Page images
PDF
EPUB

escaped the notice of most readers, and even writers on these subjects. That the consequences of some of them are even yet not unfolded, must be owned to be a proof that they are inadequately stated; and may be regarded as a presumption that the author did not closely examine the bearing of his own positions. Among the most important of these suggestions is, the existence of dispositions in man by which he takes pleasure in the well-being of others, without any farther view; a doctrine however to all the consequences of which he has not been faithful in his other writings. Another is, that goodness consists in the prevalence of love for a system, of which we are a part, over the passions pointing to our individual welfare ; a proposition which somewhat confounds the motives of right acts with their tendency, and seeni3 to favour the melting of all particular affections into general benevolence, because the tendency of these affections is to general good. The next, and certainly the most orginal, as well as important, is that there are certain affections of the mind, which, being contemplated by the mind itself through what he calls a reflex sense, become the objects of love or the contrary, according to their nature. So approved and loved, they constitute virtue or merit, as distinguished from mere goodness, of which there are traces in animals who do not appear to reflect on the state of their own minds, and who seem, therefore, destitute of what he elsewhere calls a moral sense. These statements are, it is true, far too short and vague. He nowhere inquires into the origin of the reflex sense. What is a much more material defect, he makes no attempt to ascertain in what state of mind it consists. We discover only by implication, and by this use of the term sense, that he searches for the foundation of moral sentiments, not in mere reason—where Cudworth and Clarke had vainly sought for it—but in the heart, whence the main branch of them assuredly flows. It should never be forgotten that we owe to these hints, the reception into ethical theory of a moral sense; which, whatever may be thought of its origin, or in whatever words it may be described, must always retain its place in such theory as a main principle of our moral nature."

The style of Lord Shaftesbury has been made the subject of unbounded admiration,—far higher indeed than its merits demand. The 'Enquiry concerning Virtue,' which is certainly the ablest of his performances, is written with much clearness and simplicity, and there are scattered throughout the 'Characteristics,' passages of considerable beauty, but, in the main, the style of his writings is unphilosophical. With the solitary exception we have mentioned, he never pursues an argument closely, or brings the different parts of his subject into lucid order. Added to this is an affectation which sometimes leads him into an offensive pleasantry, and at others into a frigid dulness. Blair says of him—and with greater justness of criticism than he usually displays— "His lordship can express nothing with simplicity. He seems to have considered it as vulgar, and beneath the dignity of a man of quality, to speak like other men. Hence he is ever in buskins; full of circumlocutions and artificial elegance. In every sentence, we see the marks of labour and art; nothing of that ease which expresses a sentiment coming natural and warm from the heart. Of figures and ornament of every kind he is exceedingly fond,—sometimes happy in them ; but his fondness for them is too visible; and having once laid hold of some metaphoi or allusion that pleases him, he knows not how to pan with it."

It may perhaps be expected that we should take some extended notice of Shaftesbury's sentiments on the subject of religion, but we apprehend it would serve no beneficial purpose. It is useless to contend, as some have done, that he was not a sceptic; for numerous passages in the ' Characteristics,' might readily be pointed out, containing idle and discreditable reflections on Christianity, in which no one could have indulged who felt any respect for its authority and doctrines. Sir James Macintosh conjectures that this sceptical tendency may have originated in disgust at the bigotted churchmen who opposed tlie government of King William ; and the conjecture is strengthened by the fact, that in some of his latest productions, he speaks of Christianity iu respectful terms. Perhaps we may assign, as another and a still more efficient cause, that affectation of originality and of freedom from vulgar prejudice, which has led so many astray. Lord Shaftesbury's works have been several times reprinted in three volumes, 8vo.

boRN A. D. l6jO. DIED A. D. 1714.

John Radcliffe, an English physician, was born at Wakefield, in Yorkshire, in the year 1650. Having received the rudiments of education in a school at Wakefield, he was sent at the age of fifteen to University college, Oxford. In 1669, he became bachelor in arts, and senior scholar of his college, when he removed to Lincoln college where he was presented with a fellowship. He now chose the profession of medicine, and prosecuted his studies with great diligence. In 1672, he became master of arts. His studies were by no means general, as he regarded with contempt most of the treatises on medicine, with the exception of those of Willis. His library, as he called it, in answer to a question of Dr Bathurst, consisted of a few phials, a skeleton, and an herbal. In 1675, he took his first degree in medicine, and soon afterwards commenced the practice of his profession in Oxford. His practice was bold and decisive, and so successful, that his reputation increased rapidly. He drew upon himself the abuse of apothecaries, who found that his method of treatment put less money into their pockets, and of his brethren in medicine, who found that he made great inroads upon their practice. In replying to these, Radcliffe did not exhibit a greater degree of forbearance than he was wont to do in after life, but abused them without mercy. He was a follower of Sydenham, especially in his most excellent method of treating smallpox. In cohsequence of a quarrel with Dr Marshall, rector of Lincoln college, he was obliged to resign his fellowship in 1677, and leave the college. He still resided in Oxford, and continued to practise; and in 1682, received the degree of M. D. He went to London in 1684, and settled in Bow-street, Co vent-garden, where his practice increased with a most unusual rapidity. It is said that he owed his rapid advancement not less to his agreeable conversation than to his professional skill, hi 1G86, he became physician to the princess Anne of Denmark. Attbe

devolution, when this princess retired to Nottingham, being then preglant of the duke of Gloucester, Radcliffe was requested to attend her, . pit, being aware of the uncertain state of affairs, he thought it prudent .0D refuse, which he did under pretext of the extent of his engagements. .~m When William came to the throne, Radcliffe was consulted along with the celebrated Bidloo, whom the king brought over with him as chief . physician. His success was so universally acknowledged that the king pffered to make him one of his physicians, which, however, he declined from motives of policy. His success in practice did not, however, suffer from this circumstance, for he continued to be consulted on all important occasions by the king and the first nobility. In 1694, be attended the queen, who had smallpox. Her death was, by some, attributed to carelessness and unskiifulness on the part of Radcliffe. The freedoms which he used with his patients were sometimes resented. Thus we find him dismissed from the service of the Princess Anne of Denmark for refusing to visit her, swearing that "her highness's distemper was nothing but the vapours, and that she was in as good a state of health as any woman breathing, could she but believe it." After this he continued in great favour with the king, which, however, he lost in 1699, by the very uncourtly reply he made to his majesty, who on his return from Holland showed him his swollen legs; "Why, truly," said Radcliffe, "I would not have your majesty's two legs for your three kingdoms." He was no longer employed at court, notwithstanding the exertions made in his favour by the earl of Albemarle. When Queen Anne came to the throne, her dislike to Radcliffe remained unabated, so that he was not reinstated in his post of chief physician; but the confidence in his abilities remained unshaken, and he was often consulted on important occasions. In 1703, he was in considerable danger from a pleurisy, so much so that he made his will. He recovered, however, and continued the practice of his profession with unabated vigour. In 1713, he was elected member of parliament for Buckingham.

In 1714, he was called to attend the last illness of Queen Anne. Respecting his conduct on that occasion it is difficult to form an opinion, the accounts of it differ so much. From a letter of his own it appears that a fit of the gout confined him at the time, and that besides, the call he received neither came directly from the queen, nor from any person properly entitled to take upon him to do so without her command. His confidence in Dr Mead was also so great, that he considered his personal attendance unnecessary. Be the fact as it may, nothing is more certain than that Radcliffe was much blamed by the public, and thought himself in danger of being assassinated. A motion was even made in the house of commons, that he should be called to this place to answer for not attending on her majesty. On the 3d November, 1714, Radcliffe (fled in Carshalton; he lay in state for some time, and was buried in St Mary's church, Oxford.

The character and talents of Dr Radcliffe have been very differently described. That he was eccentric, sometimes ill-natured, fond of money and of his bottle, cannot be denied. But whatever blame is cast upon him beyond this, must be regarded with some degree of suspicion, when we consider how many enemies his eccentricities, conjoined with his unparalleled success, must have made for him among his professional brethren. We find him described by some as a bold empiric, while Dr Mead says, that "he was deservedly at the head of bis profession, on account of his great medical penetration and experience." He has left no writings, so that our proof of his talents must always remain defective. Though of a grasping disposition in acquiring wealth, he was most liberal in bestowing it. He gave many sums of money to the society for propagating the gospel, to the poor non-juring clergy, and to the episcopal clergy in Scotland. But his greatest liberality was bestowed upon the university of Oxford. From the funds left at his death, the Radclifte library, an infirmary and observatory, besides many other buildings, were erected there. The hospital of St Bartholomew receives £600 a year from his estates; £250 are annually expended on the support of the Radcliffe library; and an estate in Yorkshire is devoted to the support of two travelling fellows of University college. Other funds remain at the disposal of trustees, to be applied to such charitable purposes as they think fit.

BoRN A. D. 1640.—DIED A. D. 1715.

William Wycherlet, the author of several very successful dramas, was the elder son of Daniel Wycherley of Cleve, in Shropshire. A little before the restoration of Charles II., he became a gentleman commoner of Queen's college, Oxford; but he left the university without having matriculated. It appears that before entering on any course of studies in England young Wycherley had resided some years in France, where he lived in the best society, and was much noticed by Madame de Montausier. Hence, perhaps, the tone of persiflage and gallantry that runs throughout his writings.

After leaving Oxford, he entered himself of the Middle Temple; but the study of law was far too dry a pursuit for the gay young Englishman, who, in addition to the natural vivacity and buoyancy of his spirits, had had his habits and tastes formed in the court of France. He soon abandoned the study of jurisprudence for dalliance with the gayer muses, and, betwixt the years 1672 and 1712, published several comedies and poems in which the dissolute tone of morals which then pervaded the upper ranks of society was but too successfully imitated.

The publication of his first play, 'Love in a Wood,' introduced him at once to the special favour of the court, and particularly to the duchess of Cleveland. Spence, in his gossipping garrulous book,1 gives an account of our poet's first introduction to the duchess, which, as sufficiently characteristic of the times, we shall here insert. "Wycherley," says he, " was a very handsome maff. His acquaintance with the famous duchess of Cleveland commenced oddly enough. One day as he passed that duchess's coach in the ring, she leaned out of the window, and cried out loud enough to be heard distinctly by him, 'Sir, you're a rascal I you're a villain I' Wycherley from that instant entertained hopes. He did not fail waiting on her the next morning; and, with a very melancholy tone, begged to know how it was possible for him to have so much disobliged her grace. They were very good friends from that time: yet, after all," adds Spence, "what did he get by her?" He was fortunate enough to enjoy pretty substantial patronage in still higher quarters. The duke of Buckingham gave him two or three military commissions under him; and Charles himself occasionally presented him with sums of money. Spence says, the king "gave him now and then a hundred pounds,—not often." But there is abundant evidence that Wycherley shared as much of the royal favour as he could reasonably expect, so long as the capricious monarch chose to pay him any attentions at all. His marriage with Lady Drogheda, however, threw him into disgrace at court for a time, and aeems to have cast a continual shade over the remainder of his fortunes. Spence, on the authority of old Dennis, says: " Just before the time of his courtship, he was designed for governor to the late duke of Richmond, and was to have been allowed £1500 a-year from the government. His absence from court, in the progress of this amour, and his being yet more absent after his marriage, (for Lady Drogheda was very jealous of him,) disgusted his friends there so much, that he lost all his interest with them. His lady died; he got but little by her; and his misfortunes were such that he was thrown into the Fleet, and lay there seven years." Wycherley died in 1715. "He died a Romanist, and has owned that religion in my hearing," says Spence. On this subject, a reviewer judiciously remarks:—" It is rather remarkable that we have three instances together of poets who were Roman Catholics at this period,—Garth, Wycherley, and Pope himself. The reason assigned for Garth's predilection for this faith, viz. 'the greater efficacy which it gives to the sacraments,' does not appear to be very obvious or satisfactory. Popery is, in its essence, and by its very constitution, a religion of outward form and ceremony, full of sound and show, recommending itself by the charm of music, the solemnity of pictures, the pomp of dress, the magnificence of buildings, by the dread of power, and the allurements of pleasure. It strikes upon the senses studiously, and in every way; it appeals to the imagination; it enthrals the passions; it infects by sympathy; has age, has authority, has numbers on its side, and exacts implicit faith in its inscrutable mysteries and its gaudy symbols:—it is, in a word, the religion of fancy, as protestantism is the religion of philosophy, and of faith chastised by a more sober reason. It is not astonishing, therefore, that at a period when the nation and the government had been so lately distracted by the contest between the old and the new religion, poets were found to waver between the two, or were often led away by that which flattered their love of the marvellous and the splendid. Any of these reasons, we think, is more likely than 'the greater efficacy given to the sacraments' in that communion, to explain why so many poets, without much religion, as Garth, Wycherley, Pope, Dryden, Crashaw, should be fascinated by the glittering bait of popery, and lull their more serious feelings asleep in the torpor of its harlot embraces. A minute, but voluminous critic of our time, has laboured hard to show, that to this list should be added the name_ of Massinger. But the proofs adduced in support of this conjecture are extremely inconclusive. Among others, the writer insists on the profusion of crucifixes, glories, angelic iv. 2 v

'Anecdotes, Observations, &c. by the Rev. J. Sjience. London, 1820.

« PreviousContinue »