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cannot conceal the identity of the inventions. truth upon which they had originally been At the same time it is by no means unlikely established. that there was a re-action in the case, and “ With regard to the whole body of rothat in those days of unexampled intercourse mantic fictions still extant, whether conbetween the East and the West, many Eu. nected or unconnected with the great subropean novels may have found their way to jects of the poetry of the middle age,-even the professional story-tellers of the Orientals. with regard to those which are founded in But there is no evidence that we ever bor- part on true events, I know only one comrowed any entire heroic fictions from Orien- mon standard of criticism. Their value is tal sources ; even the fabulous history of always so much the higher in proportion as Alexander, although the adventures of the they are more dependent on a historical founMacedonian form the subject of one of the dation, more national in their import and best of the Persian romances, was not de- character, and more abounding in a free, rived to us from that quarter, but from a natural, and unaffected display of imaginaGreek book of popular legends, and the tion,-above all, in proportion as they are clothing of chivalrous manners, with which imbued with the spirit of love. I do not the fiction was afterwards invested, belonged allude merely to a mild, beautifying, and, exclusively to ourselves. Something similar at the same time, amiable mode of treating occurred in regard to our legends of the wars every thing that is represented, but rather to of Troy; we derived in like manner our ideas that spirit which forms the essential mark concerning the events of that period, not of distinction between the fictions of Chris from the great poets of antiquity, but from tendom and all other fictions; which, where another popular book of the same class. a tragical catastrophe is either inseparable Our own age, which is so rich in all historie from the nature of the subject, or introduced cal knowledge, and which holds the first on purpose by the poet, never allows us to place in every species of elaborate imitation, close with the single feeling of destruction, may indeed look down with great contempt oppression, or an inevitable fate-which bids on such rude and childish attempts as these the victim of sorrows and death rise to a poems which represent the siege of Troy, higher life with a more glorious presence, and other matters of antiquity, under the and offers to him who is overcome by earthdisguise of chivalrous mannets. That dark ly enemies, or affictions, the sure prospect age, netertheless, however great may have of a recompense for all his endurance been its inferiority to our own time in every crown of victory in the heavens.” other respect, was certainly not without some
In the second volume, the materials advantage over us in regard to its compre with which our author must have hension of the character, although not of found himself surrounded are so ime the costume, of the earlier ages of antiquity. The middle age was the heroic age of Chris- mense, that the conciseness and cleartendom, and in the heroic legends of the ness with which he has performed his Greeks there is much that may recall even great task of analysing and arranging to us the manners of chivalry. Tancred and them, appear to us worthy of the Richard, surrounded with their minstrels greatest admiration. His view of the and troubadours, stood in many respects in Italian, Spanish, French, and English a much nearer relation to Hector and Achil. literature, is such as could not have les, and the Trojan rhapsodists, than the been given by any other than a masfield-marshals and poets of a later and more cultivated generation. The achievements ter of all these extensive branches of of Alexander were made the favourite theme study; and when we recollect, that to of the romancers, merely because they, of all these accomplishments he must add all historical incidents, even without ficti. an exquisite knowledge of classical, tious embellishment, bear the greatest re- and no mean acquaintance with oriensemblance to heroic traditions, and because tal learning, our admiration for the the marvellous which they contain is above attainments must at least equal that all the true wonders of other conquerors, akin to that marvellous, which is the delight Frederick Schlegel. To most English
with which we regard the talents of But the approximation of East and readers, one very considerable source West was not the only approximation caus- of interest, in the perusal of this latter ed by the Crusades. The nations of the part of the work, must be derived West themselves were brought into closer from the religious opinions of the aucontact with each other than they had ever thor. He is a Christian, and he is not before experienced, and the fictions of all ashamed, amidst all his veneration for ages and all countries became inextricably Protestant worthies and Protestant mingled and confounded. This chaotic mixture was in the end the chief cause why is that of a Catholie. The liberality truth any thing else than concealed returning admonitions to bethink ourselves infidels. He is a man of powerful in earnest, and depart no more from the feeling and powerful fancy; and how the path of truth.” ever we may differ from him in regard Patriotism, in all ages, depends in a to minor points, we can never hesitate great measure upon exclusiveness; but to love and admire the spirit in which in regard to religion, modern Europe all his opinions are conceived and de- may be considered as one vast nation, fended.
lands, to confess that his Christianity all the best, the most touching, and the most peculiar of the European heroic le- of his views, however, presents a very gends, dissolved themselves into mere play pleasing contrast to the bigotry of such pf fancy, and lost all traces of that historical French and Italian Catholics as are in
whose interest it is to fix the Christian “ When certain panegyrists of the Re- faith as a central standard of feeling formation represent this as having been in and association in all the more serious itself alone a step forward of the human departments of literature. The case mind, and of philosophy—a deliverance is the same with regard to the chifrom error and prejudice--they are just valrous recollections of the middle taking for granted the very fact upon which we are at issue. One should think also that ages, which belong in common to the men might be rendered more cautious in several nations of Europe, as a stock the use of such expressions, when they re
whereupon to graft their heroical poeflect that, by the example of many great try; but it is evident, that philosophinations--of Spain-of Italy—of Catholic cal modern Europeans can never look France during the seventeenth century, back upon any past age with the same and of Southern Germany even in these serious reverence which the Greeks latest times—it can be proved, with little felt in reverting to their fabulous era of hazard of contradiction, that a very high, heroes and demi-gods. An heroical nay, that the very highest degree of intel. lectual cultivation is perfectly compatible
era should lose itself in the mists of with the belief of those doctrines which the antiquity,—but ours does not. It friends of Protestantism decry as antiquat. should likewise mingle itself with reed prejudices. The admirers of the Re- ligion,--but our religion admits of no formation should lay less stress upon its mixture of fables, capable of being consequences; for of these some were, as multiplied and diversified at will, like themselves admit, altogether unhappy, many those of the Greeks. If the real busiremote and assisted by the co-operation of ness of heroic poetry be to represent other causes. Besides, the effects are per. human nature partaking of the marhaps in no case perfectly decisive as to the nature of the thing itself. The bigotted vellous, modern Europe cannot be exCatholics, on the other hand, who despise pected to produce any thing seriously the Reformation, and abhor it as altogether impressive in that line.
Poems may irreconcileable with their own religious opi. be composed exhibiting a fine play nions, should at least recollect that the later, of fancy, but none of them will be if not the more immediate effects of that capable of exerting a permanent purmighty convulsion, have been beneficial and chase over our feelings and associasalutary. If we survey the history of the tions. In so far as the preternatural world with the feeling of belief,—if we are willing to recognize, in the fortunes and is concerned, Paradise Lost is certainfates of mankind, the interposing hand of ly the real heroic poem of modern Providence, we shall perceive the same Europe; and it will probably remain spectacle in every direction. Everywhere the only one, since it has pre-occupied we shall see men presented with the hap- almost all those parts of sacred history piest opportunities, intreated as it were, to which were such as to be adorned, do good, to know the truth, and to reach and not disfigured, by poetical colourthe eminence of true greatness and true excellence ; intreated however, not compelled; collected with sufficient earnestness to
ing. It is the only modern poem refor their own co-operation is necessary if they would be what fits the destiny of their be considered as a true epic. nature. Rarely, very rarely, do men make
Although a great part of Schlegel's the proper use of the means they are in- work is filled with an account of the trusted to employ ; often do they pervert literature of his own country, yet, here them to the niost dangerous abuses, and sink again, we suspect his labours are not even deeper into their ancient errors. Pro- much calculated for the edification of vidence is, if we may so speak, ever strug. foreign readers. He touches upon gling with the carelessness and the
pervers, every thing indeed, and he does this ity of man; scarcely by our own guilt and with a masterly hand; but, unless by blindness have we been plunged into some great and fearful evil, ere the Benefactor of
a very few good German scholars aour nature causes unexpected blessings to mong us, we fear little will be learned spring out of the bosom of our merited mis- from a mode of writing which prefortune-warnings and lessons, expressed in supposes so much information. The deeds and events, furnishing us with ever translation, in order to become really
useful in the hands of English read- of white, black, red, and brown. But how ers, should have been accompanied little is gained by all this, as to the only with copious notes and illustrations, real question, an answer to which should we need scarcely add, not compiled form the proper history of mankind ? How after the fashion of Mr Hobhouse's little do we learn as to the origin and proillustrations of Childe Harold.
per state, or the present lamentable and
fallen condition, of human nature? The The concluding lectures abound,
answer to this question, which is the essence however, in most profound and im- of all history, can only be supplied by reportant reflections, with regard to sub- ligion and philosophy ; that philosophy, I jects which all of us should at least be mean, which has no other ambition and no capable of understanding. Our own el- other end but to support religion. In these der authors appear to have been studied false histories of mankind, the worthy offby this accomplished German with an spring of the degraded and material philoenthusiasm seldom equalled among
sophy of the eighteenth century, the predo
minant idea is always, that man sprung ourselves; and if the present state of originally from the dust like a mushroom, our literature be not represented by and differed from it only by the possession him either so fully or so favourably as of locomotive power and of consciousness. might have been expected, we must at- The ambition of their authors is to repretribute this solely to the distant resi- sent us as originally brutes, and to shew dence and multifarious occupations of how, by the progress of our own ingenious the author. How well he has studied contrivances, art has been added to art, and one important part of the subject, the science to science, till our nature has gram
dually reached the high eminence on which following extract, and it is the last we
it now stands. The greater intimacy of shall venture upon, will prove.
connexion can be established between us “ The art of historical writing is evident- and the ourang-ou-tang (that favourite of so ly quite on the decline in England. One many philosophers of the last century), the great cause of this consists, I imagine, in more rational are supposed to be our opi. the want of any stable and satisfactory nions concerning our species, and its history. philosophy, a defect sufficiently apparent “ The philosophy of sensation, which even in the three great writers whom I have was unconsciously bequeathed to the world enumerated. Without some rational and by Bacon, and reduced to the shade of a redue conceptions of the fate and destiny of gular system by Locke, first displayed in man, it is impossible to form any just and France the true immorality and destructiveconsistent opinion, even concerning the pro- ness of which it is the parent, and assumed gress of events, the developement of times, the appearance of a perfect sect of atheism. and the fortunes of nations. In every situa- In England it took a different course; in tion history and philosophy should be as that country it could not indeed be supposmuch as possible united. Philosophy, if ed likely to produce the same effects, bealtogether separated from history, and 'des. cause the old principles of religion were retitute of the spirit of criticism, which is the garded as far too intimately connected with result of the union to which I have alluded, national welfare to be easily abandoned. can be nothing more than a wild existence The spirit of English thought was moreover of sect and formality. History, on the other naturally inclined to adopt the paradoxical hand, without the animating spirit of phi. and sceptical side of this philosophy rather losophy, is merely a dead heap of useless than the material and atheistical. The materials, devoid of internal unity, proper most singular phenomenon in the whole purpose, or worthy result. The want of sa. history of philosophy is perhaps the existisfying and sane views and principles, is tence of such a man as Berkeley, who carnowhere more conspicuous than in those ried the system of Locke, as far as utterly histories of mankind, as they have been cal- to disbelieve the existence of the external led, originally produced in England, and world, and yet continued all the while a demore recently written among ourselves. vout Christian bishop. How external obFrom the immense storehouse of travels and jects come into contact with our intellect, so voyages, a few facts are collected, which that it forms notions of them—this was a make up loose portraits of the fisher, the point upon which the philosophy of that hunter, the emigration of the early nations, time neither came nor could come to any and the different conditions of agricultural, satisfactory conclusion. All that we perpastoral, and commercial peoples. This is ceive or feel of these things, is, after all, called a view of the history of mankind, and only an impression, a change upon ourthere is no doubt that it contains many in- selves. We may pursue it as far as we dividual points of great interest and impor- will; we can lay hold on only such a notance, with respect to the progress and ha- tion or perception of an object, not the ob. bits of our species. Such would be the ject itself. That seems, the more we seek case, even if we should treat of men entire- it, to fly the farther from us. If we conly according to their corporeal subdivisions sider nature, as either itself animated, or as
the medium instrument and expression of addition to these, an eternal law of rectilife, then this perplexity is at an end, and tude, derived not from experience and feel. every thing becomes clear. We have no ing, but from reason or from God. A firm difficulty in conceiving, that between two and unshaken faith is indispensible for our living and mutually operating spiritual na- welfare. But the faith which the English tures, there may exist a third nature ap- philosophers have established upon the dicparently inanimate, to serve as the bond of tates of common sense and moral feeling, is connexion and mutual operation, to be their like the props upon which it leans, uncera word and language, or to serve as the sepa- tain and unworthy of our confidence. It is ration and wall of partition between them. not worthy of the name of faith ; the name We are familiar with such an idea, from applied to the impression made upon us by our own experience, because we cannot have reason and external experience, and, with any intercourse of thought with our brother equal propriety, to the impressions we remen, or even analyse our thoughts, except ceive in a totally different way from the inthrough the operation of exactly similar ternal voice of conscience and the revelations means. The simple conviction, however, of a superior nature. That which is called that the sensible world is merely the habi- faith among these men, is nothing more tation of the intellectual, and a medium of than the weak and self-doubting faith of ne. separation as well as connexion between in- cessity,-a thing as incapable of standing the tellectual natures, had been lost along with test of time, as the frail faith of custom is the knowledge and idea of the world of in- to resist the arguments of unprincipled sotellect, and the animating impression of its phistry. This nation is powerful and free existence. The philosophy of the senses
in its whole being and life. Even in poe. stumbled, in this way, at the very threshold, try, it regards the profound and internal and proceeded to become more and more rather than the outward and ornamental, perplexed in every step of its progress. but by means of its own errors it is crampBerkeley believed that the external world ed and confined in its philosophy. In rehas no real existence, and that our notions gard to this mighty department of human and impressions of it are directly commu- intellect and exertion, the English of later nicated to us by the Deity. From the same times are neither original nor great ; they doubts Hume fell into a totally different even appear to be fundamentally inferior to system, the sceptical,-a philosophy which some of the best writers among the French. humbles itself before its doubts, and denies If a few authors in England have pursued the possibility of attaining knowledge. This an intellectual path of their own, quite difman, by the penetrating and convulsive in ferent from the common one, they have fuence of his scepticism, determined the fu- exerted no powerful, or at least no extenture condition of English philosophy. Since sive, influence over their fellow-country. his time nothing more has been attempted men. The attempts with which I myself than to erect all sorts of bulwarks against am acquainted do not indeed display genius the practical influence of this destructive such as might entitle them to much conscepticism : and to maintain, by various sideration. substitutes and aids, the pile of moral prin- “ We may compare the mode of philosociple uncorrupted and entire. Not only phical thought in England to a man who with Adam Smith, but with all their later bears every external mark of health and vi. philosophers, national welfare is the ruling gour, but who is by nature prone to a danand central principle of thought,-a prin- gerous distemper. He has repressed the ciple excellent and praiseworthy in its due first eruptions of the disease by means of situation, but quite unfitted for being the palliatives, but the evil has on that very accentre and oracle of all knowledge and count had the more leisure to entwine itself science. The two great substitutes to which with the roots of his constitution. The I allude are neither scientifically nor prac- disease of philosophical error and unbelief tically of a durable and effective nature. can never be got the better of, unless by a Common sense is poor when compared with thorough and radical cure. I think, for certain knowledge, and moral feeling is a this reason, that it is extremely probable, very inadequate foundation for a proper sys- nay, that it is almost certain, England has tem of ethics. Were the common sense of yet to undergo a mighty crisis in her philoman even as sound and universal as these sophy, and, of necessity, in her morality and English reasoners maintain, if we should her religion. take its conclusions for the last, and subject “ If we regard not so much the immethem to no higher view, we should find it diate practical consequences, but rather the more likely to cut than to unloose the knot internal progress of intellect itself, we shall of the great questions in philosophy. The be almost compelled to think error is less innate curiosity of man is not to be so satis- dangerous when open and complete, than fied, but, however frequently we may put it when half-formed and disguised. In the off, returns to the charge with undiminish- midst of moderate errors our self-love keeps ed pertinacity. Moral feeling and sym. us ignorant of our danger. But when erpathy are things too frail and uncertain for ror has reached its height, it is the nature å rule of moral action. We must have, in of the human mind to promote a re-action,
and to rise with new strength and power nent, could have received little addiout of the abyss into which at last it per- tion, except from betting. If they ceives itself to have fallen.”
had met, David Hume would probably Upon the whole, we consider this
have declined the contest. There is work as by far the most rational and something extremely ludicrous in this profound view of the history of litera
headlong pugnacity, when manifested Eure which has yet been presented by an individual who is supposed to to Europe ; and when we compare it make reflection his business; and Dr with the ideas concerning the same Johnson seems to have been the only subject which are commonly circulat- modern philosopher whose propensities ed in this country, it is easy to per- were likely to have revived those scenes ceive that another nation has got the described by Lucian, in his Banquet start of us in point of reflection, and and other pieces. This was not altois also much wiser in point of feeling. gether owing to bigotry. His characThe considerations in which it abounds ter seems to have been originally enare of a kind which have been too dowed with an overplus of the noble much overlooked in this country. Our spirit of resistance ; so that even had philosophy, if we be not greatly mis- his temperament been less morbidly taken, has much need of such a sup- irritable, and his prejudices less inveplement as the present.
terate, he would still have betrayed an However noble and elevating the inclination to push against the movegreat scope of Schlegel’s lucubrations ments of other minds.
Upon the may be, yet, when we compare them whole, it is probable that the cultivawith the present state of literature in tion of his conversational powers was this country, the feeling with which not favourable to his powers of comwe close the volumes is very far from position, because it habituated him to being a happy one. It is a melan- seek less after truth in its substantive choly fact, that a single generation of form thạn truth corrective of error, abstract reasoners is enough to vitiate and to throw his thoughts into such a the pedigree of national sentiment and form as could be most conveniently association; and although the ancient used in argument. Although gifted literature and history remain, they with great powers, both of observation cannot resume their influence so ex
and reflection, he passed his life in too tensively as before. Perhaps, in Eng- great a ferment ever
make any reland, nothing has contributed so much gular philosophical use of them. He as the host of periodical publications
was full of those stormy and untoward to obliterate sentiment, and substitute energies peculiar to the English charmetaphysical restlessness in its place. acter, and would have required someOur journals, with their eternal dis- thing to wreak himself upon, before quisitions, have been operating with he sat down to reflect. slow but sure effect in mouldering This English restiveness and undown all large aggregates of associa- towardness, with which the Doctor tion, which could form centres of
was somewhat too much impregnated, gravity of sufficient power to control makes a ridiculous figure in literature, and regulate the orbits of our feelings. but constitutes a very important eleFor a long while not many ideas have ment when introduced into active life. reached the people except through It is in a great measure a blind eletheir medium. But these journals ment; but in the political dissensions are like sieves, that require every sub- of a free country, it is a far safer one stance to be granulated before it can
than the scheming and mischievous pass through them.
propensities of personal vanity and ambition. It is a quality which rather inclines sturdily to keep its own place, than to join in a scramble.
David Hume's temperament was THESE two remarkable individuals, well calculated for a philosopher of although contemporaries, never came the Aristotelian class; that is to say, personally in contact. Dr. Johnson one who founds his reasonings upon was looked upon by his friends as the experience, and upon the knowledge colloquial champion of England ; and gathered by the senses. His whole probably the exultation which they constitution seems to have been untelt in seeing him thrash every oppo- commonly sedate and tranquil, and no Vol. III.
SAMUEL JOHNSON AND DAVID HUME.