Diary of a Lover of Literature - 1799

1799


 

JANUARY the l0th

            Read Frend's Principles of Taxation: an excellent satire, however unintended, on a tax upon capital instead of income; which, in plain terms, is the whole of his proposal. Deducting a certain sum as necessary to subsistence, his plan is, that what the man without capital gains in the course of the year, and what the capitalist gains by his capital together with the whole value of that capital, should be subject to an equal tax. Thus supposing one man gains £130 per annum by his personal industry, and another the same income from land worth thirty years purchase, deduct.£30 income from each for subsistence, and, by a tax of £10 per cent, the former will pay £10 and the latter (£130x30 +100)/10 or £400 per annum—I beg pardon—only for the first year: his tax, together with his capital and income, will be considerably lightened, under such a sweating, each succeeding year.

            Dr. R. informed me, that out of more than 40,000 cases which had fallen under his observation, he never met with one, in which a person with red or light flaxen hair had the small-pox to confluence.

 

JAN. the 13th

            Finished St. Luke's Gospel. This is the history on which Mr. Evanson solely relies;—and it must be confessed, that it has more the air of an ordinary historical composition, than any of the other narratives on the subject.—The angelic annunciation to Zacharias and Mary (c. 1.), on which is founded the preternatural conception of John and Jesus, must, it is evident, entirely depend, for its direct evidence, on the credit of those two witnesses, attesting a transaction altogether private.—Why did not Christ (c. 4, v. v. 23, &c.) work a miracle in his own country, instead of provoking a natural indignation by denying so easy a manifestation of his divine mission, where, from the proverbial proneness to incredulity, it was so particularly wanted. Fifty reasons, I am aware, may be assigned from the comments and glosses of those who are resolved at any rate to find one; but what I wish, is a substantial and satisfactory answer.—Luke relates the perplexing story of transferring a legion of devils from a man into a herd of swine. What can be made of this, under the torture of any ingenuity? Those who refine possession by the devil, into derangement of intellect, must be gravelled here.

            Lord C. called in the evening. He represents Fox as being in excellent spirits at St. Anne's Hill; busily and fervently occupied in attending to the minutiae of the Greek Language, and its different dialects. One should have thought, the different construction of the Greek republics, would have possessed more attractions for a mind like his.

 

JAN. the 23rd

            Finished the perusal of Hardy's Trial for High Treason.—The Attorney General's (Scott's) opening, is strangely perplexed, involved, and obscure. He speaks (with the view, I presume, of giving a colour of propriety to the indictment then trying) of the whole legislative and executive authority, as vested in the crown; exercised in the former case with advice and consent, and in the latter with advice only:—a doctrine, which though primitively true, perhaps, sounds now most harshly to the ear.—Erskine, in opening his defence, very powerfully contends, that to constitute High Treason under the first branch of 25. Ed. 3., there must be a direct compassing of the King's death; and that to compass his deposition, though it may be offered as evidence of compassing his death, will not in itself constitute that crime; and is expressly one of the ensnaring treasons of the 21st of Rich. 2. repealed by the 1st of Henry 4.-Gibbs, at the outset, takes the same ground; but (like Mr. Erskine) afterwards abandons it—I suppose, as not sufficiently safe: he then proceeds to argue, as if an intention to depose, was the crime charged; and finally states the question at issue to be, whether Mr. Hardy, in concurring with others in calling a convention, personally meant that that convention should act by force of arms against government?—The Solicitor General (Mitford) in reply, contends, that a distinct intention to destroy the King, is not necessary to constitute treason; that any act which, in its consequences, leads, according to ordinary experience, to endanger the King's life, is high treason; that an attempt to depose the King, is an act of this nature; and that the forming any assembly or convention of the People, assuming that character and of consequence the sovereignty, or even a design, acted upon, of procuring any alteration in the constitution otherwise than by the constituted legislature, or through force on them, is an attempt to depose, and amounts to the crime of high treason.—Eyre is very able and perspicuous in summing up; exhibiting to the Jury a distinct and correct outline of the complicated history submitted to their judgment, and judiciously insisting on its leading and characteristic features. He lays it down as unquestionable law, that a conspiracy to depose the King, is such conclusive evidence of compassing his death, as to have become a presumption of law upon the subject; and that it is not necessary to establish a compassing the King's death, prior to the conception of deposing him, to constitute High Treason. He observes, that the argument of the prisoner's counsel on this head, broke down under the case.—I am quite satisfied with the verdict.

 

JAN. the 26th

            Finished Horne Tooke's Trial. Tooke, from the beginning, appears perfectly collected; and soon discovers a confidence in his case. He displays wonderful acuteness, as well as perverseness, in arguing points and examining witnesses; and evidently awes the court into a forgetfulness of its own dignity: his play upon the simplicity of Sharpe, is exquisite: and when his captious asperity relents under the indulgence he receives, and seems to have little expected, the scene is quite affecting: Erskine maintains pretty nearly the same doctrine with respect to treason, as on Hardy's trial; and, as on Hardy's trial, he speedily loses sight of it. Gibbs waives discussing, whether an intention to depose, without compassing the death of the King, is treason, because it is a question which does not arise on this case; but if it ever, should arise, he leaves it to the Court to determine, between the decisions which affirm this to be law, and the express authority of the statute itself.—I admire his spirit.—Eyre expressly lays it down, as before, That to mean to depose the King, is to compass. his death, because it is a presumption of fact so conclusive, that the law has adopted it and made it a presumption of law; and, that what is the meaning of any statute, and what case of fact comes within that meaning, is always a question of law. He accordingly states the question for the consideration of the jury to be, whether the prisoner has been concerned in a plan to establish a national Convention which, should usurp the powers of government; for if he has done so, he has been concerned in a plan to depose the King, and is guilty of high treason.—It does appear to me, that this is declaring that to be treason under 25. Ed. 3, which is not made treason by that Statute; and that the principle upon which, this construction is founded "—that acts which may eventually endanger the Kings life, are evidence of conspiring his death, though that event should never have been in the contemplation of the party", tends to introduce the very uncertainty which that Statute was enacted to obviate.

            Horne Tooke, I believe, truly describes his temper, when he says, "my mind, is much better formed to feel and to acknowledge kindness, than to solicit it". I cannot, any more than the Chief Justice, develop the political character of this extraordinary man; though I have enjoyed some favourable opportunities of probing him myself, and seeing him probed, upon the subject. At the very time he was giving the most marked encouragement to the "Rights of Man", I well remember his speaking to me of the author in these emphatical terms, "Paine's intentions I believe to be honest; but he is ignorant of almost everything, and he hates everything of which he is ignorant".

            On the whole, the conduct of these Trials, is an honour to English Judicature.—     I much doubt whether Buller would have managed them so well; and Lord Kenyon would have made sad work of them.

 

FEBRUARY the 1st

            Read Stone's Trial for Treason. The evidence for the Crown leaves a fair opening for defence, which his own case by no means makes out. Erskine's is a wretched speech, delivered apparently without any preparation; and his egotism, thus unsupported, is insufferable. Lord Kenyon in summing up, leans shamefully against the prisoner: he evidently labours to hinge the whole case on the simple fact, of Stone's design to communicate intelligence to France; and to sink all consideration of the question, whether he meant by that communication to benefit France or this country: and when one of the Jury asks if this question is to be considered, his Lordship gives an equivocal answer, and the whole Court is strangely discomposed.

 

FEB. the 11th

            Finished the Travels of Anacharsis. This work is ably executed, and must have cost prodigious pains; but it still leaves us, as we must ever be left, extremely ignorant of the political constitutions, religious worship, and private manners of the Greeks. With respect to the precise theories of the Greek philosophers, I have ever felt myself much in the dark; nor am I a whit more enlightened by the laborious researches of the Abbé Barthelemy, who has wisely contented himself rather with extracting their particular opinions, than attempting to reduce them into a regular system. He represents Aristotle as maintaining, that the virtues are no other than the passions preserved by Prudence between the two opposite vices of excess and defect:-Aristotle himself, I think, is not quite so explicit.—Many anecdotes tend to raise very high our ideas of Grecian taste in the arts; but the much admired statue of Minerva by Phidias, composed of ivory and gold, with a coloured imitation of the iris of the eye, must surely tend to lower them considerably.—I wish, after all, that the result of the learned Abbé's researches had been embodied in some other form: there is something false and offensive in making fiction the basis of fact, which a just taste, I think, can never fully approve.

 

FEB. the 12th

            Read Horace Walpole's Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of Richard the 3rd.—doubts, which he has in some measure transfused into my mind; though in contending against the public opinion, he has probably been carried, by the momentum of the nisus, a little too far in his vindication of the character of Richard, as usually happens in such conflicts.—In some subsequent pieces in defence of this tract, he treats the objections of his opponents with infinite keenness, ridicule, and success: even the subtle philosophy of Hume, is no match for his playful acumen. Hume, whom he seems thoroughly to have understood, must have trembled at his boast, that he could loosen the artful contexture of his History, in a variety of places, with greater facility than he had unravelled the story of Richard the 3rd He points a keen remark at Hume—"There is a good deal of difference in the kind of belief which a man entertains, before he has treated a subject, and after".

 

FEB. the 19th

            Looked over Horace Walpole's Fugitive Pieces. His communications to the World are all, polished, easy, and elegant; but the 160th No. is the very flower of grace: it treats a most indelicate subject, with matchless refinement and felicity.

            Began Grotius de Jure Belli et Pacis. I do not distinctly see on what he founds natural law; and his definition of it in the 10th section of the 1st chapter, is complicated and obscure. In the 2nd chapter, he struggles hard to reconcile war with. Christianity;—but surely kicks against the pricks. In the 8th section of the 3rd chapter, Grotius contends against, and Gronovius, in his notes, for the supremacy of the People; but without fundamentally differing, I think. Grotius, I apprehend, is not for unlimited subjection in the people; and Gronovius qualifies his doctrine of their sovereignty, in such a way as must secure the approbation of every rational friend to liberty and order. In the succeeding chapter, however, Grotius labours earnestly (Gronovio reluctantly) to narrow as much as possible the right of resistance in the subject,—so that I am afraid we must give him up, at last, as a true friend to the liberties of mankind.

 

FEB. the 24th

            Read Walpole's Account of his Transactions with Chatterton; in which he endeavours, and with some success, to exculpate himself from the charge of neglecting that miraculous but ill-starred youth. There is a vile sentiment in his first letter on this subject, which surely no sense of self-abasement could warrant; and to which, whatever might have been the momentary suggestions of spleen or perverseness, I am astonished that he should have given public and deliberate utterance: "what virtues we have, are the production of fear, prudence, experience, hypocrisy, and age."—Looked afterwards through his Hieroglyphic Tales; displaying a whimsical imagination running wild without any apparent drift:—His happy ridicule of Lord Chesterfield's Letters; which, however, he falsely denominates, as from the Author, "a System of Education":—His Criticism on Dr. Johnson's Writings; in which there is much truth very felicitously expressed:—His Detached Thoughts.; some of which are very exquisite and just:—and,. His Letters on his Travels; which are fatiguingly flippant, and fired with none of that enthusiasm which we should expect from an ingenuous and favoured Youth, at Paris, Rome, Naples, Florence, &c. That keen and ardent sensibility, which, tempered by other qualities, enters as an essential ingredient into the composition of very superior minds, unquestionably never formed any part of Walpole's character.

 

FEB. the 28th

            Finished looking over Horace Walpole's Letters, in the last Volume of his Works. They are in general written with playful ease, enlivened by quaint turns and occasionally sparkling with bons mots; but betray a sickly fastidious delicacy, on the very verge of affectation: it is only when animated with indignation—a rare occurrence—that he assumes a tone of earnestness.—It appears from his 69th Letter to Conway, that he saw, so early as 1765, the seeds of the late Revolution, in the atheistic Philosophers of Paris, "who, avowing war against Popery, aim, many of them, at a subversion of all religion; and still many more, at the destruction of the Regal power": and in a Letter from Paris to Mr. Brand, dated Oct. the 19th, 1765, he observes of the people there, "they have no time to laugh: there is God and the King to be pulled down first; and men and women, one and all, are devoutly employed in the demolition". This is an early and strong scent; but Lord Chesterfield (See Oct. the 5th, 1796.) was still before him.—It is curious to hear Gray, in his 10th Letter, say "the same man's verses" (Johnson's) "at the opening of Garrick's Theatre, are far from bad"—of one, who was destined afterwards to sit in imperial judgment on him and all his tribe.—I observe that Walpole, although he repeatedly, and in strong terms, expresses his first impressions of disgust at the modes and customs of France, is always ultimately fascinated and subdued by the charms of the society he finds there; and to the enjoyment of which, he seems by nature and habit to have been peculiarly adapted.

 

MARCH the 1st

            Finished the Paradise Regained. Milton has been most unhappy in the choice of his subject,—an inexplicable and suspicious legend; unconnected with the narrative where it appears; easily feigned; and incapable of contradiction:—but he has worked it up with wonderful ability; nor am I surprised at his partiality for an offspring, so naturally sickly in its constitution, and which he must have reared with such surpassing pains and assiduity.—Milton has been extolled for the exquisite delicacy of his ear; but what shall we say to such lines as these

 

"And made him bow to the Gods of his wives."          B. 2. v.171.
"And with these words his temptation pursued"           B. 2. v.405.
"From that placid aspect and meek regard."                 B. 8. v.217.
"No wonder, for though in thee be united."                 B. 3. v.229.

            How are they to be recited? To my ears "lay your knife and fork across your plate", sounds just as numerous:—Newton's note on v. 245. B. 4.

 

"The Attic bird trills her thick warbled notes",

            Explains what, I have been asked, Gray means by the "Attic warbler", in his Ode on Spring. Philomela, the daughter of Pandion, King of Athens, was changed into a Nightingale; which was thence in Latin called Atthis.—Milton in 15 lines from v. 293 to 308. B. 4, gives a good summary of the systems of the different moral philosophers of Greece.

 

MARCH the 8th

            Read Milton's Samson Agonistes;—a noble Poem, but a miserable Drama. Comus, though much earlier, is surely a much finer composition:—after all, however, give me the Gothic architecture of Shakespeare.—Lycidas, though highly poetical, I agree with Johnson, breathes little sincere sorrow, and is therefore essentially defective as a monody.

            Perused, with delight and admiration, Mackintosh's Preliminary Discourse on the Study of the Law of Nature and Nations; exhibiting a most perspicuous and masterly view of this complicated subject, and imparting a most exalted idea of the future temple to which it forms the portico.—Liberty he defines, judiciously perhaps, but rather from its effects than its essence; "security against wrong", whether from "fellow subjects" or "the magistrate"; but emphatically so with respect to the latter.—He speaks with the profoundest veneration of Burke; and his political opinions have evidently undergone an immense revolution since the publication of his Vindiciae Gallicae:—it was impossible, in a mind like his, that they should not have experienced a considerable change, after the popular ebullition, by which he was borne away, had a little subsided.

 

MARCH the 16th

            Read Montesquieu's interesting portrait of himself, in the Monthly Magazine for this month. Two traits touched me so nearly, that I felt a responsive thrill as I read them. "It has given me no high opinion of myself to perceive, that there are very few offices in the state for which I am qualified.—I am lost when I come to ask of myself, what is the decision of the Law: yet I. have been anxious to make myself master of the intricacies of form; and am the more angry with myself, because I see men of mean understandings acquire what I could not attain".—"In the treating of topics at all profound or difficult, I am obliged to reflect much, as I proceed, to prevent my ideas from falling into confusion. If I perceive that I am listened to, the subject seems to vanish from me, or my thoughts rise in such hurry and disorder that nothing is distinct. But when difficult points are discussed in conversation where there are other speakers, I acquit myself infinitely better".—I feel while I am transcribing this, that I am exhibiting myself.

            Looked over a Volume of "Lettres Choisies de Mesdames Sevigné et Maintenon". The former cloys one with excessive tenderness for her daughter; the latter gives some of the best advice to a young woman, I ever met with: the former talks amusingly of taking up devotion; the latter seems filled with its overpowering influence: the former trifles most engagingly; the latter exhibits herself as a most superior woman: the former wins our esteem; the latter commands our admiration.

 

MARCH the 22nd

            Finished Tasso's Jerusalem, in Hooke's Translation; comparing it occasionally with the Original, and with Fairfax's version, which on many occasions is more just and spirited. The extravagant machinery of Enchantment, though it suggests some very beautiful scenery—though it gives birth to the voluptuous and entrancing loves of Armida and Rinaldo—is certainly an inexpiable blemish in this noble Poem; which might have been rendered a very fine, and a very interesting composition, without it.—Tasso often appears studiously to copy Homer, and Virgil, where he could well have done without them; and with an apparent intention that the imitation might, be remarked:—as if to throw a reflex splendour from their immortal labours on his own.

            Read Burke's Heads for Consideration on the State of Affairs in 1792. His foresight, as a statesman, is astonishing:—he was pretty nearly then, where we are now.

 

MARCH the 24th

            Began Burnet's Theory of the Earth. Nothing can exceed the dexterity, or liveliness, or picturesque force, of his reasoning. He powerfully illustrates, by his example, Paley's rule—of exciting a strong sense of a difficulty, before you attempt to remove it.—His imagination displayed in the construction, the illustration, and the defence of his Theory, is wonderfully luxuriant and fine: all nature seems obedient to his plastic powers, and to array itself with obsequious diligence at his bidding. To the leading feature of his Theory, however, there seems a capital and fatal objection: the exterior crust enveloping the waters, as formed from the subsidence of lighter particles floating in the air, must have been composed, one would imagine, 'of fine mould; how then are we to account for the stupendous masses of rock which we behold in its ruins—for the Pyrenees, the Alps, and the Andes?

 

MARCH the 26th

            Read with much interest, in a Collection of Fugitive Pieces, an Introduction to the Theory of the Human Mind by J. Usher, author of Clio. He maintains, That general terms do not represent any particular objects or ideas, but are mere creatures of the mind, formed for the classification of objects, and the convenience of communication; That pleasure and pain are terms of this nature; That we never feel any but particular pleasures and pains; That these do not differ as greater or less of one kind, but as being of totally different kinds; That the love of pleasure and aversion to pain, cannot therefore be principles of action in the mind, since these terms have no meaning but as general expressions for the particular pleasures and pains we have experienced; That we are actuated by particular appetites and passions, not only not deducible from any general love of pleasure and aversion to pain, but not originating even in any particular perceptions of pleasure or pain, since the passion often precedes the perception, and terminates in it; and, that these instinctive appetites and passions, though entirely neglected by Mr. Locke, who has attended only to the transitory impressions made upon the mind, are the principles which determine our feelings and actions, our character and conduct: he proposes accordingly to examine these instincts, as what can alone open the true nature of that great, miserable, and complicated creature, Man. I wish he had pursued his purpose, as he has got, I think, upon the right scent.—So far, he observes, as we make provision for our appetites and desires, we may be said to be actuated by self-interest; but this is a principle of a merely subordinate kind, and totally distinct from the self-love of that frigid system of Philosophy, which holds it to be the parent of all our passions, and resolves virtue and vice, right and wrong, good and evil, into mere expressions for a true or mistaken interest. This, on his ground, appears a very just distinction.

 

APRIL the 8th

            Finished the Orlando Furioso; delighted with the wild fancy and ingenious contrivance of its author. Each Book is so happily broken off, that the reader is compelled to pursue the next; and the romantic tales which, interwoven, form the texture of this wonderful Poem, are so judiciously dropped and revived, that curiosity is never satiated: these, beyond all expectation, are made to converge and bear most dexterously on one point—the repulse of the Pagan forces attacking Charlemagne; and the whole concludes nobly with the single combat between Rogero and Rodemont, the latter of whom, however, Ariosto has exalted too highly for his purpose—the setting off his favourite Paladin.—The reading this Poem, it must be confessed, after all, gives additional spirit and force to the admirable ridicule of Knight-Errantry in Don Quixote.

 

APRIL the 10th

            Read the Report of the Committee of Secrecy of the House of Commons, just published; in which the schemes for Jacobin fraternization in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Hamburg, are exposed, in a masterly manner, from their first origin in each place.—The Papers of this formidable confederacy, as given in the Appendix, uniformly display great energy and ability.—The first has a passage truly sublime "Man has reposed on ruins, and rested his head on some fragments of the Temple of Liberty, or at most amused himself with pacing the measurement of the edifice, and nicely limiting its proportions; not reflecting, that this Temple is truly Catholic, the ample earth its area, and the arch of heaven its dome."

            Looked over Gibbon's Vindication: a dexterous and masterly defence, undoubtedly; but I like his style and manner less than I used to do. It is too elaborate; wants ease, spirit, and flexibility; and seems adapted solely to the grave and stately march of history. Yet it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to change any term, or its collocation, for a better; so that "proper words in proper places" does not seem a sufficient definition of a good style.

 

APRIL the 28th.

            Looked over that part of Parr's Sequel in which he introduces, in a strange and desultory way, his observations on French Politics. He combats the position, that what is true in theory may be false in practice, by maintaining, That truth consists in the relation of our ideas to each other, or in the conformity of those ideas to external objects; and wherever that relation or conformity exists, the ideas belonging to either are unalterably just, and the proposition expressing those ideas, must ever be true: That therefore a proposition true in theory, must be true in practice, where the practice corresponds to the theory: and, That where they appear to clash, we are not always to maintain that, the theory is false, but that it does not apply to the particular case.—Of Burke's expression "metaphysically true, and morally and politically false," he observes, that "true and false" are expressions of the metaphysical, "proper and improper" "just or unjust" of the moral, and "useful or pernicious" of the political properties of objects: but this rather tends to complicate than clear up the question; and a wider and deeper view of the subject, I suspect, is required, to obtain a simple and satisfactory solution.—Parr's style of composition, with all its excellencies, has one capital defect—it wants light and shade: everything is sacrificed to force; each part appears to be uniformly and intensely laboured; and nothing has the air of being the natural and spontaneous effusion of a mind seriously and earnestly engaged in communicating its ideas and its feelings:—yet he writes, I am told, with fluency, and much in the same manner as he speaks.

 

APRIL the 29th

            Read Mackintosh's Vindiciae Gallicae. His style and manner in this piece are magnificent; but uniformly cumbrous, and occasionally coarse. He has infinitely improved both, in his Preliminary Discourse; though some of the ponderosity still remains. There can hardly be a more express and full contradiction, than in two passages, p. 265 of the Vindiciae, and p. 49 of the Discourse. In the former, he says, "It is perhaps susceptible of proof, that these governments of balance and control, have never existed but in the vision of theorists": in the latter, he affirms, that "The result of such an examination will be, that no institution so detestable as an absolutely unbalanced government, perhaps ever existed; and that the simple governments are mere creatures of the imagination of theorists."—Page 215-16-17, he maintains, that morality is founded on expediency, and that utility alone constitutes its obligation; but that the moment the moral edifice is reared, its basis is hid from the eye for ever—the moment that general maxims, founded on an utility paramount and perpetual, are embodied and consecrated, they cease to yield to partial and subordinate expediency; and it then becomes the perfection of virtue, to consider, not whether an action be useful, but whether it be right. This is a very ingenious, (as not admitting the system I must not call it a successful,) attempt at extrication from a most importunate difficulty, involved in adopting the principle of utility as the basis of morals.-Had I been Burke, I could hardly have forgiven his comparison of me to Judge Jeffereys, p. 326.

 

APRIL. the 30th

            Read Cicero's Lucullus; in which he makes that character expose very forcibly the scepticism of the Academics, through the intervention of his master Antiochus. He afterwards, himself, take& up their defence with much address and spirit; and maintains, from the various deceptions of the senses, and the infinite diversity of opinion on all subjects, that though there is probable, there is no certain truth; and, to remove the obloquy of such a doctrine, that this probability is sufficient for all the purposes; of life. There appears much of puerile subtlety in the argument on both sides.—A sentence in the 9th c. struck me as comprehensively and concisely expressing the two great objects of Ancient speculation, "judicium veri et finem bonum":<69>—the latter of these is explained before, by "extremum et ultimum bonorum, quo omnia referantur."<70>—How mankind have perplexed their enquiries by their expressions!—The passage c. 41, beginning, "Neque tamen istas quaestiones"<71>—is wonderfully fine.

 

MAY the 2nd

            Read Soame Jenyns' Origin of Evil. His grand solution of the introduction of evil, is, that it could not have been prevented, by Omnipotence, without the loss of some superior good, or the permission of some greater evil. He divides it, with this view, into, 1st evils of imperfection; which are only the absence of comparative advantages, essential to a state of subordination, and in truth no evils at all: 2ndly, natural evils; which are the necessary consequence of the imperfection of created beings, the untractableness of matter, and some incomprehensible connection between good and evil; and, thus regarded, are the fewest possible: 3rdly, moral evils; which are expedient, that natural evils may fall to the lot of guilt instead of innocence,—besides that they ultimately contribute to the general good: 4thly, political evils; which originate in the depravity of man, who, as he will never submit his private advantage to public utility, must be compelled by violence or bribed by corruption to do so: and, lastly, religious evils; which result from the necessity, that religion must originally have been accommodated to, and will afterwards be vitiated by, the same depravity. The whole extremely ingenious, and wretchedly unsatisfactory.—In his 3rd Division, after exploding all former criteria of virtue as superficial, he maintains, that moral good and evil is, nothing but the production of natural good and evil; that this is the only solid foundation on which any system of ethics can be built, and the only just rule by which we can pass a judgment on our actions, as it not only enables us to determine which are right and wrong, but almost mathematically to demonstrate the proportion of virtue and vice belonging to each, by comparing them with the happiness or misery they occasion: but, that though such is the essence of morality, its end is probation, it having been properly appointed by God as a test of our obedience to his will; and on this account entrusted to our discretion, while every other important object in life is secured by adapted appetites; and that it is only as virtue is performed in conformity to the will of God, that it has any merit, it being otherwise nothing more than a part of prudential economy. All this he delivers in great pomp and form, as a new and most important discovery: and perhaps it may be regarded as the most clear, broad, and explicit statement, then known, of a theory since become so popular.—With all its paradoxical ingenuity, there appear to me only two truly original thoughts in this work:—one which Johnson has so successfully ridiculed in his review of it:—and another, of which I cannot sufficiently praise the acuteness, "That, in politics, most principles speculatively right are practically wrong, because they are founded on the plausible but false presumption, that mankind in general act on honest and rational principles".

 

MAY the 7th

            Looked into Gibbon's "Extraits de Journal." In Page 214 he observes, very justly, "Jamais les principes et les actions des hommes, ne sont plus differents, que lorsque les principes sont opposés aux sentimens naturels de l'humanité: le coeur corrige erreurs de l'esprit".<72>—In Page 301 he remarks of Bayle, "que les deux Lettres sur l'amour paternel et sur la jalousie, sont d'une philosophe profond; il y développe une chain de préjuges liés a notre être, nécessaires a notre bonheur, et destinés par l'Etre Supreme a nous tenir lieu d'une raison trop relevée pour le commun des hommes, et qui n'auroit jamais eu le degré de vivacité propre a nous faire agir".<73> The observance of moral distinction, whatever Soame Jenyns may imagine, is unquestionably secured, like every other purpose of our being, by appropriate instincts.—On Middleton's Enquiry, Gibbon very justly remarks, p. 283, "Il voyoit bien jusqu'où l'on pouvoit pousser les consequences de ses principes, mais il ne lui convenoit pas de les tirer".<74>

 

MAY the 12th

            Finished the perusal of Cicero's Treatise "De Finibus". The three grand divisions of Ancient Philosophy, appear to have been, Physics, Dialectics, and Morals; in the last of which they sought, with reference, I think, to the individual solely, "Quid sit finis, quid extremum, quid ultimum, quo sint omnia bene vivendi recteque faciendi, consilia referenda?"<75>. In the Treatise in question, Cicero expounds, with much spirit and force, in the way of Dialogue, the sentiments of the principal Schools of Philosophy on the latter of these subjects. In the first Book he provokes Torquatus to an eloquent defence of Epicurus' opinion, "Omne animal, simulatque natum sit, voluptatem appetere, eaque guadere, ut summo bono; dolorem aspernari, ut summum malum, et quantum possit, a se repellere: idque facere nondum depravatum, ipsa natural incorrupte atque integre iudicante;"<76> and therefore, that pleasure (natura ducente)<77> is the chief good, and pain the chief evil, of life: which opinion he principally vindicates, by insisting on the virtues and vices as being merely modes of action conducive, and valuable or pernicious solely as they are conducive, to these ends. Epicurus despised dialectics as of no assistance, and cultivated physics as of important service, to morals: and he insisted on the veracity of the senses, as the sources of all our knowledge; which if deceptive, all art and science must be fallacious too.—In the 2nd Book, Cicero powerfully attacks this sensible but obnoxious system in its weak point, by lowering the "voluptas"<78> of Epicurus (an unfortunate term certainly—"happiness" would have been clear of all suspicion) to animal gratification; and then setting it up as opposed to the "honestum":<79>—a principle, of which it appears from the 19th chapter, how imperfectly he knew the origin, how incapable he was of defining its nature, and how forcibly he felt its operation.—In the 3rd and 4th Books, Cato expounds, and Cicero, as before, in person attacks, the doctrine of the Stoics. Zeno and his disciples having placed the "summum bonum" in the "honestum", and the "summum malum" in the "turpe",<80> seem to have been driven to great straits in reconciling to their system the necessary preference of objects which certainly fall within neither of these descriptions; and it is on this ground that Cicero assails them, maintaining that they ought not to have separated from his sect—the Peripatetics and Old Academy—who held, that those intermediate objects were "bona et mala",<81> though immensely subordinate to the "honestum et turpe". Certainly Arista and Pyrrho, who, adapting the same principle as the Stoics, obstinately held, that there was no difference in these objects, nor any ground of preference between the acutest pain and most exquisite pleasure, were at once more consistent and absurd.—In the 5th Book Piso undertakes the cause of the Old Academy; and accordingly, after a long and intricate deduction and exposition of the origin and grounds of the other systems of philosophy, proceeds to maintain, That the "summum bonum" or "finis bonorum" consists in living "secundum naturam"<82>, in possessing that state of body and mind to which nature primarily and instinctively invites, and of which reason enlarges and corrects our view, teaching us to estimate the relative importance of the various "bona et mala" of life, from the free use of the meanest member of the body, to the command of the most exalted and diffusive virtue; That the seeds of the virtues composing in conjunction the "honestum", are implanted, in our common nature; That these virtues are valuable on their own account, and without reference to any advantage beyond themselves; That the most illustrious of them, are those which relate to and tend to promote social intercourse, though they contribute to the "summum bonum" solely as they respect the individual possessing them; and, finally, That, such is their transcendent excellence, the wise man must be happy in their possession, though he may be rendered happier still in the accession of other advantages.—This system, in its spirit, seems to have approached very near the purest and highest form of Epicureanism.

            I do not observe the shadow of an attempt, in any quarter, to deduce the virtues from utility, in its modern sense of general good; or even to refer them to that cod. Wherever the word "utilitas"<83> is used, it seems to relate solely to the advantage of the individual.—With respect to the term "honestum", though sometimes rather loosely and vaguely employed in their theories, it appears properly and emphatically to include, and whenever they speak naturally and from the heart, it always denotes, those sentiments and actions which excite our moral approbation; the grounds of which approbation, they do not seem to have explored, but to have taken, the feeling itself, with our other appetites and passions, as a part of our nature.—The capital error, which most effectually misled the Ancient philosophers in their moral speculations, appears to have been, the looking in their "summum bonum" for what they-had exalted too high to find anywhere; and then endeavouring to restrict it to some specific possession. The Epicurean and Peripatetic systems, seem to have been the most free from this charge, by being the most enlarged in their scope.—The principle which gave credit and currency to those systems which placed the sole or the chief good in the "honestum", it is easy to guess. The philosophers pretended to teach, and their disciples aspired to learn, the art of living happily: now the goods of fortune they could not command, nor avert its evils; the main stress, therefore, would naturally be laid on those goods and evils which depend upon ourselves, and result from the government of the mind.

 

MAY the 17th

            Read Gibbon's "Essai sur l'Etude de la Littérature":<84> an ostentatious performance; written with no apparent end, but to display the erudition of the author in two or three critical digressions—if indeed the term deviation can be properly applied, where there is no direct path. He defines criticism, section 23, "l'art de juger des écrits et des écrivains; ce qu'ils ont dit, s'ils sont bien dit, s'ils ont dit vrai historiquement";<85> and "l'esprit philosophique"<86>, of which he speaks in high-flown terms, the ability (section 46) "à pouvoir remonter aux ideés simples; a saisir et combiner les premiers principes".<87> In section 77, he maintains, "Que la beauté n'est peut-être fondée que sur l'usage. La figure humaine n'est belle que parcequ'elle se rapporte si bien aux usages, auxquels elle est destinée":<88>—the first "usage" is equivocal till it is explained by the second.

            Finished Lord Bacon's Letters, edited by Birch. It is grievous to see this great man, who appears from various passages fully sensible of his vast powers and attainments, and impressed with a just confidence of the weight he would have with posterity, eternally cringing, and a beggar, to men so infinitely beneath him, and whom he must have felt to be so. One curious disclosure of his, in the heads of a proposed conference with Buckingham, struck me most forcibly. He was proposing to offer his services to go over to France to conduct a secret negotiation: "I have somewhat" says this Lord of human kind "of the French: I love birds, as the King does; and have some childish-mindedness wherein we shall consent"!

 

MAY the 20th

            Finished Cicero's three Books "De Naturâ Deorum". In the first, Velleius maintains, and Cotta assails, the notions of the Epicureans; and in the second and third, Balbus expounds and defends, and Cotta once more endeavours to expose and explode, the doctrine of the Stoics, respecting the Gods: in the latter case, however, his attack is successful only against the particular conclusions of that sect; and to their general argument for a creating and superintending Providence, he has nothing to oppose but the existence of physical and moral evil. His salvo, Lib. 1. c. 22, at the outset, for his character as Pontifex, is highly curious.—I do not exactly understand Cicero's conclusion from the whole debate: yet at the opening (Lib. c. 2,) he utters in his own person a sentiment sufficiently devout, "atque haud scio, an, pietate adversus Deos sublata, fides etiam et societas humani generis, et una excellentissima virtue, justitia, tollatur".<89>—It requires, I may here remark, a very vigilant attention a deméler<90> Cicero's real opinions, from those which he imparts to the various personages he brings forward in his Dialogues: even Middleton, on the important occasion of summing up his character, has fallen into some confusion and mistakes on this head.—It appears from c. 55. Lib. 2., that the Ancients conceived the blood to be diffused from one ventricle of the heart, by the veins; and the spiritus extracted by the lungs, circulated from the other, by the arteries—which indeed derived their denomination from this function.

 

MAY the 24th

            Read Cicero's Treatise, "De Legibus." In the first Book, he undertakes to open the fountain from whence all law is derived, preparatory to treating of the laws of his own country; but I cannot say that he executes his task in a manner very clear and satisfactory to my mind, or which disposes me to think that he himself possessed any distinct and fixed ideas on the subject. From whence does moral distinction, which he makes the basis of all law, and the great object of his enquiry, spring? To this fundamental question, I gather, after diligent search, no other answer, than that it is the result of the right reason implanted in us by the Gods.—In the 2nd Book, assuming what he conceives he has established in the first, That Law is not of human invention, nor varying in different countries and ages, but, as proceeding from right reason, coeval with the great Author of all things in whom perfect reason must reside, and consequently the same in all times and places, he proceeds to inculcate the necessity of impressing on mankind the persuasion, that all things here below are administered by the Gods; and concludes with prescribing, for this purpose, various particular religious regulations, in which he approves himself a very Catholic Pagan, and exhibits the sad spectacle of a mighty river, sprung from an exalted source, and drawing abundant supplies from every quarter as it advances, which having long held on its steady and majestic course with a brimming current, and visited the most inviting and favoured regions in its progress,—finally loses itself, before it reaches its destination, in the sands.—In the 3rd and last Book, he descends, from the religion, to consider the political constitution and municipal economy of a state: but as his remarks are made chiefly with a reference to the particular polity of Rome, they contain little matter of general application or interest.

 

MAY the 26th

            Read the 1st Book of Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity. He defines Law, "that which modifies any power to the production of any effect"; and divides it into, 1st, That Law which God hath prescribed for himself in all his works; 2ndly, The Law of natural and necessary agents; 3rdly, The Law of animated brute agents, or the judgment of common sense and fancy concerning the sensible goodness of those objects whereby they are moved; 4thly, The Law of angels, or their intuitive intellectual judgment concerning the amiable beauty and high goodness of the objects which excite them; 5thly, The Law of voluntary human agents on earth, or the sentence of reason concerning the goodness of the things which they are to do; 6thly, positive conventional Laws; and 7thly, divine revealed Laws: but how reason, under the 5th head, distinguishes good from evil, and establishes a consequent Law, he by no means satisfactorily explains:—like Cicero, on this important and fundamental question, he leaves us, nearly as he found us,—much in the dark.—Hooker's march is uncommonly dignified and stately.

 

JUNE the 3rd

            Visited the Royal Exhibition; and was again struck and delighted with Turner's Landscapes: particularly with fishermen in an evening—a calm before a storm, which all nature attests is silently preparing, and seems in death-like stillness to await: and Caernarvon Castle, the sun setting in gorgeous splendour behind its shadowy towers:—the latter in watercolours; to which he has given a depth and force of tone, which I had never before conceived attainable with such untoward implements.-Turner's views are not mere ordinary transcripts of nature: he always throws some peculiar and striking character into the scene he represents.

            Viewed afterwards the Miltonic Gallery; and was powerfully impressed with the striking illustration it affords of Burke's Doctrine (Sub. and Beau.; p.2, sects. 3rd and 4th) respecting the superior efficacy of the indistinctness of poetical imagery, in exciting emotions of the sublime, over the necessary precision and exactness of actual delineation, however forcible and vivid. The example perhaps May be considered as not altogether a fair one—for Fuseli is unquestionably rather bombastic than sublime; and in his vehement struggles to embody the preposterous phantoms of a fevered brain, exhibits the writhings and contortions of the Sibyl, without the inspiration: yet he has done enough, I think, to show, how feeble and ineffective any attempt must be, to represent on canvas those awful and mysterious forms which our great Bard has shadowed forth, so impressively yet obscurely, in his immortal Poem.—The department in which Fuseli appears most calculated to shine, is in the fantastic portraiture of fairies, sylphs, and elves—where the wildest freaks of fancy may be safely indulged without offence to truth and nature.—He injudiciously represents the visions, and even the metaphors, of Paradise Lost.

 

JUNE the 8th

            Visited the Orleans Gallery, Pall-Mall.-Several pictures by Raphael in the first room; none of which pleased me much: there was a hardness in the manner, a laboured stiffness in the design and drawing, and a general cast of resemblance to the illuminated frontispieces in old missals, in all of them; and Christ praying that the cap might pass from him, however prized (surely from mere pedantry, or at most an association with his latter and more perfect productions), was in no respect better, as far as I could discern, than one of these decorations.—Poussin's Seven Sacraments:—very fine, both in design, and colouring, the tone of which was admirably harmonious in all, and exquisitely clear and brilliant in some. Alexander and his Physician by Le Sueur;—a good deal after the manner of Poussin, but in colouring I think still preferable: this is the first production I have met with by this artist; and I shall be anxious to see more, The Ecce Homo by Guido, above all praise—I could only gaze upon it in silent admiration.—In the second. room, a St, John by Raphael, the Transfiguration from Michael Angelo, and Diana and Actaeon by Titian, fully vindicated, in my judgment, the transcendent reputation of these great artists

 

JUNE the 13th

            Had a long and interesting conversation with Mr. M., turning principally on Burke and Fox. Of Burke he spoke with rapture; declaring that he was in his estimation, without any parallel in any age or country—except perhaps Lord Bacon and Cicero; that his works contained an ampler store of political and moral wisdom than could be found in any other writer whatever; and that he was only not esteemed the most severe and sagacious of reasoners, because he was the most eloquent of men,—the perpetual force and vigour of his arguments being hid from vulgar observation by the dazzling glories in which they were enshrined. In taste alone he thought him deficient: but to have possessed that quality in addition to his others, would have been too much for man. Passed the last Christmas with Burke at Beaconsfield; and described, in glowing terms, the astonishing effusions of his mind in conversation. Perfectly free from all taint of affectation: would enter, with cordial glee, into the sports of children; rolling about with them on the carpet, and pouring out, in his gambols, the sublimest images mingled with the most wretched puns. Anticipated his approaching dissolution, with due solemnity, but perfect composure. Minutely and accurately informed, to a wonderful exactness, with respect to every fact relative to the French Revolution.—M. lamented, with me, Fox's strange deportment during this tremendous crisis; and attributed it, partly to an ignorance respecting these facts, and partly to a misconception of the true character of the democratic philosophers of the day, whom he confounded with the old advocates for reform, and with whose genuine spirit he appeared on conversation totally unacquainted, ascribing the temper and views imputed to them, entirely to the calumny of party. Idle and uninquisitive, to a remarkable degree. Burke said of him, with a deep sigh, "He is made to be loved". Fox said of Burke, that M. would have praised him too highly, had that been possible; but that it was not in the power of man, to do justice to his various and transcendent merits. Declared, he would set his hand to every part of the Preliminary Discourse on the Law of Nature and Nations, except the account of Liberty—a subject which he considered with Burke, as purely practical, and incapable of strict definition. Of Gibbon; neatly remarked, that he might have been cut out of a corner of Burke's without his missing it.—Spoke highly of Johnson's prompt and vigorous powers in conversation, and, on this ground, of Boswell's Life of him: Burke; he said, agreed with him; and affirmed, that this Work. was a greater monument to Johnson's fame, than all his writings put together.—Condemned democracy as the most monstrous of all governments; because it is impossible at once to act and to control, and consequently the sovereign power, in such a constitution, must be left without any check whatever: regarded that form of government as best, which placed the efficient sovereignty in the hands of the natural aristocracy of a country, subjecting them in its exercise to the control of the people at large.—Descanted largely in praise of our plan of representation; by which, uncouth and anomalous as it may in many instances appear, and indeed on that very account, such various and diversified interests became proxied in the House of Commons. Our democracy, he acutely remarked, was powerful but concealed, to prevent popular violence; our monarchy, prominent and ostensible, to provoke perpetual jealousy.—Extolled in warm terms—which he thought as a foreigner (a Scotchman) he might do without the imputation of partiality, for he did not mean to include his own countrymen in the praise-the characteristic bon naturel,<91> the good temper and sound sense, of the English people; qualities, in which he deliberately thought us without a rival in any other nation on the globe.—Strongly defended Burke's paradoxical position, that vice loses its malignancy with its grossness, on the principle, that all disguise is a limitation upon vice.—Stated with much earnestness, that the grand object of his political labours should be, first, and above all, to extinguish a false, wretched and fanatical philosophy, which if we did not destroy, would assuredly destroy us; and then to revive and rekindle that Ancient genuine spirit of British liberty, which an alarm, partly just and partly abused, had smothered for the present, but which, combined with a providential succession of fortunate occurrences, had rendered us, in better times, incomparably the freest, wisest, and happiest nation under heaven.

 

JUNE the 15th

            Visited for the first time (so strangely is it buried in obscurity) St. Stephen's Church, Walbrook. The interior architecture, rich, elegant, chaste; and (what may be deemed its appropriate and distinguishing merit) effecting much in a small compass. I doubt whether a Gothic building could have been constructed on the same scale, which would have produced an equal effect. The tendency, it is true, of the Gothic style, is to enlarge, and of the Grecian, as it is called, to reduce, the apparent size of the edifices to which they are applied: but the Gothic artist must have positive magnitude to work upon, or the imposition arising from real disproportion and seeming irregularity, would be detected and despised; whereas that exquisite order and symmetry, by which the whole of a Grecian structure, however stupendous in bulk, is brought at once within the grasp, still retain their charm, however limited the scale on which they are employed, and perhaps carry with them on this occasion something of the real majesty and grandeur of the objects with which they are usually associated.—This reads a little "a la Warburton"; but let it pass.—The Altar Piece, the stoning of St. Stephen, by West, struck me as incomparably the best production I had ever seen by that artist.

 

JUNE the 18th

            Reached Speen,<92> yesterday; and strolled a pleasant circuit about it. The country round, highly beautiful: to the South, a rich expanse of cultivation; then rising ground, skirted with wood; and, above these, the broad backs of naked downs, giving a fine relief to the other parts of the scene: the battered ruins of Donnington Castle towering proudly on an eminence to the North, and the Priory standing in a delicious shady recess at its bottom.

            This day reached Bath. Burst suddenly, from the edge of White-Horse Downs, on a vast and variegated expanse, spreading from below, and stretching far away before us as the eye could reach. Had a distinct retrospect of the White Horse, peeled from the surface of the chalky Downs, as far as Pickwick; presenting at a distance, over the intervening heights, a most singular and imposing aspect. From Pickwick, descended down the left side of a beautiful and luxuriant vale, opening in a superb vista to the South-West: passed the agreeable scattered village of Box; and, crossing the valley, pursued the right side of it, through Bath Easton, into Bath.

 

JUNE the 19th

            Perambulated Bath. Captivating as are the beauty and symmetry of the buildings in this city, at first view, I begin already to suspect that we should be better pleased, in the long run, with the intricacy and variety of more irregular towns.—The great Ball Room, 108 feet by 42, and 42 feet high, as is usual in such cases, disappointed me. It is not in general, till we get back, and find the comparative inferiority of what we before esteemed considerable in the same way, that we become fully sensible of transcendent excellence in anything abroad. Perhaps a little pride, and a little vanity, mingles itself with our judgments on these occasions:—a little pride, which makes us disdain to be suddenly overpowered into an acknowledgment of the comparative littleness of what we once thought great; and a little vanity, by which we are afterwards led, amongst our neighbours, to arrogate to ourselves some portion of the consequence of those objects, which we have seen, and they have not.—The effect of the Lower Crescent, composed of twenty-eight noble houses, is unquestionably striking; yet viewed as one structure, it offends by the worst sort of disproportion—by appearing much too depressed for its extent.

 

JUNE the 20th

            Drove to Clifton. Walked over the Downs to the remains of a tower and Roman encampment; and descended, down a chine a little beyond, to the banks of the Avon, which we pursued up to the Wells. The rocks which tower to the right, richly feathered with wood to their summits; those to the left, naked, abrupt, and precipitous; forming a fine contrast: the river at the bottom, a miserable muddy ditch: had it been an alpine torrent, the scenery of this romantic cleft would have been complete. Awful effect of the blasting of the rocks, reverberated from side to side, and dying away in distant murmurs. Tasted the water at the Wells; warm and milky, but without any perceptible mineral flavour: did it possess any peculiar sanative virtue, indeed, the inhabitants of Clifton would be pre-eminently blessed—for the same or a similar spring supplies the whole village. The air strikes us as uncommonly soft and balmy; and here, probably, if anywhere, resides the restorative Genius of the place.

 

JUNE the 21st

            Visited Bristol; of which we caught a most striking coup d'oeil on our way, from the brow of Brandon Hill. The streets and buildings of this vast town, bear so exact a general resemblance to those of the City of London, that a stranger, not perfectly versed in every part of the latter, may sometimes forget himself:—I felt, more than once, the full force of this illusion.—Visited, with much interest, Radcliffe Church; a most grand and venerable pile. Three paintings over the Altar, by Hogarth—the Sealing of the Tomb—the Ascension—and Annunciation of it by the Angel: not much to be said for the design, in any of them; and the colouring, in his usual slight, but quiet and inoffensive style. Shown the armour of Sir William Penn, father of the Quaker; and the monument of William Canynge, which fixes his death to Nov. the 7th, 1474. Ascended the Tower, to a room containing the chests from which Chatterton professed to draw his Ancient Manuscripts:—long nearly as a coffin, and curved on the top:—falling fast to decay.

            Entertained after dinner with a dulcimer: a stringed instrument, something like a small spinet; sounded on the wires with sticks of cane, and producing tones singularly plaintive, wild, and soothing.

 

JUNE the 26th

            Reached Chepstow, by the Aust Passage, on the 22nd; and have since explored, in various strolls, its delightful vicinity.—The banks of the Wye here, though yielding perhaps in simple dignity to those of the Avon, are far more diversified with picturesque combinations of rock and wood and water. The Bristol Channel, as seen from the heights around, must disappoint those who have formed magnificent ideas of the mouths of mighty rivers: little short of the Andees, would be requisite to furnish a suitable back ground to such a breadth of waters while their turbid and terraqueous aspect, viewed even at this distance, will be forcibly and offensively felt by eyes accustomed to rest with delight on the pure and pellucid currents of the Menai straights, or the Solent.

 

JUNE the 27th.

            Walked to Tintern. Attaining the highest point of the eminence on the road to Monmouth at a place called Chapel Hill, paused to enjoy a magnificent retrospect over the Grounds Of Persefield, the Town and Castle of Chepstow, and the variegated tract we had traversed, of the Severn, sweeping from behind the feathered rocks of the Wye, to the left, and, rapidly dilating in breadth as it advances, losing itself in the vast expanse of the Bristol Channel, to the right: the whole backed by the coast of Somersetshire, spreading to an illimitable extent in the distance, and distinctly marked with wreaths of smoke from the glass works at Bristol, not less than 20 miles off.—Descended by a tortuous and rugged road, amidst a prodigality of shade and the refreshing murmur of gurgling rills, into a deep and sequestered hollow, formed by. a sweeping recess of the Western banks of the Wye, and enclosing in its secluded bottom the village and abbey of Tintern: a delicious retreat; most felicitously chosen—(as where, indeed, have the founders of such establishments not evinced their taste and discernment in the choice of situation)—for the purposes of religious meditation and retirement.—After encountering the thick enclosures and vile hovels which in every direction vexatlously obstruct the approach to the Abbey-Church, and intercept a distinct view of it, magical and sublime effect, on entering the West door, of the whole interior of this venerable pile, carpeted with velvet turf, and roofed by the azure sky:—the lofty side walls of the nave, bleached by an exposure of two centuries and a half, and beautifully stained with mosses and lichens of various dyes, retiring in long and deep perspective to the tall eastern window, aerially light, and gracefully festooned with wreaths of ivy:—an exquisite and inimitable picture; singularly, yet harmoniously, blending the solemnity of Gothic architecture with the cheerful gaiety of nature.—Strolled in the evening up the banks of the Wye, through the scattered village of Tintern:—many of the houses in ruins, and the whole place exhibiting strong marks of poverty and wretchedness. Ivy everywhere luxuriates in wonderful profusion: taking advantage of the general listlessness which reigns here, it has quietly forced its way into the little church of Tintern, and spread completely over the sounding-board of the pulpit, which it fringes very picturesquely.

 

JUNE the 29th

            Reached Newport, 16 miles; keeping the Bristol Channel all the way in sight to the left.—Strolled after dinner, by a sequestered footpath, leading through Christ-Church wood, to Caerleon; a neat, quiet and retired town, invitingly situated on an extensive level of fertile meadows, intersected by the winding Usk, and bounded on either side by gentle but lofty acclivities, which gradually close towards the North:—barren ridges of hill swelling boldly over the nearer heights to the West. Of the former grandeur of this once celebrated spot, could discover no vestiges, but the remains of a massy tower at the East end of the bridge, and a considerable tumulus, probably the site of the ancient keep of the Castle, lying a little to the North-West, on the opposite side of the river;—yet Caerleon was incontestably a Roman station of considerable distinction; and, if Giraldus may be believed, exhibited, so late as the 12th century, many interesting and splendid monuments of its former magnificence.

            The Bridge here, like that at Chepstow, is lightly but compactly built of wood; and the platforms of both, are composed of boards loosely laid down and confined from slipping merely by tenons at their extremities projecting against a rail above:—not, as has been absurdly supposed, that they may rise and fall with the tide, for the play which the planks derive from this construction, is very inconsiderable; but to prevent their being blown up and carried off by it, as would probably be the consequence were they attached in the usual manner to the timbers below. The precaution, to those who look down from a height of not less than 50 or 60 feet (a fearful and giddy height with such a footing) on the stream at low water, appears very superfluous; but so immense is sometimes the influx of the current from the tide pent up in the Bristol Channel, that almost every year's experience, we were told, evinces its utility.

 

JUNE the 30th

            Reached Cardiff, by the lower road; an uninteresting drive of 12 miles. Viewed the Castle; occupying the West side of a quadrangular area of about 8 acres, enclosed by the Ancient walls of the fortress: a raised terrace walk, with occasional peeps over the parapets, running along the North and East sides, and terminating in a lookout from a tower at the South-East angle: the keep, a polygonal tower on a steep mound in the centre. The whole kept in very trim order; and the ancient apartments of the castle transforming, at a great expense, into something like a semblance of the snug accommodations of a modern dwelling. A few family pictures by Dahl and Kneller; a fine portrait by Vandyke; and a piece containing several heads, in fine preservation, by Holbein, decorate the walls. Holbein appears to have copied individual nature, just as he found it, with great exactness; and on this account to have failed in picturesque effect, which demands a greater breadth and force of light and shade than ordinarily occurs in real life. As far as he goes, however, he is truly excellent; and there can be little doubt that his likenesses were very correct.

            Strolled afterwards to Llandaff, having, to the left, an immense expanse of level meads stretching away to Pennarth point; and, to the right, a luxuriant vale, 5 miles across, bounded by a range of heights sprinkled with houses and opening in a deep recess towards Pontypridd: Arthur's Butts, the loftiest of these eminences, capped with clouds. The city itself consisting of a few scattered hovels, interspersed, here and there, with a neat prebendal house. The nave of the Cathedral, the West front of which is fine, in ruins: the choir, new built, but in a most incongruous style of architecture; composing altogether a preposterous medley.

 

JULY the 4th

            Returned from a pedestrian excursion round by Caerphilly and Pontypridd. Pursued the first 5 miles over a level plain; then winding up the range of heights in front, had an expansive retrospect, over the flat we had traversed, of Cardiff, Pennarth point (a bold headland), the Bristol Channel studded with the two islands called the Steep and Flat Holmes, and the Somersetshire coast in the distance.—Steep descent, to Caerphilly, lying in a deep hollow surrounded on all sides with mountainous swells:—a neat, well-built, and apparently thriving village.—Explored the castle; dreadfully shattered by violence and time, but still attesting prodigious strength and rude magnificence. Entered by the grand approach in the East front. The interior area, an immense enclosure, surrounded by a deep ditch and massy walls, and flanked by four gigantic towers, one at each angle: that at the South-East, solid as it is, reft to its foundation, and fearfully overhanging its base at least 12 feet. The great hall, of enormous dimensions, lying on the South side of the area; and covered galleries, communicating with each other and the different apartments by spiral staircases, running through the whole extent of this labyrinth of buildings. Connected originally with the first area by a drawbridge, and like that defended by a deep fosse, extends another court, projecting boldly, in the form of a vast bastion, to the West; and beyond this, are the remains of other out-works advancing to a considerable distance in the same direction. The effort which it must have cost, to rear so vast a pile, is prodigious; yet there remains no certain history or tradition, I believe, by whom this stupendous labour was achieved. The next day, crossed over the mountains to Eglwysilan; a solitary church, the most wretched I have yet beheld; dark, damp, and gloomy, with crazy benches instead of pews, and raised graves of loose earth, some strewed with faded flowers, on the uneven floor of clay. Lost ourselves, for some time, in this forlorn and desolate region:—mountains swelling over mountains, in dreary succession and savage grandeur, to the North.-Descended, by a precipitous and rugged gulley in the mountain, into the romantic valley of the Taff, opening to the left in a narrow but superb vista, and exhibiting in remote but bright perspective, Pennarth Cliff, the Steep and Flat Holmes, the Channel, and the coast beyond it.—Striking effect of Pontypridd, seen from below: the span of the single arch 144 feet, the breadth of the bridge only 12; the abutments pierced, to lessen their pressure;—stretching, light as air, like a rainbow, across the river. Overpowered, in every other direction, by the magnificence of the scenery around;—so much so, that when we first caught a view of it from the heights above, we mistook it for a foot-bridge.—Pursued the Taff, raging over gigantic slabs of rock, and at a sudden bend to the left joined by another mountain stream pouring through a grand recess to the North-West, till we reached the Bridgewater Arms.—Ascended the cliff behind the inn, and examined a large slab of rock, perhaps 40 feet in circumference, and between 4 and 5 thick, sensibly, though slightly, librating, on a moderate pressure.—On our return this morning, followed the Taff for some miles, gushing with a pure and rapid current over its rocky channel, and bounded on either side by steep and picturesque acclivities, till we reached the gorge of the valley; into which we had peeped from the heights of Llandaff, and where it suddenly and abruptly expands, without any preparation, upon a level champaign. Perched on the extremity of the last rugged precipice to the left, tower the ruins of Coch Castle, guarding the entrance to the valley, and commanding an immense extent of country spread beneath it to the South.—Struck to the left, at the base of the hill which we had traversed on setting out; and rejoined the road to Caerphilly, a few miles from Cardiff.—All has been completely Welsh in this little circuit: English is scarcely understood; never voluntarily spoken; and, when attempted, badly and with difficulty, as a foreign language.

 

JULY the 7th

            Visited, from Pyle, Mr. Talbot's grounds at Margam; lying, with the village, snugly sheltered under a steep and lofty screen of hill, thickly mantled from its base to its summit in wood. The fine collection of orange trees (the noblest I believe in the kingdom) disposed in square tubs round a basin; in a parterre, formed in the midst of a thick shrubbery, and sheltered on all sides by an amphitheatre of trees: perfuming the whole air of this calm and sequestered retreat, with their delicious odour. The Green-House, in which they are protected, except during the summer months, 275 feet in length; with two handsome square rooms at each extremity of this long-drawn vista, filled with antique statues, busts, and vases, and some exquisite models in cork of the principal ruins at Rome. The roof of the chapter-house, which, with the remains of the monastery, is enclosed within the grounds, and the impending fate of which Mr. Wyndham so feelingly deprecated in his tour more than 20 years since, fell in last winter, and covered its owner with disgrace.

 

JULY the 9th

            Walked back from Neath, part of the way we had come, to view the scenery of Briton Ferry. Interesting track from the high road to the Ferry. To the right, the little sequestered church of Briton, and Lord Vernon's house and sloping lawns, embowered in foliage: to the left, a rocky knoll projecting as a cape between Llan-Bagton Bay and the mouth of the Neath River, richly tufted with trees and underwood, and formed into walks commanding in every direction the scenery around, and, from the summit to which they conduct, the whole sweep of Swansea Bay circling round to the Mumbles: in front, the Neath River, about a quarter of a mile in width, retiring to the right, before Lord Vernon's house, between folding crags feathered with wood to the very edge of the water: behind, a screen of steep and noble heights, skirted with wood below, but bare above, and giving a fine relief to the immediate features of this Elysian scene—altogether the most pleasing in themselves, and the most happily combined and agreeably diversified, I have ever beheld.—Marked, on our return, a considerable druidical upright, in the middle of a meadow, to the West of the road, something short of two miles from Neath.

 

JULY the 10th

            Strolled up the Western banks of the Neath River, under a noble screen of hill to the left, to Aberdillis Mill; where, in a deep and dark recess of the cliff, overspread with foliage, a torrent from the mountains, bursts through a chasm above, and thunders impetuously down, amidst huge slabs and masses of rock, tumbled into the wildest forms that fancy can conceive:—a wonderful little scene; quite a cabinet picture of Salvator Rosa's. Crossed the river above, and returned under the heights of Gnoll Castle:—ruined by that pest of modern improvement-plantations of fir, extending their stiff and murky files in long and hideous array.—Awful effect, in the night, from the lurid and infernal glare of the furnaces round the town. But for the nuisance of these works—a growing evil—few places could boast a more delightful and inviting vicinity than Neath.

 

JULY the 12th

            Crossed yesterday by Pont y Neath, over the mountains, to Brecknock, 32 miles. Passed Aberdillis mill, and pursued for some way the banks of the Neath river, along its picturesque and richly wooded valley; then struck to the left, and climbing by a long and steep ascent into the heights above, traversed a region of mountain tops, bleak and wild, without signs of cultivation or inhabitants: the road dreadfully rugged, gulled with torrents, and in some places trackless; clouds gliding athwart barren ridges around us, and spreading, beneath, a night of shade:—a most forlorn and desolate scene. Opened, from a deep mountain hollow, beyond Pont y Neath, on a vale to the left, stretching magnificently downwards to Trecastle, and giving us once more a glimpse of the world below. Approaching Brecknock, skirted the huge base of the Monuchdenny or Van mountain, furrowed deep with torrents; its summit wrapped in clouds, diffusing a sad purple gloom over its hollows and recesses, far more awful and impressive than mere darkness, and which seemed at the moment to explain and justify (in one who must have often witnessed its solemn effect) Homer's epithet of πορφυρεος Θανατος.[porphyroeos Thanatos]<93>

            Followed this morning, from the Collegiate Church, the whole extent of the Priory walks; winding picturesquely along the sleep, woody, and sinuous banks of the river Honddy, rushing with an impetuous current over its rocky channel below. Returned by a route above them; and had a clear and distinct view, over the gentle eminences which bound the vale to the South, of the whole form of the Monuchdenny Mountain—so conspicuous a feature from all the heights near Brecknock:—sharp and angular in its contour, and towering sublimely to its forked summit; supreme above all the aspiring heights around it. This is incontestibly, I believe, the loftiest mountain in South Wales: its height, by a late accurate measurement, was ascertained to be 2592 feet above the vale which separates it from Brecknock.

 

JULY the 20th

            Reached Rhaiadrgwy, 29 miles from Brecknock, by Builth, 14. The Wye, which we have followed for the last stage, maintains much the same character here that it does a hundred miles below; pursuing, over a rugged channel, its rapid and devious course, between grand folding steeps, presenting, at every turn, new and diversified combinations of those elements of picturesque beauty—rock, foliage, and water.

            In the evening, explored our way up a sequestered hollow, to the left of the heights on the Aberystwith road, and buried deep under their shelving steeps. A magnificent scene at the head of this grand recess: a mountain torrent, swelled by the late rains, and rushing from above, bursts down a groove at the junction of the cliffs, and tumbles in a succession of falls, sometimes conspicuous, sometimes hid, sometimes plunging in a stream, sometimes spreading into sheets of foam, for at least a quarter of a mile, and from a height not less than St. Paul's, between two gigantic precipices full a thousand feet high:—some venerable oaks, the skirts of a hanging grove to the left, throwing their branches wildly athwart the base of the chasm! As we lingered in silent admiration, at the foot of this grand spectacle, the dark and heavy clouds of the evening, gathering to a tempest, and shedding a solemn twilight on all beneath, came-slowly sailing up from behind; while a cormorant, startled from his solitary haunts by our presence suddenly sprung, with flapping wings, from the awful shade in, which we stood:—slight incidents; but of thrilling power, when fully accordant with the character and genius of the scene.

 

JULY the 23rd

            Reached Llanidloes, 15 miles from Rhaiadr. Descending the heights to the town, had a gorgeous prospect before us of mountains rising over mountains: the Van, a truncated cone, towering grandly in front; the huge uplifted ridge of Plinlimmon, of gigantic bulk and transcendent elevation, stretching to the left; and the Severn, reduced to a mountain stream, winding its course from it through a cleft, skirting the town beneath, and pursuing its devious track through a noble vale spreading far away, to the right, towards Welshpool. Perambulated the town: consisting chiefly of four streets, intersecting each other at the Market-House; and composed of some of the best and some of the meanest buildings I have seen in Wales, strangely intermingled: here a respectable mansion, and next to it a straggling line of deplorable weather-boarded hovels, sordid with smoke and filth, without glass to the windows, and with ragged ends of plank tacked together for chimneys:—particularly in the suburbs. Passed, as we came along, some still more wretched huts, constructed solely of loose stones, sods, and faggots; and merely pierced, to let out the smoke and admit the light.

 

JULY the 24th

            Crossed the Severn by the wooden bridge, just below its junction with the Lleweddock river, and pursued the latter for some way, gushing in a deep and romantic hollow to the left, thickly shrouded in wood: then struck to the right, and, with some difficulty of approach, gained the summit of the Van mountain, which had confronted us so nobly yesterday:—evidently the highest ground immediately round Llanidloes. A gloomy tempest to the North, blackened and obscured everything beneath it; but to the West of the North, stretched the whole ridge of Plinlimmon, of a lumpish form and unimposing aspect, but uplifted upon other heights, and incontestibly supreme: farther northwards, as the weather cleared up, appeared the ragged summits of the Merionethshire mountains—two spiky tops, probably of Cadair Idris and the Arran, pre-eminent, with light fleecy vapours floating athwart them: to the East, spread, in a vast expanse, the vale of Severn; marked in remote distance by the peaked top of the Breddin mountain: to the South, lay Llanidloes; apparently at our feet, though 4 miles distant.

 

JULY the 25th

            Ascended Plinlimmon. Pursued for 7 or 8 miles, the left bank of the Severn, dwindling by degrees to an alpine torrent, and raging at the bottom of a deep and narrow glen; our track hanging fearfully on a ledge to the right. Opened at length, between the receding heights, on the supreme ridge of Plinlimmon: its top saddened and obscured with driving storms; its sides furrowed deep with torrents. Entered an open and dreary moor extending to its base, and left our horses at a solitary hovel to the right, on a spot the most truly desolate and forlorn I have ever seen inhabited. Pursued our way up the side of the mountain, keeping the Severn torrent to our left, by a long but gradual ascent through perpetual bog; then struck to the right, and attained the highest elevation of the ridge, conspicuously marked to the surrounding country by two considerable piles of stones:—clouds driving and whirling, on all sides, with a rapid motion, beneath and athwart us; and allowing only partial glimpses of the mountain-tops around;—some, afar off, illumined by the sun, and exhibited, through the openings of the mist, in bright and beautiful transparency. To the left, an immense and dreary plain, extending several miles into Cardiganshire, and excluding all view in that direction. Crossed a part of this plain, intersected by deep grips formed in the loose texture of the boggy soil of which it is composed, about a mile, to visit the source of the Severn—a small rill of strongly chalybeate water, gushing down the side of one of these gullies;—and stopped, without difficulty, the course of this mighty river with my hand. The rise of the Wye, about 2 miles farther on; and of a similar character.—Of the view from Plinlimmon, we are incompetent judges; but there is nothing in the form or aspect of the mountain itself, remote or near, which is at all striking; and it owes its principal celebrity, I should suppose, to the two distinguished rivers which spring from it.

 

JULY the 26th

            Drove to the Devil's Bridge, 20 miles. Met the Wye, and pursued it for some way, placidly meandering, to our left, over a pebbly channel; then crossed it, rolling as a torrent through a recess to the right, opening upwards to Plinlimmon. Pursued a wild and dreary mountain hollow, without tree or bush or brake, but here and there a wretched hovel; till, turning to the left, we opened on the spiky and jagged summits of the Cardiganshire mountains, towering one above another in sublime confusion. Overtook the Rheiddol, hid in a deep and feathered cleft to the right; and crossing the Devil's Bridge, ascended to the Inn, a solitary house, commanding nearly the same view which Grimm has heavily and feebly portrayed in Wyndham's Tour.—Spent the evening in feasting our eyes upon the scene before us; which is surely more romantic and delicious than ever fancy feigned—and cannot be described: soft vapours, as the evening advanced, steaming up the sides of the feathered clefts below, from the concussion of the waters; and the sun, from beneath a stormy cloud, with "farewell sweet", pouring his last glories on the heights above.

 

JULY the 27th

            Visited the Monach, raging through a shaggy chasm from above, and working down its tremendous way, under the Bridge, through a yawning fissure in the black rock, worn smooth by its friction. Then walked to a projecting point of the cleft, and viewed the remainder of the fall:—400 feet in the whole; but broken into four or five parts, and taking rather a curve to the right:—the spray, at the bottom, blown about like vapour. Explored our way down the side of the cleft through which it flows, to the Rheiddol; and climbed over the rugged rocks which form its channel, to the foot of the fall of that stream, which, diminutive as it appears from our window, is the perpendicular plunge of a considerable river, from a height of not less than 30 feet: a projection of the rock catches part of the stream in the first gush of its descent, and whirls it round with a fury that adds much to the grandeur and spirit of the effect.—Descended afterwards by a slippery and precipitous track, through a thicket immediately beneath the Inn, to the foot of the great cataract; viewing all its falls successively in our way. The last plunge is down a steep, almost, but not quite perpendicular, of 120 feet, when the whole mass of waters raging headlong from above, is transmuted into foam; and part, encountering a ragged projection of slate rock, dissipated in vapour:—a maddening scene.—A storm came on in the evening, which raged with increasing violence till two in the morning, when it blew a hurricane. The stunning roar of the adjoining cataracts exasperated into fury by torrents of rain, heard deeply swelling in the pauses of the gusts, and sensibly shaking the earth with the momentum of their fall, beyond expression awful.

 

JULY the 30th

            Visited Hafod, three miles from our inn, Col. Johnes'. Had the Monach for some way to our left; hid, like the Rheiddol, in a feathered cleft. Passed a mill upon it, from whence a woman, some years since, attempting to ford the river after rain, was—the blood curdles at the thought—hurried away by the stream, precipitated down all the falls of the great cataract, and found floating, a mangled spectacle, half a mile below. Pursued our way over naked hills; then struck to the right, and burst suddenly on Hafod house and grounds, in a deep hollow richly mantled with wood, the Ystwith flowing through it—a scene of enchantment amidst this barren waste. The House sweetly sheltered to the North and East by richly wooded acclivities surmounted by bare heights rising behind; a waving Lawn spreads before it, the Ystwith rolls beyond, and then towers a lofty and magnificent screen of hill nobly shagged with timber to its summit. Made a tour of the grounds, by walks conducted with admirable taste along the steep side-screens of the valley, and, as they descend or climb or wind, exhibiting the scenery around, in all its possible combinations; the Ystwith, or some tributary stream, for ever murmuring in deep glens, raging over rocks, or dashing in cascades, and diffusing, at every turn, a new and refreshing spirit on the scene. Much struck with a waterfall, accessible only by a dark and winding passage hollowed through the rock, and which, after a long suspense, opens abruptly and closely, full in front, on the stream plunging from above into a deep and gloomy chasm beneath: the head of the cleft being immediately closed with rock, the narrow aperture at the top overspread with foliage, and the only exit for the waters an inscrutable fissure to the left—the effect of this natural picture, thus singularly circumscribed and illumined, seen from the dim twilight of the cavern's mouth, is altogether magical.—Col. Johnes, we were assured, had planted above three millions of trees. Were his example followed, Cardiganshire, from a stormy sea of bleak denuded hills, might be converted into one of the most pleasing counties in the principality: under the most unpromising aspect, a Hafod exists potentially in almost every valley.

            Drove in the evening to Aberystwith, 12 miles. The road conducted on a sort of terrace, overlooking the hollow of the vale of Rheiddol to the right; and exhibiting, towards the latter part of the drive, a grand view of the Merionethshire mountains, gilded by a gorgeous sunset, and towering, one behind another, in striking tumult: Cadair Idris, with its double apex, distinctly visible; and Snowdon said to be so, but obscured by storms.

 

AUGUST the 1st

            Perambulated Aberystwith; lying in a wide-spread opening to the sea, at the confluence of the rivers and the vales of Rheiddol and Ystwith, and between two noble cliffs rising to the North and South of the town. The two rivers, previously separated by the ridge we traversed yesterday, form a junction a little South of the town, and then run for some way parallel with the shore, before they meet the sea; presenting a very narrow, and, I should suppose, difficult entrance to the port.—The remains of the Castle, nearly effaced; and its area converted into pleasant walks, opening on the sea.—Ascended the lofty cliff to the North of the town; commanding the whole sweep of Cardigan Bay, from Bardsey Isle to St. David's Head;—the mountains of North Wales rearing their majestic heads one over another to the North West.

 

AUGUST the 3rd

            Reached Machynlleth, 20 miles from Aberystwith. Passing Tal y Bont, an extensive prospect opens to the left, over an immense turbary and the estuary of the Dyfi, spreading to the sea. Skirted, after this, the Eastern acclivities of the vale of Dyfi; having the river winding to the left, and the heights of Merionethshire rising in great majesty beyond it. Every step we advance, the features of the country grow bolder and bolder; and we are sensible that what before struck us as grand in the Principality, would now appear inconsiderable. A most noble mountain. Tarren y Gesail—or Thunder beneath the Arm-Pit—throwing out its vast roots, and lifting its awful summit, wrapped in a night of shade, on the other side of the valley, approaching the town.

 

AUGUST the 7th

            Crossed the valley of the Dyfi, and explored our way, by a narrow and rugged path, up one of the roots of Tarren y Gesail; having on either side a deep glen, richly feathered with thickets. Opened at length on the mountain itself, rearing its gigantic head most awfully above; and making a long sweep to the left, attained the foot of the steep and lofty ridge which forms its capital. Climbed laboriously up this last and stiff ascent, having a terrific precipice to our right, and then struck to the point where this crowning height projects roundly and boldly towards Cardigan Bay. A most transporting scene! The air clarified to keenest transparency by the late rains; and only a few light fleecy clouds floating far above the region of the mountain tops. To the North, apparently close at hand, rose the whole rugged form of Cadair Idris, with its jutting precipices craggy steeps and dark recesses, tapering in a jagged line to its supreme apex, and barring from its superior elevation all farther view in that quarter. In an opposite direction, ranged the heavy ridge of Plinlimmon, running out in the line of heights which break down towards Machynlleth. South of Plinlimmon, beyond the river, vale, and estuary of the Dyfi, spread the whole Western part of South Wales, comparatively flat, stretching out beyond the Preseli mountains—their summits blue and clear, their bases hazy—in a long-drawn line to the extreme rising of St. David's Head. South of Cadair Idris, extended the intensely blue summits of the Caernarvonshire mountains, projecting into the vast promontory of Llyn, shooting far into the sea, and pointed by the Isle of Bardsey—so exquisitely clear, that we could discern the surf, all the way, upon the shore. To the North-East, rose, sharp grey and clear, over intervening ridges, the two peaks of the Arran: and to the South-West, expanded the whole crescent of Cardigan Bay, from St. David's Head to Bardsey Isle, smooth as a mirror, and brightly burnished towards its centre with the midday sun.—I have missed few opportunities of ascending remarkable heights; but this is unquestionably the most magnificent mountain prospect I ever beheld,

 

AUGUST the 9th

            Drove to Dolgellau, 15 miles.—Crossed the valley of the Dyfi, and wound in among the opposite hills, pursuing the river Dyflas along a luxuriant and romantic valley; the bare and lofty steeps of Tarren y Gesail to the left, surmounting with a grand effect the richly feathered crags and opening glens.—A little beyond the mill of Esgairgeiliog, the valley narrows to a pass, the road is hewn out of the rock to the right, and to the left soars to a stupendous height a most magnificent precipice luxuriantly clothed with loose and spreading foliage to its summit; the river Dyflas raging over its rocks darkly in a hollow beneath:—a scene of uncommon grandeur, and which would reduce to comparative insignificance the boldest features of the Wye. Entered a dreary region of mountain hollows, forlorn and wild; till approaching-the brow of a stem) descent to Talyllyn, burst suddenly on the whole majestic form of Cadair Idris, with its channelled sides, deep hollows, and rugged precipices, full in front, towering far above, descending deep below, and filling up with its tremendous bulk the entire opening before us: the lake of Talyllyn, bright as a mirror, diffused in a hollow to the left, between sloping steeps opening in a long vista on Towyn and the sea.—Struck from the bottom of the descent to the right, and climbed up a narrow and terrific pass, between the craggy roots of Cadair Idris on one side, and shattered precipices shooting up in fantastic forms on the other; all gushing with torrents, waving like threads of silver from the heights above, and bursting down with tremendous fury around. us. Emerging from this pass under the dark and awful brow of Craig y Llam impendent to the right, and traversing a dreary moor, magical effect of the expanded and diversified scenery round Dolgellau—lying at the bottom of a long and. steep descent before us, beneath the gigantic precipices of Cadair Idris towering to the left: the grey bare crag of Yroballt rising over the heights and woods of Nanney to the right; and, folding round a rocky promontory beyond the Town, in front, the vale to Barmouth—its level bottom intersected by a winding stream, and a grand sweep of mountain headlands, breaking down from the North, and towering one-behind another in sublime succession, forming its opposite boundary, and closing the scene with prodigious magnificence in that direction.

            Strolled about the town: a most uncouth and extraordinary place; apparently growing in wild disorder out of the rock on which it stands, and from which it is scarcely distinguishable,—all the houses being composed of huge blocks of unhewn granite, rudely piled on one another, as they are torn from the neighbouring heights, and forming walls of stupendous thickness and grotesque aspect. Low buildings thus constructed, unless crushed by their own weight, must last for ever; and most of the houses, accordingly, bear the marks of great antiquity.

 

AUGUST the 18th

            Still at Dolgellau. Our table, here, has become a sort of ordinary to the Inn; and we have been infinitely entertained, today, with a very extraordinary character under a most unpromising aspect—the Rev. Mr. T.; once the Porson of Oxford, for genius eccentricity and erudition. He has visited Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy and Sicily; conversed with Voltaire, had an interview with Rousseau, and was acquainted with Johnson. Scarce a place could be mentioned or a character named, with which, from personal knowledge or exact information, he was not perfectly conversant and though positive, captious, irritable, and impatient of contradiction, he amply atoned for all the rubs he gave us, by the acuteness of his remarks, the originality of his sallies, the vivacity of his anecdotes and descriptions, and the promptness and depth he evinced on every topic that was started, however remote from the ordinary track of conversation. Such a companion would be an acquisition anywhere, but was inestimable here.—Had spent an evening with Lavater, who pronounced him flatly, at first view, an incorrigible rogue:—L. himself, something more than an enthusiast, and very near mad; fancying that he resembles Jesus Christ in the countenance, with many other such preposterous whimsies. Represented the King of Naples, with whom he had frequently conversed, as perfectly stupid, sottish, and ignorant;—literally scarcely able to write. Had twice attempted Etna; the second time successful, and saw from its summit the sun rise in all its glory:—affirmed Brydone's glowing description of this gorgeous scene, however carped at, to be very correct, and not more than just. Described, with great force, his having heard a religious enthusiast preach his own funeral sermon, with the ghastly horrors of the "facies hippocratica"<94> depicted in his aspect—a thrilling spectacle.

            We have been fortunate, too, in meeting with Mr. D. the grandson of the chronologist. He knew Hume well; and spoke of him as the most amiable of men, and of the most accommodating manners. Mentioned that his father, a Canon of Salisbury, piqued himself much, on having distinguished and patronised Burke, when quite obscure at Lincoln's Inn; and having then pronounced, from the rare combination he observed in him of transcendent ability and unwearied application, that he would become one of the brightest ornaments of his country.

 

AUGUST the 19th

            Reached Bala, 18 miles. Pursued, for the first 9 miles, the valley and the river of Dolgellau, the former gradually narrowing to a romantic glen, the latter to a mountain torrent dashing in cascades at the bottom; the heights of the Arran rising steeply to the right, and the whole range of Cadair Idris towering in great majesty behind: Ascending the head of the valley, entered on a dreary moor, the Arrenig stretching to the left; and crossing the Dee near its source, opened on the lake of Bala—the largest sheet of fresh water in Wales, being about 5 miles long by three-quarterss of a mile in width; but, viewed in this direction, very deficient in picturesque effect, from the regularity of its form and the tameness of its shores: as we skirted its margin, however, the prospect improved; and from its farther extremity, near the Town of Bala, had a pleasing retrospect, over its whole expanse, and through the vista of its acclivities and the heights beyond—the Arran with its double peak rising to the left—on Cadair Idris, 20 miles off; planted there as if on purpose to be admired—though the level over which it is seen, is too elevated to gratify a true votary of that magnificent mountain.

 

AUGUST the 23rd

            Crossed over, yesterday, to Ruthin, 22 miles. Left the Town of Corwen, lying snugly sheltered at the extreme foot of the Berwyn mountains, about a mile to the right; and passed soon afterwards near the remains of Owen Glendwr's celebrated entrenchment, forming a singular fillet round the Western brow of a commanding eminence on the opposite heights.—Sudden transition, and sweet effect, on entering transversely the vale of Clwyd—a luxuriant hollow, nearly 20 miles in length, and gradually expanding to 6 or 7 in breadth; tufted with trees, chequered with enclosures, sprinkled with houses, and smiling with cultivation: the evening, as we advanced, cleared up; and we seemed to breathe a balmier air, to behold a serener sky, and to enjoy a brighter sun, than we had for some time been accustomed to, in the mountainous region we had quitted.

            Visited, to day, the remains of the castle; built of a reddish coloured stone, which, wherever it is employed (and a vein of it seems to run through nearly the whole western side of our island) has a meagre and miserable effect. Part of the Castle area—(of the Castle itself, little has survived the vengeance of Owen Glendwr)—converted to the peaceful purpose of a bowling-green, commanding a rich view down the whole extent of the vale of Clwyd to the sea.—The town of Ruthin, far more respectable than any we have seen in Wales: many of the houses very old, and with enormous uncouth porticos of most grotesque appearance to a modern eye; but kept in admirable condition; and the whole place (unless we are deceived by contrast with our late experience) exhibiting a remarkable air of neatness, tranquillity, and comfort.—The Town Hall, lately erected, is a handsome and commodious building; in which, with a laudable attention that deserves to be copied, every party in the Court, from the Judge to the witness, has a convenient and appropriate place assigned him. The saloon to the Court, forms, with some little incongruity, the Assembly Room: and here the convenience of the dancers has been consulted, for there is an artificial spring to the floor.

 

AUGUST the 24th

            Pursued the Mold Road across the vale of Clwyd, and up a gap—Bwlch Pen y Barras—by which it traverses the range of heights that forms the Eastern barrier of the vale; passing the beautiful little church and village of Llanbedr, hanging sweetly on the slope of the hill, and overlooking the valley beneath. Found, on the crown of the height to the right, a large area encompassed with a double ditch and rampart.—apparently a British fortification, and constructed to guard this pass into the vale. Struck to the left, and pursued the extreme ridge of the range, sloping steeply away in both directions, about a mile and half, to its highest point of elevation, marked by a tumulus—Moel Vamma. Prodigious prospect. To the West, spread beneath us, was the whole expanse of the vale of Clwyd, from its amphitheatrical origin in a nook amongst the mountains near Llangollen, to its broad exit to the sea over the level marshes of Rhyddlan; intersected by the silver thread of its river, and beautifully variegated, through all its extent, with thickets, enclosures, villages, and villas:—Ruthin, Denbigh and its castle, and the city of St. Asaph, conspicuous features in it. To the North East, over the whole of Flintshire diffused beneath the projecting roots and shelving hollows of the mountain, and beyond the estuaries of the Dee and Mersey, (the former marked at its head by the dusky red walls of Chester, the latter on its sloping side by the white villas of Liverpool,) extended a long line of the Lancashire coast, stretching far away to the North, and faintly closed, in remotest distance, by the mountains of Westmoreland and Cumberland—dissolved in ether. To the East and South East, dilated a boundless expanse over Cheshire, Shropshire, and Staffordshire;—the insulated and solitary knoll of Beeston Castle, near Tarporley, starting very distinguishably from the general level. From the South to the West, over the intervening eminences, towered, in magnificent succession, the summits of all the conspicuous mountains in North Wales—the Arran—Cadair Idris—the Arrenig—Moel Shiabod—Snowdon—the Glyders—the Trevaen Rock—and Penmaenmawr.—A prospect altogether, for variety and expansion, probably unequalled in this island.

 

AUGUST the 28th

            Reached Holywell. Pursued the left side of the vale of Clwyd, having the heights of Moel Vamma (viewed with fresh interest from having climbed them) ranging to the right, to Denbigh; passed the little and sequestered city of St. Asaph; and striking to the right, ascended out of the vale through a gap in the continuation of the Eastern heights, exhibiting a sweet retrospect of this beautiful tract—evidently scooped out far below the general level of the country on either side of it.—Visited the celebrated spring at Holywell; of a bluish green tinge, and bubbling up, with great vehemence, in a basin under a rich shrine facing the North, a little below the church. From the basin, the stream immediately passes to a square reservoir, under cover, for the bathers; and thence to a small pool which it forms by the road side. Crutches and litters hung up in the shrine, as testimonials of its efficacy; but none apparently of a very recent date. Followed the stream down the picturesque glen through which it flows to the Dee, supplying impetus to many extensive manufactories on its way; and pursued the banks of that vast but insipid estuary, having a dreary expanse of level marshes to the left, as far as Flint. Flint Castle, on the edge of the marshes: exactly rectangular, like that of Rhyddlan, with a round tower at each of its angles: that to the South East, larger than the others, and detached from the rest of the building, with a curious covered-way round the interior base of it. Perambulated Flint; beyond all comparison the most dull, melancholy, and uninviting county-town I have ever beheld.—Extensive view from the slope of the hill on which Holywell stands, over the estuaries of the Dee and Mersey, and the level champaign round Chester: Park-Gate and Neston, distinctly visible on the opposite shores of the Dee-: and Liverpool, with its spires and villas, faintly discernible, stretching in a long line, under a cloud of smoke, upon those of the Mersey.

 

AUGUST the 31st

            Reached Tarporley. Walked, by an intricate road, to Beeston Castle; about 4 miles to the South-West of the town, and forming a very conspicuous feature from it. Stands singularly and boldly on an insulated rock, rising steeply from the South-East to the out-works of the fortress; then more gently to the castle itself, which occupies its summit; and under the farther walls of the castle, breaking abruptly down in huge and fractured masses of rock, projecting upwards, in the inclination of the strata, to the West, and fearfully overhanging a shelving precipice which slopes steeply clown into the plain below: a most commanding, and, till the invention of artillery, I should suppose, an impregnable position.—Expansive prospect, from the top, over an immense diffusion of level and cultivated country; bounded to the West by the Moel gamma range, and extending to the East as far as the Peak of Derbyshire.

 

SEPTEMBER the 1st

            Reached Litchfield, through a country very tame and uninteresting: the first 20 miles unusually flat, and affording, all the way, a distinct retrospect of Beeston Castle. Visited the cathedral: the most rich in decoration without, and the most truly elegant within, of any in England; and kept in exemplary condition. The grand western front, profuse in images, exhibits a striking proof of the gorgeous effect of statuary as an architectural embellishment; and excites a deep regret for the general slaughter of these innocents at the Reformation. The choir, unusually large; occupying, with great propriety, and good effect, nearly half the whole building: the stone screen to it, most richly and lightly carved. The Ascension painted on glass at the East window, behind the altar:—a subject happily chosen (a point not always sufficiently consulted) for transparent effect. Two corresponding monuments to Garrick and Johnson, on the East side of the North Transept: severely simple—a plain tablet, surmounted by a bust in a shallow niche. Johnson's countenance far more powerful, in sculpture, than Garrick's. The inscription on Johnson, very tame and languid; describing him only as "a man of extensive learning, a distinguished moral writer, and a sincere Christian"—unquestionable truths, but feeble characteristics. The Palace and Gardens, very unassuming.—Reconnoitred, with much interest, Johnson's father's house-a large corner building, in the Market-place, of white plaster: the projection of the first floor over the shop, supported by wooden pillars; and pilasters rising above, to the roof: three stories high: apparently much in the same condition as it must have been in, when the old bookseller occupied it.—Observed an inscription on a house in a street leading from the South towards the Cathedral, purporting, that Lord Brooke was killed on the spot beneath, by a ball in the forehead, shot by a Mr. Dyott from the principal Tower of the Cathedral, March 2nd 1643; as his Lordship was besieging the Close with the Parliament forces.

 

SEPT. the 6th

            Visited once more—and never without fresh emotion—King's College Chapel, Cambridge. I should not choose to oppose this Gothic edifice to a Grecian temple, because it is deficient in some of the most striking features of Gothic architecture as displayed in our cathedrals; but perhaps it affords a still prouder triumph, as it evinces what Gothic architects could effect, without their aid, upon a Grecian ground-plan. The screen to the choir, rich in carving, and grand in its tone of colour, is unquestionably fine in itself; but, for once, I should like to see it removed, and try the effect of this magnificent parallelepiped on in one unbroken continuity. The exquisite preservation of the whole interior of the building, is wonderful: it seems, to its minutest ornaments, sharp and pure, as if fresh yesterday from the mason's and statuary's chisels.

            Viewed Long's concave celestial sphere:—a sublime conception. In a shamefully neglected state. What would be the worthy projector's feelings, could he view his favourite piece of mechanism thus obliviously dropping to decay!

            Went with Mr. H. of Sidney, to his rooms; and saw, for the first time, what I have long wished to see, some of Gilpin's original sketches in Indian ink:—very masterly; and asserting a claim to the highest species of merit, by producing great effects with little effort.—H. speaks con amore<95> of Gilpin, as a friend, a companion, a pastor, and in every social relation. Afflicted with an incurable complaint; but perfectly resigned to his fate; and complacent, and even cheerful, under it. It is delightful to find our admiration of the writer, confirmed, on a nearer view, by qualities which must secure our esteem for the man.—H. showed me the copy of a Letter from Mason to Gilpin (with Gilpin's comments) written on the same day that Mason was struck speechless, and within two of his death: very easy, gay, and spirited:—he had no presentiment of his danger.

 

SEPT. the 21st

            Received through Lord C. a flattering message from Dr. P—r; in which, "not with the scanty and penurious measure of a critic by profession", but, evidently, from the overflowings of a heart warmed with the subject, he bestows his commendations on the little pamphlet I published last year. "Laudari a laudato viro"<96>—to be thus commended, by one to whom I am utterly unknown, and from whom praise is of such value, and this amidst the cautious reserve of some from whose friendship I should have expected a more encouraging reception, is a gratification to which I cannot be insensible: yet the predominant and final effect upon my mind, has been depression rather than elation. How is this? Opposition and indignity, I believe, have a natural tendency to rouse, condense, and invigorate; excessive favour and commendation, to dissipate, relax, and enfeeble, our energies and spirits. When stung with neglect, or galled by injuries, the mind, bent back upon itself, and driven to its own resources for support, collects its scattered strength, fastens on whatever is excellent in its faculties or achievements, and dilates with conscious pride:—when hailed with eulogy which we are sensible far exceeds our deserts,, after the first tumultuous throbbings have subsided, all our defects and infirmities rise up in appalling array before the judgment; and the heart, sickening at the spectacle, sinks in despondency within us. Such, I should suppose, would be the general feeling: except with very superior minds, who are above all disturbance from such causes; or with those happily gifted beings, those fools of fortune, provoking rather our spleen than our envy, who enjoy the blessing of perfect self-satisfaction and complacency, and as they are completely callous, from vanity, to censure, are enabled, by the same principle, to swallow, without being cloyed, any measure of praise.

 

SEPT. the 25th

            Looked over the last Vol.—(the first I have been able to meet with)—of Maty's Review. There is a negligent ease, and artless vivacity, in his manner, which are highly engaging: his first impressions, however, though generally just, sometimes mislead him. He surely speaks too irreverently of Johnson, when (Art. 10., March 1786) he confirms Mrs. Piozzi's description of him, as a man of little learning and less taste! "The little black dog", must have operated on this occasion. To have been deluded, too, by such a meteor as Heron, alias Pinkerton, was rather unlucky.—He mentions (Literary Intelligence Feb. 1786) a new Lyceum opened in Paris, with the following Professors: History, Marmontel; Literature, De la Harpe; Mathem., Condorcet; Physics, Monge; Chem. and Nat. Hist. Fourcroi:—what a set! The account of the conference with the Bohemian Deists (Art. 7, August 1786), is very curious: they seem to have been plain sensible fellows.

            Read the 1st Vol. of Barruel [Memoirs, illustrating the history of Jacobinism] on the anti-Christian conspiracy; in which he has expanded a sentence of Burke, into a ponderous Volume. The poor Abbé, in the warmth of a zeal which out-steps all discretion, unfortunately takes more ground than it is possible to defend by any powers; and exhibits, at the same time, but a feeble specimen of his own.

 

SEPT. the 26th

            Read the 2nd and 3rd Volumes of Barruel—on the Anti-Monarchical, and Anti-Social, Conspiracies. He considers, perhaps justly enough, Montesquieu as the original introducer, and Rousseau as the ultimate perfecter, of the democratic system of political philosophy in France—though he might have traced it much higher here; but in struggling to lug the Freemasons into the conspiracy, he surely raves. That the Masons, like other men, might be perverted by this new mania; that their notions of brotherly equality might even predispose them to receive it, is perfectly credible: T—y, who was himself a Mason, told me at Dolgellau, that when he visited a Lodge at Paris, 20 years since, he found them all charged up to the muzzle (as he expressed it) with Jacobin principles, and ready for explosion: but that this curious and ancient society was originally instituted to cherish such principles under a veil of mystery, surpasses all belief. The anti-social conspiracy of the Illuminées in Germany, founded by Weishaupt, bears much stronger marks of authenticity, since it would be difficult to invent, for the purpose of imputation, an institute of discipline and doctrines so exquisitely adapted to the ends they aim at. The fundamental tenets of this Order, were, That all inferior local and partial affections, should be absorbed and merged in an aspiration for the general happiness; That whatever conduces to this happiness, is virtuous, the end sanctifying the means; and, That the only restraint to which we should be subject in the prosecution of this object, is Reason. Was Godwin an Illuminée?

            Read Gilpin's General Preface, and Prophetic Life of Christ, prefixed to his Exposition of the New Testament. His easy manner of treating subjects, will not do, where there are real difficulties to encounter.

 

SEPT. the 29th

            Finished Hurd's Lectures on the Prophecies. The same spirit of discrimination which leads him, on some occasions, to distinguish too subtly, prompts him, however, on others, to view a question in all its phases, and not to content himself, as writers of a more sanguine temperament too frequently do, with one leading circumstance, in the solution of a difficulty, where many ought to be taken into account as conspiring to solve it: he is often eminently happy in this respect. In the character of objector, he frequently proposes his objections in very irreverent—not to say, indecent—terms. They certainly ought to be proposed strongly, and met as he meets, them—directly and fairly, in their full force, without diminution or evasion.—His style, abating a few affected impurities from quaint idioms and colloquial cant, is really a fine one; and his account of Mede, in the 10th Discourse, is in every respect—in sublimity of conception, and in felicity force and grandeur of expression, worthy of Burke.—P—r, Lord C. tells me, is satisfied that Hurd altered his Life of Warburton, in consequence of what he wrote: had he found in it, what he expected to find, he meant to have entered into a general review of Warburton's life, character, and writings. How splendid and appropriate a field for the exhibition of his talents!

            Read the 4th and last Vol. of Barruel; in which he labours to deduce the conjoint agency of the three conspiring Sects against Religion, Monarchy, and Social Order, as operative in the French Revolution. The poor Abbé has unhappily more zeal than judgment; and is at the same time dreadfully heavy and ineffective in his movements: with all its absurdities, however, his work might furnish matter for another, of some, interest, in which the rectified spirit should occupy the text, and the substance from which it is drawn, the Notes.

 

OCTOBER the 1st

            Finished Bishop Shipley's Works; to the reading of which I had been powerfully recommended by M——h. A vein of good sense, expressed in an original, unaffected, and frequently energetic and impressive manner, runs through the whole of these compositions. In religion, I suspect the Bishop was a great latitudinarian. In morals, though manifestly enamoured of the principle of utility as a standard of right and wrong, and applying this principle pretty largely, he still seems to cherish a salutary prejudice in favour of the manners and institutions of our forefathers. In politics, though espousing a side which in a prelate must always be admired, I confess he meddles more than I could wish; for, in spite of all he urges to the contrary, it is much to be feared, that the character of a teacher of Christianity as it stands revealed, and of a political partisan, as parties prevail, are utterly inconsistent. In his intended Speech on the Massachusetts Bill, a very masterly performance, he takes up Burke's view of the question; and waiving all consideration of the right to tax the Colonies, maintains the impolicy of so doing, with great ability and force.—It seems difficult to conceive two characters, placed in the same sphere, more opposite than Hurd and Shipley; and it would be pleasant to know, though it is easy to guess, what sentiments these Right Reverend Gentlemen entertained of each other.

 

OCT. the 3rd

            Read the first Vol. of Hurd's Sermons at Lincoln's-Inn. In the 3rd he not only maintains that we have a natural sense of right and wrong, independent of all revelation, but insists that, without it, we could never ascertain whether any revelation were true: and then vindicates Christianity, not simply as useful, from confirming, illustrating, and enforcing, the dictates of this sense, but as necessary for the redemption of mankind. This is quite after his distinguishing manner.—In the 8th, he makes Sympathy the natural parent of the social virtues; observing that "God has implanted in man, not only the power of reason, which enables him to see the connexion between his own happiness and that of others, but also certain instincts and propensities, which make him feel it, and, without reflexion, incline him to take part in foreign interests: for, among the other wonders of our make, this is one, that we are so formed as, whether we will or no, to rejoice with them that rejoice, and to weep with them that weep": and in the next Discourse, he adduces this principle, as that natural corrective upon "a conscious sense of dignity"-(leading by itself to an offensive injurious pride)—which constitutes politeness; and maintains, that the perfection of our nature consists in the due operation of both these principles. His 10th Sermon, and the last in the Volume, are fine examples of his "toils in chasing the subtle".

            Perused with much interest, in the European Magazine for last month, Hoole's account of his intercourse with Dr. Johnson during the last six weeks of his life. So great a man, approaching that awful term to which he had always looked forward with such horror, is a most awakening spectacle, and rivets the attention. What a composition does he exhibit, on the occasion, of strength and weakness!—With Lives of Johnson to a surfeit, we have nowhere, I think, a masterly analysis of the mind of this wonderful man; which, while it confounds the stoutest by the promptitude and vigour of its powers, may furnish to the feeblest the flattering unction of a sneer.

 

OCT. the 12th

            Perused Barton's Preface to his Edition of Plutarch's Lives of Demosthenes and Cicero; which Dr. P—r had recommended to Lord C's. attention, as a very masterly piece of criticism. The part in which he vindicates Plutarch, by distinguishing biography from history, illustrating the advantages of the former in conveying a knowledge of the human character, and displaying Plutarch's peculiar use of it in kindling emulation by exhibiting patterns of virtue, is particularly excellent: but the portico is too august for the temple; for the Lives themselves, are but meagre compositions; and in the parallel between the two orators, Plutarch leans shamefully in favour of his countryman.

 

OCT. the 14th

            Read the 3rd and last Volume of Hurd's Sermons.—The first of these, is of a very peculiar character: there is a pithy sententious brevity of period, and deep earnestness of manner in it, strikingly different from what we meet with in any of the other Discourses.-The 4th, in which he deduces the divinity of the Gospel, from "never man spake as this man"; and the 7th, its authenticity, from "we preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord", are most powerful addresses. Such internal marks of truth as are here forcibly exhibited, weigh more, in my mind, than all the external evidences of Christianity put together; and, for strokes of eloquence, what can be finer than this passage in the 4th, "When a voice speaks, as from heaven, it naturally turns our attention to that quarter; and when it speaks in inimitable thunder, it speaks, methinks, like itself, and in accents that cannot well be misunderstood", judiciously prepared, too, as this sublime ejaculation has been, by what precedes it—for I feel, while I am transcribing the sentence, how much it suffers by this detached exhibition.—In the 14th, he divides the different cardinal principles upon which the various systems of moral philosophy hinge, into, 1st, abstract truth, or the differences of things; 2ndly, an instinctive moral sense; 3rdly, private happiness; and intimates that these systems might be made to consist together; but maintains that they do little more than inform us what virtue is, while they slenderly provide for the practice of it:—he had his eye, here, on Warburton's Div. Leg. B. 1, Sect. 4.—In a note to his 1 9th Sermon, he observes, that Christianity is a religion founded, not on opinions, but facts: that the Apostles showed, by their sufferings, that they knew what they attested to be a true fact; succeeding sufferers showed, that they believed it to be so.—On the whole, I have never met with discourses, which, without yielding to the prevalent laxity of opinion, are so admirably adapted to work upon the reason and feelings of the age, as these.

 

OCT. the 18th

            Finished Gilpin's Exposition of the four Gospels. Luke appears to narrate what he had collected, with great sobriety: not spying out the accomplishment of a prophecy in every incident, like Matthew; nor indulging that propensity for the marvellous, which, with all the paraphraser's smoothings and glossings, strikes an unprejudiced mind, most forcibly and revoltingly, in Mark. John manifestly labours to obviate scruples and objections, through the whole of his narrative; and particularly in what he represents Christ as saying. The last Chapter in this Gospel, must surely stagger the most implicit believer: it has to me strongly the air of having been subsequently appended.—Is it not very extraordinary, that Matthew should alone assert so important a fact as the sealing and guarding of the tomb; and that John should alone record so striking a miracle as the resurrection of Lazarus?

 

OCT. the 21st

            Finished a review of Cicero's tract De Officiis; in which he treats his subject far better than we should be led to expect from the preposterous distribution he makes of it, and with which he is evidently in a state of perpetual struggle through the whole disquisition.

            All duty he derives from the "honestum"<79> and the "utile"<97> in human character and conduct. The "honestum" he resolves into, 1st such qualities as tend to advance our knowledge of truth, 2ndly such as contribute to the maintenance of society—chiefly justice and benevolence, idly. greatness of mind, and 4thly a certain decorum in whatever we say or do; and proceeds, in the first Book, to treat of the duties flowing from this principle, thus strangely divided, and of the preference to be given where they interfere with each other. In discussing the last branch—the decorous, he confounds it (c. 27), as might be expected, with the root from which he considers it as derived—the "honestum"; but afterwards exhibits an exquisite discrimination, when he comes to apply his ideas to particulars; and most eminently, when he illustrates (c.31 &c.) how much personal decorum depends on the particular genius of the character where it obtains.—"Communis utilitas"<98> is twice mentioned (c. 7 and 10); 1st as constituting one of the two branches of justice, "ne cui noceatur—at communi utilitati serviatur";<99> and 2ndly as modifying the general duties of that virtue: it is, however, but faintly recognized, compared with the modern importance assigned to this principle.—In the 2nd Book, he proceeds to consider the duties flowing from the 2nd of his two divisions—the "utile"—by which he evidently understands, the good of the individual; and regarding mankind as the principal agent by which we can be benefited or injured, he confines himself, almost entirely, to the means by which we may conciliate their good will; touching very slightly, at last, upon the goods of health and wealth, and the "comparatio utilitatum".—In the 3rd Book, he proposes to adjust the duties of the "honestum" and the "utile", where they interfere. Well! but if the "honestum" is, according to the Stoics, the solum, and according to the Peripatetics, the summum bonum<100>, the "honestum" and the "utile" must be the same; and how can any competition arise between them? Yet there are cases—(tyrannicide to a Roman, for instance)—where the "honestum" must give way to a paramount expediency; where morality, as Burke somewhere says, suspends its rules for the preservation of its spirit: here then Cicero is obliged to maintain, not indeed that "utilitas vicit honestatem", but something very like it, that "honestas utilitatem sequitur"<101>. The great danger, however, is on the other side—that men should think "est istuc quidem honestum, verum hoc expedit",<102> that that should appear to be "utile" which is "turpe"<103>: against this, therefore, he manfully and eloquently contends, "viris equisque"<104>, through the greater part of the Book; maintaining, with an amiable inconsistency, not merely "est nihil utile, quod idem non honestum"<105>, but, against those who asserted that "quod valde utile sit, id fieri honestum"<106>, that "nec quia utile, honestum est; sed quia honestum, utile".<107>-Much confusion seems to have arisen amongst the Ancient philosophers, from employing "utilitas" to denote, sometimes the private advantage of the individual, and sometimes the public good.

            Cicero (Lib. 1. c. 12) praises the mildness of Roman manners, which give to an enemy the appellation of a stranger—"hostis": does not this term rather indicate a barbarous ferocity, which gave to a stranger the appellation of an enemy?—The doctrine that government is instituted for the sake, not of the governors, but the governed, is well stated (Lib. 1, c 25) "ut enim tutela, sic procuratio reipublicae, ad utilitatem eorum qui commissi sunt, non ad eorum, quibus commissa est, gerenda est"<108>.—In Lib. 2, c. 12, he ascribes the origin of kings, and thence of laws, to the struggles of the poor and helpless, against the oppression of the rich and powerful.—Speaking of thieves, assassins &c. (Lib. 3, c. 18) he says "non verbis sunt et disputatione philosophorum, sed vinculis et carcere fatigandi":<109> "it is not the syllogism of the logician, but the lash of the executioner, which should refute a sophistry that becomes an accomplice of theft and murder", says Burke in his Reflections: a striking resemblance, I apprehend without any imitation.

 

OCT. the 24th

            Read Cicero De Senectute: a most exquisite and finished disquisition; with which it appears evident, from the last Chapter, that Burke was very familiar.—Read afterwards his "De Amicitia"; though a very engaging, a much less perfect, composition, I think, than the former. Cicero here (c. 9) affirms of Friendship, what I have said of Virtue, "quanquam utilitates multae et magnae consecutae sunt, non sunt tamen ab earum spe causae diligendi profectae":<110> and again (c. 14.) "non igitur utilitatem amicitia, sed utilitas amicitiam consecuta est"<111>.—In his Stoical Paradoxes, this accomplished orator has amused himself with endeavouring to give a popular air to the extravagant and revolting doctrines of this arrogant sect of moralists; and his success has been greater than the subject deserves.

            Looked into Park's interesting Travels in the interior of Africa. I observe that in the numeration which obtains in many of the African states, they advance no farther than 5; recurring to 5 +1, for 6, &c. They reckon the fingers of only one hand; we, of both.

 

OCT. the 30th

            Looked into the first three Volumes of Maty's Review. His negligent easy manner, for want of adequate stamina to support it, sometimes degenerates into flippancy and pertness: his critique, however, on the Poem of "Les Jardins" by the Abbe de Lisle (Art. 17, June 1782), is wonderfully animated and fine:—he catches, like Longinus, the spirit of his author; and blazes into congenial excellence with him.—It is amusing to mark his speculations, in the first article for Jan. 1783, on the probability of a change in the government of France. an event which he thinks not likely to take place in the then reign, nor for a great length of time, and at last only from the extreme misconduct of its rulers;—but which in fact did take place within 7 years from his penning of that article, and without the immediate agency of any such misconduct.

            It appears from a Paper in the New Annual Register for 1798, that Gibraltar is an oblong rock, about 3 miles in length, and three quarters of a mile in breadth: its summit, a sharp craggy ridge sinking in the middle; the Sugar Loaf, its Southern apex, 1439 feet; the Rock Mortar, its Northern, 1350, and the Signal House, in the centre between the two, 1276 feet, above the level of the Sea. The whole description is remarkably clear.

 

NOVEMBER the 3rd

            Read the first 6 chapters of May's History of the Long Parliament; containing a retrospect of affairs, down to its assembling. With an air of great impartiality and candour, supported by an equable and tempered gravity, it is impossible not to perceive that he inclines decidedly to the popular side. He represents the higher ranks of the people as in general content with the proceedings of the Court, while the middle and inferior orders were as generally averse to them; and strongly marks the spirit of enquiry respecting public affairs, which began to spread among the latter.—The previous embroilment with the Scotch, strikingly prefigured what was to follow in England. Charles' high pretensions, and impotence to enforce them—the strange mixture, in his character, of pertinacity and irresolution—and the shuffling evasive conduct resulting from this unlucky combination of qualities—on the one part; and the determined spirit of resistance in the people, supported by enthusiasm, sharpened by suspicion, and incapable of being appeased by anything short of unlimited compliance, on the other, are strongly evinced in that preliminary rupture.—It is curious that the Long Parliament should have met precisely on this day, 159 years since: a Jenkins might have remembered its assembling.

            Finished Gilpin's Exposition of the Epistles. The Epistle to the Hebrews, I should decide from internal evidence, not to be Paul's: it has the cloudy character, rather of dullness, than enthusiasm; nor is it irradiated with a single gleam of that genius, which occasionally flashes, in irregular and awful coruscations, through the "palpable obscure" of the other compositions of this Apostle.—After all—are these productions such as we should expect, from persons divinely inspired to unfold the whole mystery of the Christian Dispensation, and endowed with the power of working miracles to evince its authenticity?

 

NOV. the 7th

            Finished the 1st and read the 2nd Book of May's History. With all his apparent coolness and candour, he leans most unequivocally and decidedly to the side of the Parliament; whose proceedings he exhibits in the most plausible and imposing form, while he is ever insinuating the worst construction upon those of the Court: yet it comes out, I think, from his own account, that the conduct of the House had at last begun to disgust a great portion of the sober and reflecting part of the kingdom; while the prevailing party there, derived their grand support from the rabble of the City. In their third Remonstrance, they distinctly assert; "That all regal power is merely a trust for the good of the People; that the Parliament, while sitting, is the sole judge of what is good for the People; and, consequently, that they should be the King's sole counsellors and directors in the exercise of the power with which he is thus entrusted";—in other words, that the King should be merely their ministerial officer: a claim, which however it might be warranted by the exigencies of the times, is certainly most foreign to the true genius of our Constitution.—With respect to the great cause now at issue, without adverting to those particular circumstances of character and incident which gave a peculiar bias to the case, the leading feature seems simply this.—We had been gradually advancing from that rude state of society, in which exertions of political power are regarded merely in their immediate consequences, and relished or distasted, encouraged or opposed, as these are directly felt to be beneficial or oppressive, to that in which, through habits of speculation, they derive their whole complexion and character from considerations far more remote-from the right they tend to establish, by precedent, to the exercise of similar authority in future. In the rude acts of power occasionally exerted by his predecessors, as rudely resisted (whenever they were resisted) by the Barons, and, on their decline, experiencing little resistance of any kind, Charles could find precedents in abundance for the establishment of a prerogative almost absolute in the Crown; and the spirit of the times evinced, that now, or never, was the period for asserting it: to collect, claim, and consolidate such a sway, became accordingly the favourite measure of his reign; and so strongly does he seem to have been impressed with the justice of his pretensions, that he disdained to take the pains which common prudence would have prescribed, to disguise his designs. The Commons, representing a new interest in the state for some time rising into consequence, felt, on their part, that now or never was the juncture for bursting the web which was collecting on all sides to enthrall them; and taking their stand on the privilege of granting or withholding supplies—a privilege originally derived under very different circumstances, and with very different views—they resolved, by an ample assertion of their own indefinite claims, to circumscribe the authority of the Crown within the strictest limits possible. A contest between these two adverse powers—a struggle between privilege and prerogative—maintained with more or less violence and obstinacy, must, I think, sooner or later, have occurred: but I confess I perceive no necessity for a civil war. To expect that Charles should have begun right, would perhaps be exacting too much from human infirmity: but after 15 years experience of the temper and spirit of the times, had he combined, in due proportion, candid conciliating concession, with dignified firmness, I see no reason why he should not have transmitted to his descendants as ample a share of power as the present Family enjoy; with claims to an affectionate personal attachment on the part of the people, beyond what a foreign dynasty, derived from a female slip long severed, can for some time hope to inherit.

 

NOV. the 8th

             Read the 3rd and last Book of May's History: detailing the proceedings of the War (for which he deserts his Parliament) down to the Battle of Newbury; but in so confused a manner, that it is impossible to extract any clear conception of the events of it,—at least in any consecutive order.—What he says of Cromwell, evinces the future Protector to have been a man of vigorous resolution, prompt decision, and rapid despatch. Of course he only speaks of the opening of his military career in the Eastern part of the kingdom: his name, I think, does not once occur as a Member of the Parliament.

            Finished Sotheby's Translation of Wieland's Oberon: displaying an imagination highly poetical, voluptuous, and sublime; but of too aerial a fabric to bid fair for permanent fame. Supernatural machinery may have a good effect in an epic poem, when introduced to solve a difficulty arising out of probable circumstances; but cannot fail to cloy and disgust, when it forms, as here, the entire contexture of the piece. Course after course, of ragouts, would probably be too much for most palates; but what should we think of a banquet composed of the condiments alone with which such dishes are seasoned.

 

NOV. the 10th

            Read Dr. Combe's Statement of Facts; and Dr. Parr's Remarks upon it, in which he vigorously and successfully repels Combe's ill-advised attacks. It is impossible to read the latter pamphlet, without being struck with admiration at Parr's force of intellect, and grieving at the strange misapplication of it. His praise of Burke, p. 9, is fine; and of Porson, p. 13, transcendental. I am surprised that in vindicating his politics by appealing to their sources, p. 71, he should have mentioned Helvetius in the list of his tutors.—I am told, from the best authority, that Porson considers Wakefield as a man of no judgment.

            Read Dryden's Dedication to his Translation of Juvenal's Satires:—a strange rambling composition; mingling in its rapid but desultory current, gross adulation, historical deduction, fine criticism, and wild decisions. Amongst the latter, I should place his assertion, that Horace instructs, and Juvenal delights, most:—an absurd ground of comparison; and surely a most unjust judgment with respect to Horace.—The Second Satire, by Tate, is most grossly translated—such violations of common decency, either in an author or translator, would not, I think, now be borne.

            Looked over Rousseau's four curious Letters "a M. de Malesherbes", "contenant le vrai tableau de mon caractère, et les vrais motifs de toute ma conduite"<112>. I had never met with these letters before; but in many passages they singularly justify the opinions I had previously formed and expressed (See April 15, 1798) respecting this extraordinary genius, from a general survey of his compositions and conduct.

 

NOV. the 15

            Read Richardson's Philosophical Analysis of some of Shakespeare's Characters. The design is happy, and, upon the whole, ingeniously executed; but there is something in his manner which fails to arrest attention; and with the best dispositions in the world to listen to his comments, I find my mind perpetually flying off from the subject.—One of his remarks on Macbeth, appears both just and new. He maintains, that if a person originally possessing a strong sense of right and wrong, once becomes corrupted to vice, he will turn out more vicious than another less happily constituted; because, judging of the sense which others will form of his conduct, from his own, he must naturally fear and hate mankind—and (he might have added) cordially despising and detesting himself, will probably be goaded to plunge, under the agitation of these furies, into still deeper enormities. He accounts, on this principle, for the different conduct of Sylla and Augustus after the accomplishment of their schemes, and of Herod and Nero after they had tasted of guilt.—In his appended Essay on the faults of Shakespeare, he vigorously contends, that in criticism, as in morals, our judgments, to be correct and steady, must be established on those maxims, which may have been originally suggested by feeling, but which derive their force and stability from subsequent reason and reflection.—Richardson, by employing "will" for "shall" and "would" for "should", and so conversely, must be a Scotchman: it is singular, that the correctest writers of that country—Blair, for instance, in his Lectures on Rhetoric—should occasionally lapse into that offensive provincialism.

 

NOV. the 18th

            Looked over Maty's Review for 1784. It appears from Art. 13 (March), that Euler, in his New Theory of Music, published in 1739, maintained, "That all the pleasure of harmony arises from the love of order in man; in consequence of which, all the agreeable sensations excited by hearing fine music, come from the perception of the relations the different sounds have to each other, as well with regard to the duration of their succession, as with regard to the frequency of the vibrations of the air which produces them". This is surely very fantastic: how can any species of pleasure be derived from causes which are not felt as operating to produce it?—I was much pleased with Maty's recommending to Mr. Hardinge (Arts. 18 and 19, March) "a broader manner—a little more neglect, of the effect of single sentences, and single words": much is implied in this precept.—In noticing (Art. 14, May) Jenyns on Parliamentary Reform, who contends that an independent Parliament would overturn the Constitution, Maty remarks "this might be, and, I believe, would be, the case: still it is a question, though I own a very nice one, whether it ought not to be tried, as In ordine ad, to get us (through much and long horror and confusion) out of a state that has ruined all the great countries in the world:—but it is a very nice speculation". Surely this is very cool!—Dr. Priestley (Art. 2, Oct.) defends Origen, whom Horsley had accused of avowing the practice of employing unjustifiable means to accomplish a good end, by averring that this is too strongly stated; that what Jerome in his Letter to Pammachius says, is, that Origen had adopted Plato's doctrine of the subserviency of truth to utility—as Mr. Hume and other speculative moralists have done, considering the foundation of all social virtue to be the public good; and that we must not impute immoral consequences to speculative opinions on the foundation of morals, till we see those practices connected with the principles. On the first point, I am incompetent to decide: with respect to the second, undoubtedly the tendency is, to ascribe too much to speculative opinions, which, while the mind is intent on the view of them, are apt to be regarded as the ruling principles of our conduct, whereas at most, except with enthusiasts, they operate merely to modify other more cogent principles implanted in our nature: still, however, they are not to be neglected: affectation, on one side, and hypocrisy, on the other, apart, we should be less disposed, ceteris paribus,<113> to trust our wives and daughters to a man who openly professed that all women were fair game, than to one who acknowledged the obligations of restraint in the intercourse of the sexes.—Upon the whole, this Review is a creditable, and a wonderful, work, for one man. The responsibility of furnishing the public with, a certain quantity of criticism every month, would paralyse my powers completely.-I am surprised that no Review has been since started, which should notice only important works of British literature, and give ample attention to these.

 

NOV. the 20th

            Read Cambridge's Scribleriad. The mock heroic is well sustained throughout; but the Poem is deficient in broad humour:—it shakes no laughter outdone; and failing here, it is the "attempt without the deed".

            Mr. L., with some other friends, dined with me. Mentioned that Fox confessed to his friend Dr. John Jebb, that he had personal ambition—that he wished For power; but trusted that he should employ it to good purposes. Never disguised from his adherents of this school, his decided aversion to their schemes of parliamentary reform. This is quite according to Fox's characteristic candour: yet I well remember Horne Tooke's sarcastically telling me on the hustings at Covent-Garden, that he regarded him as a cunning, but not as a wise, man! Exactly, I conceive, the reverse of the truth. Mr. Fox's wisdom, few but Mr. Tooke will be disposed to question: it is a species of wisdom, however, if ever there was one, which neither his supporters nor his opponents can reproach with guile; and rarely, I believe, has this illustrious statesman had occasion to blush, at proving himself too shrewd, in those cases—and such Mr. Burke has acutely remarked there are—-in which a man of honour would be ashamed not to have been imposed upon.

 

NOV. the 23rd

            Finished the perusal of Blair's Lectures on Rhetoric. The praise of ingenuity, of a judgment in general accurate, and a taste for the most part timidly correct, I can readily allow him; but to the higher order of merit in a critic—to that superior sensibility which imparts a just relish for transcendent excellence, and to that philosophical sagacity, penetrating discernment, and nice tact, which qualify the possessor for tracing the pleasures of the imagination to their secret springs, he has certainly not the slightest pretensions. There is no raciness—no smack of an original cast of thought or feeling in his work: where little is hazarded, little can be gained; and though his Lectures (I feel the qualifying force of this title) are exempt, accordingly, from any gross or offensive errors, they are destitute, on the other hand, of whatever is adapted powerfully to awaken interest, and enchain attention, on the most engaging of all human speculations.—He starts on a right principle, by maintaining at the outset (L. 2.), that Taste is founded on a natural instinctive sensibility to beauty, refined by exercise, and guided and improved by reason; whose office he appears to limit (on this head) to the ascertaining the resemblance of an imitation to the original, or the reference of parts to the whole, or of means to an end, so far as any beauty depends on such resemblance or reference. Thus far, he seems to think that reason may act as a standard to taste: but then, as the application of this test is not sufficiently extensive, and as our reasonings appeal always, in the last resort, to feeling, he has recourse for this purpose, to the concurring sentiments of men placed in situations favourable to the exertions of taste. Truth, the object of reason, he remarks, is one; beauty, the object of taste, manifold; so that men may differ in preferring one beauty to another, according to their age, sensibility, &c. provided they agree in considering the same object as still beautiful, in sufficient consistency with justness of taste.—Genius (L. 3.) he distinguishes as the power of executing, taste as the power of judging, and criticism as the application of taste to the fine arts; and maintains here again, that the rules of criticism are not formed by any induction a priori—by any train of abstract reasoning—but are derived from an observation of such beauties as most generally please, though reason afterwards approves them as just and natural. His ideas on this subject, are, on neither occasion, so precisely and determinately marked as one could wish; but they are valuable as enforcing, however loosely, a fundamental distinction too generally overlooked in our researches into the principles of criticism.—Abandoning the efficient causes of the pleasures of taste as inscrutable, he proceeds to the consideration of sublimity or grandeur; which he divides, into sublimity in objects, and sublimity in writing; and the former, into physical and moral—the sublime in external things, and the sublime in sentiment. He differs from Burke, who makes terror the source of the sublime; and suggests, with diffidence, that if there is any one quality in which all sublime objects agree, and which is the cause of their producing a similar emotion, it is "mighty power": but mighty power, Burke has very justly remarked, is terrible; since so much does our sense of pain predominate over that of pleasure, that we are instinctively prompted to anticipate rather the evils such a power may inflict, than the benefits it may confer. Sublimity in writing, he makes to consist (L. 4.) in describing sublime objects, or exhibiting sublime sentiments, so as to give us forcible impressions of them, viz. with conciseness, simplicity, and strength—the result of lively feelings in the writer.—In treating of beauty (L. 5.) he professes himself unable to discover any common quality running through all the varieties of objects regarded as beautiful, which entitle them to that distinction; and he proceeds accordingly to consider separately, the beauty of colour figure and motion, the union of these, the beauty of expression of the mind-where he takes occasion to observe, that the higher virtues (such as I should term, those which turn on self-command) excite an emotion of the sublime, the social and more gentle (those which turn on sensibility) of the beautiful,—and lastly the beauty arising from the fitness of means to an end:—he distinguishes, too, an appropriate beauty in writing, consisting in a certain turn in the style and sentiment, calculated to diffuse a serene delight. The truth is, I think, that beauty, in its popular sense, and regarded as applicable to the exciting causes of every species of the gentler pleasurable sensations, is much too lax to oppose to the sublime; except in the very vague sense in which that term is employed by Longinus, who seems to include under it, whatever produces vehement emotion: and a consequent embarrassment, I suspect, must ever take place in the treatment of this subject, till a more precise circumscription of these qualities obtains. Besides beauty and sublimity, Blair considers that there are other pleasures of taste, such as those arising from novelty, imitation, melody, harmony, numerousness, and the effect produced by wit, humour, and ridicule; and remarks, that poetry and eloquence avail themselves of all these modes of touching the affections.—In the 6th and 7th Ls., he treats of the progress of speech and writing. Of the former, he observes, that the understanding has, in all its successive changes, been gaining ground on the imagination; and that language was originally descriptive in the sound, expressive in the utterance, figurative in the style, and that the order of the words followed the order of events in the mind of the speaker, and not, as in modern languages, their real order in point of time. Writing, he deduces, from pictural representations, through hieroglyphics (in which the specific signification of these pictures was extended by analogy), to arbitrary marks (probably originating from this source) like the Chinese characters and Arabic numerals: thus far, the sign immediately represented the thing signified; till it occurred, that these signs might be employed to denote, not the thing itself, but the sound by which it was known; and, by tracing these sounds to their elements, be simplified into the Letters of the Alphabet. These two latter leaps, however, though easy in the statement, are in practice surely immense.—In the 8th and 9th Ls., he discusses the nature of language in general, and of the English language in particular; but as he takes Harris and Monboddo for his guides, I have nothing to say about him.—From the 10th to the 13th he treats of style, in the choice of terms, and structure of sentences. I was most pleased with his remarks on precision in the former department (L. 10.), illustrated by his distinctions between words which are loosely regarded as synonymous; and his judicious recommendations (L. 11.) of unity, in the latter. He very justly observes, that our modes of thinking, and our modes of expressing ourselves, mutually act and react upon each other.—From the 14th to the 17th L. he treats of figures of style, which, he well remarks, to have a good effect, must spring spontaneously from the feelings of the speaker or writer. I cannot, however, agree with him in his censure (L. 15.) of two passages, in the Tempest and Romeo and Juliet, "The charm dissolves apace", and "As glorious as is a winged messenger", as involving mixed metaphors: the leading figure is surely preserved with sufficient distinctness in both instances; and the expressions at which he cavils, as incongruous, are so little obtrusive in their primitive and metaphorical sense, as, with me at least, not in the slightest degree to impair the general unity and beauty of the image presented to the mind.—There is nothing new under the Sun. The passage I admired so much (April 10th, 1799), in one of the Papers of the Corresponding Society, saying of the Temple of Liberty, "that it had the ample earth for its area, and the arch of Heaven for its dome", seems to have been taken from the Epitaph on Charles the 5th (L. 16.) "Pro tumulo ponas orbem, pro tegmine coelum":<114>-the rest spoils all—"Sidera pro facibus, pro lachrymis maria":<115>—yet it evinces, by how slender a partition the extravagant and preposterous is divided from the sublime.—From the 18th to the 24th L., Blair treats of style. His divisions of the subject are not, I think, sufficiently clear and distinct: but his particular criticisms are in general acute and just; and his strictures upon certain passages in the writings of Addison and Swift, and the emendations he proposes, to rectify and improve them, for the most part, eminently judicious.—In the 25th L. he at length enters upon Eloquence; which he defines, the art of speaking in such a manner as to attain the end for which we speak—to please—to inform and convince the understanding—and to actuate the will. The highest species of eloquence, that which hurries along the hearer with the speaker, he contends, is always the offspring of passion; and he accounts for the inferior degree of liveliness in modern compared with Ancient eloquence, partly from the progress of philosophy and correct habits of thinking, which are averse to such excitations.—In the 26th L. he institutes a formal comparison between Demosthenes and Cicero. I pretty nearly agree with him in the result, though I differ widely in many of the particular criticisms from which it is deduced. The character of Demosthenes, says he, is vigour and austerity; that of Cicero, gentleness and insinuation:—feeble characteristics, surely, of two such mighty and opposite proficients in eloquence. With emotions still stronger than those of dissent, do I listen to his unmerciful depression of the moderns compared with the Ancients, and of the English compared with the French, in oratory. Did he never hear of such men as Chatham, Fox, or Burke? Or would he deny the praise of pathos, to those vehement and impassioned appeals of Erskine, which I well remember to have seen draw tears down the veteran Bearcroft's cheeks, though opposed to him as counsel in the cause<116>:—a triumph more truly glorious, perhaps, to eloquence, than Cicero's expulsion of Cataline from the Senate.—In the 32nd L. he maintains, that the three great subjects of discussion among mankind, are, truth, duty, and interest; and that all arguments are directed to prove one of these three things, that something is true, that it is right, or, that it is profitable: that where we want, not merely to convince, but to actuate, we must touch the springs of action, the passions: and, that to effect this, it is not sufficient to show, that we ought to be moved, but to exhibit the incentive of that passion which we wish to raise; and, for this purpose, to be moved by it ourselves.—In the 34th L., amongst other arguments to establish that virtue is necessary to true eloquence, he contends, that from the fountain of virtuous feeling alone, are drawn those dignified and impassioned sentiments, which communicate a glowing ardour and flame to language; and, above all others, command the passions of mankind.-In the 35th L. he observes, that as we advance in knowledge, systems of philosophy may perish; but that works of taste are addressed to the feelings; that these feelings are the sole test of their merit; that the universal feeling of mankind, is the natural, and therefore the right, feeling; and that long continued reputation, consequently, is, in such cases, decisive of excellence.—In the 38th L. he enters on the consideration of Poetry; which he defines "the language of passion, or of enlivened imagination, formed, most commonly, into regular numbers": and the primary aim of the Poet, he justly maintains, is, not to instruct, but to please and to move; though, by pleasing and moving, he may, and he ought to, endeavour to accomplish that end.—In the 42nd L. he eloquently remarks, that the respect which Epic Poetry must of necessity bear to the moral sentiments of mankind, is such a testimony in favour of those sentiments, that were it in the power of sceptical philosophers to weaken the force of the reasonings which establish the essential distinction between virtue and vice, the writings of Epic Poets were alone sufficient to evince the fallacy of their deductions, since by the appeal which such Poets are ever making to the feelings of mankind in favour of virtue, they irresistibly attest, that the foundations of it are laid deep and strong in human nature.—In the 45th and 46th Ls. he discourses on Tragedy; the characteristic of which, he thinks, is to move, as that of Epic Poetry is to elevate, the mind. He accounts for the gratification produced by the sorrows it excites, from the pleasure attending the exercise of the social affections; which is peculiarly strong in pity, and compassion, and overbalances the distress arising from sympathy with the sufferers:—the heart is warmed with kindness and humanity, while it is affected by the sufferings in which it shares; and the pleasure thus derived, is heightened by the satisfactory reflection, that we feel as we ought to feel on the occasion. If the pain involved in this mixed emotion be made to predominate, the scene becomes too shocking for representation.—His view of Shakespeare, is most unworthy that great master of the human heart: Blair is evidently not up to the high task of criticising such a Genius.—The 47th and final Lecture, treats of Comedy: and is decidedly the poorest, and feeblest, and flattest, of them all; huddling up the Course to a miserable close.—After having skirted, with a pale and ineffectual ray, the whole horizon of Taste, this Arctic Phoebus sets at last in a fog.

 

NOV. the 25th

            Looked over some of Rousseau's Letters, contained in the 15th Vol. of his Works,. 4to. Ed. Geneva, 1790. In a curious one, dated a Bourgoin, le 15me. Janvier 1769, he defends the existence of a God; a position which, after all, he rests upon "un sentiment interieur", whose voice is that of nature, whose judgment is infallible, whose dictates can alone preserve us against the delusions of reason, which in the end would leave us nothing to believe: and maintains, that without a belief in God, virtue must perish; since virtue means force, a force exerted over ourselves, and which requires a God, if not as a judge, at least as a witness, of its achievements. With respect to the first position, if Rousseau means, as he appears to do, by a "sentiment interiéur", a blind instinctive principle of belief, a principle which may be felt but cannot be stated, the admission of such aground of credence, it is evident, would give the privilege of sanctuary to every prejudice of which we had forgotten the origin. With respect to the second, though, in extreme cases, a belief in a supreme Being, potent to reward and to avenge, or at least sympathising in omniscience with the secret struggles of the human heart, may be necessary to support Virtue from sinking under temptation or yielding to despair, this quality, I conceive, in the popular and just acceptation of the term which denotes it, is, in its nature and essence, entirely distinct from all such considerations; and, whatever succour it may occasionally derive from their aid on extraordinary emergencies, is perfectly capable of subsisting and flourishing to a large extent without them. Rousseau proceeds to combat the doctrine of necessity, as abhorrent, in its consequences on morals, to the same "sentiment intérieur"; and then vindicates the superior character of Christ as a moral teacher. He seems to have been seized, on this occasion, with one of those fits of piety, to which his erratic genius was casually subject, and into which it might at any time be exasperated by opposition.—In a subsequent Letter, á M. D'Offreville, he formally examines the motives to virtue. He admits that we must in all cases be actuated by self-interest; but then he distinguishes this interest into a higher and a lower, a spiritual and a sensual interest, the former of which is, the latter is not, compatible with virtue: and to decide the question, whether there is not an interest immediately attached to virtue, which makes it amiable for its own sake, or whether, according to the doctrines of "la nouvelle philosophie" as he calls it, "nul ne peut faire aucun bien que par le profit qu'il en attende d'autrui, quil n'y a, par conséquent, que des sots qui croient a la vertu, et des dupes qui la pratiquent"<117>, proposes, as an experimentum crucis, the case of the juryman, who was resolved to perish rather than convict another of a murder which himself had perpetrated.—Swift observes in his Detached Thoughts, "the self-love of some men inclines them to please others; the self-love of others inclines them to please themselves; and this makes the great difference between virtue and vice."—The difficulty which appears to have perplexed both Rousseau and Swift on this subject, seems solved by the principle of sympathy:—by sympathy we are interested in the interests of others, ipso facto, and antecedently to all reflection on consequences.

 

NOV the 29th

            Finished the perusal of Rousseau's Miscellaneous Letters. The two M. le Maréchal de Luxembourg, are admirably descriptive, the former of the manners of the inhabitants, the latter of the aspect of the country, of the Val-de-Travers in the Compté de Neufchatel: nothing can be more finished and exquisite than the painting in both. The last sentence but one in the latter, breathes precisely the same sentiment which occurs in Tooke's Dedication of his Diversions of Purley: "comment pourrois-je n'etre pas touché des pontés qu'on m'y témoigne, moi qui dois tenir a bienfait de la part des hommes tout le mal qu'ils ne me font pas"<119>. I confess I have learnt to lend a dull ear to these complaints of persecution from authors; and to suspect, where they are not mere rhetorical flourishes to conciliate and allure—(for "pity melts the soul to love"),—that there is, at the bottom, something wrong, in those who make them;—some addiction to what, though plausible, is really culpable; or some perversity, at least, in pursuing what is right. There is a fund of good sense and honest sympathy in the public, which costs nothing in the exercise, and can scarcely fail to render their moral judgments, on these occasions, in general as just as they are conclusive.—In a Letter dated, Motiers, le 4 Mars, 1764, he combats a disciple of the New Philosophy, who endeavoured to deduce virtue from the love of order; and maintains, that it must be founded on—an instinctive belief in a superintending providence—the immortality of the soul—and the freedom of the will: take the two first of these considerations away, "je ne vois plus dans la vertu qu'une folie à qui l'on donne un beau nom"; take away the last, and "ce'st un son qui bat l'oreille, et rien de plus".<120> Self-love, he admits, is the sole principle of action in man; but how virtue can be founded intrinsically on this principle, he declares, passes his conception.—Rousseau frequently vents his spleen against the doctrines and the professors of "la nouvelle philosophie" as he terms it; and when tolerably at ease in his own mind, strongly inculcates on others a spirit of accommodation to the opinions and sentiments of mankind, especially with regard to religion—(see, particularly, the preceding and two succeeding Letters)-: but there is no reliance to be placed on him; and we feel that the slightest and most unfounded disgust, would exasperate his irritable spirit into a consuming fire against the cause, which a kindlier humour had led him to espouse with all the warmth and earnestness of a decided votary.—"A mon avis", says he, in a Letter dated, Wootton, Sep. 27th, 1767, "le sang d'un seul homme, est d'un plus grand prix que la liberté de tout le genre-humain."<121> What a sentiment to have flashed upon his deluded followers in France, in the midst of their atrocities!

 

DECEMBER the 6th

            Read Jackson's (of Exeter) Four Ages. He inverts the usual order; and promises halcyon days, from the improvement of every art and every science, in the golden age to which we are rapidly advancing:—a more consolatory and a more plausible fallacy, certainly, than the prevalent one, of looking with regret on the past, and dismay to the future. Many of his remarks are ingenious and acute; but they are delivered in a very desultory form.

            Looked through the 3rd Book of Warburton's Divine Legation. It is impossible to pursue this eccentric genius steadily, through the mazy curves along which he wheels his airy flight; "fetching in and inclosing" (as Bacon expresses it) "by a winding expatiation, matter which speaks nothing to the purpose". He contends (sect. 2.) that the genius of their religion taught the Ancient sages to conclude, that utility, not truth, is the end of religion; that utility and truth, consequently, do not coincide; and that it is lawful and expedient to deceive for the public good: he, himself, (sect.6) on the contrary maintains, from a petitio principii,<122> I think, That truth is nothing but that relation of things which is attended with universal benefit; That truth and utility must, therefore, necessarily coincide; That truth is productive of utility, and utility indicative of truth; and, consequently, That religion, or the idea of the relation between the creature and the Creator, as useful, Must be true. He afterwards observes, very justly, that there never was a great conqueror, legislator, or founder of religion, who had not a mixture of enthusiasm and policy in his composition;—of enthusiasm to influence the public mind, and of policy to, direct it.

 

DEC. the 8th

            Read Balguy's nine Discourses. They are all masterly; but the first four, and the 8th, tower above the rest in excellence. In the 7th he says "To live without government, belongs only to savages; to be governed by will, is the condition of slaves: the freest of men, are those who live by settled rules, under the influence of authority prudently constituted, and temperately used". This nearly coincides with Mackintosh's definition of Liberty in his Preliminary Dissertation.

            Looked into Warton's Edition of Milton's Minor Poems. I am surprised that in enumerating (in a note on Lycidas) the proofs of Shakespeare's attachment to the figure of the canker and the rose, he should have omitted the celebrated passage-

 

"But let concealment, like a worm 'ith bud,

Feed on her damask cheek".<122>

 

"Sere", or "dry", which he mentions as one of the most uncommon of the obsolete words employed by Milton, is surely now very customary as applied to wood for fuel.

 

DEC. the 9th

            Read Balguy's seven Charges, appended to his Sermons. In the last, he grows mystical: it is a most unfortunate close: though, indeed, there appears to me something very like inconsistency in the preceding part of the volume; and that what the author seems to grant very liberally with one hand, one moment, he withholds very tenaciously with the other, the next. I should say of the whole volume, that it is the product of a stout, well-furnished, reflecting mind; too vigorous to bear the trammels of prejudice, and thinking originally and deeply on whatever subject occurred; but which perhaps had not very curiously collated its opinions, and moulded them into one consistent system.—In the 2nd Charge, Balguy explicitly maintains, That Christianity, did not promulgate a new system of morals, which was unnecessary; but merely gave an additional sanction to the rules which previously existed on this subject.—In the 6th he observes, "That a heart which has hardened itself against all impressions of gratitude to God, will be equally insensible of human kindness; and that all the-charities of neighbourhood, and kindred, and friendship, will be sunk and stifled in a cool philosophical selfishness."

 

DEC. the 11th

            Looked into some of Dryden's Prefaces and Dedications. He is surely the most rambling and desultory writer that ever wielded pen! I take it, he never meditated: before he committed his thoughts to paper, or corrected a syllable afterwards: yet, such are the exuberant stores of his mind, he weaves, as he goes along, a rich and enchanting tissue.

            Read the 1st Vol. of Sully's Memoirs. They open a scene of manners, which, to modern conception, appears perfectly romantic:—what a strange mixture of ferocity and gallantry, generosity and treachery, cruelty and courtesy, heroic virtues and the meanest vices! Sully insists upon it, that Henry the IVth's conversion from the Protestant to the Roman Catholic faith, was conscientious and sincere. Though far from thinking that other motives, besides a preponderance of argument, may not operate in producing belief, such a momentous change, so exactly synchronising and quadrating with the dictates of policy, staggers, I confess, all my dispositions to be charitable on the occasion. It is curious, that these Memoirs should have been written by a French Protestant, and translated by an English Papist.

 

DEC. the 21st

            Looked over the 1st and 2nd Parts of Watts' Logic. In recommending us (c. 4, p. 2.) to cast away all our former prejudicate opinions, and form them afresh on an impartial examination, he seems to feel the danger of following this advice to its full extent; and therefore more than once observes, that this is not proposed to be practised at once, as men of business or religion, as friends or neighbours, as fathers or sons, as magistrates, subjects, or Christians, but merely as philosophical searchers after truth.—Watts, when he does not bewilder himself and his readers in scholastic subtleties—(for Locke had not quite purged him from the taint of the Schools)—but follows the dictates of his own sense, is very judicious. He may be regarded, I believe, as the last of that race of primitive divines, who united, in an eminent degree, sanctity with learning.

 

DEC. the 23rd

            Looked over the 3rd and 4th Parts of Watts' Logic. In the former, on "reasoning and syllogism", I was in hopes of meeting with something which might throw light on the principles of ratiocination; but was disappointed. He defines reasoning, "the joining several propositions together, and making a syllogism, i.e., an argument whereby we are wont to infer something that is less known, from truths which are more evident." This more evident truth, forms the premises of a syllogism; the less evident, the conclusion: now the presiding principle, he observes, which governs all syllogisms, is, that what is generally true, is true in all the particular instances included in the general idea; and the grand rule which he lays down as the test of a true syllogism, is, that the premises contain the conclusion, or, that one of the premises contain the conclusion, and that the other show it is contained in it—c. 2, sect 1. and c. 3, sect 2:—directly the inverse, I apprehend, of the method which the mind really pursues in the advancement of its knowledge.

            Pursued Sully's Memoirs. I blush when I read the account he gives of his Embassy to our Court, on the accession of James the 1st. How much more respectable do we appear in Henry the IVth's previous correspondence with Elizabeth! James should have worn the petticoat, and Bess the breeches.

 

Prev Next

Back to Introduction