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whole, either in my bed, or lying upon the couch, from which I dictate this. Had you been apprised of this circumstance, you could not have expected anything, as you seem to do, from my active exertions. I could do nothing, if I was still stronger, not even
Si meus adforet Hector." There is no hope for the body of the people of Ireland, as long as those who are in power with you, shall make it the great object of their policy to propagate an opinion on this side of the water, that the mass of their countrymen are not to be trusted by their government : and that the only hold which England has upon Ireland, consists in preserving a certain very small number of gentlemen in full possession of a monopoly of that kingdom. This system has disgusted many others besides catholics and dissenters. .
My poor opinion is, that the closest connection between Great Britain and Ireland is essential to the well-being, I had almost said to the very being, of the two kingdoms. For that purpose I humbly conceive, that the whole of the superior, and what I should call imperial, politics ought to have its residence here; and that Ireland, locally, civilly, and commercially independent, ought politically to look up to Great Britain in all matters of peace or war; in all those points to be guided by her; and, in a word, with her to live and to die. At bottom, Ireland has no other choice, I mean no other rational choice.
I think, indeed, that Great Britain would be ruined by the separation of Ireland; but, as there are degrees even in ruin, it would fall the most heavily on Ireland. By such a separation Ireland would be the
most completely undone country in the world ; the most wretched, the most distracted, and, in the end, the most desolate part of the habitable globe. Little do many people in Ireland consider how much of its prosperity has been owing to, and still depends upon, its intimate connection with this kingdom. But, more sensible of this great truth than perhaps any other man, I have never conceived, or can conceive, that the connection is strengthened by making the major part of the inhabitants of your country believe, that their ease, and their satisfaction, and their equalisation with the rest of their fellow-subjects of Ireland, are things adverse to the principles of that connection; or that their subjection to a small monopolising junto, composed of one of the smallest of their own internal factions, is the very condition upon which the harmony of the two kingdoms essentially depends. I was sorry to hear that this principle, or something not unlike it, was publicly and fully avowed by persons of great rank and authority in the house of lords in Ireland.-Letter on the affairs of Ireland. 1797.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES AND CHARACTERS.
Unbiassed or by favour or by spite ;
THE VENERABLE BEDE.
ANOTHER island of still less importance, in the mouth of the Tees, and called Landisfarne, was about this time sanctified by the austerities of a hermit called Cuthbert. It soon became also a very celebrated monastery. It was, from a dread of the ravages of pirates, removed first to the adjacent part of the continent, and on the same account finally to Durham. The heads of this monastery omitted nothing, which could contribute to the glory of their founder and to the dignity of their house; which became in a very short time, by their assiduous endeavours, the most considerable school, perhaps, in Europe. The great and justest boast of this monastery is the venerable Beda, who was educated and spent his whole life there. An account of his writings is an account of the English learning in that age, taken in its most advantageous view. Many of his works remain, and he wrote both in prose and verse, and upon all sorts of subjects. His theology forms the most considerable part of his writings. He wrote comments upon almost the whole Scripture, and several homilies on the principal festivals of the church. Both the comments and sermons are generally allegorical in the construction of the text, and simply moral in the application. In these discourses several things seem strained and fanciful: but herein he followed entirely the manner of the earlier fathers, from whom the greatest part of his divinity is not so much imitated as extracted. The systematic and logical method, which seems to have been first introduced into theology by John of Damascus, and which afterwards was known by the name of school-divinity, was not then in use, at least in the Western church; though soon after it made an amazing progress. In this scheme, the allegorical gave way to the literal explication; the imagination had less scope; and the affections were less touched. But it prevailed by an appearance more solid and philosophical; by an order more scientific; and by a readiness of application, either for the solution or the exciting of doubts and difficulties.
They also cultivated in this monastery the study of natural philosophy and astronomy. There remain of Beda one entire book, and some scattered essays on these subjects. This book, de Rerum Naturâ, is concise and methodical, and contains no very contemptible abstract of the physics, which were taught in the decline of the Roman empire. It was somewhat unfortunate, that the infancy of English learning
was supported by the dotage of the Roman, and that even the spring-head from whence they drew their instructions was itself corrupted. However, the works of the great masters of the ancient science still remained; but in natural philosophy the worst was the most fashionable. The Epicurean physics, the most approaching to rational, had long lost all credit by being made the support of an impious theology and a loose morality. The fine visions of Plato fell into some discredit by the abuse, which heretics had made of them; and the writings of Aristotle seem to have been then the only ones much regarded, even in natural philosophy, in which branch of science alone they are unworthy of him. Beda entirely follows his system. The appearances of nature are explained by matter and form, and by the four vulgar elements; acted upon by the four supposed qualities of hot, dry, moist, and cold. His astronomy is on the common system of the ancients; sufficient for the few purposes to which they applied it, but otherwise imperfect and grossly erroneous. He makes the moon larger than the earth; though a reflection on the nature of eclipses, which he understood, might have satisfied him of the contrary. But he had so much to copy, that he had little time to examine. These speculations, however erroneous, were still useful; for though men err in assigning the causes of natural operations, the works of nature are by this means brought under their consideration; which cannot be done without enlarging the mind. The science may be false, or frivolous; the improvement will be real. It may here be remarked, that soon afterwards the monks began to apply them. selves to astronomy and chronology from the dis