Text: N. C. Brooks (???), “The Atlantis [part 2]” [Text-02], American Museum (Baltimore, MD), vol. I, no. 2, October 1838, pp. 222-255


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The great Festival in Saturnia.

As this was the great festival in which the Atlantians celebrated the day in which their government was changed from a monarchy to a republic, and their present constitution established, Dr. Franklin called at my hotel about twelve o’clock, to take me with him in paying his visit, and presenting his compliments to the Chief Magistrate and his assistant officers. We found President Washington in a splendid mansion, not unlike the palace of our Executive, surrounded by his secretaries, foreign ministers, judges of the courts, members of the Senate and House of Representatives, commanders of the army, distinguished clergymen of all denominations of religion, and a most interesting assemblage of philosphers, authors, poets, and artists of all nations. I felt my mind elevated and heart expanded by the spectacle, and, in fact, I was thrown into a delirium of delight which language would fail in describing. I was, as usual, immediately introduced by Dr. Franklin to General Washington, by whose side stood the venerable forms of Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, and others. The chief of the republic received us with that majestic courtesy and dignified suavity of manner for which he was so distinguished in this world. I was soon engaged in interesting conversation with him and his attendant compatriots. Jefferson and Hamilton eagerly inquired about the present condition of the American republic. General Hamilton, with his customary frankness, acknowledged that his opinions had undergone some change in regard to the efficiency and probable stability of our republican institutions. He said that the organization of a government into which were so largely incorporated the principles of civil liberty, at first, greatly alarmed him, and filled his mind with anxiety as to its probable destiny; but he allowed that, in imbibing these impressions he had been too much prejudiced by the ablest European authors. The long experience of its competency to all purposes of a regular government, and the wonderful tranquillity with which the nation had advanced in greatness and prosperity, he now admitted, entitled it to the highest respect and confidence, and [page 223:] his hopes had become sanguine of its ultimate success. He thought in the latter part of his life, that the prospects of the United States were very lowering, and the storm of a civil war nigh at hand, and this he alleged as the predominant motive “which induced him to yield to the summons of Colonel Burr, who brought him to his end: no other consideration, he declared, could have induced him to set an example of the pernicious custom of duelling, against all his moral and religious convictions, but that of preserving his reputation for bravery untarnished as the leader of the American army.

Turning to General Washington, I then remarked, that it must be a subject of peculiar satisfaction to him to find that the country whose battles he had fought, and whose constitution of government he had so largely contributed first to found and then set into successful operation, had so greatly increased in wealth, strength, and greatness. Yes, he said, he reflected with inexpressible pleasure upon the part he had performed in the American Revolution and in the subsequent conduct of the government, and he considered the patriots of his country as having set a noble example to the world; they had introduced a new era in the history of mankind, and taught statesmen and philanthropists as well by example as precept, the possibility and advantages of establishing and maintaining a popular government. He hoped that this lesson would not be lost in the world, and that his fellow-citizens would be duly sensible of the immense responsibility which now rested on them of proving to the whole earth that free institutions do not lead unavoidably to disorder and licentiousness, and that the utmost advantages of the social condition may be obtained, while the people are allowed the most supreme controul over their own destiny.

Turning to Mr. Jefferson, then, I asked his opinion concerning the present state and future prospects of the American republic; he answered that, he had never entertained a doubt that our free institutions might be maintained and perpetuated, provided the citizens were faithful to themselves. But, he had remarked, that some of his fellow-citizens seemed to be distinguished by a culpable diffidence of their own institutions. They were very sensitive to the slightest evils which were experienced under the influence of their liberty, but by no means so sharp-sighted in discerning and rightly estimating the blessings they enjoyed. In the view of the two opposite parties, there was, every few years, a great crisis brought on in political affairs, by the casual turn of [page 224:] which the republic was to be saved or destroyed; and if any alight commotions were excited in any part of. the country, if mobs committed irregularities and the laws were outraged by small companies of enraged men, these events were always ascribed to the inefficiency of laws, the downfall of the government was sagaciously predicted, and the necessity of a stronger polity, confidently inferred. In the same spirit unimportant bickerings and contests between the States were to be followed by a dissolutiou of the confederacy. This, he regarded as a most mistaken and inauspicious tendency of the American mind. When commotions and rebellions have arisen in England, or any of the European monarchies, no one thought of its leading to a dissolution of the government, or considered it as an indication of its imbecility or ineompetency to its own support. The fact is, continued Mr. Jefferson, that since the formation of our constitution no government upon earth has met with so few obstacles to impede its operations, and such cheerful acquiescence and cordial support from the people. Were the parts of any European monarchy as extensive as the American empire, separated as this last is, into distinct sovereignties, and held together by as slender ties, it would soon be shattered into unnumbered fragments, by disaffection and rebellion. The bond which unites the States, is a real and cordial attachment to their free institutions, a preference of their form of government, and a deep conviction in their minds, that, by no changes could their condition be improved; while, by the destruction of their political fabric, they would pull clown upon their heads endless miseries and irretrievable ruin.

What are we, I said, to do with the subject of slavery and abolition, which is now agitating the republic, and which seems more ominous of future mischi f, than any that has awakened public attention since the commencement of our career as a nation? This is, indeed, replied he, a case of most unexcted difficulty and extraordinary infatuation. Who would ave thought that, after this matter had been thoroughly understood and definitively settled by the framers of our constitution, there could be raised a doubt as to the duty imposed upon the several States and the General Government, in reference to those members of the confederation upon which this evil inheritance has been entailed? Have the non-slaveholding States any thing to do with this institution? Is it not in its nature entirely domestic, and does any responsibility rest upon them to exert themselves for its abolition? Can any thing be more evident, than that this is an affair which ought to be left entirely at the disposal of the slaveholding [page 225:] States themselves, and with which no foreign or confederate power ought to interferes? Between separate and independent nations of Europe, such measures as have been allowed in some of our States, and such direct and dangerous interference with the peace and safety of each other, would be justly regarded as sufficient cause of non-intercourse or war; and shall States connected to each other by such strong and beneficial ties expect to avail themselves of that very connection or affiliation to molest, harass, and convulse their sister communities? It is an insupportable interference.

I am told, exclaimed General Hamilton, that these abolitionists, besides resting their claims upon the foundation of the equal rights of mankind, are inspired with a religious fanaticism, and deem it a part of their bounden duty, as Christians, to extirpate slavery in the southern States. Dr. Clake [[Clarke]], continued he, (turning to Dr. Samuel Clarke, who was near us,) is slaver incompatible with the doctrines of the Gospel; and cannot slaver incompatible and Christianity be allowed peaceably to exist together in the same country? They certainly cannot be said, replied Dr. Clarke, to be absolutely incompatible with each other, since, in all ages, they have been found together and in perfect concord; but it must be admitted that slavery is at variance with the spirit, although not the letter of the Gospel. The whole strain of Gospel doctrines and precepts is opposed to the absolute dominion of one portion of our race over another, and recognizes a perfect equality of conditions, rights, and privileges among the members of the church; but, nevertheless, Christ and his apostles, who professed that their kingdom was not of this world, did not attempt to intermeddle in this affair, regarding it as a part of civil regulation, and leaving it to every state to adopt its own laws, and conform to the prevailing opinions and habits. In his sermons and instructions Christ adverts to the existence of slavery without prohibiting it, and the Apostles give positive and frequent directions concerning their moral conduct, both to masters and servants. There is no marked or perceptible hostility to slavery in the sacred Scriptures, but there is no doubt, that in a truly christain community, it ought to be mitigated and finally abolished as soon as it can be done consistently with the peace, order and advantage of the nation.

At this moment, other gentlemen approaching to be introduced to the President and his officers, I passed with Dr. Franklin to that portion of the room which was occupied by the ladies, at the head of whom I found Mrs. Washington, for the American General was among the few who had renewed [page 226:] their matrimonial alliance with their former spouses, and proved themselves less prone to novelty and the search of strange faces in pursuit of partners. I congratulated Mrs. Washington on her present position in this wonderful republic, and hoped she found the honours conferred upon her husband as gratifying as those which he had enjoyed in his own country. She said, that those honours were even more delightful to her, since the former estimation in which he was held might be regarded as in some degree the result of the prejudices of his countrymen on account of the station which e occupied, and the benefits he had conferred, but the present high value set upon him, could have its foundation solely in his merits as a man. She, then, introduced me to Mrs. Jefferson, who had been in France, the celebrated Madame De Stael, with whose charms of person and conversation our President had been smitten soon after his arrival in these dominions. I then remarked to both these ladies, that affairs were strangely altered in this world from what they were in their farmer state of existence, and the whole order of society was turned topsy-turvy, — there were kings, princes, nobles, popes and cardinals, converted into servants and inferior tradesmen and mechanics, and the ladies of the highest distinction, queens, princesses and dutchesses, acting as serving women, nurses and chamber maids. All former titles, honours, and distinctions seemed to be here utterly forgotten. I had this very morning been drawn through the streets by the former Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, and was told he who cleaned my shoes at my hotel, was the notorious Caesar Borgia. Mrs. Jefferson laughed heartily at my surprise, and exclaimed, yes — this is an admirable improvement in the state of society its Saturnia. Men and women here hold rank only in proportion to the virtues and talents, they displayed in their former lives, and they who were execrable for their vices, are first punished by positive sufferings, and then condemned to obscurity and indigence. This is admirable, said I, and the very purpose which I wished to see accomplished in our republic. It would be attained, too, if the people who are always honest and disinterested could be made acquainted with their best men and ablest patriots. Party spirit, and the arts and intrigues of demagogues, are all that now prevent this delightful consummation. I fervently trust, that as information is more generally diffused among the community, they will learn to discriminate their purest patriots, and honest benefactors. Towards this great result your country, as well as ours and England, are rapidly advancing. But do you not find that these tyrants, kings, [page 227:] who were despots — and men and women formerly of high degree, are troublesome malcontents and promoters of sedition and revolt? Do they not occasion incessant commotion, and uneasiness in the empire? Oh! yes, replied Mrs. Washington, they have several times attempted to disturb the public peace, but such is the intelligence of the community, and the vast body of able men and the capacity of those military chieftains, who are among the honourable in our country, that their attempts have been speedily suppressed. In this event, their leaders are banished to our frontiers to re el the invasion of barbarians who molest us, and clear the woods of wild beasts, while the humbler portion of them are condemned to work on the highways and public buildings. The use we here make of all those conquerors, who once desolated the old world with the sword, and filled happy countries with misery and blood, is to keep them at their favourite trade of war with savages and wild beasts. When in this warfare, they have expiated their former atrocities, become sickened at heart with the shedding of human blood, and completely reformed, it is the intention of our rulers to allow them the privileges and honours of citizenship.

A company of ladies now pressing forward to pay their respects to Mrs. Washington and her associates, Dr. Franklin bore me onwards through a crowd of the illustrious of all kinds, of good. kings and princes, who had lived for the honour of their people, of philosophers, poets, authors, orators, painters, sculptors, clergymen, statesmen and warriors. On one hand I saw Newton, who had in his new state found time to marry the lad! Caroline, consort of George the first, formerly his great admirer; on another, Locke with his spouse, lady Masham, at whose hospitable mansion he had spent the last years of his life. Here was Dr. Samuel Johnson escorting Miss Hannah More, to whom he had been married a short time before, there was Pope with his former charmer, Mrs. Blount, and Dryden with Pope’s mother, who had long been the mistress of his house, and had presented him several children, at whose union the great philosophical poet declared he had derived as great happiness as at any event which could have happened to him. In wandering through the rooms, I was successively struck with the heads of David and Solomon, of Cicero, of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and a long list of those venerable names which are uttered with enthusiasm by every learned tongue, and embalmed in every philanthropic heart. It would be an endless task to enter into a minute detail of the company present upon this occasion. Suffice it to say, it included all great [page 228:] discoverers and promoters of science, all the eminent in letters, and all the great masters in the arts, as well as all who had filled the world with their renown by virtuous exertions in peace or war, in the cabinet or field, in church or state. I was peculiarly struck with the beautiful figure of Milton, with the head of Shakspeare, with the keen eye of Sophocles, and the almost angelic faces of Raphael and Michael Angelo, the expression of whose countenances seemed to give us an idea of embodied divinities. I had not time upon this occasion of a mere formal party attracted together by the head of the republic, to enter into conversation, save with a very few, or even to examine with accuracy their form and features. With some of them I shall render the reader more familiarly acquainted in the sequel. Suffice it to say for the present, that among all the distinguished classes, I found the claims of my countrymen duly acknowledged, and. after taking my leave departed home with a rapture untried before.


A Visit to the Library. — Events in the Hotel.

UPON my return to the hotel, as I passed through the entry leading to my room, I was witness to a scene, which considering the notot ions characters of the persons concerned, afforded me no small share of amusement. I saw two women, domestics of the house, whom I found to be Messalina, the former abandoned Empress of Rome, and the lady Macbeth of Shakspeare, engage in furious battle with each other, and raising a tremendous caterwauling. Hair had been torn from each others head, bosoms were laidrbare by being divested of their ornamental coverings, while blood was flowing profusely down upon their clothes from bruised noses and scratched faces. At the moment in which I approached, and was about to interfere, and attempt to offer overtures of pacification, Macbeth himself had arrived from the kitchen, of which he was chief cook, and separated the parties. It appeared, that the contest had arisen from reproachful language used by the two fallen Queens, the one accusing the other of the murder of her good King Duncan, and the other applying to Messalina all those epithets of dishonour, which however, well deserved, sound very, harshly in a lady’s ear, and awake very, unfeminine emotions and passions. The only words that were heard by me, after I became a spectator of the Amazonian warfare, were the denial of Mrs. Macbeth of having been so deeply involved in the murder of Duncan, as that [page 229:] d —— d English poet, she said, had represented her, as it had been committed by Macbeth himself to obtain the sovereionty. She declared, that if ever she met with that villain, Shakspeare, and had a fair opportunity, she would make him feel the weight of her hand, and his eyes be made the worse by the sharpness of her nails.

This scene led me into a train of moralizing reflections upon the singular destiny of man, and the immense advantages which result to mankind from virtue and the mischiefs produced by vice. If this sentiment had always been deeply impressed upon my mind in the lower world, how strongly is it here confirmed. What a change of condition for a King and Queen of Scotland, and a Roman Empress? The recollection of lost happiness, and perception of present abasement to such proud spirits must be extreme misery. And if their sufferings be such in this state of transmigration, what will be their torments in that general resurrection which is revealed to us in holy writ? Could mankind, I inwardly ejaculated, but witness what I see in this world, the glorious rewards which are distributed to virtue, and the pains inflicted upon vice, the fancy of a millenium would be realized upon earth.

As soon as I reached my room, I rang for a servant and inquired of him the direction to the city library, which having obtained, I proceeded to examine it, and spend the remaining hours of the morning in looking over some works of amusement and instruction. I found this establishment the largest of the kind I had ever beheld, containing many hundred thousand volumes of the choicest productions of human genius. The books were well bound, and conveniently arranged upon shelves, and the spacious rooms which contained them were crowded with gentlemen, who appeared to be deeply engaged in the perusal of different authors, and from whose expressive countenances and fine proportioned heads, as I was always somewhat of a phisiognomist, I concluded they, were men of high pretensions in science and literature. Perceiving Dr. Franklin among the crowd, I soon made my, way to him, and entering into conversation, he introduced me to Dr. Samuel Johnson, who stood next to him, anti in company with this last venerable sage, I then traversed the library, engaged in animated discourse concerning the characteristics of the authors, whose works we successively reviewed. The following was the conversation which now passed between us, which as it was interesting to me at the time, may not be lightly estimated by the reader who is devoted to scientific and literary pursuits. As I did not exercise the [page 230:] diligence, nor feel the enthusiasm of Boswell in collecting the very expressions of the great moralist, I can communicate only the substance of the dialogue, without retaining his peculiarities of style and language.

What do you think, doctor, said I, of the progress of science and literature, since your time? Do you admit that late writers have improved upon, or fallen short of the models set them by their predecessors?

Sir, replied he, since the days of Addison, Swift, Steele, and their contemporaries, as well as immediate predecessors in England, and the age of Lewis 14th, in Prance, taste has considerably declined, and authors, both in poetry and prose have exhibited much less perfect models. It would seem as if science and letters, like every other human ,thing, are subjected to regular laws by which they rise, grow to maturity and perfection, and then sink into declension, imbecility and decrepitude, and final downfall. There are philosophical causes to be assigned for these results. When men commence the cultivation of science and letters, having few aids to facilitate their progress, they have to undergo immense toil, to trust to their own resources, and ply their faculties with the utmost energy and assiduity to the task, and by these means the soundest and greatest works are produce But when books are multitudinous, and the reading of mankind greatly diversified, instead of mastering a few studies by diligent application, their literary curiosity is occupied, and their minds effeminated, by diversity of reading and superficial attainments. If in this condition of their understandings they attempt to write, it is but the reproduction of those ideas they have accumulated by cursory reading, or the endless crudities, whimsies, and follies which have sprung out of them.

Are not also, said I, effeminacy, affectation, refinement and excessive decoration, the natural results of an overflowing literature?

As natural, replied he, as excessive luxury is the product of exorbitant wealth in a nation, or as spiceries, high seasonings, and over-refinements in cookery, are the products of a superabundant larder and the choicest articles of living. Shakspeare, Milton, Dryden, and Pope, in poetry, Locke, Addison, Swift, and Bolingbroke, in prose, with their numerous coadjutors, supplied my country with all the legitimate ornaments of style, and the most finished specimens of composition; since that time, with many honourable exceptions, men of genius have been betrayed into every species of affectation, refinement and gaudy decoration. [page 231:]

At this moment, I took from the shelf, Gibbon’s history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, and said, what think you of this as a production of its hind? It is a work, replied he, of prodigious research, and of very uncommon merit, but I cannot approve of its artificial style and excessive embellishments. He seems to have been earnest and diligent in the quest of well established facts, while his fondness for elegant description and ornamental colouring, awake a natural suspicion of his accuracy in detail, and his disposition is but too apparent to sacrifice the naked truth to his desire of exhibiting specimens of fine writing. The historian should relate his facts and furnish all his materials of instruction, with the artless simplicity and perfect candour and impartiality of an honest man, who has no other object in view but to convey accurate information and sound lessons of wisdom. He detracts from our respect and confidence, as soon as he discovers an overweening propensity to indulge in rounded periods and highly :finished delineations of character and events. Were the history of Mr. Gibbon reduced to one-half its bulk,-and the information it contains conveyed in a neat, simple and intelligible style, it would be doubly increased in value. As it is, it has greatly contributed to the excessive fondness among late writers, for pomp of diction, flowery declamation, and meretricious beauty.

What do you think of the comparative claims of him and Mr. Hume?

The style of Mr. Hume is not subject to the exceptions which may be taken to those of Gibbon, but our best historians here impugn the accuracy of his knowledge in regard to the facts he details. His history of England, however, must be admitted to be a delightful performance. I could never peruse his other works with any kind of satisfaction, and his metaphysical productions are absolutely detestable — with a wonderful appearance of profundity, they are shallow and superficial. He tries to puzzle his readers with difficulty and obscurity, where plain common sense would render all as clear as daylight. An able writer is one who brings light out of obscurity, and not, he who casts obscurity into that which is clear. I will give you an instance, in which Mr. Hume presents a show of deep penetration, while, in fact, those who are versed in the subject which he speaks, know that he only reveals his own ignorance and imbecility. After disparaging his own taste and sound understanding by an undervaluation of Locks, he says of Newton, that while he “seemed to draw off the veil from some of the mysteries of nature, he showed at the same time the imperfections of the [page 232:] mechanical philosophy, and thereby restored her ultimate secrets to tat obscurity in which they ever did and ever will remain.” This is flourishing phraseology, but by no means a just observation. How did Newton’s system of gravitation ’show the imperfection of the mechanical philosophy? It rather disclosed to us its wonderful power and perfection, as it brought us acquainted with the solar system. Will it be said, that Hume means to affirm, that while Newton discovered the true system of nature, he acknowledged himself unable to deduce the cause of gravitation, and thus revealed the imperfection of the mechanical philosophy, and restored this ultimate secret of nature to that obscurity in which it ever did and ever will remain? But Newton himself did not think the cause of gravitation an ultimate secret of nature, which could never be discovered, since in one of his queries, he suggests, that it may be occasioned by a thin elastic fluid, pervading the whole system, and reaching to the very centre of the sun and planets. The great discovery of Newton, therefore, not only seemed to do so, but did certainly draw off the veil from some of the mysteries of nature, while so far from disclosing the imperfection, it unfolded the amazing power of the mechanical philosophy — nor did his system restore any of the ultimate secrets of nature to that obscurity in which they must always lie buried, since the impossibility of comprehending these by the perspicacity of the human mind, has always been recognized by philosophers.

Here, said I, turning from this discussion concerning history, what is the estimation in which you Saturnian literati hold the works of of the most popular of all our recent authors, Sir Walter Scott?

That we must leave to the decision of Mr. Pope and Mr. Richardson, replied the doctor, both of whom, the poet and novelist, now approached and were introduced to my acquaintance. What is your opinion, Mr. Pope, of Sir Walter Scott, as a poet? He has opened all the sluices, surely, of popularity in his time, and his numerous pieces have been devoured with unexampled avidity.

I am not surprised at his success, answered the great philosophical poet. He has a fine imagination, and most excellent moral feelings. The contributions which he made to literature are of that light, romantic, and agreeable kind, which captivate a much larger class of readers than the more solid and instructive performances of the muse. I cannot say that his poems afford me a high gratification. They are too wild, discursive, and marvellous for my taste. — I desire [page 233:] more substantial nutriment to feed the understanding. He has, however, thrown the wild legends of his country, and all their superstitious follies, into attractive shapes, and to those who seek only amusement, he has furnished a pungent and delicious repast.

Do you think that he ought to be ranked among the greatest poets of England, as he is undoubtedly, by his countrymen and contemporaries?

Pope. — That I cannot say. Poets, like other classes of writers and great men, ought to be divided into different orders, according to their several degrees of merit. From the time of Horace,. it has been a received maxim, that to entitle an author to the highest honours of his vocation, he must unite the useful with the agreeable. He whose supreme purpose is to amuse or entertain, although having a fair claim to his share of praise, as in order to accomplish this much he must be endowed with uncommon parts, but surely can never be regarded as entering into competition with him, who aims at enlightening the understanding with the finest lessons of wisdom, confirms mankind in the principles of virtue, supplies them with the richest treasures of thought, and softens and improves their moral feelings. I consider Sir Walter, therefore, as holding a high rank among the second grade of poets, but having no pretensions to a place among the first. What think you, Mr. Richardson, of his rank as a novelists? It is your province to settle that controversy. I consider him as holding the same rank in prose, returned Mr. Richardson, as you have assigned him in poetry. His novels are impressed with the same characteristic traits as his poetic compositions, and the first are nearly transcripts or copies of the last. In no attempt has he compassed my full idea of a novelist. The just conception of a novel is, that it is a comprehensive fable, intended to convey good moral lessons for the improvement of mankind, through the machinery of characters and incidents, a regular plan of action, and faithful delineations of human life and manners. Without a useful moral import, it is nothing worth. Separate from the purpose of admonition and instruction, it is as idle and unmeaning an effort of genius, as it would have been in Esop [[Æsop]], to set his beasts and birds into conversation, without aiming at his morals. Such conversations might furnish diversion to the ignorant and illiterate, even more diversion than his present fables, but to men of sense, must ever be contemptible.

But, has not Sir Walter attained this end, I interposed? May not moral instructions be extracted from his romances? [page 234:]

Richardson answered, undoubtedly the reader may sometimes perform this useful office for himself, but what I complain of is, that this is never the purpose of the writer. His intent is to amuse, excite, and interest, absorb attention and agitate the heart — and when these effects are produced. his end seems to be fulfilled. It would appear, when he wrote, as if his great object was to multiply his readers, and reap emolument from his pen. Le Sage, in the commencement of his Gil Bias, has given a correct idea of a good novel. Without moral meaning, all its characters and events may, be interesting, but it wants the soul of the licentiate.

This is sound doctrine, said Dr. Johnson, and expresses my opinion. And I say, moreover, that every novel should exhibit one hero, who is a model of virtue, upon which man kind may form their characters. In perusing a work of fiction, the heart naturally looks out for such an example upon which to fix its affection and the understanding to command its approbation, and if this be found wanting, it first experiences disappointment, and then has a tendency to become reconciled with imperfect characters, and slide into an admiration of villains with some shining properties. On this account, without wishing to put Mr. Richardson’s modesty to the blush, I have always regarded his Sir Charles Grandison, and Clarissa Harlow, as the noblest productions of this kind that ever issued from the press in any age or country. Next to these is the Gil Bias of Le Sage, and the most abominable abortion is the Eloise of Rousseau. The settled purpose of this last fiction is to debauch the heart, and pervert the understanding of the reader through the influence of the imagination and the passions. His Eloise is fitted only for brothels, and his Emilius, could form our young men into nothing but pedants, profligates, and fools. But, Sir Walter Scott, said I, must be absolved from all charges as to his purity: chastity, and morality — except some profane language in his letters. He has not written a line, which, in dying, he need wish to blot. And how shall we account for his amazing success, except by supposing the extraordinary

excellence of his pieces? He interested alike the ignorant and learned, the humble and the great, the rich and poor. Richardson.-His extraordinary popularity, presents prima facie evidence of his talents, and talents he unquestionably had, but it does not prove the nature of his properties as a writer, or as certain the rank he should hold among authors. Accidental circumstances may give a wonderful currency to works for a time, but this does not determine the verdict-which will be pronounced upon them by posterity. [page 235:] The very faults and blemishes of authors may sometimes communicate to them an evanescent popularity, while nothing but solid merit can give them permanent reputation. Sir Walter Scott, Byron and others, opened a new mine in literature, and the metal which they extracted circulated widely; but this consideration instead of determining the value of the ore, is rather a presumption, that it is not of the most rare and exquisite species. Gold is not apt to pass so rapidly through many hands. The writers in England who receded Scott and Byron, had supplied the market with” the choicest specimens in every species of composition, both in poetry and prose. The public taste had been sated with the best possible fare, and an appetite for novelty had been excited. This appetite was gratified by the, wild and grotesque tales of Scott, and the gloomy fatalism of Byron. Rat kind of sustenance which their sober predecessors would have rejected and repudiated, was caught a by these and so compounded and prepared as to be suite to the vitiated taste of the public. The effect of such productions is like that of ardent spirits, most exhilirating [[exhilarating]] and enchanting, at the outset, but deleterious in their ultimate results. You see the, proof of this observation, in the utter neglect into which the greatest productions of England have sunk for a time. The solid works of literature lie idly upon the shelves of booksellers, while the recent performances are found in every hand. I will venture, however, to predict that this state of things will not long endure, nature and good sense will soon resume their rights, and the finest models will dethrone the usurpers. The decisions of fashion, and perverted judgment rapidly pass away, but those of truth and nature are permanent and immutable.

You will, nevertheless, resumed I, allow the purity, morality, and good religious tendency of Scott’s works, for, as for Byron’s, although I admit his genius, yet I cannot tolerate his cold and heartless discontent and querulousness?

Richardson. — I am not so sure of that neither. Sir Walter was, no doubt, an excellent man, and a delightful private companion. But I cannot perceive in him that steady attachment to truth, morals, and pure religion, which he evidently entertained for his king, and country. In describing as he does, with so much vivacity, the manners of that barbarous and superstitious age, from which he draws the materials of his works — it appears to me, there is no little danger of his transplanting the remnant seeds of those barbarous eras into the soil of refinement and civilization. He has too great a tendency to reconcile our minds to the follies and [page 236:] corruptions of monkery, popery, and superstition, by interweaving them into his story, and recommending them by all the charms of poetry and embellishments of fancy. It may be doubted, too, Nether the morals and manners of our youth will not be deteriorated, by becoming familiarized to the contemplation under the most attractive drapery, of the rude manners, the furious passions, and atrocious revenges of highland chieftains. I cannot but think, that after the perusal of pfeces in which these scenes of savage ferocity are so strikingly exhibited, our young men would feel more prone to revenge, would insist more strenuously upon the point of honour, our people be more propelled to war, plunder, havoc and devastation — and the bold marauder and lawless depredator upon public or private property; would feel his compunctions of conscience in no slight degree softened and assuaged. The former efforts of novelists, were directed to humanize mankind, and work them up to the highest delicacy and refinement of christain principle, late ones would seem to aim at bringing them back to the sentiments and principles of vice and savagism.

Here we were interrupted in our dialogue, by the presence of some strange faces in our part of the library, and Dr. Johnson, after informing me, that he expected Messrs. Addison, Swift, and Richardson, to dine with him, politely invited me to join them, which proposal I cheerfully accepted, and we separated until that time.


Dinner with Dr. Johnson.

IN the interval between my return to my room, and the hour of four at which I was to dine with the venerable moralist, I renewed the perusal of that edition of my favourite Shakspeare, which I had before taken from the book-case. Upon more nice examination of this new impression of this great performance, I discovered that Shakspeare had devoted that case to its correction, improvement, and expurgation from impurities, which he had singularly neglected during life, and thus freed it from those blemishes which his judicious friends regretted to observe, and his hypocritical enemies delighted to blazon — not a word or thought was now found in it, to which the most delicate lady could object. Even John Falstaff was made to retain his wit, and indulge his license without an offence to modesty. In fact, as I afterwards understood and personally experienced, the polite [page 237:] citizens of Saturnia, would not endure the slightest indecency upon the stage. Hence, most of the English comedies of the two last centuries have either been totally altered by their authors, or absolutely excluded from the theatres frequented by the highest classes of society, and confined to the coarsest portions of the vulgar. The theatre of Saturnia affords so chaste and elevated an enjoyment that it has become a school of virtue, and is an indulgence which the most scrupulous christain need not deity himself. Garrick, Roscius, Talma, Mrs. Siddons, and all the most celebrated performers, personate the principal characters of the drama, more for their own gratification and that of the public, than from any prospect of emolument, since the provision made for them by the state is ample, and they enjoy all the advantages which wealth, dignity and independence can bestow. Genius of all kinds when connected with moral excellence, never fails in this republic, to command universal respect and promotion. Not only the great dramatic writers, in consequence, are held in the highest estimation, but distinguished performers, are familiarly admitted into the best company, and partake of the highest honours. This circumstance elevated the character of the profession, and purified the stage from those indecencies and obscenities by which in.Europe and America it has been at all times disgraced.

After finishing the tragedy of Othello thus expurgated, I departed to fulfil my engagement to Dr. Johnson. I found him situated in the suburbs of the city, in a beautiful dwelling, with a tastely improved court-yard in front, and in the rear, walks judiciously shaded ’ by trees, and interspersed with shrubbery and ornamental plants. His whole house, furniture and appurtenances, were congenial to the taste and habits of a scholar. I found that Mrs. Johnson, Miss Hannah Moore, besides the company before mentioned, had united to them Mrs. Elizabeth Montague, her former friend, and the poet, Mr. Coleridge, with whose wild rhapsodies in conversation, she and the doctor had been much amused, since his arrival in these realms. I was soon acquainted with the whole party, and as it was entirely literary, great freedom and ease were indulged in conversation. The Dean cracked his jokes, Addison embellished all his observations with his chastened fancy, Richardson entertained us with interesting stories, Johnson propounded his maxims of wisdom, and Coleridge sparkled with his glittering paradoxes to the infinite diversion, not unmingled I thought with some contempt, of the learned assembly at table. Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Montague, gave new life and poignancy to all the wit and pleasantry [page 238:] which issued from every quarter. I congratulated the ladies upon the circumstance that they could now renew the pleasures of the “blue-stocking club,” with numerous advantages, as their supply of the learned and great was inexhaustible. At the mention of this club, Dr. Johnson and the rest laughed heartily, and said, it seemed that this assembly had become celebrated, since its fame had extended to the wilds of America. Oh”. said I, doctor, we must not imagine that the Americans are so illiterate as to be unacquainted with the great productions of England and France, as well as of Greece and Rome. Some among them, read with great avidity the works of yourself, Mr. Addison, Mr. Richardson, and all present, not forgetting the ladies, who are held in the highest estimation among them.

Johnson. — How happens it, then, that their taste is so crude and imperfect? I am told by those who have lately arrived from your counry, that the finest works of England and France lie and rot upon the shelves of your booksellers, while recent publications of vastly inferiour merit are widely circulated. From what I can understand, your countrymen are in the condition in which the Scotch nation were at the time of my visit to the Highlands, as I then remarked, they all have a little of science and literature, but none take a full meal.

Prospero. — There is too much truth in the observation; but our republic, although a great nation, is yet but a gigantic infant, and in time it will ripen into greatness and magnificence. Education is largely extended among us, and a thirst for reading is widely diffused. It is not to be denied that the taste which prevails is too generally satisfied with the lighter productions of genius, such as novels, tales, and periodical journals the crudest offspring of the press, but I am in hopes that, imperfect as is this beginning, it is the dawn of a, better day. As the nation advances, there will arise a demand for more thoroughly educated men, the relish for crudity and light literature will decline, and more solid works circulate. If our taste is as yet imperfect, that of Eu rope is declining. Let our rulers once set themselves into active exertion to make provision for the sciences, letters, and the arts, and never did they make more rapid progress among a people than they will among us. I suppose science, learning, and taste, have attained to the highest perfection in Saturnia.

Swift. — Yes, in general, the taste is excellent in this city, and a sound science is cultivated; but we are not without our Charlatans in learning, as well as our empirics in medicine. [page 239:] Martinus Scriblerus, and a numerous family of the Scribleri, inhabit the lower part of the town, and infest us with their crudities, whimsies, and fooleries.’ A visit to their multifarious establishment will afford you infinite diversion.

I shall be glad, said I, to enjoy that satisfaction; but, I presume, they can have very little influence among so distinguished a community. Here are, however, always some among mankind who prefer crudities and whimsies in science to sound and wholesome doctrines, and the fripperies and false ornaments in writing to its genuine beauties. On the contrary, I have found my highest satisfaction, at all times, in the contemplation of solid excellence, and the most exalted talents. I cannot describe the enthusiasm of delight which I experienced this morning in the consciousness that I was in the presence of Newton and of Locke, whom I have always regarded as the greatest of human beings.

Here Coleridge, who had hitherto appeared absorbed within his own reflections, broke forth into one of his rhapsodies: “Newton! I allow that Newton was a great genius, and so was Galleo; but it would take two or three Newtons and Galleos to make one Kepler.” Here the whole party broke into laughter; and Swift exclaimed, This reminds me of the great discoveries of Martinus Scriblerus. He is perpetually depreciating the merits of Newton, and insists that he has lighted upon some facts which supersede the theory of gravitation. His mares’ nests, however, when examined, are without eggs.

Johnson. — And what, sir, is it that leads you thus to elevate Kepler above Newton? You must have imbibed this fallacy in Germany, from whose mystical philosophy I should be sorry that my countrymen should vitiate and becloud their vigourous science. Without seeming to notice them, Coleridge proceeded: “It is the order of Providence that the inventive generative, constitutive mind — the Kepler — should come first; and then, that the patient and collective mind — the Newton — should follow, and elaborate the pregnant queries and illumine the guesses of the former. The laws of the planetary system are, in fact, due to Kepler There is not a more glorious achievement of scientific genius upon record than Kepler’s guesses, prophecies, and ultimate apprehension of the law of the mean distances of the planets, as connected with the periods of their revolutions round the sun. Gravitation, too, he had fully conceived, but because it seemed inconsistent with some received observations on light, he gave it up in allegiance, as he says, to nature. Yet, the idea vexed and haunted his mind — Vexat me, et lacessit — are his words, [page 240:] I believe.” When the speaker paused, the audience, who seemed hitherto to have suppressed, with some effort, their sense of ridicule, burst forth into a loud and continued laughter.

When the merriment subsided, Mr. Addison remarked: This is perfect heresy in Saturnia, Mr. Coleridge; and if you should broach such an idea in the philosophical society, you might be put to the rack of an inquisitor, since no such atrocious punishments are known here, but our sensibility would be put to the rack by the severity of animadversions to which you would be subjected in that learned body. Kepler, who is a member of that association, would permit no such pretensions to be made in his behalf. They allow his exalted claims, but not one of them would admit that any of his achievements, or guesses, or prophecies, in any degree detracts from the superlative glory of Newton.

Johnson. — When Kepler proved that the squares of the times in which the planets move in their orbits are as the cubes of their mean distances from the sun, he accomplished an important step in astronomical science. And by his conjecture that there was an attraction towards each other prevalent among their;, the showed the acutest discernment; but what had this law or this conjecture to do with the system of gravitation demonstrated by Newton? He might have poured over this suggestion forever, and have vexed his spirit with it until its strength was exhausted, before it would have entered his mind, that the same force moves the planet in its sphere that draws the body downwards to the earth, or have demonstrated its truth after the conjecture had entered into his mind.

Swift. — With your leave, therefore, Mr. Coleridge, we will put this declaration upon the same shelf with the discovery of the longitude by Whiston and Detton, or consign it to the

box of rarities so often exhibited in the workshop of the renowned Martin and his auxiliaries.

Coleridge. — I insist upon it that Newton was not the greatest man that ever lived. “It would take many Newtons even to make a Milton.”

Swift. — A Milton! Ah! there you have hit the nail upon the head. He never wrote such a poem as the Ilaid, or Ænied, or Paradise Lost. This is true; but he would be regarded as a miserable economist or financier who should attempt to determine, by their weight, the relative value of gold, silver, and brass. Newton and Milton both attained the highest eminence in their kinds of intellectual excellence. To determine, therefore, who was the greater man, we must not [page 241:] compare the individuals themselves, but the degree of value in that species of genius which they severally displayed. What say you of that, gentlemen? addressing himself to Dr. Johnson, Addison, and Richardson.

Richardson. — Undoubtedly he who by pure reason or understanding extends our acquaintance with nature and its laws, ought to obtain a preference over him, who, by the most finished productions of imagination, entertains and instructs us at the same time. The first effort assimilates us more to the Deity by revealing to us a knowledge of his works, the last only decorates what is already known with the attractive drapery of fancy. When we are ascribing perfections to God, and endeavouring to form a compound idea of infinite excellence, we never think of incorporating into it the ingredient of a perfect imagination, but that of infinite wisdom or omniscience. Great works of pure reason, must, then, ever be regarded as greatly superiour to those of imagination, however transcendent their excellence and exquisite the entertainment they furnish the mind. Imagination is rather a dangerous and seductive faculty, which may be rendered as subservient to vice as subsidiary to virtue; but reason, when rightly ordered, is a pure and intense light, under whose illumination we may walk with safety, and which, at every step in our progress under its guidance brings us in nearer approximation to the Deity.

Mrs. Johnson. — Well, that is a view of the superiority in works of the understanding over those of imagination, which is new to me, and yet appears sound and conclusive. Mrs. Montague and the gentlemen assented to this declaration.

What think you, in Saturnia, I continued, of the pretensions of Mr. Locke? I have always considered him, for the same reason, as second only to Newton, in his scientific claims, if, indeed, he can be deemed second to any one.

Johnson. — That is the rank he still holds among us. We all consider him and Newton, as the two unrivalled philosophers. The first carried the method of Bacon into the science of mind, and the last into the science of matter.

Addison. — During my lifetime, the speculations of Mr. Locke were regarded as among; the most sound and ingenious that were ever furnished in the history of philosophy; and his authority upon the subjects he investigated deemed oracular. I have found no sufficient reason to alter the opinion I expressed about them in the Spectator, although I have read the works in which his principles are impugned, and his pretensions disparaged. I strongly suspect that he has been [page 242:] undervalued by late writers from their want of discernment to comprehend him.

Swift. — What say you now of Mr. Locke, of whom you have heard Mr. Addison express so favourable an opinion? Do you undervalue him as much as Newton?

Coleridge. — Mr. Locke was, undoubtedly, an extraordinary man; but, as a metaphysician, he slid not penetrate as deeply as the Germans. Kant accomplished what he relinquished in despair.

Johnson. — Pray, let us know, what was accomplished by Kant and the German metaphysicians, which was left unattempted by Mr. Locke.

Coleridge. — Mr. Locke stopped at that “spontaneous consciousness,” which is known to the vulgar; and did not dive into “philosophical consciousness,” which lies much deeper, and is concealed from the common eye — that “consciousness of which all reasoning is the varied modification, and which is. the reflex of conscience when most luminous.” As the Romans divided their territories into the Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul, so the Germans divide our consciousness into, the spontaneous and philosophical; the first perceptible to every person of common understanding — the other to be perceived only by the discriminating judgment of the philosopher. Here, again, the company were excited into merriment.

Swift. — And, I suppose, as the Romans had hard fighting to get possession of Trans-alpine Gaul, so we must contend stoutly to obtain access to this philosophic consciousness, of which all reasoning is the varied modification, and which is the reflex of conscience when most luminous. Verily, I am not at all surprised that Locke did not obtain a vision of this Trans-alpine region. It must be too cloudy a territory to be descried by any thing but the eagle-eye of a German metaphysician, and he must attain it by a kind of second sight.

Coleridge. — I insist that philosophy, properly so called, began with Pythagoras. He saw the mind, in the common sense of the word, as itself a fact, that there was something in the mind not individual; this was the pure reason, something in which we are, not which is in us.

Swift. — If I understand you rightly,. then, the mind is a fact, and in that fact is something not an Individual, which is pure reason; and this pure reason is not in us, but we subsist in it. If this be German metaphysics keep me from travelling through its clouds and smoke, whether it be found in Cisalpine or Trans-alpine Gaul. Here the company indulged their laugh.

Mrs. Montague. — Mr. Coleridge must not decry Mr. Locke [page 243:] in the presence of us ladies. We are his great admirers; and upon many subjects, especially metaphysics, for the study and right comprehension of which we never disputed.

Richardson. — I must confess that Mr. Locke is, also, my oracle upon all these topics, for the study and right comprehension of which I have a strong inclination, since they serve to unfold the principles of human nature; and I should like to know the opinions he entertains concerning the works which have been written since his time in Scotland, France, and Germany, upon metaphysics.

At this moment of our conversation Mr. Coleridge plead a positive engagement at this hour; and after apologizing to the ladies and the Dr., with amiable politeness, left the room; and, at the same instant, to my great delight, entered the very Mr. Locke of whom we had been speaking. After accounting to the ladies for his late appearance at the party, alleging, as his excuse, a sudden indisposition of Mrs. Locke, he took his seat at table, and with that grace and politeness for which he was remarkable, glided into the stream of conversation.

Mrs. Johnson. — Before you entered, Mr. Locke, we were listening to Mr. Coleridge’s opinions about some metaphysical points, which we all thought, I believe, he rather obscured than elucidated by his German representations and illustrations of them. We wish to know what you think of German, French, and Scotch metaphysics.

Locke. — My dear madam, I have not much to say in commendation of any of there. During my lifetime, and in the letters which passed between me and my friend Mr. Molyneux, we both agreed that the great Leibnitz, who, you know, is second only to Newton in mathematics, had a very imperfect comprehension of the science of the mind. All the doctrines which have been broached upon it in Germany, no doubt, had their origin in the opinions of this extraordinary man. From him they derive their system of the pure reason, which reason or understanding they suppose to generate ideas without the intervention of the senses. They have, however, run his system into preposterous absurdities, which, I presume, so clear and powerful an intellect as his could never approve. As they commence in an assumption which rests upon no facts, this circumstance has naturally led them more and more deeply into errour, until at length all their metaphysics, that of Kant and the rest, has been mere clouds and smoke. They set off with deserting the track of experience and observation; and as was to be expected, wander into more and more dubious paths at every step in their progress. [page 244:]

Mrs. Johnson. — What do you think, then, of the French and Scotch metaphysics?

Locke. — The first French school, or that of Condellau and his coadjutors, perverted my doctrine of our ideas commencing in the operations of sense, and confined them too exclusively to the senses; and the second, or that of Cousin, is too much tinctured with the German mysticism. The Scotch have written handsome disquisitions, but are no metaphysicians.They have merely misunderstood and misrepresented my doctrines.

Prospero. — But what is your opinion of Coleridge? He has spent some time in Germany, and returned to England to enlighten the nation with great German inventions and discoveries. His is the latest stamp and improvement of the recent metaphysics, and among many readers he has attained great reputation.

Locke. — That is a matter of utter astonishment to me. His prose works are the greatest crudities and most unintelligible jargon that I ever remember to have read. They say he is an am~iable man and respectable poet, but never could any person of his genius and attainments have written worse in prose. What say you of his poetry, Messrs. Addison and Swift?

Adddison. — He has, unquestionably, some of the finest properties of the poet, but he is without others which are indispensable to the great poet. His imagination is fertile and his feelings strong, but he is deficient in taste and judgment. His smaller pieces in verse, are some of them, excellent, and his translations from the German are well finished; but he is much too fond of the improbable and horrible. His Ancient Mariner, the most celebrated of his poem, is an odious monstrosity without verisimilitude, moral import, or any thing but its measure and gigantisque imagery to recommend it.

Locke. — To convince you of the justness of my criticism upon his prose writings, I will give you some extracts from his conversations, as detailed by his biographer, which I have read to-day, for the first time. As I al ways read with pen in hand, and have just perused this work, let me hear your com ments upon the sentiments expressed in my extracts. He seems, to me, to have wished to perform the part of an humble imitator, or, perhaps, rival of Dr. Johnson, and his biographer to become a Boswell. But, he should have recollected that there is the widest difference between uttering in conversation the finest lessons of wisdom, and indulging the most crude and incoherent rhapsodies. I have often thought that many of the sayings and conversations of [page 245:] Dr. Johnson, as reported by Boswell, might be made the materials of excellent disquisitions in their illustration and enforcement, but scarcely any opinions of Coleridge are well founded; and, in general, they are as ridiculous paradoxes as could be well imagined. That they are at all relished or tolerated in England or America is to me unaccountable.

Mrs. Montague. — Let us, then, have some sport in their review and exposure.

Locke. — Observe his shining savings in the order in which they are stated by the writer of his life and great admirer. In the very first page, he says — “Othello must not be conceived as a negro, but a high and chivalrous Moorish chief.”

Johnson. — It would require no Solomon to teach us that; for, none but a dunce would have colaceived of him as a negro.

Locke. — But hear him proceed, “Jealousy does not strike me as the point in his passion; I take it rather to be an agony that the creature whom he had believed angelic, with whom he had garnered up his heart, and whom he could not help still loving, should be proved impure and worthless.”

Johnson. — Nonsense! What is all this emotion or agony, as he calls it, but one symptom of jealousy: Surely, jealousy is the very complex passion on which is the subject of the drama, and Othello discovers it to the very core. It entered like fire into his vitals.

Locke. — There is no ferocity in Othello; his mind is majestic and composed.”

Johnson. — The very opposite. Nothing could be more fiery and irregular than all his feelings. Majestic his character is, but it is the majesty of a volcano. Pass on to some thing less absurd. The man wishes to think differently from all other persons.

Locke. — “In the scene with Olihelia, in the third act, Hamlet is beginning with great and unfeigned tenderness; but, perceiving her reserve anti coyness, fancies there are some listeners, and then, to sustain his part, breaks into all that coarseness.”

Addison. — This is certainly a ridiculous and farfetched conceit. Then Hamlet, when putting on his dress in so slovenly a manner must have anticipated that there would be lookers on!

Mrs. Johnson. — Besides, nothing could be more natural than the distracted manners of Hamlet, after he had been repelled from his mistress in obedience to Polonius’ instructions, and had his mind thrown into a whirl by beholding his father’s ghost, and hearing his tremendous revelations, He [page 246:] wished, too, at the time, to impress upon Ophelia the belief that-he was deranged, and thus promote the delusion he intended to practise.

Locke. — You begin to perceive the wisdom of this table talk, which is widely circulated. Hear him upon a more serious and solemn subject — “In the trinity there is, 1. Ipseity; 2. Alterity; 3. Community. You express the formula thus: — God, the absolute will or identity — Prothesis. The Father — Thesis. The Son — Antithesis. The Holy Spirit — Synthesis. Swift. — This is too absurd to be endured. The man’s brain is diseased beyond all possibility of cure. Let him be condemned to the workshop of Martinus Scriblerus and Horatius B. Scriblerus.

Mrs. Montague. — What can he mean by such dark and incomprehensible terms?

Johnson. — He means that he is a motley fool.

Locke (reads.) — “Burke’s Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful seems to me a poor thing; and what he says upon taste, is neither profound nor accurate.”

Johnson. — There he shows that he has not studied or understood Burke. That is an excellent performance. Although all his maxims may not be just nor his arguments conclusive, yet there is great originality and force in his views, and taken all together it is an admirable treatise, and worthy of the scholar and philosopher.

Locke. — Shakspeare is the spinozistic deity — an omnipresent creativeness. Milton is the deity of prescience; he stands ab extra, and drives a fiery chariot and four; making the horses feel the iron curb which holds them in.”

Here all burst into a loud laugh; and Richardson exclaimed, “Bombastic nonsense!”

Locke. — “I have no doubt whatever that Homer is a mere concrete name for the rhapsodies of the Iliad. Of course there was a Homer and twenty-five besides. I will engage to compile twelve books, with characters just as distinct and consistent as those in the Iliad, from the metrical ballads and other chronicles of England, about Arthur and the knights of the round table.”

Johnson. — He stole this crudity from the Germans, and yet the robbery would not pay the cost of transportation. It would be more wonderful that the Iliad should have been composed by many authors, than that it was the product of a single extraordinary genius. He would have found a most intractable subject in his Attempt with the stories of Arthur and the knights of the round table. [page 247:]

Locke. — “Swift was anima Rabelaiaei in sicco — the soul of Rabelais dwelling in a dry place.”

While reading this, Locke looked slily at the Dean, who completely bounced in his seat, exclaiming, What does the fool mean? Does he mean to say that my wit is as barren as a dry ground? At this we all burst into merriment; and Mr. Locke, continued, advertising the Dean that the next sentence would afford him some amends for this insinuation. — “Yet Swift was rare. Can any thing beat his remark on King William’s motto. Recepit, non rapuit. That the receiver was as bad as the thief?” The recollection caused the Dean to join heartily in the laugh, declaring that this was the only good thing the rogue had said, and he did not think he had sense enough to have perceived the force of his humour upon that occasion.

Locke. — “I believe that Aristotle never could get to understand what Plato meant by an idea.”

Mrs. Johnson. — Is that true, Mr. Locke?

Locke. — I doubt it not for the very sufficient reason, that Plato never understood himself. Lest I should tire you with these fooleries, I shall read but a single passage more. What do you think ladies, of the following criticism — “I confess I doubt the Homeric genuineness of [[greek text]]; it sounds to me much more like a prettiness of Bion or Moschus.” When Homer represents Adromache as smiling amidst her tears upon receiving her little son, Astyanax, into her arms from the hands of Hector, just as he is leaving Troy to encounter the dangers of the field, would you not consider it a beautiful conception?

Mrs. Johnson. — Certainly, one of the finest touches of nature that can be imagined.

Locke. — So think I, madam, and I presume no one present will dispute the point. Such are the conversations of Mr. Coleridge, and his metaphysics are still worse. Any one who shall follow him as a guide in thinking, will fill his head with crudities, vitiate his habits of reasoning, confound all his conceptions of men and things, and so dim and becloud his understanding, as to unfit it altogether for the perception of truth and nature.

The conversation, henceforth, took a more free and liberal turn, and I remarked, that I had a great curiosity to become personally acquainted with all the most illustrious men whose names I had so greatly venerated, and more especially, those who had signalized themselves by scientific and literary attainments, or by excellence in the elegant arts. Where shall I get access to Bacon, Clarke, Warburton, and the long list of [page 248:] authors whose works I have perused with admiration? How is Lord Verulam, continued I, who has delivered so many invaluable maxims of all kinds, and whose new instrument of investigation led to all the improvements in modern science?

Addison. — He is a near neighbour of mine, and you will find in him all that you can anticipate, as great and interesting, and will experience no difficulty in obtaining a familiar acquaintance with him. The great men of Saturnia expect to derive no additional respect and attention from their gravity, reverse and disturbance of manners, nor from airs of haughtiness and superciliousness. You must have remarked in your country, that true greatness, especially when acknowledged by others, sits easily upon a man, softens down his ride, and disposes him to kindness and affability. Each distinguished person in this republic, being truly great, becomes a model of genuine greatness in his unaffected deportment, and affable conversation.

Prospero. — Do you know, how Bacon and Aristotle now think about the true method of science, or whether they consider their methods the same? In other words, was Aristotle acquainted with the Baconian method of investigation? This is a controversy which has been maintained lately in the schools, and I should like to know what these philosophers themselves think upon the subject. .

Locke. — I can give you the information you desire, for to our discussions in the metaphysical society, I have heard them speak about this point with great modesty and candour. Bacon acknowledged, that Aristotle oftentimes resorted to the use of his method, and Aristotle with equal frankness, and ingenuousness allowed, that1he sublime hint had never occurred to him, that all our science of nature should rest solely upon an observation of facts — that our principles should keep exact pace with our experiments, and that the grand instrument of advancing our knowledge, is not the art of logic alone, but an ample collection of facts upon which to ground our conclusions.

Mrs. Johnson. — This mode of speaking of themselves and others, is Honourable to philosophers and really great men, and suited to the calm and noble spirit of the profession

Addison. — I am told, that in a similar manner, Newton and Leibnitz have settled their controversy concerning the first invention of fluxions or the differential. calculus. They have found that their invention was original in both, and suggested to each one at nearly the some time. This I can readily believe, since I have remarked that in every case in [page 249:] which any great discovery was made in science, or any great improvement in art, that science and art was previously verging towards it, the light was dawning in the intellectual world, and it required only the rising of a brighter orb than any which before subsisted to render the truth visible. Hence the eternal propensity of small minds in the gratification of envy, to deny to great discoverers in science and inventions in the arts, the full glory of their achievements. Thus has envy and jealousy assayed to dim the honours of Harvey, of Copernicus, of Columbus, of Fulton, and even of Newton, besides having blotted from the records of history the immortal name of the inventor of alphabetical characters.

Prospero. — I have mentioned the names of Dr. Samuel Clarke and Bishop Warburton, and I have been greatly interested with their works, I am anxious to know their condition in this city. Clarke I have always regarded as the most brilliant light of the church, and Warburton, although not so remarkable for his reasoning powers, yet greatly distinguished by the, extent of his learning, the poignancy of his wit, and the fertility of his invention.

Johnson. — They are both amply provided for in our church, and still held in deserved veneration; as well as in the enjoyment of the highest degree of domestic happiness.

Prospero. — What do you think, Mr. Locke, of Dr. Clarke’s argument concerning tKe being and attributes of God? It has become quite fashionable in recent times to decry the whole demonstration a, priori, and by repeated attacks upon it they may be said to have brought it into temporary eclipse, but what say you, gentlemen of Saturnia upon so interesting a topic.

Locke. — Finding from the reports and- works brought to us from the other world, that this mode of demonstration was becoming an object of distrust and disparagement, we subjected it to discussion in our Metaphysical Society, and after a thorough sifting of its merits, we came in substance to the following conclusions. That Dr. Clarke had no sufficient round for his first proposition,;that prior to all being, we ave in our minds the conception of a necessity of existence, but that the argument commences, or should commence in the actual existence of the universe at this time; and upon this assumption, as a foundation is built, the conclusion that some being must have always existed, and all other inferences which arise out of this. We did not allow that, strictly speaking, there was any demonstration simply a priori since the argument must commence in the existence of something now, or a posteriori but that after this fact is admitted, we proceed [page 250:] sometimes in the a priori road, and at other times in that a posteriori, in order to arrive at our ultimate conclusions. For instance, we decided, that many of the attributes of God could be proved only by the one method, while others could be inferred only in the other method. Therefore, we were of opinion that with the exception I have stated, Clarke’s demonstration of the Being and attributes of God, or something equivalent to it, is as solid as adamant, and will remain so forever, but that there should be no such distinctions as have been made in the proofs, since they are in their nature one, complete and indivisible. I take it, then, that recent writers who have discredited the force of this argument, have shown only their own unfitness for such disquisitions, and imperfect comprehension of the subject. They might as readily attempt to invalidate the evidence of Euclid’s Elements, or of Newton’s Principia.

Prospero. — I am gratified that the decisions of this able and learned council, so exactly correspond with my own opinions. I must appeal to Dr. Swift, I presume, to ascertain the sentiment here prevailing, in regard to Bishop Warburton’s demonstration of the divine legation of Moses.

Swift. — I think, that work should be denominated, an attempt to demonstrate every thing, except the divine legation of Moses.

Locke. — That is an animadversion to which that author has subjected himself by his mode of treating his subject, rather than by any, deficiency in his argument. After he has commenced his disquisitions, he seems to have found himself so delightfully entertained amidst the fields of literature into which he is insensibly transported, that he loses sight of his great purpose, and in this way finishes a long work without reaching his conclusion or third proposition, which was the most important of all. I am of opinion however, that when rightly balanced there is more wei ht in his reasoning than has been generally conceded. While a few authors, with Bishop Hurd, have regarded his proof as amounting to demonstration, others have spoken of it in terms of excessive disparagement.

Mrs. Johnson. — Explain to us, if you please, in what you consider its force to lie, for I cannot say that I have a full comprehension of it.

Locke. — Bishop Warburton, in the work of which we are speaking, undertakes to prove; first, that the belief of a future state, is indispensable to the welfare and existence of human society, and that all legislators bad felt and recognized this truth by rendering it the sanction of their laws; secondly, [page 251:] that Moses, in his code, omitted an appeal to this sanction, and of consequence, in the third place, must have felt himself divinely commissioned. This train of thought, when thus nakedly exhibited, does not present the appearance of strong reasoning, but when rightly apprehended and stated with all its corroborations, may be made to assume a more respectable aspect. Warburton has weakened his main argument by his wonderful diffusion of thought, and in some degree concealed it under an immense accumulation of learning. But suppose we do him full justice by the following representation. Society could not be maintained, unless mankind felt themselves under the government of God, and liable to rewards for their virtues and punishments for their vices dispensed by his hands. This assumption must be conceded by all sensible men, as incontestibly established by the invariable experience of nations. Now, there are only two theatres of action in which the Divine Being can exercise this final discipline over the human race, this world or the next. Under ordinary circumstances we are all assured, that this wholesome discipline is but imperfectly exerted in the present life, and on this account ordinary lawgivers, have referred its execution to a future state. This is the great expedient by which they have prepared their communities for civil society, and secured an effectual submission to their laws. Moses is the only legislator, who has not found it necessary to have recourse to this instrument of subjugation and controul. He has not referred the Jews to a future state, as the theatre upon which those rewards and penalties, which they naturally anticipate from heaven, will be dispensed to them. He must, therefore, have felt convinced, that under his system, a theory would be established in this world, in which his people would immediately receive from the hand of God, those rewards and punishments which would animate them to virtue, and restrain them from vice. In other words, he must have received a divine commission, or legation. Under this view of the subject, it strikes me, there is great cogency in the argument, and it is scarcely overrated when denominated a moral demonstration.

Johnson. — This view of the subject is new to me, and I think a powerful vindication. How much superiour is it to those puny efforts made by many feeble writers to bring the whole argument into disparagement and contempt?

Mrs. Montague. — Do you think as favourably, Mr. Locke, of those minor doctrines which are inculcated in this work? What say you to Warburton’s opinions concerning disbelief in the immortality of the soul by the illustrious pagans, and [page 252:] that the descent of Eneas into hell is merely his initiation into the Eleusinian mysteries?

Locke. — I by no means accord with Warburton in many, of the doctrines broached in the Divine legation of Moses. It is evident to me that the wisest and best of the heathen safes hoped, and fervently hoped, that they should exist in a future state. If they were sometimes perplexed with doubts about it, yet, in the general frame of their minds, and in the usual tenour of their hopes and fears, they trusted such would be their final destination. Their distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrines, probably had reference to the pure and rational belief of it, and those fooleries which were mingled with it by the vulgar superstition. As to the descent of Eneas into hell, which Virgil has incorporated into his poem, in imitation of Homer, his great model, the bishop, seems to me to have hazarded a very improbable fallacy. All the proofs which he alleges in behalf of his theory, derive their plausibility from the circumstance, that in the Eleusinian mysteries, the passage of the souls of men into Elysium, was intended to be adumbrated. It was of course to be expected, that the copy would be a faithful representation of its supposed original. From this source, he draws many plausible considerations in favour of his fanciful theory.

Prospero. — Mr. Richardson, while in the library, we were speaking upon the subject of the modern novel, and ascertaining the principles upon which such a production should be constructed, what is your opinion concerning the great purpose which should be aimed at by the author?

Richardson. — Besides that purpose,’which an author of this kind has in common with all others, instruction, or instruction recommended by amusement, he should portray, the living manners as they appear in his own time, and endeavour to improve his readers, as well as convey to posterity a faithful delineation of its virtues and vices, of its excellencies and defects, its customs and habits, and of all its most refined sentiments as well as its follies and absurdities. Had we a work upon the plan of a modern romance, which had descended to us from the days of Pericles in Greece, or of Cicero in Rome, it would be a great desideratum, and fill a large vacuity in the knowledge which has been conveyed to us by our present classics in both languages. Such a fiction might have transmitted to us a much more full and ample detail of facts, than can be comprised in history, in Epic poetry, or in epistles, either in prose or verse. Such a work might be a wide-spread picture, in which was exhibited all political, civil and religious affairs, the prevalent manners [page 253:] and customs, the scenes of public and private life, and all those minute motives of action from which, as their springs, oftentimes arise the most magnificent transactions of the world. We know how large a picture Le Sage has given us, in his Gil Bias, of the manners of Spain, at the period in which his plan of action was laid, and a resemblance to which can still be recognized in the condition of Spaniards. A model of the same kind is to be traced in the novels of Fielding and his coadjutors in England.

Mrs. Johnson. — You do not, then, approve of what is now denominated the historical novel.

Richardson. — Undoubtedly not. That is a monstrosity, a crudity, or illegitimate fiction, which has had its origin in the prurient propensity of the public for mere amusement, for exciting tales. It has little more to recommend it, than the marvellous tales of the middle ages. To go back to an age in which the manners, customs and reigning sentiments were entirely foreign to our own, is not much more tolerable than to deal with giants, dwarfs enchanted castles, and all the wonderful machinery employed in the Amadis de Gaul and Palmerin of England. What more absurd, than to take the events recorded in history at any remarkable era, introduce the very agents who were concerned in them, and endeavour to fill up the details of authentic facts, by corrupting mixtures of this kind? It would utterly pervert and confound our knowledge of history, and supersede all those lessons which may be derived from her voice, when she assumes the chair of that philosophy which teaches by examples. . The historical novel, is an illegitimate offspring of the muse of fiction, and ought to be discarded by the literary world.

Mrs. Montague. — But would not the same objection lie against tragedies or comedies, which are founded upon real facts, and authenticated stories?

Richardson. — It does in part lie against this species of tragedy and comedy, but not in so strong and vitiating a measure. There is scarcely any reader of Shakspeare who does not find this inconvenience constantly attending the perusal of his historical dramas. If he wishes to reserve his historical knowledge without adulteration, wile enjoying the works of this inimitable writer, he must continually renew his perusal of the real history. But this is a slighter inconvenience, to which we may be willing to submit, in order to obtain the greater good of dramatical writings and exhibitions. It is a condiment which we delight to mingle with our food, and is too small in proportion to corrupt and vitiate the whole mass of our daily aliment. For the evils of this indulgence [page 254:] we are amply compensated by the fine delineations of character, the noble sentiments, the touches of nature, the lessons of morality, and all the numberless beauties with which these performances abound.

Mrs. Johnson. — There seems to be some difficulty upon this subject. I should like to hear Mr. Addison, express his opinion about it.

Addison. — It has never occupied my attention as much as that of Mr. Richardson, who has a right to pronounce a decision upon it, since he has himself furnished the finest of all specimens in fictitious composition. But my impression upon the first proposal of such a topic, entirely accords with that opinion which has been just expressed. The only instance, in which I should think a historical novel licensable, is when the scene laid is in a country more civilized and enlightened than our own, with a view to introduce into our age and nation, greater humanity and refinement of manners and sentiments. But to carry back a christian and highly humanized community to the coarse sentiments, barbarous manners, ignorant prejudices, and stupid superstitions of past ages, and by interesting representations of them, lessen the abhorrence in which they are justly held, and even reconcile the mind to them, is, to say the least of it, a very objectionable mode of writing.

Swift. — I hope, gentlemen, you do not intend to include in this censure, the Tale of a Tub.

Richardson. — Oh no, Mr. Dean, we are willing to regard that as an authentic history, applicable to all, ages and nations. That will be a true biography of the brothers, Peter, Martin and Jack, as long as the world stands, and will neither corrupt our knowledge of history, nor inculcate any other lessons but those of sound morality and undefiled religion.

Here we took our last glass of wine, and having stated to the ladies, that I was under an engagement to wait upon Mrs. Addison this evening at her conversation party, in company with the family of Dr. Franklin, and having the pleasure of hearing from them, that they, also, with Dr. Johnson should join us, I took my leave for the present. As I passed out of the door, a man who had waited upon us as one of the servants at dinner, came up to me rather submissively, and requested to be informed, how affairs were proceeding in America, and observed, that he now felt an interest in the concerns of that republic, and would willingly make any atonement in his power for the injury he had done his country, during the revolutionary war, in which struggle he held a command in our army. This intelligence excited my curiosity, and I immediately inquired his name, which with much [page 255:] hesitation and many blushes, he informed me was Arnold. He then, stated that he had now sufficient cause of regret and repentance for that act of treachery, which he committed et that time, as he found himself in universal disrepute and contempt, and subjected to every humiliation that could be conceived, insomuch that his life was a burthen, and were he not apprehensive of augmenting his guilt and punishment in a future state, he should long since have committed suicide. I knew not how to console him under so severe a disaster, but advised him to make amends for the past by extraordinary good conduct in future, and no doubt, his sufferings would be finally alleviated; and perhaps his life at last rendered comfortable and happy.





[S:0 - AM, 1838] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Rejected - The Atlantis [part 2] [Text-02]