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The great success and correspondent utility of D’Israeli's - Curiosities of Literature,” hare induced me to add to the ample harvest of that ingenious writer a few gleanings from another field. They may not afford the same amusing variety to the general reader, but they may tend to draw some attention to many important points that affect the chequered lot of mankind. The progress
every science has rapidly made during the last half-century has been astounding, and seems to have kept pace with those struggles of the intellectual faculties to burst from the shackles of prejudice and error that had ignobly bound them for so many ages. Groping in darkness, man sought the light, but unfortunately the sudden refulgence at times dazzled instead of guiding his steps in the pursuit of truth, and led him into errors as perilous as those that had surrounded him in his former mental obscurity. His gigantic powers were aroused, but, too frequently misapplied, they shook the social edifice to its very foundation. The daring hand of innovation destroyed without contemplating what better fabric could be raised on the ruin : and while the nobler faculties with which Providence had gifted us were exerted for the public weal, the baser parts of our passions sought liberty in licentiousness. Ambition degenerated into ferocity, scepticism led to impiety, and even apparent virtue sought to propagate the doctrines of good, by assum. ing the “
goodly outside” of vice. Religion was over
thrown because priestcraft had deceived, and high rank was held up to detestation because princes and nobles had been corrupt; and to use Shakspeare's words,
Thus we debase
In ten short years this mighty revolution in the intellect of man took place,-in a country too that may be considered the cradle of the future weal and woe, perhaps of the universe ;--in ten short years we beheld Montesquieu, Raynal
, Rousseau, Voltaire, Condillac, Helvetius, beaming like rising meteors in the dark firmament, and shedding a fearful gleam on the past, the present, and the future; boldly tracking a path once trodden with groping steps by Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, and Gassendi Y* No longer trusting in blind confidence to the scholastic rules of those dignitaries of science whose conclusions were considered sufficient to command our faith, man became sceptical and positive; doubt and disbelief were carried into every investigation; the reign of prestiges was over; the former monopolists of power and of science, the two great levers of society (the more effective since their fulcra rested on timidity and ignorance), were thrown from their antiquated stand, and found themselves brought face to face in explanatory contact with their once all-believing and obedient pupils, but now become a neoteric generation ;-the crown and the sceptre,
During these ten years the following works appeared : Montesquieu-Esprit des Lois, 1748.
Défense de l'Esprit des Lois, 1750.
-Discours sur l'Inégalité des Conditions, 1754.
Traité des Sensations, 1754.
cap and the gown, were baubles in their eyes. When the faculty of reasoning was not able to prevail, the shafts of ridicule were drawn from the quiver of philosophic wit, and inflicted rankling wounds where they could not destroy., Ancient systems were exploded with ancient prejudices, theories were overthrown with dynasties, and doctrines with governments ;-one might have imagined that the formidable power of steam had been communicated to the mind, illustrating the words of Milton,
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Science, now aimed at generalization—the physiologist, the chemist, became legislators, stepping from the academic chair to the senatorial seat, and from teaching how to benefit mankind they hurried to destroy, forgetful, in their ambitious dream, of the noble encomium of Cicero,
“ Homines ad deos nullâ se proprius accedunt, quam salutem hominibus dando.”
Philosophy and the study of medicine were now inseparable; this generous science was not to be attained in books only, but in the study of mankind. Rousseau thus spoke of physicians when writing to Bernardin de Saint Pierre : -« Il n'y a pas d'état qui exige plus d'étude que le leur ; par tous les pays, ce sont des hommes les plus véritablement savans et utiles.” Voltaire was of a similar opinion when he thus expressed himself: -“ Il n'est rien de plus estimable au monde, qu'un médecin qui, ayant dans sa jeunesse étudié la nature, connu les ressorts du corps humain, les maux qui le tourmentent, les remèdes qui peuvent le soulager, exerce son état en s'en défiant, et soigne également les pauvres et les riches.
How came it then that these great observers did not partake of the prejudices of Montaigne, Molière, and other writers, who invariably stigmatized the practice of
SIR JAMES MÓGRIGOR, Bart.
M.D., F.R.S., K.T.S., &c. &c.
DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE ARMY MEDICAL DEPARTMENT,
TO WHOSE ZEAL AND EXAMPLE THE MEDICAL OFFICERS OF HER MAJESTY's
CHARACTER AND CONSIDERATION THEY COLLECTIVELY
OF THE EUROPEAN ARMIES,
THIS WORK IS INSCRIBED,
AS A TESTIMONIAL OF PUBLIC RESPECT AND
SINCERE PRIVATE esteem,
BY THE AUTHOR.