« ElőzőTovább »
BIOGRAPHICAL, HISTORICAL, AND
The Guardian, as well as the Tatler, owes its origin to the enterprise and genius of Steele. He commenced it on the 12th of March, 1713, a short time after the seventh volume of the Spectator had been completed, and when the professed conclusion of that work gave him leisure for new undertakings. The papers came out every day for about six months, when Steele suddenly abandoned them, and betook himself to the less peaceful engagements of political writing.* In his first number he talks with great solemnity, as being "past all the regards of this life, and having nothing to manage with any person or party;" but this was a character of forbearance which his ardent temperament could not long maintain; and we soon find the philosophical Guardian transported with all the heat of a vehement partisan.t
It is the opinion of Dr. Johnson, that “the character of Guardian was too narrow and too serious: it might properly enough admit both the duties and the decencies of life; but seemed not to include literary speculations, and was in some degree violated by merriment and burlesque. What has the Guardian of the Lizards to do with clubs of tall or of little men, with nests of ants, or with Strada's protusions?". Part of this objection seems just; and part of it is groundless. The gravity of Guardian, if it had been consistently maintained, would have been repulsive to most readers; and therefore a rigid propriety of character was occasionally sacrificed to the necessity of pleasing Why, however, a Guardian should be excluded from literary speculations, by what law he is interdicted either from depth of learning, or refinement of taste; the sagacity of Dr. Johnson has failed to explain. The Nestor, whom Steele describes, enjoyed, as a student of Oxford, the highest advantages of education; so that it was not unreasonable to expect from him a wider range of knowledge, than that of the common duties of life. * See Preface to the Tatler.
+ See Nog. 41, 53, 128, &c. # Life of Addison.
$ No. 2.
The critic speaks more favourably of the Guardian, when says
“ that it was a continuation of the Spectator, with the same elegance and the same variety.” In plan it is certainly inferior to its immediate predecessor; as the family of the Lizards are in general uninteresting; and there is nothing in their characters, or that of Nestor Ironside, that is comparable to the Spectator's Club. The topics, however, which are discussed in the Guardian, and the genius and learning which embellish its disquisitions, render it not unworthy to be ranked among the most perfect of the series of British Essays.
In the progress of the work, Addison furnished his friend with the principal assistance; but whether by stipulation, or gratuitous kindness, is uncertain. His papers in general are not marked with that depth of sentiment, and richness of humour, which he displays in the Spectator, although they are sufficiently distinguished with the grace and facility which characterize his other writings. The jokes about the Lion are not very entertaining, and occur too frequently.
Next to Steele and Addison, whose lives have been given in former Prefaces,* the greatest contributor to the Guardian was the eminent Dr. GEO. BERKELEY, who was born in Ireland on the 12th of March, 1684, at Kilcrin, near Thomastown, in the county of Kilkenny. He was descended from a family whose loyalty in the unhappy times of Charles I. exposed them to persecution; but after the Restoration, his father, William Berkeley, was appointed collector of Belfast. Having acquired the rudiments of education under Dr. Hinton, at the school of Kilkenny, George was received, at fifteen, as a pensioner of Trinity College, Dublin; and on the 9th of June, 1707, his academical labours were rewarded with a fellowship.
In the same year he published a Latin treatise, called Arithmetica absque Algebra aut Euclide demonstrata. The greater part of this, he informs us in the preface, had been written three years before; and he had undertaken to compose it in consequence of the difficulty of the common books of arithmetic, which supposed in the pupil a knowledge of Geometry and Algebra. Since the author's days, Introductions to Arithmetic, more perspicuous than his, have been compiled in our own language: the Miscellanies,
* See Tatler and Spectator.
hen vith ceraily e is hat Wus
however, which he has subjoined, respecting the Algebraic game discovered by him, and other curious topics, will be interesting to those who have devoted themselves to mathematical speculations.
In 1709, he published An Essay towards a New Theory of Vision, which contains many ingenious and original opinions upon the subject of optics. His Principles of Human Knowledge came out during the following year; and it was in this work that he began openly to maintain the incredible pa. radox, that matter has no real and independent existence. After having controverted Locke's theory of abstract ideas (though he allows that we have universal notions, which do not seem much different from the former), he affirms that the objects of human knowledge “ are either ideas actually imprinted on the senses, or else such as are perceived by attending to the passions and operations of the mind, or, lastly, ideas formed by the help of memory and imagination, either compounding, dividing, or barely representing those originally perceived in the aforesaid ways. But besides all that endless variety of ideas or objects of knowledge, there is likewise something which knows or perceives them, and exercises divers operations, as willing, imagining, remembering, about them. This perceiving, active being, is what I call mind, spirit, soul, or myself. By which words I do not denote any one of my ideas, but a thing entirely distinct from them, wherein they exist, or, which is the same thing, whereby they are perceived; for the existence of an idea consists in being perceived."
“That neither our thoughts, nor passions, nor ideas formed by the imagination, exist without the mind, is what every body will allow. And it seems no less evident, that the various sensations or ideas imprinted on the senses, however blended or combined together (that is, whatever objects they compose) cannot exist otherwise than in a mind perceiving them. I think an intuitive knowledge may be obtained of this, by any one that shall attend to what is meant by the term exist, when applied to sensible things. The table I write on, I say, exists, that is, I see and feel it; and if I were out of my study, I should say it existed, meaning thereby that if I was in my study I might perceive it, or that some other spirit actually does perceive it. There was an odour, that is, it was smelled; there was a sound, that is to say, it was heard; a colour or figure, and it was
perceived by sight or touch. This is all that I can understand by these and the like expressions. For as to what is said of the absolute existence of unthinking things, without any relation to their being perceived, that seems perfectly unintelligible. Their esse is percipi, nor is it possible they should have any existence out of the mind or thinking things which perceive them."
“ It is indeed an opinion strangely prevailing amongst men, that houses, mountains, rivers, and, in a word, all sensible objects, have an existence, natural or real, distinct from their being perceived by the understanding. But with how great an assurance and acquiescence soever this principle may be entertained in the world, yet whoever shall find in his heart to call it in question, may, if I mistake not, perceive it to involve a manifest contradiction. For what are the forementioned objects but the things we perceive by sense, and what do we perceive besides our own ideas or sensations; and is it not plainly repugnant that any one of these, or any combination of them, should exist unperceived ?”
This sophistry, whether or not we are able to confute it, will never persuade us to reject a conclusion, which experience has daily forced upon us, from the first exercise of our faculties in infancy. Our senses teach us, with irrefragable conviction, that there are many external things that have an existence independent of our perception; and no sane person, till his understanding was obscured by metaphysical subtilty, ever doubted so simple a truth. We must acknowledge that the existence of an idea, properly understood, consists in being perceived. Our idea of a mountain vanishes the moment we cease to contemplate it; but the mountain itself is something external, and independent of our perception, existing as really when we are removed a thousand miles from it, as when we are measuring its height and exploring its productions. In Berkeley's philosophy, ideas and external objects are perpetually confounded: he assumes that all things are only “sensations, notions, ideas, or impressions on the sense,” and on this false position he contends that the material world has no 'existence, but as it is perceived by the mind.*
• For a complete refutation of his system, and the more dangerous one of David Hume, the reader should peruse Beattie's Essay on Truth, and Reid's Inquiry into the Haman Mind.