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never so heavily, it can not be irksome to his dozing|minated by no resulting phenomena. To make pupils, who frequently lend him sympathetic nods experiments, is, I own, the only way to promote of approbation. I have sometimes attended their natural knowledge; but to treasure up every unsuc disputes at gradation. On this occasion they often cessful inquiry into nature, or to communicate dispense with their gravity, and seem really all every experiment without conclusion, is not to proalive. The disputes are managed between the fol- mote science, but oppress it. Had the members lowers of Cartesius (whose exploded system they of these societies enlarged their plans, and taken continue to call the new philosophy) and those of in art as well as science, one part of knowledge Aristotle. Though both parties are in the wrong, would have repressed any faulty luxuriance in the they argue with an obstinacy worthy the cause of other, and all would have mutually assisted each truth; Nego, Probo, and Distinguo, grow loud; the other's promotion. Besides, the society which, disputants become warm, the moderator can not with a contempt of all collateral assistance, admits be heard, the audience take part in the debate, till of members skilled in one science only, whatever at last the whole hall buzzes with sophistry and their diligence or labour may be, will lose much error.
time in the discovery of such truths as are well There are, it is true, several societies in this known already to the learned in a different line; country, which are chiefly calculated to promote consequently, their progress must be slow in gainknowledge. His lale majesty as elector of Hano-ing a proper eminence from which to view their ver, has established one at Gottingen, at an expense subject, and their strength will be exhausted in at. of not less than a hundred thousand pounds. This taining the station whence they should have set out. university has already pickled monsters, and dis- With regard to the Royal Society of London, the sected live puppies without number. Their trans- greatest, and perhaps the oldest institution of the actions have been published in the learned world kind, had it widened the basis of its institution, at proper intervals since their institution; and will
, though they might not have propagated more disit is hoped, one day give them just reputation. coveries, they would probably have delivered them But had the fourth part of the immense sum above in a more pleasing and compendious form. They mentioned been given in proper rewards to genius, would have been free from the contempt of the ill. in some neighbouring countries, it would have ren-natured, and the raillery of the wit, for which, even dered the name of the donor immortal, and added candour must allow, there is but too much foundato the real interests of society.
tion. But the Berlin academy is subject to none of Yet it ought to be observed, that, of late, learn. all these inconveniences, but every one of its indivi. ing has been patronized here by a prince, who, in duals is in a capacity of deriving more from the the humblest station, would have been the first of common stock than he contributes to it, while each mankind. The society established by the king of academician serves as a check upon the rest of his Prussia, at Berlin, is one of the finest literary in- fellows. stitutions that any age or nation has produced. Yet, very probably, even this fine institution will This academy comprehends all the sciences under soon decay. As it rose, so it will decline with its four different classes; and although the object of great encourager. The society, if I may so speak, each is different, and admits of being separately is artificially supported. The introduction of fotreated, yet these classes mutually influence the reigners of learning was right; but in adopting a progress of each other, and concur in the same foreign language also, I mean the French, in which general design. Experimental philosophy, mathe- all the transactions are to be published, and ques. matics, metaphysics, and polite literature, are here tions debated, in this there was an error. As I carried on together. The members are not col- have already hinted, the language of the natives of lected from among the students of some obscure every country should be also the language of its seminary, or the wits of a metropolis, but chosen polite learning. To figure in polite learning, every from all the literati of Europe, supported by the country should make their own language from their bounty, and ornamented by the productions of their own manners; nor will they ever succeed by introroyal founder. We can easily discern how much ducing that of another, which has been formed such an institution excels any other now subsisting from manners which are different. Besides, an One fundamental error among societies of this kind, academy composed of foreigners must still be reis their addicting themselves to one branch of sci- cruited from abroad, unless all the natives of the ence, or some particular part of polite learning. country to which it belongs, are in a capacity of Thus, in Germany, there are no where so many becoming candidates for its honours or rewards. establishments of this nature; but as they generally While France therefore continues to supply Berlin, profess the promotion of natural or medical know-polite learning will flourish; but when royal favour jedge, he who reads their Acta will only find an is withdrawn, learning will return to its natural obscure farago of experiment, most frequently ter- country.
transient, acquire stability in proportion as they are CHAPTER VI.
connected with the laws of the country; and phi
losophy and law have no where been so closely Q Polize Learning in Holland, and some other countries of
united as here. Europe.
Sweden has of late made some attempts in polite HOLLAND, at first view, appears to have some learning in its own language. Count Tessin's inpretensions to polite learning. It may be regarded structions to the prince, his pupil
, are no bad beas the great emporium, not less of literature than of ginning. If the Muses can fix their residence so every other commodity. Here, though destitute far northward, perhaps no country bids so fair for of what may be properly called a language of their their reception. They have, I ann told, a language own, all the languages are understood, cultivated, rude but energetic; if so, it will bear a polish. They and spoken. All useful inventions in arts, and have also a jealous sense of liberty, and that strength new discoveries in science, are published here almost of thinking peculiar to northern climates, without As soon as at the places which first produced them. its attendant ferocity. They will certainly in time Its individuals have the same faults, however, with produce somewhat great, if their intestine divisions the Germans, of making more use of their memory do not unhappily prevent them. than their judgment. The chief employment of The history of polite learning in Denmark may their literati is to criticise, or answer, the new per- be comprised in the life of one single man: it rose formances which appear elsewhere.
and fell with the late famous Baron Holberg. This A dearth of wit in France or England naturally was, perhaps one of the most extraordinary perproduces a scarcity in Holland. What Ovid says sonages that has done honour to the present cenof Echo, may be applied here, Nec loqui prius ipsa tury. His being the son of a private sentinel did didicit nec reticere loquenti. They wait till some- not abate the ardour of his ambition, for he learned thing new comes out from others; examine its me to read though without a master. Upon the death rits, and reject it, or make it reverberate through of his father, being left entirely destitute, he was in the rest of Europe.
volved in all that distress which is common among After all, I know not whether they should be the poor, and of which the great have scarcely any allowed any national character for polite learning. idea. However, though only a boy of nine years All their taste is derived to them from neighbouring old, he still persisted in pursuing his studies, traDations, and that in a language not their own. velled about from school to school, and begged his They somewhat resemble their brokers, who trade learning and his bread. When at the age of sevfor immense sums without having any capital. enteen, instead of applying himself to any of the
The other countries of Europe may be consider- lower occupations, which seem best adapted to such cd as immersed in ignorance, or making but feeble circumstances, he was resolved to travel for imefforts to rise. Spain has long fallen from amazing provement from Norway, the place of his birth, to Europe with her wit, to amusing them with the Copenhagen the capital city of Denmark. He greatness of her catholic credulity. Rome consi- lived there by teaching French, at the same time ders her as the most favourite of all her children, avoiding no opportunity of improvement that his and school divinity still reigns there in triumph. scanty funds could permit
. But his ambition was In spite of all attempts of the Marquis D’Ensana- not to be restrained, or his thirst of knowledge sade, who saw with regret the barbarity of his coun- tisfied, until he had seen the world. Without motrymen, and bravely offered to oppose it by intro- ney, recommendations, or friends, he undertook to ducing new systems of learning, and suppressing set out upon his travels, and make the tour of Euthe seminaries of monastic ignorance; in spite of rope on foot. A good voice, and a trifling skill in the ingenuity of Padré Feio, whose book of vulgar music, were the only finances he had to support an errors so finely exposes the monkish stupidity of undertaking so extensive; so he travelled by day, the times, the religious have prevailed. Ensana- and at night sung at the door of peasants' houses da has been banished, and now lives in exile. Feio to get himself a lodging. In this manner, while has incurred the hatred and contempt of every bigot yet very young, Holberg passed through France, wbose errors he has attempted to oppose, and feels Germany, and Holland; and coming over to Engno doubt the unremitting displeasure of the priest- land, took up his residence for two years in the hood. Persecution is a tribute the great must ever university of Oxford. Here he subsisted by teachpay for pre-eminence.
ing French and music, and wrote his universal It is a little extraordinary, however, how Spain, history, his earliest, but worst performance. Furwhose genius is naturally fine, should be so much nished with all the learning of Europe, he at last behind the rest of Europe in this particular; or thought proper to return to Copenhagen, where his why school divinity should hold its ground there ingenious productions quickly gained him that fafor nearly six hundred years. The reason must vour he deserved. He composed not less than eighbo that philosophical opinions, which are otherwise teen comedies. Those in his own language are said to excel, and those which are translated into splendour. In other places learning has not yet French have peculiar merit. He was honoured been planted, or has suffered a total decay. To with nobility, and enriched by the bounty of the attempt amendment there, would be only like the king; so that a life begun in contempt and penury, application of remedies to an insensible or a morti. ended in opulence and esteem.
fied part, but here there is still life, and there is Thus we see in what a low state polite learning hope. And indeed the French themselves are so is in the countries I have mentioned; either past far from giving into any despondence of this kind, its prime, or not yet arrived at maturity. And that on the contrary, they admire the progress they though the sketch I have drawn be general, yet it are daily making in every science. That levity, for was for the most part taken on the spot. I am sen- which we are apt to despise this nation, is probably sible, however, of the impropriety of national reflec- the principal source of their happiness. An agreetion; and did not truth bias me more than inclina-able oblivion of past pleasures, a freedom from solition in this particular, I should, instead of the account citude about future ones, and a poignant zest of already given, have presented the reader with a every present enjoyment, if they be not philosophy, panegyric on many of the individuals of every coun- are at least excellent substitutes. By this they are try, whose merits deserve the warmest strains of taught to regard the period in which they live with praise. Apostolo Zeno, Algarotti, Goldoni, Mu- admiration. The present manners, and the preratori, and Stay, in Italy; Haller, Klopstock, and sent conversation, surpass all that preceded. A Rabner, in Germany; Muschenbroek, and Gau- similar enthusiasm as strongly tinctures their learnbius, in Holland; all deserve the highest applause. ing and their taste. While we, with a despondence Men like these, united by one bond, pursuing one characteristic of our nature, are for removing hacks design, spend their labour and their lives in making British excellence to the reign of Queen Elizabeth, their fellow-creatures happy, and in repairing the our more happy rivals of the continent cry up the breaches caused by ambition. In this light, the writers of the present times with rapture, and remeanest philosopher, though all his possessions are gard the age of Louis XV. as the true Augustad his lamp or his cell, is more truly valuable than he age of France. whose name echoes to the shout of the million, and The truth is, their present writers have not fall who stands in all the glare of admiration. In this en so far short of the merits of their ancestors as light, though poverty and contemptuous neglect ours have done. That self-sufficiency now menare all the wages of his good-will from mankind, tioned, may have been of service to them in this paryet the rectitude of his intention is an ample re-ticular. By fancying themselves superior to their compense; and self-applause for the present, and ancestors, they have been encouraged to enter the the alluring prospect of fame for futurity, reward lists with confidence; and by not being dazzled at his labours. The perspective of life brightens up- the splendour of another's reputation, have someon us, when terminated by an object so charming. times had sagacity to mark out an unbeaten path to Every intermediate image of want, banishment, or fame for themselves. sorrow, receives a lustre from its distant influence. Other causes also may be assigned, that their With this in view, the patriot, philosopher, and second growth of genius is still more vigorous than poet, have often looked with calmness on disgrace ours. Their encouragements to merit are more and famine, and rested on their straw with cheer- skilfully directed, the link of patronage and learnful serenity. Even the last terrors of departing ing still continues unbroken. The French nobility nature abate of their severity, and look kindly on have certainly a most pleasing way of satisfying the him who considers his sufferings as a passport to vanity of an author, without indulging his avarice. immortality, and lays his sorrows on the bed of A man of literary merit is sure of being caressed by fame.
the great, though seldom enriched. His pension from the crown just supplies half a competence, and the sale of his labours makes some small addi
tion to his circumstances. Thus the author leads CHAPTER VII.
a life of splendid poverty, and seldom becomes of Polite Learning in France.
wealthy or indolent enough to discontinue an ex.
ertion of those abilities by which he rose. With We have hitherto seen, that wherever the poet the English it is different. Our writers of rising was permitted to begin by improving his native merit are generally neglected, while the few of an language, polite learning flourished; biut where the established reputation are overpaid by luxurious afcritic undertook the same task, it has never risen Auence. The young encounter every hardship to any degrec of perfection. Let us now examine which generally attends upon aspiring indigence; the merits of modern learning in France and Eng- the old enjoy the vulgar, and perhaps the more pruland; where, though it may be on the decline, yet dent, satisfaction, of putting riches in competition it is still capable of retrieving much of its former with fame. Those are often seen to spend their
youth in want and obscurity; these are sometimes are generally the result of much good-nature and tound to lead an old age of indolence and avarice. little experience. But such treatment must naturally be expected from Piron, an author possessed of as much wit as Englishmen, whose national character it is to be any man alive, yet with as little prudence to turn it slow and cautious in making friends, but violent in to his own advantage. A comedy of his, called friendships once contracted. The English nobili- Lu Mélromanie, is the best theatrical production ty, in short, are often known to give greater re- that has appeared of late in Europe. But I know wards to genius than the French, who, however, not whether I should most commend his genius or are much more judicious in the application of their censure his obscenity. His Ode à Priape has justempty favours.
ly excluded him from a place in the academy of BelThe fair sex in France have also not a little con-les-Lettres. However, the good-natured Montes tributed to prevent the decline of taste and literature, quieu, by his interest, procured the starving bard a by expecting such qualifications in their admirers. trifling pension. His own epitaph was all the reA man of fashion at Paris, however contemptible venge he took upon the academy for being repulsoul. we may think him here, must be acquainted with Ci-git Piron, qui ne fut jamais rien, the reigning modes of philosophy as well as of dress, Pas meme académicien. to be able to entertain his mistress agreeably. The Crebillon, junior, a writer of real merit, but guilsprightly pedants are not to be caught by dumb ty of the same indelicate faults with the former. show, by the squeeze of the hand, or the ogling of Wit employed in dressing up obscenity is like the a broad eye; but must be pursued at once through art used in painting a corpse; it may be thus renall the labyrinths of the Newtonian system, or the dered tolerable to one sense, but fails not quickly metaphysics of Locke. I have seen as bright a cir- to offend some other. cle of beauty at the chemical lectures of Rouelle as Gresset is agreeable and easy. His comedy callgracing the court of Versailles. And indeed wis- ed the Méchant
, and a humorous poem entitled dom never appears so charming as when graced Ververt, have original merit. He was bred a and protected by beauty.
Jesuit; but his wit procureul his dismission from the To these advantages may be added, the recep- society. This last work particularly could expect tion of their language in the different courts of Eu- no pardon from the Convent, being a satire against rope. An author who excels is sure of having all nunneries! the polite for admirers, and is encouraged to write D'Alembert has united an extensive skill in sciby the pleasing expectation of universal fame. Add entifical learning with the most refined taste for to this, that those countries who can make nothing the polite arts. His excellence in both has procurgood from their own language, have lately began ed him a seat in each academy. to write in this, some of whose proluctions contri- Diderot is an elegant writer and subtle reasoner, bute to support the present literary reputation of He is the supposed author of the famous Thesis France.
which the abbé Prade sustained before the doctors There are, therefore, many among the French of the Sorbonne. It was levelled against Chriswho do honour to the present age, and whose writ- tianity, and the Sorbonne too hastily gave it their ings will be transmitted to posterity with an ample sanction. They perceived its purport, however, share of fame; some of the most celebrated are as when it was too late. The college was brought infollow
to some contempt, and the abbó obliged to take Voltaire, whose voluminous, yet spirited produc- refuge at the court of Berlin. tions are too well known to require an eulogy. The Marquis D'Argens attempts to add the Does he not resemble the champion mentioned by character of a philosopher to the vices of a debauXenophon, of great reputation in all the gymnastic chee. exercises united, but inferior to each champion The catalogue might be increased with several singly, who excels only in one?
other authors of merit, such as Marivaux, Lefranc, Montesquieu, a name equally deserving fame Saint-Foix, Destouches, and Modonville; but let it with the former. The Spirit of Laws is an instance suffice to say, that by these the character of the how much genius is able to lead learning. His sys- present age is tolerably supported. Though their tem has been adopted by the literali; and yet, is it poets seldom rise to fino enthusiasm, they never not possible for opinions equally plausible to be sink into absurdity; though they fail to astonish, formed upon opposite principles, if a genius like they are generally possessed of talents to please. his could be found to attempt such an undertaking? The age of Louis XIV, notwithstanding these He seems more a poet than a philosopher. respectable names, is still vastly superior. For be.
Rousseau of Geneva, a professed man-hater, or side the general tendency of critical corruption, more properly speaking, a philosopher enraged with which shall be spoken of by and by, there are other one half of mankind, because they unavoidably symptoms which indicate a decline. There is, for make the other half unhappy. Such sentiments instance. a fondness of scepticism, which runs
through the works of some of their most applauded on many principles, and some even opposite to
of learning in Great Britain success of Montesquieu, and one or two more, has To acquire a character for learning among the induced all the subordinate ranks of genius into vi- English at present, it is necessary to know much cious imitation. To this end they turn to our view more than is either important or useful. It seems that side of the subject which contributes to sup- the spirit of the times for men here to exhaust their port their hypothesis, while the objections are gen- natural sagacity in exploring the intricacies of ano erally passed over in silence. Thus a universal ther man's thought, and thus never to have leisure system rises from a partial representation of the to think for themselves. Others have carried on question, a whole is concluded from a part, a book learning from that stage, where the good sense of appears entirely new, and the fancy-built fabric is our ancestors have thought it too minute or too styled for a short time very ingenious. In this speculative to instruct or amuse. By the industry manner, we have seen of late almost every subject of such, the sciences, which in themselves are easy in morals, natural history, politics, economy, and of access, affright the learner with the severity of commerce, treated. Subjects naturally, proceeding their appearance. He sees them surrounded with