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MODERN ULTRAISM. We have been taking notes, for a few months past, from the novel theories evolved in the 'progress of reform,' with the intention of hereafter submitting an article containing a round dozen of 'improvements,' for the benefit of mankind in general, and the American people in particular. While waiting, however, for a reply to sundry queries which we have propounded to the president of the 'NorthAmerican Starvation Society,' of Massachusetts, touching the use of English bendleather and caoutchouc, as economical nutricious substances, we have great pleasure in presenting a theory, kindred in some respects to certain of our own, which we have received from a modest yet clever correspondent, to whom we extend the right hand of fellowship. He entitles his paper, the 'Cause of the present Shortness of Human Life,' and very clearly illustrates, in our judgment, a remark made by Ecclesiastes the Preacher, viz: 'I said in mine heart, concerning the estate of the sons of men, that they might see that they themselves are beasts.' 'Every one now-a-days,' says our theorist, would be a philosopher. We have ascertained that effects have causes, and have set about to learn what these causes are. The physician endeavors to account for some peculiarity in the law, and the lawyer turns his attention to solving the mys teries of man's physical organization. The man of God stoops to unravel some political phenomenon, and the politician aspires to explain God. He who labors with the spade and the mattock, seeks to expound a mechanical enigma, and the mechanic some riddle in commerce. Each one seems disposed to lend his aid in solving the mysteries with which the world abounds.
'There has recently come into existence a' sect of philosophers,' who, if their assertions are to be relied on, have indeed discovered the 'philosopher's stone.' No one need be subject to disease, they say; God has nothing to do with the physical infirmities of mortals. A proper attention to exercise, diet, and cleanliness, is a sure protection against all bodily disorders, except such as are occasioned by accident. From this we may infer, that (accident aside,) man can live for ever. Another novel sect take the opposite ground, and maintain that the appetite should not be restrained, if we would prolong life; that whatever food is agreeable to the palate and stomach, should be offered them; and that if nature in this respect is allowed to have its own way, disease of every description may be avoided. Without stopping to consider the merits of these opposite doctrines, we shall proceed to suggest a few ideas, which have occurred to us, touching the cause of the shortness of human life, in these latter ages of the world. "The present general posture of the body, we conceive to be the great cause of the difference between the length of life now, and in the first ages of the world. Before the flood, man lived many hundreds of years; now seventy years is the time allotted to him. The body was not originally erect. We have never, to our knowledge, been informed that its position was perpendicular, as it is now. On the contrary, we have reason to believe that it was horizontal; and that man, instead of venturing his body about the earth upon two legs, used his hands and feet for that purpose. It is true that Adam was created a man in stature; but is it reasonable to suppose that, unacquainted as he was with the many inventions which his sagacious posterity have found out, he should, intuitively, have arrived at the knowledge of locomotion that we possess? Adam was, except in stature, a child in every thing. If this be correct, he certainly must, like all children, have moved his body upon all-fours. It is foolish to suppose otherwise. Six thousand years have passed away, and millions upon millions of human beings have lived since Adam, and how gradual has been their progress in locomotion! Fifty years ago, travelling by steam would have been considered a miracle; and not a great many hundreds of years since, conveyance by means of carriages was an astonishing circumstance.' Did our time and limits allow, we have no doubt that, by an 'analytical process,' we should be able to show conclusively, than man could not, in the first ages of the world, have moved himself from place to place, in any other way than upon his hands and feet.
'Another reason we have for supposing that our progenitors moved upon their hands and feet, is, that the serpent, that most lowly and subtle of all the beasts of the field,
'Squat like a toad, close at the ear of Eve,'
and tempted her by his whispers. If she allowed herself to listen to the conversation of serpents, she must have been in a situation to associate with them. If her position had been erect, she would have shunned the approach and familiarity of so disgusting an animal, and thus have prevented the misery thereby occasioned. We are told, too, that Cain, when he murdered Abel, 'rose up.' This is an argument in favor of our theory, that none can gainsay. These men were rough and uncouth in their manners. Cain, particularly, was of a morose and quarrelsome disposition, naturally. Like a beast he lived, and like a beast he yielded to the impulse of every passion. Abel irritated him, and he, like modern bear infuriate, 'rose up' on his hind feet, and slew him.
'From the time of Adam, down to the deluge, the period of man's life was from six to nine hundred years. Blessed days! Then ages rolled one after another, and men continued to live on; and it was only 'length of days,' as the Scriptures expressively term it, which, like sleep, silently and peacefully removed them to that state of forgetfulness, from which mortals never recover. After the flood, we find that the age of man immediately diminished to less than five hundred years. This we attribute to the habits acquired by the family of Noah, while in the ark. The apartments in that building, which belonged to this family, were so confined, that its occupants were obliged to sit and stand in an upright position. Thus they, in a measure, acquired an erect habit, by which their organs became disordered, and their lives shortened.
'Man's disposition is such, that he would rather pursue a bad fashion, if it be new, than adhere to one infinitely better, if it be old. Under the influence of this propensity, the descendants of Noah continued in what we shall call the perpendicular habit; and they soon began to imagine that it possessed very great advantages over the one to which their ancestors had been accustomed. At length, the habit became so fixed, that, instead of indulging in it occasionally, they gave themselves up entirely to it, and it gradually grew into a second nature. As the habit increased, age diminished, and human life dwindled down to the three-score and ten years which are now the period of man's sojourn on earth. Is it not reasonable that such should have been the case? While the position of man was horizontal, his food was digested without that irritation of the organs which now exists. All the parts of the system were free from undue action, and the frequent interruptions to which they are now liable from the pressure of food.
'Doubtless there will be a great many foolish objections raised to this theory, as there are to all theories of importance. It will be sufficient to reply to such objections when they are started. There are one or two questions, however, that now suggest themselves, which it may be well to answer. It may be asked, how men could erect such a building as the ark, when they moved upon their hands and feet? It is not inconsistent with our doctrine, that hands were used for other purposes than locomotion. They must have been used in tilling the ground, and men either sat or knelt when thus occupied. The ark was built of gopher wood, which was a soft, pitchy substance, that could be moulded without much exertion of the body. It may be asked, also, why four-footed animals do not live to the great age of our first parents, if our doctrine be correct? We answer, some species of quadrupeds do live to a great age; others, such as neat cattle, are naturally short-lived; and we will venture to say, that when they shall attempt to walk upon their hind feet, they will not live to a fiftieth part of their present age!
'We have not sufficient time to extend our arguments farther, and if we had, we do not think we need say one word more, to insure conviction, in any convincible mind, of the truth of our doctrine. There is much force in the theory, that the great quantities of food, and the multifarious forms in which it is used, do more or less injury to the
human system, but those who attribute disease and death to man's folly in this respect, must certainly be in error. If such would benefit the world by their philanthropy, let them return to the original and natural position of their race, and they will set an example which will be followed as soon as that which they now advocate, and with about as much advantage to their fellow-creatures.'
NEW REPOSITORY OF THE ARTS. We are well assured that we are doing our readers an acceptable service, in calling attention to the spacious and beautiful 'Repository of the Arts,' recently opened at 411 Broadway, by Messrs. DAVIS AND HORN. It is an extensive dépôt of the rarest English and French plain and colored engravings, imported from the most eminent houses in Europe, as soon as published, together with every variety of fine stationary and artists' materials, from the most approved manufacturers. In the musical department, may be found a large assortment of superior piano-fortes, selected personally by Mr. HORN, of whose long experience in 'touching them to most melodious music,' few of our readers are ignorant; and if one might judge from the felicitous manner in which his accomplished partner acquitted himself on the flute, at the late brilliant concert given by Mr. HORN at the City Hotel saloon, there is little reason to doubt, that he is an equally capable judge of other musical instruments, of which the establishment boasts an abundant store- -as flutes, guitars, violins, violoncellos, etc., the whole warranted perfect, in every respect. Large selections, also, of classical music, by ancient and modern composers, are imported direct from Gerinany, France, and England. We have very sincere pleasure in commending this establishment to such of 'the trade' as may be interested in its character, and to our music and picture-loving readers generally. Unlike too many of the musical profession, who have enjoyed a liberal 'patronage' from the American people, its proprietors are gentlemen, in their habitudes and feelings; and the purchaser or visitor may rely, not only upon honorable dealing, but a kind and courteous bearing, which has in it nothing of deception, and involves no 'promises to the ear, to be broken to the hope.'
SHAKSPEARE FORGERIES. The following, from the 'Common-Place Book of a Septuagenarian,' by MATTHEW CAREY, Esq., is the passage alluded to by a correspondent below, who must, to adopt the language of a western debater, have 'lived to a most numerous age.' We had supposed the matter in question to have long been settled, beyond all peradventure :
'LITERARY ENTHUSIASM AND FOLLY.-When the notorious IRELAND imposed on the public, by producing the tragedy of 'Vortigern,' and some other spurious writings, which he pretended to have been written by SHAKSPEARE, Some of the first literati in England were completely deceived, and believed them genuine relics of that illustrious writer, and from the assumed eloquence and excellence of the sentiments, discovered, as they thought, proofs of their great paternity. As soon as the cheat was revealed, by the sagacity of a few critics, whose acumen was proof against the imposture, the tragedy and its accompaniments were pronounced to be worthless and trifling, as might have been expected from a mere lad. But before this dénouement took place, Boswell was so enraptured and so completely gulled, that he went down on his knees to return thanks to God, that he had lived to see so many genuine relics of the illustrious Shakspeare!'
'IN the KNICKERBOCKER for June, 1835, is an anecdote of BoswELL's enthusiasm in relation to 'IRELAND'S Shakspeare Forgeries.' I am not acquainted with MATTHEW CAREY, Esq., nor the sources whence his information is derived; but I was intimate with W. H. IRELAND, for many years, and have heard the anecdote alluded to, told by him, with the alteration of a name. The person who knelt down, etc., was the Rev.
Dr. PARK, the eminent Greek scholar; and he was afterward one of the first to join the 'critics, whose acumen was proof against the imposture,' in the cry against Ireland. And it is my firm belief, (not to say positive knowledge, from the lips of Ireland himself,) that the very 'sagacity and acumen' of MALONE, was the cause of depriving the world of one of the most beautiful of SHAKSPEARE's plays. Allow me to ask a few questions of the thinking world. When Ireland FOUND the tragedy of 'Vortigern,' he was about sixteen years of age. It was received by the world, and actually produced at Drury Lane Theatre, as Shakspeare's, until Malone published his pamphlet, which put it down, or rather elicited the 'Confessions of Ireland,' which vanity dictated. And where could be found the youth of sixteen, who would not have seized the opportunity, as he did, of being thought the author of a tragedy, written by the immortal Shakspeare? — and, as he then naturally thought, the intrinsic merit of the tragedy would make it as celebrated under the name of Ireland, as that of the great bard. Now what did Ireland (who lived until he was nearly sixty) ever write, to vindicate the 'assumption' and 'confession' that he was the author of the beautiful tragedy of 'Vortigern?' I believe there is not a copy of it for sale in London. He had not a copy, and I was myself engaged for years in searching for it. The Rev. THOMAS FROGNALL DIBDIN lent me EARL SPENCER'S copy to read; and he was of the same opinion with myself. He pronounced it next to Hamlet, and superior to Othello, but said that as Ireland was living, and he so old, he should leave it for the world to decide, after that generation had passed away, when there would be more written upon it, than had ever been written concerning the author of Junius.' And when we remember that the first edition of MILTON laid on the shelves for five years, and the publisher had a new title printed, as the 'second edition,' to help sell the first, it is not marvellous that 'Vortigern' should be overlooked for a time, particularly since so few can obtain a copy to read.'
THE NEW YEAR. - Friendly correspondents have poured upon our table a multitude of poetical favors, upon a general theme, the new year. Several of these possess such excellence, that we shall refer to them hereafter, in considering the contents of a 'drawer,' now well nigh filled to overflowing. 'F. W. S.,' 'G. D.,' and 'J. C.' may hence infer, that their kind intentions are duly appreciated. The following lines, from the pen of PARK BENJAMIN, Esq., late editor of the 'American Monthly Magazine,' whom we have pleasure in announcing as a regular contributor to these pages, require no praise at our hands:
MUSICAL INSTRUCTION. The well-known composer and musical instructor, Mr. WATSON, at 385 Broadway, devotes, as we perceive by the public journals, the whole of his time to giving instruction to private pupils, and to those intended for the profession. Mrs. WATSON, also, the delightful vocalist, to whom we have often referred, has retired entirely from theatrical engagements, and gives lessons in her favorite art. Such as have listened to the touching sweetness of her' John Anderson, my Joe,' will need no encomium of ours, to insure their applause. Indeed, the European reputation of Mr. WATSON, and the talents of his lady, are familiar to all communities on the Atlantic sea-board. We bespeak for them, from among the lovers of a pure and artistical vocal style, as many pupils as they deserve; and this unsolicited 'bespeak' is as liberal as even themselves could desire.
THE CHINESE MUSEUM AT PHILADELPHIA.—Though left but narrow space, we cannot resist the inclination to bear our brief but cordial testimony to the attractions of the 'Chinese Museum' at Philadelphia, which we had the pleasure of visiting on a recent occasion. It is preeminently one of the most extensive, elegant, and tasteful collections in America. The coup d'œil is gorgeous and imposing, and in the detail, it will satisfy the most fastidious observer. To NATHAN DUNN, Esq., a private citizen of great enterprise and public spirit, are the public of our sister city indebted for this unrivalled exhibition.
THE AMERICAN SCHOOL LIBRARY.-The 'American Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge,' we are glad to perceive, have commenced the publication of a District School Library for the United States, to consist, ultimately, of from fifty to one hundred volumes, of instructive works, on various subjects, calculated to interest and benefit the young. The cheap and excellent 'American School Library,' published by the BROTHERS HARPER, to which we have before referred, form the opening collection. The enterprise deserves abundant success.
LECTURES ON THE ENGLISH POETS. - We perceive that WILLIAM H. SIMMONS, Esq., of Massachusetts, has commenced a course of lectures upon the English poets, at Clinton Hall. If an earnest recommendation could avail with our city readers, there should not be left standing-room for a solitary auditor, when he addresses the public. We have heretofore remarked, and experience has only confirmed the correctness of the assertion, that for ease, grace, and force of elocution, and especially for a mellow richness and varied intonation of voice, Mr. SIMMONS' superior has never been heard in New-York. Add to these, a fine intellect, a cultivated mind, and the spirit to appreciate, and the ability to set forth, the better characteristics of poetry, and the reader will have a 'picture in little' of Mr. SIMMONS' powers as a lecturer.
TO CORRESPONDENTS. — A number of communications, among them some from favorite contributors, have been received, and await insertion; but we have space for only this brief and general acknowledgment of their reception and disposition. Extracts from the original poem by JOEL BARLOW, a sea-sketch, by the author of Jack Marlinspike's Yarn,' with a poem by Prof. INGRAHAM, will appear in the number for February. We must not omit here, to express our obligations to 'WALMSLEY,' for palming upon us an article as original, which, since its insertion on a preceding page, we have ascertained to be a plagiarism. We are doubtless indebted for this ingenuous and manly act, to the fact, that we have 'respectfully declined' intellectual failures from the same source, the authenticity of which could not be doubted.
THE DRAMA.-The absence of our capable theatrical correspondent, for the last month, must constitute our apology for the omission of our usual dramatic criticisms.