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The philosophical Playfair accused of almost deism! The learned Leslie convicted of ignorance ! It was unendurable, and a clamour immediately of personality, insolence, impertinence, assassination, with many other crimes of similar atrocity, was showered upon us. The loudest lamentation came, as usual, from the lower orders. The Magnates of Whiggism ate their leek in silence. They despised us, forsooth. The poorer creatures of the pack could not afford this. The iron had entered their souls, and they howled and wept under the infliction with the hideous yet comical contortions of a suffering baboon. It may be easier to allude in some detail to the controversies in which we have engaged, than to continue these general remarks. Let not the reader be frightened—we shall not delay him long.
I. The first charge of personality brought against us came from the Edinburgh Whigs. Disliking the general cause of Whiggism very much, we cannot, however, do it the injustice of confounding it with the party here. The Whigs of the Empire aim at turning out the King's ministers, and unsettling the fate of nations--the glorious ambition of the Whigs of Edinburgh extends no farther than the caballing against a Dean of Guild, or effecting a radical reform in the mode of paving and lighting the Cowgate. It is a glorious night for the Whigs of the empire, when they carry a motion in Parliament-a night equally glorious for the Whigs of Edinburgh, is one on which they can get drunk on bad wine in honour of a stray lawyer, or an uneducated rector. The Whigs of the empire write state-papers, protests, resolutions. The Edinburgh Whig thinks he has done a feat equally important to the world, if he has written a paragraph in an unread newspaper, or contributed to render the dullness of a stupid review still more leaden. And then on the strength of these important feats, these very paltry people hold themselves entitled to speak with insolence of the great leaders of church and state. We have heard a poor writer to the signet, whose whole practice would have been overpaid at a hundred a year, being in all probability about twice the value of his sweats-worth, declaring with a look of assinine indignation that Lord Eldon, to whose sub-deputy-secretary's clerk he would not have been qualified to be clerk, was no lawyer; and that it was allowed by all thinking men, in particular the great club that met at the Sign of the Cat and Bagpipes, and of which he had the honour occasionally to be president, that Mr Canning was no sound orator. We have heard Bloomfield of Chester pronounced no scholar, by people who knew no language on the face
of the earth, except a corrupt patois of Scotch and English and been assured that Magee, of Dublin, was a poor theologian, by a ragged collegian of two years' standing. The vanity and conceit of these creatures had, by congregating together, swelled to an enormous degree. There was nothing that they could not do. One person would write a universal history-another, a digest of all the laws of all the nations in the world, in a six shilling review. The Whigs of the empire are, of course, by being men of the world, free from these follies. But when Whiggery was engrafted upon provincialism the results were truly ridiculous.
Nor was it, perhaps—we say perhaps, for we are not quite sure - worth our while to extinguish these fellows. It might have appeared to our friends in England absurd to have taken the trouble; but it should be recollected that we were in actual contact with them, and could not always curb our propensity to laugh at the jackdaws about us. Having resolved to do so—and Heaven knows it was all gaieté de cæur-how were we to effect our task ? Laughing at them by name would have been quite useless ; for who could know anything of John Douglas, or Sawney M Guffog, or Jock Mucklewraith? In two or three jocular articles, therefore, when we had to allude to these absurd and unknown creatures, we had to describe them by their ridiculous attributes. Loud was their clamour against our personality-grievous their threats of vengeance. But peace be with them! They may rest quite satisfied that we annoy them no more.
The elder ones among them are effete—the younger do not afford any indications of talent sufficient to disturb the serenity of a conclave of old tea-drinkers in the seventh flat.
So far for our quarrel with the Edinburgh Whigs. It has ceased these five years. If any person hear any abuse of us on this account, we request him to turn to our earliest Volumes, where he will find the Chaldee M.S.--the Horæ Scandicæ and Sinicæ-the Pilgrimage to the Kirk of Shotts,—and a few more papers
of a similar character. We leave it to himself, if he be a man of the smallest discernment, whether these jeux-d'esprit would have produced anything beyond a smile from any but the victims of inordinate vanity, or a party determined, right or wrong, to put us down. Yet these papers were held up as crying sins. One of these, the Chaldee MS., exposed us to the charge of blasphemy from the party which at the very time was subscribing to Hone.
II. Connected in some measure with the above subject were our strictures on Professor Playfair. Him, indeed, we do not mean
to compare with the rabble to whom we have been just now alluding. He was a man of respectable powers, and considerable acquirements, and wrote in a clear, lucid style, and arrangement. This last was, after all, his greatest praise. That he was overpuffed in his own coteries, there is no one who will not now admit. But we are not going to draw his frailties from their drear abode-we only wish to defend our own conduct. That gentleman made use of the influence his talents and acquirements had
procured for him, in spreading tenets which we believed to be most dangerous. Now, we do not mean to deny that a very honest and worthy man may be sceptical in religion—but we do mean to deny, that any man, Deist, Christian, or Mahometan, can be honest if he shrinks from his principles.
Of all characters, the meanest is he who is willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike. This was said at the time—this we say again after a lapse of seven years. We could not bear to see Playfair and his faction attacking Southey (a man so far his superior in genius and erudition, and surely at least his equal in virtue) for being an apostate, and yet keep silent on the fact that Playfair himself had been in orders, and yet had become one of the scoffers. We never shall cease to think that a man, who, by his continuance in his professorial chair, avowed himself a Christian, and yet in his writings, by sneaking inuendoes, advocated principles hostile to Christianity, was not a high-minded man. In days of persecution, when life and death are at stake, it may be conceded to the weakness of human nature, that we should be allowed to dissemble ; but for doing so, because we thereby gain a lucrative employment, there can be no defence set up. This was the full amount, and perhaps more than the full amount (for the party lied against us in their fury) of what we said about Mr Playfair, and it called forth a great deal of whining on the score of insulting venerable age, from the men who at that very moment were taunting the years and afflictions of George III., and are now with falsities and lies insulting the undimmed decline of Lord Eldon.*
We have heard that some remarks on Dr Chalmers a couple of years ago have roused some anger against us. It is not worth discussing in the text. Dr Chalmers, in a paper in the Edinburgh Review, had, with a view to vilify the institutions of England, asserted the monstrous physical absurdity that nine-tenths of the people of England were paupers, supported by the other tenth, which he proved by the arithmetical absurdity, that 990,000 was nine-tenths of ten millions. The motive was bad, the means ridiculous. So we think still; but should nevertheless be very sorry to forget the merits of Dr Chalmers in his own profession. He has lately—thanks to ys-avoided politics.
III. The only time we appeared in court was for a libel on Professor Leslie. The law-papers, cleared of their technicalities, accused us of saying, that Professor Leslie was ignorant of Hebrew -had not made some discoveries in freezing which he claimedand had corrupted the youth of Edinburgh by teaching them bad principles. There were other trifles besides, to which we shall by and by advert. Now, of these accusations, the last only we should consider a libel. If any man told us that we could neither read nor write, we should only laugh, for our moral character could not be injured even by that gross ignorance; if he charged us with being rogues, we should then begin to think if it came from a quarter worth answering, and deal accordingly. It therefore gave us great satisfaction to find that the Jury acquitted us of libelling Professor Leslie on that point. It required, indeed, great special pleading to connect our general observations on the general ill name which formerly attached to the University of Edinburgh, with the character of a particular professor in it, and Mr Moncrieff of course laboured it against us, but in vain. As for the other charges, we deny that accusing a philosopher with laying claim to a discovery which is not his, is a libel. What discovery has been made which has not been exposed to such a charge ? The safety-lamp, the steam-engine, the atomic theory, all, in short, have been subject of controversies, which will be settled, not by decision of law, but by the verdict of literary or scientific men. Who would not have felt ashamed for the honour of science, if Sir Isaac Newton and Leibnitz had appealed to the Courts to settle between them the right to their invention of fluxions? Still more unreasonable was the action in our case, as we had directly referred to an authority different from our own as the source of charge, which, after all, was made in a paragraph full of mere jest. And since that time, Dr Brewster has reiterated it, and similar charges, as appears to us, with undeniable justice, against Professor Leslie, unmolested. What, then, are we to think of the fairness of the proceedings against us? It was evidently not the libel, but the existence of the Magazine, that gave the principal offence.
As for the Hebrew part of the business, that was sheer nonsense. There was not a Hebrew scholar in the country who did not give it against Mr Leslie. He had, on ignorant and silly grounds, dared to call Hebrew a rude and
dialect; and then set up, as a quirk, when he found his mistake, that when he spoke of the Hebrew dialect, he meant the Samaritan alphabet. As for his witnesses, it was painful for the honour of Scottish literature to see such an exhibition. The first witness called up to decide on the respective antiquities of the Hebrew and Samaritan tongues, did not know one Samaritan letter from another. Does any one think, then, that the verdict of fifteen Edinburgh citizens, allowing them to be, as we believe they were, strictly honest and conscientious men, under the direction of a Judge who could not read the three or four little Hebrew words which occurred in the alleged libel, and swayed by the testimonies of such witnesses, has altered the case ?—Not a jot. We are as clearly convinced of Professor Leslie's ignorance of Hebrew this moment, as we were when the letter was written—nor does he now pretend to say that he understands one syllable of that language. But even supposing we had been as wrong as we were right--supposing that Professor Leslie was as full of Hebrew learning as the Archbishop of Cashel, and that we were as ignorant and impertinent in our charge, as the Edinburgh Reviewer of the Oxford Strabo-still we say that the action was not a thing honourable to a man of science and literature, and was, we believe, in that respect, unparalleled. It has proved nothing, but that the Magazine was hated.
Besides these libels, as they were called, on Professor Leslie, we were charged with being libellous in comparing him to a parrot for praising himself, and abusing others, in the Edinburgh Review- -a weighty crime !-(This, by the by, some asses here called personality!)-It also was imputed to us as a very wrongful act, that we had ventured to express an opinion, that altering a titlepage, and tacking half a dozen pages at the back of an unsaleable book, did not make a new edition; and we were told in answer, that it was a trick of trade !-We wish any gentleman joy who thinks fit to make such a defence, to degrade from the philosopher into the tradesman, and to endeavour to obtain damages against an antagonist, by confessing himself privy to a trick. We are satisfied.
IV. We wished to get rid of the Edinburgh accusations against us, before we went across the Tweed. In England, the outcry against us has come principally from the Cockney School. That we did smash that pestilent sect, we acknowledge with pleasure. A baser crew never was spewed over literature. Conceited, ignorant, insolent, disaffected, irreligious, and obscene, they had, by force of impudence, obtained a certain sway over the public mind. We held them up to contempt, and then dropped them into the river, never to rise from it any more. That we did our work