« ZurückWeiter »
dour than credit. This man, as if he had which all men are personally interested. owed mankind a grudge for those disap- and of which there are few
who cannot pointments, which were solely owing io form a correct opinion. The sceptical his own want of principle, left behind pretender to philosophy, in his attempts him a magazine of mischief, entrusted to to overthrow all religion, whether natural the care of one of his most hopeful pupils, or revealed, drew his arguments entirely for publication. Mallet, the heir to this from the abuses which superstition, faprecious deposit, gave out such reports naticism, and craft, have, in various ages, of the contents, as by exciting the fears devised and established as of divine pre of the pious, and the expectations of scription. This fallacious mode of reasceptics, were best adapted to fill his soning, indeed, was not new, but it was pockets at the expense of credulity. On artfully adapted to cheat people of light the day when the cargo of infidelity was minds out of their faith, by persuading to be opened to the public, Mallet, with them that the corruptions so prominently anblushing impudence, dared to exclaim exhibited, were the necessary consequenin the shop of the publisher, while looking ces of the doctrines which they had been at his watch, “In half an hour, Christian- accustomed to regard as of sacred authoity will tremble.". Though this impious rity. Bolinbroke's rhetorical genius gave boast soon terminated in disgrace and him many advantages in throwing a de mortification, it is certain that the friends lusive glare over his parodoxes; and it of religion were for a time greatly alarm- was, therefore, reasonable to apprehend ed, not for the cause of truth, which they that the boldness of his assertions, and knew to be impregnable, but for the wel- the examples adduced for their support, fare of society. A host of writers, there would furnish the licentious with argufore, came forward to refute the sophistry ments, which though they had not wit contained in the posthumous works of enough to find them out by their own exBolinbroke; which in a short space sunk ertions, they might be able to apply with into contempt. While, however, they yet destructive effect, to stagger the princihovered above the chaos of night, and ap- ples of others. As an antidote to this peared portentous of incalculable evils, poison, therefore, Mr. Burke adopted Mr. Burke, then young and unknown Bolinbroke's own plan of reasoning, and to the world, hit upon a method of at- employed it to shew that the same ener tack, that evinced his own incompara- gies which were used for the destruction ble powers, and completely exposed the of religion, might be directed with equal empty pretensions of the deceased infi- success for the subversion of governinent; del. Early in 1756, he published, "A and that specious arguments might be adVindication of Natural Society; or a duced against those things, which they View of the Miseries and Evils arising who doubt of everything else, will never to Mankind from every species of Arti- permit to be questioned. ficial Society. In a letter to Lord With this view the “Vindication of By a late Noble Writer.” The style of Natural Society” came out, to convince Bolinbroke, lofty, declamatory and rapid, mankind, that if Revelation is an imposis not easy of imitation, yet so closely ture, the association of men in greater or was it caught in the present instance, lesser communities is an evil ; and that that many persons were deceived into if the one be, as the unbelievers say it is, the belief, that the pamphlet was a genu- a tyranny over minds, the other is, in an ine production of this celebrated noble- equal or rather a greater degree, a perniman; and some there were who actually. cious despotism over persons. praised it above his best performances. To support this paradox, which reduIt was soon discovered, however, by men ces mankind at once to the savage state, of deeper judgment, that the anonymous it was indispensable that the author should author had a better object in view, than be dogmatic in his assertions, vehement that of availing himself of a popular name in his language, and copious in his illusto impose an ingenious fraud upon the trations, otherwise he would have failed public. They saw in this imitation of in his design, and his imitation, instead Bolinbroke, the best confutation of his of counteracting, would rather have delusive mode of reasoning, by the appli- strengthened the sophisms of Bolinbroke. cation of it to a point of experience, in Yet it is too remarkable to be passed
over in silence, that at a subsequent pe- Hence it is inferred that the former is the
ty.” The inquirer then enters more fully While the imitation of Bolinbrokeen- and minutely, into a discussion of the disa gaged the public attention, and continued ference between Clearness and Obscurito be the subject of general discourse, the ty, for the purpose of proving that the latter Author was busily employed in conduct- generates more sublime ideas than the ing through the press, a performance of former. “It is our ignorance of things," another description, entitled, “A Philoso- says he," that causes all our admiration, phical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas and chiefly excites our passions. Knowof the Sublime and Beautiful.” This ledge and acquaintance make the most elegant disquisition which appeared with striking causes affect but little. It is thus out a name at the beginning of 1757, is with the vulgar, and all men are as the divided into five parts; the first is devoted vulgar in what they do not understand. to an examination of the passions imme- The ideas of eternity and infinity, are diately connected with, and excited by, among the most affecting we have; and the two objects of investigation; in the yet perhaps there is nothing of which we second and third the Author enters into really understand so little, as of infinity a minute discussion of the properties of and eternity.” Having fixed this princithose things in nature, which produce in ple firmly by uncontested experience, and us ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. an appeal to universal feeling, the author The fourth is directed to the physical resolves all general privations into causes cause by which those properties in things of the Sublime; such as Vacuity, Dark are fitted to raise correspondent affections ness, Solitude, Silence, and Extent. To in the mind; and in the last he considers the idea of Vastness, he refers in some the operation of words.
degree another impression, that of Infinity The inquiry opens by establishing the which arises when we do not see the doctrine of a distinction between positive bounds of any large object, or when its and relative pain and pleasure; after which parts are so continued to any indefinite the passions are reduced to two heads, number, that the imagination meets no those of self-preservation, and those of so- check to hinder its extending them at ciety. To the first of these principles are pleasure. referred all the passions which have their Having examined extension, the author origin in positive pain, and relative plea- proceeds to consider Light and Colourg. sure ; while to the latter are assigned all He observes that in general, Darkness is the relative pains and positive pleasures. a more sublime idea than Light, because
the latter unless it be unusually splendid, us; we may every moment strike against is of too common occurrence to affect thé some dangerous obstructions; we may mind. On the same principle he makes fall down a precipice, the first step we dusky colours, or at least those which are take ; and it an enemy approach, we very strong, causes of the Sublime in pre- know not in what quarter to defend ourference to those which are light and bril- selves; in such a case, strength is no iant.
sure protection ; wisdom can only act by We are next called to the other senses, guess; the boldest are staggered; and he the principal of which is Hearing; and who would pray for nothing else is forced here, conformable to the general doctrine, to pray for light. great loudness is stated to be grand in the Having largely explicated the physical highest degree, while intermitting sounds, cause of the passion, in which the princithe cries of animals, and sudden 'silence ple of sublimity originates, the inquirer are considered, according to circumstan- proceeds to a consideration of Love, as ces, as accessory causes of the Sublime. the passion naturally produced by BeauThe fourth part of the Inquiry treats of ty: and here among various remarks of the connexion which subsists between uncommon force and elegance, is one on certain qualities in bodies, and particular the contrast between small and vast obemotions of the human mind, in order to jects, which cannot easily be paralleled discover the efficient cause of the Sublime by anything in the writings of ancient or and Beautiful. In the course of this ab- modern philosophers. struse disquisition, the bodily effects of The filth part on the influence of Words, Pain and Terror are described, from is no less argumentative and original than whence arises a question, how anything the rest of the Inquiry. In this part, words allied to such impressions can be produc- are divided into three clases. The first tive of delight. In answer to this, the class comprehends those which are aggreauthor observes, that inaction is a very gates, or such as represent many simple noxious principle, and the cause of many ideas united by nature to form one deterdangerous distempers by the languor it minate composition, as man, horse, tree, occasions; that exercise which resembles &c. The second class consists of words, labor and pain, in being an exertion of the which stand for one simple idea of such contracting power of the muscles, is the compounds and no more, as red, blue, best cure for dejection and spleen, and round, square, and the like; these are that therefore it is accompanied with a called simple abstract words. The third degree of pleasure.
class is formed by an arbitrary union of After this the nature of Vision comes both the others, and of the various relaunder examination, in order to shew how tions between them, in greater or less de bodies of vast dimensions, are capable of grees of complexity ; as virtue, honor, exciting the contraction or tension of the persuasion, magistrate, and the like. nerves; which property is attributed to These last are the compound abstract the impressions made on the eye, by the words, of which the author says, that not rays reflected back upon it from those being real essences, they harldly cause objects.
any real ideas. This, however, is a doubtThe Inquiry is next directed to the ful position, and somewhat paradoxical, nature of Succession, and the uniformity for surely, though determinate images of Sounds in order to explain their effects, cannot be raised in the mind by such and the analogy between them and visi- terms, simply expressed, it seems too far ble things. Our author now enters into from 'a just conclusion, that no ideas contact with Locke on the subject of Dark- whatever are suggested by them. Virtue ness, which that great writer says, does for instance is a word that cannot excite not naturally convey an idea of terror. an image, or be embodied, as it were, 10 Mr. Burke, on the contrary, maintains the mind's eye, yet where is the person that there is an association which makes of understanding, who is destitute of an obscurity terrible, and he supports his idea of what is meant by the expression, opinion by an appeal to experience; for though it is out of his power to give a in utter darkness, it is impossible to know precise definition of it. in what degree of safety we stand; we There is another questionable assertion are ignorant of the objects that surround in this part, and that is where the inge
nious author says, “ So little does Poetry European Settlements in America;" depend for its effect on the power of which the public voice long concurred in raising sensible images, that I am con- ascribing to Mr. BURKE, without any convinced it would lose a very considerable tradiction of it on his part; nor was it till part of its energy, if this were the neces- sometime after his demise, that his right sary result of all description-because to the work was called in question. That that union of affecting words, which is the performance was worthy of his pen, the most powerful of all poetical instru- few persons who have read it carefully ments, would frequently lose its force will venture to deny; and certain it is along with its propriety, and consistency, that the ablest judges of literary compoif the sensible images were always ex. sition, and those the most intimate with cited."
Mr. Burke, very readily acquiesced in In opposition to this doctrine, it is suffi- the general opinion of its origin. The cient to adduce the authority of Longi- Abbe Raynal, in particular, was so sennus, to whom alone, as a philosophical sible of the value of this history of the critic, is Burke inferior. T'hat elegant European Colonies in America, as to inwriter in his section on imagery, says, corporate almost the whole of it in his “Visions, which by some are called own elaborate and philosophical work on images, contribute very much to the the Indies. Another publication, but of weight, magnificence, and force of com- a more permanent character, which at this position. The name of an image is gene- period did credit to the fertile genius and rally given to any idea, however repre- indefatigable industry of Burke, was the sented to the mind, which is communica- Annual Register. There is reason to beble to others by discourse: but a more lieve, that the idea of this valuable comparticular sense of it has now become pilation, suggested itself during the proprevalent: when for instance, the imagi- gress of the preceding history, occasioned nation is so warmed and affected, that by the difficulties which the author found you seem to behold yourself, the very in his research, after the facts necessary things you are describing, and to display for the elucidation of his subject. Upon them to the life, before the eyes of an au- this he drew up the plan of a yearly dience. Rhetorical and poetical images, volume, to contain a digested record of however, have a different object; the foreign and domestic events; an arrangedesign of the latter is surprise, that of the ment of public papers with other docuformer is perspicuity.”
mentary matter; and extracts from new Thus the greatest critic of antiquity, books of importance, illustrative of the eld imagery to be the highest effect of literary, scientific, and political history of inental exertion ; whereas our illustrious the times. The plan being submitted to modern will not allow that Poetry can Dodsley, was readily adopted by that with any propriety be called an art of active publisher, and in the month of imitation ; in which opinion, we believe, June 1759, the first volume made its aphe has had but few if any followers. Nor pearance, all the original matter of which indeed has the principal doctrine
of his was furnished by Mr. Burke, who conadmirable work, that of making Terror tinued to write the historical part, and to the great cause of the Sublime, been superintend the whole collection for many suffered to pass without contradiction, years afterwards. and some writers of late, have held it up These laborious exertions, which had to ridicule in a manner, which shows for their object, the attainment of an more malignity than acumen. To the honorable independence, produced a desecond edition of the Inquiry, the author bility in the frame of Mr. Burke, that prefixed an excellent discourse concern- gave great alarm to his friends. Among ing Taste, which faculty he does not pre- these was Dr. Christopher Nugent, a physume to describe by a formal definition, sician, and brother to Dr. Thomas Nuthough he ascribes to it the general power gent, an author by profession, but chiefly of forming a judgment on works of imagi- known to the literary world by his excelnation and the arts.
lent translations. Both these gentlemen In the same year with this original were the countrymen of BURKE, great Treatise, came out, a compilation in two admirers of his talents, and zealous in volumes, entitled, “An Account of the promoting his interests. On perceiving me inroad which an incessant application fined himself to a subject of general in to study had made in his constitution, the terest. He entered into the question of benevolent physician eamestly intreated peace with ardour, and in some able him to quit his chambers in the Templo, pamphlets, endeavoured to impress upon and take apartments in his house. This the minds of ministers, the necessity of proposition was complied with, and the adding to our colonial strength in the good effects of it soon appeared in the West Indies, by extending our possesrenovation of health and strength. But sions in the vicinity. Most of the tracts another consequence resulted from it, and which he published on this occasion are that was a sympathetic affection between now lost, or forgotten; since up to this the invalid, and the daughter of Dr. Nu- period, and beyond it, he never affixed his gent; which, within a short space, termi- name to any of his publications. But the nated in a marriage ; and though the performances of which we are speaking, young lady had not a shilling of portion, were known to Johnson, through whom a happier couple never existed, insomuch the author became introduced to Mr. that to the end of his days, Mr. Burke William Fitzherbert, the father of lord was wont to say to his friends, that “In St. Helens. This gentleman who was all the anxious moments of his public life, member of parliament for the town of every care vanished when he entered his Derby, brought Mr. Burke acquainted own house."
with the marquis of Rockingham and But though this alliance was not lucra- lord Verney, at the very time when the tive, it was extremely fortunate, by bring- former of those noblemen became the ing our author into an extensive circle of head of a party, which in a short time acquaintance, consisting of persons in the effected a change in the administration. highest stations, and others of established The measures of Mr. George Grenville, credit in the world of letters. The bene- particularly in regard to the imposition fit of these connexions was quickly felt, of a Stamp Duty in America, giving and when the earl of Halifax was appoint- general offence, occasioned his dismissal ed at the beginning of October, 1761, to from office at the beginning of 1765; and the viceroyalty of Ireland, Mr. Burke in the new arrangement which took place, obtained a situation in his suite as one of the marquis of Rockingham was made his secretaries. The government of lord first lord of the treasury. This was a Halifax lasted only a few months, he being brilliant prospect to Mr. Burke, for he recalled the following summer to take an was immediately appointed private secreactive part in the administration at home: tary to the prime minister, as his brother and Mr. Burke returned with him, having William was to general Conway, one of previously secured a pension of two hun- the secretaries of state.
The same year, dred a year, on the frish establishment. Mr. EDMUND BURke was elected into It does not appear that he enjoyed any parliament for the borough of Wendover, preferment in England, at this time, though in Buckinghamshire, on the interest of his friend William Gerard Hamilton con- lord Verney. This administration was tinued in favour with Lord Halifax, and formed under the mediation of the duke was appointed his under secretary of state. of Cumberland, with the co-operation of That gentleman is said to have soon after the duke of Newcastle, who it was exwards quarrelled with BURKE; who in pected would have taken the lead in the consequence threw up his pension, and new cabinet. But the old statesman deonce more had recourse to his pen for a clined the distinction, when the honour support. The feelings of the public, were was offered to him, and the report went at this period much agitated by the ascen- current at the time, that during the settledency of lord Bute, and the prospect of a ment, he plainly told the marquis of Rockpeace, so that the field of polítics present- ingham, that he must be first lord of the ed an abundance of matter for the exer- treasury, and that when his lordship obcise of a mind stored with reading, inured jected to the appointment, on the ground to writing, and fertile in argument. of inexperience, his grace facetiously an
BURKE, however, had the good sense swered: “It does not signify, marquis, and magnanimity, notwithstanding the first lord of the treasury you must be ; neglect which he had experienced, to care shall be taken to appoint proper per. avoid the vulgar topic of the day, and con- sons to assist your lordship in the business