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CLARKSON ON QUAKERISM.

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(APRIL, 1807.)

A Portraiture of Quakerism, as taken from a View of the Moral Education, Discipline, Peculiar Customs, Religious Principles, Political and Civil Economy, and Character, of the Society of Friends. By THOMAS CLARKSON, M. A. Author of several Essays on the subject of the Slave Trade. 8vo. 3 vols. London: 1806.

THIS, we think, is a book peculiarly fitted for reviewing: For it contains many things which most people will have some curiosity to hear about; and is at the same time so intolerably dull and tedious, that no voluntary reader could possibly get through with it.

The author, whose meritorious exertions for the abolition of the slave trade brought him into public notice a great many years ago, was recommended by this circumstance to the favour and the confidence of the Quakers, who had long been unanimous in that good cause; and was led to such an extensive and cordial intercourse with them in all parts of the kingdom, that he came at last to have a more thorough knowledge of their tenets and living manners than any other person out of the society could easily obtain. The effect of this knowledge has evidently been to excite in him such an affection and esteem for those worthy sectaries, as we think can scarcely fail to issue in his public conversion; and, in the mean time, has produced a more minute exposition, and a more elaborate defence of their doctrines and practices, than has recently been drawn from any of their own body.

The book, which is full of repetitions and plagiarisms, is distributed into a number of needless sections, arranged in a most unnatural and inconvenient order. All that any body can want to know about the Quakers, might evidently have been told, either under the head of their Doctrinal tenets, or of their peculiar Practices; but

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THE BOOK DULL, AND NOT VERY NEW.

Mr. Clarkson, with a certain elaborate infelicity of me. thod, chooses to discuss the merits of this society under the several titles, of their moral education-their discipline their peculiar customs-their religion-their great tenets-and their character; and not finding even this ample distribution sufficient to include all he had to say on the subject, he fills a supplemental half-volume, with repetitions and trifles, under the humiliating name of miscellaneous particulars.

Quakerism had certainly undergone a considerable change in the quality and spirit of its votaries, from the time when George Fox went about pronouncing woes against cities, attacking priests in their pulpits, and exhorting justices of the peace to do justice, to the time when such men as Penn and Barclay came into the society "by convincement," and published such vindications of its doctrine, as few of its opponents have found it convenient to answer. The change since their time appears to have been much less considerable. The greater part of these volumes may be considered, indeed, as a wilful deterioration of Barclay's Apology; and it is only where he treats of the private manners and actual opinions of the modern Quakers, that Mr. Clarkson communicates any thing which a curious reader might not have learnt from that celebrated production. The laudatory and argumentative tone which he maintains throughout, gives an air of partiality to his statements which naturally diminishes our reliance on their accuracy and as the argument is often extremely bad, and the praise apparently unmerited, we are rather inclined to think that his work will make a less powerful impression in favour of the "friends," than might have been effected by a more moderate advocate. With many praiseworthy maxims and principles for their moral conduct, the Quakers, we think, have but little to say for most of their peculiar practices; and make a much better figure when defending their theological mysteries, than when vindicating the usages by which they are separated from the rest of the people in the ordinary intercourse of life. It will be more convenient, however, to state

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QUAKERS DISCOURAGE GAIETY.

our observations on their reasonings, as we attend Mr. Clarkson through his account of their principles and practice.

He enters upon his task with such a wretched display of false eloquence, that we were very near throwing away the book. Our readers will scarcely accuse us of impatience, when we inform them that the dissertation on the moral education of the Quakers begins with the following sentence:

"When the blooming spring sheds abroad its benign influence, man feels it equally with the rest of created nature. The blood circulates more freely, and a new current of life seems to be diffused in his veins. The aged man is enlivened, and the sick man feels himself refreshed. Good spirits and cheerful countenances succeed. But as the year changes in its seasons, and rolls round to its end, the tide seems to slacken, and the current of feeling to return to its former level."-vol. i. p. 13.

This may serve, once for all, as a specimen of Mr. Clarkson's taste and powers in fine writing, and as an apology for our abstaining, in our charity, from making any further observations on his style. Under the head of moral education, we are informed that the Quakers discourage, and strictly prohibit in their youth, all games of chance, music, dancing, novel reading, field sports of every description, and, in general, the use of idle words and unprofitable conversation. The motives of these several prohibitions are discussed in separate chapters of extreme dulness and prolixity. It is necessary, however, in order to come to a right understanding with those austere persons and their apologist, to enter a little into the discussion.

The basis of the Quaker morality seems evidently to be, that gaiety and merriment ought, upon all occasions, to be discouraged; that everything which tends merely to exhilaration or enjoyment, has in it a taint of criminality; and that one of the chief duties of man is to be always serious and solemn, and constantly occupied, either with his worldly prosperity, or his eternal welfare. If it were not for the attention which is thus permitted to the accumulation of wealth, the Quakers would scarcely

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be distinguishable from the other gloomy sectaries, who maintain, that man was put into this world for no other purpose, but to mortify himself into a proper condition for the next; that all our feelings of ridicule and sociality, and all the spring and gaiety of the animal spirits of youth, were given us only for our temptation; and that, considering the shortness of this life, and the risk he runs of damnation after it, man ought evidently to pass his days in dejection and terror, and to shut his heart to every pleasurable emotion which this transitory scene might hold out to the unthinking. The fundamental folly of these ascetic maxims has prevented the Quakers from adopting them in their full extent; but all the peculiarities of their manners may evidently be referred to this source; and the qualifications and exceptions under which they maintain the duty of abstaining from enjoyment, serve only, in most instances, to bring upon their reasonings the additional charge of inconsistency.

FUNDAMENTAL DUTY OF SEDATENESS.

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Their objection to cards, dice, wagers, horse-races, &c. is said to be, first, that they may lead to a spirit of gaming, which leads, again, to obvious unhappiness and immorality; but chiefly, that they are sources of amusement unworthy of a sober Christian, and tend, by producing an unreasonable excitement, to disturb that tranquillity and equanimity which they look upon as essential to moral virtue.

"They believe," says Mr. Clarkson, "that stillness and quietness both of spirit and of body, are necessary, as far as they can be obtained. Hence, Quaker children are rebuked for all expressions of anger, as tending to raise those feelings which ought to be suppressed: a raising even of the voice beyond due bounds, is discouraged as leading to the disturbance of their minds. They are taught to rise in the morning in quietness; to go about their ordinary occupation with quietness; and to retire in quietness to their beds."

Now this, we think, is a very miserable picture. The great curse of life, we believe, in all conditions above the lowest, is its excessive stillness and quietness, and the want of interest and excitement which it affords: and though we certainly do not approve of cards and wagers

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as the best exhilarators of the spirits, we cannot possibly concur in the principle upon which they are rejected with such abhorrence by this rigid society. A remark which Mr. Clarkson himself makes afterwards, might have led him to doubt of the soundness of their petrifying principles.

"It has often been observed," he says, "that a Quaker Boy has an unnatural appearance. The idea has arisen from his dress and his sedateness, which, taken together, have produced an appearance of age above the youth in his countenance. I have often been surprised to hear young Quakers talk of the folly and vanity of pursuits in which persons, older than themselves, were then embarking in pursuit of pleasure," &c.

We feel no admiration, we will confess, for prodigies of this description; and think that the world is but little indebted to those moralists, who, in their efforts to ameliorate our condition, begin with constraining the volatile spirit of childhood into sedateness, and extinguishing the happy carelessness and animation of youth, by lessons of eternal quietness.

The next chapter is against music; and is, as might be expected, one of the most absurd and extravagant of the whole. This is Mr. Clarkson's statement of the Quaker reasoning against this delightful art.

"Providence gave originally to man a beautiful and a perfect world. He filled it with things necessary, and things delightful: and yet man has often turned these from their true and original design. The very wood on the surface of the earth he has cut down, and the very stone and metal in its bowels he has hewn and cast, and converted into a graven image, and worshipped in the place of his beneficent Creator. food which has een given him for his nourishment, he has frequently converted by his intemperance into the means of injuring his health. The wine, that was designed to make his heart glad, on reasonable and necessary occasions, he has used often to the stupefaction of his senses, and the degradation of his moral character. The very raiment, which has been afforded him for his body, he has abused also, so that it has frequently become a source for the excitement of his pride.

"Just so it has been, and so it is, with Music, at the present day."

We do not think we ever before met with an argument so unskilfully, or rather so preposterously put: Since, if it follows, from these premises, that music ought to be entirely rejected and avoided, it must follow also, that we

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