Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

With notes like his, the Cimbrian Thor
Led Scandinavia's chiefs to war,

And steel'd their hearts to pity's strain ;
Such were the awful hymns that rung

On Elbe's gren banks, to Woden sung,
When Hengist turn’d his keel to Albion’s ravag'd plain.
• Oh spare yon cloister's walls, nor aid

The ruin of neglect and age;
Those walls preserv'd the tuneful maid

From Gothic and from feudal rage;
There, when from Ister's boist'rous surge,
To pale Hesperia's southern verge,

The Vandal march’d, resistless foe,
When each affrighted science fled

A land with human carnage red,
The pítying Muse retir’d, and wept the general woc,
*Ah, how unlike that monkish strain,

To her exalted songs of yore !
But darkness and despondence reign

And intellect expands no more;
At length the orient's brightning ray
Gives promise of a glorious day;

From proud Alraschid's splendid court
Long beams of splendour reach the west ;

And see, in Moorish turbans dress'd,

The banish'd arts return! I hail their graceful port.? Of the minor poems, some are playful, and some grave and pathetic. It is in the former kind that Mrs. W. seems most happy ;-though we cannot say that her sonnets and her elegies do not frequently wrap the imagination and sometimes in. terest the heart. The following extract from a poem to a friend on her marriage, though a very early composition of the author, is a fair specimen of her manner in the lighter kind of poetry:

• Accept the verse, sincere and free,

Which flows, unstudied flows, to thee;
And though the critic's searching eye
Might many a latent error spy,
Let not thy kinder taste condemn
The failings of thy sister's pen;
Some send a message, some a card,
Verse is the tribute of the bard ;
Congratulate's a word so long,
I scarce can weave it in my song,
And fear I must again employ
The ancient phrase of “ wish you joy!”.
I'm forc'd to write without the muses,
I ask'd them, but they sent cxcuses ;

They

They fancied that I meant to flout 'em,
But I can scribble on without 'em.

So, Lady Juno, Queen of Marriage,
Order'd the peacocks to her carriage !
Miss Iris had a hasty summons,
To fetch a licence from Commons ;
Venus and all the little loves,
A shopping went for ring and gloves;
Apollo brought his chariot down,
In hopes to drive you up to town;
Minerva wove new-fashion'd satins,
Vulcan perhaps might make you pattens ;
Bacchus (this rather strains belief)
Turn'd cook, and spitted the roast beef;
Hebe, like Hannah, dress’d so fine,
With curtesies carried round the wine;
Then Love his torch to Hymen carried,

And in plain English you were married.'
These volumes are very neatly printed, on fine paper : but
elegant printing is no rarity in these hard times !

Wall..e.

Art. V. The Rise, Progress, and Consequences of the new Opinions

and Principles lately introduced into France : with Observations. 8vo. pp. 272. 55. Boards. Printed at Edinburgh. London, Wright,

1799. IT Tis not easy to point out a subject more important, more

extensive, and more difficult, than that which this anonymous author has chosen. Perhaps its difficulty is increased by įts having been now for ten years the trite topic of the learned and the ignorant, of the profound and the superficial ;-the object of detestation and the theme of praise. Much subtlety, and considerable eloquence, would be requisite to attract new light to a subject already so fully discussed; or to give new graces to what has before been said by the many able writers whose pens it has occupied. The author, therefore, who ventures to “beat this ample field,” which Burke and his many able coadjutors have traversed before him, must either have a strong confidence in his own powers, or must have resolved to be contented with a small portion of literary compensation.

It is scarcely necessary for us to say that a work, with such a title as this essay bears, is anti-jacobinical ; and that its object is to refute the opinions and explode the principles of which it professes to treat. The current of the times is set-in too strongly against revolutionary and jacobinical notions, for an author expressly to publish a formal vindication of them :this must come before the public, as it generally does come, disguised in some popular form ;-in a poem, in a play, or

perhaps

[ocr errors]

perhaps inveloped in a novel, where the sentiments of the writer are detailed by some favourite character, the splendos of whose virtues embellishes the principles which he holds. He, therefore, who in these times professes to treat of the rise and progress of French opinions, to examine their truth, or to trace their coursequences, may be known even by his title-page to write against them; and to aim at guarding the public against their malignant influence.

The writer before us applies himself very seriously to this important labour; and if his arm be not as strong as that of

revolutionary maxins, he is yet far from being an inefifcient 2)

auxiliary. On the contrary, this tract is not only written with some logical accuracy and considerable strength of understanding, but has contributed to render still more palpable many of the dangerous sophisms and incongruous principles of the French philosophes. Perhaps, the author does not always succeed in proving that their abstract positions are false ; nor is he always secure from the imputation of having himself advanced propositions which, abstractedly considered, are indefensible: but he generally attains what seems to be his great object, namely, to prove that in fact and in practice those opinions and principles lead to what is either impracticable or dangerous.

In the introductory remarks, we find some indications of a candid and philosophic mind. The possibility of improvement, even on the best existing political systems, is confessed; and the wisdom of examining, before we reject, new opinions in politics, is freely admitted :

• If,' says the writer, we trace history back to the beginning of authentic records, we shall find, that though many revolutions have taken place ; though civilized nations have been over-run by barbarians; and though knowledge has often been eclipsed by ignorance ; the arts and sciences have been making a gradual and perceptible progress from the commencement of history to the There is no reason to suppose that politics, considered either as an art or as a science, has yet attained its greatest height. Since the institution of the feudal system, all the states of Europe have made considerable progress towards improvement. Our own laws and government, in particular, liave been every century receiving important corrections and additions ; and there is reason to expect, that if they shall continue to be amended with caution and wisdom, they will be much more perfect before the end of the next century than they are at present. We ought not then to dismiss without examinazion ali new opinions in politics ; for if every thing new is rejected, there is an end of all improvement.'

: After

present time.

[ocr errors]

After this liberal preface, the author proceeds to consider the declaration of the Rights of Man; in which, he says, most of the new principles that prevail in France are contained. *This examination occupies the first nine chapters of the work, and is prosecuted in a succinct and methodical way. The second chapter gives a short history of that declaration, of its authors, of its adoption, and of the changes which it has undergone since its first formation. The following chapters, to the ninth inclusive, analyze and comment on the different articles of which the declaration is composed. The doctrines of « Government being instituted to secure to man the enjoyment of his rights”-of Liberty and Equality"--of “Law being the declaration of the general will”-of Public Security consisting in “ the action of all to assure to each the enjoyment and preservation of his rights"—the French Definition of Property, which admits the right of the state to violate the property of the individual when PUBLIC NECESSITY requires itand finally the “Sovereignty of the People”-are here analyzed and criticized with various degrees of acuteness and success.Our limits will not suffer us to enter so minutely into the merits of the work, as to give a summary detail of the author's reasoning in each instance. We shall therefore content ourselves with extracting a specimen of his argumentative powers from his Observations on Equality :

• It is needless to trace any farther the means employed to establish liberty and equality. In the historical facts which have been related, a sufficient specimen has been given of the characters of the men who patronized these principles, and of the unjust and barbarous methods employed to disseminate them. It will therefore now be proper to inquire, What was the equality, which so many men have been pursuing, and for what reason is it considered as one of the rights of man? Is it a mere phantom, or is it a reality? Is it worth purchasing with the blood of millions, and by the horrors of anarchy, famine, and assassination ? And after it is purchased at so dear a price, are there any means by which it can be retained?

• In whatever sense we employ the word equality, it is difficult to perceive how it can be one of the rights of man. It has not been generally admitted by philosophers, nor known to the common people. It is not, therefore, a self-evident principle. God has not made men equal; society has not made them equal ; neither can any laws nor education preserve men equal. What, then, does equality mean, when considered as a right of man? Not, surely, equality of understanding ; for men are born with different capacities; and no standard has yet been invented by which the understandings of men can be reduced to one scale. It is indeed surprising, that the French, who have lately made the wonderful discovery, that mind is com. posed of a fine species of crystals, should not also have found out

$ * See a Paper by La Metherie in the Journal de Physique.'

some

some process by which those crystals could be reduced to one stand. ard.

• Equality cannot mean equality in knowledge and virtue; for some men will be wise, and some men will be fools; some will be good, and some will be wicked, whatever new laws and forms of government shall be devised.

• Neither can equality mean an equal distribution of property ; for supposing you were to make all men equal in wealth to-day, they would be unequal tomorrow. Some would increase it by industry, and others would squander it in extravagance or folly. One man makes a fortune by his abilities, by his diligence, or by a happy coincidence of circumstances, and he bequeaths it at his death to his children. Is not this natural? Is it not fair and just that a man should leave his property to his children? Yet from this it necessarily happens, that a person is often born to wealth before it can be known whether he be a wise man or a fool. A community of goods is a mere chimera, which could not enter into the imagination of any but an indolent spendthrift, or an indigent villain. If it were possible to establish a community of goods, which, happily for society, it is iinpossible to do, men would lose their industry, their talents, and their virtues, and would become wild beasts watching for their prey, and tearing each other to pieces in order to obtain it.

• Equality according to the doctrines of the Illuminati and Jacobins, means equality in power. It rejects all kings, princes, and magistrates; it destroys all distinction of ranks, abolishes the names of master and servant, annihilates all laws, and leaves every man to the guidance of his own passions. This is a plan to destroy society under the pretence of improving it ; it is to make men savages in or. der to civilize them ; it is to increase their power of doing mischief, to multiply temptations to vice, in order to make them good; to expose their property to plunder, and their life to the mercy of the assassin ; under the vain pretence of raising the dignity, and extend. ing the happiness of the human race. This is to reverse the nature of things, to make virtue become vice, and vice become virtue, to convert misery into happiness, and happiness into misery. It is to oppose the experience of lify centuries, and is a presumptuous, but vain attempt, to overturn the Moral Government of God. But behold the villany of these men, observe them when possessed of power, and you will see that equality is the most despotic and tremendous tyranny, that it is the besom of destruction, which is to sweep away all the comforts of this life, and the delightful prospects of the next.

• It is evident, then, that equality in understanding, in knowledge, in virtue, in wealth, and power, is impossible. In these qualities men never were equal, and by nothing that man can do can they be made equal.'

Interwoven with this part of the work, the reader will find a su ct history of the Illuminés and of Jacobinism, as given in the writings of the Abbé Barruel, Professor Robison, &c. on which, as we have already offered our opinion of them at considerable length, it is not now necessary to make any

remark,

« ForrigeFortsæt »