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It would indeed be impossible to devise a mystery capable of keeping men more effectually within the bounds of virtue.”
In the chapter on Faith, there is a good paragraph of practical illustrations :
• There is no power but in conviction.'— What wonders a small band of troops, persuaded of the abilities of their leader, is capable of achieving! Thirty-five thousand Greeks follow Alexander to the conquest of the world ; Lacedæmon commits her destiny to the hands of Lycurgus, and Lacedæmon becomes the wisest of cities; Babylon believes that she is formed for greatness, and greatness crowns her confidence ; an oracle gives the empire of the universe to the Romans, and the Romans obtain the empire of the universe ; Columbus alone, among all his contemporaries, persists in believing the existence of a new world, and a new world rises from the bosom of the deep. Friendship, patriotism, love, all the generous sentiments, are likewise a species of faith. It was because they had faith that a Codrus, a Pylades, a Regulus, an Arria, performed prodigies. For the same reason those who have faith in nothing, who treat all tlie' attachments of the soul as illusions, who consider every noble action as insanity, and look with pity upon the warm imagination and tender sensibility of genius—for the same reason such hearts will never achieve any thing great or generous: their only belief is in matter and in death, and they are already insensible as the one, and cold and icy as the other.'
After some pleasing and animated sentiments, bordering, however, on extravagance, on Hope and Charity, he proceels to the “moral laws' of Christianity, or rather of revealed religion.---He seems to make a merit of saying things, not exactly paradoxical, but rash, sweeping, exaggerating, and affectedly false. This chapter, for instance, begins thus : It is a reflection not a little mortifying to our pride, that all the maxims of human wisdom may be comprehended in a few pages : and even in these pages how numerous are tlie errors !'. Now if this were not nonsense, how poor would be that triumph which he is designing to gain for the wisdom of the divinely inspired legislation, by proclaiming its superiority over the wisdom of the pagans. But when we go forward to see what can be meant by, or what is to follow, this strange assertion, we find that what he had the whim to denominates all the maxims of human wisdom,' are the few dozens of sentences which were put into the form of legislative appointments, by Zoroaster, Minos, Solon, Pythagoras, and a small selection of poor and pompous cictates from Indian, Egyptian, Roman, and Druidical law-making. The recital of them, however, really seems to improve his thinking or writing faculty, for nothing can be more just than the reflections with which he dismisses them :
• How many vague, incoherent, common-place expressions are there in most of these sentences! Such are, in general, the philo
sophic works of antiquity. The sages of the portico and the academy . alternately published maxims so contradictory, that you may prove from the same book that its author believed and did not believe in God; that he acknowledged and did not acknowledge a positive virtue; that liberty is the greatest of blessings, and despotism the best of governments.
The third book begins with a slight review, or rather enumeration, of the dreams of the barbarous, and of the more civilized and philosophical heathens, concerning the origin of the world; which incur, by being brought into comparison with the Genesis of Moses, a similar fate to that of the Magicians' serpents, when they appeared in the presence of his.
The author reverts to the subject of the fall of man, but not 60 much in the manner of a simple and submissive believer in a matter of fact, as declared on divine authority, as in that of a philosophical poet and a Hierophant. It is not enough for him that the Sovereign Creator had a right to choose the test of obedience, and that the one which was selected by infinite wisdom was therefore necessarily the best; he must assume to understand the principle on which the selection was made, the principle on which it was necessary it should be made in order to be right. And his illuminations must be most original and extensive, (whatever may be thought of their clearness) if he is prepared to draw out into a full theory the import of the following ambitious and obscure proposition :
• The secret of the political and moral existence of nations, the profoundęst mysteries of the human heart, are comprized in the tradition of this wonderful and pernicious tree.'
It is not a little mortifying that so much doubt and ignorance can remain in the world after so many of our fellow-mortals have set up for dracles among us, and boldly asserted whatever it was most impossible for them to know. A few sentences after this that we have quoted, Bossuet is introduced asserting, with the most unceremonious confidence, and with M. Chateaubriand's perfect faith in his knowledge of the fact, that before the fall. angels conversed with man under the figure of animals: Eve therefore was not surprized to hear the serpent speak.' Between these two illuminati, had they been both alive, we should have been in a very hopeful way; for really, of men authorized to make assertions like these it could not but have been within the competence, and indeed could hardly have been less than the duty, to terminate our questions, whether of faet or doctrine, in theology.
Here, however, our author gets on ground where even the least confiding of his readers will acknowledge that he is quite at home. The reference to the first fatal temptation leads him into a description of the characteristics of the serpent tribe ; VOL, X.
and his descriptions are always something greatly beyond those of a mere natural historian, though the materials are substantially the same.
His graphical delineations are animated with a spirit of poetry. Perhaps indeed there is an excess of it in his celebration of this most odious of the earth's inhabitants.
• The serpent has frequently been the subject of our observations, and if we may venture to speak out, we have often imagined that we could discover in him that pernicious sagacity and that subtlety which are ascribed to him by scripture. Every thing is mysterious, secret, astonishing in this incomprehensible reptile. His movements differ from those of all other animals; it is impossible to say where his locomotive principle lies, for he has neither fins, nor feet, nor wings; and yet he flits like a shadow, he vanishes as by magic, he re-appears and is gone again, like a light azure vapour, or the
gleams of a sabre in the dark. Now he curls himself into a circle, and projects a tongue of fire ; now standing erect on the extremity of his tail, he moves along in a perpendicular attitude as by enchantment. He rolls himself into a ball, rises and falls in a spiral line, gives to his rings the undulations of waves, twines round the branches of a tree, glides under the grass of the meadows, or skims along the surface of the water. His colours are not more determinate than his activity ; they change with each new point of view, and like his motions they possess false splendour and deceitful variety. Still more astonishing in the rest of his manners, he knows, like a man polluted with murder, how to throw aside his garment distained with blood, lest it should lead to his detection, &c.'
The description is still further amplified, with that combination of knowledge and fancy which the writer always displays when any striking object or fact in nature seduces him into rhetorical painting, and it is followed by a much more curious specific description of the behaviour of a serpent, with which he and his companions, travelling in company with several families of savages, had an adventure in Upper Canada, in 1791.
• One day a rattle-snake entered our encampment. Among us was a Canadian who could play on the flute, and who, to divert us, advanced against the serpent with his new species of weapon. On the approach of his enemy, the haughty reptile curls himself into a spiral line, flattens his head, inflates his cheeks, contracts his lips, displays his envenomed fangs and his bloody throat; his double tongue glows like two flames of fire; his eyes are burning coals ; his body, swollen with rage, rises and falls like the bellows of a forge; his dilated skin assumes a dull and scaly appearance ; and his tail, whence proceeds the death denouncing sound, vibrates with such rapidity as to resemble a light vapour. The Canadian now begins to play upon his flute; the serpent starts with surprize and draws back his head. In proportion as he is struck with the magic effect, his eyes lose their fierceness, the oscillations of his tail become slower, and the sound which it emits becomes weaker and gradually dies away. Less perpendicular upon their spiral line, the rings of the
charmed serpent are by degrees expanded and sink one after another upon the ground in concentric circles. The shades of azure, green, white, and gold, recover their brilliancy on his quivering skin ; and slightly turning his head he remains motionless in the attitude of attention and pleasure. At this moment the Canadian advanced a few steps, producing with his flute sweet and simple notes. The reptile inclining his variegated neck, opens a passage with his head through the high grass and begins to creep after the musician, stopping when he stops, and beginning to follow him again as soon as he moves forward. In this manner he was led out of our camp attended by a great number of spectators, both savages and Europeans, who could scarcely believe their eyes when they witnessed this wonderful effect of harınony. The assembly unanimously decreed that the serpent which had so highly entertained them should be permitted to escape.'
(To be concluded in our next Number.)
Art. VIII. Evening Amusements; or, the Beauty of the Heavens dis
played. In which several striking Appearances, to be observed on various Evenings in the Heavens, during the Year 1813, are described. To be continued annually By William Frend, Esq.
M. A. &c. 12mo. pp. 192. Price 3s. Mawman. 1813. ALL who have read our observations upon Mr. Frend's
" Amusements” for the years 1810 and 1811,* must be aware that we have peculiar pleasure in examining his productions, although, from some cause or other, his publication for the last year escaped our notice. His efforts would, we confess, give us no small concern, if the power which puts them forth were at all commensurate with the intention ; but, exerted as they are, with great feebleness and greater want of judgement, we are as much
amused" by them as we should be to witness the awkward at. tempts of a dwarf to wield the weapons of a giant. The history of the various theological and scientific labours of this gentleman is calculated to furnish instruction to all thoughtless sciolists, who expect and promise to innovate much, with the power of effecting nothing. More than twenty years ago, he endeavoured to convert the idolators of Cambridge, by addressing to them some threepenny exhortations to turn “ From the false worship " of three Gods to the worship of the one true God.” But alas! his advices were thrown away upon that stiff-necked people; and what with the success of Dr. Milner, Dr. Jowett, Professor Farish, Mr. Simeon, and a few other such“ Pagan priests," this false and idolatrous worship is now more prevalent at Cambridge than ever. Much about the same time our author, in addition to his labours in improving the morals of the town, endeavoured to reform und purge the University. He therefore * See Ecl. Rev. Vol. VI. p. 835. Vol. VII. P:
published " A Plea for Peace and Union," and ridiculed many of the laws and practices of that learned body. But here again, instead of adopting the notions of this restless personage, and şuffering him to innovate and renovate as he could wish, they expelled him from the University altogether, and obliged him to exert his skill at reformation in the metropolis. There he soon heard of an ingenious and good-natured old gentleman, who had for many years been riding a hobby which went backwards, as an emblem of a negative sign, and constantly invited men and boys of science to travel with him; but in vain, till Mr. Frend kindly leaped up behind. They have jogged on together ever since; but here also unfortunately they ride alone ; and as we conjecture, converse but little on their journey : for whilst 'my ever-to-be-respected friend, Baron Maseres, and myself, agree in their notions of the negative sign; on most other points their sentiments are understood to be diametrically opposite.
Failing in this second attempt, our never-to-be-nonplused rea former (we hope he will pardon us for taking the liberty to coin a word after his own fashion), next laboured earnestly, and most pathetically, to effect a reformation in the treatment of celestial and terrestrial globes. Who would believe, that, in a civilized country, and in an age when the slave trade has been abolished, and the struggle for “ catholic emancipation” is manfully repeated about every three months, globes, aye of both kinds, without any distinction, should repose under a dirty coverlid, while not nine-tenths of the bystanders' probably know, whether they are representations of the earth and heavens, or globular stewpans?' Yet, Mr. Frend vouches for the truth of the melancholy and alarming fact. Nay, farther, though every one must perceive that the burning of widows in Hindustan is mere child's play to this; and though our learned author has laboured incessantly, day and night, for two years, to abolish the inhuman practice; still it prevails. So that here again he is thwarted by his malignant stars.
His next attempt, if we are rightly informed, has been to check the “ false worship of three Gods” in Sunday schools, by endeavouring to get Socinian watch-papers, of a very curious construction, circulated among the scholars. How far he has been successful in this way, we have not yet heard: but, such is the blindness of most Sunday school children, and such the proneness of the majority of their teachers to the “ false worship" Mr. Frend is so anxious to explode, that we do not augur that much would be effected, even if the guineas promised in these watch-papers were circulated with them.
Lastly, our learned author labours hard in the volume before us, to corrent the erroneous notions which prevail respecting the