which lent its aid to form the social union, and assisted the first movements of bodies politic; and an adversary would also contend that, having been auxiliary to society in its early stages, its interference in its farther progress becomes not only unnecessary but pernicious. He might farther maintain that the principles, which impel us to enter into society, would operate to strengthen and cement the union, and dispose us to the partial sacrifices which the preservation of so great a common blessing required; or he would allege that religion, like science, letters, or arts, is only indirectly beneficial to society. We mention these objections not because we disagree in opinion with the writer, but in order to shew that the paper takes but a partial and limited view of the subject. The notions entertained by the author on this topic will appear from what follows. Having attempted to shew that society is unable to realize and render permanent the blessings at which it aims, he observes :

• But notwithstanding these defects are alike striking and unavoidable, yet are they not remediless, the condition of man hopeless; not has this lord of the creation been slightly provided with the means of happiness hy the supreme first cause of all things. For Religion is at hand to assist the cause of Civil Society, well adapted to remedy its defects, to make up for its deficiencies, and to give to its orders, its decrees, and its sanctions, strength, stability, and support. Ensuring to the magistrate the permanency of the state and the obedience of the subject, from the solemn external tie of oaths, and to the people the unmolested enjoyment of their rights from the internal bond of conscience by it imposed ; the blessings of security, of peace, and of order, spontaneously spring from Civil Society; which thus, having laid its foundation on the broad basis of public utility and general good, at length hides its aspiring head within the shadow of the throne of the Most High. Religion being Dow united, and, as it were incorporated with Society, mutual advantages to each flow from their union ; as the former is enforced by the temporal punishments of vice and iniquity imposed, for its own safety, by the latter ; whilst it, in return, is more than doubly repaid for this service by the efficacy of those motives to action which the former makes known, establishes, and applies.

• For holding forth to the virtuous rewards of value immense, and duration infinite, Society receives from this union that aid which its poverty prevented it from bestowing on the deserving; and which, from ignorance of the motives of human actions, it was incapacitated to bestow with justice, had it even possessed the means of rewarding, The fear of divine punishment for villainy and vice, that first and firmest pillar of Society, now combining its force with these rewards, and operating in conjunction with civil sanctions, the two grand principles of political community are called into action : t'hobe principles of reward and punishment which all legislators, speculative or practical, have secu to be essential to the well being of the state, but

which without the aid of Religion, they have ever been unable effectually to establish.

• Indeed when the human mind is once thoroughly impressed with a due sense of Religion, or of the existence, attributes, and providence of the Eternal, sentiments of duty supersede the necessity of civil sanctions, and the virtues of the citizen arise from the character of the man. From his belief of an overruling providence, he feels himself obliged to the duties of what moralists call) imperfect obligation, those duties so essential to the comfort of life ; whilst the actions which laws can neither reach, nor sufficiently enforce, are performed with promptitude and alacrity, having it indelibly impressed on his mind that the law was not made for a man of conscience. As he is convincedäthat no crimes can be hidden from him to whom the secrets of all hearts are known, hypocrisy, fraud, and deceit, are harished from his conduct, and his most private not less than his most public actions, conformed to the rules of infinite wisdom, purity, and goodness. Called on to take a part in the busy scenes of active life, the dignity of his virtue sheds a lustre on the most exalted station, whilst his conscientious discharge of its functions scatters blessings over the happy land; and in the calmer scenes of sequestered retirement their milder radiance spreads around them a glory which illumines even the obscurity of his retreat.'

Dr. Scott's Dissertation on the Progress of the Fine Arts was published some years ago, and was briefly mentioned in our Review, with considerable objections to it in point of style. We know not whether this paper has since undergone any revision, but a second perusal of it has inclined us to a more favourable opinion of its matter.

The former part of the essay on Writing History bears the marks of a juvenile production, being composed in a very angry style, and betraying no small share of conceit. In this part, a hideous picture appears prominent; which is intended, as we suppose, to represent a very celebrated historian of our own times. We scruple not to pronounce it a disgrace to the writer. With all its faults, and we have no desire to dissemble or diminish them, we do not hesitate to say that the work, which is here so severely censured, is an honour to our age, as well as one of the proudest literary monuments of which our coun. try can boast. Strangely constituted is that mind wbich would regard, as an acccunt of the performance in question, an exagerated statement of its faults. It is very practicable to avoid its errors, but not easy to match the mass of excellence which characterizes it; and we fear that, in this degenerate age, we are not likely soon to witness the appearance of a publication equally valuable and splendid. -The remainder of the paper has little in it that offends, while it abounds with sensible observations. Dr. Scott very properly represents impartiality as the first qualification of an historian; but, should he ever appear

in that character, from the specimen of it with which as a critic he has furnished us, and to, which we have just adverted, we suspect that it would not be that in which he would most shine.--Having already recommended the essay on the Influence of Taste on Morals, we shall content ourselves with making a few short extracts from it, in order to attract towards it that attention which we think it deserves :

" It is allowed on all hands that the faculty of Taste, in the modern sense of that word, is excited in the mind by the contemplation of outward objects through the intervention of our bodily organs : that it is no native and inherent power totally independent of adventitious circumstances, but that its very existerce depends on the agency of external objects ; in the apprehension, the selection, and the judicious judgment of which its vitality consists virtues and vices of mankind have no representative forms that strike our organs, and by the impulse thence communicated are enabled to raise pictures of beauty and deformity in the mind; and therefore they cannot affect this faculty of Taste in the same manner, nor in a like degree, as the productions of the arts are confessed to do. Wanting the essential quality that calls forth its energies, that is form, it is utterly impossible for them to rouse or agitate it in that way which the theory we are considering supposes ; and thert fore it is iinpossible for it to be so influenced by thim as to be induced decidedly and invariably to prefer virtuous to vitious, moral tu immoral conduct.'

• It is to be remembered that the human mind is not a mere mirror, reflecting objects presented to it without agitation, emotion, or passion; hut is so constituted, for wise and gracious purposes, as to be strongly moved by the view of external beauty, which rouses feelings, excites emotions, and creates desires, which reason is to regulate and restrain, but canuot root out. And though it is not easy to say from whence several of the mental powers and energies primarily spring, nor whence they derive their actuating principle; it yet seems tolerably clear, from a variety of observations, that the faculty which we denominate Taste arises, in the first instance, from soine more delicate constitution of the bodily organs; rendering them more acutely sensible than commonly happens to the impiessions of external objects, and more vigorously agitated by the impulses of outward forms. Hence independent of all culture, indeed of all refection, various external objects excite in persons of this organiza. rion lively perceptions of pleasure and disgust, to which others of a differ. nt fraine and constitution are so totally strangers as often to be hardly capable of being convinced of their existence. They are de lighted with what is beautiful in the diversified productions of animal and vegetable life, or in the inanimate formations of brute matters and they are offended with the vicw of what is unsightly in them : most frequently without being able to assign to themselves any cause for either the one or the other feeling. This is the groundwork, whereon education, cultivation, and observation, diligently and duly applied, raise to its topmost height of excellence the faculty we are konsidering: and, when thus improved, the elegant and graceful

for ins

forms produced by the ministry of the arts become its favourite and adequate object, which it scrutinizes with accuracy and estimates with judgment. But such a bodily conformation as this is manifestly most liable to be ensnared by the seductions of sensual pleasure ; which applying itself solely to our corporeal nature must act with much more force and power on systems of such increased irritability, than on those of a grosser and more sluggish make. That enticement, which languidly strikes with a transient impulse the latter, strongly firing with a permanent impression the former : the one being, as it were, a solid mass of inert matter, which leisurely and slowy melts into fusion by the vigorous application of continued heat ; the other a magazine of nitrous combustibles, where the smallest spark accidentally falling kindles an instant and wide spreading confiagration. This implies no defect in the original frame of any of the species, nor is it here intended to insinu. ate any such ; for we have superior principles and more coercive motives, fully equal to the task if duly exerted, given us to direct and govern all our animal feelings; whose vividness may exalt the merit of mind in properly swaying them, but whose less ardent vivacity is, doubtless, more easily regulated. Now as almost all the deviations of man from moral rectitude arise, either immediately or mediately, from the captivating allurements of sensual pleasure, it seems sufficiently obvious that the influence of 1 oste, which evidently depends in the first instance on the keenness of our senses, must be, so far, unfriendly to morals.'

• It is evidently invidious, and to none more than to us can it be irksome, to enquire how the testimony of experience sanctions the sentiments we have supported; as such an enquiry must incidentally expose characters, on many accounts respectable, in a humiliating and disgraceful light. But though we sincerely reverence the memories of the great patrons of the arts, and of those illustrious artists whose works have immortalized their names; a greater reverence is certainly due to the cause of truth and justice. Now ex. perience, as far as the testimony of history can be depended on, strongly corroborates the pernicious influence that it has been here attempted to show, the predominant power of Taste has on morals: it almost uniformly recording the persons, who have most emirently distinguished themselves in the patronage or the execution of the arts, as little less notorious for their personal vices. Than the family of Medici, first citizens and then sovereigns of Florence, there can scarcely be pointed out one in the loog annals of time more highly possessed of the faculty of taste in its greatest perfection ; or. who more generously and usefully applied it to the cultivation and encouragement of every art of elegance and of every work of orna ment : insomuch that ihe revival of the arts in Europe, and whatsocver we now enjoy of excellent or admirable in them, is in no smail measure owing to the enlightened judgment and the liberal patronage of that deservedly respected house. Yet review the unprejudiced accounts of their lives, the features of which have clearly not been distorted by any peryerscness of literature, for from literary men they nor merited nor received such treatment : aud you read in them the Rev. Dec, 1800.




narrative of a tissue of crimes each morc enormous and flagitious thas the other. Nor decency, nor morais nor religion nor any other prin. ciple divine or human appearing to rule their actions, but that of gra. tifying their sensual appetites to the utmost extent. The contempla. tion of such vices none will deny to be in itself hateful; but doubly so from reflecting what otherwise conspicuous personages have beea 60 shamefully defiled by them.

From the patrons if now the eye be removed to the professors of the arts, to those distinguished men whose celebrity constitutes an era in the profession, and in whom Taste reigned with sway supreme ; that same experience, which witnesses so loudly against the morals of the former, will be found to bear as irrefragable testimony against those of the latter. Of them some of the most illustrious are found. to have fallen martyrs toʻtheir vices in the very flower of their age, before half the thread of life was spua :-otliers involved in such difficulties by their shameless immoralities as all their talents being unable to support them under, reduced them to languish out a miserable existence in penury and infamy: some glorying in their vices to s'ich a degree as apparently to have confounded all ideas of right and wrong in moral conduct ; and others so notoriously sacrificing their name and their reputation to the indulgence of even the most odious sices, as to acquire from their practice appellative denominations, better known than their names.'

We think that the author has been by no means fortunate in the characters which he has selected for comparison, in the subsequent papers : viz. the parallels between William III. of England and Henry IV of France, -Cardinals. Ximenes and Richelic 11, -Auguctus Cæsar and Louis XIV,- Maximilian de Bethune Duke of Sully and William Pitt Earl of Chatham. Aot in any instance do they seem to us happily to pair together, but rather to be united by a strange association of ideas. It is true, however, that in this great law of mind, Hume makes contrast as weil as resemblance an operative principle; which may in some measure account for the parallels here introduced. Though the parties are not well assorted, the ingenuity of the author is able to render the descriptions interest ing; and they answer the purpose of shewing that he is well qualified for historical researches, and master of a good narrative style.

What characters in History so little resemble each other as those of Sully and William Pitt the first? The likeness, is strikes us, is greater between Maximilian and William Pitt the second. Sully was an able financier, as well as economical; he was also, if we believe his own account, no contemptible warminister, but fortunately for him he was not often called on the Theaire of War, while unfortunately for our grand pilot, and for his country, be had large experience on it. In alluding to the food, the liwat so'li.e patriotic Sully, Ds. Scott does not take 10

« ElőzőTovább »