Art. IX.-Memoirs of the Life of Agrippina, the IVife of

Germanicus. By Elizabeth Hamilton. 3 ro's. Small Sro. Robinson. 1804.

THE author inforins us in her preface, of the object and intent of the present work, in tle following words :

To point ont the advantages which are to be derived from paying some altention to the nature of the human mind in the cducation of youthi, was the object of a former work : the author's aim in the present, is to give such an illustration of the principles that were then untolded, as may. render them more extensively useful.' This being deternined upon, Miss H. infurins us that ber next desire was, to render this practical illustration of the principles advanced in her treatise, alluring. To take examples from living or recent characters, was considered as too delicale a ground. To delineate an imaginary one would not answer the purpose, because feigned events may be accommodated to any theory. Led by tbese considerations, Miss H: had recourse to ancient biography, and ainong the personages there to be found, she saw none which offered more materials for her > purpose, than the characters of Agrippina and the amiable Germanicus, as pourtraved by the masterly hound of Tacitus.

There is certainly much interesting matter contained in that :historian, tending to give us definite notions of the persona

dramatis of his times. But of the minuter circumstances : which, in early youth, «etermined the bias and direction of

their characters, and gave a certain form and pressure to the little world within, what do we--what can we know? In the ancient historians we have only the coarse and sirong outlines. They detailed characters no farther than as these were connected with events, and without any reference to the history of mind. Now, if a modern • chooses to fill up these outlines and to finish the picture, : it is (considered as an illustration of any theory) to all intents

and purposes a modern magufacture--a fiction, with this . disadvantage, that the author, cramped by facts, is not i likely to amuse us half so much as if the whole piece was left a to himself. Thus, in the work before us, afier all, we tre

frequently put off with the 'proxima veris,' with suppositions and possibilities; and the only conclusions whicli seader can draw. froin the Memoirs of Agrippina!, are of a general and common-place kiud ; as, that the passions when ..not early inured to a wholesomerestraint run out into excesses,

that evil communications corrupt good manners,' &c. &c. The mere norel-reader will, we fear, be averse to the labour of

acquiring clear ideas of the intricate affinities of the Julian family, though distinctly enough laid down in the outset; and even when this is acquired, be will demand perhaps some thing more piquant, and inore bighly seasoned with septiment or romance to gratify his palate than the series of incidenls here recorded. We see in imagination some soft Belinda led by the soothing sound of the title Agrippina, to order it from the circulating library, and, when, arrived, scudding over a page or two, and throwing it down on her sofa, with a yawning-Quis leget hæc.

To be serious, this work is not meant to be an elucidation of history, and therefore it would be unfair to treat it as such. · Perhaps one that would examine it with severity by the original sources, might discover some peccadillos. We ourselves fiod Octavia having two daughters by Mark Antons, (Vol. i. p. xxxvi.) and only one in page 296. But peace to all such... As a practical view of the influence of early associations and the developement of the passions, for which it was intended, those, we think, who do not suffer themselves to be ravished by words and sounds, will confess that it teach. es them little or nothing:

By the way, assuciation of ideas is a term of which Miss H. is very fond, ayd without doubt it is a inost extensive principle. It is to the human mind what attraction is to the material world, almost the master-key of all phænomena, But with regard to the advantages accruing to the art of education from the use of this principle, let us not be too sanguine. It is something, but it is not all. Association is a principle of which we easily discern the power in general ; but, when we begin to apply the doctrine with practical views, it involves too many and too subtle workings of the mind for us to operate upon it to any extent. Association is spoken of by some writers, as if it were a mechanical engine whereby we had power to mould the human soul to whatever form we please. But, in reality, it is a piece of

clock-work of too complex a construction lo be adjusted or - set at work by any mortal hand, and the danger arising froma playing tricks and trying experiments with ils.wheels are incalculable. Such are Rousseau's ridiculously technical plans in his Emilius, though not immediately flowing from ihis, source. Let every parent, however, remember that there is one general, safe, and infallible precept, which may be derived from this principle, or rather from the more pal. pable one, the propensity of youth to initation, forecept wbich suits all orders and all understandings, which is simi.! ply this: be whnt you wish your child to be, it:1.79

• Every one knows the insidioos irony with which Gibbon in his history sneers at the christian religion, representing the pannos assutos as an essential part of the original gare ment, and then obliquely attacking it by extolling the liberality of heathen toleration an argument which, even granting the solidity of its premises, makes against christia. nity about as niuch as one would be thought to prove a pocket-piece not sterling, by stewing that the possessor took more care of it than of a brass counter. But little as is his claim to honest and open dealiug in an adversary, it is our duty, for the sake of the sanctity of the cause. Gibbon *says, that the public spectacles were an esseptial part of "the cheerful derótion of the Pagans, &c.'meaning by cheerful' perhaps ! voluntary,' in contradistinction to that devotion which is exacted by compulsion. Miss H. after advert, ing to the horrid barbarities of the Arena, adds-One who has been educated under the benevolent system of the Gospel, must have successfully coinbated with many early prejudices, before he can allow to such exhibitions the appella* tion of cheerful !

This is not exactly fair play. Miss H. takes the epithet * from one thing (devotion,) and affixes it to another (exhibi. "tions.) With the latter it can be taken in only one sense ; with the former it may mean either of two, of which we

ought to reason upon the most favourable. We do not mean *that Miss Hamilton's argument is naterially hurt by the

proceeding; but we do wish to see, in every application of an adversary's words, the most scrupulous.--the most generous accuracy, ** Upon the whole, this work shews great diligence and "moral ardour; the former, as proceeding from one profes

sedly unacquainted with the ancient languages; the latter as interspersed throughout wiih pious and well-meant reflec'tions. But we fear that, considered as a biographical piece, it wants interest, and (to use the anthor's own words)'if from an interesting novellittle is to be expected, from one void of interest we can hope for nothing.' That there is nothing essential in the work to distinguisli it from a novel, we hare shewn already.

to i

[ocr errors]

ART. X-Sermons on various Subjects; by the Rev. Joseph

Townsend, M. A. Rector of Pewsy, Wilis. Svo. Ss.
Mawman.' 1805.

THESE Sermons, we are informed in the preface, were written more than twenty years ago; and it was the intention of their author to have reserved the publication of them for his executors. · But lamenting to see that the progress of infidelity, and the licentious morals of the age, are such as to call loudly for the zealous exertions of all the friends of religion, piety, and virtue, he has rescinded that determination, and resolved to lose no tiine in committing his thoughls and admonitions to the press.

Did this laudable and charitable purpose stand in need of further justification, Mr. Townsend bas supplied us with additional reasons for the present publication, viz, the nature of its contents, and bis own opinion of the advantages which he has enjoyed in life, and which have been such as to qualify him in some degree for encountering more particularly thase evils, the contemplation of which had impressed him with so much pain. · His walk in life, and his professional engageinents during forty years, enabled him to observe the workings of the mind in the highest and in the lowest classes of the human race ; to watch the progress of temptation ; and to witness the prevalence of infidelity among transgressors, both rich and poor. Such are the objects which more particularly at. tracted his attention, and such are the evils against which he · has directed these discourses. Vide Pref. p. viii,

. In conformity to this statement, the first discourse con- tains some arguments for the existeuce of a God; the two :: next in order, treat of the moral law of God in its relations

to the unbeliever, to the forinal and professional Christian, and to tbe children of this world ; with an exposition of the two great commandments, the summary of all the law

and the prophets- Love to God, and to the brotherhood. - the fourth and fifth sermons refer to the gospel : the

former contains a brief but interesting view of some of the principal evidences of our religion; and the latter describes the wanderings of ancient and of modern philosophers, in

their reasonings of God and of religion, when destilute of * the light and guidance of revelation. The sixth sermon, . and those which follow to the thirteenth inclusive, are on

Templation. We can only give a short and imperfect sketch of their contents:-Instances of temptation fallen into--the progress of temptation--the way and ineans to avoid the

power of temptation, such as constant occupation, temperance, courage in maintaining and avowing sound princi. ples, choice of company, retirement and meditation, books, an estimate of human strength, removed alike from presumption and despair, care and culture of tbe understanding and the heart, together with prayer for the grace and support of God. Next to this succeeds an enumeration and display of the reasons and motives which are to encourage us to resist temptation, and to rescue us from the dominion of sin. These are stated to be retribution in this life, the sickness and the evil wbich falls upon our own heads; the effects of our guilt upon others; the certainty of future retribution ; and the violation of our duties of gratitude and love to God, and attachinent to his will, which ought to arise in our hearts from the sense of his manifold bounties and mercies. The fourteenth and fifteenth discourses, which conclude the volume, are on the leaven of the Sadducees, and the leaven of the Pharisees; and coinbine an account of the principles and conduct of those ancient sects, with many salutary cautions and instructions for modern Christians.

These important subjects are treated by Mr. Townsend, not with any very extraordinary powers of eloquence, but with much good sense and sound learning. His allusions and illustrations are often derived from scripture with great felicity: and the whole frame and manner of the composition and contents of his discourses give a very favourable opinion of the soundness of his judgment and the uprightness of his heart. Occasionally we meet with a word which is too technical for a sermon, or savours too much of book-learning, or which is not supported by sufficient homiJetic authority. In p. 5, we do not much approve the use of incredulity for unbelief or infidelity ; nor in p. 9, that of substantives for substances; in p. 268, 279, and 282, there is something which offends us, in the use of the words' softer passion; and in most congregations such clauses as' olfactory serves spread over reiterated folds and convolutions of the Ethimoidal bones,' would seem to be of little use but to procure lo the preacher the esteem and reputation of being a Latiner.' Still the style of these discourses partakes of the same valuable qualities with the matter, and is, generally speaking, correct, vigorous, scholar-like, and maoly.

We perused with much interest Mr. Townsend's account in his preface of the great work upon which he has been so long engaged, on the Character and Writings of Moses. We heartily wish him success in this very important undertaking; and trust that it may add speedily anothes trophy to the literary honours of our country.

« ElőzőTovább »