« AnteriorContinuar »
Yet I assure 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 exquisite pleasure of being useful to man.,
I have received many advantages from society, and confequently I owe much to it, but here I am an insolvent debtor, It is true I am exculpated by impossibility, but that impoflibility gives me pain.'
We may regret that a person who can think in this manner fhould be loft to society, but we cannot feel much uneasiness for a situation which has such strength of mind, and such fortitude to support it.
The archetype of this work must have been the famous travels of Lemuel Gulliver; and as in that performance, fo, likewise, in the imaginary voyages before us, we have much useful satire laid up for the human species; without the invidious mode of making that species 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 burlesque of Ariosto's celebrated poem, and a few letters in prose, excepted. But we have here a good deal of dry, deep, chastised humour, somewhat in the manner of Swift, and in some few places, not much more delicate. How. ever, to say that an Author writes like Swift, is, in any case, a compliment, and there is certainly in this work great merit and depth of thinking.
A fine situation occurs where the poor young traveller fupposes he had lost his friend, in this folitary island. His friend had left him for a while, to go in pursuit of natural curiosities, and did not return at the appointed time. The circumstance is re. Jated 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 quest of some curious insects which the island produced, and left me on the shore to seek the provision of the day. Happy enough I found myself in the thought of furprising him on his return with such a dinner as, in our desolate abode, he had never tasted. I found near the thore a varicty of thell fish, and it occurred to me that there might pollibly be oysters, which I remembered to have heard him lay he was particularly fond of. After a long search I met with them. I had the pleasure to find them of an exquisite flavour, and superior to any thing of the kind I had ever tasted. By means of a net likewise, which we had made, I caught a filh of an extraordinary size, and, delighted as you will easily suppose, with this twofold success, 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 bis tale.
. When my friend should come weary from his researches, what joy did I promise myself in setting before him an extraordinary repast! At mid-day I lighted my fire with more than come mon alacrity to cook my fifa ; 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 solicitude a second, with anxiety a third. Grief then took place. I con. cluded my friend was lost.
The supreme Being only knows with what fervour, at this crisis, 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 some precipice, devoured by some wild beast, or however, destroyed by fome accident. Should the heart of my Reader be open to the impressions of humanity, he will be fenfible of all the horrors of my situation, of all the dreadful images which such deplorable circumstances could bring before me. My only guardian and support I imagined to be loft. - My friend to whom gratitude, interest, affection, all the moral ties of humanity bound me, my friend, without whom life would become an insupportable burthen, irrecoverably loft! The dismal idea, though groundless, still hangs with horror on my mind. All sustenance I neglected—I fat Tolitary on the shore; at the motion of every leaf in the breeze I looked around me; in every whisper of air I heard the foot of my friend.-Vain illufions, that threw weight into the scale of despair ! Expectation, so 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-preservation and every felicity of life, judge of my situation !
• Night came on; and I now gave myself up to absolute despair. My eyes, instead of being closed in sleep, were swelled with tears,--the melancholy, but the only relief of incessant anguish!
* At length the morning opened the last day, in which I supposed, I should see the sun : for had it beert naturally por. sible to have survived my friend, it would not have been morally so; I was determined not to survive him. That remorse, indeed," which accompanies impious actions and designs contrary to the spirit of religion, broke in upon my desperate thoughts : but when the passions are at a certain pitch, every rational fentimerit is overborne, and the swelling tide is kept'up by its own violenice. Despair foon succeeded the pious reflections which the tranfient illumination of reason had awakened.
< In this dreadful state I passed the morning, when the sound of human footsteps, near the mouth of my cave, made my heart ready to bound out of my bosom. It was my friend !--It was not joy that I felt-it was agony. The life that grief had failed to snatch from me, was in greater danger from a different senfation. In embracing him, I well remember that I frequently withdrew my arms, and stepped back to see whether it was really my friend, or a vision, a phantom that I was embracing.'
This is certainly very fine, becaufe very natural painting. Not so, in our opinion is the nonchalance of the philosophical speech which the recovered friend makes on his return, and we fhall therefore take no farther notice of it.
The cause of his stay was the discovery of a curious country, in queft of which the two solitary friends leave their cave the day following. Here it is that we find the first traits of the Author's imitation of Swift. The country is a land of apes, and thus the scene opens :
« On passing the first barriers of this beautiful vale, we discovered two filthy apes, the male and female, feated on a wooden bench, near the entrance of their habitation.-Merciful God! how were we astonished! The female was dressed in a coarse gown and petticoat, and had on her head something 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 some furprize, rose from their feats, examined us with great attention, and when we naturally expected something extraordinary from this particular curiosity of theirs, we bad 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 suggested to me that an untimely delicacy and sense of honour might, in such a country, and among such a people, be attended with fatal confequences, I should certainly have expressed my refentment in no very peaceable manner. But prudence prevailed, and I waited in hopes of returning measure for measure in a more
• The female ape now gave a loud and articulate call, at the found of which a whole tribe of apes of both sexes and all ages assembled at the gate of the court yard. The comic scene was now heightened to the utmost. Some looked at us and laughed ; fome examined our white perukes, supposing 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 surprise, which folly always expresses, when any thing new, or uncommon is presented to its view.
One of the young apes had a switch in its hand, and from a peculiar instinct began to beat our legs and arms, just as the children of our species would have done by them.
- Curious it was to see two men brought up in the most polished country in Europe, which is certainly the most cultivated quarter of the world, become the sport of animals, universally esteemed the vilest and most detestable creatures in the universe.
. Let this be a lesson to those haughty spirits who disdain a proper condescenfion to those whoni providence has placed in fuperior stations! Let it teach them the necessity of conforming to that general subordination which supports the fyftem of society.
Another little ape ran to the hog-trough, and taking out some 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 consequences, gave them to understand that we were rational creatures, by making figns for a different kind of food, and solliciting a lodge ing for the night.
Upon this, an old female ape, that seemed to be the oracle of the society, concluded, and made her conclusion known to the reft, that we were certainly forcerers; that it would be proper to have us bound, in confequence of which we should return to our original shape, and become perfectly harmless. But as it was neceffary to consider this minutely, the whole family was allembled. We knew not the subject of their deliberations. My friend imputed it to fear. Since they have discovered, said 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 easily see that moral satire and sentimental observations are the immediate objects of these volumes; which, however, though pregnant with much good fense, are, in our opinion, too prolix; poffibly, too tedious.
A R T.
III. Tableau Philosophique de l'Esprit de M. de Voltaire, pour servir de fuite
à ses Ouvrages, et de Memoires à l'histoire de sa vie. - A Philosophical View of M. de Voltaire's Temper and Character, &c. 8vo. Geneva.
HOS E who are fond of the history of literary quarrels, and
contests, will find abundance of entertainment in this work, · which contains many curious anecdotes relating to M. de Vol
taire, 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 consider Voltaire as a writer, we are struck with the superiority of his genius, and cannot help admiring him in
many different walks of literature; but when we see this oracle - of philofophy, this great preacher of toleration, abusing those
who presume to question his authority, or controvert his opinions, in language that would disgrace the meanest class of writers; when we see him giving vent to his spleen, his pride, and his infolence, in a manner the most indecent, outrageous, and illiberal; when we see him employing the meanest and the basest arts to injure his opponents in their most important worldly interests; when we observe all this, we are forced to cry out with the poet,-Tantæne animis cæleftibus iræ! and our admiration of the Writer is almost lost in our detestation of the MAN,
The Author of this view is far from being desirous to detract from the praises that are justly due to such of M. Voltaire's writings as are not injurious to religion, or to private characters: nous ne craindrons pas (says he) de le dire; il eût été le premier homme de son fiecle, s'il n'eut pas été peut-étre le plus fene fible, le plus emporté, le plus intolérant, cortre tout ce qui a ose contredire fes pretentions.
A principle of justice, and a desire 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 sole motives for presenting the public with an account of Voltaire's quarrels with the following writers, viz. Jean-Baptiste Rousseau, L'Abbè Desfontaines, Maupertuis, M. De La Beaumelle, Saint-Hyacinthe, Vernet, M. Le Franc De Pompignan, M. L'Evêque du Puy, L'Abbè Nonste, M. Scipion Maffei, L'Abbè Guyin, Freron, Jean-Jacques Roufseau, M. L'Evêque de Glucefier, L'Abbè Coger, M. Larcher, M. Greffet de Geneve, L'Abbé Makarti, M. Vauvenargues, L'Abbè Riballier, and M. L'Archevêque de Paris.
A separate 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 ex. tremely just, and his manner of writing is lively and entertaining ! In pointing out Voltaire's self-contradictions, and the falsehoods he has propagated in order to defame and calumniate his adversaries, our Author sometimes assumes an air of pleafantry; but he frequently speaks the language of manly and generous indignation.-Selon les different sujets, says he, que M. de Voltaire nous a fournis, nous nous sommes laille aller tout naturellement aux impressions qu'ils doivent faire sur tous les esprits équitables. Tantôt nous avons confondu l'importure en lui opposant la vérité; tantôt nous avons parlè le lana gage de l'indignation contre les horreurs qu'il n'a pas craint d avancer, tantôt celui de la plaisanterie contre les indecens ba.