« AnteriorContinuar »
Perspicuity and force were its leading characters. Perhaps he was the clearest writer in the English language. His luminous conceptions were never encumbered by verbosity, never clouded by ill-chosen and unexpressive phrases. In the construction of periods his ear was good; he sometimes rose with his subject into great majesty of expression, though his ordinary tone was easy and graceful familiarity. With these excellencies it stirs our indignation to hear such apologies as this, in the mawkish and sickening language which the condescending and benevolent apologist, as we suppose, mistook for that elegance denied to Paley.
* To those, indeed, who love the exuberance of native character, there is in the writings of Paley, as connected with his personal naiveté, every thing to interest and to gratify. And for those, if sucb there be, who desiderate in him a higher temperament of sensibility or a finer delicacy of expression, let them learn to take substantial excellence wherever they are happy enough to find it, though it be not quite rectified up to their own exquisite standard of taste.'
With so much originality in himself, it is remarkable that in the first conception of his works Paley was not strictly original; nor were even the materials laid in by himself. There are writers of great but disorderly understandings, unable to arrange, to amplify, or to illustrate their own conceptions. Such was Abraham Tucker, the heavy and desultory author of a book, the principles of which, whether true or false, by his own singular powers of style and illustration, Paley has wrought up into his masterly and inimitable work on Moral and Political Philosophy. The hint of the Horæ Paulinæ, perhaps the most cogent and convincing specimen of moral argumentation in the world, was, we believe, first suggested by Doddridge; the Evidences of Christianity are professedly a compilation, but so condensed and compacted, so illuminated and enforced, that it is impossible not to admire the matchless powers of the compiler’s genius in turning the patient drudgery of Lardner to such account.-Let not, however, these humble labourers in the cause of literature be despised; every man has his gift, and if the hands destined to carve the enrichments of a temple or to adjust its symmetries, had been previously condemned to dig the marble from the quarry, the Parthenon and the Pantheon would probably never have existed. The same character belongs to his last and perhaps bis most elaborate work, the Natural Theology. Here too Paley had his pioneers, as well as his forerunners; but his inimitable skill in arranging and condensing his matter, his peculiar turn for what may be termed
animal mechanics,' the aptness and the wit of his illustrations, and occasionally the warmth and the solemnity of his devotio., which, by an happy and becoming process, became more animated as he с с 3
drew nearer to the close of life, stamp on this work a character more valuable than originality itself.
In common life Dr. Paley was probably the most acute observer since Swift, but without a tincture of his malevolence. He was constitutionally and incurably cheerful; for pain itself, of which in his later years he was exercised with an abundant portion, could not shake his persuasion of the truth of his own maxim, that the present is an happy life.' He delighted in conversation, but in conversation without effort and without display. No man better knew how to expose what is called fine talking, or to laugh out of countenance a kind of semi-nonsense which shallow understandings, gorged with more knowledge than they can digest, are very apt to produce. If he suspected that a plan was laid to exhibit him, he delighted to disappoint it. Though accustomed from his early years to converse much with his superiors of the highest rank in the church, he never thought it worth while to dissemble or to controul his native humour any more than to correct his native dialect in their presence. Though modest and unambitious, he was perfectly independent. He had no art of rising but that of deserving to rise. All his preferments came unsought. He was • an economist upon principle,' and could therefore always afford to live without asking. The foundations of his great work on morality were laid in the rectitude of his own heart, as well as the clearness of his own head; for besides the most penetrating intuition into cases of conscience, his moral sense was in the highest degree lively and apprehensive.
• Compositum jus fasque animo sanctosque recessus
Mentis et incoctum generoso pectus honesto.' This last feeling, never bestowed on ordinary men, sometimes occasioned a certain degree of irritation from which minds and tempers of a coarser texture are exempt, and sometimes exposed him to the imputation of heat and violence, particularly in his opposition to the encroachments of a well known peer, and in his occasional rebukes of petty knavery or even stupidity which exercised him as a magistrate.
It is somewhat amusing to observe the embarrassment of modern reformers, and of Mr. Meadley among the rest, in their auxiety to press the name of Paley into their service. Too sagacious not to discover with them the manifold imperfections which adhere to every mode of human society, and too frank and open not to declare them, he had withall a faculty, which they do not possess, that of counting the cost of change. It was not a view to his own interests, but to those of his country, which taught him caution. He was never practically theirs; and at the tremendous crisis of
of his age.
the French revolution, his powerful and popular pen was emploved in persuading his countrymen, theu on the point of a similar esplosion, to understand and value the blessings which they already enjoyed.
Süll a cloud of suspicion long hung over him, and the prejudices of a great ecclesiastic in particular, are supposed to have obstructe ed his advancement; but it appears to be unknown to the biographer, (for we do not believe the fact to be injuriously concealed,) that at a later period Dr. Paley was actually proposed for an high station in the church by that great minister who, in this work, bas been treated with so much injustice; and that the disappointment proceeded from an higher quarter than before. Homely truths about rulers, uttered in blunt and uncourtly language, are not always, we believe, the first recommendations to high preferment: de peculiarities also of a man of genius render him less producia bile, and the jealousy eutertained of overbearing talents, when they have taken a political direction, leaves the way more open to those gainst whom nothing can be objected, than those for whom much way be urged. Thus unrewarded by public patronage was the most useful writer
Useful,' indeed, in the highest sense is the epithet to be annexed to the name of Paley: for such was bis happiness in the choice of subjects, so carefully did he avoid all matters of doubtful disputation, that, with very few exceptions, his works may be read with equal gratification by Christians of all denominations, and with equal advantage by unbelievers of every description.
As a philosopher and a friend (we mean not to exalt his character by the comparison) he had many points of resemblance to Socrates : for, setting aside his physiological knowledge, which the Grecian sage contemned, and the unspeakable advantages of Revelation, of which, in its lowest degree, we can scarcely persuade ourselves that he partook, ironical bumour, a disposition to instruct by asking questions, a fondness for colloquial pleasures in preference to those of taste, and a keen intuition into common life, equally characterised the English and the Attic moralist. The philosophy of both was common sense, and their study human nature. In point of utility, however, as living teachers, their spheres of
were not to be named together;--for who was benefited by the one :--Crito, Simmias, Cebes, and a few other virtuous and sensible men with whon their master's wisdom and his lessons stopped. The mass of the people at least received neither warning bor mformation. How different from the character of the man who instructed the future instructors of an whole people, and those too both numerous and in succession ! Nor, when they are considered as deceased teachers of mankind, can the charms in which the сс 4
delightful language of Plato or Xenophon has invested the dis courses of Socrates ever conceal the absence of that perfection of good sense, that irresistible cogency of reason, which belongs to the best moderns, and among them superlatively to Paley. In one word, whatever may be thought of this comparison by the idolaters of antiquity, and how coldly soever it may be received by strangers or by rivals, the members of his own university, and more especially his surviving friends, will see nothing in it to which their own bosons do not reverberate—nothing which they will not recognize as a faithful memorial-ανδρος, ως ημεις φαιμεν αν, των τοιε ων επειραθημεν αρισία και αλλως φρονιμωλαιο και δικαιολαΐe.
ART. IX. Tracts on Mathematical and Philosophical Sub
jects; comprising, among numerous important Articles, the Theory of Bridges, with several Plans of recent Improvement,
Also, the Result of numerous Experiments on the force of Gunpowder, with Applications to the modern Practice of Artillery. By Charles Hutton, LL. D. and F. R. S. &c. late Professor of Mathematics in the Royal Military Academy, Wool
wich. 3 vols. 8vo. pp. xii. 1254. Lond. Rivingtons, &c. 1812. DR. Hutton has been long known to the public as a most active
and useful writer on mathematical and philosophical topics. He now comes forward at the advanced age of 75, and, by the revision of what he considers as the most valuable of his original pieces, and the addition of some new ones, has formed the present collection, which he seems to regard (though in this we sincerely hope he will be mistaken) as his last legacy to the public.
' It is,' he says, with his characteristic simplicity,' in all probability, the last original work that I may ever be able to offer to the notice of the public, and I am, therefore, the more anxious that it should be found worthy of their acceptance and regard. To their kind indulgence, indeed, is due whatever success I may have experienced, both as an author and teacher, for more than half a century: and it is no small satisfaction to reflect, that my humble endeavours, during that period, have not been wholly unsuccessful in the diffusion of useful knowledge.
To the same liberal encouragement of the public must likewise be ascribed, in a great measure, the means of the comfortable retirement which I now enjoy, towards the close of a long and laborious life; and for which I have every reason to be truly thankful.'
The tracts before us relate to a great variety of subjects. Some of them have already appeared in the Philosophical Transactions, or in detached works, but are now greatly modified and improved : and the volumes contain so much that is valuable, and indeed so
much that is new, thạt we are inclined to enter somewhat at large into an analysis of their contents.
The first six tracts relate to the theory of arches and piers, and the construction of bridges. Of these, the first is a treatise which made its appearance at Newcastle, in 1772, and was again published in 1801, on occasion of the project of an iron bridge over the Thames. It is now considerably improved. The theory is extended; the practical maxims enlarged; with the addition of the principles of dome-vaulting: so that, altogether, though we are persuaded that much yet remains to be done, we have no hesitation in terming it far the most complete and useful view of the subject which has yet been exhibited in any language. The three next in succession relate to London bridge, and the 5th contains. Answers to Questions proposed by the Select Committee of Parliament, relative to a proposal for erecting a new Iron Bridge, of a single arch, over the Thames, at London, 1801. This is followed by a very amusing and instructive history of iron bridges; with neat wood engravings of those at Colebrook Dale, Buildwas, and Bristol, &c. and interspersed with several valuable remarks on the relative advantages and disadvantages of iron and stone bridges.
The 7th, 8th, and 9th Tracts, are on the subject of infinite series. The first of these is principally explanatory, pointing out the different characters of converging, diverging, and neutral series, and showing what may be indicated by the word sum of a series, so that the definition shall be free from the difficulties with which it has usually been encumbered.
The second of these exhibits a new and very ingenious method for the valuation of such numeral infinite series as bave their terms alternately plus and minus, by taking continual arithmetical means between the successive terms, and again between those means, and so on. This method is applied to the summation of some very slowly converging series, such as I–}+1-4+1-, &c. .. ;-+-+-, &c. to the values of which it approximates with comparative expedition.
The third developes a method of summing the series a + bx+ cra + d 2: + erat, &c. when it converges very slowly, which it will do whenever x is nearly equal to 1, and the coefficients a, b, c, &c. decrease very slowly. The method is this. Assune = the given series a + b x + cx? + d x3 +, &c. theu sball
a? a + bx+cret. c; which, by actual division is, = anbe
2bd +62 36%C (0-0) 2 (d :) x 3 (e