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Yet I affure you, my dear friend, that this reflection gives me little pain-I fuffer more from another; from confidering that I' am here cut off from the exquifite pleasure of being useful to mankind. I have received many advantages from fociety, and confequently I owe much to it, but here I am an infolvent debtor, It is true I am exculpated by impoffibility, but that impoffibility gives me pain.'
We may regret that a person who can think in this manner fhould be loft to fociety, but we cannot feel much uneafinefs for a fituation which has fuch ftrength of mind, and fuch for-" titude to fupport it.
The archetype of this work must have been the famous travels of Lemuel Gulliver; and as in that performance, fo, likewife, in the imaginary voyages before us, we have much ufeful" fatire laid up for the human fpecies; without the invidious mode of making that fpecies the immediate object of flagellation,
Italian productions are not, in general, remarkable for humour. We have met with few books of that cast in their language, the very fingular burlefque of Ariofto's celebrated poem, and a few letters in profe, excepted. But we have here a good deal of dry, deep, chaftifed humour, fomewhat in the manner of Swift, and in fome few places, not much more delicate. However, to say that an Author writes like Swift, is, in any cafe, a compliment, and there is certainly in this work great merit and depth of thinking.
A fine fituation occurs where the poor young traveller fupposes he had loft his friend, in this folitary ifland. His friend had left him for a while, to go in pursuit of natural curiofities, and did not return at the appointed time. The circumftance is related in that unaffected kind of narrative which always makes its way to the heart.
Chap. VI. Vol. I.
One morning my only companion and friend went in queft of fome curious infects which the island produced, and left me on the fhore to feek the provifion of the day. Happy enough I found myself in the thought of furprifing him on his return with fuch a dinner as, in our defolate abode, he had never tafted. I found near the fhore a variety of fhell fish, and it occurred to me that there might poffibly be oyfters, which I remembered to have heard him fay he was particularly fond of. After a long fearch I met with them. I had the pleafure to find them of an exquifite flavour, and fuperior to any thing of the kind I had ever tasted. By means of a net likewife, which we had made, I caught a fish of an extraordinary fize, and, delighted as you will eafily fuppofe, with this twofold fuccefs, I hafted to our cave to prepare my friend a favourite dinner."
This is perfectly natural, There is an innocent vanity, or rather complacency, which is awakened by the indulgence of
an extraordinary benevolence. But let us hear how our young adventurer proceeds in his tale.
When my friend fhould come weary from his researches, what joy did I promife myfelf in fetting before him an extraordinary repaft! At mid-day I lighted my fire with more than common alacrity to cook my fifh; for about that time it was usual for him to return. Every thing was ready, but he did not appear. I waited with patience another hour, with folicitude a fecond, with anxiety a third. Grief then took place. I concluded my friend was loft.
The fupreme Being only knows with what fervour, at this crifis, I called upon his name. Known it is to him too that my heart had never before felt equal anguish. I called aloud upon my friend. I beheld him, in imagination, dashed in pieces in a fail from fome precipice, devoured by fome wild beaft, or however, destroyed by fome accident. Should the heart of my Reader be open to the impreffions of humanity, he will be fenfible of all the horrors of my fituation, of all the dreadful images which fuch deplorable circumstances could bring before me." My only guardian and fupport I imagined to be loft. -My friend to whom gratitude, intereft, affection, all the moral ties of humanity bound me, my friend, without whom life would become an infupportable burthen, irrecoverably loft! The difmal idea, though groundlefs, ftill hangs with horror on my mind. All fuftenance I neglected-I fat folitary on the fhore; at the mo tion of every leaf in the breeze I looked around me; in every whisper of air I heard the foot of my friend.-Vain i'lufions, that threw weight into the fcale of defpair! Expectation, fo tantalizing to him who looks for any great happiness, to me was agony, and let him who knows what that friendship is, in which is centered felf-prefervation and every felicity of life, judge of my fituation!.
Night came on; and I now gave myself up to abfolute defpair. My eyes, inttead of being clofed in fleep, were swelled with tears, the melancholy, but the only relief of inceflant anguish!
At length the morning opened-the last day, in which [ fuppofed, I should fee the fun for had it been naturally pos fible to have furvived my friend, it would not have been morally fo; I was determined not to furvive him. That remorse, indeed, which accompanies impious actions and defigns contrary to the fpirit of religion, broke in upon my defperate thoughts! but when the paffions are at a certain pitch, every rational fentiment is overborne, and the fwelling tide is kept up by its own violence. Defpair foon fucceeded the pious reflections which the tranfient illumination of reafon had awakened.
In this dreadful ftate I paffed the morning, when the found of human footsteps, near the mouth of my cavé, made my heart ready to bound, out of my bofom. It was my friend !—It was not joy that I felt-it was agony. The life that grief had failed to fnatch from me, was in greater danger from a different fenfation. In embracing him, I well remember that I frequently withdrew my arms, and ftepped back to see whether it was really my friend, or a vifion, a phantom that I was embracing.'
This is certainly very fine, becaufe very natural painting.Not fo, in our opinion is the nonchalance of the philofophical fpeech which the recovered friend makes on his return, and we fhall therefore take no farther notice of it.
The cause of his ftay was the difcovery of a curious country, in queft of which the two folitary friends leave their cave the day following. Here it is that we find the firft traits of the Author's imitation of Swift. The country is a land of apes, and thus the scene opens:
On paffing the first barriers of this beautiful vale, we difcovered two filthy apes, the male and female, feated on a wooden bench, near the entrance of their habitation.- Merciful God! how were we aftonished! The female was dreffed in a coarse gown and petticoat, and had on her head fomething of a cap made of palm leaves. The male-ape (the Lord knows how he came by it) had got a Scots plaid, which covered him from top to toe; but his head was bare.
When these good people faw us, they expreffed fome furprize, rofe from their feats, examined us with great attention, and when we naturally expected fomething extraordinary from this particular curiofity of theirs, we had the mortification to find them burst into a violent fit of laughter. My little vanity, I own, was offended. The female, in particular, was very liberal of her fcoffs, and had not my friend fuggested to me that an untimely delicacy and fenfe of honour might, in fuch a country, and among fuch a people, be attended with fatal confequences, I fhould certainly have expreffed my refentment in no very peaceable manner. But prudence prevailed, and I waited in hopes of returning meafure for meafure in a more harmless way.
The female ape now gave a loud and articulate call, at the found of which a whole tribe of apes of both fexes and all ages affembled at the gate of the court yard. The comic scene was now heightened to the utmoft. Some looked at us and laughed ; fome examined our white perukes, fuppofing them to be our natural hair, others lay hold of and chattered about our cloaths. -The whole of their observations was attended with those bursts of laughter and ridiculous furprife, which folly always expresses, when any thing new, or uncommon is prefented to its view.
One of the young apes had a fwitch in its hand, and from 2 peculiar inftinct began to beat our legs and arms, juft as the children of our fpecies would have done by them.
• Curious it was to fee two men brought up in the most polished country in Europe, which is certainly the most cultivated quarter of the world, become the fport of animals, universally efteemed the vilest and most detestable creatures in the universe.
Let this be a leffon to those haughty fpirits who difdain a proper condefcenfion to those whoni providence has placed in fuperior ftations! Let it teach them the neceffity of conforming to that general fubordination which fupports the system of fociety.
Another little ape ran to the hog-trough, and taking out fome rotten pears threw them to us to eat a plain proof with me, that they took us for brute-animals. My friend was of the fame opinion, and, for fear of mischievous confequences, gave them to understand that we were rational creatures, by making figns for a different kind of food, and folliciting a lodging for the night.
Upon this, an old female ape, that feemed to be the oracle of the fociety, concluded, and made her conclufion known to the reft, that we were certainly forcerers; that it would be proper to have us bound, in confequence of which we fhould return to our original fhape, and become perfectly harmless. But as it was neceffary to confider this minutely, the whole family was affembled. We knew not the subject of their deliberations. My friend imputed it to fear. Since they have discovered, faid be, that we have the gift of reason, they are afraid of us. 'Tis no unfavourable omen. This fear will, in time be changed into confidence, and friendship will follow of course.'
From this extract, the Reader will eafily fee that moral fatire and fentimental obfervations are the immediate objects of these volumes; which, however, though pregnant with much good fenfe, are, in our opinion, too prolix; poffibly, too tedious.
Tableau Philofophique de l'Efprit de M. de Voltaire, pour fervir de fuite à fes Ouvrages, et de Memoires à l'hiftoire de ja vie.—A Philofophical View of M. de Voltaire's Temper and Character, &c. 8vo. Geneva. 1771.
ΤΗ HOSE who are fond of the hiftory of literary quarrels, and
contefts, will find abundance of entertainment in this work, which contains many curious anecdotes relating to M. de Voltaire, and to his writings, that are little known to the generality of his Readers, and place him in a point of view which reflects very little honour on his character.
When we confider Voltaire as a writer, we are ftruck with the fuperiority of his genius, and cannot help admiring him in many different, walks of literature; but when we fee this oracle of philofophy, this great preacher of toleration, abusing those who prefume to question his authority, or controvert his opinions, in language that would difgrace the meaneft class of writers; when we fee him giving vent to his fpleen, his pride, and his infolence, in a manner the moft indecent, outrageous, and illiberal; when we fee him employing the meanest and the bafeft arts to injure his opponents in their most important worldly interefts; when we obferve all this, we are forced to cry out with the poet,-Tantæne animis cæleftibus ira! and our admiration of the WRITER is almost loft in our deteftation of the MAN.
The Author of this view is far from being defirous to detract from the praises that are justly due to fuch of M. Voltaire's writings as are not injurious to religion, or to private characters: nous ne craindrons pas (fays he) de le dire; il eût été le premier homme de fon fiecle, s'il n'eut pas été peut-être le plus fenfible, le plus emporté, le plus intolérant, contre tout ce qui a ofe contredire fes pretentions.
A principle of justice, and a defire of defending merit against the most unjust and illiberal attacks, appear, as far as we are able to judge, to have been our Author's fole motives for presenting the public with an account of Voltaire's quarrels with the following writers, viz. Jean-Baptifte Rouffeau, L'Abbè Desfontaines, Maupertuis, M. De La Beaumelle, Saint-Hyacinthe, Vernet, M. Le Franc De Pompignan, M. L'Evêque du Puy, L'Abbì Nonate, M. Scipion Maffei, L'Abbè Guyon, Freron, Jean-Jacques Rouffeau, M. L'Evêque de Giocefter, L'Abbè Coger, M. Larcher, M. Graffet de Geneve, L'Abbè Makarti, M. Vauvenargues, L'Abbè Riballier, and M. L'Archevêque de Paris.
A feparate chapter is allotted for the account of Voltaire's disputes with each of the above-mentioned writers. The obfervations which the Author has mixed with his account are extremely juft, and his manner of writing is lively and entertaining! In pointing out Voltaire's felf-contradictions, and the falfehoods he has propagated in order to defame and calumniate his adverfaries, our Author fometimes affumes an air of pleafantry; but he frequently fpeaks the language of manly and generous indignation. Selon les different fujets, fays he, que M. de Voltaire nous a fournis, nous nous fommes laiflè aller tout naturellement aux impreffions qu'ils doivent faire fur tous les efprits équitables. Tantôt nous avons confondu l'impofture en lui oppofant la vérité; tantôt nous avons parlè le langage de l'indignation contre les horreurs qu'il n'a pas craint davancer, tantôt celui de la plaifanterie contre les indecens ba