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Their stoical precepts interdicted them from | III.; for all which we shall leave it to our disclosing. The German poets, and some readers to make the best apology they can. succeeling English authors, have produced a Madame de Stael thinks very poorly of our pro.ligious effect by the use of this powerful talent for pleasantry; and is not very successinstrument; but nothing can exceed ihe orig. ful in her delineation of what we call humour. inal sketches of it exhibited in Lear, in Ham- The greater part of the nation, she says, lives let, in Timon of Athens, and in some parts of either in the serious occupations of business Richard and of Othello. He has likewise and politics, or in the tranquil circle of family drawn, with the hand of a master, the strug- affection. What is called society, therefore, gles of nature under the immediate contem- has scarcely any existence among them; and plation of approaching death; and that with- yet it is in that sphere of idleness and frivolity, out those supports of conscious dignity or that taste is matured, and gaiety made eleexertion with which all other writers have gant. They are not at all trained, therefore, thought it necessary to blend or to contrast to observe the finer shades of character and their pictures of this emotion. But it is in the of ridicule in real life; and consequently neiexcitement of the two proper tragic passions ther think of delineating them in their comof pity and terror, that the force and origin- positions, nor are aware of their merit when ality of his genius are most conspicuous; pity delineated by others. We are unwilling to not only for youth and innocence, and noble- think this perfectly just; and are encouraged ness and virtue, as in Imogen and Desdemona, to suspect, that the judgment of the ingenious Brutus and Cariolanus—but for insignificant author may not be altogether without appeal persons like the Duke of Clarence, or profli- on such a subject, by observing, that she repgate and worthless ones like Cardinal Wolsey; resents the paltry flippancy and disgusting -terror, in all its forms, from the madness affectation of Sterne, as the purest specimen of Lear, and the ghost of Hamlet, up to the of true English humour; and classes the chardreams of Richard and Lady Macbeth. In acter of Falstaff along with that of Pistol, as comparing the effects of such delineations parallel instances of that vulgar caricature with the superstitious horror excited by the from which the English still condescend to mythological persons of the Greek drama, the receive amusement. It is more just, howvast superiority of the English author cannot ever, to observe, that the humour, and in fail to be apparent. Instead of supernatural general the pleasantry, of our nation, has very beings interfering with their cold and impas- frequently a sarcastic and even misanthropic sive natures, in the agitations and sufferings character, which distinguishes it from the of men, Shakespeare employs only the magic mere playfulness and constitutional gaiety of of powerful passion, and of the illusions to our French neighbours; and that we have not, which it gives birth. The phantoms and ap- for the most part, succeeded in our attempts paritions which he occasionally conjures up to imitate the graceful pleasantry and agreeto add to the terror of the scene, are in truth able trifling of that ingenious people. We but a bolder personification of those troubled develope every thing, she maintains, a great dreams, and thick coming fancies, which har- deal too laboriously; and give a harsh and row up the souls of guilt and agony: and painful colouring to those parts which the even his sorcery and incantation are but traits very nature of their style requires to be but of the credulity and superstition which so lightly touched and delicately shaded. We frequently accompany the exaltation of the never think we are heard, unless we cry out; greater passions. But perhaps the most mi- -nor understood, if we leave any thing unraculous of all his representations, are those told :-an excess of diffuseness and labour in which he has pourtrayed the wanderings which could never be endured out of our own of a disordered intellect, and especially of island. It is curious enough, indeed, to obthat species of distraction which arises from serve, that men who have nothing to do with excess of sorrow. Instead of being purely their time but to get rid of it in amusement, terrible, those scenes are, in his hands, in the are always much more impatient of any kind highest degree touching and pathetic; and of tediousness in their entertainers, than those the wildness of fancy, and richness of imagery who have but little leisure for entertainment. which they display, are even less admirable The reason is, we suppose, that familiarity than the constant, though incoherent expres- with business makes the latter habitually sion of that one sentiment of agonizing grief tolerant of tediousness; while the less enwhich had overborne all the faculties of the grossing pursuits of the former, in order to soul.
retain any degree of interest, require a very Such are the chief beauties which Madame rapid succession and constant variety. On de Staël discovers in Shakespeare; and though the whole, we do not think Madame de Staël they are not perhaps exactly what an English very correct in her notions of English gaiety; reader would think of bringing most into no- and cannot help suspecting, that she must tice, it is interesting to know what strikes an have been in some respects unfortunate in her intelligent foreigner, in pieces with which we society, during her visit to this country. ourselves have always been familiar. The Her estimate of our poetry, and of our works chief fault she imputes to him, besides the of fiction, is more unexceptionable. She does inixture of low buffoonery with tragic passion, not allow us much invention, in the strictest are occasional tediousness and repetition—too sense of that word; and still less grace and much visible horror and bloodshed—and the sprightliness in works of a light and playful personal deformity of Caliban and Richard I character: But, for glowing descriptions of
nature--for the pure language of the assec- , terre, chacun pouvant agir d'une manière quelcon. tions—for profound thought and lofty senti- que sur les résolutions de ses représentans, l'on ment, she admits, that the greater poets of prend l'habitude de comparer la pensée avec l'ac. England are superior to any thing else that tion, et l'on s'accoutume à l'amour du bien public
par l'espoir d'y contribuer."-Vol. ii. pp. 5–7. the world has yet exhibited. Milton, Young, Thomson, Goldsmith, and Gray, seem to be She returns again, however, to her former her chieť favourites. We do not find that imputation of "longueurs," and repetitions, Cowper, or any later author, had come to her and excessive development; and maintains, knowledge. The best of them, however, she that the greater part of English books are says, are chargeable with the national faults obscure, in consequence of their prolixity, and of exaggeration, and des longueurs. She the author's extreme anxiety to be perfectly overrates the merit, we think, of our novels, understood. We suspect a part of the confuwhen she says, that with the exception of La sion is owing to her want of familiarity with Nouvelle Heloise, which belongs exclusively to the language. In point of fact, we know of the genius of the singular individual who pro- no French writer on similar subjects so conduced it, and has no relation to the character cise as Hume or Smith; and believe we might of his nation, all the novels that have suc- retort the charge of longueurs
, in the name ceeded in France have been undisguised imi- of the whole English nation, upon one half of tations of the English, to whom she ascribes, the French classic authors—upon their Rollin without qualification, the honour of that meri- and their Masillon—their D'Alembert-their torious invention.
Buffon-their Helvetius—and the whole tribe The last chapter upon English literature re- of their dramatic writers:—while as to repelates to their philosophy and eloquence; and titions, we are quite certain that there is no here, though the learned author seems aware one English author who has repeated the same of the transcendent merit of Bacon, we rather ideas half so often as Voltaire himself-certhink she proves herself to be unacquainted tainly not the most tedious of the fraternity. with that of his illustrious contemporaries or She complains also of a want of warmth and immediate successors, Hooker, Taylor, and animation in our prose writers. And it is Barrow-for she places Bacon as the only lu- true that Addison and Shaftesbury are cold; minary of our sphere in the period preceding but the imputation only convinces us the the Usurpation, and considers the true era of more, that she is unacquainted with the writ. British philosophy as commencing with the ings of Jeremy Taylor, and that illustrious reign of King William. We cannot admit the train of successors which has terminated, we accuracy of this intellectual chronology. The fear, in the person of Burke. Our debates in character of the English philosophy is to be parliament, she says, are more remarkable for patient, profound, and always guided by a their logic than their rhetoric; and have more view to utility. They have done wonders in in them of sarcasm, than of poetical figure the metaphysic of the understanding; but and ornament. And no doubt it is so-and have not equalled De Retz, La Bruyère, or must be so-in all the discussions of permaeven Montaigne, in their analysis of the pas- nent assemblies, occupied from day to day, sions and dispositions. The following short and from month to month, with great quespassage is full of sagacity and talent. tions of internal legislation or foreign policy.
If she had heard Fox or Pitt, however, or “Les Ànglais ont avancé dans les sciences phi. Burke or Windham, or Grattan, we cannot losophiques comme dans l'industrie commerciale, à l'aide de la patience et du temps. Le penchani conceive that she should complain of our want de leurs philosophes pour les abstractions sembloit of animation; and, warm as she is in her endevoir les entraîner dans des systèmes qui pouvoient comiums on the eloquence of Mirabeau, and être contraires à la raison; mais l'esprit de calcul. some of the orators of the first revolution, she qui régularise, dans leur application, les combinai is forced to confess, that our system of elomentale de toutes les idées humaines, l'intérêt du quence is better calculated for the detection commerce, l'amour de la liberté, ont toujours ramené of sophistry, and the effectual enforcement les philosophes Anglais à des résultais pratiques. of all salutary truth. We really are not aware Que d'ouvrages entrepris pour servir utilement les of any other purposes which eloquence can hommes, pour l'éducation des enfans, pour le sou- serve in a great national assembly. lagement des malhenreux, pour l'économie politique, la législation criminelle, les sciences, la morale, ture-and here we must contrive also to close
Here end her remarks on our English literala métaphysique! Quelle philosophie dans les con. ceptions ! quel respect pour l'expérience dans le this desultory account of her lucubrationschoix des moyens !
though we have accompanied her through “C'est à la liberté qu'il faut attribuer cette little more than one half of the work before émulation et cette sagesse. On pouvoit si rarement se flatter en France d'influer par ses écrits sur les now find room to say any thing of her expo
us. It is impossible, however, that we can institutions de son pays, qu'on ne songeoit qu'à montrer de l'esprit dans les discussions même les sition of German or of French literature-and plus sérieuses. On poussoit jusqu'au paradoxe un still less of her anticipations of the change système vrai dans une certaine mesure ; la raison which the establishment of a Republican gove ne pouvant avoir une effet utile. on vouloit au moins ernment in the last of those countries is likely que le paradoxe fût brillant. D'ailleurs sous une to produce,-or of the hints and cautions with monarchie absolue, on pouvoit sans danger vanter, which, in contemplation of that event, she comme dans le Contrat Social. la démocratie pure; thinks it necessary to provide her countrymen: mais on n'auroit point osé approcher des idées possibles. Tout étoit jeu d'esprit en France, hors These are perhaps the most curious parts of les arrêts du conseil du roi : tandis qu'en Angle. I the work:-but we cannot enter upon them
at present:- and indeed, in what we have the ingenious author upon whose work we
, far ; is
limits to which we always wish to confine confined ourselves to a mere abstract of her ourselves, that we do not very well know what lucubrations, or interspersed fewer of our own apology to make to our readers—except remarks with the account we have attempted merely, that we are not without hope, that to give of their substance, we might have the miscellaneous nature of the subject, by extended this article to a still greater length, which we have been insensibly drawn into without provoking the impatience even of the this great prolixity, may have carried them more fastidious of our readers. As it is, we also along, with as moderate a share of fatigue feel that we have done but scanty justice, as we have ourselves experienced. If it be either to our author or her subject-though otherwise—we must have the candour and we can now make no other amends, than by the gallantry to say, that we are persuaded earnestly entreating our readers to study both the fault is to be imputed to us, and not to of them for themselves.
(July, 1806.) The Complete Works, in Philosophy, Politics, and Morals, of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin.
Now first collected and arranged. With Memoirs of his Early Life, written by himself.— 3 vols. 8vo. pp. 1450. Johnson, London : 1806.
Nothing, we think, can show more clearly able and unworthy service. It is ludicrous the singular want of literary enterprise or to talk of the danger of disclosing in 1795, activity, in the United States of America, any secrets of state, with regard to the war than that no one has yet been found in that of American independence; and as to any flourishing republic, to collect and publish anecdotes or observations that might give the works of their only philosopher. It is not offence to individuals, we think it should even very creditable to the liberal curiosity always be remembered, that public funcof the English public, that there should have tionaries are the property of the public; that been no complete edition of the writings of their character belongs to history and to posDr. Franklin, till the year 1806: and we terity; and that it is equally absurd and disshould have been altogether unable to ac- creditable to think of suppressing any part of count for the imperfect and unsatisfactory the evidence by which their merits must be manner in which the task has now been per- ultimately determined. But the whole of the formed, if it had not been for a statement in works that have been suppressed, certainly the prefatory advertisement, which removes did not relate to republican politics. The all blame from the editor, to attach it to a history of the author's life, down to 1757, higher quarter. It is there stated, that re- could not well contain any matter of offence; cently after the death of the author, his and a variety of general remarks and specugrandsoil
, to whom the whole of his papers lations which he is understood to have left had been bequeathed, made a voyage to behind him, might have been permitted to London, for the purpose of preparing and dis- see the light, though his diplomatic revelations posing of a complete collection of all his had been forbidden. The emissary of Gov. published and unpublished writings, with ernment, however, probably took no care of memoirs of his life, brought down by himself those things. He was resolved, we suppose, to the year 1757, and continued to his death “to leave no rubs nor botches in his work ; by his descendant. It was settled, that the and, to stifle the dreaded revelation, he thought work should be published in three quarto the best way was to strangle all the innocents volumes, in England, Germany, and France; in the vicinage. and a negotiation was commenced with the Imperfect as the work now before us necbooksellers, as to the terms of the purchase essarily is, we think the public is very much and publication. At this stage of the busi- indebted to its editor. It is presented in a ness, however, the proposals were suddenly cheap and unostentatious form; and though withdrawn; and nothing more has been heard it contains little that has not been already of the work, in this its fair and natural mar- printed as the composition of the author, and ket. “The proprietor, it seems, had found a does not often settle any point of disputed bidder of a different description, in some emis- authenticity in a satisfactory manner, it seems sury of Government, whose object was to on the whole, to have been compiled with withhold the manuscripts from the world, —- sufficient diligence, and arranged with con. not to benefit it by their publication; and siderable judgment. Few writings, indeed, they thus either passed into other hands, or require the aid of a commentator less than the person to whom they were bequeathed, re- those of Dr. Franklin; and though this editor ceived a remuneration for suppressing them.” is rather too sparing of his presence, we are If this statement be correct
, we have no infinitely better satisfied to be left now and hesitation in saying, that no emissary of Gov- then to our conjectures, than to be incumberernment was ever employed on a more miser-led with the explanations, and overpowered
with the loquacity, of a more officious at- | pendent of the maxims of tutors, and the tendant.
oracles of literary patrons. We do not propose to give any thing like a The consequences of living in a refined and regular account of the papers contained in literary community, are nearly of the same these volumes. The best of them have long kind with those of a regular education. There been familiar to the public; and there are are so many critics to be satisfied-so many many which it was proper to preserve, that qualifications to be established—so many ricannot now be made interesting to the general vals to encounter, and so much derision to be reader. Dr. Franklin, however, is too great hazarded, that a young man is apt to be dea man to be allowed to walk past, without terred from so perilous an enterprise, and led some observation; and our readers, we are to seek for distinction in some safer line of persuaded, will easily forgive us, if we yield exertion. He is discouraged by the fame and to the temptation of making a few remarks on the perfection of certain models and favourites, his character.
who are always in the mouths of his judges, This self-taught American is the most ra- and, under them, his genius is rebuked," tional, perhaps, of all philosophers. He never and his originality repressed, till he sinks into loses sight of common sense in any of his a paltry copyist, or aims at distinction, by exspeculations; and when his philosophy does travagance and affectation. In such a state not consist entirely in its fair and vigorous of society, he feels that mediocrity has no application, it is always regulated and con- chance of distinction: and what beginner can trolled by it in its application and result. No expect to rise at once into excellence? He individual, perhaps, ever possessed a juster imagines that mere good sense will attract no understanding; or was so seldom obstructed attention; and that the manner is of much in the use of it, by indolence, enthusiasm, or more importance than the matter, in a candiauthority.
date for public admiration. In his attention Dr. Franklin received no regular education; to the manner, the matter is apt to be neand he spent the greater part of his life in a glected; and, in his solicitude to please those society where there was no relish and no en- who require elegance of diction, brilliancy of couragement for literature. On an ordinary wit, or harmony of periods, he is in some danmind, these circumstances would have pro- ger of forgetting that strength of reason, and daced their usual effeets, of repressing all accuracy of observation, by which he first prosorts of intellectual ambition or activity, and posed to recommend himself. His attention, perpetuating a generation of incurious me when extended to so many collateral objects, chanics : but to an understanding like Frank- is no longer vigorous or collected;—the stream, lin's, we cannot help considering them as divided into so many channels, ceases to flow peculiarly propitious; and imagine that we either deep or strong ;-he becomes an unsuc. can trace back to them, distinctly, almost all cessful pretender to fine writing, or is satis. the peculiarities of his intellectual charac- fied with the frivolous praise of elegance or ter.
vivacity. Regular education, we think, is unfavour- We are disposed to ascribe so much power able to vigour or originality of understanding. to these obstructions to intellectual originality, Like civilization, it makes society more in- that we cannot help fancying, that if Franklin telligent and agreeable; but it levels the dis- had been bred in a college, he would have tinctions of nature. It strengthens and assists contented himself with expounding the methe feeble; but it deprives the strong of his tres of Pindar, and mixing argument with his triumph, and casts down the hopes of the port in the common room; and that if Boston aspiring. It accomplishes this, not only by had abounded with men of letters, he would training up the mind in an habitual veneration never have ventured to come forth from his for authorities, but, by leading us to bestow a printing-house; or been driven back to it, at disproportionate degree of attention upon any rate, by the sneers of the critics, after ihe studies that are only valuable as keys or in- first publication of his Essays in the Busy struments for the understanding, they come Body: at last to be regarded as ultimate objects of This will probably be thought exaggerated; pursuit; and the means of education are ab- but it cannot be denied, we think, that the surdly mistaken for its end. How many contrary circumstances in his history had a powerful understandings have been lost in powerful effect in determining the character the Dialectics of Aristotle ! And of how of his understanding, and in producing those much good philosophy are we daily defraud- peculiar habits of reasoning and investigation ed, by the preposterous error of taking a by which his writings are distinguished. He knowledge of prosody for useful learning! was encouraged to publish, becanse there was The mind of a man, who has escaped this scarcely any one around him whom he could training, will at least have fair play.' What- not easily excel. He wrote with great brevi. ever other errors he may fall into, he will be ty, because he had not leisure for more volusafe at least from these infatuations: And if minious compositions, and because he knew he thinks proper, after he grows up, to study that the readers to whom he addressed himGreek, it will probably be for some better self were, for the most part, as busy as himparpose than to become critically acquainted self. For the same reason, he studied great with its dialects. His prejudices will be perspicuity and simplicity of statement. His those of a man, and not of a schoolboy; and countrymen had then no relish for fine writais speculations and conclusions will be inde- ing, and could not easily be made to under
stand a deduction depending on a long or he began the investigation rather to determine elaborate process of reasoning. He was a particular case, than to establish a general Corced, therefore, to concentrate what he had maxim, so he probably desisted as soon as he to say; and since he had no chance of being had relieved himself of the present difficulty. admired for the beauty of his composition, it There are not many among the thoroughwas natural for him to aim at making an im- bred scholars and philosophers of Europe, who pression by the force and the clearness of his can lay claim to distinction in more than one statements.
or two departments of science or literature. His conclusions were often rash and inaccu- The uneducated tradesman of America has rate, from the same circumstances which ren- left writings that call for our respectful attendered his productions concise. Philosophy tion, in natural philosophy;--in politics:- in and speculation did not form the business of political economy, -and in general literature his life; nor did he dedicate himself to any and morality. particular study, with a view to exhaust and Of his labours in the department of Physics, complete the investigation of it in all its parts, we do not propose to say much. They were and under all its relations. He engaged in almost all suggested by views of utility in the every interesting inquiry that suggested itself beginning, and were, without exception, apto him, rather as the necessary exercise of a plied, we believe, to promote such views in powerful and active mind, ihan as a task the end. His letters upon Electricity have which he had bound himself to perform. He been more extensively circulated than any of cast a quick and penetrating glance over the his other writings of this kind; and are enfacts and the data that were presented to him; titled to more praise and popularity than they and drew his conclusions with a rapidity and seem ever to have met with in this country. precision that have not often been equalled. Nothing can be more admirable than the luBut he did not generally stop to examine the minous and graphical precision with which completeness of the data upon which he pro- the experiments are narrated; the ingenuity ceeded, nor to consider the ultimate effect or with which they are projected; and the sagaapplication of the principles to which he had city with which the conclusion is inferred, been conducted. În all questions, therefore, limited, and confirmed. where the facts upon which he was to deter- The most remarkable thing, however, in mine, and the materials from which his judg- these, and indeed in the whole of his physical ment was to be formed, were either few in speculations, is the unparalleled simplicity number, or of such a natúre as not to be over- and facility with which the reader is conJooked, his reasonings are, for the most part, ducted from one stage of the inquiry to anperfectly just and conclusive, and his decisions other. The author never appears for a mounexceptionably sound; but where the ele- ment to labour or to be at a loss. The most ments of the calculation were more numerous ingenious and profound explanations are sugand widely scattered, it appears to us that he gested, as if they were the most natural has often been precipitate, and that he has and obvious way of accounting for the pheeither been misled by a partial apprehension of nomena; and the author seems to value himthe conditions of the problem, or has discovered self so little on his most important discoveries, only a portion of the truth which lay before that it is necessary to compare him with him. In all physical inquiries; in almost all others, before we can form a just notion of his questions of particular and immediate policy; merits. As he seems to be conscious of no and in much of what relates to the practical exertion, he feels no partiality for any part of wisdom and happiness of private life, his his speculations, and never seeks to raise the views will be found to be admirable, and the reader's idea of their importance, by any arts reasoning by which they are supported most of declamation or eloquence. Indeed, the hamasterly and convincing. But upon subjects of bitual precision of his conceptions, and his general politics, of abstract morality, and politi- invariable practice of referring to specific facts cal economy, his notions appear to be more un- and observations, secured him, in a great measatisfactory and incomplete. He seems to have sure, both from those extravagant conjectures wanted leisure, and perhaps inclination also, in which so many naturalists have indulged, to spread out before him the whole vast pre- and from the zeal and enthusiasm which mises of those extensive sciences, and scarcely seems so naturally to be engendered in their to have had patience to hunt for his con- defence. He was by no means averse to give clusions through so wide and intricate a region scope to his imagination, in suggesting a vaas that upon which they invited him to enter. riety of explanations of obscure and unmanlle has been satisfied, therefore, on many occa- ageable phenomena; but he never allowed sions, with reasoning from a very limited view himself to confound these vague and conjecof the facts, and often from a particular in- tural theories with the solid results of experie stance; and he has done all that sagacity and ence and observation. In his Meteorological sound sense could do with such materials: papers, and in his Observations upon Heat and but it cannot excite wonder, if he has some Light, there is a great deal of such bold and times overlooked an essential part of the argu- original suggestions: but he evidently sets but ment, and often advanced a particular truth little value upon them; and has no sooner into the place of a general principle. He sel- disburdened his mind of the impressions from dom reasoned upon those subjects at all
, we which they proceeded, than he seems to dis believe, without having some practical appli- miss them entirely from his consideration, cation of them immediately in view; and as I and turns to the legitimate philosophy of ex