« AnteriorContinuar »
touch of the hand; and yet to conclude that water could not be frozen there, or any where else, against the direct testimony of veracious eye-witnesses, would be considered as ridiculous and absurd. Here, then, Mr. Hume has been at the pains to exhibit his own infallible rule in the act of discrediting the existence of facts, which he and all of us acknowledge to be of notorious and ordinary occurrence.—To say, that the rule cannot be applicable to cases in which the laws of nature are not suspended, is surely to draw distinctions where ordinary eyes can see no difference; for if the rule is applicable to one class of facts which lie without the regular course of things, we are utterly incapable of perceiving why it should apply to others which are in the very same predicament. A miracle may be called the sublime of extraordinary phenomena; but from that point there are almost infinite degrees of strangeness and rarity; and if the rule of deduction and balancing' is applicable to the one, we cannot find a good reason why it should not be so to all the rest. Certainly the language in which his principle is expressed does not recognize any such distinction:-And whether, upon the whole, this rule of Hume's ought to be “an everlasting check’ to our belief in well attested miracles, we shall leave our readers to determine.
We have to observe, in quitting this subject, that notwithstanding the many absurdities which, in our opinion, are the unavoidable consequences of the sceptical philosophy, we believe it to be a logical and fair deduction from the metaphysical systems of the profoundest philosophers who preceded Hume: and we venture to assert, that there is hardly a proposition in the whole Inquiry concerning Human Understanding which may not be ultimately traced to Locke's erroneous doctrine about ideas. The scepticism of Hume unfortunately took the wrong direction;—inasmuch, as, instead of doubting the validity of the principles upon which the received system was founded, he credulously took the whole for granted, and only busied his ingenuity in the superstruction of such doctrines as he clearly perceived must find support in those principles. Had he asked himself the question, whether, in fact, the ideas in our minds are copies or resemblances of external phenomenag-his sagacity would have soon reduced him to a negative answer; for when he came to run over a variety of ideas, which his inquisitive mind would have done immediately, he would have discovered that, the greatest part of those ideas could not possibly be endowed with figure. Our notions of hardness, colour, heat,--and, indeed, all those ideas which are not obtained through the single sense of sight, have nothing in them that can be conceived to resemble the objects from which they are derived. It was left for Dr. Reid to make this discovery; and it is only by reasoning similar to that of which he is the author, that we are enabled to break up the foundations, and consequently to overthrow the fabric, of Hume's philosophical speculations. And here we take occasion to repeat, that they are speculations merely. In action we should, perhaps, accord exactly with the sceptic; and it is only from his philosophy that we should profess our dissent. “Cum Patrone Epicureo mihi omnia sunt: nisi quod in philosophia vehementer ab eo dissentio.' Cic. ad Memmium.
Essay III.-On the Modern Abuse of Moral Fiction, in the Shape of Novels.-As we have taken up so much room with the general subject of human knowledge, it will be necessary to dismiss, in few words, that part which is treated of in this essay:-And it is a necessity to which we the more cheerfully submit, both because our author has not thrown much new light upon the abuse of fiction, and because, as he promises a subsequent essay, upon the Theory of this species of Literature, we can, at some future period, bring the whole discussion under one and the same view. In the mean time, however, we shall give a brief sketch of what Mr. Ogilvie has done here; premising only, that the tenor of the whole performance is rather that of declamation than of reasoning.
The first part is occupied with an enumeration of the many rare circumstances which must combine to form a distinguished novelist. And with all his observations on this subject our own opinion would have entirely coincided, had they not been vitiated by his peculiar ideas concerning cause and effect. To us it is very manifest, that a good moral fiction must be the result of all that is excellent in history, in biography, in the drama, and in every other department of literature which relates to the conduct and transactions of men. It is entirely of modern origin; and seems, indeed, to be the very consummation of literature and philosophy. The historian and the biographer have only to work upon the materials and to employ the colouring which are already furnished to their hands:—the novelist must not only be equal to both in the skill of application,—but invent his own materials, and compose his own colouring. To detail with perspicuity and elegance the facts which are recondited and preserved by others, is comparatively so easy a task, that a person of very limited experience might perform it with success; but to institute the whole story and concatenate, in a probable way, the various incidents of which it is made up, so as to make them terminate in one great and consummate event, is a work that requires a very extensive acquaintance with the experience of others, joined to a long course of close personal investigation into men and things, Moral fiction is, therefore, the very last department into which we should advise an author to hazard his steps:--and yet, as it purely is the work of the imagination, and as the imaginative faculty is in the most vivid and constant exercise during the season of youth, a novel is almost invariably the first offering which a writer imposes on the altar of taste.
Youth, too, is the very season in which the imagination is the least capable, and the least inclined, to observe any of Horace's rules: and hence it is, that the great part of modern novels are stuffed with monstrous actors and incredible adventures. Perhaps we are oftener moved by hair-springs, than by levers;--and, in general, it requires a pretty long experience and a well practised eye to detect and reveal these subtile motives of human conduct. Extraordinary native powers, combined with good education and frequent opportunities, may sometimes render even a youth capable of penetrating, through the actions of men, to the hidden and evanescent causes by which they are produced: but the examples are rare; and, as a general proposition, it is indubitable that the youthful mind has very little cognizance of any motives or causes, except such as are distant, obvious, and palpable. When young persons undertake the production of a novel, therefore, they are incapable of connecting and interweaving the various parts of the story according to the model of actual life. The threads of the fabric are not interlaced and run into each other like the real conduct and events of the world;—but are employed to sew the different incidents to one another, in a clumsy, though gorgeous, patchwork,--late qui splendeat unus et alter assuitur pannus.-Unfortunately, however, these very productions are exhibited to eyes as little capable as those of the authors themselves, to perceive any thing artificial or uneven in the conjunctions, by which the piece is held together. And thus it happens, that, notwithstanding the constant violation of nature in the great body of novels, they are a species of literary works which is more abundantly and more extensively circulated, than, perhaps, any other whatsoever. Old men of taste are very select and fastidious in the perusal of novels; but the omnivorous maw of youth devours indiscriminately whatever is thrown into it.
At present we can enter no farther into the subject. We have only to observe, in a general way,--that the whole of the essay under review is an exaggerated representation of the evil effects produced by the reading of modern fictitious narratives. Indeed, we apprehend, that old men in general are apt to run into exaggeration on the subject of novel-reading. We are not
about to deny that its effects are very extensively pernicious; but we believe the evils attending it are not unitormly of the character which is the most frequently given them. The influence of principles imbibed from a novel, does not always manifest itself in the direct way of moulding the thoughts and actions of the reader. So rarely have fictitious works been able to form and fashion the whole character, that a romantic person is proverbially a subject of remark: and indeed we might conclude, a priori, that unless a reader wasted a great deal more of his time in the perusal of novels, than he spent in the avocations and realities of sober life, the principles of action derived from the former could never predominate over those which he must imbibe from the latter. Nothing so soon abridges the flights of imagination, as engagement in the real business and concerns of life; and no person has ever been distinguished for romantic conduct,--unless he has lived in the regions of fiction and read novels all the days of his life. Indirectly, however, the perusal of novels is calculated to do mischief. It is, in the first place, a useless and criminal waste of time; and is fitted, in the second place, to unhinge good habits and dissipate all sober reflection. The evil tendency of the principles generally inculcated in such productions, we readily acknowledge; but we somewhat question the extent which is commonly ascribed to their actual effects; and, for our own parts, we should, in general, reprobate their perusal as much for their dulness, as for their immorality.
We have now gone through a pretty thorough examination of Mr. Ogilvie's book. As it is the first of the same character which has issued from the American press, we felt ourselves bound to detail at considerable length the reasons of the opinion we should form of its merits: and if we have not been able to keep up the attention of our readers throughout so dry and abstruse an article, we must console ourselves with the reflection that we have at least discharged our duties towards the writer, whose book led us into the discussion. Whenever we have dissented from Mr. Ogilvie, we have endeavoured to give a reason for our dissent: And instead of keeping at a distance from the subject, and indulging ourselves in sweeping expressions of general contempt for his powers and his performance, we have entered the lists and grappled with him fairly. Whatever opinion we shall finally pronounce, therefore, is the result of deliberate and candid in sestigation. We think Mr. Ogilvie is capable of writing forcibly und of reasoning closely:--but we are very certain that los present effort will never ensure him 'extensive and permanent celcbuity as a philosophical writer.' His work contains but very little original thought: what little there is, cannot lay claim to the praise of being very pro. found or very accurate; and the language in which he has delivered the whole is too loose and turgid to be philosophical.
His sentences are in general too long. We have found him employing some words which are not English,--such as “auspicate,' volant,' mysogyny,' with a few others; and he frequently joins words, which are English, in what we consider as an awkward way,--such as 'mind-awakening,' life-loathing,' • fact-inverting,' spirit-stirring,' .pain-enduring,' truth-tem- , pered,'' and a great many others; which might be admitted in poetry, but should never be tolerated in prose. He is too fond of adopting the language of other authors; and repeats very common-place quotations a great deal too often. Thus the expressions, 'nature and nature's God,' mind's eye,' our Father who is in heaven,' “ laudum immensa cupido,' waste its sweetness on the desart air,' and we know not how many others are repeated on every convenient occasion.--There is a great deal of extravagant declamation in the notes; and although Mr. Ogilvie • disdains mercy,' we shall not be so cruel as to extract any of his wild passages. We suspect they were indited while he was under the operation of some powerful stimulus; and, if we understand his characteristic temperament, we should advise him to abstain from composition whenever he has been taking opium, or reading Paradise Lost.
Art II.-Travels into various countries of Europe, Asia, and
Africa. By Edward Daniel Clarke, LL.D. Part II. Greece, Egypt, and the Holy Land.--From the Eclectic Review
(Continued from p. 424. vol. viii.) DR. Clarke expresses a lively and indignant regret at that pro
cess by which the cupidity of British taste was, at the time of his sojourn, despoiling the temple of Minerva of the last moveable decorations of its ruins. Lusieri was the reluctant director of the operations, and he said that a corresponding dislike to the proceeding, in the Turkish inhabitants, much obstructed his progress in the dilapidation of a building which they had been accustomed to regard with religious veneration, and had converted into a mosque. It is not however pretended that this attachment to the edifice had the slightest possible regard to the beauty of its sculptures. Indeed it is quite certain there could be no such feeling among the generality of the Mahomedans, whether rabble or quality, --if it be worth while to distinguish ranks that are intellectually on a level. The regret and displeasure of these iconoclast remonstrants probably took but little higher account of the matter, than that so much