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dian Astronomy, and the Huttonian Theory of the Earth. For though nothing can be more beautiful or instructive than his speculations on those curious topics, it cannot be dissembled that their results are less conclusive and satisfactory than might have been desired; and that his doctrines, from the very nature of their subjects, are more questionable than we believe they could possibly have been on any
other topic in the whole circle of the sciences.
A juster estimate of Mr. Playfair's talent, and a truer picture of his genius and understanding, is to be found in his other writings; in the papers, both biographical and scientific, with which he has enriched the transactions of our Royal Society ;-his account of De Laplace, and other articles which he is said to have contributed to the Edinburgh Review -the Outlines of his Lectures on Natural Philosophy—and, above all, his Introductory Discourse to the Supplement to the Encyclopædia Britannica, with the final correction of which he was occupied up to the last moments that the progress of disease allowed him to dedicate to any intellectual exertion.
With reference to these works, we do not think we are influenced by any national, or other partiality, when we say that he was certainly one of the best writers of his age; and even that we do not now recollect any one of his contemporaries who was so great a master of composition. There is a certain mellowness and richness about his style, which adorns, without disguising the weight and nervousness, which is its other great characteristic-a sedate gracefulness and manly simplicity in the more level passages—and a mild majesty and considerate enthusiasm where he rises above them, of which we scarcely know where to find any other example.
There is great equability, too, and sustained force, in every part of his writings, He never exhausts himself in flashes and epigrams, nor languishes into tameness or insipidity; at first sight you would say, that plainness and good sense were the predominating qualities; but, by the by, this simplicity is en
riched with the delicate and vivid colours of a fine imagination—the free and forcible touches of a powerful intellect—and the lights and shades of an unerring, harmonizing taste. In comparing it with the styles of his most celebrated contemporaries, we would say that it was more purely and peculiarly a written style—and, therefore, rejected those ornaments that more properly belong to oratory.
It had no impetuosity, hurry, or vehemence-no bursts, or sudden turns, or' abruptness, like that of Burke; and though eminently smooth and melodious, it was not modulated to a uniform system of solemn declamation, like that of Johnson, nor spread out in the richer and more voluminous elocution of Stewart; nor still less broken into that patch-work of scholastic pedantry and conversational smartness , which has found its admirers in Gibbon. It is a style, in short, of great freedom, force, and beauty; but the deliberate style of a man of thought and of learning; and neither that of wit, throwing out his extempores with an affectation of careless grace—nor of a rhetorician, thinking more of his manner than his matter, and determined to be admired for his expression, whatever may be the fate of his sentiments.
But we need dwell no longer on qualities that may be gathered hereafter from the works he has left behind him. They who lived with him mourn the most for those which will be traced in no such memorial; and prize, far above these talents which gained him his high name in philosophy, that personal character which endeared him to his friends, and shed a grace and dignity over all the society in which he moved. The same admirable taste which is conspicuous in his writings, or rather, the higher principles from which that taste was but an emanation, spread a similar charm over his whole life and conversation, and gave to the most learned philosopher of his day, the manners and deportment of the most perfect gentleman.
Nor was this in him the result merely of good sense and good temper, assisted by an early famili
arity with good company, and a consequent knowledge of his own place and that of all around him. His good breeding was of a higher descent; and his powers of pleasing rested on something better than mere companionable qualities. With the greatest kindness and generosity of nature, he united the most manly firmness, and the highest principles of honour; and the most cheerful and social dispositions, with the gentlest and steadicst affections.
Towards women he had always the most chivalrous feelings of regard and attention, and was, beyond almost all men, acceptable and agreeable in their society--though without the least levity or pretension unbecoming his age or condition. And such, indeed, was the fascination of the perfect simplicity and mildness of his manners, that the same tone or deportment seemed equally appropriate to all societies, and enabled him to delight the young and the gay with the same sort of conversation which instructed the learned and the grave. There never, indeed, was a man of learning and talent who appeared in society so perfectly free from every sort of pretension or notion of his own importance, or so little solicitous to distinguish himself, or so sincerely willing to give place to every one else.
Even upon subjects which he had thoroughly studied, he was never in the least impatient to speak, and spoke at all times without any tone of authority; while, so far from wishing to set off what he had to say by any brilliancy or emphasis of expression, it seemed generally as if he had tried to disguise the weight and originality of his thoughts under the plainest form of speech, and the most quiet and indifferent manner; so that the profoundest remarks and subtlest observations were often dropped, not only without any solicitude that their value should be observed, but without any apparent consciousness that they possessed any:
Though the most social of human beings, and the most disposed to encourage and sympathize with the gayety of others, his own spirits were in general
rather cheerful than gay, or at least never rose to any turbulence or tumult of merriment: and while he would listen with the kindest indulgence to the more extravagant sallies of his younger friends, and prompt them by the heartiest approbation, his own satisfaction might generally be traced in a slow and temperate smile, gradually mantling over his benevolent and intelligent features, and lighting up the countenance of the sage with the expression of the mildest and most gentle philanthropy.
It was wonderful, indeed, considering the measure of his own intellect, and the rigid and undeviating propriety of his own conduct, how tolerant he was of the errours and defects of other men. He was too indulgent, in truth, and favourable to his friendsand made a kind and liberal allowance for the faults of all mankind-except only faults of baseness or of cruelty-against which he never failed to manifest the most open scorn and detestation. Independent, in short, of his high attainments, Mr. Playfair was one of the most amiable and estimable of men. Delightful in his manners—inflexible in his principlesand generous in his affections, he had all that could charm in society, or attach in private: and while his friends enjoyed the free and unstudied conversation of an easy and intelligent associate, they had at all times the proud and inward assurance that he was a being upon whose perfect honour and generosity they might rely with the most implicit confidence, in life and in death,—and of whom it was equally impossible, that, under any circumstances, he should ever perform a mean, a selfish, or a questionable action, as that his body should cease to gravitate, or his soul to live !
If we do not greatly deceive ourselves, there is nothing here of exaggeration or private feeling-and nothing with which an indifferent and honest chronicler would not concur. Nor is it altogether idle to have dwelt so long on the personal character of this distinguished individual; for we are ourselves persuaded, that this personal character has almost done
as much for the cause of science and philosophy among us, as the great talents and attainments with which it was combined—and has contributed, in a very eminent degree, to give to the better society in which he moved, that tone of intelligence and liberality by which it is honorably distinguished.
It is not a little advantageous to philosophy that it is in fashion—and it is still more advantageous, perhaps, to the society which is led to confer on it this apparently trivial distinction.
It is a great thing for the country at large—for its happiness, its prosperity, and its renown—that the upper and influencing part of its population should be made familiar, even in its untasked and social hours, with sound and liberal information, and be taught to respect those who have distinguished themselves by intellectual attainments. Nor is it, after all, a slight or despicable reward for a man of genius to be received with honour in the highest and most elegant society around him, and to receive in his living person that homage and applause which is too often reserved for his memory.
War. Behold him here;
Edw. There was a time, perhaps
War. Never: I have been a foolish, faithful slave; All my best years, the morning of my