Billeder på siden


There is no profession in which talents of a high order have a fairer field of exercise, or are more sure to reward the possessor with fame and fortune, than the bar. Mr. Frisbie had a decided taste for this profession, and in resigning it, he gave up not merely an object of interest, but of affection. Can any thing afford more delightful excitement to a mind, which is conscious of its powers, than to see the path of duty and distinction, on which it has fixed its earliest choice, opening before it, clogged with no obstructions, but what industry and talents may remove; and which serve only to quicken its capacities, and fire its emulation, to attain that point of excellence, on which its gaze is steadily fixed ? This hope, long cherished in Mr. Frisbie's mind, the inspirer of its efforts, the sweetener of its toils and privations, was suddenly blasted. The disappointment cast a shade over the succeeding portions of his life, and, with his acute sensibility, it would, if he had not been a man of pure and elevated piety, have made him a misanthrope. But religion was not with him a thing of lative belief, or even a mere rule of conduct; it descended into bis heart, and sanctified its earthly emotions ; it presided over his thoughts, and gave them their lofty determination. It was impossible that a mind so elastic and vigorous, should not spring up from this pressure, and find objects and occupations to supply those it had lost. He consented to occupy a station more humble than that to which he had believed himself destined : for he felt that even there he might be useful to others, and fulfil the great ends of his existence. He gradually rose, by his own merit, to more important offices in the University ; and that which he held at the time of his death, afforded a wide scope for his talents, and was happily suited to his taste.

In this volume is reprinted the address delivered at the interment of Mr. Frisbie. At that moment of recent affliction, when it was believed that no words could do justice to the character of the deceased, or meet the sympathies of those who mourned his loss, this address was received by all, as worthy of the feel. ings by which it was demanded, and of the excellence and goodness it celebrated. The faithful outline here given of Mr. Frisbie's character, will be recognised by all to whom he was known. It is marked by many traits of superiority, but they are traits which were truly his. There is a tenderness and solemnity spread over the whole, which cannot fail to excite in every mind new aspirations after excellence, and a deep consciousness, that this is the only end, worthy of our pursuit. Following the address, is an obituary notice, in which Mr. Frisbie's character is delineated, with a feeling and discrimination, that could come only from one who had entered deeply into that peculiar com

bination of moral and intellectual endowments, for which he was pre-eminent.

The four articles, which follow, are Mr. Frisbie's. They have all been published before, and there are few persons, who feel any interest in American literature, by whom they are not possessed, and often perused. But we are glad to have them collected in one book, united with all that it has been possible to gather of his writings and history, and enshrined in those praises and regrets, which so justly represent the public feeling towards him. We prize this little volume as a nucleus round which all our tender recollections may cluster; and we invest it with a beauty and value, which the mind knows how to shed on the most trifling objects, when associated with its higher and dearer sentiments. We have nothing to regret in these writings, but that there are no more of them.

They are a fair sample of Mr. Frisbie's mind; and to those who could read them, and not find a wisdom and eloquence, a richness and chasteness of imagination, belonging only to the highest order of minds, we should not expect, by any description of ours, to afford a just idea of his powers. While reading them, we realize more fully what we have lost. The inaugural address revealed his genius to many, by whom it was before unmarked, and excited in all expectations, which death only has disappointed. Our inclination would lead us to extract some of the fine passages in these writings, which would justify our praises ; but we trust they are familiar to most of our readers. The influence which literature and morals reciprocally exercise, is illustrated in the address with philosophic accuracy, and the feeling of elevated morality. We cannot forbear to extract the passage on Lord Byron.

But in no productions of modern genius is the reciprocal influ. ence of morals and literature more distinctly seen, than in those of the author of Childe Harold. His character produced the poems, and it cannot be doubted, that his poems are adapted to produce such a character. His heroes speak a language, supplied not more by imagination, than consciousness. They are not those machines, that, by a contrivance of the artist, send forth a music of their own; but instruments, through which he breathes his very soul, in tones of agonized sensibility, that cannot but give a sympathetic impulse to those who hear. The desolate misanthropy of his mind rises and throws its dark shade over his poetry, like one of his own ruined castles; we feel it to be sublime ; but we forget, that it is a sublimity it cannot have, till it is abandoned by every thing that is kind, and peaceful, and happy, and its balls are ready to become the haunts of outlaws and assassins. Nor are his more tender and affectionate passages those to which we can yield ourselves without a feeling of uneasiness. It is not that we can here and there select a Vew Series Vol. V.


proposition formally false or pernicious; but that he leaves an impression unfavourable to a healthy state of thought and feeling, peculiarly dangerous to the finest minds and most susceptible hearts. They are the scene of a summer evening, where all is tender, and beautiful, and grand; but the damps of disease descend with the dews of heaven, and the pestilent vapours of night are breathed in with the fragrance and balm, and the delicate and fair are the surest victims of the exposure.' One passage more we extract from the inaugural address

, though it must be remembered by all who beard it. It is one of those felicities of thought, which it is the privilege of genius only to suggest ; and it enforces a principle of which Mr. Frisbie deeply felt the importance, the principle of availing ourselves of the aid of religion in the formation of the moral and intellectual character; from which alone it can derive permanent beauty and elevation.

Miss Edgeworth has so cautiously combined the features of ber characters, that the predominant expression is ever what it should be; she has shown us, not vices ennobled by virtues, but virtues degraded and perverted by their union with vices. The success of this lady has been great; but had she availed herself more of the motives and sentiments of religion, we think it would have been greater. She has stretched out a powerful hand to the impotent in virtue ; and had she added, with the apostle, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, we should almost have expected miracles from its touch."

In Mr. Frisbie's remarks on the right and duty of Government to provide for the support of religion by law, we perceive that sense of the importance of religion to man, which appeared in all his conversation and actions; and which, we think, was the principal source of the peculiar beauty of bis mind." lo him earnestness was the necessary consequence of conviction. He regarded the provisions of the law. for the support of religion in this state, as the chief means of preserving the sobriety and virtue of its citizens, which, though inherited from our forefathers, would not have been secure, without the aid of salutary institutions ; and he trembled at the thought, that, these institutions, which had stood the test of long experience, should be wantonly given up. The following passage closes this article.

• It is a maxim in politics, that the actual results of any important change often differ most widely from the anticipations of theory; and of course that innovations, though sometimes necessary to be made, are always experiments of hazard. This consideration ought to have the greatest weight in the present instance, because we may have all

the advantage of the experiment without any of the danger. The existing system is believed by many to have produced

[ocr errors]

incalculable benefits; and by none will it be maintained to be an evil so intolerable as to demand an immediate alteration. In the neighbouring states, the experiment of the change is now making. If, upon full trial, this change should not be found to occasion the mischiefs that are apprehended from it, still more, if it should appear positively beneficial, we may at any time imitate their example, and reap all the advantages of their experience. But if, as is most solemnly feared by some of our wisest and best men, the reverse of all this should be proved by the event; if we should see in these states, notwithstanding the protracted operation of established sentiments and habits, one after another of the citizens, under various pretexts, withdrawing their aid from the support of religion, or neglecting to attach themselves to any society for that purpose, till the countenance of numbers shall take away the disgrace of singularity; if, as a necessary consequence of this, we should see parishes broken up; the clergy, from the poverty and precariousness of their support, losing their respectability, and men of talents no longer entering the profession; if we should see youth growing up without the regular instructions of the sabbath, the general sense of the sanctions of futurity disappearing, and the tone of morals universally relaxed; wbat reason shall we have to bless God, that we have been saved from evils so deplorable. Nor let it be thought, should we follow in this dangerous path, we might at any time retrace our steps. It is easy to relax existing obligations; but to bind them again upon men, when they have been once loosened, is at all times most difficult, and would in this case be impossible ; since the very causes which would require such a measure--be increase of irreligion and vice--would most effectually prevent its adoption. Enthusiasm and fanaticism might still occasionally shoot over the multitude, and shed on crowds of gazers a glare of wild and useless excitement; but a system of rational and regular instruction and worship could not be restored. That steady light, which shines into every man's dwelling, and guides him to his daily occupations and duties, which ripens the fruit and tinges the flowers of the earth, and spreads'its brightness over a serene and glorious heaven, will have gone down upon us.'-pp. 118-120.

The extracts, which this volume contains, from manuscript notes of Mr. Frisbie's lectures, will, we are persuaded, be received by many as the most valuable part of the book; not merely because the public was not in possession of them before, but on account of their own intrinsic value. We have heard some persons express surprise, that notes, so imperfect and inadequate to afford an estimate of his lectures, should have been published. From them, however, we learn Mr. Frisbie's opinion, and his mode of reasoning on the philosophy of morals, which are both able and original. Had these lectures been noted down in all their grace and eloquence, as they flowed spontaneously from the mind of their author, we should possess a work which we might be proud to compare with any other on the same subject in our language. Still, however, the philosophic reader would dwell with most interest on its accurate investigation of the nature of man, and on its just and original views of the foundation of our moral feelings. The richness and aptness of its illustrations would have gratified our taste, and lent attractions to its opinions; but could they have materially affected our sense of their importance and truth, or our respect for the mind that sugo gested them ?

The complex nature of human actions, and of the emotions they excite in our minds, has given occasion to those unsatisfactory theories in morals, which are evidently the result of partial and inaccurate views of the subject. The system of utility, of self-love, of obedience to the will of God for the sake of everlasting happiness, (which is only a more refined sort of self-love) and of sympathy, are founded on phenomena in the nature and condition of man, which actually take place, and the several defects of those systems arise either from an inaccurate analysis of results which are extremely complex, or from an omission of some important instances. Nature seems to have charged a few minds of superior endowments, with the intellectual interests of the human race, and allowed them an insight into her mysteries, that they might dispense her oracles to the numerous and busy throng who are destined never to enter her temple, but only to gaze in admiration without, on its beauty and splendour. Yet it is mortifying that these privileged few should be so liable to err in their investigations of her laws and operations. The errors which great minds have adopted, and in which they have persevered, when a far hurnbler intellect would have detected the fallacy of their reasoning, afford us one of the most affecting lessons of human frailty. Although one great cause of these errors is, as we before said, an inaccurate analysis of the phenomena under review ; yet there is another cause, which we are inclined to think has had far more efficacy, than has been generally ascribed to it. This is the influence of authority. How many maxims have been received as elementary and self-evident on the authority of former philosophers, whose wisdom and learning had made them oracles to their age! Even in our own enlightened times, philosophy has its false gods, whose temples afford a refuge to those who have defied the laws of common sense and experience. We have only to recollect, that the absurd system of Berkley, and much of the dangerous reasoning of Hume, are founded on errors received as incontro. vertible maxims from the ancient philosophers. Even the match

« ForrigeFortsæt »