomed over, under the malignant influence of Bute. There is something in the original force and independence of mind that accompanies true genius, so peculiarly repugnant to the petty intrigues, minute attentions, and frivolous etiquette, which form the business and the pleasure of courts, that it is rarely received in that quarter, I suspect, with cordial good will; and among other blessings, we are greatly indebted to the popular part of our Constitution, for the ascendancy which pre-eminent talent usually gains in the direction of our national councils.
SEPT. the 13th
Read Brown's Estimate of the Manners and Principles of the Times. The 2nd Vol. is merely a supplementary comment on the 1st; and in that, after allowing us a spirit of liberty, of humanity, and of equity, he maintains, that a vain luxurious and selfish effeminacy, introduced by exorbitant trade and wealth, has sapped our principles of religion, honour and public spirit, weakened our national capacity, our national spirit of defence, and our national spirit of union, and left us a helpless prey to foreign invasion;—a condition beyond the reach of cure or palliation, and from which nothing can relieve us, but the regenerative force of dire necessity.—Burke has alluded to this Tract in his 1st Letter on a Regicide Peace, with a perfect recollection of its spirit and tendency: and he has borrowed from the last section of the 1st Vol., that refutation of the popular analogy between the body politic and natural, which he first started in his Letter occasioned by the Duke of Norfolk's Speech, and which he afterwards transplanted into his 1st Regicide Letter. Brown talks the cant first introduced by Bolingbroke, of an Administration purified from all party attachments:—a thing impossible under our present system of government; and not desirable, could it be obtained.
SEPT. the 17th
Looked over "Serious Reflections by a rational Christian, from 1788 to 1797" written by the Duke of G—<59>. As composed for the private instruction of his own Family, they must be serious and sincere: they indeed evince much earnestness: but though the opinions may be regarded as bold in themselves, they are offered with all the caution and deference of an old statesman. The noble Author believes in the unity of the God-head; strongly inclines against the pre-existence of Christ; rejects the doctrines of original sin and satisfaction; and considers the object of the Messiah's mission, to be merely the annunciation to mankind of the glad tidings of immortal life and happiness on the condition of a thorough repentance of our sins.—Had this been simply the design of Christianity, nothing could have been easier than thus to have represented it;—nor anything more necessary, than to have guarded, in its promulgation, against those perversions to which all religious doctrines are so peculiarly exposed. We have in our hands the original documents of the founders of this religion: do these documents naturally suggest, will they warrant, can they without torture and mutilation be compelled to yield, such an interpretation? Is it possible to read the Epistles of St. Paul, and believe that these were the doctrines he designed to preach?—Few moral phaenomena more strikingly illustrate the triumph of the inclination over the judgment, on points purely speculative, than the faith of those who denominate themselves rational Christians.
SEPT the 21st
Looked over Lord Chesterfield's Characters: all of which are neatly, and some very finely, drawn;—particularly those of Scarborough and Bolingbroke. The flowing exuberance of Burke, and the violent exgurgitations of Grattan, in the supplementary notices appended to the character of Chatham, strikingly exemplify the different manners of these two distinguished orators.
Read Bolingbroke's Letter to Wyndham;—in my opinion, incomparably the ablest of his works. It contains a masterly exposition of his conduct while in connection with the Pretender, undebased by any of his political theories. Nothing can be more free, vigorous, and spontaneously noble, than his style in this piece.
SEPT. the 23rd
Finished the 2nd Vol. of Bolingbroke's Correspondence. He carries wonderfully the private man into his public Despatches, which are the best Letters of business I ever read.—Torcy's Letter, dated June 22, 1712, in which he objects to a convocation of the States, for the purpose of ratifying the King of Spain's renunciation of the Crown of France, as an incompetent and hazardous expedient, is now become interesting.
Mr. E. P. called in the evening. He is preparing Remarks on the Theory of Morals, which brought on the discussion of that subject. We differ fundamentally; and could only agree in thinking it very extraordinary, that though there must be some strong disposing cause which determines those who differ most in their theories on this subject, exactly to coalesce in their practical conclusions, mankind should still be unsettled as to what that cause is—the knowledge of which would instantly decide the theory!
SEPT. the 25th
Finished the 1st Volume and Part of Du Bos sur la Poesie et Peinture. In the first sections, he derives all pleasure from a previous want of body or mind; and the pleasure we receive from sympathising with the sufferings or joys of others, but more particularly with the former as the emotion is stronger, from the grand want of the mind—occupation. Poetry and Painting, he maintains, chiefly please, as the representations of objects which would thus have touched our sympathy; and serious, in a higher degree than comic representations, as they affect us more powerfully, at the same time that they do not leave those durable and painful impressions which the view of actual sufferings occasions. He allows, indeed, a subordinate charm to painting, merely as it is an imitation; but no mechanical excellence, he observes, will render a poem tolerable.—These doctrines he proceeds in the subsequent sections to apply and illustrate, very ingeniously, but not without some mixture of French frippery.—In the 43rd section, he maintains, with Johnson, that dramatic representation does not delight through delusion; and in the 44th he explains the power ascribed to dramatic poetry, of purging the passions, as Johnson does, by its setting before our eyes the mischievous consequences of their vicious excess.—In the 45th he ascribes the power of music, to its imitation, either of the sounds of physical nature, or the tone of the passions: and in the 46th he derives Italian music (proh pudor!)<60> from France and the Netherlands.
SEPT. the 28th
Finished the 2nd Vol. of Du Bos. In the first section, he defines genius—an aptitude for any particular employment, determining the possessor to embrace it; and ascribes this aptitude, in the second, to our physical conformation. From the 12th to the 21st sections, he endeavours to show, that certain countries and ages are more favourable to the production of genius than others; that this arises rather from physical than moral causes; and that the main physical cause, consists in the temperament of the air as influenced by the exhalations of the earth:—a doctrine, which, however absurd, he maintains and defends very ingeniously.—In the 22nd and 23rd sections he contends, that we do, and that we ought to, judge of the merit of poems and pictures, by sentiment and not by reason—from the impression actually produced, and not from a critical estimate of perfections or defects founded on a reference to the rules of art; that reason may explore the causes why we are or are not pleased, but cannot and ought not to influence our determination, whether we are pleased or not; and that reason (as he quaintly expresses it) requires we should not reason on such a question, except to justify the previous sentiment. Mankind, he observes, as they advance in life, give less credit to the conclusions of theoretical speculation, and more to the decisions of sentiment and practice. Even on subjects susceptible of mathematical demonstration, such as mechanics, fortification, &c., he shows that mere theory frequently misleads: and that on poetry and painting the judgment of artists is perpetually wrong, as their sensibility is exhausted, as they decide by rule and not from immediate impression, and as their whole attention is usually absorbed in some particular department of their art; while that of the public, who judge from unperverted feeling, is constantly right.—In the 33rd and 34th sections, he maintains, in defiance of the philosophy of the present age, which leads us to suppose ourselves the first rational beings, and, by bringing the experience of the past into contempt, threatens to replunge Europe into barbarism,—that we do not reason better than our ancestors; that discoveries due, not to our speculations, but to time and accident, have enlarged our knowledge of facts, but not our intellects; and, that though systems of philosophy may rise and perish, the chefs d'oeuvres of poetry and painting which have charmed our forefathers, will continue to delight our latest posterity.
SEPT. the 30th
Read Burke's Vindication of Natural Society. Except in parts (as in the opening and ending) I cannot think that this piece has much of Bolingbroke's style and manner:—there is, throughout, an air of constraint, most abhorrent in its nature, to the bold and rapid flow of Bolingbroke's declamation.—Burke certainly began and ended his labours in the same cause.
Finished the perusal of St. Matthew's Gospel in Griesbach's Edition of the New Testament.<61>—Christ's strange temptation in the wilderness (c. 4.) has all the insulated air of an interpolation: its texture is peculiar to itself, and it coheres with the main narrative at neither extremity.—One cannot be surprised that the people were powerfully struck with the Discourse from the Mount (c. 5, 6, 7.):—it is still surpassingly impressive: what must it have been at the time it was delivered!—Matthew evidently applies the passage from Isaiah "He took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses", (c. 8., v. 17.), not to Christ's vicarious sufferings, but his miraculous cures;—and he is usually astute enough in spying out the completion of a prophecy.—Surely the Destruction of the Temple and the Day of Judgment—events rather differing in the degree of their importance—are strangely confounded in the prophetic denunciations (c. 24.), as this Evangelist reports them —I have ventured, in this review, to consider the Gospels, however sacred the subject which they treat, as mere human compositions: they pretend to nothing more; and with such perplexing difficulties is the hypothesis of their inspiration clogged, that I suppose nobody, at this time of day, regards them in any other light.—The various readings, collected with such diligence by Griesbach, however numerous, are fewer than we should expect to find in writings so frequently transcribed and reprinted; and they rarely, if ever, affect the sense in any important particular.
OCTOBER the 3rd
Finished a cursory perusal of Johnson's Lives of the Poets, with a view to the principles on which his critical decisions are founded.—Under Cowley, he defines genius, "a mind of large general powers, accidentally determined to some particular direction:" and wit, "a combination of dissimilar images; or discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike." The object of the poets of the metaphysical race, he states to be, to excite surprise, and not delight; and to exercise the understanding, not to move the affections.—In his remarks on Milton, he defines Poetry, "the art of uniting pleasure with truth, by calling imagination to the help of reason." Epic Poetry, he says, "undertakes to teach the most important truths by the most pleasing precepts, and therefore relates some great event in the most affecting manner." In treating of the Paradise Lost, he considers 1st, the Moral, 2ndly, the Fable, 3rdly, the Characters, 4thly, the Probable and Marvellous, 5thly, the Machinery, 6thly, the Integrity or Unity, 7thly, the Sentiments, 8thly, the Images, 9thly, the Similes, 10thly, the Diction, and 11thly, the Versification. Here was an inviting opportunity to open the fountains of criticism; but it is unhappily passed over: the end of Poetry, he observes indeed, is pleasure; but in what that pleasure consists, from whence it is derived, and by what eternal and immutable laws its communication is restricted, he is absolutely silent.—Of Dryden, he remarks, that he seems unacquainted with the human passions in their pure and elemental state; and, on this account, is rarely pathetic.—To Pope he gives, "in proportions very nicely adjusted, all the qualities that constitute genius—Invention, Imagination, and Judgment:" and to Thomson, "that poetical eye, which distinguishes, in everything presented to its view, whatever there is on which imagination delights to be detained."—Of Akenside's Pleasures of the Imagination, he observes, that the subject includes all images that can strike or please, and thus comprises every species of poetical delight.—These are slender gleanings: yet I cannot discover that Johnson has farther unfolded his principles of criticism. He had probably digested them into no very exact scheme in his own mind; but trusted, to what he knew would rarely fail him—his immediate sagacity whenever an occasion for critical exertion occurred.
OCT. the 4th
Examined, with a view to these principles, Addison's Eleven Papers in the Spectator; beginning at No. 409, and, with the omission of the 410th, ending with the 421st In the first and preparatory Paper, he defines Taste, "that faculty of the soul, which discerns the beauties of an author with pleasure, and his imperfections with dislike." He then proceeds to consider at large the Pleasures of Imagination; which he restricts to those originally derived from Sight; and derives from the three sources of Grandeur, Novelty, and Beauty. The proximate cause of the pleasures thus derived, he passes over as undiscoverable: but the final cause, of Grandeur, he assigns to the promotion of piety; of Novelty, to the acquisition of knowledge; and of Beauty, to the propagation of the species.—The primary pleasures of the imagination, he considers as those which arise immediately from the object itself; the secondary, from its representation.—Representations, such as statuary, painting, description, &c. delight, he observes, not merely as they suggest pleasing realities, but, independently of this, simply as they are imitations—from a comparison of the copy with the original. The proximate cause of this pleasure, he holds it impossible to discover; but regards its final cause to be, the quickening and encouraging our searches after truth.—Representations, he afterwards remarks, delight, too, when they excite the passions of pity and terror, by suggesting the consideration of our own security and happiness; whereas the reality, in such a case, would affect us too strongly to admit of such a reflection.—The Pleasures of Imagination, thus reviewed, he places between those of the Sense and of the Understanding;—less gross than the former, and less refined than the latter.—Addison expressly calls his undertaking entirely new; and by appending a Table of Contents, he, no doubt, thought it important. It was unquestionably a very vigorous advance towards a philosophical consideration of this interesting and engaging topic.
OCT. the 6th
Read Burke's Disquisition on Taste prefixed to his Sublime and Beautiful. He seems to consider the object of Reason, to be Truth and Falsehood; and of Taste, Sentiment; but without drawing a determined line between their respective provinces: and his object is to prove, that the standard of both is the same in all human creatures. Taste, he defines "that faculty or those faculties in the mind, which are affected with, or which form a judgment of, the works of imagination and the elegant arts." He first examines the natural pleasures of SENSE; which he chews to be the same in all, and that our acquired relishes are distinguishable from them to the last. He next considers the pleasures of IMAGINATION. These, so far as that faculty is concerned in representing the objects of Sense, must, like those of Sense, be common to all. But in works of the Imagination, a new pleasure is derived from discerning the resemblance which the imitation bears to the original: this pleasure must of course depend on a knowledge of the object represented; but, where this knowledge is the same, seems nearly the same in all. In exercising our Taste on the objects of sense, or the representations of these objects, or the representations of the passions, which, acting, and acting upon certain principles, on all, leave a standard in every breast, little more than the sensibility seems concerned; which may be assumed to differ only in degree: but where the representation embraces the character, manners, actions, and designs of men, their relations, their virtues and vices, here, he thinks, attention and reasoning are required, and Taste becomes no other than a refined judgment, differing as judgments differ. Taste is thus composed of sensibility and judgment: from a defect of sensibility, arises a want of Taste; and from a defect of judgment, a wrong or bad Taste.—I am not sure that I have represented his ideas very exactly; indeed they do not seem, especially with regard to a leading point I have in view, very distinctly enunciated: as far however as I am qualified to form an opinion, it appears to me, that in attempting to withdraw a certain class of objects from the proper jurisdiction of Taste, and to place them under that of the Judgment, he yields at last, after an earnest of better things, to a delusion which has misled, in a still greater degree, most writers who have treated the same subject. That an exercise of the Judgment is often necessary to put us in possession (if I may be allowed to say so) of the ease on which the Taste is to be exerted, admits of no dispute. Mr. Burke had before observed, that when the subject submitted to our Taste is the imitation of any natural object, a competent knowledge of the original, is necessary to determine the justness of the copy and, I would add, a competent acquaintance with other imitations in the same way, to ascertain its comparative excellence, and to form a complete decision on its merits: intelligence of a higher order and more difficult acquirement, no doubt, is necessary to enable us to judge of the truth and accuracy of any representation of the human character, modified by its manners, its habits, its passions, its virtues and its vices: but in neither case, surely, should this information, or the capacity to gain it, though indispensable as preliminary qualifications for the exercise of Taste, be confounded with that faculty itself;-incorporated with it as an integrant part, or (still less) allowed to supersede it altogether. By Taste we emphatically mean, a quick and just perception of beauty and deformity in the works of nature or of art; and it is only by making it a distinct subject of consideration in this character, and separating (mm it those talents and attainments, which however requisite to enlarge the sphere of its action, are at least equally subservient to other and totally different purposes in our moral economy, that we can reasonably expect to obtain a clear and just conception of this peculiar part of our constitution, and of the laws which regulate its exercise.
OCT. the 8th
Read the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Parts of Burke on the Sublime and Beautiful. In the 1st, he considers Novelty as the object of our first and simplest passion—curiosity: and, next to Novelty, and the sources of all our other passions, he places Pain and Pleasure. Pain and Pleasure he regards as totally independent of each other; and he carefully distinguishes the delight consequent on a cessation of pain, and which is always accompanied with a certain horror, from positive pleasure; and the uneasiness consequent on the cessation of pleasure, which is always accompanied with an attractive sensation, from positive pain. Our sensations of pain are stronger than those of pleasure; and of course the passions which turn on pain, will be stronger than those that turn on pleasure. Our passions he divides, from their destination, into those which conduce to self-preservation, and those which conduce to society. Those which belong to self-preservation, turn on pain and danger;—passions which are simply disagreeable when their causes immediately affect us, but which become delightful when we have an idea of pain or danger without being actually in such circumstances:—whatever excites this delight, is SUBLIME. Those which concern society, whether of the sex, or society at large, turn on pleasure: the passion excited, is love, or a sense of tenderness and affection; and the quality which decides our preference and excites this passion, is BEAUTY.—Having thus determined the distinguishing character of the Sublime and the Beautiful, by ascertaining the different species of emotion which they produce in the mind, he proceeds, in the two succeeding Parts, to point out the peculiar properties in objects by which these different emotions are excited: in neither instance does he confine himself, with Addison, to the Sight, but runs through all the senses: and he concludes with enforcing, as a fundamental and unalterable distinction between the two species of affection and their causes, that the one is founded in pleasure and the other in pain.
Burke powerfully exposes, on various occasions, the error to which we are prone, of ascribing feelings and affections which result from the mechanical structure of our bodies, to conclusions of our reason on the objects presented to us.—of deducing beauty, for instance, from proportion or fitness, qualities with which it may be accompanied, but which are in themselves mere objects of the understanding, and touch neither the imagination nor the passions; yet he condemns (P. 3, c.11) the opposite fault in morals, the deducing moral distinction from feeling, (instancing, it is true, only the application of beauty to virtue, but in spirit going as far as I have stated), as a practice which tends to remove the science of our duties from their proper basis—our reason, our relations, and our necessities, to rest it upon foundations altogether visionary and unsubstantial. There is here a similar inconsistency to that which I remarked, the evening before last, in the same Author, on the extent of the province of Taste; and arising, like that, from a partial view of the subject. The same reasoning surely is applicable in both cases—to the origin of Moral Distinction, as well as the distinctions of Taste.—Whenever we are prompted to distinguish between objects, in consequence of the different impressions which they make on our sensibility, we must search for the cause of this distinction, in some quality or relation of those objects adapted to produce that particular species of effect; and must never rest satisfied with the discovery of any correspondent mark of discrimination (however exactly it may coincide with the division we have in view) that is not expressly competent to such a result. Distinctions in matters of Taste, and Moral Distinctions, are both precisely of this description. We do not discriminate beauty from deformity, or virtue from vice, as we do a square from a triangle, blue from red, heavy from light, or dense from rare,—by certain manifest differences in the objects themselves, with respect to which the mind stands absolutely neutral and indifferent we are attracted with delight or repelled by disgust, in the first case; we glow with applauding rapture or throb with indignant anguish, in the other; and it is because we are thus affected, and (as the various and inconsistent hypotheses which have been offered to account for these feelings incontestably evince) solely because we are thus affected, that we are determined to make the received distinctions we do, in the objects by which we have been thus differently impressed. There is no pretence for separating Moral distinction from the distinctions of Taste, in this particular: they stand exactly on the same ground; and precisely the same fallacy misleads our speculations in both cases. In either instance we are prompted to make a distinction between objects in consequence of their different action on our sensibility: this distinction, by the frequent recurrence of such an impression, becomes habitually established and recognized in our thoughts and communications as a fixed and permanent difference in the objects themselves; but the impression out of which it arises, is by no means of this permanent and immutable nature: it is only when the mind is excited by the immediate presence and action of some interesting case, that it is vividly felt; in moments of calmness its influence is slight and feeble; and the bare attempt to submit the subject to the rigours of philosophical analysis, puts it to flight altogether. Thus circumstanced, the speculative enquirer, whose great aim it will of course be, to assign some hypothesis which furnishes a clear and ready criterion of the distinction he undertakes to resolve, instead of resorting for this purpose to anything so fluctuating and evanescent as the feeling out of which it arises, or the exciting cause of such a fugitive effect, will naturally turn his attention to the permanent and distinguishing properties and relations of the objects in which it obtains; and should he be so fortunate as to find, among these, any one which pretty nearly coincides with the received division of whose explanation he is in quest, he will eagerly adopt it as the solution sought, and will readily be followed by many to whom the discovery will carry all the marks of plausibility and truth. If this be the specious but false track which speculation is likely to take in exploring the principles of Taste, it is that into which it is still more likely to be seduced in investigating the principles of Morality; where, from the deep and general importance of the subject, it will appear a still more incumbent duty, to ascertain some clear and broad distinction in the nature of things, correspondent to that which our moral sentiments suggest: and we find accordingly that the delusion in question has prevailed in a still greater degree on this subject than the other; and that Mr. Burke, who has rejected and exposed it in the former instance, still retains and defends it in the latter. But surely the least reflection must satisfy us, that moral distinction can be nothing but what has ever been felt and recognized as such in the general sentiments and conduct of mankind; that it is a distinction, not of reason, convincing the understanding and determining merely the belief, but of feeling, touching the passions and influencing the will; that its efficient cause, therefore, must not be sought in any properties or relations of objects possessing no power over the affections, nor even in any unobvious qualities which do; and, that though in a system constructed by one supreme Disposer, and of which all the parts will of course bear a correspondence to each other,. divisions of objects coinciding with that which our moral sentiments suggest, may no doubt be derived from other sources, some of which, as their congruity or incongruity with truth and the fitness of things, may imprint the distinction itself more forcibly and deeply on the mind, and others; as their conducement or repugnance to the general good, and their conformity or opposition to the divine will, may furnish additional incentives to its observance—still, that moral distinction, as it springs up in the hearts of men, must be explored, and can alone be found, where Mr. Burke has so successfully investigated the principles of Taste—in the immediate action of the objects to which it refers, on our sensibility. It is here accordingly that Adam Smith, in his Theory of the Moral Sentiments, has directed his enquiries:—and the more I meditate on his hypothesis, and compare it with others, the more satisfied I am that the solution he has offered is the true one.
OCT. the 9th
Read the 4th Part of Burke's Sublime and Beautiful—on the efficient causes of the affections excited by these qualities: in which he endeavours to make out, that whatever produces a similar mechanical effect upon the body, though arising from different causes, and though in one instance the mind affects the body and in another external matter, still the effect produced by the body on the mind will be similar; That thus pain and fear, the primary engines of the sublime, produce a violent tension of the nerves, and that whatever produces this tension, though not in itself terrible; will operate as sublime; and, that love, in like manner, relaxes the nerves, and whatever effects such a relaxation will operate as beauty. The delight produced by the sublime, he accounts for, on the principle of its occasioning a tension, and affording an exercise necessary to brace and strengthen the finer organs; thus qualifying them to perform their functions properly, and obviating the convulsions consequent on over-relaxation.—I am afraid much of this is merely visionary.
OCT. the 10th
Read the 5th and last Part of Burke's Sublime and Beautiful; on the effect of words. He divides words into, 1st, aggregate, representing several simple ideas united by nature; 2ndly, simple abstract, representing one simple idea of this combination; and 3rdly, compound abstract, representing an arbitrary union of these. The effects of words, he divides into, 1st, the sound, 2ndly, the image exhibited, and 3rdly, the affection of mind produced by either of these. He then maintains, that aggregate, and simple abstract, words, do only occasionally, and then usually by a particular effort, produce the second of these effects; that compound abstract words never produce this effect; and that poetry and rhetoric principally affect, not by exhibiting to the mind any distinct images, but by exciting immediately those feelings with which the words employed on the occasion have by habit been associated in our minds.—This is very ingenious, and I believe original.
OCT. the 10th.
Looked through Aristotle's Poetics. He derives Poetry from a natural love in man of imitating and beholding imitations. Like most of the ancient philosophers, he wastes himself in subtle distinctions on the surface of the art, instead of exploring the foundation of its laws in the constitution of things and of the human mind; yet he gives the elements of most of the rules of criticism which obtain at the present day. His definition of a conjunction and an article (chapter 20) seems pretty nearly to coalesce with Harris's; and Tooke might have sprung, at once, on the nobler game, of Aristotle.
OCT. the 14th
Finished the 4th Vol. of Bolingbroke's Correspondence while Secretary to Queen Anne. I can discover in this work no traces of his adherence to the cause of the Pretender, though strong traits of his dislike to the House of Hanover. How noble is his style, how masterly his manner, and how felicitously turned are his compliments and his rebukes! He transmutes whatever he touches, however base, to gold.
Finished the life of the Empress of Russia. Catharine's proclamation on the Death of Peter the III., in my opinion convicts her of his murder—The last gorgeous fête of Prince Potemkin, in which all the elaborate contrivances of European refinement administered to the magnificent profusion of Oriental luxury, contrasted with the gloomy despondency and forebodings of its donor, is at on affecting and instructive!
Read Burke's Short Account of a Late Administration; a dear, calm, well-digested and dexterous memorial; a perfect model for compositions of this nature:.-and, afterwards, his Observations on a Late state of the Nation; in which we see, in the germ, many of those principles which he afterwards more fully unfolded in his political career. One observation in the latter piece, particularly shows the depth of his reflection and the extent of his views:—"Politics ought to be adjusted, not to human reasonings, but human: nature; of which the reason is but a part, and by no means the greatest part." The account of the mode and the consequences of a dereliction of party and principle, towards the dose of this piece, is exquisitely given, and evinces a deep insight into human nature.—It is curious, that the main part of Burke's first, and of his last, political labour, should have been an exposition and defence of the resources of his country, against the croakings of despondency.
OCT. the 17th
Read Burke's Thoughts on the Present Discontents. He here assumes his proper and peculiar tone; and winding gracefully into his subject, opens the political grievances of the times with his characteristic plenitude of thought and vigour of exposition. It is usual with party writers, in the vehemence of their zeal and contraction of their views, to urge arguments, which, if a different course of conduct is required by any turn of affairs, must inevitably involve them in the charge of inconsistency: in this piece of Burke's, on the contrary, are registered, as if by a prophetic forecast, the rudiments of many of those principles which he has expanded and enforced in his latter productions; but which, at the time, must have appeared superfluously cautionary; and gave rise, probably, to those imputations of Jesuitism, with which, from my earliest remembrance, he was calumniated by his enemies, without much strenuous opposition from the zealots of his own party. He was never relished, I believe,—he was never formed to be relished,—as a party man.
OCT. the 19th
Read the first four Books of Montesquieu's Esprit des Loix. He makes the national characteristic requisite to the due support of a democratic government, Virtue; of a Monarchical, Honour; of Despotism, Fear: and evidently inclines to the popular side. There is an affectation of sententious smartness in his manner, very offensive to my taste.
Read Burke's Speech on American Taxation (1770); which from the beginning to the end, is strictly argumentative. He takes the subject up entirely as a question of expediency—Whether we should be content to derive advantage from our colonies through the old economy of commercial regulation, under which both parties had flourished; or persist in the new, and at the same time, odious and unprofitable scheme of drawing a direct revenue from them, began in the Grenville Administration by the Stamp Act of 1764, and revived, in the shape of duties, after its abolition by the Rockingham Administration in 1766. This masterly address, must, in its form at least, have been extemporary, as it takes the shape of a reply.—In his subsequent Speech, on Conciliation with America, he occupies pretty nearly the same ground, putting entirely aside the discussion of right: "The question with me, is," says he, "not what a lawyer tells me I may do, but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do: not whether the spirit in America deserves praise or blame, but what we shall do with it." How strangely has Burke's conduct respecting America been misconceived, to be charged upon him as an inconsistency!—So far from his appearing ever to have been inclined to popular courses, in an election speech at Bristol, in 1780, he actually goes out of his way to combat the doctrine of instructing representatives.
OCT. the 24th
Read the 11th and 12th Books of Montesquieu's Esprit des Lois on Political Liberty; which he places, in the assured power of doing whatever the laws do not prohibit. Liberty, as it respects the constitution, he makes to depend on the proper distribution of the legislative, executive, and judicial powers; and, as it respects the individual citizen, on the favourableness of the laws to personal security. His ideas on the subject do not appear to me to have been very clear; and he has the weakness to say, (c. 6, L. 1 I) "Comme dans un etat libre tout homme qui est censé avoir une ame libre, doit etre gouverné par lui-même, il faudroit que le peuple en corps eut la puissance législative:"<62> as if all government, let it be placed where it may, was not, in its essence, a restraint on individual will; and the idea of the people's governing themselves, in the sense meant to be conveyed by it, and which has deluded multitudes, sheer nonsense, shrouded only in the generality of the terms. It is in this chapter that Montesquieu gives his elaborate and eulogistic description of the British Constitution; of which, however, he only sees the surface.
Read Burke's Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol; in which he combats the decision of political questions on metaphysical and abstract principles then (1777) coming into vogue, and the specious cant of imputing corruption to all political parties—a weed of congenial growth,—with the spirit, and almost in the terms, of his latter productions. His two subsequent Letters to Gentlemen in Bristol, in defence of an unpopular concurrence on his part in the repeal of some restrictive Laws on Irish Trade, strikingly evince the liberality and extent, and at the same time the minute exactness, of his views on commercial subjects; nor can anything exceed the easy and happy mode in which his arguments are brought home to the feelings and understandings of his mercantile constituents.
OCT. the 25th
Read Burke's Speech on Economical Reform. This is, I think, the most magnificent of Burke's performances; and studiously of that character. It displays a mind most thoroughly purified from all party passions and party views; tender to personal interests, even where they interfere with national concerns; and, though ardently engaged in reform, most carefully guarded against the intemperate pursuit of it. It was on this Speech, I believe, somebody observed of Burke, that he seemed equally prepared to regenerate empires, or compose a Red Book.
Pursued Montesquieu's Esprit des Lois.—In the last chapter of the 19th Book is an elaborate portrait of the British genius and character, most flattering from a foreigner and a Frenchman.—In the 6th chapter of the 20th Book, it is observed of us, that we regulate our commerce by internal laws, and not by treaties; and make our politics subservient to our commerce, and not, as other nations, our commerce to our politics. This, I think, is just.
OCT. the 28th
Pursued Burke's Works. His Address to the Electors at Bristol, previous to the election in 1780, I have always regarded as the most perfect of all his effusions; nor is it, perhaps, to be equalled by any composition of the same length in the English language.—His Speech on Fox's East India Bill, has something of an air of pomposity; owing, perhaps, to his necessary conversance at the time with Oriental topics:—it wields, it must be acknowledged, most ponderous interests.—The Representation on a Speech from the Throne, moved June 14th, 1784, strikes me as the heaviest, and the most tinctured with a party spirit, of any of his productions:—not that it does not contain a very just and weighty censure of the means, through court intrigue and popular delusion, by which the present Administration came into power.
OCT. the 30th
Looked into Mitford's History of Greece. The Athenian Democracy imparts no sort of relish for that sort of government, and justifies Aristotle in saying, Η Δημοχρατιχ η τελεζουος Τυζοννις εξι;<63>—and of the worst sort, we may add-The account of the expedition and retreat of the 10,000, is above measure interesting. How more than men, do the Greeks appear, compared with the effeminate and pusillanimous Persians! one can hardly believe them of the same species!
Finished St. Mark's Gospel. Disdaining to conciliate where he undertakes to inform, this Evangelist appears to have made a brief collection of the most remarkable deeds and sayings of Christ; which, for the want of a more continued narrative to introduce and support them, must present a front "un peu herissé de merveilles"<64>, should suppose, to a mind not previously prepared to receive them with requisite submission.—a feature of our Lord's conduct particularly enforced in this Gospel, is the sedulity with which he shunned the obtrusive throng which his doctrines and his miracles gathered round him; and in perfect conformity with this reserve, are the repeated injunctions of secrecy he is stated to have delivered, respecting the wonders he performed; but was it possible to suppose that gratitude could be silent, or admiration dumb, at such benevolent and astonishing displays of supernatural power? and would not the strict observance of these commands have defeated, in a great measure, the very purpose for which such manifestations of divine authority were exhibited, not only by limiting their immediate effect, while the prohibition lasted, but by furnishing grounds for suspecting their authenticity, when it was removed?
NOVEMBER the 9th
Finished Montesquieu's Esprit des Loix. In chap. 15, Book 26, he maintains, that the proposition "Que le bien particulier doit ceder au bien public,"<65> is true with respect to the liberty, though false with respect to the property, of a citizen; but assigns no satisfactory reason for this distinction, nor am I able to discern one. An ambition to appear profound and sagacious by an air of dogmatism and reserve, is one of Montesquieu's predominant foibles.
Read Paley's Horae Pauline. His object is, to prove the genuineness of the Acts of the Apostles considered as Memoirs of St. Paul, and of St. Paul's Epistles. His method is this: if there is fabrication in the case, either the Memoirs are composed from the Letters, or the Letters are forged from and adapted to the Memoirs, or both the Memoirs and Letters are constructed out of traditional facts. On the first supposition, the intention may be honest; in the two others, it must be fraudulent: but in all three, the coincidences between the Letters and the Memoirs must be the effect of design; confessed in the first instance and apparent; and traceable in the last, since no less effort is necessary to produce coincidence between different parts of a man's own compositions, whether founded on tradition or fiction—(especially when they are made to assume the different shapes of History and original Letters), than is required to adjust them to circumstances found in any other writing. He proceeds accordingly, with infinite acuteness and ingenuity, to produce most striking instances of undesigned coincidence in the documents in question.—-Many of his sentiments and expressions are eminently happy: as when he says, No. 11, c. 4, "that a thread of truth winds through the whole, which preserves every circumstance in its place:" and No. 2, c. 5, "it is improbable that accident or fiction should draw a line which touched upon truth in so many points:" and No. 1 c. 14, "it is like comparing the two parts of a cloven tally; coincidence proves the authenticity of both."—I cannot think that St. Paul unequivocally asserts his performance of miracles in the passages quoted to establish that point.
NOV. the 14th
Read Burke's Reflections. They appear to me, on this review, far more temperate, than from my recollection of the first impressions they made, I expected to find them; and I really believe, had their publication been deferred till near the present period, they would have excited little of that amazement and indignation with which they were at first received. However overcharged his representations, might appear at the time, subsequent events have lowered them to truth and moderation.—His exposition of the character of our Revolution, is surely most sound and just.—He kindles much more fiercely, and speaks more unreservedly in his subsequent Letter to a Member of the National Assembly.—Paine has been guilty of a gross misrepresentation of a passage in the Reflections, which I have never seen detected and exposed. Ridiculing the love of liberty in the abstract, Burke observes, that government, too, as well as liberty, abstractedly speaking, is good; "yet could I", he indignantly asks (p.8) "in common sense, ten years ago, have felicitated France on her enjoyment of a government, without enquiry what the nature of that government was, or how it was administered?" This sentence Mr. Paine (Rights of Man, P. 1, p. 14), quotes as an affirmative proposition, directly in the contrary sense to that in which it is urged; and proceeds, after his fashion, to load his opponent with abuse, for maintaining so slavish a doctrine! It demands some degree of charity to believe that such a blunder was merely accidental.—In this passage, Mr. Burke has been scandalously misrepresented: in another, he has been generally misunderstood. It has been imputed to him, that he has spoken contemptuously (p. 117) of the lower orders, as a "swinish multitude." But of what multitude was he speaking? Of a people let loose from all restraint of government and manners—a collection, as he presently afterwards describes them, of "gross, stupid, ferocious, and at the same time, poor and sordid barbarians, destitute of religion, honour, and manly pride, possessing nothing at present, and hoping for nothing hereafter." Had he maddened his herd of swine with a legion of demons, as emblematical of the savage passions with which such a miserable assemblage would be torn and distracted and agitated to perdition, his image could hardly have been regarded as too strong.
Looked over Rennell's Memoirs of his Map of Hindoostan. The secluded Valley of Cashmere, forming, between the parallels of 34 and 35, an oval hollow 80 miles by 50; blooming with perennial spring, refreshed with cascades and streams and lakes, and encircled with mountainous ridges towering into the regions of eternal snow, was perhaps Johnson's prototype for the Happy Valley of Amhara in Rasselas.—Rennell allows 1 mile in 11, for the winding of roads in England, in distances of about 100 miles; and in great distances, as from London to Edinburgh, 1 in 7: in Hindoostan he allows 1 in 8, for distances of 100 miles, and 1 in 7, for greater: in the Carnatic he allows 1 in 9, for 100 miles.
NOV. the 25th
Read the first five chapters of Reid's Enquiry into the Human Mind: in which he examines the senses of Smell, Taste, Hearing, and Touch; and contends, that the sensations received through each of these senses, suggest to us, as natural signs, besides the conception and belief of a sentient mind to which they belong, the conception and belief of certain qualities in bodies, if known, denominated primary, if unknown, secondary; between which, and the sensations suggesting them, there is no more similitude, than between pain and the point of a sword. It is to the confounding these sensations with the objects they suggest, and regarding the former as images and representations of the latter, that he ascribes the rise and progress of a philosophy, originating with Des Cartes and perfected by Hume, which, inferring that nothing can be like sensations but sensations, expunges everything besides from the world of being. The sensation itself, he regards as the immediate object of memory, as well as of sense; but, in the former case; suggesting past, and, in the latter, present existence: and also of imagination, but, in this case, unconnected with any belief of existence past or present.
NOV. the 26th
Read the 6th and 7th (the two last) chapters of Reid's Enquiry: in which he follows up the same distinction with respect to sight, as the other senses; and maintains, that the sensation of colour, which perpetually varies with light, shade, distance, &c., suggests an unknown quality in objects called colour, which never varies: and that visible figure is suggested by the impression of light upon the retina, without any sensation; which visible figure becomes in time an acquired sign of the tangible figure of bodies, and is perpetually confounded with it, though, as he very ingeniously evinces in his geometry of visibles, they substantially differ from each other. He thus endeavours to draw a line, and enforce a distinction, between Sensation and Perception. The old Peripatetic philosophy, regarding principally the external qualities of objects, of which we have perceptions, concluded that the sensations in our minds were the images of these qualities: modern Philosophy, regarding principally the affections and operations of our own minds, and presuming that the sensations there must resemble the objects they represent, concluded, that, as a sensation can resemble nothing but a sensation, no such objects could exist.—In opposition to this Philosophy, which derives all our judgments and beliefs from reasoning—from comparing the ideas transmitted by our senses, he contends, that our senses produce judgment and belief, not merely simple apprehension; that there are other original principles of belief—such as confidence in testimony, which, far from being produced, is limited and restrained by reason and experience; and that these original judgments make up the Common Sense of mankind.—He writes more philosophically and penetrates far deeper than Beattie, whom he notwithstanding preceded in this career; and the important distinction he labours to establish and enforce, between Sensation, which can exist only in the mind, and the External Quality indicated by that sensation, which can only exist out of it, seems very happily adapted to reconcile the invincible arguments of the Immaterialists with the irresistible dictates of instinct. Where I feel the greatest difficulty in admitting his doctrine on this subject, is with respect to Colour; which is so little felt as a sensation in the organ of sight, and is so distinctly referred and definitely applied to external objects as the universal integument of visible nature, that it demands a violent effort not to regard it as equally external with the objects which it apparently invests.
DECEMBER the 15th
Read the Introduction to Berkeley's Principles of Human Knowledge, in which he really seems to be serious and in earnest. He laments the difficulties and doubts which perplex Philosophy, and attacks, as the fruitful source of them all, the doctrine of abstract ideas: maintaining, that we cannot conceive separately, qualities which cannot separately exist; and tracing the opposite delusion to language, in which the frequent occurrence of general terms, has led to the supposition, that we must necessarily have determinate ideas answerable to those terms, or, in other words, abstract ideas: whereas he shows, that words do by no means always communicate determinate ideas, nor are intended to do so; that they frequently operate merely as general notations, like letters in Algebra; and that they are even capable of working on the passions without presenting any image whatever to the mind.—Burke has evidently borrowed from hence, what I conceived was an original notion on the influence of Words upon the mind, in the last Part of his Sublime and Beautiful. See Oct. 10th, 1798.—Berkeley allows that we may direct and restrict our attention to any one or more of an inseparable combination of qualities.
DEC. the 16th
Looked through the Principles of Human Knowledge. The whole of Berkeley's argument against the existence of matter, is comprised and taken for granted in the first sentence of his tract, assuming, that the only objects of human knowledge are ideas.—In the 22nd section, he says, "if you can conceive any one idea, or anything like an idea, to exist otherwise than in a mind perceiving it, I will readily give up the whole cause;" yet in the 4th section, he says, "it is an opinion strangely prevalent, that sensible objects have a real existence distinct from their being perceived:" now, I would turn the tables—how can we believe what we cannot conceive?—What he says from the 135th to the 142nd section, in favour of the existence of mind or spirit, is quite unsatisfactory:—if we can have a notion (see the 142nd section) of the existence of anything without an idea (and of mind or spirit he broadly states in the 27th section, we can have no idea), the fundamental principle on which his whole fabric rests, gives way.—His doctrine respecting abstraction, is jest as applicable and useful on the supposition of the existence, as the non-existence, of matter.—Is it possible that Berkeley could seriously suppose his scheme would prove such a sovereign remedy against scepticism and atheism as he pretends?
DEC. the 24th
Finished Voltaire's Siècle de Louis le 14me.<66>: a most entertaining and instructive wont; evincing that the author possessed in perfection the enviable art, "d'approfondir des choses, en paraissant les effleurer."<67> In the 20th chapter, Voltaire fairly confesses, that "l'esprit republicain est au fond aussi ambitieux que l'esprit monarchique; et qu'il y en est des vertus dans en etat monarchique, sans doute, tout autant que dans les republiques, avec moins d'enthousiasme, peut-être, mais avec plus de ce qu'on appelle honneur:"<68> and he treats ecclesiastical subjects—even the struggle between the Jansenists and Jesuits, the rise and decline of the Quietists, and the disputes in the Catholic Church respecting the allowing or proscribing certain Chinese ceremonies by the missionaries to that country—with a decency and propriety which we should little expect from him, and which we should scarcely find in any of his disciples. He reckons the population of France, at twenty millions; its ecclesiastical revenues, at four millions sterling; the ecclesiastics, secular and regular, at 250,000; and the emigrants in consequence of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, at 150,000 persons.
DEC. the 25th
Read P's.—Sermons to — —. They are certainly ingenious: but he writes with too much sang-froid to secure even our reason; and, where he enforces moral duty, shows how weak an instrument reason is, to awaken and engage our moral feelings. From his cold view of moral distinction, as a discrimination of the intellect in reference to the general good, I think it likely, that, if he were not a Christian, he would be a Godwinite. The more I meditate on the subject, the more I am convinced, that the virtues must be engrafted on the passions.
Looked again over Burke's first Letter on a Regicide Peace:—a wonderful composition! He admits the perilous nature of our situation, but deprecates all overtures to peace; laments that the true state of the contest in which we are engaged, has never been fairly exposed to us by its conductors; exhibits it himself, with matchless force; and animates us to persist in it, by the most powerful appeals to our reason and our passions. Eager, unremitted earnestness, breathes its persuasive spirit through the whole effusion.
DEC. the 30th
Finished the Athenian Letters. The idea of opening the interior of Greece, through the supposed correspondence of an agent from the Persian Court residing at Athena during the Peloponnesian war, is most ingeniously and happily conceived; and, considering the difficulty of the task, it is admirably well supported.—The 147th and 148th Letters, in which the generous Cleander expresses the anguish of his soul at the base part which he had been compelled to act by his court, derive additional interest from the reflection, that they were written by the Hon. Charles Yorke, who in 1770 put a period to his existence from remorse at having been duped into a political delinquency.—In the 151st Letter, Socrates is made to maintain against Protagoras, "That morality is not a science to be learned or taught, by applying the reason to theoretical speculations; but, that its principles are implanted in our nature, and render the illiterate and learned equally qualified to practise and to judge of it."